Flexible friends Toy World spoke to Ian Edmunds, managing director of Toymaster, to find out how its members have fared during lockdown and how the buying group is helping them face the ‘new-normal’ of retail. First things first – what can you tell us anything about the Toymaster show this year? There’s certainly an appetite for the show to go ahead in September, despite the challenges we face with coronavirus, but the situation is out of our hands at present. We’re looking to the government and its official guidelines for information on how we can proceed with the show, and what form it may take. If they say gatherings are fine to go ahead in September then that’s great, and if they say it’s not allowed then we’ll obviously cancel or further postpone the show. If the show takes place, then we fully understand not everyone will want to attend but as it stands, we’ve had positive feedback from a good number who tell us they will.
How have your members fared during the lockdowns? I’d have to say that our members have arguably fared much better than anyone would have thought possible when lockdown began. In March, the outlook and mood were quite
negative, but both have improved as things have progressed. The help from the government in the UK has been fantastic and most of our members have managed to keep selling, whether that be via a full blown website, on platforms like eBay or Amazon, or simple click & collect and local deliveries driven by social media. Not a single member has permanently shuttered their store as a result of coronavirus, which we’re delighted about.
What major lessons about independent retail do you think have been learned? Enough to fill about 55 books, frankly! When it comes to independents, the entrepreneurialism has really shone through throughout lockdown. Being small businesses, one of the biggest strengths of indies is their adaptability and flexibility. A small retailer can decide to do something, and then just do it; it’s one of the biggest advantages indies have compared to multiples, and it has paid off since 23rd March. By working together, sharing information on what’s
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worked and what hasn’t worked, our members have proven once again what an inventive and helpful group of people they are. The result is that they’ve come through this pretty well. Independent retailers have so much potential to be part of the solution, not part of the problem; they care, they’re a part of the local community, and this resonates with a lot of shoppers.
There are a number of retailers who didn’t have a dedicated website or a strong social media presence when lockdown started; with a lot of focus now on the need for omni-channel retail, do you think some of your members might re-evaluate their approach? Most of our members already have a fantastic social media presence, which has allowed them to really drive click & collect and local delivery offers for their customers. What a lot of them lack is a full-blown website, and I’ll be honest – once Amazon gets its act together again, and pricing comes back to the fore, I still don’t see that there