Toy World spoke to a selection of indie retailers to find out how they have been coping before, during and after the latest lockdowns.
Faced with ever-changing challenges, independent toy retailers around the UK continue to demonstrate their flair for problem-solving, adapting their businesses to make sure customers can get hold of toys for Christmas.
“We approached the second lockdown feeling much more prepared and could step straight into the lockdown routine that was established previously,” commented Andrew Olley of City Cycle Centre, Ely, Cambridgeshire. “We felt we knew what we were doing and how things would work moving forward, and more importantly our customers knew what to expect from their local toy shop. Reopening this time round should also be easier since our social distancing measures are already in place and will not alarm customers, who are used to the new way of shopping nowadays.”
As shops across England reopen their doors after the second lockdown, we ask what has been most highly sought after in the run up to Christmas. Justine Elliot of Thornton’s Toymaster, Chippenham, told Toy World: “Lego, Schleich and jigsaw puzzles have been performing strongly recently. A lot of people took up jigsaws during the first lockdown and have evidently carried on over the last few months. Playmobil has been a top seller for us throughout the year. We moved to bigger premises a year ago, which meant we could expand our offering. 2020 will be our second Christmas at the new place, and many of the key lines that we introduced for the first time last year are performing even better this year.”
Nicky Tossell, manager at Youings in Barnstaple, added: “I think the goal for consumers this year has been to find products that can involve the whole family, and Lego fits the bill perfectly. As well as Lego, puzzles have been flying off the shelves. I have made sure to get plenty of family games and puzzles in stock for Christmas as I’m sure they will continue to be very popular.”
With the final month of 2020 underway, independent retailers are well in the midst of what is traditionally the busiest time of year for the high street. However, with England only just coming out of lockdown, indies reveal their expectations for what is hoped to be a short but sweet festive trading period on the high street post-lockdown.
“It is difficult to predict exactly how December will look in terms of business,” commented Victoria Simpson-Forrest, Forget-Me-Not Toys and Books, Culcheth, Warrington. “The weekend before lockdown 2 felt like Christmas with regard to footfall and sales – so it is possible that we have experienced the main peak in Christmas trading, and the rush may drop off. Personally, I expect people will continue to shop throughout the season and shoppers will still be coming in for last minute gifts in December. More consumers are shopping local which should continue right up until Christmas, as customers spread out their purchases. I hope it will, as that will give the high street a boost, after what has been a tough year for retail in general.”
Andy Tipping, Marlow Toys, Marlow, concludes: “We wait in anticipation to see what will happen and keep hopeful that retail won’t be too impacted going forward. It is all about trial and error when living in the current climate and a lockdown, but from the interaction on our social media with the local community, the mood looks positive, which can only be a good sign for Christmas trading over the coming weeks.”
Read the full Talking Shop feature in the December issue of Toy World, here.