Toy World spoke to three independent retailers to discuss business, best-sellers and more.
We spoke with Clair Letton of Brighton’s Wigwam Toys, Selina Clarke of family owned independent department store and AIS member Jarrold, as well as fellow AIS member and department store, John Sanders, directed by David Fynn. (These interviews took place prior to the retail store lockdown.)
Situated in the heart of Norwich, with several specialist stores located in Norfolk, family is at the core of the Jarrold business and this year it is celebrating its 250th Birthday, having started out as a drapers and grocers in 1770.
“The business has thrived and developed massively over the years: needless to say, we are very different now to when we first started,” explained Selina. “Overall, business has been positive over the last few months, and as a store we were ahead last year. The toy department had a great start to 2019 and up until October we were ahead of 2018, however Christmas came late and was generally a tough period, so we ended up finishing slightly down on the year overall. Despite this we were still ahead of the industry figures. 2020 has started well, but in this new uncertain climate we are currently experiencing, it looks like we are heading toward tougher times.”
Wigwam Toys equally experienced steady business at the start of the year. When asked what makes the shop different, Clair told us, “The entire Wigwam team, myself included, all have creative backgrounds, and this impacts our buying decisions and the way that we merchandise and present the goods to customers. We appeal to consumers through the shop itself, which is very colourful with a great sense of drama and theatre. I think people enjoy the experience of shopping with us as we think carefully about every element, from the music we play to the colours in store. The recent launch of our website has also enabled us to reach a broader range of customers and we are pleased to see ongoing growth in that area.”
“In terms of our current best-sellers at Wigwam, the Cutetitos, Babitos and Fruititos from Basic Fun have been flying; we literally cannot keep them in stock. Pokémon is also a regular staple; sales rise and fall slightly all the time, but at a sub £15 price point, it consistently remains one of our top sellers in store.”
John Sanders has been trading in Ruislip since 1985, and the toy department has been expanded over the years to become one of its key departments, taking up roughly half of the first floor. “We try to ensure that we offer core ranges in considerable depth, alongside product not easily found elsewhere, in order to make us stand out from our competitors,” commented David. “As an AIS member, we have access to all major suppliers via the central payment system, along with specially negotiated promotions and activities. We can also take advantage of the extensive FOB programme which AIS offers, which has proved a key margin enhancer over the years. Having the weekly newsletter also keeps us up to date with latest trends and plenty more useful information.”
“AIS is a very close-knit group where advice from other buyers or Miles Penhallow is easy to get hold of – and reliable. The team is constantly talking to suppliers to give us as much up to date information as possible,” agreed Selina.
Read the full articles from Clair, Selina and David in our April issue of Toy World here.