We sat down with Lee Shawyer, business development director at men's gifting retailer Menkind to find out about its unique connection to toys.
How has Menkind's relationship with the toy industry evolved in recent years?
We are a retailer of men’s gifts and have stayed true to our core brand values of discovery and engagement; the shopper visits our store knowing we sell men’s gifts and discovers lots of exciting, engaging product.
Men are big boys at heart and “boys toys” are a big part of what our customer engages with in store and fulfils the increasing demand by consumers for new experiences so we stay very close to the toy industry – for example, in 2014 the world got excited about capturing those experiences with the perfect selfie taken with a stick, in 2017 our Menkind gadgeteers are flying drones above the family BBQ and capturing the moment on HD video and the toy industry has been at the forefront of developing affordably priced drones.
How big is the toy sector within MenKind’s business?
We pride ourselves on being at the front of the innovation curve and are constantly bringing in newness so this is an ever changing feast. We are also faced with the dilemma of where do you draw the line between toy and gadget? For example, we are one of the largest importers of drones in the UK and these range from the quirky fun entry price point models like our racing drones or motion activated drones, which are arguably toys, to some very clever cutting edge technology such as our Selfie Drone with Optical recognition being launched this later this year, which at £199.99 is firmly in gadget territory.
The rise in collectables, (research indicates it’s £1 in £8 spent on toys in the UK in 2016 and one in every five toys purchased), has also had an impact on product mix, especially in our RED5 retail outlets where they are hugely popular and resonate with our younger consumer demographic.
Is it looking likely to expand further as toys evolve and begin to use more tech?
We are increasingly being seen as “the destination” to launch tech toys, we have a company structure that allows quick decision making and allows us to embrace new technologies and trends and be first to market. We were the official launch partners for Character’s SoundMoovz this year and have similar exciting opportunities in the pipeline.
We absolutely love newness, our business is passionate about it and the team here thrives on it so in a nutshell, if the toy industry continues to embrace the latest tech, yes!
We are increasingly being seen as “the destination” to launch tech toys, we have a company structure that allows quick decision making and allows us to embrace new technologies and trends and be first to market.
Lee Shawyer, Menkind
How has business been for MenKind over 2017 so far, are there any plans for expansion within the UK?
Our like for like sales are up and with several exciting key launches planned for AW2017, we are very bullish about this year. We have 66 locations at the time of writing and will be trading from 88 by peak season with lots of exciting plans for 2018.
What have been the big areas of growth for MenKind over the last year or two?
We have benefitted from our extensive remote control and AR (augmented reality) development programme and, of course, the fidget craze this summer. However, our success comes from having a switched on team of product development, sourcing, buying and merchandising professionals who are on the pulse with every product category, injecting the newness our customers crave and ensuring we are at the forefront of trends and the latest innovation.
How do you expect to see retail sector evolve over the next five years, how are you positioning yourselves to keep up with changing shopping habits?
This is an article in itself but it’s clear that with the development of on demand app purchasing, the convenience of online shopping and the emerging desire for experiences rather than just product, consumer behaviours are changing and evolving faster than ever before. Brand loyalty is being constantly challenged by a well-informed, tech savvy consumer and retailers need to work harder than ever to keep their customers.
We have invested heavily in the store experience, refitting and updating our shops and working hard on our POS to engage our customers but our biggest investment has been in people, expanding our Purchasing and Digital Marketing teams to ensure that we have the best possible online and offline offers in an environment that’s easy to navigate and engaging.
Have you seen any impact of Brexit concerns/election result fall out among consumer habits, or are there any concerns or plans in place owing to Brexit?
Yes, of course, we purchase a lot of product in dollars so there were pricing and margin challenges and yes, the period following the election and terrorist attacks was particularly challenging with the dip in consumer spending but we were well prepared and the strategy we put in place as a board of directors has enabled us to weather the storm.