How did Toyology get started?
Toyology is a partnership between myself and my partner, Mark Roberts. We’ve been best friends for 53 years, and when my circumstances changed about three and a half years ago, Mark said: “I know you’ve always wanted to have your own toy shop, why don’t you look into it?” And that’s what we did.
We looked at a few places before my wife saw the empty shop – which is now Toyology – and we went to have a look at. That was back in October 2009.
So you’ve always wanted your own toy shop. But what was your vision for it?
First of all we wanted to become a member of Toymaster. I think it is an exceptional organisation, and I have done for many years. So we signed up and it’s been fantastic. They’ve been great supporters and have helped Toyology enormously.
We don’t want to be Toys R Us – we want to put our own stamp on things. So we decided the first thing we wanted to do was create a traditional and family feel to the shop.
We obviously do the mainstream toys but we try to do it so that we have a point of difference as well. I feel we have a very good mix. As the second half of the year comes along, we introduce more of the TV advertised lines.
How do you achieve that traditional feel?
We try to do it through the staff, because the staff go the extra mile. We feel it’s important that every customer who comes in gets the maximum customer service, is always approached, and is always spoken to. So we try and give each customer a feeling that they want to come back to Toyology.
We try to make it a personal experience. You can only make the first impression once. If you get a good customer following in the early part of the year, they will stay with you at the business end. It’s extremely easy to lose customers.
It can be harder to maintain constant loyal customers – but the way to do it, in my opinion, is to offer them a service and an experience that they would want to have. I think our approach has proved to be the right one, as we’ve got a lot of regular customers.
What about social media? We’ve noticed Toyology is on both Twitter and Facebook…
It’s no longer the case that you open your doors, put your stock on the shelf and wait for customers to come in and buy it. I think you have to be much more proactive today.
I went on a seminar about social media with Toymaster, which I found extremely interesting, and the gentleman there explained the power that social media can have in today’s market, in all businesses.
I probably do a little post three to five times a day. I try to do it with a bit of humour, and I always bring it back to the shop.
We’ve had some good responses from the public. And all of our advertising promotes the Facebook and Twitter pages.
What are the trading conditions like in Barkingside?
I think the situation everywhere at the moment is precarious. I think the only thing that’s consistent is the inconsistency. Sometimes, you can’t work out why it’s poor one week and good the next.
Overall, Barkingside is a strong area with reasonable footfall.
On July 22nd we’ve got the Olympic torch coming right past our door. It is coming at 7.30am, but we’ll still be open that day. It also helps that I don’t live far away and can walk to work.
You’ve been in the business for a long time – how do you spot a good toy line?
I think if you’re new to the industry it is good to get advice from people like Toymaster. You really have to have an open mind.
For example, if something looks gruesome, don’t think it’s not for you. That’s probably one of the best lines you’re going to find because kids love those kind of things.
What do you think will be big this Christmas?
Well, obviously Lego has been outstanding and I think it will continue to be.
Inevitably there will be that one big line that everybody wants and no one can get.
What are your future plans for the Toyology store?
We’ve taken on extra warehouse space and we’ve just started a loyalty card for customers. It works pretty much like it does in a coffee shop. Customers get ten stamps and then they get a discount at the end of it.
We just want to keep growing. I just want to maintain growth and see where that takes us.
I’m not saying in two years time we’re going to open another shop, and I’m not saying we won’t. So we’ll just see what happens.
Toyology: 020 8551 4600