Modernizing a 20-Year Old Retail Business: Lessons from Island Treasure Toys

This week, we’re putting the spotlight on Island Treasure Toys, a multi-store toy retailer on the coast of Maine. Established about 20 years ago, the business was purchased by Paul and Emily Drappi in 2019 and has continued to flourish — even throughout the pandemic. 

We recently caught up with Paul and asked him to share the story behind the business and what he and Emily are doing to modernize their operations. 

Let’s dive in!

1. Tell us a bit about how Island Treasure Toys got started. What’s the story behind the business?

Island Treasure Stores was started about 20 years ago by the prior owner with the intention of being an eBay seller of Montessori toys. The business evolved into a successful local toy store, carrying a wide selection of toys (and gifts in our gift shop areas), and grew to three locations on the coast of Maine — Yarmouth, Freeport, and Bath. 

Emily and I bought the business in October 2019, and we’re lucky to inherit a wonderful team that had been such a big part of the business’s success. We were excited about bringing our e-commerce and digital marketing experience to an established, well-liked business. 

We successfully managed the business through the pandemic, being nimble and investing in the business (like Vend!), and are off to a good start in 2021. We are focused on growing the customer base and sales in each location through great product selection and service.

2. What are the unique things about your store that customers love? How do you keep people coming back?

Customers love our great selection of products, convenience and great service. Emily does all of our buying, and she has really freshened up the selection with new items over the last year. 

Customers know they can come in and find popular brands like LEGO and Barbie, classic toy store brands like Playmobil, Bruder and Brio, and lots of unique and unknown brands that customers can discover at our shop. 

Our free gift wrapping is a big plus for our customers — the convenience of being able to bring your children in to shop for their friends’ birthday and walk out with a beautifully wrapped gift makes us a great choice for birthday shopping; and, during the holidays, we wrap thousands of gifts! 

Add in a big focus on expert help and super friendly customer service, and we have happy customers who continue to find Island Treasure Toys as a top choice for their toy and gift needs. 

3.  What are some of the challenges that come with running multiple stores and how do you overcome them in your business?

We have 3 outlets and also sell on Amazon Marketplace and our own website. The biggest challenge is keeping inventory accurate between all three stores, while selling online.

We have to be careful not to oversell items, particularly during our peak holiday season, as we are selling the same items in-store and online, and so the real-time inventory Vend offers across the three stores and our website is an important feature to us. 

There is also a lot of movement of product between stores, and so an easy and accurate process to transfer items from one outlet to another is key. 

Vend’s receiving process for transferred items allows us to keep a good record of the activity and keep inventory accurate across stores.

4. What is your favorite Vend feature and why?

My favorite Vend feature is the reporting!

While we’re a small, independent toy store, we try to be as data driven as possible in running the business. Vend’s suite of reporting is a big improvement over our last POS. The ease of use and flexibility of reporting options allow us to quickly answer questions about the business and be nimble and accurate with our buying process. 

The real-time dashboards are great, as well, for keeping an eye on daily sales and seeing how each outlet is doing. 

5. Are you using any add-ons or integrations with Vend? Can you tell us more about what you’re using?

We’ve integrated Vend with WooCommerce, Quickbooks Online, and MailChimp. The bulk of our use is around WooCommerce and Quickbooks online.

The WooCommerce integration has been great, as we used to have to manually manage our online inventory, and being able to add products in Vend and publish on WooCommerce also saves us time and effort. 

Vend Tip

Run and grow your business on multiple channels with Vend and WooCommerce — an integration that’s free to use on Vend’s Pro and Enterprise plans.

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We are not doing too many marketing emails at the moment, but one of the reasons we got Vend is to grow our email list and have better customer data, so we’ll be leveraging the MailChimp integration more in the future.

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.