A selection of independent toy retailers told Toy World how their businesses have been faring over the past weeks and their plans for the rest of 2020.
Overall, the general feeling among indie toy retailers is one of optimism and relief. With many retailers having reopened their doors since 15th June (and some before that, depending on their location), consumers have been able to return to their local toy stores to see what’s new and treat the kids.
However, there’s a difference for many now. As Games Crusade’s Lisa Dyson has found, being discouraged from getting hands-on with products means shoppers must rely on the knowledge of staff to guide their purchasing decisions. She says: “We are an interactive shop and usually have a lot of in-store demonstrations and opportunities for customers to try out products. This often resulted in extra sales, since parents could see what their children enjoyed playing with or could have a go themselves before they buy. Of course, we have had to remove those, which means customers don’t get the same level of interaction as before. They have to rely on our expertise and advice.”
At the Toy Shop in Cockermouth, lower footfall has been balanced by higher spend; kids who had saved up their pocket money during lockdown were all too happy to spend it in-store, which manager Jonty Chippendale called ‘heartwarming’. He told Toy World: “On the whole, reopening the shop has been a positive experience. Our customers have been very supportive and very responsible about adhering to the social distancing and hand sanitising rules we have implemented.”
For Watkins Toys in Taunton, which this year celebrates its 80th anniversary and managed to remain open during the war, being forced to shutter during lockdown was definitely a novel situation. However, says manager Mike Slocombe, customers have been pleased to return to the store. Automattic Comics in Wiltshire has also been welcoming back customers, albeit with a doorway ‘table service’. Says Matt Booker: “I’m very happy to be back open for business as nothing beats face to face customer interaction, albeit from a distance. Since reopening, I have definitely noticed less footfall in the city centre. I think people have realised they don’t need have to travel to shop. They are shopping locally at their independent butchers, green grocers and toy shops – which is great news for us all.”