The Entertainer faces an uncertain future

UK toy retailer the Entertainer has addressed concerns about Christmas trading and the challenges of switching to an online-only model.

The Entertainer has become a staple of high streets up and down the UK. LEGO sets are sold at the dedicated toy shop, but like other retailers it has been forced to close its doors as a measure to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Resources have been moved around, as a warehouse that usually supplies stores is now helping to meet demand for online orders.

“We have 173 shops in the UK and now our only sales channel is the internet,” Gary Grant, the chain’s founder and chairman, told the Guardian. “Sales are down by three quarters despite a 10% rise online.”

Levels of demand have significantly increased, but social distancing measures have led to the warehouse only operating at 40%. “We are not going to sit back and let an opportunity pass us by but we can’t suddenly change in a week.”

The Entertainer storefront

Before the UK initiated the lockdown, the Entertainer offered a ‘buy one get one free’ deal across all physical stores, in order to bring in as much cash as possible to help keep the business afloat. “Our business is 39 years old but there was a period of time we were unsure if there was a future,” Grant said.

A few stores have closed permanently during the lockdown, including the Hammersmith branch. While they have been closed, contractors have stripped stock to be reallocated elsewhere.

Even Christmas is raising a question mark for the retailer, as Grant needs to place orders now. “We need to batten down volumes [for Christmas]. At the moment our whole world is cancelled or deferred and the incoming stock is starting to dry up. But now we have got to turn the tap back on. We need the right stock at the right time. It is difficult as I can look at last year’s numbers and do a model but who knows?”

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Graham was the Editor up until November 2020. He has plenty of experience working on LEGO related projects. He has contributed to various websites and publications on topics including niche hobbies, the toy industry and education. Follw Graham on Twitter @grahamh100.

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