Over the past two decades, retailers Evelyn and Tim Gould have become adept at creating media-worthy events that not only promote their independent toy business, but also benefit the surrounding community.
The Goulds’ most recent event, launched earlier this year at their Fergus, Ontario-store, Jester’s Fun Factory, is a case in point.
Over the next eight months, along with participation from staff, regular customers and visitors from across the province, the couple is constructing the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle. Simply titled Wildlife, the Educa-brand puzzle features 33,600 pieces and when completed will measure 5.7-meters wide by 1.5-meters deep (approx. 18 x 5 feet).
While this is not the first community puzzle event they’ve staged, it is the most ambitious and is likely to be one of the most successful. Evelyn spotted the mega puzzle depicting jungle flora and fauna at a trade show in 2015 and immediately recognized the puzzle’s potential as a centrepiece for a new promotion.
“The image was fantastic and I instantly thought that it would make an amazing community challenge. I decided to test the interest in the puzzle by advertising it in our store’s fall catalogue. It definitely caught the interest of our customers and drew in many more new curious puzzle fans,” says Evelyn. “It was simply an opportunity too good to pass up”.
The Goulds erected a sturdy wooden platform in the puzzle section of their 4,000-square-foot store where puzzle pieces could be permanently laid out and that offered customers a comfortable spot to do some puzzling.
Because of its huge size, the puzzle must be completed in sections — one section at a time. (Completed sections are glued and stored so that work on the next section can begin.) And while some customers may linger long enough after their purchase to contribute only one or two pieces, others — especially those who’ve come from outside the community — will stay and play for longer periods. (Thanks to almost 200 contributors, two sections are fully finished and work on a third is ongoing, leaving seven more sections to complete.)
Raising Donations for Local Food Bank
As with most Jester’s promotions, there is a charitable/fund-raising aspect to the event. Visitors who want to participate in the puzzle project are also asked to bring a donation for the local Centre Wellington Food Bank. It’s a cause the community has obviously endorsed, as the Goulds have delivered two large barrels filled with food products to the facility since the event was launched on January 11.
Certainly the Goulds are pleased with the success of the food drive, and the way the event has engaged the community — one of their most important goals. But, they’ve also been rewarded with increased interest in Jester’s inventory of 500 puzzle titles. Evelyn says through the January/February 2016 period while the puzzle has been in place, the store has sold more than twice as many jigsaw puzzles as it did in the same months last year.
Excitement over the giant project shows no signs of waning, says Evelyn. She’s hoping that interest will continue through the year until all the sections have been completed and permanently joined together. Given the current rate of progress, the puzzle project is expected to wrap up later this fall.
Typically, the Goulds are already planning a celebration around the puzzle’s completion. “Although we haven’t worked out all the details yet, our goal is to have the puzzle mounted to the ceiling of our store on Thanksgiving weekend (October 8-10),” says Evelyn.
No doubt, that’s a sight the community and the hundreds of contributors to the puzzle will want to see.