Like your toys educational? Arbor Scientific now offers them online
An Ann Arbor supplier of science teaching tools has launched a website geared to consumers who appreciate cool toys with an educational slant.
The site - www.sciencemuseumgifts.com - is separate from Arbor Scientific’s core website, which is aimed at science teachers, but some of the same items - gadgets, gizmos and kits that teach everything from how solar power works to the mysteries of motion - are featured on . Items range from $15 to $150.
Company president Peter Rea, a UM graduate who founded Arbor Scientific almost 25 years ago, said the idea for the website was prompted by educators who use some of the products in their classrooms and wanted to be able to find similar things for their own children.
“Since we have so many educators who work with us to find and develop the best science teaching tools, it just made sense for us to help parents promote a healthy interest in science to their children,” says Rea, 56, whose background is in management consulting.
Along with affiliate agreements with science museums nationwide, which will get a percentage of sales of their toys sold through the website, Arbor Scientific also scours catalogues and sends staff to trade shows to find unique toys. On occasion, original designs will be manufactured off-site, but everything else - marketing, packaging and shipping - is done in-house by the company’s 12 employees.
A few of the more popular items on the new site is the H-Racer, a child-size hydrogen fuel cell car, and the Molecular Modeling Kit. The site, which organizes toys by age group, scientific category and price, also features a gyroscopic top, magic kits, chemistry kits, solar-powered cars and boats.
“We probably have 250 products on the new site and we’re working on increasing it,” Rea says. “We’re not a Toys R Us where we throw a lot of things out there.”
Online competitors include Amazon.com, but Rea says his company understands how its products work and can offer a complete how-to for consumers.
Arbor Scientific saw a flattening of revenues last year as schools struggled with tighter budgets, but revenues have been within the range of $3 million for several years, he says.
He expects the new website to generate $1 million within the next few years.
The company is gearing up for summer, which brings in school orders, and then will prepare for the holiday season blitz.
“With the new site, orders tend to come in during the Christmas season. We probably do 40 percent of our business after Thanksgiving, so we’ll be ramping up for that,” Rea says.