In this month’s Talking Shop, Sam Giltrow caught up with independents to find out what’s bringing in customers as we hit the summer months.
Tom Popple of The Toy Planet, Wantage, told us about his new 2,300sq ft premises which opened this year. “We used the Bounce Back Loan from the government to invest in fitting out the new place,” he said. “Maybe it was a bit of a risk because of the lockdown, to take on a shop that was three times the size and price, but it has proved to be beneficial. The business is busier than it has ever been and long may it continue.”
Meanwhile, in Jersey, John Testori of Bambola Toymaster, St Helier, is looking forward to a busy summer. “Jersey’s airport is open and there are a lot of UK passengers heading our way; I think this will be great for our shops and hospitality sector which definitely need the visitors. Without a doubt, we believe we can recoup our losses from the past year.”
Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, Bambola Toymaster still has plenty to look forward to. Being forced to embrace online during lockdowns, John now feels he has future-proofed the business. “The pandemic has bullied us into the 21st century,” he told us, while he also shared that he can’t wait to return to trade shows to see product again. “Zooms are fantastic, but they are nowhere near as time efficient, despite being good for maintaining contact and relationships, which I think is important,” he said.
Julie Bates of Clarkes of Sussex, which runs six stores across Sussex and Surrey, finds that toys and stationery are very important parts of its overall business to bring in customers. “Following the lockdown, we had a really good opening fortnight, but it has now dropped back to a level which is lower than it should be. The weekends are still busy though, and Thursdays and Fridays are starting to pick up. I expect our stores in Brighton and Lewes will be busy with tourists and with many families planning staycations, this can only help sales,” said Julie.
At Harper’s Toymaster in Penrith, Stuart Harper is also finding that although footfall surges at weekends, weekday trade is still less steady. Consequently, he has revised his ordering procedures. “Even though I have been refreshing our offering, I have not been going mad, as I don’t want to be overstocked at the moment,” he explained. “I’m hopeful that business will get back to what it was previously and we will have a great summer.”
The retailers discussed what their top sellers are at the moment, and you can read more on that in the full-length Talking Shop feature, which appeared in the July edition of Toy World, by clicking here.