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Store takes on Yugioh Cards By Marina Strauss GlobandMail.com Friday, October 11, 2002

Store takes on the Toy Titans Yugioh Cards
ByMarina Strauss GlobandMail.com
Friday, October 11, 2002
Item# stortakonyug

Product Description

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Store takes on the toy titans
By MARINA STRAUSS
Friday, October 11, 2002
 Page B10

In the heart of Toronto's Bay Street financial district, deep in the bowels of one of its tallest office towers, a new toy store has opened, peddling some of today's hit items, such as Beyblade tops and Yu-Gi-Oh cards.

Toys, Toys, Toys may seem out of place, but perhaps even more surprising is that anyone these days would set up a toy shop and compete with titans Toys "R" Us, Wal-Mart and Zellers.

"Customers appreciate the service," says Joel Reiken, co-owner of the small retailer. "Go into Toys "R" Us, see if you can get someone to help you."

The big chains dominate the $2.2-billion toy retailing field, which doesn't make the game easy for Toys, Toys, Toys, which opened its seventh store at the Toronto-Dominion Centre last month. Mr. Reiken is the first to acknowledge the challenges.

He and his two brothers work 70-hour weeks each and ring in only a "marginal" profit. He won't reveal annual sales. "It's a hard business," he says.

But that hasn't stopped the brothers from continuing in the fickle game as they gear up for the frenzy of holiday shopping and try to get a read on how the season will play out.

This fall, no new blockbuster movies are scheduled to hit the multiplexes and tie in with toy merchandising blitzes -- although the sequel to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone may make a splash and generate toy-related business.

Nor are there any new big-ticket video game consoles ( la XBox or PlayStation 2) -- although that makes no difference to Mr. Reiken because he stays out of the crowded video game sector. Still, Toys "R" Us and others will try to make up for the lack of new hardware by pitching new software for existing machines.

"There isn't that one-hit wonder," says Mary Zanette, vice-president of marketing at Toys "R" Us Canada, which has 63 big-box stores and ranks as one of the country's two top toy sellers, along with Wal-Mart Canada. "But that's not such a bad thing, either."

It's not so bad because there are other products on the toy shelves that may make this season "a reasonably good year," says David Davenport, vice-chairman of the Canadian Toy Association and president of Hasbro Canada.

Beyblades, made by Hasbro and a big hit with eight-year-old boys, will help toy makers make ends meet, as will the popular Yu-Gi-Oh trading cards, merchants say. Traditional toys, as basic as board games and Play-Doh, may also help fill a void, Mr. Davenport says.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets will make its appearance in mid-November, unloading with it reams of Dumbledore's Office sets by Lego and Polyjuice Potion Makers by Mattel.

Last fall's release of Harry Potter was a "huge" multimillion-dollar success for toy maker Mattel Canada, and "we anticipate a similar business" with the sequel, says Mattel marketing manager Kent Cuthbert.

Nearly as hotly anticipated by Mr. Reiken is the release of the Spider-Man video, which will touch off another round of sales of the character's action figures and other products, he predicts.

Meanwhile, Beyblades are the big buzz in toy stores, even though -- or maybe because -- they are in scarce supply.

Beyblades are spinning tops with which players battle one another in a Beystadium or other confined space to see who can keep their top going the longest. The battle for toy sellers is to keep enough of the fast-selling Beyblades in stock.

And it doesn't look like supply will keep up with demand for the holiday season, Mr. Reiken says. "It will drive up the prices and could drive us crazy. That's why everyone isn't in the toy business."

Mr. Reiken, for one, doesn't believe that Beyblades will enjoy a long life. He doesn't think the tops will make it as a sought-after collectible. "I'm sure by after Christmas, there will be something else."

Yu-Gi-Oh cards are another big craze these days, prompting some parents to shell out hundreds of dollars since their launch last spring.

Whether this craze will survive as long as Pokemon or Beanie Babies is anyone's guess. "It's a market at the mercy of trends and fads," says Ed Strapagiel at Kubas Consultants. "That's just business as usual in toys."

Business as usual also means that at this time of year, chains such as Canadian Tire, RadioShack and even Future Shop suddenly crank up their toy inventories and advertising to cash in on the big gift-buying season, Mr. Strapagiel says.

That's not easy on Mr. Reiken, whose new store in Toronto's financial district targets parents with kids who are begging for Beyblades, Yu-Gi-Oh cards or some other in-demand toy.

Why even bother to battle the big chains? "It's difficult," Mr. Reiken says. "But we're convenient for people, we're in their neighbourhood."





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