NEWS

Exclusive: Look who’s 40! – doing things The Entertainer way

Published on: 6th July 2021

Toy World spoke to founder and executive chairman, Gary Grant, to find out how it all began, who helped it happen and where The Entertainer is headed next.

2021 marks 40 years since The Entertainer first opened its doors – and it’s fair to say a lot has changed since then.

Gary and his wife Catherine opened the first The Entertainer store on 5th May 1981, when Gary was the tender age of 22 and, by his own admission, knew absolutely nothing about the toy industry. Upon leaving school with one O-level in Maths, he worked in a local bike shop in Amersham. With his eye firmly on setting up his own shop, a call from a friend working as an estate agent led to him buying a retailer called The Pram and Toy Bar in Amersham and changing its name. The rest, as they say, is history.

Gary told us how, in the weeks leading up to the opening of The Entertainer, he spent hours in the toy departments of large retailers, painstakingly writing down the names of popular toy brands. Several generous retailers and suppliers went out of their way to assist him in the earliest days of his new business venture.

Gary credits a lot of his early success to the agents and reps that helped him mould his retail offfering, but also believes that the business started up in something of a golden age for toys, when the UK trade was really starting to take off in earnest.

The article goes on to explore how the business, and the UK toy market, developed into what it is today, and how Gary’s Christianity, family values – and indeed family – have all helped shaped his business.

We asked Gary about the decisions he’s taken over the past 40 years; he notes that there’s probably a lot he would have done differently, but at the end of the day, he’s got a lot more right. Every decision has been made with full commitment and effort, something Gary calls ‘The Entertainer Way’ – looking at something, evaluating it thoroughly, and then giving it everything to make it work.

Well known for its altruistic efforts, the Entertainer also places the satisfaction of its workforce at very high importance. “One of the greatest joys for me over the years has been the opportunities we’ve been able to create for our staff,” Gary adds. “People recognise me as the leader of The Entertainer, but the reality is that without great people around them, leaders cannot grow a business of this size. Our success is built on the work of loyal people who are good at what they do. Our employees are committed to us, so we are committed to them.”

The Entertainer’s online element is currently trading at more than double 2019, showing purchases haven’t fully reverted to physical stores even though the shops have bounced back incredibly well. Gary explains: “The Entertainer is all about providing children with a dream and a memory, and that is the toy shop of their childhood,” he says. “I don’t remember the clothes shops I visited, or the grocer, but you always remember your favourite toy shop. If we can make our shops fun and interesting and visionary, with events and demonstrations and experiences that cannot be replicated elsewhere, we will not just survive but thrive.”

To read the full article, which featured in the July edition of Toy World, click here.

 

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