What have you learned about the importance of toys during this pandemic?
You can never underestimate the value of play for a child. We have seen many parents buying toys that engage the entire family, such as puzzles, board games and outdoor activities. We have also seen more toys being purchased that are hands-on like craft and science kits. The hobby department has had one of its best seasons in years because people are home more and have more time to “play” with their RC cars and electric trains.
What have you learned about your customers and yourself in your store during this pandemic?
Our customers have been great during the pandemic! The Homewood community has been very supportive of the entire downtown Homewood shopping district since the pandemic began. We had to make a few changes to our daily routines here, but it has all worked out well.
What have people (Santa’s helpers) been buying for the holidays so far?
So far, parents have been buying more big ticket items like scooters, art easels, play kitchens, etc. Lego is always a big seller for us and many customers have been stocking up on a variety of sets in anticipation of selling out before the holidays. Traxxas vehicles have been selling daily for boys in the 8- to 14-year range. Many of our customers have said that they plan to be done with their shopping before Thanksgiving.
New and Exciting
Upside Down Challenge Game, $24.99, has been getting a lot of buzz throughout the country, said store manager Julie Marix.
“It comes with glasses that make you see everything upside down, and then you have different challenges that you have to do.”
The interactive STEM kit Play Steam Robotic Fish, $24.99, has been one of the more popular gifts so far.
“What is great about this is that it’s not just a remote control fish,” Julie said. “You build it and then you get to play with it.”
It’s built for ages 6 and up, while most other robotics kits are geared toward older age groups.
Though water globes are a familiar craft, the Creativity for Kids Sweet Treats Water Globes, $19.99, brings a new flavor. Kids can decorate their snow globe with dessert-themed characters they make themselves.
“This is good for really any girl, even the girls that aren’t ‘super girly,’” Julie said.
The Team Associated CR28 RC car, $54.99, is great for beginners and parents who don’t want to invest a ton of money right out of the gate.
“It’s made by a hobby company, so you still have the great quality, but it’s a smaller size. You can do it inside and everything is included in the box, including the batteries,” Julie said.
Riding off of the success of the award-winning Dimpl toy, Fat Brain Toys has introduced the larger Dimpl Duo, $19.99, that is great for ages 2 and up.
Animal-themed LumiPets Night Lights, $23.99, are great for any age and are made of soft, squishy silicone that lights up in a variety of colors.
“It’s soft enough that they can have it in bed with them, carry it around with them like a regular stuffed animal and it will eventually shut itself off,” Julie said.
A mix between golf and badminton, the Hog Wild Toys Birdie Golf, $39.99, has been a very popular purchase throughout much of the pandemic.
“Customers have been gravitating toward things that get their kids outside,” Julie said. “We have sold a ton of these, because it’s just a great game for the whole family to enjoy together.”
Making a Comeback
The newest version of the Lite Brite, $26.99, includes the classic pegs and templates but is presented to look more like a tablet.
A craft that has experienced a huge comeback this year is the Ann Williams Loopdedoo loom kit, $29.99, which offers a faster way to create friendship bracelets.
“I think some people have even been using it to make mask lanyards,” Julie said.
Art Easels, $79.99-$99.99, are a great gift in general, Julie said, and make a big statement on Christmas morning.
At Homewood Toy and Hobby, the Bruder Trucks brand, $29.99-$139.99, represents the latest and greatest in toy trucks.
“They are made in Germany, not in China,” Julie said. “They also have lots of great licensing, so they make actual vehicles that you might see on the road.”
Though it has a higher price point, she added that it is worth it in terms of quality.
“If something pops off, nine times out of 10 it will pop back on. But if they are a bit rough with it and something breaks, Bruder will send you a new part for free.”
A great gift for tiny tots is the Mirarri Pop Pop Piano, $29.99, a revamp of the classic piano toy. Colorful balls pop out of piano pipes as you press the keys to produce silly or classic piano sounds.
“I’ve actually given this to numerous friends,” Julie said.
Rubik’s Cubes Puzzles, $12.99-$24.99, never go out of style.
“Every year it seems like they come out with a new one,” she said. “The newest one is the Orbit.”
When it comes to stuffing a stocking, the smaller the better.
The sale of compact Plus Plus Tubes, $7.99, never ceases, according to Julie.
“We also have some bigger tubes and sets available,” she said. “They’re great because you can just sit and use your imagination to build.”
Melissa & Doug Water Wow books, $4.99, are a staple at the store and are especially great for traveling, whether to the store or to another state.
“You just fill the pen with water, you draw on the page, the color shows up, it will dry and then you can do it over and over again,” Julie said.
The returning popularity of Yo-Yos, $5.99 and up, is a mystery to Julie.
“We sell yo-yos to kids as young as 5 all the way up to teenagers,” she said.
The collectable plushies Cats Vs Pickles, $6.99, are great stocking stuffers and pair with a game you can play on your smartphone.
“The NeeDoh balls, $3.99, have been such a hit that they have come out with different variations,” Julie said. You can’t go wrong with the original, but there are other options that include minis, shaggy, cat-shaped, noodles and a large version.
Homewood Toy & Hobby is at 2830 18th St. S. in downtown Homewood. For more information, call 205-879-3986 or visit the store’s Facebook page.