Indie viewpoint - Toy Barnhaus
Pings can only get better
As we write this, we are in the middle of our own pingdemic at Toy Barnhaus. Having counted ourselves lucky with how few colleagues have had to isolate so far, the last two weeks have seen over 15% of our staff absent. It has been yet another challenge to deal with, and one we have been pretty much expecting. However, our team has been fantastic in being flexible, A and pulled together to ensure all the stores are covered. They all appreciate their jobs more after such a turbulent time, and we are very grateful that their support ensures Toy Barnhaus has been able to keep serving our customers. We are hopeful that when the rules change on isolation, the situation should improve.
On a more positive note, the summer holidays have been great for trade, with the increasing number of staycations resulting in footfall being noticeably up on last year, and even on two years ago too. The pocket money crazes continue to be popular, with anything fidget, squishy, squeezy or slimy proving difficult to keep in stock.
Crazes and collectibles has been one of the key categories that has helped drive our success since we reopened in April. After a rough year for bricks and mortar retailers, a craze to help drive footfall is just what was needed, and the fact it is a pocket money craze is even better. Products at that price point are much less likely to be sold online, so it has really driven customers into physical shops. There are signs that the craze for pushpoppers is starting to slow among the basic lines, but any new shapes, designs, or ones with new features (we have just received a reversible popper octopus!) seem to immediately fly out, as kids want to have the latest thing and are always looking for something new.
Along with that, collectibles is dominated by Pokémon trading cards, which are showing no signs of slowing and actually seem to be getting even more popular. We are just managing to get hold of stock in time and are really excited for the Pokémon Celebrations releases for the 25th anniversary in October. We are already being asked for these by our avid collectors, so expect this to be massive.
By the time you read this, our Christmas stock will be arriving in stores, a few weeks earlier than previously. With the well documented shipping issues, we have taken the decision to take stock early where we can, to ensure inventory can meet demand later in the year. Now that there is coverage of the shipping crisis and supply issues in the mainstream press, we expect the message to get through and that people will be shopping earlier, to secure the items on their lists. Pre-Christmas marketing will be more important than ever to highlight available lines.
Games and puzzles are key categories in the run up to Christmas. We will expand our ranges for the season and move games to the front of the store for the final four months of the year to capitalise on this demand. We expect sales to be focused on the evergreen bestsellers such as Monopoly, Rubiks Cube, Dobble, Operation, Scrabble etc. Not being able to see physical new products at any toy fairs this year means it has been more difficult to get a true feel for potential new bestsellers. But to keep things fresh, we have cautiously taken a gamble on a few new lines and will keep a close eye to see if there are any early winners. In this digital age, it only takes one YouTube or Tik Tok video to go viral, and demand will rocket almost overnight. You have to keep your eyes and ears peeled to see what customers are asking for and then react as quickly as possible. Stock will surely be tight this year, so this will be a challenge, but we’ve coped with everything so far so bring it on!