ZEELAND, Mich. — For most of the pandemic, it was common knowledge that people spent time stuck at home with any pastime they could get. Puzzles and games were the answer, and that meant Out of the Box was in a business sweet spot.
Out of the Box specializes in board games, puzzles, and toys, both classics and items you won’t find in other stores. In fact, uniqueness is a prime characteristic owner Jeff Rietveld looks for in buying stock.
Given all that, Rietveld and his staff struggled to keep up during the height of the pandemic. “Jigsaw puzzles are probably our bestselling item in 2020, an explosion of popularity once the lockdown happened,” Rietveld remembers. “We sold right out within a couple of weeks. And we are getting shipments in a couple times a week. We would throw them up on our website. We did local delivery, we did curbside pickup, and we will get in 24 of one puzzle and sell out within hours.”
As great as that sounds, Rietveld says they worked harder to sell less during the pandemic. “We stayed busy, because having to do curbside pickup and having to do local delivery. It just kept us going.”
“Our sales dropped dramatically, but we were able to keep busy and keep our people working. We had to work very hard for much less sales. But I would say we did well, considering what many other businesses did. We're very happy with where things ended up, even if it wasn't what we would ever call a good year.”
Out of the Box 2021 sales are making up for losses in 2020, Rietveld says, and some customer behavior is spilling over from the pandemic.
“We definitely have a lot of people looking for advice. What kind of game can I get for my family? What can I have that my kids can do that's not Netflix or video games? And people do seem to be continuing that, really looking to continue the family time that they had that they had together this last year.”
The stores’ escape rooms are also beginning to see a revival in bookings.
Describing the selection at Out of the Book requires a lengthy list: hundreds of different games from classic games to games created in Kickstarter projects to imported games, hundreds of jigsaw puzzles, toys, even science kits. The stores hold game nights. And there are dress-up items: princesses, dragons, and pirates.
You won’t find collectible games; Rietveld says there are plenty of other stores for that.
But you will find used games on consignment from customers who got tired of them or have duplicates. The staff makes sure each used game is complete.
Rietveld will be opening a new store in Holland soon, an indication of the local support the stores enjoy.
“People are wanting to spend money locally. So, 2021 is helping erase the losses from 2020,” Rietveld says. “It'll be a long time before we're in the black. But again, we feel blessed that it's gone better for us than it has for many other businesses.”