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Toy store in crisis: 'we are the dinosaurs'

Just a few years ago, they were as much a part of city centers as fashion stores or shoe shops: toy stores full of dolls, model trains and social games.

But that is over. More and more classic toy stores are giving up, besieged by online retailers such as amazon, discounters such as lidl and the brand stores of toy manufacturers.

"We are the dinosaurs," says jurgen budke, co-owner and managing director of the mukk children’s department store, which still sells toys in the old town of munster. The fact is that the triumph of online retailing has hit the toy trade harder than almost all other sectors. Around 40 percent of all toys are now purchased online. Stationary specialized trade still accounts for just 30 percent of sales.

"The number of classic toy stores has been declining for years," reports steffen kahnt, managing director of the federal association of toy retailers (bvs). Between 2010 and 2016 alone – there are no more recent figures – almost one in seven toy retailers had to give up, according to the federal statistical office.

And after that, the trend got even worse. Because even major chains such as toys R us and intertoys were increasingly plunged into turbulence. The dutch toy chain intertoys announced the closure of all its stores in germany last summer. The business is simply no longer worthwhile. The nearly 70 toys r us stores in germany were taken over by the irish giant smyths toys after the collapse of the u.S. Toy retailer.

But it’s not just the internet that threatens toy retailers. The discounters and drugstore chains are also increasingly competing with the classic toy store. Lidl, for example, lured customers to christmas with its own 28-page toy catalog. The offerings ranged from wooden rocking horses to remote-controlled flying helicopters. Even the fashion chain C&A is now supplementing its range of children’s clothing with best-selling products from well-known brand manufacturers such as lego or playmobil, according to a company spokesperson.

So are toy stores threatened with extinction? Not necessarily. Munster toy retailer budke, for example, likes to call his children’s department store a dinosaur. But he is in no hurry to die out. For him, it’s clear: "dinosaurs that specialize will survive. All the others will die."And he is doing everything to ensure that his children’s department store mukk has a future.

"We are an experience department store," is how he describes the concept. On 3000 square meters in the old town of munster, mukk offers not only over 60.000 items from stuffed animals to baby cradles and children’s fashion, but also a lot of shopping space. In the children’s fashion department a merry-go-round beckons. A slide leads to a visit in the basement and everywhere there are opportunities to touch and try out the toys. In addition, the mukk regularly organizes events ranging from the "magic night in the children’s department store" to the "tipp-kick" tournament. And it has its own online store.

Industry spokesman sees the path budke has taken as promising. "There is still room for toy stores that offer a special shopping experience with an original assortment mix and retain customers with promotions and festivities," he is convinced.

But the next few years will not be easy for the remaining toy retailers in the shopping streets either. Because the number of challenges is increasing even more. Finally, children’s toys and clothing are no longer just sold on the internet, but are increasingly also rented out – by start-ups such as kilenda, but also by well-known retail chains such as tchibo or real.

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