Train Collectors Association
1. What makes your store unique?
We are required to carry only those items that relate to trains, specifically toy trains, as outlined in our 501(c)3 status. We are a very small store that is open only when our museum is open, so the challenge is to catch the business when we can. We now offer a website (www.nttmuseum.org) where we feature many — but not all — of the items we carry and the addition of this online store has helped us significantly.
2. What is your retail background?
I owned and operated my own business for eight years in the Lancaster, Pa. area. I actually marketed and sold professional craft items made in Lancaster to a new audience in the Washington, D.C. area via my own craft show, A Handcrafted Christmas From Lancaster, Pa.” I eventually took on a partner and we were able to expand to include a show in Wilmington, Del., as well as a full-color mail order catalog for two years.
3. What is the most popular product you sell?
If I had to pick something on the low-end, I would say that it’s a tie between the small pull-back toy trains and the ever-popular postcards. On the higher end, I would say that we have had great success with our custom made Boyd’s Bear, “Cuboose”. We also do well with books/magazines about toy trains, as well as beautiful train puzzles for adults and lawn ornament/windsock trains. In summer months, those truly fly out of here.
4. What are your top 3 retail tips?
1) Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and order unusual items, but learn from the results. 2) If the item you are trying to sell is not packaged so that the item and its use is clear, by all means have one open for display. We started really selling our lawn ornament/windsock trains when we put one together and had it operating just outside our front door. 3) I try to never say, “No, we don’t have it.” If possible, I try to offer any product that we might have that is similar, or when I can, I special order the item they want.