HAMILTON — While the crunch is on for inventory at the big box stores nationwide, local toy stores have used their independence, and their ingenuity to help shoppers with their Christmas lists this year.
A rough estimate is that there could be some 25,000 items at Mainstreet Toys in downtown Hamilton. It's an encouraging sign, given the supply shortages hammering larger stores across the country.
"Obviously the shipping has been a huge deal," admits store owner Jeni Seifert. "I mean everyone from the representatives and the sales reps are all trying to get the toy stores what they need. But yeah, the mood is trying to find what's in stock."
That's where the ingenuity and insight of an independent toy store come in. Early on, Seifert and Kate, — her manager — realized this wouldn't be a normal Christmas.
"You know, the biggest thing we did is when we go to our trade shows. We kind of anticipated this so we tried to look for companies that we normally don't bring in," Seifert explained.
"We tried to look for items that kind of take the place of the new, hot popular items. And just tried to buy a lot more than we normally would buy, hoping that we would get the items in. And we have!" Seifert told MTN News.
That's the secret of "buy local" shopping; connecting with your consumers so they find the unexpected even when they're looking for the expected because you're in touch with your town.
"New stuff that we've never carried. Or we're trying new things or items that we've never had. Or name brands that we haven't had to try and help people substitution for what they can't get," Seifert noted.
Mainstreet Toys continues online shopping to compliment a store filled with old favorites, and new discoveries. And this year, Seifert says the store is seeing more out-of-town shoppers.
"We do. We have a lot of people from Missoula and other areas really surprised at the inventory that we do have. They're excited because they kind of hear on the news the downside of everything. But they're coming in here pretty excited. And people want a good Christmas. They are ready to get back and shop and have that normal Christmas feeling." - Jeni Seifert
While independent stores like this one have the flexibility to keep up with toy fads, Seifert says a lot of time shoppers are just looking for the basics. The favorites. A stuffed animal and maybe a family board game.
"I think part of the success here is finding a little bit of everything for everyone. Because we have a wide variety that come into the store. It's not just kids. You know, we have a lot of adults that like their toys too."