Posted by: Christine Adams | November 17, 2009

Small Business of the Week: Learning Express

Learning Express provides quality toys, books and games that focus on creativity and intellectual and physical development. The brand itself is focused on the customer’s experience. Here in Reno, NV our store is locally owned and operated by Suzanne and Wade Peterson. Suzanne explained to me how they got started, “I used to drive around with a roll of wrapping paper, scissors and tape in my car as we went between birthday parties.” Wade thought the Learning Express model was Marketing genius so they started the franchise which provided start-up information, inventory and proven systems.


The Birthday Box – The Birthday Box is what prompted me to write about this incredible company. Here’s how it works: You take your child into the store and they are given a large plastic tub. The child may then feel free to walk around the store filling the vessel with all of the toys they could ever need or want. When the bucket is full, the friendly staff personalizes the tub and offers the parent business cards that say their child is registered at Learning Express. The registry cards are then placed inside the invitation to the party. When the parents of the children attending the party arrive at Learning Express, a helpful staff member retrieves the box and the child or parent chooses the toy they want to purchase. They receive 10% off since it was on a registry and the staff wraps and personalized the present for FREE!! In addition to the convenience of this whole process, the parent of the birthday child receives 20% off of one item in the store and they hold this list for an additional week after the party.

OK let’s review this from a Marketing perspective:

1. The parent of the birthday child receives no duplicate presents or gifts they must return.

2. The birthday boy or girl is promoting the store itself. (This is how I found out about Learning Express.)

3. Both feel special because they got a discount.

4. The gift is already wrapped and personalized. This always adds time and expense to purchasing a gift.

5. Now you have gained three fans of the business: The birthday parent, the parent of the child attending the party and the kids themselves.


This is truly brilliant! Without spending a dime, this company recruits parents to gladly spread the word about their concept for them. I have talked before in my blog about word of mouth advertising, and there could not possibly be a better model than this one. Since my experience at Learning Express, I have been spreading the word long after my son’s party! This is process is quick, convenient and is a benefit to all parties involved… pardon the pun.

Christmas Wish List – I just recently learned about this fun and exciting promotion when one of the lovely ladies from the store called to follow-up about my son’s birthday gifts. Similar to the birthday box, this list allows children to write down the list of goodies they would like to receive for Christmas. This list is kept in a binder and friends and family of the child may purchase from this list during their holiday shopping. The portion of this program that I love the most is that people may phone the store and make their purchase through one of the helpful representatives. This allows family members from out of town to find the perfect gift without having to leave the comfort of their home.


VIP Program – This rewards program provides a card that is stamped with the dollar amount spent, every time a customer makes a purchase at Learning Express. After 15 purchases, the average dollar amount is calculated and the amount is given back to the customer in the form of a gift card. Not only is this an excellent reward program, but the employees make an event out of the redemption of the card by honking a horn and cheering each time a VIP card is redeemed! What a creative way to spur some excitement during the shopping experience!


The list of charity that Learning Express is involved in is so long that I will only be able to give you a brief overview here today. There is one special event that I would like to highlight at the end of this list in hopes that if you are from Reno, you will come out and help with this very worthy cause. Here are some of the charity works or organizations that this company is involved in:

Learning Express is about to kick off Ashlee’s Christmas Closet Toy Drive. This event begins at multiple locations on Monday, December 7th and ends with the Finale Celebration at Learning Express on Saturday, December 18th. The fundraiser will primarily benefit one of our local shelters in which there are currently 60 children staying at the facility. Any additional toys remaining after our local children have received toys for Christmas will go toward Ashlee’s Toy Closet and Birthday Closet which will be distributed to children across the country who have experienced some sort of disaster. I encourage you to participate in this incredible fundraiser and to check out the cause at

This has been one of my longer Small Business of the Week articles. I have to say that I could not condense any portion of this piece. It is so exciting to me to see a business that not only has an excellent Marketing Model but they also choose to give back to the community in so many ways. If you have a little one in your life, I suggest you visit Learning Express this holiday season. I always encourage you to support businesses that think outside of the box and find creative ways to benefit society! I commend Learning Express for training a knowledgeable, friendly staff who is excited about their jobs! Congratulations on discovering a concept that is unique and helpful to your consumers. Thank you for your generous efforts toward making children’s lives locally and across our country better!


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