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Oompa Often?

by Kenyatta D. Pious
People are "Oomping" it up all over thanks to the work of, a one-stop solution for toys, gear and furniture based in Madison, Wisconsin. This site provides an easy way to sort through the often-confusing maze of finding viable items for children. One feature we liked is the categorization of items (made in the USA versus Europe or eco-friendly) and one can search by brand or even best sellers. A mere $65 ensures free shipping - - practical, smart, and affordable! It is no wonder that "Oompa" is a fixture in the maternity/children's lexicon - - so again, we ask: Oompa often?

We questioned Jason Oliver (COO/ about the brand and its staying power:

The maternity/children's market appears saturated, how does Oompa differentiate itself from the competition?
We feel we are a clear standout from the regular toy stores around the country. Most of the toys we sell are imported from Europe and aren't available at most toy stores, especially large toy stores -– there is practically no overlap. There are a number of websites that have copied or share our philosophy and a large number of local neighborhood stores, but they can't carry the selection we can.

Who are the core clients of Oompa?
Mothers and Grandmothers are our core clients. Dads and friends buying gifts are second. Generally we skew to higher incomes as our products a generally higher priced due the fact that they are made in smaller quantities and are imported or made in the USA.

Do you run promos/contests on your site and what type of promos/contests do you run?
Not this minute -– but we often run double or triple point specials for our loyalty points program that our customers love. We usually send coupons with orders for your next order also.

Who are your top three TV moms of all time?
I don't think we watch enough TV to answer that.

There has been a concerted effort to "go green" - - do you find that your industry is following this trend?
Yes -– our niche of the industry has been at the forefront of the green movement. Many of the company's missions are based on that notion and are at the core of most of their products. Others have gone more green in recent years. Natural, organic have been ingredients of our toys for years, well before the trend set in.

How and why did Oompa start and who started it?
Milanie Cleere started it because she felt there wasn't a great source to find quality baby toys. Toys that don't blink, don't use batteries or are based on TV/movie characters. It started in our garage in Los Angeles in 2004 one year after our little girl was born.

Does the name mean anything - - how was it conceived?
Unfortunately not -– we created the name before the business was even started because we thought it was fun and cute. When we decided to start the business we thought it was a natural fit.

How is Oompa marketed - - do you advertise anywhere?
We advertise online, in parenting magazines and direct mail sometimes.

Why do you think retail is so tough nowadays?
The economy has put a crimp in most budgets, so people are buying smaller items. The other issue with retail is that there are fixed costs and if you can't cover those you are sunk.

What do you think are the biggest trends right now?
Products that have multiple uses, provide good value. For example we have a toddler bed that converts into a little sofa when the child is ready for a big bed, so its has use beyond the year or two it might be used as a toddler bed. People appreciate that.

What trends do you expect will be big next season?
Hard to tell in the toy business -– but green is still very hot -– since we sell “classic” toys they are kind of timeless, we don't sell the hot toy, like Elmo anyhow, but the wood blocks we sell do great year after year.

Say a little bit about your top selling items and why the items have struck a cord with consumers.
Wood blocks that are colorful are always a top seller, since they have so many uses and last forever and can be handed down over generations. Musical toys are always hard to keep in stock, kids love to make music or at least try. Tea sets do well also. Our biggest seller is a small wooden kitchen, it is the right price and the right size for toddlers.

What is the toughest thing about the market right now? What is your solution?
Average ticket is down, people are getting use to using coupons all the time, so they wait until they get them. We are adding to our selection of more smaller items to fill their demand.

What is one thing that no one knows about the company?
Not sure since we are pretty transparent! We blog, we video blog, we twitter, we are out there -– and have an open dialog with our customers.

Finish this sentence: When I think of maternity/children, I think...
...of future customers! We think maternity is a wonderful and magical time for families and we love children, so the more the merrier.

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