The New Year is here, but it’s worth having a look back at the week before Christmas to find out what happened in the independent toy retail sector. The NPD Group predicted toy sales of £400m as the last-minute shopping rush before Christmas began, and we’re looking forward to seeing whether this figure was achieved.
So what was the climate like over that last week? Jon Starling of Starlings said that “shoppers left it late, schools didn’t break until the last minute; the odds were stacked against us”. Bhav Patel of Toy Galaxy agreed saying that the “final week saw increased footfall and as shoppers left things very late, sales picked up to regain its levels compared to the previous year”. Interestingly, Helen Gourley of Toy Hub Direct said that she believed that “sales in the shop were noticeably up from earlier in the month as shoppers struggled to get online companies to deliver in time before Christmas”. Stuart Grant of The Entertainer pointed out that “it’s always hard when Christmas moves into another week with it coming the following Tuesday this year, so in the consumer’s minds it wasn’t until the next week.”
And when it was all over, how did the retailers feel? Dave Middleton of Midco Toys said that his “shops are empty now; it’s almost as big a job filling them back up as it was selling it all in the first place.”
You can read the full quotes below:
Stuart Grant, The Entertainer
“We had a very very strong December. It started off tough, not just for us but for the whole market; it’s always hard when Christmas moves into another week with it coming the following Tuesday this year, so in the consumer’s minds it wasn’t until the next week. We were showing 3% like-for-like growth instead of the 8% we’ve been accustomed to this year, but come Christmas week sales were absolutely phenomenal; the Saturday before Christmas sales were huge, and we had a really strong Christmas Eve.
“As far as top-sellers went, to be honest it was bigger pieces and our price-promoted products which sold best, for example tablets like the LeapPad. Furby was far and away our stand-out item even though it wasn’t price-promoted; if we had it, we’d sell it. Anything else that wasn’t price-promoted didn’t do as well, though; it was very competitive this year and the consumers were demanding deals – if there wasn’t a promotion on, they wouldn’t buy it.”
Dave Middleton, Midco Toys
“Sales over the Christmas period were very strong through the shops, with Lego leading the way in regards to top sellers, Monster Fighters and Friends and City being the best categories. Boys’ bestsellers were Skylanders Giants, WWE and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, while for Girls it was Barbie, Monster High, Sylvanian Families and Cabbage Patch. The shops are empty now; it’s almost as big a job filling them back up as it was selling it all in the first place.”
Bhav Patel, Toy Galaxy
“Toy sales in the week before Christmas seemed to have made up for what was a slow start in early December. The final week saw increased footfall and as shoppers left things very late, sales picked up to regain its levels compared to the previous year. The challenge in the last week is getting the shelves replenished in time for the following day’s sales, it’s the only time of the year where we seem to work 24 hours to ensure sales are maximised. Lego did particularly well for us in the final week as did sales for board games, which is a category which is expected to excel late into Christmas trading. The final week also saw a large increase in hobby-related merchandise with Hornby, Scalextric and model kits doing particularly well.”
Helen Gourley, Toy Hub Direct
“The week before Christmas was a hugely important week for us. The sales in the shop were noticeably up from earlier in the month as shoppers struggled to get online companies to deliver in time before Christmas and more people looked for expert advice needing ideas for the perfect gift. Our best performer was Lego overall but we found that creative toys such as Hama and Top Model as well as family games (in particular Brainbox Games) were in very high demand as thoughts turned to entertaining the whole family over the Christmas period. Skylanders Giants were also a key line, but many customers opted for gift vouchers rather than the actual characters to avoid giving doubles. Needless to say, most of those vouchers have now been redeemed.
“Christmas Eve was particularly busy with smaller collectable characters such as Moshi and Trash Packs as well as Skylanders accessories like wallets, mugs and badges. Toy Hub also gave every child that visited us that day a special gift from the huge stocking the elves had left us when they came to collect Santa’s order, spreading the magic of Christmas.”
Jon Starling, Starlings
“Sales in the week before Christmas were manic, as predicted. Shoppers left it late, schools didn’t break until the last minute; the odds were stacked against us…how did we cope? With hard work and a fantastic effort from all the staff. Even with daily deliveries into stores, we managed to keep on top of everything, and all stores had a good last week.
“Top-selling lines were Games, Lego and basic Pre-school; lots of items around the £20 mark. We ran our games promotion right up to Christmas, it seemed to work very well. Online sales are still a threat to independent stores; we do some, but have concentrated our efforts in store which has paid off to see our sales (non-internet) rise. At the end we all looked forward to a couple of days off; and now we start all over again, argh!”