Tag Along Toys is an independent toy store located in Ottawa, ON, Canada. We interviewed owner Patti Taggart to learn a little more about her story.
My Business, My Story
Tag Along Toys: Patti's Story
How long have you been in the toy business?
We opened the original store in 2001, 20 years ago.
Why did you decide to work in the toy industry?
I’m an early childhood educator and I had worked with children for over ten years when I felt like I needed to make a change. My family runs businesses, so running a business was in my blood and I wanted to do something that was still related to children. I didn’t have any previous business experience, so I threw myself into it and learned the ropes.
What was the most challenging part about starting the business?
When I first opened, the biggest challenge was making sure I had good cash flow. Staffing is also hard but cash flow is so important because you never know what will happen tomorrow — look at this pandemic!
Are you still dealing with these challenges?
I still have staff that have been here since we opened but there’s still a lot of turnover throughout the years. It’s all about finding the right person. We serve children and parents but we also have a huge grandparent clientele so it’s about finding someone who can relate to all age groups.
How have you seen the retail space change over time?
I have seen a huge change in the retail space. My website used to just have information about the store’s hours and location but now about 85% of the store’s products are on our website. This past year we’ve done about a quarter of our sales online. Every day there are a minimum of five to six sales online.
What do you think about the future of retail?
I think about this a lot because of everything that has happened this year. I worry a lot about retail; I’ve seen so many people I know close their business. I think when this is over people will want to get out again and come into stores to shop. People want to come in to touch and feel things. Some will stick to online shopping but I think brick-and-mortar stores are still needed.
What is your opinion of Amazon and its role in the toy industry?
A lot of people have told us that we are cheaper than Amazon and want to come to us because we are a local business. People have said, “I know I can get it online from Amazon but I want to support you!” We truly have a bond with our customers.
I know that Amazon offers next-day delivery and I am working on stepping up our delivery — someone ordered a product from us the other day and my son and I delivered it ourselves the same day!
What do you like most about your line of work?
It's a fun industry to be in. You’re dealing with toys and crafts every day! What I like most is the people. The excitement customers have when they come into the store makes you happy.
What was the funniest incident that ever happened?
A: When little kids come into the store and ask, “Do you live here?” or “Do you get to play with all of the toys?” Kids are so innocent, they come in and say things that make you smile or laugh.
Any last thoughts?
It’s important to support small businesses, it’s important to support the little guys to help them survive. Bigger is not always better. Just because we’re a small business doesn’t mean our prices are higher! We’re a 1,000 square foot store but we have so much to offer, so don’t be scared to come check us out!