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If you know how, Toys R Us can be an important part of your business

I have another great guest blogger for you this week — my Dad. You read some of his story in my book.  In this post he goes into more detail about how he makes Toys R Us work for him.  Dad lives in a small town in North Carolina and yet he has built a successful business for himself by careful shopping at the few stores he has.  He sells a mixture of books and media and new toys and other items. He works his business part-time around a very busy schedule of board meetings and church service, and still makes thousands of dollars. My Dad’s a planner.  See what he did to ensure his success right from the beginning. With no further ado, here’s Phil Stine:

Until I became an Amazon FBA seller, I had probably never been in a Toys R Us more than three times in my life. But I knew that toys would be a big part of my Christmas profits and as well as a steady year-round source of income (kids have birthdays all year long). So last August I went to my local store and asked for the manager. When I eventually found him, I asked him what he thought big sellers would be for Christmas. (I didn’t tell him I was going to re-sell things.) He very kindly spent half an hour showing me what he thought would be big, and where they were on the shelves. Looking back, he was remarkably accurate on what would be popular.

This gave me a good orientation to the layout of the store, and this knowledge was very valuable when I later came in with a discount coupons and flyers in hand for some very popular items. All Fisher-Price items are together and arranged by age; all Lego toys are together; remote control items filled up one complete aisle, all Xbox programs were in one area, and so on. I learned very quickly also where the Bratz Dolls were, where the Barbie dolls were, where the Justin Bieber dolls were, where I could find the dollhouses or karaoke machines. When there’s a great one-day price on a hot item, you can’t afford to waste time trying to find a clerk to point you in the right direction. Some little old grandmother will beat you to the item every time.

While there, I signed up for the Toys R Us Rewards card. This gave me advance notice of some sales, but most of all ended up giving me many discount coupons over the months.

Most of the year, there’s one flyer a week from Toys R Us, giving discounts for that week. Getting into the Christmas season, one feature of these was that they included a coupon with a big discount for a very large number of items from 3:00 pm Friday through 1:00 pm Saturday only. I generally checked these prices and rankings on Amazon before I went to the store and circled the ones that looked like I could sell for three times what I would pay. Then about 2:00 o’clock Friday afternoon, I’d head for those items, scan them to be sure of ranking and price, and fill up my cart ready for checkout at 3:00. Even now, well after Christmas, I do the same with the weekly flyers. I generally go the first day of the flyer, and go first to the items I’ve circled as being potentially profitable. Having put those in my cart, I then do more of a browse of other items that are discounted or which I know have been pretty popular. There are always some pleasant surprises, but I have to get to the toys in the flyer before other customers.

Occasionally Toys R Us will put out discontinued items at large discounts. I found a big stack of discontinued X-Box 360 Guitar Controllers that had originally retailed for $45, and were now marked down to $4.50, except with my discount coupons I got some for $3.75. As I took all the ones they had out, they would bring out a few more the next day, and I’d take those. I eventually bought about 30 of these, none for more than $4.50, and sold them all for $65! Every single one of them sold, and sold within days of being listed on Amazon. Here’s the lesson; the store wants to bring in the new, but buyers may not care if it’s last year’s model. You can really profit from that.

Thanksgiving Day, Toys R Us opened up at 9:00 pm. The flyers with special prices for that night were good only until 11:00 am the next day, but they were so good I braved the crowd. The line wrapped around the building by 8:00 that night, but I eventually got in and went directly to my circled items. Some were gone already, but I kept at it until I was ready to check out about 12:30 am. The checkout line snaked through the baby section of the store – I didn’t get out until after 3:00 am. But, I had $1500 worth of toys, which I sold for over $4500. I went back the next morning to clean up the less popular items. This year my wife will be with me, so we can fill up three or four carts. I never in my life would have thought that at age 68, I’d be shopping at Toys R Us at 3:00 in the morning, but my checks from for November and December were almost $17,000, so I guess it was worth it.

I didn’t sell everything I bought, and in January, I was a little discouraged as I still had quite a bit of inventory with Amazon. But in the past few weeks, things have begun to pick up, and many of those toys are moving out of the warehouse now. Thank goodness for birthdays. I still make my weekly visit to Toys R Us. It’s going to be a good year.

Dad has a process and a plan, which makes shopping Toys R Us profitable and manageable for him. Consider how you might approach your local stores for maximum efficiency. What about you? Do you shop at Toys R Us? Do you have tips you’d like to share? Please post them!