Toy Destination

Retailers can create excitement and encourage sales of ferret toys by taking steps to make their store a fun destination.


When it comes to toys, one name has always fired my imagination: FAO Schwarz. The New York City flagship store’s appearances in movies always made it seem larger than life, and it became so well-known that it became a must-see tourist destination. In 2012, Frederick August Otto Schwarz, founder and namesake of the store, who died in 1911, was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame by the Toy Industry Association. I recently visited NYC and, of course, the store was on my list of places to see. Although the store, which sadly closed this past July, did not appear as large as it had in the movies, it still had an aura of excitement and whimsy, with its larger-than-life stuffed animals—everything from dogs to unicorns. The visit also turned out to be an unlikely source of inspiration.

People, of course, are not the only ones who love toys. Ferrets are the most playful of all the small pets, and toys make up a large portion of sales for them. Why not make your ferret toy department larger than life? By specializing in toys, retailers can increase customer excitement and maybe even make their store a local destination.

There is a quote from Schwarz that appears on the FAO Schwarz website that says, “‘I have made toys my life study. It is a splendid issue, and aside from the commercial question, there is more solid satisfaction in dealing with childhood playthings, and in knowing the joy one is sending out into the hearts of the little ones, than in selling any other commodity in the world.” Replace the word “childhood” with “pet,” and you have the basis for a pet retail philosophy.

To make a retail location a toy destination, consider the three Vs: variety, volume and view. Stock a wide variety of ferret toys, create drama with a large volume of toys, and be sure to make the customer’s view of the toys exciting. There are several ways to do this. An endcap packed with toys can display either one type of toy or different types. A dump bin, either wire or cardboard, filled with colorful plush toys can give the impression of abundance and fun. A long wall of toys can also give a feeling of abundance and diversity.

Color blocking—arranging toys in sections by color—is another way to attract attention. Be sure to also put sample toys in the ferret displays.
Social media is a great way to create excitement about ferret toys. Retailers can get customers involved by asking, “What is your ferret’s favorite toy?” Customers can be encouraged to post pictures or videos of their ferrets playing on the store’s Facebook page. Another way to get customers involved is to hold events such as ferret races. Continue the focus on ferret toys by mentioning them in ads and promotions. Banner signs in the store will add to the festive atmosphere—for example, signs that say, “We are your ferret fun destination,” or “Come join in the ferret toy frenzy.”

Among ferrets’ most endearing qualities are their energy and motion. Retailers can take advantage of this in promotions by using verbs that describe a ferret’s actions during play. Ferrets frisk, dance, spring, roll, wrestle, tunnel, dig, bury, run, chase, pounce, carry, chew, pull, tug, drag and hide. Signs featuring these words placed around the store or among the toy displays highlight the fun that ferrets can have with the toys you sell. Here is an overview of the types of ferret play to highlight:

Tunnel:  Wild ferrets live in burrows, so tubes and tunnels are natural toys for domestic ferrets. Ferret owners can choose from tubes made of plastic, cloth, wood, grass and cardboard. Tubes can be put in the ferret cage and in the ferret’s play area. Ferret owners can use a variety of different tubes and arrange them in different ways. Ferrets love running in and out of the tubes, and changing the configuration of the tubes will give the ferret a new experience each time.

Dig, roll:  Ferrets love to dig, and there are several products that can fulfill this need, such as a bin filled with colorful plastic balls or a box overflowing with nontoxic, starch packing peanuts.

Spring, pounce:  Toys that bounce or spring back when pushed or jumped are on very popular with ferrets.

Run, chase:  As predators, ferrets have a strong instinct to chase moving objects. Toys that encourage chasing behavior include motorized toys, small balls thrown by their owners, and feathers on a string on a toy made like a fishing pole. Ferrets favor balls containing bells and other noisemakers, as well as treat balls that dispense goodies as the ferret rolls it.

Tug, pull:  Ferrets will tug and pull on a dangling toy, determined to pull it free. A dangling toy can entertain these animals for quite a while.
Drag, carry, hide:  Plush toys, especially floppy ones, are perfect for a ferret to drag off and hide in a secret spot.

Wrestle:  Ferrets love to wrestle with each other and a human hand. They tend to play a little rough, so owners may want to consider wearing a mitten for protection. Owners can also hold a plush toy and use it to wrestle with their ferret.

Debbie Ducommun has a B.A. in animal behavior and has worked in the animal field since 1982. She is the author of the book Rats!, the booklet Rat Health Care and, her most recent book, The Complete Guide to Rat Training: Tricks and Games for Rat Fun and Fitness.

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