Whirligig Toys becomes first multi-branch winner of the Toymark award

On the fifth anniversary of the launch of the Toymark scheme, Whirligig Toys has been awarded with the 2018 badge for good practice for all four locations of their shop, making them the first multi-shop recipient of the award.

We launched our Toymark award for good practice when the Let Toys Be Toys campaign was less than a year old.  As well as calling out retailers who were signposting toys and books by gender, and asking them to change, we wanted a way of recognising those retailers who were already getting it right and not using gender stereotypes to market their products.  On 28 October 2013, we launched the Toymark for good practice, and Sid Sloane of CBeebies awarded Whirlgig Toys in Brighton with the inaugural award.

Since that time, Whirligig Toys has gone from strength to strength and now has four shops across the south of England.  Whirlgig has also been shortlisted as one of Britain’s Best Small Shop of 2018 (winner to be announced 13 November).  We caught up with director Peter Allison to ask his thoughts on what winning the award has meant to his business.

What did being the inaugural winner of the Toymark mean to you?

Peter Allison awarded the inaugural Toymark by Sid Sloane, CBeebies TV Presenter in October 2013

Whirligig was awarded the Toymark in the first year of our business. We had set up the first shop thinking about giving children meaningful experiences and getting them involved in the toys that they played with, and had not come across the Let Toys Be Toys campaign. When we were first approached after a mystery shop, we were delighted to be contacted.

The award really validated what we were trying to do and whilst we had not gone out to be gender neutral, it made complete sense to us to add this into our approach. It was wonderful to be noticed and really spurred us on. We have now grown to four shops and are one of the largest independent toy retailers in the country.

The Let Toys Be Toys approach is now something that we embed within the training of all new staff members and something we talk about on a regular basis with our customers. It very much informs our choice of suppliers and we are always looking out for companies who have made their toys inclusive and we avoid brash and obviously gendered packaging. There are some wonderful suppliers out there who are really finding ways of including all children, you just have to look beyond the big brands and find the independent companies who are designing carefully and bringing excellent toys to the market.

Why do you feel it is important to market to children inclusively?

Our shops are full of toys that are ‘things to make and do’ – this is obviously an area that is all about children and the skills and interests that they are developing. We are really interested in finding the perfect present for our customers to ensure that the child has a great time with their new toy and finds something that they love to do.

We present children with choice – they will find things that they are interested in and this is up to them.  Parents love our shops because they are full of games to have a go at and samples to look at – they often watch what the children are choosing and this helps them to choose the presents.

Has marketing toys in this way helped or harmed your business?

Being an independent toyshop in our industry is all about being different. We have to find unusual suppliers and products that are not in every supermarket, work with our customers in a way that really gives advice and guidance on toys and ensure that we are presenting toys in a different way. We think that by being different to the mainstream, it helps us to stand out and champion the toys that we love and believe that children will get most from.

Being inclusive is a natural part of this – why would we limit children to one particular range of toys – we are here to sell things after all! We do turn down products and suppliers who don’t share our approach but this means that we look harder for the more interesting products that make us stand out even more.

Being a Toymark holder is clearly important to some of our customers and people do seek us out because of this – it is always nice when people comment on it and appreciate what we are doing. We want people to think that we have bothered with our shop – in the display and presentation, the choice of products, the knowledge of our staff members and the way we work with the children who visit us. Being inclusive is part of this being bothered – and it really doesn’t take that much effort.

Whirlgig Toys can be found at:

Whirligig Brighton
9 Gardner Street, Brighton, BN1 1UP

Whirligig Canterbury
22 Sun Street, Canterbury, CT1 2HX

Whirligig Chichester
62 South Street, Chichester, PO19 1EE

Whirligig Tunbridge Wells
90-92 Mount Pleasant Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1RT

Or visit them online at their website, and on Facebook Twitter, and Instagram.

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