Exclusive: Finding the right piece of the puzzle – Rick Derr of Learning Express

Published on: 5th November 2020

Rick shares with Toy World readers his experiences as a specialist toy retailer in the US, in the first of a series of regular columns.

Rick Derr with special guests last Christmas.

After 20 years working at A. C. Nielsen/D&B Research Company, Richard Derr opened the first Learning Express Toys franchise in 1996 in the Chicago area, and then became a sub-franchiser, opening nine more stores. Although leaving the corporate environment behind, he has combined his expertise in data and numbers with a passion for the toy retail space. In the first of a series of regular columns, Rick shares his experiences as a specialist toy retailer in the US, this month, looking forward to the New Year and Q1 2021.

Rick starts with the assurance that Santa Claus, Hanukkah and New Year’s Day will all come around, and looks forward to the turning of the calendar. His prediction for Q1 toy sales for indies in the US is a continuation of the positive growth trend that began with the reopening of shops in June 2020. He goes on to explain exactly why he believes the positive momentum will continue.

Looking at what independent toy stores should do in the interim and how to get information on trends, product intros and specials, given the lack of major trade shows, Rick recommends  retailers to scour trade magazines, websites and articles. “Investigate and do your own research on vendors, product category trends, social media influencers and answer the question ‘what do kids want?’ “, he advises. “Read up on the NPD reports, Google Trends and data gleaned from Amazon. By doing our own proactive research, we will be better positioned to fill our stores and offer the right products, in the right categories, at the right time and at the right price. Finding that one last piece of the puzzle could be the difference between having a great year, a normal year or a ‘down’ year.”

To read the full article, which appeared in the November edition of Toy World, click here.

Richard can be reached on LinkedIn or by email at




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