Toy World caught up with indie retailers in our most recent Talking Shop feature to find out how business has been faring recently and their hopes for the festive trading season.
In a year of upheaval and uncertainty, when the phrase “how many shopping days to Christmas?” has taken on a whole new meaning, indie retailers remain resilient and upbeat, and with more people shopping local and early for Christmas this year, the start of the Q4 trading season (pre-lockdown in England) has been encouraging to say the least.
“Purchasing habits have noticeably changed this year,” comments Tim Evans of Toys and Games of Worcester. “Boxed product historically sells better around Christmas time but this year the boxes are leaving the shelves much earlier. I’m reminded of a time when the Spice Girls were in the charts and people started Christmas shopping as soon as kids went back to school in September, which is exactly the pattern this year.”
For Ducklings Toy Shop, located in Marlborough and Swindon, Wiltshire, Janice Pattison tells us that business has been better than expected in recent months and footfall robust. And with Christmas shopping at the forefront of shopper’s minds, she reveals what products are performing well this season:
“We have seen a significant rise in imaginative and creative play for all ages, particularly for older children who have had more free play time to indulge in extended role play, with lines like Playmobil, Lego, Sylvanian Families and Stikbots. Having more time at home has also sparked renewed enthusiasm for jigsaws and board games, especially modern classics such as Catan and Dixit by Asmodee, mystery games like Gibsons’ 221b Baker Street, escape room games and screen free logic games.”
Over in Northern Ireland, David Rogers Toymaster, based in Banbridge and Portadown, has seen a strong uplift in sales since reopening back in June and has high expectations for the all-important gifting season, despite the difficult climate.
“Our good fortune at the moment is an accumulation of many factors; where we are positioned, our buoyant general stock levels, our excellent customer service and our loyal customers,” explains owner, Jonathan Rogers. “For this, I’m very grateful, however, I understand the situation is changing all the time and we can’t be sure that we will always be in this position. But, as an indie retailer, we have the benefit of being very reactive. We can adapt by opening late if we need to, doing deliveries in the evenings and ordering stock as and when we need it.”
With the run up to Christmas an extremely busy time for toy retailers, talk turns to expectations for those final few weeks before the big day, when all non-essential shops in England should be back up and running.
“Christmas will, of course, happen,” says Janice. “It may be different but no matter what happens, we are feeling optimistic that this year’s festive season will be just as enjoyable. Our stock levels are high, but could be better; there are still significant supply issues with several major companies, with deliveries being erratic and piecemeal, which makes it difficult for us to plan ahead. Amongst all of the uncertainties, however, the magic surrounding Christmas time will overcome any obstacles presented by Covid-19.”
Read more from Tim, Janice and Jonathan in the November Talking Shop feature, here.