It was a complete fluke. My daughter, Quinn, was watching a classic TV show with me that I'd introduced to her months ago. Watching it, suddenly it clicked. I knew who Supreme Leader Snoke from Star Wars: The Force Awakens really is!
No, not Darth Vader or Kylo Ren from the future. Not Darth Plageuis, either. Something even more unbelievable.
First - a short clip with audio of Snoke as a refresher... then the reveal, below.
Okay, so who is (or was) Snoke, where did he come from, what did he do before becoming the Supreme Leader?
Don't click this link unless you really want to know: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1j7lyRnxVE
We had a great 2015, but nowhere did we see faster growth than with our birthday bin program. What are birthday bins? Your birthday child fills a bin with toys s/he wants 1-2 weeks before the party, you fill out a note card with the items listed and their prices, and your guests choose something out of the bin and cross the item off the list.
Pretty simple. For everyone. But we've found two ways to make it even simpler. And more rewarding.
1) No more note card required. Which means no more cramped fingers or frustration as you try to quickly write down toy names on a small card as fast as your child is piling them in the bin. Instead, we will scan in the items and print a line list with prices for guests to reference. (Without having to read your chicken scratch.) Better for you, better for your guests.
2) Every purchase made out of your child's bin = loyalty points for you. A birthday bin can only deliver on your child's expectations if party guests shop out of it. Which means letting your guests know it exists. When you do, you'll be rewarded. For every $2 spent by your guests on birthday bin items, we give you 1 loyalty point. (100 loyalty points = $10 off a future order.) So if $100 in birthday gifts are purchased out of your child's bin, you get 50 points.
That means you now have TWO ways to earn loyalty points: 1 point for every $1 you spend at Mountain Top Toys, PLUS 1 point for every $2 spent out of your child's birthday bin. And trust us, birthday bin points can add up FAST when your guests know the bin exists.
A day or two after your child's party, we will go through their bin and tally what was purchased, add loyalty points to your account, and shoot you an email with any items not purchased in your child's bin for your future consideration.
We plan to kick off these enhancements January 5th. As always, your feedback is welcome.
Stop by this Thursday for a little Noon Year's Eve fun! We'll be dropping a ball from the roof of our toy store right at noon to celebrate the new year! It's a great way to let the kiddos enjoy their own celebration before the adults enjoy their own party at midnight.
We plan to have a craft table for the kids, so stop by early before the ball drop to take part. And every child who attends will get their own inflatable play ball to take home.
And parents can enjoy 30% off anything in the store from noon through 2pm!
Thanks for a great 2015, and we look forward to serving you in 2016 with the best toys in the area!
The final week before Christmas is a crazy one.
Items start selling out at stores, online prices for hot items begin to jump (due to opportunistic sellers jacking up prices when supply/demand falls in their favor), and slight panic creeps in as Christmas approaches one day at a time.
It's a reminder of the value of having a local neighborhood toy store. We can help you find something special, gift wrap it for free, and even give you Loyalty Points toward a $10 discount for every $100 you spend.
So stop in to find last-minute gift ideas that will delight, along with terrific stocking stuffers. We even have some great gifts for older kids and parents - bluetooth speakers, Metal Earth kits (including some from Star Wars: The Force Awakens!), Lids Lash, Poopourri and more!
1) Bonding! Wish lists let parents and their kids work together to find the perfect gifts that both feel good about receiving. It's a great way to see through your kids' eyes what they're are drawn to and interested in... while also letting you influence some decisions.
2) Freedom! You no longer have to be the gift-giving liasion between grandparents and kids. Out-of-town relatives can call our store and talk to one of our staff. We'll walk them through the list, explain the toys to them, and work together to find a gift off of your child's list. Then we wrap the gift and give you a call when it's ready for pick-up.
3) Convenience! Our lists are kept at the store. Got a few free minutes without your kids? Pop in, check out your kids' lists, and grab some items without prying eyes or distractions.
Stop by anytime to create a wish list!
So the Chattanooga Times Free Press last week announced their 2015 Best of the Best awards. And once again, for the up-teenth year in a row, there was no category for Best Place to Buy a Toy.
Best Place to Buy Liquor? Yes.
Best Self Storage Company? Yes.
Best Mattress Store? Yes.
Best Locksmith? Yes. (Presumably to get you into your storage unit which stores your extra mattress after you lose your one set of keys somewhere inside the best place to buy liquor.)
But a category for businesses that sell toys? Not a chance. We can only assume this is because between all the toy stores in town, our combined newspaper ad dollars just don't register on TFP's radar like, say, Best Place to Throw Darts. (Not to be confused with Best Place to Play Pool, another bona fide category.)
Which means, once again, we are pleased, honored and forced to declare ourselves tied for first for Best Place to Buy a Toy in the Chattanooga area!
With whom are we tied? Congrats go out to: Learning Express, Toys R Us, Babies R Us, Green Door Toys, Target, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Hobby Lobby, Ace Hardware, K-Mart, Barnes & Noble, the Tennessee Aquarium, the Creative Discovery Museum, the Tennessee Zoo, Academy Sports & Outdoors, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Cracker Barrel, Michael's, Sears, Lowe's Home Improvement, Kohl's, Dillard's, Marshall's, T.J. Maxx, JCPenney, Stein Mart, Big Lots, Publix, Ollie's Bargain Outlet, Burkes Outlet, Whole Foods, Costco, and all those random mall kiosks that pop up around the holidays (and then disappear just days before you want to return your defective R/C helicopter).
All of whom, for some reason or another, sell toys and therefore are dead-locked in a tie for first until such time as the good people of Chattanooga are allowed to vote. Until then - someone call a locksmith! (The Best of the Best Locksmith, please.)
This is it - the final days of summer vacation. But the season is going to end on a high note! With lots of free fun and activities on Taft Highway August 15th from 10-1pm - and it happens in front of Mountain Top Toys (1231 Taft) and Sawrie Orthodontics (1229 Taft).
It's your last chance to spoil the little ones before the school year kicks into high gear. A chance for parents to take a deep breath between the craziness that is summer vacation... and the craziness that is the start of a new school year.
Sawrie Orthodontics has lined up some BIG fun - like Holes To Go mini putt-putt, an inflatable bouncy, the Tikkiz Truck (free shaved ice), free cotton candy and more.
Calico Critters fans... Mountain Top Toys will have a special guest in attendance along with fun Calico activities and a chance for you to win an amazing Deluxe Calico Critters House (a $150 value)!
Also, look for some other great Mountain Top Toys giveaways and surprises. And Saturday marks the final day for you to turn in your Summer Bridge Activities book for 40% off any item in the store! (We'll also be giving the Mountain Education Foundation a check for 20% of all SBA sales later this month to disperse to Thrasher and Nolan schools.)
NEW THIS YEAR - Pruett's Market is going to be scooping up free ice cream floats during the entire party. Just that ALONE is a party in most towns and in the entire state of North Dakota. (Sorry, North Dakota. Kisses!)
So mark your calendar for the ultimate end-of-summer howdy do! The fun begins at 10:00 am this Saturday.
Yesterday we posted on Facebook that we had three birthday bins for this weekend and invited those with children who are having July birthdays to come in and create a bin.
Facebook being Facebook, it only showed our post to a few dozen of our 560+ "followers." But less than 24 hours later, we now have six birthday bins ready to go.
Which is great news. Because we have never been better stocked in July than we are now. (We're confident our claim holds up for all 23 summers the store has been in business, not just our three as owners.)
Rather than wait to bring in new items until the holidays as is traditionally the case, we've brought many things in early for late summer and early fall birthdays. This way, those kids have a more well-rounded selection to choose from when creating their bins. Including:
1) A TON of fairy garden accessories and fairy figures from three different manufacturers. (In May, we had zero fairy garden items.)
2) New lines for Dinosaurs, Inside Out, Perfect Petzzz and more - not to mention keeping our popular Minecraft items fully stocked (including a new plush squid).
3) A boatload of Stuffies that we've reinvested in now that the price has dropped from $29.99 to $19.99 - one of the best values in our store. It's plush-plus-functionality for little ones, now at a birthday price point.
4) A gazillion Metal Earth model kits. Seriously, we had to get a whole new rack to fit them all. And all under $15.
5) New innovative and extreme outdoor toys - we love the lines we have (like the hot "new" game Spikeball - which we've been selling since 2012!), and now we've expanded into innovative OgoSports items plus we really went deep with new ziplines, slacklines, Sky pogos, a 30-foot water slide and more.
6) Reinvesting in classic fun - we have a new pop gun display, we're fully stocked with hand-carved wooden sling shots, and we just brought in a pull-string "stunt" helicopter, all for under $15.
7) Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty - seriously cool. And great for all ages. We just did our first big re-order after only having this product line for less than two months. Again, nothing here over $15.
8) More birthday items under $20 than ever before. From our new Spicebox craft kits with prices so good we don't think customers actually believe it, to new science kits and science books, to the increasing line of popular PlushCraft DIY pillows.
9) And yes, lots of Ty Beanie Boos and Calico Critters. We have the largest selection on the mountain of both these lines, and we'll put our respective assortments up against anyone in the area. (And we're ordering lots more of both this weekend!)
10) Finally, our loyalty program today crossed the $12,000 reward mark - including $2,000 just since Easter.
We continue to work really hard to find toys and gifts in all price ranges, and to ensure we offer (forgetting for a moment that we carry Fart Bombs) toys with real value.
No store bats 1.000, but we feel our batting average is up there with the best. Especially given the relative size of our store and the small community we serve. Thank you.
Last month marked our two year anniversary as "new" owners of Mountain Top Toys. But this month marked a truly major milestone for us.
We offer our customers a no-gimmick loyalty program. It's unique in that your reward "credits" are stored for you in an iPad in our store. No annoying punch cards, no "programs" that require common core math to figure out your savings or a gazillion visits before you can redeem. In short, if you can remember your phone number, you're all set.
It's also unique in the amount we give back. You earn one credit for every dollar you spend. Reach 100 credits, and the next time you shop with us you get $10 off your purchase. It's like getting 10% off all your purchases, all the time. We just reward you at each $100 increment. (Compare to Toys R Us - $5 back for every $125 spent. Which about covers the cost of gas to get there.)
We launched the program in October 2013, and it hasn't stopped growing. On Saturday, April 5th, we eclipsed $10,000 in total rewards awarded to date.
That's $10,000 put back into our local economy. $7,960 of that in the past year alone. $270 in the week leading up to Eatser. (Put another way, 27 customers heard trumpets blare triumphantly from our iPad over six business days.)
We're rather proud of that. We not only have one of the best mix of toys and gifts in southeast Tennessee, we have what we believe to be the most generous loyalty program, as well.
Of course, in order for us to afford such a program, what we lose in loyalty rewards we must gain in increased sales. But we don't want those increased sales to come from our loyal customers. (Well, if they really want to buy more, we won't stop them.) No, what we want is to see more Signal Mountain residents shop our store.
Look, we can't always compete with unregulated online prices, but our reward program gets us a good bit closer.
Plus, we have those trumpet sounds.
Thank you to all those who have supported us in the past, and here's to the next $10,000. We're already off to a great start.
Patrick Holland, born in a Cabbage Patch and raised inside the Honeycomb Hideout, is a former Oompa Loompa. He is now co-owner of Mountain Top Toys (with his not-so-silent partner and wife, Joanna), and parent to two daughters, both of whom are beginning to realize their father is just plain nuts. .