Local toy store navigates supply chain to serve holiday shoppers

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ST. LOUIS – As many of you search for deals and supplies this holiday season, some may think heading to the bigger companies is the better answer because they will have more to offer. However, that may not be the case.

A Clayton toy shop says being smaller in the season of shortages has worked to their advantage in a few ways.

Happy Up Inc. in Clayton is a refuge for shoppers looking for a break from the big box stores.

“We do have lots of supply chain issues. The difference is we’re rolling with each one as it comes,” says Shawnta Ray, the company’s president.

She says smaller companies like hers can make quick decisions which isn’t the case for bigger companies.

“If I have a manufacturer that’s out of something, like a dollhouse for instance, we’re able to look for a different manufacturer and figure out who has something that’s actually stateside that I can have within the week and I can pull the trigger quickly,” says Ray.

Ray tells us the company tries to work with the best manufacturers it can. A challenging commitment considering American factories don’t make a lot of the products they need.

“The European supply chain is just as tricky as the Asian one. Some of my things are coming from Germany or Sweden. We’re getting a lot of products from Ukraine now. It’s become a reliable place for toys. It’s kind of exciting. We’re just pivoting right and left every day, all day long,” says Ray.

Ray relied on lessons learned during the Great Recession to power through the pandemic. She says Happy Up’s loyal customer base is built on fair, honest pricing, and personalized service.

“You know Amazon gouges in some places and then undercuts me and sells below my wholesale in other places. If the customer finds a deal like that, so be it,” says Ray.

She shared this advice for shoppers’ intent on making sure they have the gifts they want in hand for the holidays.

“To get going. Get started. Give me an opportunity to fulfill. I have customers that are sending me a rough list like we’re hoping to get a big train set this year, or how big of blocks sets are you going to have? What’s the biggest Lego set you’re going to have? If you give us an opportunity to communicate and give me a couple of weeks to either find or let you know whether I’m going to be able to do something for your family, that helps,” says Ray.

She also says they may have a lot of ideas and things you may not have thought of. She said if you tell her an age and a personality trait she will help you find something special.

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