The Entertainer Opening New UK stores, Expanding International Markets

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Toy retailer The Entertainer plans to expand to 165 stores by year-end in the UK, up from the current 149, growth that is being fueled by sales of licensed toys that account for the majority of the chain’s sales, Head of Buying and Merchandising Mark Whittle said yesterday during a LIMA-sponsored tour of the chain’s newly renovated 4,000-sq. ft. flagship store in the Westfield Mall in London. 

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Mark Whittle of The Entertainer speaks to licensing executives touring the chain’s flagship as part of LIMA’s Bricks and Clicks event

At same time, the company continues to expand in international markets via franchising, but has no plans to enter the U.S. (despite some media reports to the contrary, he said. The Entertainer has 15 franchised stores in Azerbaijan, Malta, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Cypress, Pakistan, Egypt, Macedonia and Albania and is focusing on less competitive and less developed markets without the access to toys afforded major metro regions, says Whitten. It also recently opened 59 “Totally Toys” departments within stores of British fashion and homegoods retailer Matalan.

In addition to sales of licensed toys, The Entertainer also has supplier exclusives and a separate Addo Division that designs and sources private label and DTRs.

For example, it licenses the Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. brands for Experimate (fizzy bath bombs, bath salts) and Ready Steady Dough (pizza and crazy character playsets) products, respectively. It also has a Pitter Patter Pets private label brand (walking unicorn and walk along puppy spaniel). 

Among its UK exclusives this fall is Pinkfong’s Baby Shark plush toy based on a children’s song and dance video about a family of sharks that has gained 1.8 billion views on YouTube since being released in June 2016. The private label, exclusives and DTRs account for about 10 percent of chain’s annual revenue. The Entertainer also recently revamped its web site, which accounts for about 20 percent of annual sales, says Whittle.

While The Entertainer didn’t initially experience an increase in sales as Toys R Us closed in the UK, its locations near former Toys R Us stores are “starting to see some benefit,” something that will likely peak during the holiday selling season, says Whittle.

Collectibles have been The Entertainer’s top-selling items this year, led by MGA Entertainment’s L.O.L. Surprise, sales of which Whittle expects will peak in 2019. L.O.L. Surprise has spawned a strong licensing program and collectibles in general have benefitted from product unboxing videos that have proved popular on YouTube and other sites, says Whittle. The increase in collectibles has helped offset a decline in film- and TV-licensed items, sales of which were “quite soft” in 2017, but have showed signs of improvement this year says Whittle. 

The Entertainer renovated the Westfield location earlier this year, adding wider aisles and LCD displays in the front windows to highlight properties. 

Contacts:

The Entertainer, Mark Whittle, Head of Buying and Merchandising, +44 333 320 5100, mark.whittle@theentertainer.com