Amanda Alexander opened her store less than a year ago and it's already a staple of the Didsbury community. Robert Hutchins asks about what's selling well and the struggles faced by indies today.

INDIE PROFILE: Giddy Goat Toys

Tell us about your store.

Giddy Goat Toys is relatively new as we launched in September 2012. I took over an existing toy shop called Rumpus which had been here for about seven years. The staff stayed on so we had good continuity, but the name change meant that we could re-invent ourselves a little bit.

What is your background?

I worked in the watercooler industry for ten years. I had the option to take redundancy when my first son was two years old, so I thought it would be a good time to look for part-time work.
Good part-time jobs are rarer than Gold LEGO Minifigures and after some awful roles I ended up working for a friend running an online toy business. She went on to set up two shops. I loved working in a toy shop, so ended up buying one of them from her with another friend, before setting up Giddy Goat Toys on my own.

What toys do you stock?

We sell traditional wooden toys from suppliers such as Bigjigs, John Crane, Marbel and Le Toy Van,
plus lots of games and puzzles from Orchard Toys and Paul Lamond. We also have LEGO, Playmobil and arts and crafts from Djeco, Interplay, Galt and Melissa and Doug. We have a good book area too which does well. We don’t have much by way of licensed toys; I tried a few things but they didn’t really work.

Tell us about your location.

Didsbury in South Manchester is quite an affluent area with young families and a nice High Street with cafes and a range of shops. There’s a nice feel and it’s a place where mums shop and meet for coffee so we have steady footfall. Our main competition is Tesco, John Lewis and Toys R Us in Stockport and Manchester. There are a few indie toyshops nearby and we have a lot of similar products. If we have a customer after a specific product we will ring around the indies to see if they have it. This often surprises customers, but I’d rather keep them shopping locally than going to a chain store.

What online operations do you have?

We have our own website. We don’t get many sales through it, but customers will check it before visiting the shop, so I see it as an important marketing tool rather than a sales avenue.
I’ve sold a few end of line products on eBay but I don’t use Amazon. After their commission and VAT you don’t make anything, so I don’t see the point. We enjoy a bit of banter with customers and other local businesses through our Facebook and Twitter pages.

How do you promote your business locally?

We advertise in local parenting and community magazines and support local schools with gift vouchers at their spring and winter fairs. The schools put leaflets into children’s book bags. We have worked with local events such as the Didsbury Arts Festival and we’ve had local authors giving book readings. We’re also part of a Tag Pass It On local community loyalty card. People can use the card across a range of shops in the area. It’s a good way of encouraging people to shop locally.

What toys are selling well for you now?

Baby and toddler toys are always steady, but there’s nothing that I could pinpoint as being our bestseller. Maybe that’s a reflection of the good spread of products we have. Toys in the £8 – £12 range and our party lines do best.

What’s having the most impact on your business?

The move to online shopping and the general recession means we sell very few big-ticket items. We have doll’s houses and castles because you need to have them in a traditional toy shop, but we don’t sell many – not when non VAT paying retailers can sell them online for 20 per cent cheaper.
People have less disposable income today, so we’re all fighting for customers. I hope that our range of quality products and fabulous service means we grow our customer base.

What’s next for Giddy Goat?Toys?

Being so young, the next 12 months are about fully establishing ourselves in the community and testing new product ranges. We’ve been running competitions to build an email database, engage with customers and attract new people. We’ve had fantastic support from our suppliers. It’s a lovely industry to work in with some fantastic people so I’ll be doing my best to hang on.

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