A family-started business that opened its doors in 1996 as a chocolate shop, Cachao’s winding journey into toys has cemented its place among London locals. We catch up with Cachao’s owner, Jennie Hogg, to find out how business has been for this retailer of the weird and wonderful, since doors reopened last month, and the feelings around the outlook for the indie scene for this year
The day the shop reopened its doors on April 12th was fantastic. We had a constant stream of people and their compliments were so lovely, all saying they were happy to see us survive. April 13th, and the shop was quiet. It’s odd. We’re two weeks into the reopening (at the time of writing) and we have seen a small amount of footfall. However, the people that come in are making decent sized purchases, and the bottom line has generally been good.
There is a positive atmosphere and I am happy with that.
We have a core community of local shoppers coming in, but actually, lockdown has proved to me that you never do know how far your net can be cast. Because I took the time to get my website up and running, I have
ended up with an international customer base, as well as the community you just think of being within your tiny postcode.
“I truly think shoppers have missed [looking around a physical shop]. They may not have a reason to buy something, but they know they want to.”
It has been a really huge compliment and amazing to find that we have an online presence that I believe has been achieved through our top Google reviews. The website has allowed me to gain customers across the US, Canada, Australia, France and Italy. As a result, the online platform is going to be maintained.
I’ve put far too much effort into it to not keep it all going.
Actually, a website was always on the cards as something I wanted to do. Until August 2019, I had a second shop in Primrose Hill, you see. It was difficult and took up a lot of time, so I thought that when that one goes,
I will concentrate on the website. Financial situations didn’t allow for anything top spec, and I was still facing time restrictions.
Then lockdown happened. I thought: ‘now’s the time, I have to do it’. So I spent every day uploading every product I could. It really took off from there.
The fact that my landlord gave me a rent break during lockdown, and that we were turning over quite a bit when we reopened meant that I managed to save a bit of money and invest that into the site. The website is now synchronised with my till system, which has made the whole process so much smoother.
The key thing about Cachao Toys is that we are not trend followers here. I never have been. I cater for so many different ages and people that I don’t follow crazes. For me, a craze is a thing that gets thrown away after a couple of months. For me, that’s a really bad environmental situation that I am not into.
“Children need to have the inspiration, to be able to play with things. Ordering a load of crap off the internet is not going to create memories.”
Instead, I always try to find something that is a bit different and quirky; not because it is different, but because things like that usually stand out, usually have a lot more care about how they are produced, and are more thought through. I like anything that really stimulates the imagination and creativity, or old fashioned play. Something that can grab the attention and hold it. It really bothers me when I see all these toys in a charity shop that just get chucked out. It kills me. I’m not into waste, or that things have to be cheap so that they can be bought in bulk. It’s a model that is just so bad for everything. My way; it might not be good
business, but it’s good for the environment.
My customers, on the whole, are on the same wavelength. I have a fraction of the products that Smyths up the road from me does, and I am sure the prices are nowhere near the same, but my customers tend to value that they have my full attention.
Will I see an increase of these customers as we look at a British summer of ‘staycationing’? It’s hard to say. The fact I’ve not any competition around me makes me slightly more confident, and I am banking on outdoor
parties and garden gatherings this year, big time. But I think the counter side to that is, this summer we won’t have trade from tourism, which could be a problem. But as a big picture, I think the reaction I have had from my own customers so far – with people telling me that they have been waiting for the shop to open to purchase the items they’ve already seen online, from me directly, makes me optimistic.
I love seeing customers in the shop, unable to keep their eyes straight for their appreciation of all the things there are to look at in store. I truly think shoppers have missed that. They may not have a reason to buy something, but they know they want to.
I also believe that shoppers simply have to keep supporting toy shops, for the reason that they create so many memories for children. Children need to have the inspiration, to be able to play with things. Ordering a load of crap off the internet is not going to create memories. You can’t inspire a child through online purchasing or ordering off Amazon.
You want to see children with noses pressed against the glass; that’s what we’re in the business of.