Ten years ago restaurant manager, Selma Moncreff decided to open a traditional toy store. Now, she talks to Robert Hutchins about national media coverage, community engagement and her plans for another shop

Indie Retail Focus: Bramble Corner

Tell us about your store.

We started ten years ago. We felt that there just weren’t enough traditional toys out there. Everything we saw was very mainstream.

I think the cosy feel of the shop and the traditional look and nature of it takes people back to their own childhood. We have all had our favourite toys and sweets and I think people just take a trip down memory lane when they come in here.

What’s your background?

I was a restaurant manager at a Pizza Express for eight or nine years. I wanted a job where I could come home at 5.30pm, lock the door and be with the family. This job seemed to fit nicely.

Before I opened the shop, I tried to find good toys for our children, but only found things here and there. I wanted a shop that brings them all together under one roof.

Your store has attracted a lot of attention from national media and lifestyle mags, why so?

I think it’s because of its uniqueness. I like to think there isn’t another shop in the country like ours. They are starting to crop up, but you have to be incredibly clever with your buying, because if shoppers can buy something off the internet, they will. We have to provide a reason for people to actually come in to the shop.

What kind of toys do you stock?

Most of our toys come from across Europe. We predominantly like the natural things, like the wood products, but not everything we have is wood, we try to go for things that have good play value, that spark children’s imaginations as opposed to things that, you press a button and it does everything for you.

We feel we are a sort of antidote to the technology that’s around nowadays that kids are getting addicted to.
What is your local competition? We’re in a village halfway between London and Brighton. We are right near Pooh Bear country. People come from as far afield as Hertfordshire.

Having been here for ten years, we have had a few copycat stores pop-up locally, one of which absolutely copied everything down to the shelving. They both closed down. And so far, it looks like we’re here to stay.
How do you engage with the local community? We are often told we are a fundamental part of the local community. We like to support local events and we also hold kids’ workshops. We run talent shows, storytelling events, and arts and crafts workshops. Word of mouth has really helped us on a local level. For a wider audience, the national media coverage in Country Living and House and Garden helped launch us.

What’s next for you?

We are very much hoping that once inflation starts again, to open up another store in Tunbridge Wells. If that one goes well, we may end up with a maximum of five stores in the Home Counties. Before we expand we really wanted to consolidate our model so that it’s a strong blue print going forward.

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