Saturday, September 21, 2013

Saturday Gift Post--Contemplating Cuteness, with New Breakfast-themed Keychains and Mini-Plush, Puzzles, and Lap Desks.

Regular readers of the blog have picked up by now that I have a soft spot for kawaii, or Japanese-style cuteness. There's the card line Maginating, for example, and the backpacks and lunchboxes I brought in from Beatrix. So when one of our gift reps showed me the Kidrobot line, I sort of swooned.

That said, one thing a buyer needs to remember is that our taste is not exactly our customers. One bookseller told me about working in a store where the buyer really loved cats, but it wasn't a pet store, so the market for the feline gifts wasn't quite as large as the buyer hoped. And similarly, this pop cultury stuff can skew a little narrow. There are other stores, Hot Pop, Exclusive Company, and Collectors Edge, come to mind, that might hit the market a bit more head on than us, but I thought surely there's something in the catalog that might work, and Mary noted that she hadn't placed on our side of town.

I was drawn to the breakfast items, if only because we have three strong brunch locations on our block--Cafe Hollander, Via Downer, and Original Pancake House*. We could have remind customers to revisit the block for brunch, and could have customers who came in who wanted a keepsake of their great brunch memories. OK, that's a little much. But am I glad that I bought the Dante's Down the Hatch bar glass when I was in Atlanta? Yes I am. I was shocked to hear that they recently closed.

So great, I brought in the mini plush and the key caps, and we've also got some of the erasers. But there was another problem. The key chains are blind box. That's a pop culture concept where you don't know which of the assortment you are getting, sort of an updated version of trading cards.

Let's just say our customers don't understand the concept of blind box. A small but significant chunk of them think they can open everything, even if they break the item or make it unsellable. I think this an issue that most bookstores have. So how do you make them understand but in fact you can't open this particular item, and if you get the sad banana instead of the happy grapefruit, you can't just bring it back?

At one point, we were just going to junk the blind box idea and open all the key chains and display them, but because of the way the key chains are constructed, they don't display on traditional racks. No, we're going to have to try this the way it was meant to be.

Is it ironic for me to say that after all my hesitations about buying this line, Jannis told me Barnes and Noble has been carrying them for about a year? I guess it's ok for a bookstore after all. 

So far, the biggest victim of this has been Nick, who wound up buying at least four keychains until the got the grapefruit of his dreams. He gave the banana to Greg and the donut to Jannis and the cupcake (breakfast cupcake?) to society.

Another new addition to the store are Pkolino puzzles, which also quite cute, though not exactly in kawaii way. We've been looking for some alternatives to Melissa and Doug as their presence has grown and expanded in the Milwaukee area. These puzzles are all wood and offer several creative options for solving.

When we ordered the Stephen Joseph backpacks and lunchboxes, the line was out of stock of their lapdesks. We don't normally hold backorders on gift items, as freight is so high, but in this case there was enough on the order to make it worth while. In addition to the owl and monkey lap desk, both of which contain a zippered pocket, we also got our dino pencil case.

And I'm sure you'll agree that these items are pretty cute as well.

*The original Original is in Portland, Oregon.

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