INDIE PROFILE: Lighthouse Toys

Ten years ago, primary school teacher and mother of three, Samantha Broad decided to start selling educational toys. Rhys Troake talks to Lighthouse Toys about what’s selling for the indie store this year.
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Can you tell us about your store, how long have you been selling toys?
My husband (Tim) and I started the business over ten years ago. It is a family business that specialises in selling toys based on their educational play value.

Can you tell us a bit about your background, what got you into selling toys?
I am a trained primary school teacher and used to teach children with various special needs.

I am also a mother of three children who we have decided to home educate. I use my background of being a teacher and parent when choosing toys for the shop and also when giving advice to parents.

Tim was a software engineer and is currently using his knowledge to create a new website for the store so we can build our online presence.

What kind of toys do you sell and what is selling well for you at the moment?
Some people describe us as a traditional shop, due to the range of toys we sell.

Although we do love to source new toys and games, we tend to avoid those that are heavily licensed or gimmicky.

I look for toys that children will love to play and learn from at the same time for years to come.

Games and puzzles are selling well at the moment. Science is also selling well and we carry science toys and kits that cover all ages and price points.

There is a great pocket money toy retailing at £1.25 that we used to introduce our own children to polymer science. We share this with the children and parents who buy them.

What do you look for when sourcing new products?
We look at value for money and learning opportunities. We avoid toys that are sold in larger stores and those that are sold cheaply on the Internet.

How has 2015 been for you guys so far?
We enjoyed celebrating our 10th birthday last year, but retail is hard work at the moment and we have been working hard in 2015 to keep business flowing.

What makes you different to your local competition? How do you stand out from the crowd?
Here at Lighthouse Toys we like to get to know our customers and watch children grow up. Some customers come in to the store just to have a chat and we like to feel part of a thriving community.

We have play tables and believe that it is very important to let customers try some of the toys. We know our products very well and often give advice to parents about the educational value of toys.

We are known in the area for our expertise in dyslexia and special needs.

How do you engage with your community?
We run special events in the shop. For example, last year we had a day of fun when part of the day’s takings went to support a special needs orphanage in Uganda. We have supported this orphanage since it started about five years ago and make sure every child has a present at Christmas time.

We also like to host specialist events to raise awareness about dyslexia.

What current industry trend is having the most impact on your business at the moment?
The trend for suppliers to sell directly to the public is not helpful. We take this into consideration when deciding what we will stock and who we will work with.

What do you think will be the big sellers of 2015?
I think our big sellers will be the toys that are a bit different to those found in supermarkets and the major toy stores.

We sell more toys when we engage kids with in-store demos and some suppliers are great at supporting us with this aspect of in-store theatre.

What has the rest of 2015 got in store for you guys?
We are currently in the throws of building a new website. This will build our online presence and help boost sales online as well as in-store.

What has been the highlight of your ten years of toy trading?
There have been many of the years, but we were particularly thrilled to welocome Lord Digby Jones to our shop back in December 2014. He spent the whole morning with us and encouraged us with our big plans for the business.


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