With toy market booming, Langleys boss says shop is still going strong
PUBLISHED: 08:39 21 December 2017 | UPDATED: 08:39 21 December 2017
ARCHANT EASTERN DAILY PRESS (01603) 772434
For children (and adults) around the country, Christmas means one thing above all others - new toys.
The UK toy industry is booming, with sales hitting a record high of more than £3.3bn in 2016 following a rise in sales of almost 6% in 2015.
But some retailers have struggled with the increasing demand for discounts, with Toys R Us the latest to suffer falling revenues from a lull in in-store activity.
However, a toy shop which has been trading in Norfolk for more than 130 years is taking full advantage of the industry’s strength.
Langleys, in Norwich’s Royal Arcade, has two new tools in its Christmas arsenal this year: a revamped website, launched in the summer; and a new catalogue, of which 10,000 copies have been distributed around the city.
Manager Chris Goulding, who has worked at Langleys for 37 years, said the shop’s preparations for the festive season began in May.
“We have always had good directors who will let us buy what we want. I am not restricted,” he said.
“We are at the coal face, listening to customers all the time – bigger retailers cannot react quickly enough to crazes and what customers ask for.
“As soon as something is out and people are asking for it, you can make a judgement.
“We’re not going to sell a lot of what Hamley’s would because we are a different kind of shop.”
He added: “The atmosphere at Christmas is great. It is a bit hectic but I love the feeling of people rushing around you and buying things, and being able to help them.”
Owner Steven Scott said the shop was able to react quicker to customer demand than its bigger competitors.
“We are a much more mobile vehicle than supermarket toy shops. If the staff think something is going to be big, we can get it in.
“Quite often the big stores will try to create a trend, whereas we will follow customer demand rather than telling the customer what they need to be buying.”
Among the Christmas crazes which Mr Goulding expects to fly off the shelves are Hatchimals (including some special collectors’ editions), YouTube craze Lol Dolls, and miniature electronic puppets Fingerlings.
But he said demand for classic toys such as Cabbage Patch Dolls, sketching toys and Rubik’s Cubes was experiencing a resurgence.
Still a family business
Steven Scott, who bought Langleys two years ago, says he has a passion for “into niche, family-oriented, family-owned businesses”.
“My parents had six or seven which they ran as a family business, so it runs in the blood,” he said.
“Year one [at Langleys] was spent getting used to the business and ensuring the staff didn’t think I was going to change everything.”
Since Mr Scott took ownership he has taken on a second building on Gentleman’s Walk, now
named Little Langley’s, which stocks pre-school toys and games.
This year the company has completely revamped its website and launched a new catalogue.
Mr Scott said: “The website gives people the choice to shop remotely and will hopefully ensure we continue to be the strong, independent business that we are.”
He expressed confidence in the shop’s continuing appeal, adding: “We want to continue to be a Mecca for toys.”