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Sharon Farrell

owner, Fun Galaxy, Co Dublin Originally we were involved in indoor soft play centres. We identifi ed a niche in the market for combining a toy shop with a soft play centre. Further research showed that while this idea did have the potential to be very successful, it also had to be set up and operated in the right manner or both entities could fail. You have to balance the customer’s needs and wants to utilise your business without forcing them into somewhere that they don’t want to be. To this end we have set up both a large indoor play centre and a toy shop that share the same building but are completely separate, including having their own entrances. We have three owners; myself, my husband Tomás Murphy, and my brother, Mark, who is involved with Ashbourne (not Swords). We are based in a retail park on the outskirts of Ashbourne. The location is not ideal as we would prefer to be closer to the town centre, but due to the nature of the type of building we required especially for the play centre, this was not a viable option for us. Ashbourne itself is a town with a population of roughly 16,000. The catchment area for the play centre would be far greater than the town itself and we hope to utilise this to our advantage, as we have found that people will travel for a unique experience which they can get from both the play centre and toy shop. Business has been steady since January and the warm weather gave us a boost during the Summer with outdoor products, and we’re defi nitely seeing a stronger build up towards Christmas this year. The entire Top Model range

sells very well for girls and, of course, Lego is always very popular with boys of all ages. We’ve also had a lot of interest in the Minnie and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse lines and Melissa & Doug. As with most businesses, we are fi nding local government rates have a huge impact on the business and upward-only rents. Also we are fi nding that parents have not got the accessible cash they may have had in the past due to a number of factors, one being increase in taxes, property tax, USC charges, etc. With over 3,000 items on the shelves, we have something for everyone. We stock a very wide variety of products from traditional jigsaws and wooden toys to high-end tablets and learning toys. We make sure to carry a good selection of products from all the major brands including Mattel and Lego, for both boys and girls, which vary in price to suit anyone’s budget. Our art and craft section is also well stocked with items ranging from colouring books to detailed model kits from companies like Tamiya and Games Workshop. We run a very successful Warhammer club on Sunday afternoons for children, and on Tuesday evenings for adults. The children get to learn how to make, paint and play Warhammer games.

We use an email database, Facebook, Twitter and our website, but honestly not to their full potential. Social media is very time-consuming and unfortunately we do not have the resources to employ somebody to do this for us. We are redeveloping our website and launching a media campaign to tackle the downturn in sales, which usually happens after the Christmas rush, in February 2014. Being part of the Toymaster Group we have two catalogues a year, of which we deliver approximately 30,000 leafl ets to the surrounding areas. We also sponsor the local groups that are child related, and local events that are happening in the area one of which is Winner Takes All window competition in conjunction with the Ashbourne Retailers’ Association. We also have a large email database which we send the fl yers and catalogues through. We’ve found that our Savings Club is going

particularly well this year – people like to be able to spread out the expense of Christmas. We also carry the Toymaster catalogue and have distributed it to houses in the local area, and we’re really noticing a lot of people coming into us after receiving it through their door. We’re predicting good sales of the Re:creation Air Storm range for boys, Nenuco Dolls for girls and Doc McStuffi ns is also very strong. I will be attending the Nuremberg toy fair in the hope of fi nding specialist toys. We are hoping to fi nd something unusual and interesting for all age groups. We will be looking particularly for educational and special needs items to bring into the shop as, with the play centre, we have a lot of groups coming in with children that are on the Autistic spectrum and we want to provide a large range of toys and products to help these groups. Next for us is to increase our market share and customer base through social media, and the launch of our new toy store website. There will be the introduction of Lego Education to both our play centres in Swords, Ashbourne and the toy shop in Ashbourne. Also we are buying a Nerf Shooting Gallery in our Ashbourne Play Centre, which will hopefully launch in January 2014. We are also looking at the introduction of a Loyalty card for our customers.

22 Toyworld

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