Since most department stores eliminated their toy departments, a lot of the magic has gone out of shopping for toys. Santa moved to the malls, and now we shop for toy bargains in warehouse-type surroundings. But we're still paying retail prices, albeit discounted. Toys R Us, K mart, Target and Kay-Bee are the major toy discounters, and though the prices are good, how about buying at wholesale?
Intelico imports developmental games and toys that you will usually find at toy stores and schools. However, its stockroom is open to the public, and the prices hover near wholesale.
These toys are designed to improve motor skills; there are puzzles, games, stacking toys and much more. Amusement Park is a building toy with more than 100 interlocking pieces and gears, which allows a child to build a kind of amusement park. A major toy distributor was retailing this for $35, but the price here is $12.99.
Those magnetic blocks that sell for $20 to $30 at many stores are $11.99 at Intelico for the 16-piece set. And these are the originals--not the knockoffs that have flooded the market. There's a lot more in Intelico's inventory, but this gives you an idea.
Call ahead because this is a wholesale operation and does not necessarily keep usual store hours. Since the showroom is designed for little ones and has a hands-on policy, bring them along.
Intelico, 7232 Canby Ave., Suite 5, Reseda; (818) 345-8997.
L.E.C. World Traders sells primarily to large corporations, providing them with bulk amounts of quality toys to donate to organizations such as Toys for Tots. They're open to the public, and you can walk in off the street and purchase anything from its stock of more than 500,000 items, which includes 60% to 70% of the major U.S. and European manufacturers, at 24% below retail. However, if you call ahead of time to apply for a special discount card, you can buy anywhere from 40% to 50% below retail.
The 5,500 square feet of toys, packed to the ceiling, is an awesome sight. Plan on spending time here and DO NOT bring the kiddies. The aisles are so loaded with inventory that there's not even room for a stroller.
Many of the major manufacturers are represented: Lego, Playskool, Tyco, Little Tikes and Revell. Here's an example of how the pricing works: A Little Tikes Fire Truck that retails for $24 is regularly discounted to the walk-in trade at $18, but when you call ahead for a card, the price comes down to $14.40. Some exotic stuffed animals are good deals if you've got the room. A 48-inch-tall camel comes in at $40, and a standing elephant measuring 6 feet from nose to back heel is $60.
L.E.C. World Traders, 8150 Sunland Blvd., Sun Valley; (818) 768-6126. Special holiday hours: 9 a.m to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Still the best deal in town for LGB trains is San-Val, where a 32-foot layout of 15 working models is set up, and the prices are 20% to 30% lower than anywhere else. For a child's first train set, the Industrial Set, with an engine, four train cars, loaders, people and tracks, is a good buy at $159, instead of $199. For grown-up kids, check out No. 2019--the engine and tender for $629. This generally retails for $900 to $1,000. If you by any chance find a lower price (and I seriously doubt that you will), San-Val's owner, Al Kramer, says he will match it.
San-Val, 7444 Valjean Ave., Van Nuys; (818) 786-8274. Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.