When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, it forced stores to close and people to stay home. But, the owners and employees at CR Toys in Kearney’s Hilltop Mall, which specializes in traditional and educational toys, stayed positive, got creative and emerged stronger than before.
Connie Hoeft, who has owned the store for more than 25 years with her husband, Brett, said when most Hilltop Mall stores closed, CR Toys immediately offered curbside pickup and home delivery and started shipping more toys. Before the pandemic, 10 percent of the store’s toys were on the website, and they worked over the past few months to showcase nearly 100 percent of their products on the site.
They created Easter baskets for every age group and then May Day baskets and then $25 Mystery Boxes, which were all popular among customers.
CR Toys had recently joined GROW Nebraska, and the social media advertising training they learned in a GROW class helped them during the pandemic. CR Toys Manager Mallory Wuehler conducted science experiments online and posted almost daily videos on Facebook and Instagram showcasing toys they could no longer share in person.
“I think our customer base appreciated what we were doing,” Hoeft said. “I had personal thank yous sent to my house, and we had one customer come in and give us a $50 Panera gift card thanking us for keeping kids excited during this time.”
Because of their efforts, CR Toys was able to grow its email list from its website and plans to print an extra 2,000 copies of its annual Christmas toy catalog to share with new customers, who come from as far away as Arizona, Nashville and New York.
Hoeft said she plans to continue many of the marketing strategies and ideas they implemented during the pandemic, and they will continue to offer curbside and home deliveries in the Kearney area.
GROW Nebraska® Foundation is a statewide non-profit training and marketing organization. Serving over 400 Nebraska small businesses, the organization provides marketing opportunities, education, and training to launch and connect Nebraska businesses to the global marketplace. GROW Nebraska’s educational programs receive federal and state funding, along with generous support from foundations and individual donors.