The new location is the latest in the specialist toy retailer’s expansion plans, which have continued apace this year despite Covid-19 disruption.
Toytown has unveiled the latest in its 2020 store openings with an impressive 5,500 square foot location in Uxbridge.
“I’m absolutely delighted with this one,” a clearly enthusiastic MD Alan Simpson told Toy World. “The size, the space – everything is just right. We’ve got eight 10-metre bays of Lego, three bays of Playmobil, three bays of Sylvanian Families; the store has allowed us to really inject a bit of theatre. We’ve also good a strong Baby section. When you walk in, your first impression is how stunning the space in. I’m over the moon.”
The store soft-opened on Friday, and when we spoke to Alan that morning, hopes were high for a busy and successful weekend. The retailer opened its Worcester location around a month ago, which has been exceeding all expectations since, and Alan sees no reason why the Uxbridge store should be any different. We asked if this shows high-consumer confidence in physical retail, despite uncertainty with Covid restrictions and lockdowns. Alan explained that location is currently playing a huge part in store performance: “Some of our stores are performing really well, others, not so much. Looking at the bigger picture from across our portfolio though, we’re really pleased with what we’re achieving.”
In our October interview with Alan, we wrote that a mid-October opening would make the ‘firm cut-off point for 2020 store openings’; not so – there’s now another to come in Northern Ireland’s Abby Centre, taking over an old Toys R Us unit with 5,500 square feet of floorspace. Aware that increasing Covid restrictions or even lockdowns could yet be announced, Toytown now also has a website from which customers can order toys for click & collect or home delivery.
“It’s the one thing all retailers are dreading,” notes Alan. “If a lockdown was to happen, I’d rather it was sooner than later. A two week lockdown right now would cost us half the sales it would if it were to be triggered in three weeks. It would be unthinkable to lock down that close to Christmas. It looks like Boris Johnson is trying to get England to the other side of Christmas without having to go into lockdown, but that’s eight weeks from now – and eight weeks seems an awfully long time in the current climate. People hear me say it a lot – it is what it is. You have to be flexible, think on your feet and find the opportunities where they are.”
It’s clear the pandemic and retail uncertainty hasn’t put Alan off the Toytown store openings plan for this year; he’s opened five new locations since August, a deeply impressive feat given the circumstances. And with calls now coming in from yet more shopping centres, eager to get Toytown in for 2021, there’s more to come.
“It’s what drives us,” says Alan. “Landlords are so keen; when they see what we’re doing – the presentation and the ranging and everything else – the phone just won’t stop ringing.”