toys n playthings magazine Jan 2021

I was thrilled to be interviewed by TnP (“Toys n Playthings”, toy industry trade mag) about the challenges and opportunities that 2020 brought Three Boys Rock – and how I feel toy purchasing will be for 2021 and beyond.

How was Christmas? 
Amazing in certain parts, significantly lower turnover in other respects. A huge part of my normal turnover is at live Christmas fairs and events (I did 30 days spread all over the country in November 2019 alone) and obviously these were all cancelled.  So turnover was way down.  But online sales were, on average, over 6 times higher than 2019 for Q4 which was amazing.  I still need to do the sums but I’d guess my net profit is probably on par with previous years.
How did you cope with having to shut down during the busiest time of the retail year?  What strategies did you have in place?
As all my normal events were cancelled, I participated in a number of “online fairs”, some more successfully than others. But it meant that fellow fair member businesses cross promoted Three Boys Rock and I did the same for them. It meant we all reached significantly more shoppers than just our own mailing list or followers.
I also increased my budget for Instagram and Facebook boosted posts and ads.
It would be foolish to think that nobody saw this coming so I placed much smaller orders with my suppliers more frequently to keep on top of stock. I also considered my buying carefully and focused on items at a slightly lower price point than normal. For example, aunts and uncles reduced spending on their nephews and nieces from, say, £25-30 per child to nearer £20.  I had made sure in advance that I selected to stock products that would fit this requirement.
Were you affected by the reported toy shortages in the week before Christmas? If so, please tell us more
A lot of my suppliers were out of stock of items when I did try and reorder from late November onwards. But I have a wide range of products so I could focus marketing and attention on the items I did have.
What were the bestsellers this Christmas?
Games were definitely huge – we are lucky to have a wide range. I’d say Big Potato Games’ Herd Mentality and P is for Pizza were the biggest sellers.
“Doing” gifts were popular – science kits, magic gifts, activity sets.
A light up shower speaker was popular for teens and had sold out by very early December.
And we had mini refillable bottles of sanitiser with coloured neoprene sleeves that could be clipped onto bags, belts etc – these flew out as fast as they came in and were a great stocking filler.
How do you feel about 2021 at this moment in time?
Cautious. But with a tiny hint of optimism.  I will be putting additional budget into making improvements to our website to ensure sales on that platform continue to grow.   It was great to see such a big increase in online sales and this is where I’m going to focus my attention for 2021.  I will be selective of live events to participate in for 2021. I love them and turnover can be great – but the travel, airbnb costs, petrol and time all take their toll on my energy levels… and profit margin!
If you could persuade a toy company to make one discontinued favourite toy from your childhood what would it be – and why?
I had the most amazing aeroplane toy that I absolutely loved.  It was as if a plane had been cut in half across its middle and you had one end.  It opened up and was effectively a plane version of a doll’s house. I played with it for hours and hours!  It was self contained and had a carry handle.  I loved it so much.  I must ask my mum what she did with it!
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