Peter Allinson, director, Whirligig Toys Limited explains why offering customers something different is crucial to stand out on the High Street.

My first year as an indie: Whirligig, Tunbridge Wells

How long has your newest store been open?

The store has been open for just over four months now.

Why did you choose to open a third store?

We opened our first store three years ago, with a second last year in Chichester.

We felt that we had a strong concept – we are a specialist shop focusing on ‘things to make and do’ – and we felt we had proved that concept by opening a second shop. The third shop is a further expansion that gives us wider geographical coverage.

How has business been since the opening of the store?

We have had an instant and huge reaction in Tunbridge Wells. We sell unusual toys mainly sourced from small providers, so most people have never seen the toys that we sell before.

By displaying them well and having strong product knowledge, we have been able to help customers understand what we do.

What industry trends have affected you since the opening of your latest store?

Nothing really – we don’t really follow trends and we don’t focus on licensed products, so while there is a huge focus within the toy industry at the moment with various films coming out, we maintain our focus on making and craft gifts.

What are your future expectations for the new store?

We hope that it proves a popular shop in the new location and that we can take our toys to a wider audience.

Adding a third shop also means that we have a bit more buying power and credibility within the industry, and suppliers are keener to talk with us.

What advice would you give to other retailers who are just starting out?

Be different – there are so many people selling the same thing and if the whole High Street is doing it, then your customers won’t be excited about your shop.

Try and find toys that you love and will be proud of selling in store, and then ensure that you have actually played with the toys yourself, or made the project – nothing is better than talking about your own experience, and the product knowledge of your team will be enriched.

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