Brian McLaughlin, retail manager at Toymaster, spoke to Rachael Simpson-Jones about how the buying group continues to support its members in these challenging times.
“The working relationships that make the toy industry what it is have come to the fore,” Brian tells us. “It’s fair to say that the generosity of spirit and entrepreneurship the toy trade is known for is largely to thank for the trade emerging reasonably unscathed from the crisis, though this by no means makes the hardships of 2020 any easier to accept.”
The latest rules on what constituted essential retail left many Toymaster members frustrated as supermarkets mopped up pre-Christmas toys and games during the November lockdown. Brian told us how the timing of Lockdown 2 was far more keenly felt; while a shortfall in the first lockdown was undoubtedly painful, a similar shortfall in November naturally had a far greater impact.
Heading into 2021, Brian expects that ‘safer’ products will remain the order of the day. “I think we’ll see retailers and consumers gravitate towards the tried-and-tested in the early part of this year,” he explains. “There’s an element of ‘better the devil you know’ in retail at the moment.”
Without the usual Q1 international trade shows, Brian notes, retailers can’t get hands on with toys – making the selections process trickier than ever. But, behind the scenes, Toymaster has been working hard on a raft of ways to bridge the gap between buyers and suppliers, which Brian details in the interview.
“We want our members to know that we’re doing as much as possible to help them gain all the information and knowledge they’d get from walking around a toy fair,” he explains.
Brian goes on to re-affirm the many benefits to retailers of being a Toymaster member, and highlights how important the network has been during the pandemic. “Our members support and help each other year in, year out, and in 2020 that was something that really came into its own. Communication has never been more important, and that’s what Toymaster and its members will continue focusing on as we head into this new year.”
For the buying group’s latest thoughts on whether the May show will be going ahead as planned, and more detail on the learning experience the previous 12 months has provided, the full article, which appears in the January edition of Toy World , can be read here. There’s also a section of feedback from Toymaster members.
Any independents wanting to find out more about the services and benefits available to Toymaster members can contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office on 01604 674477.