By Pete Laudin: Pete and his wife Adrienne, are the founders of one of America’s oldest ‘Doll Only’ e-commerce
It started with a grumpy phone call: “If I ordered this doll today, when would I get it?” I get those calls a lot – people order late, forgot a birthday, whatever, but her follow up question floored me: “Are you sure? Amazon says it will be three weeks.”
So I went to Amazon and looked it up, and sure enough, Amazon had a notice: “Due to the emergency…” Amazon was de-prioritizing toy shipments. If you wanted a web-cam, masks, printer ink, sanitizer, or toilet paper – good to go. (Maybe.) Toys? Weeks.
At the top of my sites, I have Banner Bars. My announcement went from ‘Fast Flat Rate Shipping only $8.95,’ to: ‘We Have Your Dolls and are Shipping Now! Fast Flat Rate Shipping only $8.95!’
And then the orders started to pour in. By the end of March, we were approaching rates that we normally saw in December. And we started running out of inventory. Like everyone else in the toy industry, we follow ‘The Cycle.’ Sell everything we can in the 4th quarter, go to Toy Fair in the 1st quarter and buy more, especially new products with an eye towards Christmas. The inventory arrives into our warehouse from March until October. Rinse and repeat.
But this was April, and the Pandemic was ranging, and we were selling out.
First concern: Did my vendors have any inventory?
COVID had already hit China and shut it down. Remember the International Pavilion at Toy Fair that wasn’t?
Tariffs had also slowed trade as both sides tried to predict Trump’s 15%. Order now, order later?
And finally? Was anybody home?
Well, it turned out EVERYBODY was home! Really! Seriously! At Home. I talked to people I had never met before – the Owners!! And they might only have a skeleton crew in their warehouse, or only ship on Mondays, but yes, they had some inventory left over. And yes, they could get it to me.
Holy Moly, and thank you so much! I was really feeling the love for my vendors! THANK-YOU Vendors! PS: How about my Toy Fair orders… any of the new stuff show up yet? No. February promises became May promises that became July or later promises. So no new stuff. But that’s OK, I can live with that. As long as I don’t have empty pages on the web sites.
And then, just when we thought things couldn’t get any better… the Black Lives Matter discussions hit. And the Pattycake Doll Company has been the #1 online source for Black Dolls for kids for over 15 years. A couple of prominent Mommy Bloggers writing articles on how to talk to kids about race, a few referrals to our sites from sources like Essence Magazine and boom! 300 hits per page becomes 3000 hits per page and I’m back on the phones… “Hey that order from last week? I need to double and reorder… how fast can you get it here?”
And they did it. All of my vendors, working from their homes, in the midst of a pandemic….many not even sure how their software worked, or who was in the warehouse, got me my merchandise. And no matter how many times I thanked them, I still feel it wasn’t enough. So I want to thank them all again, in public, loud and proud: THANK-YOU! You’re the best! You make me so proud to be part of this industry! Stay Well, Stay Safe and God Bless.
stores: The Pattycake Doll Co., currently located at https://BestDollsForKids.com.