TNP spoke with Dr Wendy Hamilton, owner of Grasshopper Toys and curiousminds.co.uk at the beginning of April, about how the team and business were faring amid the outbreak of Covid-19. She talked of about how the inconsistent messaging from the British and Scottish governments was making difficult times yet more challenging.
How are you all? How’s your team’s morale?
We’ve had to close the shop obviously, so that was quite upsetting, although we understand why. I think we’re disorientated and wondering what the future is going to look like.
How clear have you found government guidelines so far?
I'm confused by the different messages being given. While the British government are saying it’s OK to work, the Scottish government seems to be saying that no one should be going into work other than the essential services.
At the moment our business is essentially halted. We’ve suspended online for a couple of days while we work out whether we can operate or not. Some of our bigger suppliers have suspended their services, so even if we reinstate our online operation, we’ll be limping along.
Apart from the confused work messages, I think the government have done a surprisingly good job of helping the vast majority of people, but of course there are always pockets of individuals and businesses who fall through the net.
My main gripes are the inconsistent messages and the banks’ appalling treatment of so many SMEs. When many small businesses fail, the banks will be largely responsible for those failures through their greedy, opportunistic reluctance to carry out the promises of easy, fast access to affordable loans, made to the British people by the government.
Are you finding social media useful for connecting with customers?
Social media has been good for customers being able to contact us. We’re cautious about posting too much noise for the sake of it right now, people are overwhelmed as it is.
What are your stock levels like at the moment?
Stock levels are decent for some ranges, but we need to top-up on others. We had suspended further orders to suppliers while we work out our best strategy to deal with what looks likely to be a few months of disruption, but we’ll review that in the next 48 hours.
How can suppliers help you?
By keeping going where possible. We know most of our suppliers very well and they’re doing a great job of staying in touch and letting us know their positions.
Do you see any opportunities in all of this?
There are always opportunities in any situation. But this situation is complicated by the need to protect my team from potential harm, while being able to serve our customers. It’s a fine line to walk. We’ll work it out.
How could Toys ‘n’ Playthings assist you?