David and Goliath: how Boon Companion coexists with retail giants

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

While running Boon Companion Toys year-round, owner John Peltekci faces numerous issues. His current dilemma ahead of the 2022 holiday shopping season has been finding shelf space for products still resting in boxes near the Claremont Village shop’s main entrance.

But that’s a surface issue Peltekci tackles over time. Behind the scenes, the challenge of running a small toy store in the modern era is more complex than making space for weekly shipments. It’s more so about competing in a market space dominated by the likes of online shopping giant Amazon, as well as other big box stores.

It’s a constant fight Peltekci knows he can’t win — at least on the national scale — yet still he tries.

Boon’s biggest challenge is of course competing with Amazon, WalMart and Target.

“Their buy-in is a lot stronger obviously,” Peltekci said. “Even if it’s at a loss, they’ll still sell it. But that’s always been, it’s nothing new.”

To put the local toy store owner’s competition into perspective, ecommerceDB.com analyst Lukas Peters recently wrote that “In 2021, market leader amazon.com generated 6.6 billion U.S. dollars via the sale of toy and baby products worldwide. The [Chinese] online store jd.com was ranked second [in the category] with a revenue of 5.9 billion U.S. dollars.”

Peltekci humbly declined to share his 2021 revenue numbers, but did say last year’s profit margins were higher than 2022’s thus far. He’s optimistic the upcoming holiday rush can fill in some gaps.

“Last year was a different beast because you know everyone just came out of Covid and everyone was excited to be outside and spending money” he said. “Overall, this year, the numbers are down, but I think we will end up doing okay for Christmas.

“I would say [we’re] probably about 10 to 15 percent less than last year, but we should be okay though.”

So, how does Boon, a David-like small business, compete with the Goliaths of the industry?

The business plan has remained quite the same since 2014, when Peltekci took over Boon. Since computer screens don’t give service with a smile, putting customers first and foremost has been the key to Boon’s success.

 

Claremonter Helen Glaze shops for board games for her nephews during a recent trip to Boon Companion Toys. COURIER photo/Andrew Alonzo

 

“You got to give great service,” Peltekci said. “You got to treat your customers right. And to be honest with you, like I said before, I’m blessed that the community is just amazing. If I keep serving the community and doing the right thing, I think we should be okay.”

Another challenge is online marketing. Amazon and big-name stores have millions set aside for marketing and advertising, which in today’s online-centric world means more phone notifications and targeted advertising direct to consumers.

“They just keep pushing the little guys further down,” he said when it comes to advertising. “We don’t have the budget that they do.”

Nor does Boon have advertising outlined in its budget. Peltekci laughed when we suggested his yearly advertising comes in the form of a COURIER article.

“Exactly,” he said.

In 2022, Boon raised its prices to cover costs associated with rising inflation and increased shipping costs. Shoppers like Claremont local Helen Glaze, who has been shopping at Boon for years, understand the reason behind the price hikes and don’t mind paying the extra few dollars, especially if it helps to keeps the store’s lights on.

“You want to support a small business,” she said. “I don’t know how the prices compare [in-store to online], but I don’t mind paying a little bit more if I had to.

“They’re really nice. I can always get good advice. I like how it’s laid out. It’s just a well-run place and you sort of want to give them your business.”

The last two years have been a roller coaster ride for Peltekci.

In 2021, the COURIER talked to Peltekci as he was lounging behind the cash register because, really, there was nothing else to do. He had time to converse about the store’s Covid era struggles, including backed up shipments and declining Claremont Village consumers. (That story, “Toy store owner ready for 2021 shopping rush,” is at claremont-courier.com.)

“Well, 2020 doesn’t exist,” Peltekci said last year. “We pretty much didn’t have any business. I lost employees. I lost inventory. I couldn’t get inventory back again. And then there was no business. Nobody wanted to come in the physical store.”

But how things can change in a year.

Throughout 2022, Boon’s business has been close to pre-pandemic levels. Peltekci has even hired new staff. But he did note one carry over problem.

“It was a struggle getting product in at first, but now everything’s coming back in,” he said. “My shipments, I’m full to the brim as you can see.”

In the future, Peltekci hopes to revamp the store’s website in an effort to modernize the business and get more online traffic.

The store will continue to offer its hallmark quality customer service since Peltekci estimates about 90% of his business comes in through the front door. Most customers are from Claremont and surrounding cities.

“Like I said before, being in touch with the community and doing the right thing, that’s it,” he said.

Boon Companion Toys is at 145 N. Harvard Ave., Claremont and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information call (909) 625-1993 or visit booncompaniontoys.com.

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