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Charlotte Croser owner and ‘Mrs Jollys’, Jollys Toys & Games, Thrapston,

John Hadlow

owner, Who’s Toys, Mansfield It’s been quiet lately; September and February are usually the quietest months of the year, but we keep going. Facebook helps a lot, as we take a lot of orders from inquiries through it, and we run various Dr Who days where we’ll get actors and Daleks in. Our Character Options line does well across the board, though I haven’t seen their Q1 releases yet as they tend to keep things close to their chest. For us, we’ll get more manic from October onwards, as the bigger shops don’t do much Doctor Who merchandise. I’m hopeful that the RC Supreme Dalek will do well this Christmas; it’s all-singing, all-dancing, and it’s difficult to get hold of so it’s quite sought-after. And with the 50th anniversary episode being shown in cinemas in 3D, it will really set the benchmark across all the ranges. For World Book Day we tie-in with the local libraries and organise a Doctor Who reading day, when the authors will come in.

Northamptonshire We initially set up our website in October 2012 which is going well, but ideally I really wanted a shop, so we went for it and opened our store in May 2013 when we saw a unit become available. I used to run shops for other people, including Trotter’s Children Wear in Brent Cross and Igloo Kids in Islington; then I went to live abroad and had my daughter, and now that my daughter’s in school I decided to call on my old contacts and knowledge of the industry and go for it for myself. We’re based in a close community with lots of young families, and my daughter goes to the local school; most of the people have lived here their whole lives, with some new people coming in as the town grows with its great road links. Even though we only set up shop in May, business is going better than expected; we’re exceeding targets and we’re paying our bills so I’m delighted. We’re always selling party presents; our business is aimed at the £25 and under price point, and when people come in to buy presents for parties we have a lot around the £5-10 mark which sell very well. We have a wishlist scheme where we provide party invites which have written on them that the child’s wishlist is with Jollys, so that if and when parents come in to get the presents from us we can make sure that there are no duplicate presents; we’re a small community so lots of the local people shop with me and I know the children individually, so it’s great for business. I’ll also be looking to expand my party bag service in the New Year, where I put together customised bags based on the children attending and the parent’s budget. We sell a lot of traditional wooden toys and puzzles, we have a Girls’ Emporium,

Pre-school games from Orchard Toys and other games for all ages, and we do a lot of educational products such as the Brainboxes, Thinkfun, Shut the Box, and books from Usborne. We also have a retro range which includes games like Beetle, Tiddlywinks and Jack Straws, in 1950s packaging. We’ve got a big Pocket Money toys section; I put low bins out like you’d find in a child’s playroom so that the kids can pick out anything from bubbles for 30p up to an Alien Egg or yoyo for £2-3. I also make personalised bunting and mobiles. A lot of our customers are regulars who live close by, so a key thing for me is to keep the stock turned over to make sure that every time they come in they’ll see something new. I don’t take on too much of any one thing and being a small shop I get to overhear conversations and see what the kids are playing with, so it gives me a great idea of what my customers really want. I’m really driven by price and quality and striking the right balance between them;

I’ll always go for a better quality product so long as the price is decent, as I don’t want people to walk in and think we’re just a little shop that’s really expensive; so I’m really flexible on suppliers. With Christmas coming up I’m getting a lot of the bigger items in like dolls houses,

pirate ships and ride-ons. I also have some retro gift wrap and cards, some with characters and some with styling, which the adults love. We’re expecting the cup-and- balls and marbles to do really well, and in particular our puppets from The Puppet Company, which are absolutely fantastic; they’re a lovely supplier to work with and my customers can’t get enough of their puppets, every time they come in for something new I’ll have new colours in and they love it. I feel surprised by how many people are browsing and planning for Christmas – I thought after having such a great Summer that people would still be stuck in that mindset and not even thinking about Christmas yet, but parents and grandparents are already coming in. We’ve linked up with our local church for Operation Christmas Child Box scheme which get sent to developing countries, where we’re offering to give away a free packet of felt-tip pens to anyone who spends over a certain amount on box items, and we’re getting lots of new people coming in for that and spending on stationery and pocket money lines.

22 Toyworld

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