Summer Impulsivity

Cynthia Compton - July 24, 2019

Kites, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes and sand toys…. these are the traditional summer staples of a children’s store, along with graphic novels, a healthy dose of classics in paperback, and in late July and early August, the ENTIRE SCHOOL SUMMER READING LIST, ranked for us in sales order by the lowest number of pages per title added to the number of days until classes begin…. and just like golf, the lowest score wins.
Add to our hot list the “big” new releases, and those favorite staff backlist hand-sold titles that top the backorder reorder lists…. in our store, that includes a lot of sports titles and middle grade historical fiction. I think that it’s also fun and profitable to liven things up a bit with new impulse items in the summer season. Stacked next to the displays of patriotic titles in July and back-to-school picture books in August, those special little treasures just beg to be added into bags and tied on top of wrapped packages. Add-on items are good for both the bottom line and your customers’ sense of vacation whimsy, and keep the store interesting and fun for repeat customers and new visitors alike. For the adult gift givers who are “just not sure what the kids are reading,” we can offer gift cards for books to be selected later, and a “little treat” tied on top of the envelope… or a summer camp care package filled with small delights for rainy days.

Here are the impulse items that are flying out of our store this summer:

Lovely Paper countertop spinner from Djeco.

From our friends at Djeco, the Lovely Paper line is a charming collection of notebooks, colored pencils, stationery and stickers, all sold individually but also available to stock in this convenient countertop spinner unit. The art on these items is exquisite, and bookshop buyers will recognize the distinctive work of several picture book illustrators in the collection. These small impulse items are lovely when grouped together as a gift, tucked into a package mailed to Camp Lots-of-Itchy-Bites, or as present toppers added to a book or two.
While you’re meandering through their catalog, you might consider the puzzles, craft items, and baby toys for your 4th quarter, too…. but that’s probably another post.¬† (Email them at:

Wooden clutch toys and teeters from HABA.

In the baby section, or close to the board books, consider the tried-and-true line of infant teethers, clutch toys and small hanging items from HABA US ( We have stocked HABA items for years, and do a brisk business in their games, outdoor toys, and Little Friends lines, but it was a “traffic jam” of sorts in the baby section that led to a retail “aha moment” this summer. We were out of space in the infant department, and needed to move a larger display unit to storage for a month or two in order to accommodate more sand and water toys. That left our smaller wooden baby toys without a home, and we didn’t have a place to hang them. A huge, heavy apothecary jar was pressed into service, and bingo! a hot new item scooted up the restock list. Since teething is a year-round activity (just like grandparent visits), we’ll keep this jar by the register. (

Glo Pals light-up cubes for the bath, the wading pool, and the water table.

GloPals light-up cubes have been a hit in our store since we discovered them at a gift show last year, both as a bathtub toy for kids and a fun addition to adult beverages for our grownup customers. These cute little water activated cubes light up when wet, and then turn themselves off after they dry, allowing for multiple magical bath times and cocktails on the deck… with or without fireflies. This summer, we discovered their magic in wading pools and water tables, and kept that delightful point-of-purchase display right up front next to the register. The¬†picture to the left shows the one-color versions, but be sure to look at the “party packs” of clear cubes like the ones below that flash multiple changing colors when wet, and look like square little ice cubes. (

Clear Glo Pals in action.

Speks, those marvelous magnetic fidget toys, just keep finding ways to entice buyers to add a package or two to their purchases. Adding the color versions to the display has tripled our summer sales this year, and they were popular Father’s Day items (these are not appropriate toys for young children, due to swallowing concerns, but are endlessly fascinating to older buyers). I recently took a sample package to an eldercare facility and got an unexpected but welcome order from an occupational therapist on staff. (

The point of purchase display from Speks keeps these little packages contained, and the optional video display is helpful for demonstration without needing to open a package.

Plus Plus Mystery Box display unit

The Danish company Plus Plus has produced lots of interesting building sets, both in tubes and boxes, and we love the open-ended creativity (and quiet) of this toy. This summer we have had great success with the “Mystery Box” collections, each containing 50 pieces, with only the colors of the blocks giving clues about the object to be built. Directions are revealed inside this clever collectible idea, combining both the “blind box” trend with a non-gendered toy that can be combined with the rest of the child’s collection of Plus Plus blocks once the mystery figure is built. (
What are your shop’s best impulse items this season? I’d love to hear which little things are making a big splash in your store!

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About Cynthia Compton

Cynthia is the owner of 4 Kids Books & Toys in Zionsville, Indiana, a 2600 sq. ft. childrens store founded in 2003. She serves on the board of the American Booksellers Association, is a past president of the Great Lakes Bookseller Association, and is a former member of the American Specialty Toy Retail Association board of directors. 4 Kids was honored with the Pannell Award in 2013 and has received numerous "best of" awards in the Indianapolis area. The opinions expressed in her posts are her own, and sometimes those of her english bulldogs.

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