Allen Rickert paints a bleak picture.
In a decade, he said he’ll be surprised to find any independent toy stores open in Seattle.
Such is the way of selling toys in an Amazon world.
Rickert is owner of Top Ten Toys in Greenwood, taking over from his sister, Adelia, who founded the store 30 years ago. Long-regarded as one of the most interesting and progressive toy stores in the state, Top Ten Toys’ sales have flagged in recent years as it competes with local tech giant Amazon.
“They’ve already cornered about 25 percent of the U.S. toy market,” Rickert said. “How do we compete? The quick answer is we can’t. We’ve done what we can do. Any small business losing 5 percent of business will fold. 25 percent? Forget about it.”
While Top Ten Toys, the largest independent toy store in the Pacific Northwest, employs up to 30 during the holiday season, Rickert said last year it made no profit. 2017’s bottom-line looks worse.
“Business has proven more and more challenging,” he said. “People will say “I love going out to stores” and maybe they mean it. But when it comes to prices and convenience they all shop online. I’ve done it, I can’t lie.”
Rickert said the $15 an hour wage Seattle passed has been challenging as well, particularly because he prefers to promote from within and raises the wages of all senior employees accordingly.
“Christmas bonuses have gone from thousands of dollars to “here’s 50 bucks,” he said.
Top Ten Toys has won accolades in the city for promoting sustainable, educational toys. Rickert doesn’t sell toy guns or other toys which simulate or otherwise normalize violence. 
“We’ll get a father coming in looking for a Nerf gun and he might be upset when he finds out we don’t sell them,” he said. “But his child will look around and see all the great things we have in stock and want to look around. It’s a bait and switch.”
Rickert, 65, is balding and slim. He discusses the future of his store and others like it in the jam-packed back warehouse section of the store. Shelves stuffed with educational, multicultural and creative toys loom over a cluttered workspace. Rickert is blunt in his appraisal of the market forces stacked against him, but hides a wry smile and cutting wit. Before getting into the toy game, he made his way in real estate. Adelia founded the store 30 years ago after having her own child re-sparked her interest in developmental psychology. 
“The public loves the toys we sell, and at the end of the day we feel good about the toys we choose to sell,” Rickert said.
Being the largest independent toy store in the Northwest means that Top Ten Toys has a significant role in shaping the toy market for small producers.
However, with Amazon’s (and Barnes and Noble, Toys ‘R’ Us and other large outlets) increasing share of the market, he said it’s bad for these small producers.
“If you go online to shop for… say a fire truck, you are probably going to Amazon,” Rickert said. “And instead of coming to a store and walking past hundreds of toys you might not even have known existed, you zip right to the first result at the top of the first page.”
He said that while this streamlines the process for shoppers, it also severely limits the market. Why make a toy if three larger companies make a similar toy which shows up higher in search results, Rickert asks. The variety of toys has dropped markedly in the last several years, putting pressure on independent toy stores because they can’t buy in bulk to the extent of large box stores or online retailers.
Additionally, he admits that Amazon’s fulfillment has surprised even him, who anticipated the worst.
“I got home around 5 or 6 p.m. last year on Christmas Eve and got an email from Amazon,” he said. “It said ‘Allen, we can still get it to you tonight.’”
All of these took a toll last year, when Top Ten Toys closed its Pacific Place store after eight years Downtown.
The future of toy stores will continue to be largely online, Rickert said. Demo stores might be a possibility as well, where kids and parents can view a toy and even play with it before having it shipped securely to their homes. No matter what, he doesn’t see a long future for his store.
“The writing’s on the wall, we will fade out of existence like the majority of independent toy stores,” Rickert said. “We live in interesting times.”