Exclusive: Talking Shop & Indie Viewpoint

Published on: 7th April 2022

Sam Giltrow speaks to indie retailers to find out how they have found the year so far, what’s selling right now and what plans they have for Easter and the rest of the year.

This month’s Talking Shop welcomes indie retailers Sam Walker of Wally’s Toy Shop, Thame; Alison Bowen of Toys ‘n’ Things, Cardiff; Harrison Dann of The Toy Stop, Eastbourne and regular columnists Mark Buschhaus and Stephen Barnes of Toy Barnhaus.

Wally’s Toy Shop has had a stronger start to the year than expected and owner  Sam is optimistic about the year ahead. “We’re looking forward to all the new releases, especially lines related to the latest superhero films such as the Spider-Man: No Way Home and The Batman,” she told us. “We’re also expecting huge interest in the new Jurassic World movie.”

“We are looking forward to the Easter holidays, as it’s good to get the kids back in the shop and see what kinds of toys they are attracted to themselves, so we can make sure we are stocked up on the right lines for the rest of the year,” she added.

At Toys ‘n’ Things in Cardiff, Alison Bowen says the first quarter of the year has been steady. “We had a really good half-term week, and we’re hoping that with Easter just round the corner, business will start to pick up again,” she explained. “We are well prepared for it, with lots of lovely new stock and an enticing Easter window display.”

Alison has recently had a reorganisation on the shop floor. “Our Easter stock can now take pride of place at the front of the store. I like to keep moving product around, it keeps the displays looking fresh and also encourages customers to have a good look round.”

Relative newcomer, Harrison Dann of The Toy Stop in Eastbourne is nearing his first full year of trading and reports that business is going really well. He found visits to London Toy Fair and Spring Fair very useful. “As I started out just before Covid, I was only dealing with a handful of suppliers that I had found online,” he explained. “I soon realised there were hundreds more suppliers out there that I could be dealing with and have now placed orders with many more companies.”

Harrison started out buying discounted toys and selling them on. Initially working from his bedroom, followed by a storage unit that his parents got him for Christmas, he progressed to a pop-up shop and then took posession of a permanent unit. Lockdown gave him the opportunity to refurbish the shop, and the business has outgrown the ‘new’ shop premises already.

At only 20, Harrison is full of enthusiasm for indie toy retail, so watch this space. “My ultimate goal is to have a chain of three of four shops in the area,” he added. “The Toy Stop is growing all the time and I’m feeling really positive.”

Mark Buschhaus and Stephen Barnes, say that the Toy Barnhaus chain had a good half term and they were pleased with how February ended up, but cautioned that they are reviewing their stock. “We are looking carefully at price points throughout our offering going forward,” they told us. “Budgets are inevitably going to be constrained, so we are ensuring we can cater for all pockets.”

Everone is looking forward to finally trading over an Easter period, for the first time in three years. “It tends to be lower price points that sell well, as a lot of people buy small toys rather than (or to go with) an Easter egg,” Stephen revealed. “The Pocket Money category has been a stand out performer over the last year. It is far less affected by competition online or elsewhere than many other categories – and the beauty of it is it drives customers into stores for repeat purchases.”

To read the full feature, and find out which lines our indie retailers report are in high demand, see the article in the April edition of Toy World, here.


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