The meeting gave Toymaster the opportunity to update suppliers on what the retail group has been doing, and how they can maximise their business with the members.
A host of toy companies travelled to Swindon yesterday to attend the first Toymaster supplier meeting for six years. Toy World was honoured to be invited to join the meeting, which outlined Toymaster’s strong trading performance and highlighted opportunities for suppliers to engage further with the group and its members.
Toymaster now has 136 members, which operate a total of 280 stores across the UK and Ireland – plus one store in Gibraltar and two in Malta. These stores represent a diverse selection of specialist independent retailers, including single stores, multi-store groups, seaside outlets, garden centres and online traders. Seven new members signed up in 2022, and another new member has already been welcomed this year. Almost forty Toymaster members have been with the group for over 25 years, which illustrates the consistency of the business.
Toymaster’s recent trading record has been exemplary; in 2022, when the total toy market declined by 3%, Toymaster members’ sales grew by 14% versus 2021, and were up by 22% when compared to 2019, the last ‘normal’ trading year. 76% of Toymaster members traded up last year, and that trend is continuing this year; in Q1, when the total market was deemed flat, Toymaster’s sales increased by 10%.
The retail group believes its members have many strengths which are contributing to this performance, including the ability to be reactive and flexible; not being governed by a rigid buying calendar; product knowledge which is second to none and having a strong social media presence. Consumers looking to support local businesses post-pandemic is another trend that has worked in Toymaster members’ favour.
As Paul Reader pointed out, Toymaster doesn’t sell own-label products and only works with brands, and he made an impassioned plea for branded suppliers to work closer with Toymaster to help deliver on its promise of helping its members to trade more profitably.
Closer working relationships and support to achieve a healthy margin mix were on Paul’s wishlist for suppliers, as well as the opportunity to launch new ranges exclusively through Toymaster stores: as he said, “Collectively, the 280 stores of our members offer serious shelf space for brands at launch.”
Suppliers were also encouraged to support other key marketing initiatives, such as the Christmas catalogue – “our biggest and most powerful marketing tool” according to Paul – window displays and the Toymaster product hub.
Toymaster also confirmed that it has rejoined the Toy Retailers Association to help in its fight for business rate reform, ongoing energy support and its ongoing work to highlight toy safety issues, especially in the online channel. Paul also announced that the Toymaster FOB programme for the UK and Ireland will be returning later this year, now that freight rates have come down and prices in the Far East are returning to a more stable level.
As well as inviting Toy World to attend the meeting, Yogi Parmar also gave a personal thank you to the whole Toy World team by name, for the partnership we have developed in recent years – and like suppliers, we are absolutely delighted to continue that close working relationship with the Toymaster team and its members going forward. A healthy specialist independent channel can only be good for the toy market as a whole, and Toymaster plays a major part in facilitating that.