Traditional retail is out and experiential retail that’s fun and Instagramable is in. Camp, a new 10,000-square-foot toy store in New York, is not only selling toys, it also has workshops, in-store activations and interactive areas for kids to try things out in an environment wholly different from that of the now-defunct Toys R Us.
“It really felt like there was no other category was kinda ripe for the mixture of merchandise and media and a play experience like the toy category,” said Ben Kaufman, BuzzFeed’s chief commerce officer and Camp’s CEO. “We’re complimenting the toy space in a lot of ways.”
Camp, which was founded this year, opens at a time when there’s a gap in the toy store sector, following the demise of Toys R Us earlier this year. According to a report from RetailMeNot, 87 percent of parents plan to shop in stores for toys during the holidays and will spend on average $247 on their children. Camp sells a variety of toys, including ones form independent toy manufacturers.
The main part of Camp’s store looks like any other toy store, with products lining its shelves. However, a “secret moving wall” reveals Base Camp, a summer-camp experience sponsored by MasterCard in a part of the store that will change every eight to 12 weeks. Currently, MasterCard-holders get free gift wrapping and a toy surprise. The sponsorship runs through March 15. Camp sees such sponsorships as a way to generate additional revenue beyond point of sale. Brands can sponsor revolving camps, for example, or do in-store activations, like Lick-a-Bubble, which is doing one for this season of camp.
“There’s an opportunity for a brand to take over all of camp and be that camp’s theme,” said Tiffany Markofsky Speyer, Camp’s CMO, who didn’t disclose how much the sponsorship costs.
Ecommerce will eventually be part of Camp’s experience as well, focusing on exclusive products (no word yet on what those look like). Another part of Camp’s allure (and another funnel of revenue) includes workshops like make your own lipgloss or dream catcher, running twice a day, with classes for different age groups costing between $25 and $35. Some free events like book signings will also happen at the store.
“We’re going to experiment and see,” Markofsky Speyer said. “It’s not Kidville; it’s not Jamboree—we’ll see how it works.”
BuzzFeed, which has a small ownership stake in Camp—Kaufman did not disclose how much—will use its advertising sales team to sell sponsorships and other ways to “integrate brands into a physical experience,” Kaufman said. (NBC’s ad team cannot sell Camp.) BuzzFeed CEO and co-founder Jonah Peretti sits on its the board of directors, as does Kaufman, Jim Robinson IV from RRE Ventures and Rachel Shechtman, founder of Story, which was acquired by Macy’s earlier this year.
“Being able to bring an advertiser into a relationship—and its like, how we can actually get people to play with this or we can get people to buy this,” Kaufman said. “That’s the ultimate frontier.”
Kaufman, whose role at BuzzFeed includes helping develop the Tasty line of products at Walmart and the Goodful brand at Macy’s, said the Camp team signed a lease of eight to nine years, signifying they intend to stay in New York’s Flatiron district for about a decade. The Camp team is planning on expanding its retail footprint across several major cities and planning long leases on all of the locations. Kaufman said he’s unfazed by the so-called “retail apocalypse.”
“Regardless of whatever headwinds retail has, people are going to leave their house. They’re going to have kids, and they need a place to go. They need a place to play, and that’s why they’re here,” Kaufman said.
Camp has 2,500 items for sale in its store, including branded T-shirts and other products. At the front of the store, Milk Bar has its own storefront, where it sells its own products as well as an exclusive s’mores sundae, as part of a wholesale agreement between Milk and Camp. For now, Camp will not offer any deals or discounts.
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