Stepping Stones Marketing Blog

The Stepping Stones Marketing Blog provides insights, views and experiences of leading marketing consultant and toy and gift retail and distribution expert Paul James. If you would like to comment on any of the Blog entries contact Paul direct via our contact us page. We will not print your comments unless you agree to do so.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Toyah Willcox performs to sell out crowd at Acapela

music promotion cardiffRock and pop legend Toyah Willcox has performed a sold out show at Acapela Studios to an audience of 200 excited fans.

Toyah was booked by Stepping Stones Marketing as part of their role in supporting the venue in managing the music bookings roster and promoting events.

Both the audience and the singer enjoyed the wonderful setting of Acapela – so much so that Toyah has confirmed she is returning to do another show in 2017.

British Toy Fair 2015

eeboo catalogue 2015Thanks to everyone who visited our stand at Olympia last week, it was great to see our loyal stockists and also to meet many new ones.

The first day was the best exhibition day we have ever experienced (we have been doing this since 2008) and we took a record number of orders for any show we have ever attended.

We were visited by so many great stores including Harrods, Trotters, Honeyjam, Helter Skelter, Cass Art, Piccola, Daisy Daisy, Star Bags…to name but a few (sorry if you did not get a mention)!

We are looking forward to next week when we will be exhibiting at the Spring Fair in Birmingham, please do come along and see us in HALL 3, N31. Special mention for Emily Levitt who is the International Sales Manager for eeBoo who will be visiting the exhibition – just to see us!!!

We have over 150 new product lines available on show together with all the old favourites.

Look forward to seeing you.

Stepping Stones Run the Great North Run

Guide DogsNext weekend sees Stepping Stones Marketing take on the Great North Run in Newcastle. Forget the ice bucket challenge this is a real challenge!!

Director Dawn James together with son Matthew travel to the North East to take on the iconic run with a back-up team providing transport, motivational support, physiotherapy services and a shoulder to lean (cry on) at the end!

We are raising monies for Guide Dogs for the Blind  (a charity often forgotten about nowadays) who undertake incredible work. Every hour, another person in the UK goes blind, which means we need to train more guide dog puppies. Donations ensure that a guide dog puppy can receive traininJustGiving Homeg – from those tentative first days with a puppy walker through to more advanced training at guide dog school and eventually matching them with the right owner. All your donations will play a vital part in giving independence and freedom to blind and partially sighted people.

Please help support the team by visiting our Just Giving Page – click here

 

Mary Portas fails the high street – our alternative!

High streetThe government’s much heralded “Mary Portas initiative”, set up to find a way to revive the High Street has provided no benefit to the 12 towns that were given £100,000 each to assist in bringing shoppers back to the town centres.

A BBC Radio 4 survey conducted by the daily  “You and Yours” programme, revealed that the number of empty shops in the 12 towns awarded the funding had risen and no immediate benefit was realised. In defence of Mary Portas some of her ideas such as lower rates for small retailers just did not materialise. Some major retailers also spoke out at the time claiming her ideas to be little short of a publicity stunt. -See “Queen of Shops’ Portas bid to save High Street attacked as foolish stunt by retail chief who warns that 20,000 independent shops are in danger of closing”

Even more embarrassing is the fact that the Government has failed to undertake any research into the impact on the 12 towns….do you think they know it has not worked?

Well we have come up with a few ideas ourselves to put some life in the High Street and to raise footfall for independent shops. Creating a “Level Playing Field” is an important part in saving our high street – strangely this was in the Portas review, but really came nowhere near addressing the major issues. The main issues for independent shops include:

1. Amazon – their impact on the high street has been dramatic, but this is not surprising as they play by a different set of rules – make them pay tax on profits and sales like all other retailers. The fact they pay no VAT and corporation tax means that they can sell the same goods at up to 25% less than other “honest” retailers. It’s time to rectify this anomaly.

2. EBay and car boot sellers – The government needs to put as much effort into ensuring that all sellers abide by the HMRC rules – take a walk around a car boot sale and see the products for sale. Many may be selling off the contents of their garage but a huge number both online and at such events are running a business , again without paying the appropriate tax on profits and taking income from shop owners paying rates, tax and VAT!

3. Charity Shops – no one wishes to stop charities raising monies for good causes but when they receive beneficial rebates, don’t pay staff and now account for a good percentage of retail outlets in a high street – there is a real problem. Can you imagine what would be said if an independent shop put a notice in their window – volunteers required!

4. Online retailers – we all love shopping online but there has to be a level playing field. The UK public needs to make a decision on what they want – Do they want a high street or small out of town high street in the suburbs that is vibrant offering a real difference or are they happy to see our shopping street taken over by Bookies, Charity shops, coffee shops and burger stalls . The government in the past has levied a tax on certain sectors (financial services sector -IPT tax) and a tax on online stores (5% would seem reasonable) could revitalise the independent shopping sector. Is anyone making money online, Tescos have just confirmed that their online delivery service costs nearly 4 times the amount they charge and with other online retailers facing soaring delivery costs the bubble may soon be set to burst on online retailers

5. Supermarkets -Stop their domination of the local high street. Tesco Express and others have been allowed to dominate the local high street shutting down shops all around it, from bakers, grocers, newsagents, toy shops, off licences and on and on. Whilst the argument is they bring jobs to the local area, the reality is that other shops close so the net effect is a decrease in the number of shops. Some English councils have now approached the government to allow them to propose a Tesco’s tax to ensure the local economy benefits! To read more click here

6. Restrict the number of outlets in small suburb high streets that can be filled by “Turf accountants”, “charity shops” and “food outlets”. The councils will dislike it as will take anyone’s money in business rates but in the long term it will encourage unique quality stores to open.

Of course it may be that the UK public wish to allow all of the above and do not care about their local independent stores but I and many others have long given up on going shopping in the City Centre as there is nothing of interest to look at – one city centre looks exactly the same as another so why bother. If you feel strongly on any of the above please let us know or please send us your own suggestions and we will add them to the list!

Email to info@steppingstonesmarketing.co.uk

We celebrate our 10th anniversary by reducing prices back to 2008 levels!

In ten years of trading we have always looked to provide the very best products and service to our retail customers in the toy and gift trade.

Over the last decade we have steadily grown the Stepping Stones distribution offering by presenting world class brands to the UK and Ireland toy and gift trade.all aboard magnetic game

WE WOULD LIKE TO THANK ALL OUR STOCKISTS FOR THE SUPPORT PROVIDED OVER THE LAST DECADE AND ARE DELIGHTED TO ANNOUNCE THAT WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT WE ARE REDUCING MANY OF OUR LINES ON:

  • eeBoo
  • Mudpuppy AND
  • Peaceable Kingdom.

How and why are we reducing our trade prices?

Over the last 6 months importers have benefitted from changes in the currency rates (particularly with the US$) and as a result we are now able to pass these improved margins on many of our products onto our stockists.

What does this mean with regard to prices?  Below are some typical trade price reductions on a selection of our products:

  • Mudpuppy magnetics – were £6.75 NOW £5.95
  • Peaceable Kingdom cooperative games  – were £6.25 NOW £5.75
  • Mudpuppy puzzles – 63 & 100 piece, Colour Me, Block and Jumbo were £ 5.95 NOW £5.50
  • eeBoo Scratch papers from £5.50 to £4.95

Typically reductions are between 10 and 15% off current prices and we have no plans to increase these prices – unless the currency rates reverse!

DON’T YOU WISH EVERY DISTRIBUTOR WAS THE SAME…..!!?

New eeBoo catalogues and Peaceable Kingdom products arrive

The new eeBoo catalogue with a huge number of new lines has just arrived with a container full of exciting innovative new products.

eeBoo toys and gifts spring catalogueAlso just arrived are restocks of all the best selling lines from Peaceable Kingdom including Quick Sticker Kits, stickers and of course the locked journals – including Top Secret, Pirate and all the other record breaking journal lines.

Retailers can view the catalogue by clicking here.

If you would like a trade order form please contact us today.

World Cup Challenge

World Cup challenge Stepping Stones Marketing has launched a special promotional offer to it’s retail partners linked to the World Cup.

The World Cup promotion sees all orders of £600 or more receive £100 RRP in stock provided FREE. The offer is available to all orders received prior to the end of the World Cup on the 13th July.

In addition a special World Cup Challenge is also being launched by the company. Retailers can enter by submitting their predictions for the World Cup. Simply email Stepping Stones Marketing with the names of the teams who end up as :

  • The Winner
  • Second place
  • Third place
  • Fourth place

The nearest answer to the final positions will win £250 of stock for their store. Entries need to be in by the 20th June.

 

Marketing madness – It Must be Friday!

Sat in the office on a Friday can be very frustrating! Clients don’t ring – they are either away for a long weekend or they are waiting for us to send them work undertaken in the last week. So it’s quite nice to be able to get some quality time to yourself and get some work done….except for one thing – the dreaded sales calls that always seem to flood in every Friday.

“Did you want to improve your water supply – how about a water dispenser?” (no thanks I have plenty of water here, Wales is not a third world country -yet!) ,

“Just wanted to check your printing requirements, got any printing you wanted done?” ( no thanks, I am trying to encourage clients to go green!)

“Hello I have got a great service for you, I cannot tell you straight away what it is, but do you make foreign currency payments?” ( This one I particularly dislike as the phone call is always made by someone who you would not trust your mother’s laundry to – London based bankers with a high opinion of themselves! – sorry all foreign exchange brokers, but you must change your marketing tactics and attitude!!),

“Hi, I work for your local magazine and I have a great opportunity for you that works!” (No thanks, advertising does not often work , what do you mean how do I know? I am a professionally qualified marketing consultant so I know a little about this! Sorry did you hear what I said, I am a marketing consultant….and of course if I had been a doctor giving advice they would have stopped, but they don’t and continue to try to sell me advertising space!! )

and finally the one that never fails to phone on a Friday or indeed any other day of the week – ” Hi, Tony (Mark, Sue, Julie, choose any name you like – I have been contacted so many times) here from Wales’ largest credit report agency can I sell you some marketing data or how about checking your client’s credit history?” (No , No , No, take me off your marketing list and do not phone me ever again…..as steam comes out of my ears!! Strangely I don’t even have to be told who is on the phone , I now have a new inner sense that tells me it’s them ringing again….even if I wanted the service they were offering, I would never look them up as a matter of principle) .

So what is the lesson to be learnt here…..Possibly book Friday out and join your clients on a long weekend or if you are conducting marketing telephone calls – clean up your database and your telephone skills to make the customer experience more enjoyable!

Have a good Friday.

Website design – making sure your website can be seen

Take a look at what we are doing for latest customer Ahed Therapies. website design example

Fed up with their website being totally anonymous we have used our online expertise to ensure that their website is now beating all their competitors and being found on search engines across South Wales and beyond.

Quite simple to do if you know what you are doing…why website design companies don’t do this as a matter of course I will never understand…well actually we do , most website design companies do not understand how to do it as they are graphic designers not website coders. Or they do understand but because it takes some time to do it properly they don’t bother because most customers don’t understand what is required and they get away with it…

Oh of course it also provides them with an opportunity to get more money off their client when the website goes live and they have to undertake that mystical SEO work to get the website to be found!! Scandalous….get your website company to do what they should have done when they built your site and search engine optimise your site – !!

If you want to discuss why your website does not work as you would expect contact us today for a FREE review of your website.  View the Ahed Therapies story here

Extended credit – good sign or bad!

One of our stockists informed me recently that he was being showered with offers of extended credit – 90 days, 60 days, around the world in 80 day deals! The offers were many and varied. extended credit offers in the toy trade

Strangely all the offers he was receiving were dismissed by the stockist. Why well of course it’s simple they were all from companies whose products just were not selling! The reasons for this were many and varied but included the fact that the products were of little interest to shoppers or they were being sold by the supplier on Amazon (I can feel another blog required on this subject alone!) and as a result he was not prepared to sell the product at such low prices  – he has now dropped the latter as a supplier and the gains that the supplier may have made from Amazon sales have all vanished as stockists drop them abruptly.

This is a story we are hearing more and more of…..unfortunately for those suppliers who are offering such credit terms, their continued presence in the market could be very short lived as extended credit increases cash flow problems and eats into profit through the cost of lending to support such activities…I would not be surprised if we lose some suppliers to the UK market unless these suppliers take some quick and positive action to make their product more desirable. It’s a shame because some of the suppliers are major names who have been around for many many years.

So what can we learn from all of this? Well suppliers review your product lines and make them more desirable for the target market. Also ensure you look after your bricks and mortar customers or your profit margins will continue to be eroded. And what about retailers? Whilst extended credit terms sounds attractive, if the stock is left sat on YOUR shelves the problem has been passed to you – so don’t do it!

If you have any comments to make on the above email Paul James at info@steeppingstonesmarketing.co.uk