The Westfield branch has undergone a £700,000 transformation, and Toy World was given an exclusive sneak peek. John Baulch reports.
The Entertainer’s Westfield store opened over nine years ago, when the Westfield Centre itself first appeared. The newly-revamped outlet encompasses all the changes that The Entertainer has made to its store estate over the past nine years – and a whole lot more. Amongst other things, it is the first Entertainer store to feature interactive and augmented reality displays, as well as other elements that boost in-store theatre and customer engagement.
According to Gary Grant, the thinking behind the new design is straightforward: “The whole experience is about putting the child first – what do kids want out of a toy shop? On our opening weekend, a customer said to me, “It’s just like a playground” – I was delighted, because that is exactly what we were aiming for.”
Prior to the redesign, The Entertainer embarked on a series of consumer studies, with parents’ feedback integrated into the new format: “We listened to our customers,” said Gary. “The stock was too high in places, the navigation could have been clearer, the centre gondolas were too tall – parents want a safe environment, and to be able to see their children easily – and we’ve also widened the walkways by utilising narrower racking, in order to ease buggy congestion.”
While the size of the store hasn’t changed – it still occupies 4,500 square feet – the whole look and feel represents a significant upgrade on its predecessor. The fresh design starts at the entrance; the new doors are 30% wider, making the store inviting and – on a practical level – buggy-friendly. Another prominent new feature is the use of a series of interactive screens in the shop windows, which are synced from head office. The Entertainer will be working with suppliers and licensors on content and takeovers, so the screens reflect the very latest in-store ranges and launches.
The new features continue as soon as you step inside the store; a selection of interactive games are projected onto an area of floor space, so kids can start playing straight away. Again, The Entertainer is planning to work with toy suppliers and licensors to create bespoke, branded games for this space.
View the slideshow below for a look inside the new store.
Prime brands are positioned towards the front of the store; LOL Surprise, Fingerlings, Lego, Bush Baby World, Shopkins, VTech and LeapFrog all have prominent shelf space, while current craze lines such as squishies, slime and putty also occupy prime slots in the front section, near the tills.
The till points, which are all wheelchair compliant, retain The Entertainer’s trademark steps, which allow kids to pay for items on the same level as the shop staff. The polaroid graphics behind the tills communicate the idea of capturing memories, the perfect message for a toy shop.
As you walk further into the store, you encounter more new features; a display area where sales assistants can actively demonstrate product (slime sales were hugely boosted by demos over the opening weekend); a ‘do not press’ button which emits ten different farting noises which Gary’s three year-old grandchild apparently thought was hilarious; a Magic Mirror, which takes photos of customers in a choice of digital outfits and emails the result though to the child’s parent or guardian and, finally, the Launch Pad – an area featuring tablets with games and apps to keep the kids occupied while the parents look for an item or finish their shopping.
Of course, I saw the store in a pristine state; an army of 25 expert merchandisers had been brought in to get the store ready ahead of its opening. All the stock was clean and fresh; there were no tails of ranges. Keeping the branch merchandised to this standard on an ongoing basis will be a challenge, but otherwise, the product mix is essentially the same as you would expect to find in Entertainer stores across the country.
The Entertainer store estate currently stands at 146 outlets, with another 15 new stores in the pipeline this year. Gary told me: “We re-invest £5m a year in our stores, to make the environment exciting for our customers. We will be looking at some of the elements we’ve introduced here in Westfield and assessing how we can scale them, so they work in other stores across our portfolio.”