Exclusive: Toy Barnhaus – from bricks & mortar to online

Published on: 9th February 2021

Toy Barnhaus owners Mark Buschaus and Stephen Barnes pen a regular column for Toy World each month; here they describe how 2020 forced them to quickly become online retail experts.

At the time of writing, Mark and Stephen were well into the third lockdown of the last 12 months, with uncertainty remaining about when their chain of eight toy stores would be able to reopen.  “This past year ranks as the most challenging year either of us have known in over 40 years of retail experience between us,” they write.

Before March 22nd, 2020, Toy Barnhaus was purely a bricks and mortar business, although plans were in place to develop an online offering; a process the pair expected to be able to undertake at their own pace. However, the arrival of Covid-19 and the enforced closure of all toyshops accelarated their plans somewhat. The pair launched Toy Barnhaus Online from the shop floor of thier Crawley store, initially as the only two working on it, although family members were soon called upon to help. “Like most of you reading this, at first the situation was a real shock and completely unknown territory; this was not in any retail textbook or anyone’s experience,” they write. “We had eight shops full of stock, and our main way of generating cash closed to us.”

The column goes on to describe what the business was forced to learn – very quickly – and how the online side of things developed. Going in and out of lockdown several times over the last year meant that Mark and Stephen had to keep adapting the online business as stores opened and closed, as well as ensuring that they had appropriate stock levels and the right product mix, whatever the pandemic threw at them.

“To be honest, without the online business, Toy Barnhaus would probably not be around any longer and we would not be making plans to hopefully re-open stores in the spring,” Stephen told us. “Thankfully, we are, and feel that our business is all the stronger for it.”

To read the full article, which appeared in the February edition of Toy World, click here.



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