Tell us about Will’s Toy Shop
Brendan: Our family business has a rich history dating back to 1898 when my great-great-grandfather, Alexander Riddell Will, founded the company as a plumbing engineering and bell hanging venture in the picturesque village of Cults, near Aberdeen City.
In the 1930s, we relocated to our current address at 335 North Deeside Road in Cults. Over the years, we have established ourselves as a trusted presence, building meaningful relationships with our valued customers.
Recognising the need to adapt and expand our offerings in the late 1970s and early 1980s, my grandmother Dorothy Will introduced toys to our business. This allowed us to cater to the growing demand for toys among families in our community and diversify our offerings.
In 2016, we expanded our business by incorporating the local Post Office, and the following year, we took another significant step by joining Toymaster. This partnership further strengthens our position as a trusted and knowledgeable retailer, allowing us to curate the finest selection of toys.
Our passion for quality, customer satisfaction, and community engagement drives us forward as we continue to evolve and bring joy to families through our extensive range of toys and unwavering commitment to outstanding service.
Last year we were thrilled to celebrate the 125th anniversary of A.R. Will, the original firm that later became Will’s Toy Shop. Throughout 2023, we hosted themed days that celebrated our legacy. In October, the month when A.R. Will was founded, we had a small party and offered special deals and promotions.
We also invited customers and the local community to share their cherished memories and stories of the business, which we then displayed in-store.
What do you offer that other toy shops don’t?
Ellen: A key factor is the exceptional customer service and engaging interactions provided by Brendan. Customers often praise him for his friendly personality and ability to connect with both children and adults.
His interactions with customers go beyond just making a sale. He takes the time to understand their preferences, recommends suitable toys, and creates a welcoming atmosphere. His dedication to providing personalised attention and building relationships with customers makes the shopping experience truly memorable.
And he adds an element of entertainment: he can be found demonstrating products, showcasing their features, and engaging children in playful activities.
Whether it’s handing out balloon swords or demonstrating KandyToys’ Super Glider, Brendan’s aim is to keep kids entertained while their parents attend to other matters, such as waiting in the queue at the Post Office. By creating unexpected moments of fun and excitement, he adds an extra layer of enjoyment.
How would you describe your range?
We offer an extensive range of toys and games that cater to a wide variety of interests and age groups. While we carry approximately 20 toy brands at any given time, our key suppliers include renowned names such as Warhammer, Asmodee, Hippychick (a new addition for 2023), Steiff, Ravensburger, Hasbro, Top Model, Brainstorm (with Eugy as one of our top lines), LEGO, Charlie Bears, Funko, and many others.
We understand that toys have no age limit, and we strive to provide options that engage and entertain all ages.
How do you find products?
We attend the Toymaster May Show to stay current with the latest trends, discover a wide range of suppliers, and explore their offerings.
While we also attend other trade exhibitions, the Toymaster May Show holds a special place in our calendar. It allows us to connect with suppliers, see their new products firsthand, and gain valuable insights into emerging trends.
For example, during an evening meal at the May show, we had a conversation with a fellow toy shop owner who introduced us to the Deddy Bears brand. This chance encounter led us to meet a new supplier.
While it can be challenging for reps to make the trip to Aberdeen, we appreciate the efforts of those who visit. We value face-to-face interactions with suppliers as they provide us with direct knowledge of new lines and allow us to evaluate product suitability.
Engaging with other independent toy shop owners and industry professionals is another valuable resource for us.
What’s your selection criteria?
There are four key considerations. Firstly, personal preference and passion: it’s important to us that we have a genuine liking for the products we offer. Secondly, customer demand: customer requests and feedback play a significant role in shaping our product selection.
Thirdly, uniqueness and exclusivity: we strive to offer a unique shopping experience by providing brands and products that may not be readily available in other stores in the area. We seek out exclusive or lesser-known brands to give our customers a diverse range of options and introduce them to new and exciting play possibilities.
Finally, quality and safety: before adding a brand or product to our selection, we conduct thorough research and due diligence to ensure it meets rigorous safety standards and offers a high-quality play experience.
How do you market the business?
We leverage social media platforms to connect with our customers, share updates about new products, announce special promotions or discounts, and showcase the fun and excitement of visiting our store, building a community of toy enthusiasts.
Our website serves as a central hub for information about our store, products, and upcoming events. We ensure that it’s user-friendly, visually appealing, and regularly updated with the latest news and offerings.
We use in-store point of sale displays and signage to highlight featured products, special offers, or upcoming events. They capture the attention of customers, encouraging them to explore and discover new toys. We ensure that our displays are eye-catching, informative, and relevant to the interests of our target audience.
Also, we recognise the growing demand for event-based activities in-store. We recently hosted our first Pokémon Day, which was a great success. We plan to organise more events that cater to specific interests or themes.
We engage in community events too. For example, we attended the village Christmas Lights Switch-On to play some games with kids and hand out goodie bags.
We are actively working on expanding our range of toys and activities specifically designed for younger children.
Our aim is to create a dedicated section in-store that offers age-appropriate toys, including educational and developmental toys, sensory playsets, soft and cuddly plush toys, and more.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Ellen: It’s the opportunity to curate the toy selection and merchandise the shop. After a long week, unpacking new arrivals from brands like Steiff or LEGO brings me joy. On a Friday night, with some takeaway, music playing, and the shop to myself, I can create a visually appealing display that I can be proud of.
Brendan: It’s knowing what makes our customers happy and being able to meet their needs. Whether it’s recommending the perfect toy, assisting with a purchase decision, or resolving any concerns, seeing the trust and satisfaction in our customers’ eyes brings me immense joy.