Having just celebrated its fourth birthday, Captain Neil Waite from Captain Neil’s Toy Chest tells Jade Burke how Shopkins has been a success for his business and why he chose a pirate theme for his store.

Indie Profile: Captain Neil’s Toy Chest

Tell me a bit about your business and how the store began?

Back in the summer of 2011, my wife Edita and I decided to open our own toy shop. We had no experience so it was quite scary at the start, finding suppliers and different toys to what you can get in most stores, but after four years I absolutely love it. Edita moans at me most nights because I’m usually on the laptop looking at new goodies for the Toy Chest while pretending to listen to her – oops.

What types of toys do you stock in store?

We like to take our customers on a trip down memory lane so we have lots of traditional toys, such as jack in the boxes, spinning tops and kaleidoscopes. Then we have old-fashioned games like Snakes and Ladders and Ludo. We have a large range of wooden toys including Hape, Orange Tree, Melissa and Doug and Indigo Jamm.

We stock soft JellyCat plush ranges along with Ty, Aurora, Rainbow Designs and Manhattan Toys for retro characters Garfield, Moomins, Gruffalo, Paddington and Fraggles.

We have many dolls and action figures in-store too, with the likes of Barbie, Lottie and Gremlins.

What do you look for when sourcing new toys?

Something that looks fun and gets me excited – maybe because it takes me back to when I was younger – and most importantly, something a little different to what you’ll find in the local supermarkets.

Your store has been inspired by pirates, why did you opt for this theme? I’ve been rocking the pirate look for some time now – the bandannas and facial hair, I haven’t got to wearing an eye patch just yet though, and my wife always called me her ‘captain’ so that’s sort of where the name comes from. The kids seem to really dig it, and it’s quite often after shop hours when I’m out doing my shopping I’ll get a few ’aye, aye captains’.

What was your bestselling product last year?

Without a doubt Shopkins has been huge for me, I simply can’t keep up with the demand from my customers. I put them in my shop window on display and kids spot them and go crazy for the toys. It’s like the band One Direction is in my store window.

Tell me a bit about your charity toy swap event in aid of the NSPCC?

We held this event during our first year. We charged a small fee to each person taking part, and all of the money went to the NSPCC.

Each person could bring up to 10 toys and get a voucher for each one, and once all the toys were collected, each person redeemed their vouchers by collecting ‘new’ toys. We raise more now for charities with in-store events.

You also specialise in jigsaw puzzles. How popular are these?

Jigsaw puzzles are still very popular with my (I like to call them jiggy) customers.

Now that the dark evenings are here and the temperatures are getting lower, I think more people are likely to sit in with their loved ones and do a jigsaw.

I stock Ravensburger, House of Puzzles and Gibsons, who I run a loyalty card scheme with where customers can buy six puzzles and get their seventh free.

What is having the biggest impact on your business? We’ve got a lot of the discount stores and charity shops here in Wellingborough, so it would be nice to have a few more proper’ shops open to entice people to shop here.

How do you engage with your community?

We use Facebook and Twitter where we keep our customers up to date with new arrivals, offers and events. We also just celebrated our fourth birthday and advertised it on Facebook, and we got a really good response and everyone seemed to have a good day.

What plans do you have for the future?

We moved premises in November last year, and we are now located more centrally in town and have more than doubled our shop size.

Plans are to keep growing and learning, and to hopefully keep putting smiles on those faces that come in the Toy Chest.

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