Exclusive – Toy World reports from The Entertainer’s autumn conference

Published on: 5th November 2019

Publisher John Baulch reports from The Entertainer’s autumn conference, hosted in September.

John joined 171 store managers, along with area and regional managers, international franchise partners and the entire team of directors, at The Entertainer’s autumn conference. The timing of the event was aimed at fostering dialogue and sharing information ahead of the crucial festive season.

Following a blast of ‘Uptown Funk’ and an outbreak of spontaneous dancing among delegates, executive chairman Gary Grant pulled no punches in his welcome speech: “We are in unchartered and changing times. The High Street is facing some major challenges; in particular, retailers are experiencing a huge decline in footfall. Brexit is undoubtedly affecting consumer sentiment: we are trading against 2008 levels of confidence. Retailers are under pressure and many are closing stores.”

Gary quickly went on to illustrate why retailers like The Entertainer are bucking the overall trend, with a passionate call to action: “Amongst the uncertainty, there will always be winners. We won’t be making any knee-jerk changes to our business model. We won’t be chasing turnover at the expense of margin. We have some fantastic promotional activity lined up – but it is all fully-costed and part of the business plan. We will react to items which aren’t selling as fast as we would like, but we won’t be reducing our stock-holding and we certainly won’t panic. We have a great line of products, our costs are under control and we make a good margin. None of that will change.”

Despite the prevailing trading conditions, The Entertainer has weathered the storm remarkably well thus far. Up to the end of July, it had secured an admirable 11% share of toys sold in the UK, an increase over last year. It has opened ten stores so far this year, with a further two due to open shortly in Bath and Macclesfield. Plans for 2020 are already well advanced; next Easter will see the re-opening of the Birmingham Bullring store, which Gary says will “take the best concepts from the White City flagship branch to a whole new level.” The Bullring branch will also include the first Early Learning Centre store-in-store, ahead of the launch stand-alone ELC stores further down the line.

The addition of ELC and Spanish retailer Poly to The Entertainer family has not only driven significant growth this year, but provides the springboard to take the retailer to a whole new level in the future. Ultimately, the company’s goal is to be the largest speciality retailer of toys anywhere in the world; it is a bold aim, but the transformation from a UK business to a multi-national business based in the UK is firmly underway. The Entertainer currently turns over in the region of £400m from 928 stores worldwide, but its target is a global turnover of £1b. Ambitious it may be, but the board of directors is adamant that there is plenty of scope for growth in all sections of the business.

To read in full John’s report from the Entertainer autumn conference, featured in the November issue of Toy World, click here.


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