Sooty toys return as indies start new distribution firm

Alan Caswell of The Arcade Toy Shop and David Middleton of Midco Toys form DNA Toys; Sooty puppets available now.
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Classic puppet Sooty is to make a long-awaited return to toy aisles this month thanks to two enterprising independent retailers.

David Middleton, owner of three toy shops in Derby, and Alan Caswell, owner of The Arcade Toy Shop in Dudley, have teamed up to form DNA Toys. The distributor’s debut products will be Sooty, Sweep and Soo – and Toymaster indies will get their hands on them first.

The puppets themselves have been manufactured by PMS International and are available to order now, with a guide retail price of £12.99 each. The release has been timed to coincide with airing of the latest Sooty TV series, which starts this month. And with a strong-selling DVD released in August, the pair believe the time is right for Sooty and co to return.

“Alan has been banging on about Sooty for years,” Middleton explained to ToyNews. “He drove me bloody mad.

“No matter where we were – whether it was the Toy Fair or the NEC, all you’d hear from Alan is, ‘Where’s Sooty? I want to get Sooty. Where can we get Sooty from?’”

Caswell confessed: “Sooty has been ticking around in my head for quite a long time.

“It’s not available in the shops, but it’s an evergreen product and there’s a lot of classic toys making a comeback at the moment, so the time is right.”

Alan Caswell (left) and David Middleton (right) tracked down Sooty’s TV puppeteer and rights owner to get permission to make the toy…

Driven by his Sooty obsession, Caswell left no stone unturned to track down the elusive puppet and even skipped important Toymaster meetings to seal the deal once he had made contact with Richard Cadell – Sooty’s TV puppeteer and official rights owner.

Recalling when the pair tracked down Cadell, Middleton said: “It was almost an idle enquiry – we had no idea that we’d get a reply from him.

“I think he was at the stage where he’d been let down by some of the bigger companies.

“He was looking for somebody with a bit of heart and a bit of passion, which was me and Alan,
I suppose.”

Moving into distribution has been lifelong a goal for toy fanatic turned toy shop owner Middleton, while shop owner Caswell has dabbled in numerous toy ventures over the years, including starting his own buying group in the ‘80s. Speaking of his new business partner, Caswell commented: “I’ve known Dave a fair few years, he’s very switched on and like minded.

“We’re both toy boys, or an old man in my case. We got chatting together and said, why not?”

Middleton added: “It’s what I’ve always wanted to do really. I wanted to sell toys until I was big enough to distribute toys. I don’t know if I am big enough yet, but this opportunity came along.”

In terms of the Sooty launch, DNA Toys is offering the toys to Toymaster members initially, as an official supplier to the buying group.

“Alan and myself are both Toymaster members. Everyone gets annoyed when all the multiples get everything first, so we thought why not let the independents have it? There’s a good margin for retail too.

“But we have had interest from quite a few nationals as well,” he added. “We’ve had nothing but a positive response. There hasn’t been any negativity.

“I’m sure we can sell some toys in the UK, and perhaps even abroad,” added Caswell. “How wonderful if we could get Sooty established worldwide? It would be absolutely fantastic.”

The pair revealed they were looking at a number of other lines. “We both love action figures, so that might be a clue,” said Caswell.

Middleton revealed: “There’s also a couple of things that we’ve got up our sleeves.

“But if anyone’s got anything out there that they’d like us to move for them, give us a call.”

[The name stands for Dave ‘n’ Alan, by the way. Alan said: “It’s a quirky Midlands thing.”]

DNA Toys: 07834 244198 or 01283 347734

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