Coronavirus boosts local toy shop sales with kids at home

With Amazon delays, some toy stores have seen a 25% sales boom

The moral of this toy story is to support local retailers all year round, and not just during a time of crisis, small business owners urge.

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With school closures as a result of the widespread coronavirus outbreak, parents have been on a buying spree to get toys and workbooks to keep their little ones occupied at home. And with Amazon delivery delays as items go out of stock due to increased demand, customers are calling up toy stores in their neighborhood, ordering online or getting same-day delivery.

Mary Arnold Toys, a family-owned toy store that’s been in business for 85 years on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, delivers items like books, games and puzzles nationwide. In the past week, employees have noticed business has been on par with the holidays, their busiest time of year, as people splurge hundreds of dollars on puzzles, Rubik's cubes and science workbooks.

“We’ve gotten phone calls from relieved parents saying, ‘I need arts and crafts activities for my kids.' They don’t want to wait the two or three days for shipping,” store owner Judy Ishayik told FOX Business Tuesday.

On Sunday, the store saw upward of 50 walk-in customers, and online sales have increased by 10 percent in the last week, Ishayik said.

The store, where the average spend per person is between $15 and $30, has sold more than half of its puzzle inventory and has completely sold out of board games like checkers and “Guess Who?” In the coming days Ishayik says the store will likely take orders by phone and virtually via FaceTime to avoid person-to-person contact in store. She still offers local delivery for the time being.

“We’ve gotten phone calls from relieved parents saying, ‘I need arts and crafts activities for my kids.' They don’t want to wait the two or three days for shipping,” 

- Judy Ishayik, owner of Mary Arnold Toys in Manhattan

"I'm hoping when the crisis is over, people will remember to support local businesses a little bit more," Ishayik said.

The consumer demand to shop locally comes as Amazon announced it's prioritizing shipping essential supplies, including household and medical products. Items like Play-Doh, drawing pads and washable paint are flying off the shelves. And the wait to get a number of arts and crafts products is at least five days on Amazon.

Others, like nationwide specialty toy franchise Learning Express, have seen a 25 percent sales increase online compared to the same time last year.

“The most popular items right now are certainly our workbooks, flashcards, puzzles and games – anything that will keep the kids engaged at home but also keep them educated,” said Lauren Derse, director of marketing for Learning Express, adding that outdoor toys like scooters and mini golf play sets have also been top sellers.

“The status of where we’re at now might change dramatically now that Amazon has stopped selling products that we carry,” Derse added.

Around 85 percent of the world’s toys are made in China, where the coronavirus was first detected in the city of Wuhan. Factories there remained closed or are operating at lower frequencies due to production difficulties amid the virus. And big toy companies like Hasbro, Mattel and Lego are combatting delayed factory openings as the outbreak worsens.

"I'm hoping when the crisis is over, people will remember to support local businesses a little bit more." 

- Judy Ishayik, owner of Mary Arnold Toys in Manhattan
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"For the most part, we're getting what we ordered," Ishayik said of getting toy shipments from vendors on time, noting some new kids' products, like helmets she was expecting from China, have been delayed.

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"When the warehouses run out, we're going to have a problem," she said.

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