|In the basement back room at Kazoo & Co. Toys in Cherry Creek North, Toby Cummings hustles toys, dolls, kids' furniture and games into boxes that he sends across the United States and to Turkey, Canada and unknown military APO addresses.|
Cummings deals strictly with Internet orders, sending out 80 to 100 packages a day. The online segment of the Kazoo empire has grown substantially over the past several years, owner Diana Nelson said.
Increased online orders, an agreement with the U.S. military to be the exclusive online toy retailer to troops and a first-time licensing agreement for a shop at Denver International Airport have Nelson scrambling to keep up.
"I knew when I purchased the store I would have to go online."
Robert Pratt and his 6-year-old daughter, Lucy, have a sword fight in the aisles of Kazoo & Co.'s Cherry Creek North store recently. is where the future is," she said. Kazoo & Co. opened in 1980, and Nelson bought it in 1998. She launched kazootoys.com in 1999 and went into business on Amazon .com in 2006. Last year, she created Kazoo Global, the licensing arm, and signed the military deal.
"It's been a nice growth," Nelson said, "even in a very difficult economy."
Sales at the brick-and-mortar store have grown 2 percent to 3 percent annually, while online operations, including Amazon, the military and kazootoys.com, have grown in the triple digits annually since 2005.
Lourdes Gonzalez of Santa Clara, Calif., received a toy trumpet she ordered from Kazoo via Amazon.com for her 3-year-old son last week.
"I am happy with it, and so is he," she said. "I couldn't find anything in stores, so I had to order it online."
The Amazon.com relationship, which began two years ago, has helped lead others to Kazoo, including the U.S. military.
The armed forces came looking for Nelson, she said. The multiyear contract, which makes Kazoo the only toy company offered exclusively on military websites for troops, was signed in September. Nelson said she could not divulge additional details of the deal.
"It's very exciting, and I was very honored and very proud that they contacted us," she said.
Kazoo's growth has not only been online; the store in Cherry Creek recently grew from 9,600 square feet to 13,000 square feet.
The store at DIA will be 1,600 square feet, and the license is owned by Amanda Waters, who declined to be interviewed.
Nelson said Waters approached her years ago but that she wasn't ready until this year to license her name and image.
The shop at the airport is slated to open in August. Nelson has held off other potential licensees, saying she wants to see how this one goes first.