Just after the country went into lockdown, Lisa Clay, owner of Leeds-based independent toy shop Armadillo Toys, spoke to TNP and shared her early experiences of trying to protect her business amid the outbreak.
Firstly, how are you and the team?
I have three staff and me – one is isolating for 12 weeks; one has a son with no available childcare. That leaves me and one employee, but as of today we are closed.
Do you feel the government is offering enough support for independent retailers?
It may not be until the end of April or later before we get the money back for furloughed workers, which is why I am waiting on the phone to learn more about the government’s Business Interruption loan.
TNP caught up with Lisa at the beginning of April. She told us:
I just checked, and I have my government grant in the bank! I decided not to go for the government-backed loan; instead I arranged an extension to my overdraft. But now I have the grant, I can pay all my suppliers. I will be paying everything off – even invoices not due until May.
What’s your online presence like?
My website is woefully out of date, I removed the shopping cart function over a year ago because of poor search engine results; it’s always the big boys on the first page. I am sure the online-only Amazon’s and the like will do well.
Social media can work well, but we are advised not to leave the house unless it is essential travel. For me, the meaning of ‘only going to work if it is essential’ is unclear. I drive to work, I would have to drive to the post office, and I have been driving to offer local delivering – is this allowed? So, for now, everything is stopped until I understand if I am allowed to go to work. But, when we are allowed, I will continue to do the local deliveries. We have also posted to customers’ families who were self-isolating.
What are your stock levels like?
Stock levels are fine. There a few lines we may have restocked, but generally speaking we are good.
How can suppliers help you?
I am not there yet, but if I have to defer payments, I am sure they will be helpful.
How was business pre-lockdown?
We had a very busy week 16-21 March, but prior to that it was down on last year.
How could Toys ‘n’ Playthings assist you?
Any news is great at the moment. It’s good to know what other shops are doing, as it may give me some ideas and inspiration about how to get through this.
Check out Armadillo Toys here: