The grand opening of the new Midco store, which took place on Saturday in the Derbion Centre, saw a host of costume characters making an appearance to help celebrate the occasion.
After a month of gruelling preparation, which saw owner David Middleton working 12–18-hour days for the past four weeks, the new Derby branch of Midco Toys opened on Saturday. Midco Toys has had a store in the Derbion shopping centre ever since it opened 15 years ago (when it was known as The Eagle Centre, before being renamed Westfield, then Intu), but the new branch is significantly larger than its predecessor, with 2.5 times the floor space.
Toy World visited the new store, Toy Planet, on opening day and spoke to David Middleton about the move: “We have been in the centre since it opened – in fact, we are the only independent store that is still there from the early days. We have been keen to move to a larger store for a while – the old location was good, but we were crammed in. The pandemic has helped in that respect; this unit became available, and instead of asking for crazy money, we were able to negotiate a good deal that worked for both parties.”
The new store looks impressive, carrying on the Midco tradition of delivering “everything you would expect to find in a toy shop, and a lot of other items that might surprise you.” All the key brands are featured prominently, with Squishmallows just one of the ranges which benefits from having an expanded area, due to the larger floor space. Schleich has also been introduced into the new store, a range which has always sold well in Midco’s other outlet in Burton, but for which space couldn’t be found in the previous Derby location.
When we arrived mid-morning, the store was already busy, with queues running the length of the shop – and it stayed like that for most of the day. Squishmallows, Pokémon and Funko were all selling well, as were trading cards, which David describes as “the backbone of the store and a consistent best-seller.” By the end of the day, David was delighted with the reaction from consumers: “Trading has been on a par with a weekday in December, so we’re delighted.”
Over 30 suppliers helped to support the launch of the new store, with several going the extra mile by organizing character costume visits: Blue from Blues Clues and Baby JJ from CoComelon both made an appearance courtesy of Just Play and Bandai, as did Pikachu, which was a notable ‘first’ for the character – while it regularly visits trade fairs and consumer shows, this visit saw Pikachu make his debut at a retail store. And full marks to whoever was inside the suit – she really threw herself into her performance with tremendous gusto.
During the day, social media was flooded with well-wishers from the toy community, while several of David’s customers joined Toy World in making a personal appearance and US independent retailer Rick Derr from Learning Express even recorded a personal greeting, which he sent on LinkedIn. Former owner of the Arcade Toy Shop in Dudley, Alan Caswell, turned up at 8.00 in the morning, holding a Unigroup sign – Unigroup being an early incarnation of the buying group which eventually became Toymaster, of which Midco Toys is of course an extremely engaged member.
In addition to the costume characters, Ruby Sheldon from Slime Party set up a table outside the store offering kids the chance to make their own slime for free – and unsurprisingly, the table was packed all day. David has helped to facilitate a deal with Toymaster which will see Slime Party carried as an exclusive brand across Toymaster stores – judging by the response from consumers, there is still plenty of mileage in the slime craze yet.
Overall, the opening day was a triumph and testament to the incredible amount of hard work David and his team had put into delivering a great experience for the people of Derby. I’ll leave the last word to David: “Never underestimate the power of the independent toy retailers. They have more passion for the industry than you could ever imagine. The high street is alive and well.”