My Life in British Toy Shops

Toys shops. A big part of the shopping experience for many. For some they evoke fond memories, largely because unl6iek other shops they are rarely boring!

In this article I am going to focus on the toyshops that have made an impact on me here in the UK. Note that at first the articles will focuses on toy store chains, I’ll save independent toyshops for after this set of posts.

The Entertainer online

The Entertainer

The largest toy shop chain in rhe UK, step foward The Entertainer. The birth of this shop can be traced back to when owner Gary Grant took over The Pram and Toy bar, a store located Amersham way, in 1981. The stores name was thanks ro Catherine, Gary’s wife.

As a kid I used to love this shop. As I got older, not so much. The main reason for the change was because The Entertainer stopped selling Pokemon merchandise, I never found out the details but my understanding is the chain fell out with the distributors of Pokemon merc. And as a big Pokemon collector I naturally had to choose other toy stores for my Pokefix.

Of course this chain is not a stranger to being at odds with big franchises. The founder of The Entertainer is a devoted Christian and believes that the shop shouldn’t stock Harry Potter toys as they promote evil, through the characters use of magic. I respect the values of the company, and that they are willing to loose a lot of money for their beliefs. However,  I question the logic when The Entertainer also sells The Lord of The Rings merchandise. And they have sold toy guns and swords which personally I would see as being more of a potential issue then a series all about good beating evil. Magic is there to make it fun, but ironically I would say the values of Harry Potter are pretty ‘Christian’.

As someone who worked in The Entertainer,  I can tell you one of the most common questions was ‘where are the Harry Potter toys?’ Also, as a side note, whilst I worked with some nice people I wouldn’t say they were the best retail company to work for. Silly rules and big on pressure selling with little other benefits to sum up in a nutshell!

The Entertainer brought up Early Learning Centre stores, and they always had a no toy gun policy so it’s interesting they go against this.

I brought a few bargains over the years in The Entertainer,  the best I can remember was a 24 Board Game (based on the real-time series), I don’t remember it’s price but it was on sale for a few pounds. I loved that franchise so really enjoyed it.

Also some Pokemon The First Movie cards, which I have now in a binder, on sale for I think £1 instead of likely a few pounds. This would have been sometime after the movie was released. There prices were about average for most items but I caught quite a lot of stuff being overpriced by a fair bit

.Older, classic toys that they continued to stock could definitely be found cheaper elsewhere. And they didn’t seem to have great sales as much as the years went by.

As I got older I found that the store seemed to have less collectibles and be more about toys to play with, which is of course fair enough, but as a collector that didn’t suit me as mich. I think since 2020 with collectibles at an all-time high, they have increased the range again in the last few years. You’ll certainly find an extensive range of Pop! Vinyl figures in any branch. You’ll also find a selection of the latest crazes. They are always stocked neatly and clearly but the store layout really lacks the fun of other toy shops.

The branches I visited most growing up were in Essex, with Romford being the most common (and the one I would later take a Christmas job at), Ilford and Lakeside also being heavily attended. The Entertainer stores tended to be small so you wouldn’t find the range of say a Toys R Us or Smyths. They have offered Click and Collect for a long time which many take.advantag3 of. And because of the stores typical size you wouldn’t find impressive displays like the mentioned rivals specialise in or large items for sale like bikes, although they stock some kids scooters.

The Entertainer doesn’t open on Sunday again a choice made by the founder in line with his Christian views. I respect this move, and at least staff members know they will get at least part of their weekend free! If I was being cynical I would point out how they make you work long hours through the Christmas period hardly having any of this Christian holiday free. I know I sound a bit bitter but I think it’s a fair point and it’s a reason I went off the brand, they are quite hypocritical.

As hinted at, I wouldn’t say their prices are particularly competitive and no stand out deals are usually to be found. They are an established brand that people trust and I think that’s why they do fine within the high street where they are usually placed (you’ll find some in shopping centres across the UK, too).

The Entertainer likes to have staff demo toys in store which is fun for the kids from time to time and said staff are usually, in my experience, offering friendly customer service, although looking at reviews online a lot of people haven’t found the same thing!

Overall, an OK toy shop but not one that holds the same magical, fun and special feelings as other shops I’ll be featuring next!

What are you thoughts on The Entertainer?






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