Having first opened its doors in 2007, The Toy Box is celebrating its ninth birthday this year. Here, the retailer’s directors - Sharon and Mark Horsman - talk to Jade Burke about their hopes to expand its new Kids Clothing Agency, the battle against dropping footfall and why they believe Teeny TYs will be this year’s sell-out toy.
Tell me a bit about your business and how the store began?
The Toy Box first opened its doors in Sherborne on May 12th, 2007.
We started with one room at the front and then gradually expanded into three rooms. Two years later, we knocked through into the building behind and opened rooms up gradually until all of the eight room were opened, full of toys for all ages.
In March 2011 we expanded to a second shop. This one is in Shaftesbury where we started with one floor and gradually expanded to the three floors that it has today.
Unfortunately, this January we have had to downsize our Sherborne shop, due to the fallen footfall in the town over the last couple of years.
However, we still have five rooms packed with toys and employ nine staff between the two shops including ourselves, as we actively work in the business.
What types of toys do you specialise in?
We predominantly started with traditional and wooden toys, then expanded the range with Playmobil and LEGO. But now – you name it we do it – from Hippychick lines for the nursery right through to Charlie Bears for the young at heart.
We also sell pick ‘n’ mix and traditional sweets in glass jars, which are very popular.
What services do you offer in store?
Great customer service and a ‘thank you’ card which acts as our loyalty card scheme.
Which trend is having the biggest impact on your business at the moment?
The biggest impact on our business at the moment is that footfall is down. Consumers’ buying powers have changed and the internet plays a part in this.
We are not alone as this is the general consensus from local traders in our High Street, and the feedback from some of our suppliers is that this is all over the country and so they are suffering too.
How do you engage with your local community?
We use Facebook and a monthly newsletter that is emailed to our customers to keep them up to date with new products, events and promotions.
What toys did you play with back when you was a child?
I loved arts and crafts toys and making things, while Mark’s favourite toys were Action Man and Scalextric.
What do you think will be the next big thing in the toy industry?
The Teeny Tys – they are already flying off the shelves for us.
What are your plans for the year ahead? Will you be opening any new stores?
We have recently opened a Kids Clothing Agency in the basement of our Shaftesbury shop, so we have high hopes for this area to grow our business.