MYSTERY SHOPPER: Online indie special

Previously, Mystery Shopper went online to evaluate the websites of the UK?s biggest toy retailers. This time, our mystery punter is taking a tour of the web?s independent online toy shops, in search of a role play toy for a boy aged three. Our budget is just £15, including delivery.
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Little Nut Tree Toys

Billed as an ‘independent traditional online toy shop’, Little Nut Tree Toys is an inviting, perky website with an appealing colour pallete that befits a toy shop.

The landing page features a carousel which promotes different toy categories, such as dress up, as well as product pages like Pillow Pets and Scuttlebug. However the one banner which says ‘Summer is here – Check out our outdoor toys’ seems rather out of place in today’s dreary weather.

When viewing products, you can add toys to a wishlist, and you can also easily compare toys side by side – very clever.

Product pages have extensive detail, including full descriptions, multiple high quality pictures and even video.

Out of the available categories on the top navigation bar, I feel that ‘Imaginative toys’ best describes what I’m looking for, so I head there.

After having a quick browse, I discover that Little Nut doesn’t have a lot to offer on the boys side of role play. To make my search easier, I sort the items by price and find the Le Toy Van Prisoner Cage, at £9.99, is my only real option.

Checkout is straightforward and includes the option to pay with Google Wallet. The delivery charge is £3.50, and appears to be free for small, low weight items.

Verdict: Detailed product pages and good features are let down by a limited range.


Kids Stuff

Kids Stuff has an impressive seven High Street shops which are all detailed on its website.
What makes Kids Stuff stand out from other sites,

though, is that it lets customers view toys by supplier, rather than just category.

I click on Casdon (a role play specialist), and on the following page I’m given a price breakdown. I’m able to view products priced between £5 to £10 and £10 to £20. I quickly spot the ‘Backseat Driver’, a kids steering wheel for car journeys, priced at £9.99.

On the next page, product details are sparing, and are comprised of only a small description and an age recommendation. However, there is a useful ‘tags’ system, which lets me view all other pre-school and role play toys when I click on the tags. Typing ‘role play’ into the search box also produces a long list of appropriate wares.

Checkout utilises Google Wallet, which is a fine option for most, and delivery comes in at £3.50.

The option to order over the phone is also promoted on the Kids Stuff website.

Verdict: A modest website that represents a High Street retail chain of seven shops. Functional, and performs its job well.



When you land on the home page of this shop, you’re greeted with images of classic toys like the abacus, a spinning top and Russian dolls.

Judging by the ‘ye olde style’ fonts and the tagline ‘traditional and classic toys’, it is clear that Toyday is catering to the traditional market.

The tabs at the top of the page offer no clue as to where I might find a boys role play toy, so I cast my eyes over to the list of categories on left, which is long and many (with two entries being ‘Rubba Ducks’ and ‘Rubber Ducks’, which also offer no clear answer).

Unperturbed, I search around in ‘Creative’, which is filled with crafts and paints and the like, and then ‘Educational Toys’ which contains microscopes, potato batteries and so on. Hmm.

Narrowing my search, I head for the puppets section. Unable to refine my searches by price, and now getting a little impatient, I select the Policeman Hand Puppet. Checkout is straight forward and delivery is at a very competitive flat fee of £2.95.

Free delivery is also offered on orders over £50.

Verdict: A nice looking internet toy shop which perhaps could do with a few more modern features.


Bright Minds

This nifty looking website is for educationally flavoured toys.

The homepage design is neat with a certain jaunty character, and includes buttons for maths and English learning toys. Other buttons link to toys under £5 and £10, there is a link to get a free Christmas catalogue, as well as a fast order form for catalogue holders. The shop’s Facebook page is also profiled.

Mousing over the tabs at the top reveals a helpful list of sub-categories. Under ‘Children’s Toys’ I spot ‘Pretend Play’, which is obviously what I’m looking for.

On the product page there’s a smart price slider which lets me specify my price range exactly. Allowing for delivery, I first find out the price of this under the ‘Delivery Info’ link at the bottom of the page. It’s £4.95 – which seems steep, but at least it was easy to find out – so I know I can only afford a toy worth £10 to stay within my budget.

However, searching in this section I only find two toys suitable for boys. A Swiss Guard and Hand Pointers – pointing devices for kids with comical hands on the end. A bit of an underwhelming choice, but to be fair, there are many more boy-appropriate toys available when expanding the budget by a few extra quid. Product pages are complemented by wish lists, star ratings and social media sharing.

Verdict: A great shop that combines clean design with strong features.


Up to the Moon

This online toy store takes a different approach to design than other internet retailers.

On the front page you’re greeted by the message: “Welcome to the Wise Old Moon’s toy shop.” At the top right, it says: “Joshua’s basket is currently empty. Wise Old Moon is sad.”

There’s also a Google-style box where customers can search for their toys.

Below is a selection of product pics with no names or information. Intriguing. Mousing over reveals a price and a short product description, and clicking it leads to the specific toy page.

Below the product snaps is a list of categories, all represented by cute illustrations (for example, ‘Pretend Play’ is a glove puppet).

Delving into the Pretend Play category, it is quite striking how well the product is represented with big, lively pictures. I click on the Billy Magnetic Wooden Dress Up Figure from Melissa and Doug, and am presented with a product page featuring a nice big picture, with left and right buttons to easily view the others in the gallery.

Descriptions are more than adequate. There’s an option to have toys gift wrapped for an extra £1.99 and also ‘other products’ suggestions.

Verdict: A quirky character and an unconventional, intriguing approach to retail make this online toy shop our star store.


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