Retail

Collaborating To Create Kids’ Subscriptions With A STEM Twist 

kids crafts

Parents looking for subscriptions boxes to keep their children educationally entertained have many, many options, including names like Monti Kids, Green Pinata and KiwiCo. Each offers its own variation or specialty to appeal to parents looking for toys that are designed not only to amuse and delight children, but also intellectually engage them. Personalization in line with a child’s academic interests, mixed-media toys meant to stimulate all parts of the child’s mind, “recyclable toys” that children send back when they’ve lost interest in return for a new box of toys, high-tech offerings aimed at setting of computer programming interest early, Disney princess themed boxes guaranteed to electrify the imagination — the list goes on and on.

It is not quite endless, but for any parent who has ever tried to find just the right subscription box for their child, it can seem that way.

But once the choice is made, the boxes themselves are undeniably popular with parents. One patron noted, “they totally spark the imagination,” while another said she “loved seeing [her five year old son’s] mind work.”

That popularity made the market appealing to STEM-inspired children’s toy and media brand GoldieBlox, and to JOANN (formerly JOANN Fabrics) — but also daunting. Clearly there is a hunger in the market for these kinds of products, Rob Will, SVP eCommerce, GMM Craft at JOANN noted in an interview. Parents are looking for play experiences that are fun for their children as a first priority always, he said, but the desire for those experiences to be meaningfully educational has been a massive change in the industry in the last several years. JOANN, which has some 850 stores nationwide, may not look like a traditional toy store, but what the firm has realized in recent years is that it is absolutely stocked with the tools any child needs to engage their creativity.

Its move to partner with GoldieBlox, Will noted, gives JOANN an opportunity to offer up a curated supply that can be used in a series of fun, science-based projects for kids built around trending DIY “hacks” and projects from the GoldieBlox YouTube channel.

“We are thrilled to partner with GoldieBlox to introduce our first kids’ craft subscription box because we aim to inspire creativity and learning in everyone, and we also know that hands-on activities can help kids grow and understand new concepts,” Will said in a recent press release.

The boxes, according to GoldieBlox Founder and CEO Debbie Sterling, are geared for kids 8 and older, and tend to feature fun, accessible but basically educational activities like DIY bath bombs. The idea is to make the projects immediately engaging and hands-on, to illustrate that science and education are not abstract but actually useful in producing “cool things.” The boxes are curated by JOANN and GoldieBlox with an assist from Make it Real, a toy company focused on innovative toys for tweens.

“GoldieBlox and JOANN have a shared goal to empower children to pursue their dreams and we are dedicated to providing kids with resources to express their creativity,” Sterling said in the same release. “At GoldieBlox, we use storytelling and STEM principles, coupled with a girl engineer character who does crafts and DIY projects, to give girls confidence and encourage them to pursue their dreams, so we believe this partnership will further our mission.”

But will the new subscription offering be able to break through in a market already stuffed with STEM (and STEMish) offerings on subscription for parents?

Well, what JOANN has that many of its competitors lack is a physical retail presence that is very prominent, particularly in rural and suburban areas. Most subscription services are based in urban areas — and market to urban consumers. The market may be saturated, but it is entirely possible that JOANN and GoldieBlox may well have unearthed an under-developed demographic within the potential customer base.

Moreover, over the last 18 or so months, JOANN has worked hard to reposition itself away from its previous branding as everyone’s grandmother’s favorite fabric store to being a general crafting hub trying to attract the emerging generation of millennials enthusiasts and and millennial hostages (AKA parents).

“We have a big opportunity to let people know that ‘Hey, we sell everything that the other craft stores sell … It’s all part of a brand positioning to remind consumers that they can find all the non-fabric products you’d buy at a competitor like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby,” Steve Miller, senior vice president, marketing and eCommerce at JOANN Stores, told Adweek last year shortly after the big name change.

The release of a subscription box aimed at older children and younger tweens could be supported by that effort — as well as being a support to it.

If, of course, they can get orders. For launch, the first box will be priced at $20. After that, boxes ordered individually will run $24.99 (plus shipping), as part of a three-month plan ($19.99 plus $4.99 shipping) or a six-month subscription ($19.99 per box with free shipping). Signup is now open.

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