Guide to toy retail 2011

We bring you the ToyNews annual guide to the essential toy retailers throughout the UK, both online and on the High Street, and introduce you to the teams behind the scenes...
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Hamleys

UK stores:
11 (2 x flagship, 3 x Hamleys Toy Box, 5 x Hamleys Travel Stores, 1 x Hamleys Outlet)

Address:
188 - 196 Regent Street, London, W1B 5BT
Website:
www.hamleys.com
Contact number:
0871 704 1977

Meet the team:
Laura Olver – Head of buying
Claire Smith – Category manager
Natalie Rogerson – Category manager
Emma Toolan – Category manager
Lorna Bishop – Stock controller

The low down
Hamleys is one of the world's largest toy shops. Its flagship store is located in Regent Street, London and major stores worldwide are in Glasgow, Dublin, Denmark, Mumbai, Chennai, Dubai and Jordan.
The retailer also operates smaller stores in a number of airports and stations, including Gatwick, Stanstead, Heathrow and London St Pancras.

Last year, Hamleys opened pop-up stores during the fourth quarter for the Christmas trading period, for the first time.

Hamleys flagship London store operates across seven floors, covering 54,000 square feet (5,000 m2), all devoted to playthings, with different categories of toy on each floor.


Argos

UK stores: 700+

Address:
Argos Limited, 489-499 Avebury Boulevard, Central Milton Keynes, MK9 2NW
Website: www.argos.co.uk
Contact number: 0845 1240044

Meet the team
:
Andrea Abbis – Trading manager for toys, nursery and entertainment
Caroline Jones – Product manager, Chad Valley
Sarah Hobson – Buyer, boys toys, construction and DVDs
Alison Harrison – Buyer, girls toys, science and arts & crafts
Yannis Vaharoglou – Buyer, infant and pre-school
Lindsay Rogers – Buyer, outdoor toys
Catherine Ross – Buyer, games and DVDs
Nick Allen – Merchandise manager, toys

The low down
Argos sells a wide range of toys, covering all sectors from over 700 stores in the UK and Eire, online and over the phone. The firm offers licensed, generic and own-brand toys, including its Chad Valley range, which it bought from Woolworths after it went into administration.

Despite an overall dip in sales in the first half of 2010, the retailer says its toys share grew strongly during the year. Argos also claims to be the largest UK High Street internet retailer, with over 300 million visits to its website last year.

During 2010, Argos also held an open day for inventors and suppliers to pitch ideas to the toy team, which, if successful, were taken on as part of the Chad Valley line.

Toys R Us

UK stores: 80

Address:
Mitre House, 160 Aldersgate Street, London EC1A 4DD
Website: www.toysrus.co.uk
Contact number: 01628 414141

Meet the team:
Chris Ashton – Pre-school and educational toys buyer
Anna Waite – Boys and vehicles buyer
Evelyn Chiu – Games and puzzles buyer

The low down
Toys R Us sells merchandise in more than 1,560 stores in the US and more than 500 international stores and over 200 licensed stores in 33 territories. It also exclusively operates the FAO Schwarz brand after buying the chain in 2009.

The group also has a wide range of websites including Toysrus.com, Babiesrus.com, eToys.com, FAO.com and babyuniverse.com.

A fall in sales in the third quarter of 2010 was put down mainly to a drop in the entertainment sector, which includes video game hardware and software, while toys and nursery product sales remained strong.

Asda

UK stores: 381

Address:
Asda House, Southbank
Great Wilson Street Leeds LS11 5AD
Website:
www.asda.co.uk
Contact number:
0113 2435435

Meet the team:
Steph Strike – Toys category director
Mark Spowart – Head of toys
Richard Wall – Events and pocket money toys buyer
Ben Coates – Boys toys buyer
Gareth Willougby – Games and pre-school buyer
Tracey Brunton – Category marketing manager

The low down
Asda, like most UK grocers, has expanded its non-food offering over the last few years. The retailer has been offering toys for over 30 years now, but has placed an extra emphasis on the range over the last two years.

The grocer posted a rise in sales in the third quarter of 2010, with revenues increasing by 1.3 per cent for the period.

The Entertainer

UK stores: 55

Address:
Boughton Business Park, Bell Lane, Little Chalfont, Bucks HP6 6GL
Website: www.thetoyshop.com
Contact number: 01494 737000

Meet the team:
Gary Grant – Managing director
Stuart Grant – Buying director
Nick Hargreaves – Director of retail operations
Duncan Grant – Director of multichannel
Ashley Major – Finance director
Sue Dorkin – Director of supply chain

The low down

The first Entertainer store was opened in 1981 and the chain has been steadily growing ever since. The firm also offers a wide range of toys via its website, www.thetoyshop.com.


Debenhams

UK stores: 155

Address
:
Toy Buying Office: 91 Wimpole Street, London, W1G 0EF
Website: www.debenhams.com
Contact number: 020 7408 6336

Meet the team
:
James Ford – Buyer, toys (pictured)
Zoe Warran – Trainee assistant buyer, toys (pictured)
Caroline Knowles – Trainee assistant buyer, toys
Paul Schlagman – Merchandising manager, gift division
Serpil Howard – Junior merchandiser, toys

The low down

Trading from over 12 million square feet of space, Debenhams employs nearly 27,500 people. In addition, it has 60 international franchise stores in 23 countries around the world.

Over time, the department store plans to have 230-240 department stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland and each offers a range of toys.

Tesco

UK stores: 2,545

Address:
New Tesco House, Delamare Road, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, EN8 9SL
Website:
www.tesco.com
Contact number:
01992 632222

Meet the team:
John Stanhope – Senior buying manager toys
Phil Markham – Senior merchandise planner
Suzanne Bates – Senior commercial manager, trade planning & Direct
Claire Costello – Category manager, technical toys & stationery
Nick Cooke – Buying manager boys, games, vehicles & construction
James Kelsey – Buyer vehicles & construction
Ravi Patel – Assistant Buyer vehicles & construction
Jon Ferdenzi – Assistant buyer, boys & games
Josie Giannattasio – Merchandise planner, boys & games
Luke James – Merchandise planner, vehicles & construction
Jess Carter – Assistant merchandise planner, boys & games
Mark Gibson – Assistant merchandise planner, boys & games
Catherine Hawkins – Buying manager, girls & craft
Lucy Alcock – Assistant buyer, girls
Kelly Tofts – Merchandise planner, girls
Laura Flavin – Technical manager, girls
Jane Mahony – Buying manager, outdoor & Halloween
Hannah Sussams – Assistant buyer, outdoor & Halloween
Neil Robinson – Merchandise planning manager, outdoor & Halloween
Tauseef Parkar – Assistant merchandise planner, outdoor & Halloween
Jack Bristow - Technical manager, outdoor & Halloween
Mark Whittle – Buying manager, pre-school
Anita Serradimigini – Buyer, pre-school & seasonal plush
Carmen Legget – Assistant buyer, pre-school
Claire Benabo – Merchandise planning manager, pre-school
Katie Alvis – Assistant merchandise planner, pre-school
Claire Stokes – Assistant merchandise planner, pre-school
Nikki Gilman – Technical manager, pre-school & plush
Alix Pitts – Trade planning manager
Michelle Webster – Trade planning manager
Carly McKnight – Trade planning manager
James Lawrence – Trade planning manager

The low down
Tesco’s non-food offering is also growing year-on-year, with toys serving as a key sector for the retailer. In the financial year 2009/10, toy sales grew by 25 per cent, with online toy sales rising by over 60 per cent.

Tesco recently said it holds 15-16 per cent of the total toy market.

The retailer offers a multi-channel option to consumers, including its many stores, an online ordering service and the Tesco Direct catalogue.

WH Smith

UK stores: 570

Address:
WHSmith High Street, Greenbridge Road,
Swindon, SN3 3LD
Website: www.whsmith.co.uk
Contact number: 01793 616161

Meet the team:
Liz Cooper – Buyer
Amy Maidment – Assistant buyer
Richard Faulkner – Merchandiser
Shirley Beadle – Trading controller

The low down
Alongside its online shop, WHSmith operates over 570 stores on the High Street and 490 at airports, stations, hospitals and motorway services.

As part of the stationery offering the firm has always dipped in and out of toys, offering a number of different products, particularly focusing on games and puzzles.

Over the last year, however, a significant space was given over to toys as they became increasingly important in the firm’s offering. In 2010, The Gadget Shop joined WHSmith to add gadgets and gizmos to the portfolio.

Selfridges

UK stores: 4

Address:
400 Oxford St. London. W1A 1AB
Website: www.selfridges.com
Contact number: 0800 123400

Meet the team
:
Lynne Crook – Buying manager, childrenswear & toys
Beth Clifton – Buyer, childrenswear & toys
Julie Hall – Assistant merchandiser, girlswear & toys

The low down

Selfridges opens a toy area each year in the run up to Christmas. Due to its success in 2009, the toy shop was opened a month earlier in 2010. The firm also launched a toy offering online and experienced strong sales.

Hobbycraft

UK stores
: 51

Address
:
7 Enterprise Way, Aviation Park, Bournemouth Int’l Airport, Christchurch, Dorset, BH23 6HG
Website: www.hobbycraft.co.uk
Contact number: 01202 596100

Meet the team
:
Rob Farnworth – Operations director
Chris Crombie – Chief executive
Dominic Hooley – Buying director

The low down

Hobbycraft is an out of town arts and crafts retailer. In a market traditionally serviced by small specialist shops, HobbyCraft is the first national retailer to cater for more than 250 different activities all under one roof.

For the financial year 2009/10, Hobbycraft doubled its profits to £10.2 million. During the financial year, Hobbycraft was bought out by Bridgepoint in a deal reported to be worth over £100 million. The original management team remained in place.

Play.com

Address:
Play.com, PO Box 192, Jersey, JE4 8RP
Website: www.play.com
www.playtrade.com
Contact number: 01223 484140

Meet the team:
Paul Sanders – Head of toys and gadgets
Joe McManus – Buyer

The low down

Play.com added a dedicated toy area to its site in 2009, which offers a growing range of products. Many of the range is licensed toys, tying in with the rest of the site’s offering. The toys are aimed at a wide range of ages from pre-school to teens.


Alworths

UK stores: 18

Address:
Alworths, Abbey House, 25 Clarendon Road, Redhill, Surrey, RH1 1QZ
Website: www.alworths.com
Contact number: 01737 852266

Meet the team:
Lisa Dower – Buyer
Paul Cox – Merchandising and visual operations manager
Jill Martin – Marketing and proposition manager

The low down
Alworths was set up by ex-head of store and concession development at Woolworths, Andy Latham and its first store opened in November 2009. The retailer stocks a mixture of toys, sweets, homewares, stationery, seasonal and garden products.

Modelzone

UK stores
: 43

Address:
Commerce Way, Lancing Business Park, Lancing, West Sussex, BN15 8TA
Website: www.modelzone.co.uk
Contact number: 01903 765 496

Meet the team
:
Graham Poole – Buyer
Gill Thomas – Head of marketing
Jane Evans – Merchandiser

The low down
Modelzone is a model retailer, offering model kits, railways, die-cast models, R/C toys, slot cars, collectables and other gadgets.

The retailer has grown over the last year, adding 11 new stores to its retailer list.

Modelzone also offers a comprehensive online product catalogue.

HMV

UK stores: 280

Address:
HMV, Film House, 142 Wardour Street, London W1F 8LN
Website: www.hmv.com
Contact number: 020 7432 2000

Meet the team:
Maxine Lister – Merchandiser manager
Melanie Armstrong – Head of music & impulse
Al Hunter – Advertising planner (games & toys)

The low down
HMV offers popular culture products ranging from books and licensed products and toys to artist merchandising and other ‘cool stuff.’

The related products are one of the fastest-growing areas of the business as the company diversifies into popular culture.

Morrisons

UK stores: 438

Address:
Hilmore House, Gain Lane, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD3 7DL
Website: www.morrisons.co.uk
Contact number: 0845 611 5000

Meet the team
:
Laura Clements – Toy buyer

The low down
Morrisons grew sales by 9.1 per cent in Q3 2010. The firm maintains its position as the UK’s fourth largest grocer and offers a range of toys in its stores, but does not yet offer online buying.

TK Maxx

UK stores: 253

Address:
50 Clarendon Rd, Watford, Hertfordshire,
WD17 1TX
Website: www.tkmaxx.com
Contact number: 01923 473561

Meet the team
:
Beth Carey – Toy buyer

The low down
TK Maxx sells designer and High Street brands at up to 60 per cent less both in its retail outlets and online.
The retailer offers a wide choice of toys, covering licensed and own brand products, books, arts and crafts, puzzles and games, outdoor toys, dress-up and more.


Toymaster

UK stores: 272

Address:
Victoria House, Newport Pagnell Road West, Northampton, NN4 7JJ
Website: www.toymaster.co.uk
Contact number: 01604 674477

Meet the team
:
Buying/Merchandising:
Paul Reader (Central office)
Ian Edmunds (Central office),
Andy Taylor (Toymaster at Ramsdens)
Ciaran Fitzpatrick (Banba Toymaster)
Gordon Walker (Conways Toymaster)
Steve Hogg (Hoggosaurus Toymaster).
Marketing:
Ian Edmunds (Central office)
Jo Skelton (Central office)
Chris Blatcher (The Ramsey Warehouse)
Ciaran Burns (C & H Burns)
Debbie Hartfield (Kids Stuff)
Elaine Stott (Conways Toymaster)
Sharon Eveson (Eveson Toys).

The low down

Toymaster is a buying group for independent toy retailers with a USP of “Helping Our Members Trade More Profitably”. Toymaster trades as a mutuality and is 100 per cent owned by its members.

Members of Toymaster can retain their independence while having access to all the benefits of being part of a larger group.


Firebox.com

Address:
Firebox.com
5 Ardwell Road
London SW2 4RT
Website: www.firebox.com
Contact number: 0844 9221010

Meet the team
:
Ben Fowler – Head of buying and merchandising
Paul Zimmerman – MD
Michael Acton Smith – Co-Founder
Tom Boardman – Co-Founder and technical director
Steve Law – Operations director
Alison Sakai – Financial controller

The low down
Firebox originally built its reputation for gadgets, games and toys for men, but now services a broader market, identifying the latest trends, to bring a quirky offering to its customers.

The retailer looks to present head-turning, quirky toys, rather than the latest licensed action figures and often takes on retro toys or re-takes on classics.

Sainsbury's

UK stores
: 872

Address: Sainsbury's Support Centre, 33 Holborn, London, EC1N 2HT
Website: www.sainsburys.co.uk
Contact number: 02476 439 100

Meet the team
:
Kate Briggs – Senior buyer
Sunny Walia – Buyer, pre-school, nursery, games and puzzles
Rebecca Rathbone – Buying assistant, pre-school, nursery/games and puzzles
Lauren Bennett – Buyer, boys and construction
Gemma Gaston – Buying assistant, boys and construction
Zaharaa Sheik – Buyer, girls and creative
Sarah Ritmeyer – Buying assistant, girls and creative
Dean Mumford – Senior merchandising planner
Louise Allison – Merchandising planner
Steven Goss – Technologist

The low down
Sainsbury’s increased its non-food offering by three times in its 2010 financial year. The non-food online offering was launched in 2009 and now offers over 8,000 products, including a toy line.


John Lewis

UK stores: 33

Address:
John Lewis Partnership, Carlisle Place, London SW1P 1BX
Website: www.johnlewis.com
Contact number: 020 7828 1000

Meet the team
:
Elaine Whiteman – Toy & book buyer
Michelle McGuire & Rachael Stacey – Assistant buyers
Ellen Jarvis & Sarah Batty – Buying administrators
Alan Wright – Toy and book merchandiser
Ben Archer – Assistant merchandiser
Joanne Kyriakides, Michael Dumas, Russell Woolley – Mechandise administrators

The low down
John Lewis department stores were voted 'Britain's favourite retailer' in the Verdict consumer satisfaction index, January 2010, as well as being the second overall and rated top in every sector in which it trades in an annual customer service survey by Which?, January 2009.

The firm typically stocks over 350,000 separate lines. In 2010, the retailer has grown its stores and also offers an online service. It stocks branded, licensed and generic toys, across a range of sectors.

Mothercare/Early Learning Centre

UK stores: 387

Address:
Cherry Tree Road, Watford, Hertfordshire, WD24 6SH
Website: www.mothercare.com
Contact number: 01923 241000

Meet the team
:
Jo Ledsham – Divisional director
Tom Cackett – Head of merchandising
Tom Folliot – Buyer, action and adventure (boys toys)
Claire Donovan – Buyer, puzzles, games and character
Kate Harper – Buyer, baby and toddler
Stacy Hunt – Buyer, sports and outdoor
Claire Loxley – Senior buyer, Lets Pretend (girls toys)
Liz Waller – Senior buyer, Mothercare toys and ELC baby and toddler
Sara Watts – Senior merchandiser, boys and girls toys
Nichola Fisken – Senior merchandiser, Mothercare toys and ELC baby and toddler toys
Mario Luzi – Senior merchandiser, sports and outdoor
Gareth Thorn – Merchandiser, action and adventure (boys toys)
Hayley Young – Merchandiser, Lets Pretend (girls toys)

The low down
Mothercare is a specialist retailer of products for mothers-to-be, babies and children up to the age of eight. The firm offers a wide range of maternity and nursery products and toys through its retail and internet operations in the UK, and also operates internationally through retail franchises in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Far East.

Early Learning Centre is a designer and retailer of toys and other children’s products primarily from birth to six years. The majority of its toys and games range is own-brand, designed and sourced through a sourcing centre in Hong Kong. It also operates internationally through franchised retail stores, a direct internet and catalogue business and a wholesale operation.

AIS/Play-room

UK stores: 158

Address:
Cranmore Park, Shirley, Solihull, West Midlands, B90 9LF
Website: www.cranmorepark.co.uk
Contact number: 0121 713 4487

Meet the team
:
Joyce Daly – Controller
Miles Penhallow – Manager
Charlotte Roberts – Administration

The low down

Associated Independent Stores (AIS) launched its own toy buying group in June 2008.

Play-room currently has 76 members with 158 outlets. Any toy retailer meeting the required standards, can apply to join Play-room, it is not necessary to be a member of AIS.

Play-room offers a comprehensive range of services including a fob import programme, access to clearance, broadsheet and window-to-shelf marketing all of which are available to members via www.play-roommembers.net.

Smyths

UK stores: 40

Address:
2nd Floor Block 2, Galway Financial Services Centre, Moneenageisha Road, Galway, Ireland
Website: www.smythstoys.com
Contact number: +353 91 743600

Meet the team
:
Anne-Marie Gerrett – Head buyer
Peter Strange – Head buyer, pre-school

The low down
Smyths Toys started life in Ireland and is now expanding into the UK. Smyths offers a range of toys, bikes and video games.

The company’s goal is to provide consumers with an extensive range of high quality products at competititive prices.

Smyths stores are open seven days a week, all year round. The retailer also has a comprehensive retail website.

Amazon

Address:
Patriot Court, 1-9 The Grove, Slough, Berkshire, SL1 1QP
Website: www.amazon.co.uk
Contact number: 0800 496 1081

Meet the team
:
Ulrike Wingenter – Toys category manager
Rhian Munday – Senior toy buyer
Colin Ball – Senior instock manager
Andrew Smithers – Instock Manager
Serena Banga – Administration and product set-up
Ryan Hurney – Site merchandiser

The low down
Amazon strives to be the world’s most customer-centric company where people can find and discover virtually anything they want to buy online. As such, the retailer offers a wide range of toys, covering all sectors of the industry.

In 2010, the online retailer bought Black Friday to the UK site – traditionally a US phenomenon – and offered a wide range of discounts on products including toys in the run-up to Christmas.

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