Pat Kutz, owner of Lift Bridge Books in Brockport, N.Y., looks forward to Toy Fair every year, because, she says, "we feel welcome. Toy manufacturers know they need small independents. We go for the trends, and we look at every single thing except the dolls."
Last year her big discovery was Apples to Apples from Out of the Box Publishing, a card game for ages 12-up. One of its strengths is that it can be played with four to 10 people fast—a full game can be played in 10 minutes—or slow, stretched out to a few hours. "We thought it was expensive," Kutz recalls. "Twenty dollars is a lot of money for someone to spend in our store. So we didn't buy it." A few months later when a customer came in asking for the game, Kutz decided to stock it.
It's done so well that at the 2003 Toy Fair, Kutz stopped by the Out of the Box booth and tried out some more of their card games. As a result, she ordered the junior edition of Apples to Apples, for ages seven and up; the word/party game My Word!, for ages 12 and up, and the company's newly released picture game Squint!, also geared to ages 12 and up. What Kutz likes about both the younger versions of Apples to Apples and other "smart games," as she refers to them, is that they make her store stand out. In the past few years since she combined her general and children's stores and moved them into a 7,000-square-foot space, both traditional and new games have become an increasingly important part of her stock. "All the games and books about games are on the back wall," she says. "It's bright and cheerful and draws people back, like bread and milk in a grocery store."