Small and Mighty

Unique general merchandise products can help you stay trendy and relevant in your market.

June 27, 2022

Small and Mighty

This interview is brought to you by Ty, a NACS member.

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—NACS Magazine recently sat down with Peter Olbrys, vice president of convenience division, Ty Inc., on how Ty is a great fit for c-stores with healthy gross margins.

Ty is a worldwide brand and over the past few years has been popping up in c-stores. Why are these general merchandise products a great fit for c-stores?

In the early 90s Ty became a household name with its world-famous Beanie Babies. Since then, Ty has also created Beanie Boo’s, Beanie Squishies and other categories that, along with Beanie Babies, continue to be at the top of the market year after year. Ty provides beautifully designed branded product for a great price, which allows stores to make a 50%-plus margin. Ty distributes to over 150 countries and provides product for over 45,000 U.S. locations ... and growing.

Five years ago, we were fortunate enough to partner up with 7-Eleven and Circle K, which showed us that Ty retails well in convenience stores. Since then, we are growing daily and now work with close to 20,000 c-stores. Consumers know our name, and when they see our Ty heart, they know they are getting the best plush in the world.

One of the most surprising things for c-stores to learn is that we are not just a holiday item—we sell 365 days a year. Mom, dad, grandma, sister, brother, cousin, friend and even children buy our product. We often hear stories about people buying one of our items and how it put a smile on someone’s face.

Space is at a premium for retailers, so how can Ty products work in a small footprint?

Space is critical, but why would you not carry Ty? Our product will make a 50%-plus margin for you. We provide free displays in various sizes to choose from and ship the displays for free. The popular 24-inch round on wheels is where vertical space comes into play and can turn out to be the most profitable 24-inch round in your center of store. I have seen displays sell out in two to three weeks. Our full-time sales force visits your locations every 30 days to help merchandise the product, clean the display—yes, I have sales people who carry feather dusters!—inventory and then discuss reorders. 

Are the gross margins healthy?

Ty has not raised prices in over 20 years. All through the shipping crisis and pandemic we have not raised prices on product or shipping or added surcharges.

Nobody matches our quality, designs and pricing. This allows retailers to make a fantastic margin averaging around 53%. And because we are priced well and branded, our turns are excellent.

Who is the typical Ty customer?

Who is our typical end user? Probably that 4- to 12-year-old boy and girl. But who is our typical customer? Everyone is our customer. I am in stores, and I see who is buying. It’s a guy buying an energy drink, tobacco and picking up a Beanie! At c-stores everyone is a buyer: the trucker who has been on the road for two days, the construction worker who missed his daughter’s soccer game, the boyfriend who knows his girl- friend likes cats or unicorns, the student who is buying a gift for his teacher—it goes on. Ty is a great impulse item!

Are there seasonal sales opportunities?

We certainly make holiday items, but our focus is day-to-day business. Ty creates items that sell 365 days a year. Our holiday focus is on holiday travel and making sure stores have full displays prior to and during travel times. Whether it’s a long weekend or summer traffic, full displays mean product is going to be turning, stores are going to be making their margins, and we are going to grow together.

In addition to holidays, Ty releases special edition products to raise awareness of and generate funds for charities. A philanthropist, Ty Warner (owner and founder of Ty) has donated more than $300 million to a variety of charities. Most recently, Warner released Max the dog Beanie Baby, with 100% of profits being donated to NEXT for Autism to raise awareness of autism support. In April 2020, the United Way Worldwide COVID-19 Fund received 100% of the profits from the sale of Hope, a limited-edition praying bear. Other charities that have benefited from Warner’s philanthropy efforts include Children’s Hunger Fund, World Vision, Toy Bank, International Toy Bank, Today Show, Children’s Miracle Network, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Toys for Tots, Princess of Wales Foundation, Andre Agassi Foundation, American Red Cross, Save the Children, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, NY Police and Fire Widow’s Fund, Ronald McDonald House, USO, Mayo Clinic and UNICEF.

This Q&A with Ty Inc. appeared in the June issue of NACS Magazine.