Retail Review : Jasper Junior
Name: Sammy O’Sullivan
Role: Store Manager/Buyer
Years visiting Reed Gift Fairs: Three
Product specialty: Children's educational toys
One word to describe what you do: Magic!
Tell us a little about how you began your business?
Founded in Melbourne in 1996, we began as a few charming pieces dotted through our coffee retailer and cafe, Jasper Coffee, which soon grew to be like a ‘Cave of Wonders’ that needed a home of its own in Fitzroy! In our original Brunswick Street store is where we still remain, embracing our place in the local community with personal ties to the local schools and residents. We have been fortunate to support many generations of children and families in their endeavours to educate and entertain through the act of play.
Describe what 2020 was like for you:
This year has been an incredible challenge with the effects of the pandemic leading to the closure of our Royal Arcade store in Melbourne’s CBD after 15 years of trade in this location. Adapting to the increased demand for online trade whilst also managing a closure was a huge juggle, but has reinforced the importance of a strong team with a common goal to get a business through these kinds of challenges.
When Victoria could finally begin to re-open after 2/3 year in lockdown – what did this look like for your store?
Reopening was going to be incredibly important for us, particularly as we headed towards our busiest season in the toys industry - Christmas! The ability to keep the shop running as ‘click & collect’ through our webstore allowed us to ensure the store was continuously ready to open at the drop of a hat. Thanks to lots of pre-planning and many revised ‘To Do’ lists, this would give us the best opportunity to make up for lost ground during closures, and we couldn’t have been able to do so without the support of Jobkeeper and our amazingly passionate staff.
How has COVID-19 and the impact it tore throughout the retail industry, changed the way you think about your business/customer?
We have always worked hard to support our local community, from schools to creators, to our regular customers and their children that visit every weekend, and the importance of these relationships has been reinforced during this time.
How did you innovate your business during 2020?
Like many small businesses, we made the most of our ‘downtime’ during lockdowns to boost our online presence. Refining our range was important to us to ensure we remained a unique business in the online space, just as we also sought ways to present our exceptional service that regular in-store customers know and trust, but on a digital platform.
Why do people return to your store?
We share our passion of presenting a ‘Traditional Toy Store’ and all the magic that comes from stepping into a physical space that celebrates childhood and classic nostalgia. Our staff are referred to as ‘The Fairies’ and are genuinely excited to create the magic of this experience for our ‘Little & Big Kids’ alike! All our toys are meticulously selected with the intention of becoming important tools for learning, or family heirlooms with their heritage quality. We are also conscious to support local makers and fair trade businesses, with sustainability, inclusivity, safety and longevity always at the forefront of the ranges we choose to present.
What new features, trends or products would you like to see at Reed Gift Fairs?
We always come armed with a list of customer requests for niche items and gaps that are hard to find in the toy market. There has certainly been a shift towards encouraging STEM learning for younger children, and less gendered toys for all ages. Our industry also can be one off mass production, quick fads and disposable items, so products that challenge this and are designed to be long-term investments that either grow with the child, or can be repurposed or passed along through the family, are certainly on the rise for requests.
Why do you visit Reed Gift Fairs?
It’s just like the ‘touch and hold’ experience that bricks and mortar stores like us depend on; seeing new products in person is incredibly important in our industry, allowing us to get first hand information on textures and fine details, particularly for items that are designed for sensory development or where quality is paramount. Attending Reed gives us a dedicated block of time to focus on buying for the year ahead, and organising our inventory goals for the ultimate crunch-time at Christmas.
What makes you optimistic about the future of retail?
Returning to a focus on supporting small businesses and shopping local we hope will become more widespread. If we all support one-another, we can continue to keep all our amazing local retailers together and put more money through employment and funding back into our local community.
If you could go back in time, what are some of the biggest lessons in retail you'd tell your younger self?
Treat every customer like an individual with the best intentions for your business. Be true to your personal passions and the right connections will become apparent. And always take a break when you need to… it’s an exhausting industry and burn out is powerful and real!!
Why do you love what you do?
Talking with customers and educators that are just as passionate about toys as we are is always a wonderful experience, but nothing beats seeing the long-time locals or visitors return to the shop to reminisce. We meet a lot of faces, but seeing the repeat ones as they and their families develop is just like watching children in our own families as they grow. It’s wonderful to be a part of people’s happy moments like birthday celebrations and newborn babies on a daily basis; there is always joy to be found in the toy shop!
Contact: 03 9417 4139