The Birthday Buckets program at MudPuddles Toys & Books in Sherwood, Oregon, offers young customers the opportunity to fill a bin with the toys and books they want for their birthday and then bring it to the attention of friends and family who are looking to purchase gifts.
The idea came from the store’s fellow members of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, said MudPuddles owner Kate Noreen. “It brings people into the store who have never been here before,” she said. “The kids just have so much fun.”
Kids can visit MudPuddles two weeks ahead of their birthday to create a Birthday Bucket. Their personal information is recorded in a binder, including the child’s name, the parent’s name, a phone number, when the child’s birthday is, and when the birthday party is, and their first name and last initial are written on the bucket with erasable marker or grease crayon.
The child is allowed to walk around the store and fill the bucket with any items they want, with the guidance of parents to help them choose toys and books across a range of prices and interests. If an item doesn’t fit in the bucket, a piece of paper with its details is used instead. Once filled, the bucket is added to the Birthday Bucket wall.
The Birthday Buckets are displayed by the checkout counter, said Noreen, which gives staff a few minutes to talk about them while ringing up customers. “People see the Birthday Bucket wall and it’s such a great visual,” said Noreen. “People ask what it is, and then you can have that conversation.”
Parents are encouraged to take a photo of their child’s bucket and post it on social media or send it to friends and family to let them know where to buy gifts.
In addition to the child who gets to create his or her Birthday Bucket, parents and kids who are shopping for a birthday party love the system, said Noreen. The store can be overwhelming for young shoppers who are looking for a gift for someone else, so a bucket full of items narrows down the selection and helps keep them focused. For parents, it’s a fast and easy way to pick up a gift.
“We’re happy to take calls from out-of-town family to help over the phone,” Noreen added. “We’ve done that quite often.” Staff will relay what’s in the bucket over the phone and let the person choose an item; it will be rung up on the call, then wrapped and set aside for pickup.
Birthday Buckets almost guarantee the sale of the items in it, said Noreen. MudPuddles generally sells at least half of what’s in the bucket to family and friends, and then the birthday child’s parents are offered the chance to purchase whatever remains before the buckets are emptied.
If a child chooses an item that is the last one in stock, Noreen encourages the parent to purchase it right away. “If someone else comes in and really wants a game and there’s only one and it’s in a bucket, they’re going to pay for it right there, so I sell it,” said Noreen. “Something in a child’s bucket doesn’t guarantee that it won’t be sold. If it’s the number-one item on your child’s wish list, I encourage you to purchase it right away.”