Oregon Toy Company Stays Ahead of the Game with Catalog Sales

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), January 14, 2007 | Go to article overview

Oregon Toy Company Stays Ahead of the Game with Catalog Sales


Byline: Lewis Taylor The Register-Guard

Perhaps you've seen it. You may have even ordered something out of it without realizing it's right here in Oregon.

For 10 years, the Museum Tour catalog has been offering page after colorful page of brain teasers, science experiments, books, software and other hands-on educational toys and gadgets for infants to adults. With a circulation of nearly 2 million and growing, the Milwaukie outfit has become one of the bigger purveyors of educational playthings. If you need a xylophone table, a birdsong identifier or a microscope that plugs into your desktop computer, call or click now, operators are standing by.

"There are parents that are just going to buy Barbie Dolls, but we're catering to and focusing on parents that are interested in education," says Barbara Lund, the company's merchandise and marketing director. "We're selling education."

Education can take many forms at Museum Tour, which recently finished its busy holiday season. While bargain retailers have taken a bite out of traditional toy stores such as FAO Schwartz, Museum Tour has continued to grow annually. The company's catalog, which publishes every September, has grown from 36 pages to more than 100. And the circulation has nearly tripled. Lund says the "response rate," the percentage of subscribers who buy from the catalog, is about 4 percent, compared with the typical 1 1/2 to 2 percent.

Museum Tour has a partnership with a handful of science and children's museums, including the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

A portion of the company's proceeds go to the partner museums. Museums also can order products for their own gift stores.

"It keeps us in touch, and closely on the pulse of museum exhibits," Lund says.

All 800 or so products in the Museum Tour catalog and on its Web site have been vetted for their learning value, and products are sometimes aligned with museum exhibits. They include everything from remote-controlled helicopters to high-tech Erector sets to plastic unicycles to bug traps. A digital camera designed especially for kids was the company's most popular product last year.

Although many of the toys that are submitted by manufacturers end up in the reject pile, Lund says it's generally pretty clear whether a product is educational or not. And, if questions do arise, there are other ways of determining whether a toy is worth carrying.

"We have kids in (the office) all the time, and yes, we do ask them to test products," Lund says.

And they aren't the only ones road testing chemistry sets, inflatable building blocks and refractor telescopes. …

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