NEWS

Exclusive: January’s Talking Shop

Published on: 12th January 2024

More than a dozen retailers look at sales, footfall and best-sellers in the lead-up to Christmas and their new year expectations in this month’s Talking Shop.

After retail finally recovered from the knock-on effect of Covid, many stores were experiencing pre-pandemic levels of shopping once again. Although for some the cost of living crisis meant that customers waited last minute to buy their main Christmas presents, those toy shops which offered Christmas Club to spread out the payments experienced early shopping since September.

Blewetts of Hayle, in Cornwall, was one shop to offer customers the opportunity to pay for products over a few months rather than upfront. The top products were Sylvanian Families, for which Epoch had offered a great deal, Squishmallows, Eugy and Craft Buddy. Due to the cold and wet weather, puzzles and games were also selling well, keeping people busy while indoors.

At Totally Toys in Bristol, Paul Carpenter told Toy World that even taking inflation into account, Christmas sales have been higher post-Covid. 2022 saw a dramatic rise in sales as customers were enthusiastic to go back into stores. 2023 sales were only slightly slower as people were focusing more on gifts and celebrations rather than impulse buys, but even so, the shop still managed to improve on 2019 sales.

As for 2024, Paul, along with many other retailers in this feature, feel that a new craze is needed. He said: “We expect things to be much slower this month and could really do with a new craze right about now. Thank goodness for Lego – there’s always something new and always something that people want. It’s nice to have new stock post-Christmas and Lego always has plenty to offer.”

He added: “I’m looking forward to the year ahead. Independents aren’t going anywhere; if there’s one thing we’ve learnt, it’s that we’re really good at adapting and reinventing ourselves, even during times of adversity. We can get products on our shelves quickly when we find something new that customers want. Bring on 2024!”

Toy stores did all they could to get people through the doors for Christmas shopping. At Toys4You in Sutton Coldfield, Usman Ahmed even began selling sweets in store so there are more reasons to visit, and so kids don’t leave empty handed. Social media presence has also been huge for some stores including Toys4You. Usman said that TikTok was a great place for him to further build his store brand as he was able to showcase his latest products to millions of viewers.

Usman describes January as a positive month as kids have Christmas money to spend. He is looking forward to getting stuck in this year with new plans. He said: “At New York Toy Fair last year, I saw new trends in Funko Pop! Figures as well as several toys which incorporate AI, such as interactive robots and pets. We haven’t really focused too much on hot licences or trends so far, sticking to more traditional lines, but I have my eye on products from YouTubers such as LankyBox and Ninja Kidz, as well as popular Netflix shows such as Gabby’s Dollhouse. I’m looking forward to the year ahead.”

To read much more from retailers around the UK including from regular contributors Mark Buschhaus and Stephen Barnes of Toy Barnhaus, click here for the full feature.

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