This month ToyNews’ Mystery Shopper heads to scenic southwestern town Bath. With no time to relax in the world-famous Roman Baths, we got to work visiting as many toy shops as we could find, and the verdict is...
My Small World
19-21 St Lawrence St, Bath BA1 5AN
As soon as you step out of Bath train station you are greeted by My Small World, a shop quaintly decorated with costumes, traditional toys and activity sets. This store had a wonderfully old school vibe that is sure to make even the most jaded adult feel nostalgic for their childhood days.
I requested a recommendation for a gift for a seven-year-old girl and was delighted at the amount of choice on offer. I was asked what her interests were, to which
I answered she is creative. The passionate staff member on hand directed me to a wall of colourful arts & crafts sets as the staff member took some out of their packages to demonstrate them for me. I was invited to explore their diverse range and try out products.
The staff were happy to tell me more about the business, explaining that the shop focuses on independent suppliers, curating a range of products that are of the highest quality. A great start.
Verdict: A bright and endearing store with an eye for quality products that will capture the imagination of children and adults alike. A near-perfect shopping experience.
22 Union Passage, Bath BA1 1RD
Eric Snooks is another top notch independent store, adding a little more sparkle to Bath’s high street. This shop was a great all- rounder, running the gamut from LEGO to outdoor toys.
There was a focus on traditional toys including animals, train sets and teddy bears but to my surprise there was also a decent amount of STEM products and activity sets.
Eric Snooks was a little busier, but the staff were still more than happy to give me a guided tour of the shop floor, highlighting any products that were a hit. Particularly impressive were the range of LEGO products with a focus on the female audience.
Less impressive were the smartphone-themed diaries and notebooks that played a 30-second plus, horrifically compressed version of Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘I Really Like You’, every time they were opened. Surely a recipe to drive parents loopy!
Verdict: Despite misgivings on certain products, this was still a top shelf experience. The range was comprehensive, staff attentive and the layout aesthetically pleasing.
40 Stall St, Bath BA1 1QH
While this branch of Hawkin’s Bazaar was slightly smaller it was no less packed with cool toys and gifts. Prominently positioned on Bath’s scenic high street, Hawkin’s was easily the busiest shop I saw, drawing in families and adults alike.
The product range on offer here was clearly more skewed towards older children but there was still a decent range of products ranging from licensed gear from the likes of Star Wars and Harry Potter to family- oriented board games and novelty gag gifts.
The young staff here were happy to help but seemed fairly fresh to the job and weren’t able to offer the same level of in-depth guidance as the other shops on my tour. Nonetheless, I found some great options here.
Verdict: As always, Hawkin’s Bazaar had great stock ranging from novelty gifts to innovative games and tech gifts. While not quite on the level of Bath’s independents, this was a positive shopping experience all the same.
5 Queen St, Bath BA1 1HE
This cosy store was a little different. Pitched, simply as “a shop for children”, this shop boasted a combination of children’s clothing as well as a selection of unique toys and games. From cute cushions to card games to collectable dolls this shop was perfect for younger children, especially little girls.
The store manager was more than happy to give me a tour of the packed shop floor, despite the fact that there were other customers in the store, inquiring about who the gift was for and making some great suggestions from crafty gifts to collectable dolls to soft toys. The only drawback to Spotty Herbert’s was the shop’s size. The ranges on offer were very limited and I couldn’t help but imagine the potential of this highly curated store, if it had a little more shelf space to play with.
As a place to get clothing and toys, especially for very young ones, you couldn’t do much better than Spotty Herbert’s.
Here’s hoping that the store is able to expand in the near future because it had a special, rare kind of charm that deserves to be seen.
Verdict: This homely store is old-fashioned in the best way, boosted by passionate and knowledgeable staff. As well as a surprisingly robust online presence. Spotty Herbert’s is definitely worth a visit for any family, especially those with an affinity for crafty, cute and quirky items.
11 Union St, Bath BA1
Located only a few doors down from Hawkin’s Bazaar is a high street chain with much the same schtick – novelty gifts and toys aiming to please all ages.
Tigers have sprang up in many towns and cities across the nation in recent years, this Danish concept has become a hit due to its quirky offerings of toys, gifts and household items at low prices. The shop is structured as a single path, which customers are corralled through eventually reaching the till to purchase the accumulation of reasonably priced and questionably necessary items.
The shopping experience is as much a novelty as the products, but it’s not to everyone’s taste. There are few staff and those present couldn’t offer much help.
While I appreciated the creativity on display throughout Tiger’s range, I couldn’t help but feel that other shops in Bath provided better versions of the same kinds of items with more charm.
Verdict: Tiger has a pleasing selection of toys for kids young and old but doesn’t quite hold up when compared to some of the more homely Indies around Bath.
Bath is a small, scenic city located in the south-western county of Somerset. It’s world famous for its Roman-built baths, however in the Toy industry it is just as well known for its rich supply of independent toy retailers. While Bath doesn’t offer the wealth of choice that other towns may (chains like The Entertainer and Smyths are nowhere to be found) it more than makes up for it in quality and passion. If what you’re looking for is hand-crafted and lovingly designed toys, Bath is the town for you.
My Small World set a great precedent for what was to come with an idyllic spot, directly outside the train station, this store was an oasis for children and parents alike.
Boasting a slightly bigger shop floor, Eric Snooks was a good contrast, offering more of the standard toy lines from LEGO to Schliech’s animal toys to outdoor playthings. There was something for every child here, from pre- school to pre-teen and the staff were more than happy to offer their time and expertise.
Given that my mission was to find a toy for a younger child, Spotty Herbert’s was another good pit stop. This cosy shop had some top alternatives including arts and crafts options as well as adorable cuddly toys.
If these charming stores don’t fulfil your needs, Hawkin’s Bazaar offers a different flavour of product. From licensed ranges to board games, you are sure to find something for the older child here, whilst younger children may be a bit out of their depth.
Finally, Tiger and Build-a-bear workshop round out Bath’s toyshop offerings. These international chains offer specialised shopping experiences, tailoring to specific audiences. While far from unique, they offer a nice bit of variety to the town’s high street.