Boasting over 150 members Toymaster strives to ensure every member works together to get the best out of their business. Robert Hutchins catches up with MD Ian Edmunds on building relationships with the licensing industry, the buying group’s anticipated May Show and why social media is a key focus for the brand.
How has the past year been for Toymaster?
What you get with Toymaster is an organisation that evolves slowly, so there are no real massive initiatives in the last year. It’s just doing everything and anything we can to help our members trade more profitably. What we do is take the initiatives that we run and refine them and move forward.
You are now working with more licensors. Why is this a core focus for you guys?
At the end of the day if you look at NPD, the percentage of licensed products sold is pushing up towards 40 per cent, and we don’t have an own-label programme, so the brands are very important to us. The people who own the brands and the licensors are at the top of that tree, so we have to have the relationships with those people to be able to do what we can do.
Toymaster joined the BLE retail mentoring program. What will that bring to the company?
We thought it was an interesting programme and the most amazing thing was that it was free. We hope that something comes of it and it does help to get further involvement in the licensing trade when something like that comes up. It’s a great initiative.
Like we always say it’s good to talk, that can’t do any harm. And if we end up with a couple of better trained people because of it and with some more contacts while learning a bit more about what makes the world go round on the licensing side, because it’s not something we’ve ever claimed to be experts at. But if you’re going to try and understand it then you have to talk to people.
With over 150 members, how are you helping retailers remain competitive on the High Street?
If anything has changed, it’s trying to get the members to actually work together more and try to share information.
Recently one of our members has opened a smaller secondary shop and he is struggling to get people to come over to it. So I said he needs to put something on our forum – it’s all about sharing information at the end of the day, and sharing ideas and what’s worked for you and what hasn’t worked for you.
A lot of the information is there but it’s just getting them to view it. There are conversations there about everything and anything online on our forum, and even if you’re not taking part of the conversation at least you can view it and you can search topics and all the rest of it. Some people don’t like to be brash and ask for help but some people do.
But like I said, there’s no big major new initiative, but it’s just being aware of what sells and spreading that information, because what sells this year, most of it didn’t exist last year.
Given that a third of all toys are new every year, you need to keep spreading information and helping people know where to point their pen. The Toymaster show is a good opportunity for this and we look forward to seeing it this year.
Toymaster has a growing social media presence. How crucial is it to be vocal on social media?
We also have Snapchat now as well. It’s more crucial for our individual members than it is for Toymaster Ltd, because social media on a commercial point is very effective at a local level. The smaller the business, the smaller your locality, the more social media can work for you.
Toys R Us is never going to turn its Facebook page over to an individual store. On a local level social media is really powerful.
What can guests expect from the show this May?
It isn’t broken and we’re not going to fix it. It’s a fantastic place for business and it’s a fantastic place to network and it’s not all just about what happens during the day, it’s a 24/7 event, well certainly for three days.
The party on the Tuesday night will be centred around wigs and dressing up and the Wednesday night is a black tie masquerade ball, so be prepared.