Toy World spoke to toy buyer Neil Mitchell about the retailer’s success during lockdown, and what sets it apart in the marketplace.
Previously known as the catalogue retailer Express Gifts, Studio provides a shopping service to more than 2m customers per year, offering a wide range of products predominantly through online and mobile. Toys is a strongly performing category for Studio, and the company’s own brand range has received numerous awards including for its Outdoor Mud Kitchen and wooden toy range.
Toy buyer Neil Mitchell told Toy World that the retailer had performed ‘exceptionally well’ during lockdown. “Back in January and February, sales were in line with budget, although good weather in February 2019 made it difficult for Garden & Outdoor Toys to annualise strong numbers,” he said. “However, since lockdown the business has seen both record online sales (+55% versus the same period last year) and a strong increase in new customers. Our multi-year transformation to become a digital value retailer means we have been well-placed to adapt to the current environment.”
Toy sales are up +20% YTD for Studio Retail, with the retailer seeing its biggest ever spring/summer trading week back in March as the UK entered lockdown. Outdoor toys dominated the period, driven by good weather and British kids staying home while the schools were shuttered.
“Our most popular lines included trampolines, slides, paddling pools and playhouses, which were available across a range of price points,” explains Neil. “Another trend we observed was home learning, as the country adapted to a new way of life and teaching kids from home. We already offered a wide range of relevant products, but we added new lines to the category, including brands we had not partnered with before, which all performed extremely well. Lego and wooden toys, including our own-brand role-play range, were standout sellers.”
Neil tells Toy World that one of Studio Retail’s biggest USPs is its personalisation service. The company has invested heavily in state-of-the art machinery to create the largest personalisation plant in Europe, which allows it to place a child’s name on products, free of charge. This instantly gives Studio and the product a point of difference to others in the market.
He adds: “We work with all types of suppliers to curate a range that Studio customers will love. Our online platform allows us to offer a wide range, making us an ideal choice when launching new ranges, as well as selling tried and trusted products. Our aim is to build long term strategic relationships with suppliers as we continue our transformation, with the goal of becoming the leading digital value retailer.”