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Responding To Customer Needs, Toy Network Continues To Evolve

Jun 1, 2011

Responding to a changing marketplace, Toy Network LLC enjoys success as a nimble toy importer. The company has been flexible with its business model, as flexible as the Pearl Stretchy Snakes that are now among its most popular items. When Toy Network, a division of Manley Toy Direct, opened its doors in 1997, it was a drop shipper selling only in large quantities. "TN started as a direct shipment company," explains Joe Rinaldi, who specializes in sales at Toy Network. "We offered soft plush at great delivered prices. The only issue was that customers had to buy a full container. There was no domestic warehouse for replenishing items that went fast." However, within a few years it was clear that the toy importer needed a stateside facility, and the company soon opened a distribution center. "Our company opened a domestic warehouse in 2000," Rinaldi recalls. "The reason for opening it was to have domestic replenishment of stock for our customers. Our warehouse is also the distribution warehouse for retailers such as Target, TRU, etc."

Over time, Toy Network has made its business easier to conduct for smaller customers such as independent retailers, and buyers sourcing goods online. Three years ago, the company hung a shingle on the Internet, and according to Rinaldi, the new website evolved over time.

According to Rinaldi, the best features of the website are easy access and navigation. "There were the regular growing pains, but other than that it has been a smooth process." He also mentions that Toy Network uses email fliers to keep in touch with customers. In addition to the Internet, he adds, "We send out fliers and catalogs, and we attend tradeshows." A part of that evolution includes expansion to Facebook and Twitter. Since joining Facebook in April, the company has posted new product photos and customer service information, to better serve its wide range of customers. In addition to large and small retailers, Toy Network also sells to party stores, fund raising companies, amusement parks, carnival operators, and family entertainment centers (FECs). "Many of our customers are giving the product away as a prize," explains Rinaldi. Selling a vast array of entertainment products and toys makes sense, considering the variety of customers who buy from Toy Network. That category assortment includes hard and soft toys, games, candy, cosmetics, costumes, giftwares, housewares, jewelry, party supplies, stationery, and seasonal items. Most items are priced to allow for generous margins. "Based on our customers' calculations, they can easily double their money with most of our hot items," Rinaldi reports.

Hot items include products in Toy Network's core strengths. "Our main product lines are Plush and Novelty items," says Rinaldi. "We carry over 2,500 items at any given time." He picks out a few products that are selling especially well this year, commenting, "On the plush side, we have the Bowling Pin, Crayons, and our Retail Value line. On the Hard Goods side, the Whoopee Cushions, five-inch basketballs, and springs are selling very well." The company is not standing still, engaged in a continual process of innovation. "Each year we come up with new plush designs," explains Rinaldi, "We are always looking for the next hot novelty item like the knobby balls, rubber bands, and silicone bracelets."

It is easy for retailers to initiate business with Toy Network, since the minimum order is only $50. In addition, the company puts out a welcome mat for buyers with individual needs. "We do offer kits for specialized customers," Rinaldi adds. "Volume discounts are also available, but are based on total dollars spent on a yearly basis." Buyers can also shop the website in complete confidence. According to the site, all orders and transactions involving the release of personal information are encrypted using the latest 128-bit SSL encryption technology, verified by Thawte.

The security system uses software to encode credit card data and other identifying information, so that only Toy Network can read them. The company also offers free shipping on orders over $100 that are paid for via credit card and that use standard catalog pricing. Furthermore, they offer discount codes for occasional specials.

Buyers can easily find great deals and best sellers in two new online sections. The "Most Popular" section offers the top 100 products, scrollable in two pages of 50 products each. A perusal of the "Most Popular" products reveals that glow-in-the-dark jewelry is hot, since 23 of the top 100 most popular items are glow-in-the-dark bracelets and necklaces. A similar listing offers "Special Deals" on 75 closeout items. For example, 38mm Galaxy Hi Bounce Balls, normally $4.40 per dozen, are selling at $1.50 per dozen. Two-inch Scary Stretch Aliens, normally $18.55 per gross, are selling for $7.30 per gross.

In addition to "Most Popular" and "Special Deals," customers can also browse products by looking at 24 product category breakdowns and six more general categories, which include Party Supplies, Teachers, Fundraising, Toys & Games, Stuffed Toys, and Sale Items. Toy Network also offers a more detailed online breakdown into 190 categories and subcategories. For the convenience of its customers who prefer paper, the company offers a PDF of its most recent 84-page catalog, which they can request in print through an online form or by email.

For more information:
Toy Network LLC
1800 North Ninth Street
Indianola, IA 50125
Toll Free: 800-767-9998
Fax: 515-961-9146

Topic: Company Profiles

Related Articles: toys 

Article ID: 1457

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