Toy World Magazine May 2020

Page 26

Talking Shop Dr Wendy Hamilton -

Joel Meyer-Nicholas -

Amanda Alexander -

We are coping about as well as everyone else in the retail industry at the moment, which is business not as usual. We’ve obviously had to close our shop which, whilst startling, wasn’t a new experience for us. We’ve been through business disruption on this scale before, back in 2013 when our business was destroyed by fire and the shop was closed for over eight months. The difference this time is we’re not alone, the whole world is closed for business and this time there is a bigger threat of danger to life from Covid-19. The impact is huge and not having any accurate timescales as to when some form of normality might return is obviously disorientating. My first concern has been to ensure my team and our customers are safe; closing the shop was therefore imperative. The question of online sales has however been a frustrating problem as the Scottish government’s advice has been no non-essential work should be done unless from home, which is in direct conflict to the advice of the UK government. We had to suspend online sales while we decided how to handle the situation safely and efficiently, especially as most of our team are now furloughed. At the time of writing, we are assessing our online operation to see if we can run safely. If we can, we will get back into the swing as quickly as possible because house-bound kids need toys and games.

We are open online for local delivery only. We are not posting anything out because all our usual staff must stay at home with their kids. My wife and business partner, Lindsey, is focusing on the website and social media side of things and I am doing all the deliveries and packaging. We are just about managing to cope we have been very busy with deliveries. Jigsaws have been especially popular, particularly the 1000 and 500 piece puzzles for adults and older children. Board games were also selling very well in the weeks leading up to the store closing. Before all the shops closed, we sent a selection of puzzles to older people who were already being told to stay indoors. We also put together a large jigsaw order to donate to our local food bank, as well as window pens for kids to join in the rainbow trail. The biggest challenge has been managing our time; ironically, we have lots of jigsaws in our own house that we can’t find the time to do! Having our son at home means we have to balance home-schooling and business. Getting more stock in has also been difficult, with a lot of our usual suppliers not currently processing orders. We have, however, managed to source some new suppliers to see us through this difficult period. Social media and the demand for puzzles has brought us a lot of new customers. Many people post what they buy from us on Instagram, which then leads to others contacting us. It is strange not seeing the kids coming into our store every day; working solely online definitely isn’t the same but we are making the best of it. Our twice monthly board game night at local pubs will also be held online for the foreseeable future. Our local town team is currently developing a website for all local businesses, so that people can place orders on one website and get everything delivered together. It looks to be a promising initiative that will be useful if the current situation is long term.

I started putting updates on our Facebook page when the situation was changing, just before we went into lockdown. I have since been doing local deliveries to regular customers and I am also working online; I am trading through my own website and selling on downyourhighstreet.com. Between those two platforms, business is still going steady. Downyourhighstreet.com is an online marketplace website and is purely for Bricks and Mortar shops that are trading in the UK. It is suitable for small indie shops that have little or no online presence, or struggle to manage their own search engine optimisation. It is a great platform to use and since joining my online sales have gone up – accounting for about 15% of my total sales. Games have been selling extremely well, especially board games and traditional titles like Monopoly and Cluedo. Lego and craft items from the likes of Galt Toys have also been popular. Orchard Toys tick the box of being both fun and educational which is ideal whilst the kids are off school; ranges like Mama’s Maths, What’s the Time Mr Wolf? and Timetable Hero have all been in huge demand. Continuing to run the business on my own has been the biggest challenge. To maintain social distancing, I have had to furlough staff. I didn’t think it would be fair to expect them to come in and work during the current climate. Thankfully, I have a 17 year old son who usually works a few hours in the shop. Now that it is school holidays, he is being drafted in to help me pack orders. Other than that, I have been doing a lot of this on my own, which means I am working longer days than I ever have before. Though it can be tough, I can’t stress enough how incredibly grateful I am to have the business, especially during a time like this. I have been blown away by how many orders I am getting.

Grasshopper Toys, Helensborough

Bill Deakin -

Silly Billy’s Toys, Hebden Bridge

Toyville, Bristol

Giddy Goat Toys, Manchester

On 1st May this year I would have been open for 23 years, but of course the shop is now closed for the foreseeable future whilst we undergo social distancing measures. I’m usually a seven day a week man so to be off work feels unusual - the hours are great, but the money is terrible! We closed on the 22nd March. I took this decision because I didn’t feel it was safe to be open. Of course, it is not ideal since Easter is always an extremely busy period; I call it the start of the toy season. We lay a lot of orders down and have a large amount of stock coming in from our various suppliers at this time of the year. I could see what was imminent so I cancelled orders where I could. Those suppliers were very understanding and didn’t offer me 90 days or ask me to extend my credit; they were all very pragmatic about the situation. We already had orders delivered before the lockdown phase happened, including items from Lego and Schleich, which means I still have invoices to pay. I’ve got staff on furlough, but I will keep paying wages until the government can step in. It is not easy at the moment as I currently have everything going out and nothing coming in. We will not be doing local or online deliveries. Instead I took the decision to hold what we have. I think people will be eager to get back to the shops once they re-open, so I want us to have stock in the shop for when that time comes. All we can do is keep positive both in business and in life at this stage. We don’t know exactly what kind of socio and economic impact Covid-19 will have in the long term. It will be difficult, but we must keep going. I have always said it is about having the right mentality and keeping business in your head and not in the till.

Toy World 26