Toy firms looking to garden centres for sales growth

Wide range of companies already enjoying success in the sector, with products including plush and outdoor toys
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With traditional High Street retail outlets remaining cautious on overstocking and taking on unproven ranges, more toy companies are turning to garden centres as another way of getting their products in front of consumers.

A number of firms asked by ToyNews already have a presence in stores such as Dobbies, Hilltop Garden & Leisure, Garden & Leisure Group, Portmeirion Shops and Strikes among others. And many see the sector as a key part of their business plan going forward.

“Our relationship with garden centres has always been very good, our range is ideally suited for this sector,” Dominic Whittle, director for Dowman Soft Touch explained to ToyNews.

As well as its own ranges of plush British wildlife, garden animals and domestic pets, Dowman has enjoyed success with its Hari’s World line of merchandise, which Whittle says is ideally suited to garden centres.

Verity Groom from Aurora Marketing also says that garden centres make up an important part of the firm’s business. Top selling products include Yoo Hoo & Friends, The Gruffalo, the plush range of Nature Babies, equestrian and seasonal lines, plus ragdolls. “It is a good and stable relationship for us,” she commented. “We are looking to work with more garden centres in the future and do see them as a key part of our business plan.”

For toy firms with outdoor products, garden centres are a good option for extra sales. Grossman has been selling to the sector for about three or four years and boss Martin Grossman says they will always be part of the mix. “The relationship has been very successful and garden centres are a great place to sell outdoor toys. They are obviously seasonal, but for ranges like scooters, which go well in the summer and as Christmas presents, then this isn’t a problem for us.”

Rainbow Designs, meanwhile, has recently expanded its existing plush offering in the sector, introducing wooden toys such as peg puzzles and dominoes. New ranges such as The Gruffalo have also allowed the firm to produce outdoor toys including the Woodland Creature Cabin and The Gruffalo Catcher.

“Working with garden centres has always been part of our strategy, but it is an area that we are particularly focused on at present and are looking to expand,” managing director Anthony Temple told ToyNews.

“Certain ranges and products lend themselves to the garden centre marketplace and so as we look to develop ranges this key sector will always be part of our thinking.”

Dowman, too, will continue to grow its business in the sector, introducing more Hari’s World products shortly.

“Certainly with the way garden centres themselves have changed over the last 20 years, broadening their product ranges and making a visit more appealing to all family members, there are now many more opportunities for suppliers from a broad range of sectors,” Whittle said.


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The rise of garden centres

More non-traditional toy shops like garden centres are cropping up and stocking children’s products. But are they making life more difficult for independent toy stores or do the extra sales opportunities for suppliers make them worthwhile?

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The outdoor and sports toys sector was worth £363m in 2011, up ten per cent thanks to some extremely mild weather and, unusually, enjoys two peak periods. We take a look at what some of the key players are promoting this year.

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