UK indie retailers look to local inventors for innovation

As competition between High Street indies and majors remains as fierce as ever, many are turning to inventors to help bolster their product offering.
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Several of the UK's independent retailers have embraced the efforts of local inventors in a call for greater innovation from the toy industry.

In response to a question put to Toy Shop UK's listing of retailers last month, it's been discovered that a number of indies have taken to trialing or stocking toys created by their local inventors.

As competition between the High Street independents, major retailers and online marketplaces remains fierce, many indies depend on the ability to source unique products to remain relevant.

"It's getting really hard to find and introduce new products to the shelves that are truly different to what is already out there," Luan Hall, owner of Fairie 'n' Frogs told ToyNews.

"I love adding undiscovered products into the shop and we have about four new products on the shelf at present, all designed by local inventors. We have two board games and a set of children's books and are currently waiting for a prototype teddy doll."

Meanwhile, others are finding it increasingly difficult to sourc new innovation, owing to the 'industry's emphasis on rebooting old classics.'

Duncan Conner, owner of Scotland's Bus Stop Toy Shop, said: "The only sector that I seem to be able to muster much enthusiasm for the current level of innovation with is board games. Elsewhere, I see lots of new takes or twists on classic ideas, but it's rare for me to see something unique that I get excited about."

In response to such concenrs, indies are leaning towards the smaller toy suppliers and inventors, in what Dr. Wendy Hamilton, owner of Grasshopper Toys believes is a win-win scenario for all involved.

"In the last few months we have taken on PLYT, Hexagony and Skinny Sketcher," said Hamilton. "we're expecting another series of craft kits from another husband and wife team with an exciting range. It's a win-win for us both: they get a soft opening and we get to trial new goodies which always gives us a big buzz."

However, there are those who are quick to note that supporting innovation is only a small part of making a product a success.

"We all try to support new ideas and new toys, but it has to fit into our customer base and price ranges," said Steve Kerrison, owner of Kerrison Toys.

Elsewhere, Automattic Comics and Toys owner, Matt Booker believes that the majority of new products are overshadowed by the bigger names.

"There have been some amazing innovations over the years, but the current winning toy is a 58 year old plastic brick," he concluded.

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