After a fire that ravaged their well-loved toy shop in 2013, the passionate staff at Grasshopper Toys have come back stronger than ever. Store owner Wendy Hamilton explains why her shop stands out from the crowd.
Can you tell us a bit about your business?
I started my business online in 2010 selling science kits and educational toys initially. The business diversified quickly into a broad range of children’s toys including LEGO and wooden toys. We ended up opening a toy shop in late summer 2012. In 2013 I took over Curious Minds to service our science customers, leaving the Grasshopper Toys website to focus on children’s toys. Separating out the science kits has meant we can be more specific in our branding and marketing, allowing us to be more child-focused for the Grasshopper brand.
What services do you offer?
We have a traditional approach to how we operate the shop, with an emphasis on friendly well-informed service and exciting displays. I’m lucky to have a team of toy enthusiasts working with me who know our range well. We also offer shop & ship services for customers buying for children who live further afield. We run activity days, competitions, and give an endless stream of donations to local child-orientated charities. I guess we do just what all the other indies do to stand out from the chains.
You offer a Book Corner for kids. Why did you choose to offer books alongside toys?
I chose to put in a book corner for the simple reason our town doesn’t have a decent book shop and as a mum I wanted books for my children. The area works very well, we sell a mix of learning to read books as well as the more popular titles. We also sell a select range of Scottish favourites, such as Hairy Maclary and Katie Morag, the tourists love these books. Although we could easily fill the space with more toys, I think the shop would be a poorer offering without the book corner.
What do you look for when sourcing new toys?
Innovation and quality are the two big tick boxes when choosing new toys for our range. Then it’s down to price. We find price is not the dictating factor for a customer’s purchase, but in the current economic climate every family is watching the pennies, so it does become a consideration if two items are essentially identical in terms of quality.
What is the best thing about owning a toy store?
Well you know, I never set out to open a toy shop, but every time I walk into the shop I experience a jolt of surprise and excitement at what the team have created. It’s such a magical place to be, it’s like living Christmas every day of the year. The best bit is hearing the kids running along the pavement outside the shop, you can hear their excited chatter and you know that within a few seconds the door is going to be thrown off its hinges as they burst into the shop.
What are your plans for the Grasshopper Toys brand for the future?
It has taken us a long time to repair the damage after the fire in 2013, and it took me personally a long time to get over the experience; fatigue and delayed shock I guess, so it’s only in the last few months I’ve really had the time and the energy to contemplate the future, but it is definitely time for some new challenges to keep myself and the whole Grasshopper team excited and motivated. We have a number of ideas incubating, we just need to decide which one comes first, but whatever we do, it will be with an eye on the long term. I am excited to finally be looking to building the future for Grasshopper Toys, rather than repairing the past. Watch out for the name Grasshopper Toys, it’s an exciting time for the entire team as we move into the New Year and one we all look forward to taking on and running with for many more years to come.