Economic analysis

Netflix for toys: Parents reclaim the living room

New startups are offering online rental services for the children market


Nikki Pope says she came up with the idea after spending time with her 11 brothers and sisters’ families. She couldn’t help but notice “the huge buildup in everyone’s houses of toys that the kids were no longer playing with, because they were growing so quickly,” she said.

The idea was to start Toygaroo, a toy rental subscription company that works pretty much like Netflix. Instead of creating a movie queue, parents select a number of toys online, along with a subscription plan, and Toygaroo delivers a box containing, for example, four sanitized toys once a month for about US$35.

If that sounds a bit pricey, there’s also Colorado-based BabyPlays, which offers slightly cheaper subscription rates.

In the States, similar companies renting baby clothes and children’s books are also taking off, as online services penetrate deeper and deeper into the lucrative children market. But the Netflix-for-toddlers model may soon be coming north of the border as well.

Pope said she is seeing a large number of inquiries from Canadian parents, enough to warrant an expansion to Canada, perhaps as early as 2012. And Canadian investors are already pouring money into it. When Toygaroo was featured in a startup reality show last March, it raised US$200,000 in investment, including from Canadian mogul Kevin O’Leary.

In the meantime, two Canadian moms who have been renting toys online for over a year, are also getting ready to offer the subscription option. Operating the self-funded Toys Trunk out of Milton, Ontario, Carolina Rey and Katia Parada rent individual toys, such as the “bilingual learning table” and  “jump smart trampoline” for prices mostly hovering around $7 for two weeks and $10 for four weeks.

Rey, a former industrial engineer with two children, says Toys Trunk wants to go the way of Toygaroo and Babyplays soon, but data on their 300 customers tells them most parents want a quicker turnaround than those offered down south. “The funny thing is that we noticed that our moms like to change the toys every two weeks,” says Rey. Especially in the case of city dwellers, she says, certain toys are so large that, “people.. want to try them and take them home but they take up so much room so they just want them for a couple of weeks.”

For now, Toys Trunk is serving Milton, Oakville, Georgetown, Mississauga, Campbellville and Burlington. “The dream,” says Rey, “is to have it national.”

You can follow Davide Berretta on twitter at!/daveeday

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