INDIE PROFILE: Halesworth Toys

Store owner Nigel Kemp entered the toy industry in the mid Nineties and opened a shop in a building that’s around 500 years old. Robert Hutchins finds out more about the popular indie’s plans for the future
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Can you tell us about your store?

The shop itself is around 500 years old with ornate brickwork on the front and old exposed beams inside.

For a large part of the 20th Century, it was a clothes shop (or to be posh, a gents outfitters) in the old traditional manner.

Back in the early 1980s, my predecessor bought the building and turned it into a toy shop, which he expanded with an extension to make it into the shop it is today.

What is your background?

I originally worked for Sainsbury’s, but after being made redundant in the mid 1990s, my father and I decided to invest in a retail business. The Toy Box at Beccles came up for sale and we bought it.

Five years later in 2000, Paul at Halesworth decided to retire and offered us first refusal on Halesworth toy shop. This was an ideal branch for us, being only 12 miles away, but having an even bigger catchment area than Beccles.

What kind of toys do you stock?

We sell all kinds of toys and see ourselves as an old fashioned, traditional toy shop.

This seems to work very well for us, as we are located in the centre of Halesworth which is a small market town in Suffolk.

What is the town like?

We have excellent local support as well as from holidaymakers, together with a certain number of second home owners from London and elsewhere, who seem to have deep pockets.

Our nearest competition is from shops in Ipswich to the south, or Norwich to the north.?Both are about 45 minutes drive away from us.

What online operations do you have?

I don’t sell online at present, but I am debating whether to set up an eBay account to sell specific items.
We do have an active Twitter account which we find useful for communicating with our shoppers.

We dabble a bit with Facebook, but I really prefer to use my time making the physical shop more effective.

What’s having the most impact on your business at the moment?

The main impact on my business, apart from the internet, has to be the current recession which has affected the average spend which is now much lower than ever before.

I am now striving to become more profitable from a lower turnover.

How do you promote your business to the local community?

I actually do very little advertising locally, unless there is something specific I need to announce, like a sale. We are well-known in the area and word of mouth seems to be our best form of advertising.

I am running the Toymaster Christmas catalogue for the first time ever this year, so that will be interesting to see how that affects our turnover at the end of the year.

What's next for you and your store over the next 12 months or so? Are there plans for more shops?

Over the next 12 months, I would like to establish an online presence. It’s also important for us to keep costs right down as much as possible and obviously


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