Toysmith Retailer Spotlight: Learning Express Lake Zurich

July Retailer Spotlight! Get to know Toysmith partners and gain insight into the world of Toy Stores by the people who spread the joy of toys to kids everywhere.
Our interview showcase is Rick & Joanne Derr, long-time toy store owners of Learning Express, Lake Zurich in Lake Zurich, Illinois.

How long have you been a toy retailer, and are there significant changes to the toy industry that have changed the way you do business over the years?

Celebrating our 23rd year in Lake Zurich, IL. The biggest changes have been the obvious;
Amazon & online selling
Cross over of all products to all retailers
Closure of Toys R Us
Social media marketing

Your store has a very active in-store event calendar.  Are there certain types of events that seem to get a very favorable response from customers and if so, which events are those?

Events are a must to have a reason customers and prospects want to visit you. There has to be a connection. So, Play Dates (where kids make something special), Demo days, Character Events and Educational forums are a must, consistently.

Learning Express Lake Zurich Play Room

Social media plays an important part of marketing in many industries these days. What do you think has contributed to the success you’ve seen in the social media space and in support of your store?

Facebook has been our primary vehicle gaining almost 50,000 followers. Consistency of posts including, new products, events, and informational content daily. We also utilize Instagram, Twitter and Google Adwords, and email to complete our digital presence.

What has been your weirdest moment as a toy store owner?

Our space being flooded on a Saturday night by the adjacent spaces leaky toilet!! OH MY!!!

Are there certain programs or incentives you provide to your customers that you believe drives sales and keeps people coming back?

Our top program is our devotion to Birthday Boxes and striving to make this a royal celebration for children.  Ease and convenience for guests make this our top initiative. Our summer play date series and character events are also big draws as well as a texting program that has special rewards for those that sign up.

Sea King Rick and Royal Sea Dog, Rico.

How do you keep informed on the latest trends in the toy market?

We search for new products and trends daily. Networking among Learning Express stores and others, following YouTube, listening to customers and attending trade shows and reading magazines all contribute to us jumping on a trend or making it larger.

What is the most commonly asked customer question and what is your response?

Do you have any coupons currently?  We say, no, but I can help you by signing you up for our text program and save you $10 today!!!

Have you found effective local marketing tactics to drive traffic into your store and/or events?

Local marketing includes, supporting summer reading at local libraries, donations, direct mail post cards and the use of Eventbrite to publicize our in store events and activities.

Learning Express Lake Zurich Storefront

How long have you carried Toysmith products, and can you comment on the impact working with Toysmith has had on your business?

We have partnered with Toysmith for 23 years from the day we opened in 1996. Quite possibly the most profitable line of toys we have ever sold. Their product mix, shipping, terms and sales reps always make it a partnership. I also admire their customer service to take care of you whether there are damages, errors or any type of issue. Consider it done!

On a personal note, what is your all-time favorite toy?

All time fav toy– baseball cards. Used to purchase, dream and play games by team of which the Baltimore Orioles were my favorite growing up.

Rick and his baseball cards


You can find Learning Express Lake Zurich online here!

Follow them on Facebook and Instagram!