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.

Forthcoming events we are attending

We love our music at Stepping Stones Marketing and we have a number of great concerts booked in over the coming month. If you have not got your tickets now is the time to make that call…if your not to late:mostly autumn

13th April – The Globe Cardiff – Panic Room

4th May – Motorpoint Arena Cardiff – Rick Wakeman

6th May – Colston Hall Bristol – Jethro Tull

9th May – York – Mostly Autumn, new album acoustic launch event……cannot wait for this one!

15th June – Gloucester Cathedral – Anathema acoustic concert… great venue !

September – Steve Hackett. Cardiff St. David’s Hall.

Tried to fit in Yes , but all the tickets at Bristol sold out!!

And finally if there is anyone out there who happens to have two Kate Bush tickets please ring me now!!!!!!!!!


My favourite memories from childhood

Always one to enjoy pulling together “best of lists” – how about this as my TOP 5 toy and game memories from my youth:Soccerboss

  • My latest football addition….you could never have too many footballs!
  • My weekly comic subscription – Shoot! Which included the classic Billy’s Boots.
  • Snooker Table – one Christmas I had two tables ( 6 x 3 ft and a smaller one 3ft x 2ft..both used, when my Dad went to buy them he got the small one for FREE. I found them in the back of my parent’s bedroom wardrobe about two weeks before Christmas and couldn’t understand why there were two, worrying that I would be left with the smaller one, whilst someone else was getting the big one!)
  • Soccer Boss – Great football league game, the board game version of PC favourite Football Manager!
  • Masterpiece –  a game which appeared at my Grandmothers and we would play only on visits to her house at half term!

Looking at the above, it strikes me that perhaps I was easily pleased back then, or things have just changed an awful lot in this computer age!! Let us know your top 5 toy and games memories and we will share with Blog visitors.

300 new Asda stores – where will they go and do we really need them?

About time the planners in the UK asked some importanmt questions when Asda thinks that we need another 300 stores?

The likes of Lidl and Aldi are slowly bringing the big 4 too a halt, but Asda carries on regardless. Does anyone, live more than 10 minutes from a major supermarket? We don’t need an Asda everywhere especially when there are other stores already available.

The argument is that they will bring more jobs, well they don’t because small independent butchers, newsagents, toy shops, grocers etc. all close and the jobs are lost!

Let me know if you really need a new Asda store in your life! I certainly don’t!

Toys for girls and their career choices – education minister taking easy toy option!

I always take a particular note when an MP  makes a comment on the toy market, whatever their interest or conflict of interest!Girls Toys

Apparently education minister Elizabeth Truss has made a statement that toys could impact on the careers of girls and have a harmful affect. She fears that gender-specific toys in particular could have a negative impact on career opportunities for girls and that their was a risk turning girls off science and maths…urging parents to buy their daughters Lego!

I believe that the problem she highlights of the lack of women entering these careers is much simpler. Unfortunately the main issue is the lack of parental involvement in active play, owners of toy shops all across the UK will be able to recount the stories of the two types of parents who buy toys.

Parent Type One – The Interested Parent. The parent who takes time to consider the play value of the toy and how their child can gain the most from exploring it.

Parent Type Two – The Leave Me Alone Parent. The parent who buys a toy to shut their child up, the toy often being cast aside within minutes. (Harsh but true!)

There are great toys out in the market place ….usually a lot of them not found in the row upon row of plastic on the supermarket shelves …it really is not down to the “gender – specific nature” of the toy, but the “special play nature” of the parent.

Apparently child and family psychologist Margaret McAllister agrees with me!

“It’s a rather superficial approach and all too easy to say encourage girls to play with cars and lorries, and they are more likely to become engineers – there is no real evidence of this”.

McAllister believes encouraging children to explore, question, interact with others and work together has more impact.

Enough said…..anyway it won’t be the first time I have disagreed with a government minister!

If you want to see more on this subject read here



3% Margin on branded toy sales? Whatever next?

A colleague told me a curious tale last week with regards to a toy shop owner he recently met when visiting his store. Two girls playing leap frog

Whilst walking round the store with my colleague , the owner suddenly stopped in his tracks and started to curse and rave about the product located in the prime position in the centre of the store.

“How much do you think we make on these toys?” Sensing the answer to the question was not going to be favourable as at this point the shop owner has steam coming out of his ears and nostrils, my colleague politely responded “I am not sure – 30-35% possibly?”.

The owner retorted ” I wish I did, can you believe I only get 3% margin and I spent £30,000 on the stuff at the Toy Fair!!!” Passing a handkerchief and a packet of Werthers to the shop owner (my colleague swears by them for all upsetting occassions) , my colleague asked the shop owner why on earth he stocked the product!?

“I don’t know, we always have and it seems like we should have the product available – even if we make no money on it…it’s not as if it brings people into the store – I guess I am just taken along by the welcome on the stand at the fair – my ego is always well massaged!!”

There is no need to accept such low margins on products as there are many excellent products available for customers with very high margins, also these products are not available in Tescos and the like and sell in great quantities. Our margins range from around 45% – 65% depending what price the retailer decides to sell the product. We also have some very fast selling lines that would outsell many big brand names and these are great secrets that our stockists keep well hidden to their competitors and order again and again in lareg quantities.

So perhaps now is the time to start reviewing the lines you stock and if you are selling items with such a low margin…..either give them the “old heave ho” or demand more discount!!! Or of course you could look for something unique and which has a strong consumer appeal with excellent margins. I look forward to hearing from you.




Supermarkets are ruining the independent retail toy market – why are we letting it happen?

A funny thing happened to me the other day, I was in my local supermarket shopping with my loved one for the weekly groceries – not something I do very often – and was struck by a very weird sight! shopping trolley retail store

Perusing the toy and gift aisles , as I often do, and moaning and groaning to myself at the ridiculous prices being offered, I spotted a familiar face at the end of the aisle with his shopping trolley overflowing with goods coming towards me. Immediately I could see he was not best pleased to see me and quickly considering whether he could slip away down the cooking and home utensils aisle without it being too obvious. My curiosity however would not let him get away and I made a friendly beeline for the surprised shopper cutting him off at the kitchen whisk and melamine cutlery stand!

“Hello” I said to the shopper with his full trolley, who happened to be the owner of a local toy store. “How are you doing, how is business”. I slowly looked down at his trolley and instead of this weeks groceries he had his trolley loaded up with assorted Lego items, board games and other toys. Embarrassingly he admitted to me that he was stocking up for his shop shelves as the supermarket were selling it at a price lower than he could buy it direct from the manufacturer.

What madness is this….retailers buying stock from a supermarket to stock in their own store. Am I surprised by this …! And I know that many toy shops selling big name brands are doing exactly the acquaintance is not alone in his weekly shopping trip to stock up his shelves!

So who is to blame for this ludicrous state of affairs? The supermarket, the independent retailer ….no I point the finger at the manufacturer and distributors of these toys who are allowing their goods to be sold at ridiculous prices …all for short term gains. At some point the independent retailers and other larger toy stores will say enough is enough and just walk away from these brands (or copy what they have and dump the manufacturer) and move to brands that are not stacked high and sold low! So is it not about time that retailers took up the fight and stopped stocking such brands – many of which only provide a very small margin on the goods sold.

And what about the toy trade press, what do they have to say about this ……well absolutely nothing. They cannot comment as the culprits (the big boys) who allow their products to be sold at such low prices (often under their usual trade prices) are their paymasters! I hope to see the trade press stand up for the small retailer soon…I won’t hold my breath!

Welcome to the Stepping Stones Marketing BLOG

Welcome to the new Stepping Stones Marketing blog, covering all aspects of marketing and the latest going ons in the toy and gift sector.Paul james -Managing Director Stepping Stones Marketing

We hope to provide some interesting and sometimes controversial views on marketing and business matters that perhaps others keep to themselves…if you have any comments that you wish to make please contact us today.

The blog is edited by Paul James, Managing Director of Stepping Stones Marketing Solutions and are personal views related from his own personal experiences!