Melissa & Doug toys and costumes have been in homes and schools around the world for decades. (If you are a parent, you likely have at least one Melissa & Doug toy.)
The brand has built incredible equity and loyalty over 35 years thanks to the advocacy of child development experts and educators. It also has grown consistently thanks to an expansive wholesale network and presence on Amazon. But now, Melissa & Doug is taking the reins of the experience and using its first flagship store to fully immerse consumers into its world of play. And it is likely the first of many big moves following its acquisition by Spin Master.
The 1,600-square-foot store is located in The Westchester shopping mall in White Plains, N.Y. — right outside of New York City and near the Melissa & Doug headquarters in Wilton, Conn. When plotting its entry into branded brick-and-mortar, the team focused on mall locations near its headquarters. While quality traffic was an obvious priority, the brand also considered the atmosphere of the mall, as well as real estate available in time for the holiday season.
The Westchester checked all the marks and allowed the brand to strategically open shop on Oct. 6, 2023, just ahead of the holiday shopping rush. To drive traffic to the new store, Melissa & Doug is activating local marketing initiatives that drive awareness and encourage consumers to visit and shop, explained Jess Kuring, Director of Consumer Relationship Marketing at Melissa & Doug in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “These marketing efforts include targeted emails, influencer [activations], social, custom signs in the mall and sponsorship of the mall play area in October.”
The brand is even sponsoring The Westchester’s Santa Experience to generate some additional traffic among busy holiday shoppers.
“The Melissa & Doug flagship store gives us the opportunity to bring the brand to life in a way that cannot be done online or in traditional retail,” Kuring explained. “We’ll be able to feature and display top-selling toys across our entire assortment so consumers can experience firsthand the incredible attention to detail and play value of Melissa & Doug toys.”
Interactive Moments Help Uncover ‘Endless Possibilities’ for Play
With the tagline “Timeless Toys. Endless Possibilities,” interactivity is core to the Melissa & Doug store experience.
“Guests will get a close up look at the attention to detail, quality and play value of our toys, while also getting to engage with interactive store elements that will leave them feeling inspired by the power of play,” Kuring explained.
One obvious application of this interactivity is giving consumers the ability to test and play with toys. There is also an interactive space in the store where kids can measure how many “scoops of ice cream” tall they are. And little ones will get to bring home their own assortment of stickers and other branded goodies — whether or not they make a purchase.
But equally important is the interactivity between shoppers and store employees: “Trained brand ambassadors will be ready to assist consumers with their shopping experience and recommend the perfect toy for every child,” said Kuring.
The store will serve as a destination to inspire and excite customers of all ages through product demonstrations, events and interactive moments. Featuring a curated selection of Melissa & Doug’s top-selling toys across categories, including pretend-play sets, learning toys, baby and toddler products, puzzles, and arts and crafts, the store will add more context and excitement to the toy discovery journey than if a customer were browsing online or through one of the brand’s wholesale retail partners.
However, the long-term vision and goal is for the flagship to be a point of inspiration for Melissa & Doug’s retail partners — and for the brand itself as it continues to expand.
“We do hope this store serves as inspiration for other retail partners in terms of the incredible breadth of our assortment and the way the brand comes to life,” Kuring said. “This flagship store is also a way for us to test the retail concept for the Melissa & Doug brand. We will use this initial store to get learnings that will help inform our broader retail strategy.”