WOODBURY – Nothing lasts forever, especially in retail. Geppetto’s Toys, a staple of the Woodbury community for 30 years, closed its doors for the final time on May 12.
“Thirty years is a long run, but during the last 10 years a lot has changed,” Geppetto’s Toys co-owner Alex DeSorbo said in an email to customers. “Demographics, technology and interests have changed forever the way people shop, interact and play with many ‘local’ businesses giving way to new realities.”
DeSorbo says what many mom-and-pop retailers have been saying this decade: The Internet – particularly Amazon – has made it hard for merchants to survive. Although ecommerce makes up 8.5% of all retail sales, Amazon accounts for 43% of all online retail sales in the U.S.
But while retailers have been finding ways to compete with or beat Amazon’s low prices and features such as Prime 2-day delivery and free returns, others have carved out their own niches.
Geppetto’s Toys, for example, kept true to its business plan by providing a unique shopping experience. It gave its customers room to explore quality, environmentally sound products, and had a knowledgeable, attentive staff with a love of kids and toys.
Unlike mass merchants like Walmart, Target, Kmart and Toys R Us, Geppetto’s Toys carried higher-end inventory such as Steiff, Madame Alexander, Corolle, Kaloo, Bruder, Ravensburger, and Calico Critters. Dress up, science projects, sports and a wide variety of arts and crafts complemented the more traditional yet uncommon balls, games and gizmos.
Geppetto’s Toys was also known for its annual egg hunt and petting zoo, which was held every spring before Easter.
The Shrinking Retail Ecosystem
By April of this year alone, more retailers closed locations or went out of business all together than in all of 2016. Bloomberg reports that 2017 is projected to be a record year for retail store closings.
According to the National Retail Federation, 98.6% of all U.S. retail businesses employ fewer than 50 people.
In Litchfield County, 63% to 70% of residents are employed by small businesses, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy. Retail makes up 37% of the state’s small business employment share.