The UK’s biggest independent toy retailer has stockpiled 100 container loads of paddling pools, slides, wheelbarrows and other toys to try and ensure there are no shortages this summer in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Gary Grant, managing director and founder of The Entertainer chain, said it had doubled the amount of containers it usually brought into the UK at this time of year to ensure seasonal stock was in place before any hold-ups at ports linked to the UK’s Brexit deadline in March.
“There will be no shortage of toys in the UK,” he said. “The items we ship from the far east, we have brought the containers forward to make sure we have adequate stocks.
“It might take three months for things to settle down [after Brexit]. The second biggest time for buying toys is Easter.”
Grant said The Entertainer had not had to take on extra warehouse space to store the toys as it had spare capacity after Christmas.
He said The Entertainer had shipped own-label items early but expected toy-makers with European distribution centres such as Lego or Playmobil to present their own plans to ensure supply.
Similar tactics have been adopted by a number of British manufacturers, food processors and retailers including Tesco and Marks & Spencer – which said they are stockpiling tinned and packaged foods – folding bike-maker Brompton, carmaker Bentley, pharmaceutical firms such as Sanofi and off-licence Majestic Wine.
Companies are concerned that lorries will face major delays at ports by even minor changes in bureaucracy related to Britain’s exit from the European Union, where there is currently a free flow of goods across UK borders with minimal checks.
While goods coming from the far east will not face changes to paperwork, the fear is they will get stuck behind European goods on the last leg of their journey.
The challenges around Brexit are piling pressure on retailers during an already difficult period as they try and adapt to a shift to online shopping, rising costs and low consumer confidence.
Earlier this week, Sainsbury’s, the owner of the UK’s biggest toy retailer Argos, said its toy sales had fallen as the market had shrunk by more than 10%.
But Grant said The Entertainer had enjoyed a strong Christmas, with sales up by more than 10% as it had benefited from the demise of Toys R Us last February.
“During 2018 we opened 16 new stores and we traded better than double digits up,” Grant said.
He said sales had risen in established stores and online thanks to the popularity of trends including L.O.L dolls and slime.
“We have had a shiningly good year. We believe in the high street and the high street is nowhere near dead. Our market share is growing and going into 2019 we are as optimistic as we can be with Brexit looming.”