Paul is the CEO of Lucy Locket, a specialist online toys and kids’ gifts retailer.
The UK has now entered its second week of lockdown as the world battles to bring the coronavirus outbreak under control. Only those stores deemed essential remain open, and online retail has suddenly become the only way many people can get hold of items they urgently need.
One topic which has cropped up as a result is what constitutes essential goods and services, and what we can all make do without – as demonstrated by Mike Ashley’s insistence that Sports Direct is an essential retailer due to the fact it “helps keep the nation fit”. (Mike has since apologised and shut his shops). But it’s an interesting consideration. For a nation of parents suddenly expected to home-school their children for weeks (or months), often while trying to balance their own jobs at the same time, the fact toys and games have remained obtainable through the internet will have provided a lifeline. But if you’re not a parent, and you aren’t expected to teach children in your home, these products likely aren’t essential – and this is where the debate continues, especially as many online retailers will have staff in their employ which are expected to continue working during the Covid-19 outbreak.
“We have a lot of parents out there trying their level best to home educate their kids from a standing start, and my hat goes off to each and every one of them,” Paul Edwick, CEO of Lucy Locket, tells Toy World. “I would class toys and games as essential, but I’m sure there are plenty of others who wouldn’t. We saw an initial splurge on kids’ products two weeks ago; parents seemed to be kitting up with the stuff they needed to get through this. I think this rush of orders will settle down, but the fundamental issue during the lockdown will remain keeping your kids happy. It looks likely that stricter restrictions on movement and activities will be put in place and UK houses are quite small – many will have four or more people in them round the clock. If we can’t keep the kids happy, we’re going to have an awful lot of people climbing the walls.”
But for argument’s sake, let’s say that essential goods are food and medical supplies, and everything else should be shut down. What retail are we left with? How can the UK government get a stalled economy fired up again? And what might it look like out there in 12 week’s time?
Paul also gave his view on the cancelling of orders by some retailers, explaining that all the affected parties should be considered. In one example, he asks us to consider the implications that a large clothing retailer cancelling an order may have on subsistence cotton growers in Turkmenistan. “Your client’s need not to buy your product, in order to protect its own interests, can roll all the way down the line to small operations which suddenly find themselves without any income, leaving them with an inability to pay workers which, in all likelihood, desperately require their wages for survival.”
John Colley, associate dean at Warwick Business School, writing about the impact of lockdowns on retailers, said: “Those companies without cash or only limited availability of credit have a major problem. Many businesses simply do not have access to adequate cash or credit lines and will disappear during the next six months – only the strongest will survive.”
For more from Paul, look out for our May issue of Toy World, which will feature an in-depth article