Retail therapy: Fundamentally Children on the changing face of retail

Toys R Us was one of the powerhouses of the toy industry. So as a manufacturer or retailer, it would be easy to currently feel a little unsure about the future. Consumer habits are changing fast and as an industry, we must keep abreast of these adjustments and adapt to them accordingly, in order to maintain and grow.

Despite these changes, and the uncertainty they bring for many, I think it’s important to instil some confidence back into the toy market and wider children’s industries.

A study published in February (Statista Consumer Market Outlook – Segment Report) reported that worldwide revenues from toys and games are increasing with a growth of 2.2 per cent in 2017 YOY, and that toys and games represented 65 per cent of worldwide hobby products in 2017 (US$109 Billion). Globally the average per capita spending on toys and games was US$68 in 2017, with Denmark, Norway and the UK having the highest per capita spend.

So the spend is there, we simply need to ensure the consumers are being exposed to, and suitably impressed by, the plethora of good toys that are on offer in the UK market. There are some key things to consider when pulling apart the current changes in the toy market and adapting to put your best foot forward.

Consumer habits are changing

The way people are using online and bricks and mortar retail is constantly evolving. Nasdaq has reported that 18 per cent of all UK retail purchases are expected to occur online this year. And by 2040, 95 per cent of purchases are expected to be facilitated by eCommerce.

With changes like this occurring, we, as an industry, need to adapt also. While TRU perhaps wasn’t hitting the retail mark any longer, there are many exciting advancements in children’s retail. These initiatives are set to inspire parents and bring together internet and bricks and mortar sales, as well as bringing some much needed theatre into retail.

Standing out from the crowd

The Entertainer recently revamped some stores to put children at the forefront of its design, following research with parents. The new Westfield store has been designed to offer children an engaging, exciting and more entertaining shopping experience. Led by new technologies such as animated window screens, interactive floor projections, augmented reality mirrors and The Launch Pad Tech Tables, the store has retained some of its old favourites, such as its counter steps at tills.

Taking a different approach to getting customer through the doors, Philip Bier, founder of Danish retailer, Tiger, has recently launched the first ID Kids store in the UK. The retailer will primarily stock exclusive and own brand products at low prices, making it a destination store for consumers. The French company also offers a click and collect service, fusing online shoppers with the bricks and mortar outlets and enticing them through the shop door.

And then there is us. Fundamentally Children recently launched the inaugural Good Toy Zone at popular London venue Under 1 Roof Kids. The Zone features a range of toys endorsed by our Good Toy Guide, which children and their families can come along to and immerse themselves in. They can stay and play, get to know the products, and find out first hand what they like and what they want to take home. We offer brand hours, product demonstrations and much more to engage with children. And once families have found toys that are right for them, they are able to purchase there and then, via the eCommerce hub –, having them conveniently delivered to their home.

Destination online

Despite bricks and mortar retail becoming more engaging and exciting, though, it would be naïve to think that sales won’t continue to migrate online. As a result, even if you are purely a bricks and mortar retailer, it’s crucial to be providing a strong online offering. Websites need to be easy to navigate, search and use and accompanied by marketing which brings consumers to your online portal.

Toys are expected to show continued growth in Europe (Toys for toddlers and kids| Consumer MarketsMarket forecast for Toys for toddlers and kids in Europe through 2021). In the hobby products market, 27.2 per cent of total revenue is expected to be generated through online sales by 2021 compared to 22 per cent in 2017.

It’s a great idea to try and tie up bricks and mortar and online sales where possible, as we are doing with the Good Toy Zone, so that you aren’t losing sales to others selling the products online which customers have enjoyed in your shop.

Competitive pricing is also key online. The beauty of the web for consumers is that they can price compare on items quickly and easily. This can be a stumbling block for independent retailers who don’t have the buying power of the multiples. So offering exclusive lines, and providing online offers can help to keep customers buying from you.

New market segments

Key to consumers is being able to find products suitable for their children’s particular age. So categorising both in store and online to help parents easily find suitable toys and gifts will really help with sales. It’s not rocket science to ensure that toys for pre-schoolers are separate from tween offerings, but it could be worth breaking this down even further.

DHX Brands has recently launched a project to carve out a new sector within the preschool market. First Steppers is a subcategory for the younger end of preschool, supporting the unique needs of children from six months to two and a half years.

Fundamentally Children worked with DHX Brands to find out what parents thought about preschool products. The results showed that parents with children in the First Steppers demographic, often become confused by the age appropriateness of products within the preschool category, leading to fewer purchases. And so, First Steppers was born.

So a more tailored approach to help guide your customers to find the right toy, and indeed to help manufacturers to better match developmental ages and stages, can be key to unlocking purchases.

Customer experience

The final piece of the puzzle could lie in your customer’s experience. Going the extra mile will create loyalty, often over and above pricing and other factors.

ThinkJar has shown that 55 per cent of consumers are willing to pay more for a guaranteed good experience. The company also showed that a bad experience could lose more than that one consumer – 13 per cent will tell 15 or more people if they’re unhappy. While a positive one can spread far and wide with 72 per cent of consumers sharing a good experience with six or more people.

And catering for your customer and their needs will go a long way to get them coming back time and again. Wunderman showed that 54 per cent of UK consumers feel more loyal to brands that show a deep understanding of their preferences and priorities.

Customer experience is high on the multiples’ list of priorities and it’s easy to see why. Catering for all sections of your audience can pay dividends. The Entertainer recently introduced Quiet Hour on Saturdays to make their stores more welcoming for autistic children, thus welcoming a large number of families who may otherwise avoid bricks and mortar retail.

Similarly, but outside the direct toy space, Sainsbury’s has launched a dementia aisle in some stores, offering slow moving checkouts for those who struggle with the usual pace of stores. Making small changes to accommodate those who may otherwise be put off shopping in the traditional way, could make for destination stores.

So, although the news has been a bit doom and gloom recently, there’s really lots to be positive about. Change can create worry, but in this case, it should be embraced, as there is still plenty of good news in children’s industries and so much opportunity to generate sales, allowing Good Toys and products to thrive.

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both ToyNews and, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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