When Hawkin’s Bazaar closed its Carlisle branch, shop worker Mandy Middleton noticed a gap in the local market. This January saw her open a store of her own in Carlisle city centre, offering a wide variety of toys. Rhys Troake discovers what the new shop has to offer and what 2015 has lined up for the team.
Can you tell us a bit about Toys N Tech?
We believe that play stretches the child’s imagination. By providing the tools to play in a fun environment, we encourage children’s learning and help their knowledge to develop, without them thinking about it. It is our mission to provide a quality experience to the customers of Toys N Tech and to be the leading toy shop in Carlisle.
So, what got you guys into toy retail?
I have had a variety of jobs, all involving working with children. I started working in retail a few years ago, where I began to learn the skills needed to start my own business.
Toys N Tech had been an idea that first came about when Hawkin’s Bazaar closed and I noticed a big gap in Carlisle that needed to be filled. In January, I decided, along with my husband Martin, to just go for it.
How is 2015 shaping up for you guys so far?
2015 is going very well so far. We’ve just opened a shop so, for us, it’s been a year of massive achievement and we all feel very proud of ourselves.
We’re getting a lot of interest from customers and we are receiving some brilliant feedback.
What toys do you stock and what is selling for you?
We sell a wide range of quality toys. Our motto is ‘there should be something for everyone’, so we have toys suitable for babies right up to adults.
We also feature a pocket money section in the shop with many products under £1 so children can spend their own money.
What do you look for in your product offering?
Quality and value for money. We want the best product at the best price for our customers.
We always try to source what customers request. That’s the beauty of being an independent toy shop; we are not restricted in our product offering.
How do you engage with your local community?
Fiona mans the Toys N Tech social media sites and she has created the website which is currently under construction as we add e-commerce to it to allow customers to browse and shop online. We have a three-week radio ad campaign running on CFM and were featured in our local newspaper.
We run competitions and giveaways on our Facebook page to keep things fun for our customers. We also have a shop mascot, Mr Orgli, who likes to talk to our customers on social media and he takes pictures of himself on his many wacky adventures.
What industry trend is impacting on your business at the moment?
We have found that our movie related products have been big sellers.
Dinosaur products have been popular due to Jurassic World and our Minions products have proven popular with the release of the film recently.
We also find that things trending among friends at school have been big, like bag tags and rubbers.
What do you think will be your best sellers of 2015?
We think our Star Wars range will be highly popular due to the upcoming movie release and we’ve already started expanding our range in preparation for the rush come this December.
What are the biggest challenges you guys face?
Our biggest challenge now we are open is just ensuring that we continue to offer the best products to our customers and that they are receiving outstanding customer service. At this stage, most of the scary stuff is out the way.
What has the rest of the year got in store for Toys N Tech? Any further plans for business expansion?
We have signed a lease for five years so our plans for expansion are somewhat limited for a while.
Although, we do have the potential to open the downstairs area of the shop. The rest of the year will see us focusing on digital growth and expanding the website.
Is there anything you’d like to shout about right now?
We’d all just like to say a big thank you to our loyal customers and new friends for all their support. Without them, we would not be in such a fantastic position. We’d also like to extend that thanks to all of our suppliers and everybody who has helped us iron out the wrinkles and the technicalities.