Christmas is the key time of year for all retailers, not just independent toy retailers. Although some have found trading conditions challenging, several independent retailers I have spoken to experienced strong footfall and sales over the period, which is very good news. As ever, all eyes were on the last-minute rushes to the shops in the final days, but added into the mix was the early draw of Black Friday at the end of November; 2013 was a Christmas trading period of two big peaks.
Stephen Barnes, joint owner of Toy Barnhaus, commented that he and business partner Mark Buschaus were pleased with 2013’s Christmas trade, and agreed that a very different pattern from previous years emerged with the uplift at the end of November for Black Friday appearing to bring sales forward. He said: “After that, the start of December was a bit softer until sales ramped up for the last ten days or so, with our best days being Saturday 21st and Monday 23rd. Post-Christmas sales have also been very strong (obviously not in the volumes experienced before Christmas), but the amounts we sold in the week after Christmas will not be beaten until November 2014.”
Dave Middleton, managing director of Midco Toys told me that Christmas sales were good and that his results were up on 2012. He said: “In-store sales reached their peak at the last minute, but late November and early December was the peak for online purchasing.”
James Eggleton, store manager of Cuthberts Toys, was also positive with sales peaking the week before Christmas around the 17thDecember. He added: “Performance was good across all three stores and comparable to the year before in terms of sales and footfall.”
Moving on to discussing the best-selling products of the period, Stephen commented that 2013’s Christmas sales were dominated by Robo Fish, ChillFactor, and any Minecraft products. Dave Middleton agreed, saying that this was the year that Minecraft went into the mainstream. “The Character Options action figures have been the best range of figures (sales wise) since the early days of Ben 10,” he said.
James Eggleton revealed that Cuthberts’ top performers included Lego across its range, highlighting Friends and Technics especially, adding that Teksta and Furby also did very well. “Our pre-school section also did particularly well with Doc McStuffins, Tree Fu Tom, and Peppa Pig among the top performing properties,” said James.
Furby also sold well for Dave Middleton who admitted that Furby surprised him “because it’s not often that an item sells well two years in a row. We could have also sold a lot of the Spin Master Flutterbye Fairy if more stock had been available.” Dave added that Gooey Louie and Lego were strong performers too, but by far and away his bestseller was Rainbow Loom, having recently made its way to the UK after huge success in the US, with literally thousands sold.
Looking ahead, Stephen Barnes said that the early signs for 2014 have been good: “We’ve experienced steady trade gained through working to capitalise on the big multiples currently not having the greatest ranges in stock, and picking up any new products that are coming out from suppliers. As long as we don’t get snow, we should be fine.”
Observing that his stores were almost as busy in the first week of January as before Christmas, Dave Middleton put it down to Lego, Skylanders and Disney Infinity taking off. “Kids must have received the games for Christmas and then taken the first opportunity to go out and buy all the figures. But they’re back at school so now it’s all quiet on the Western Front. I’m just waiting for Toy Fair to come along and remove the boredom.”
And it’s just around the corner packed with new products and companies launching ranges for the months ahead. Happily, the feedback I’ve received suggests that many toy retailers are in good shape for the year ahead after a strong Christmas and have firmly fixed 2014 in their sights. For them going forward it’s all about the products they’ll be seeing at the upcoming shows, and I’m looking forward to hearing their feedback.
See you at Toy Fair.
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