My name is Chris and my partner Julia Keeling owns a card shop. This is not the opening of group therapy but rather an introduction to my world. I’m fast approaching 40 and one day I might one day even feel like an adult. Sure I have many grown up responsibilities: A mortgage, work commitments but no kids like many of my peers. Just three rabbits, which sometimes seem just as much work. The burdens and pressures of the modern world.
Modern Life is Rubbish
A common phrase that pops up online is: First World problems. The things that we worry about due to the lack of more pressing concerns. The shop running out of semi-skinned milk, earphones getting tangled in our designer handbags or even the ice-cream van not coming far enough up the road. We exist in a bubble of fads, fashion and pop-up adverts. Teased with shiny new things whilst remaining comfortably numb. To complain about life’s problems or missing out of the latest gadget is troublesome to me. So yes, modern life isn’t rubbish but rather good.
This article was originally written a few months again, only to slip down the back of my virtual sofa. Deciding to stick my hand down the cushions, I was pleasantly surprised to find this article hiding on my memory stick (I call him Little Bob, the memory stick that is).
It seems this article is more relevant than ever in the light of the Fidget Spinner invasion. I’ve seen gift shops, petrol stations and even the humble fruit & veg shop trying to flog this latest toy craze. Honestly they’re a mystery to me. Maybe that’s the point. As a 30 plus bloke I’m hardly the target audience. Yet despite my Fidget Spinner apathy I’d still like to think I’m cool and down with kids.
Promoting the shop online means I have to engage with social media. The daily memes, moans and moments that my family and friends share on Facebook. The Tweets in there thousands that flash by in seconds. So, yes I’m relatively socially media savvy. To a degree.
I have no idea how Snap Chat works. No idea who the Ikea Monkey is. I’ve never watched an episode of Love Island and couldn’t tell you who’s at number one in the music chart (I’m a vinyl man, another current craze that’s been picked up by everyone from HMV to Sainsbury). I’m not in denial but I’m sure the younger generation has moved on from Morph and He-Man.
The Next Big Thing
Which presents a problem for anyone running a gift shop. How to know what will be the next big craze. The next Frozen, Pokémon Go and Minions. To jump on the bandwagon without doing your research could be dangerous thing. How many shops had One Direction balloons with the full line up after Zayn Malik decided to leave?
The films that failed to hit big. Just look at how the BFG under performed at the box office. The combination of a classic novel and Steven Spielberg losing out to a forgetful fish and the might of Pixar with Finding Dory. The risk of shelves full of lunch boxes, mugs and toys gathering dust and taking up valuable space.
Some brands will of course stand the test of time. Thomas the Tank Engine may no longer have a Fat Controller but he’s still going full stream ahead. My brother recently requested Postman Pat gifts for my nephew. ‘Its all about Pat” was the message. Dinosaurs have survived extinction. We stock a great range of soft dino toys from Suki Gifts. I even brought myself a three-foot T-Rex from the NEC Spring Fair.
Always be Batman
Batman remains as big as ever since his first appearance in the pages of Detective Comics in May 1939. He may have been reinvented for the times but the Dark Knight is still recognisable to your Parents and Grandparents. Which is an important point to remember. The gift buyer must have some knowledge of the brand too.
We sell Hallmarks Itty Bittys and the most popular characters are the classics: Darth Vader and Yoda, Batman and Superman. We love the Itty Bittys at Wishes. They might just be my personal favourite gift at the moment but The Joker will always out sell the Flash (Well until the JLA movie comes out). Still with Hallmark encouraging the collection of the whole range and younger customers returning to the high street, these lesser-known characters are sure to find a market too.
Others have fallen on hard times. Bob the Builder’s struggling for work, Ben Ten is now middle aged and the sun is setting in the sky and the Teletubbies have said good-bye. Even the mighty Simpsons are no longer the marketing giant it once was (Now its all about Adventure Time). These characters may come back as big as ever.
Retro is Cool
In recent years we’ve seen Charlie Brown, Danger Mouse and my childhood favourite the Thundercats relaunched with vary degrees of success. At Wishes we completely missed the Shopkins craze. Beanie Babies took over the world before Julia owned the shop but with the market so saturated would they have been worth taking a risk on?
We have Frozen balloons and gift bags but so does every shop on our high street including the big chains. The search for a quick sale makes it easy to rush to join the latest revolution.
Take Pokémon Go. Within a week of its launch Pokémon Go had topped Twitter for daily users and had more engagement than Facebook. Those are crazy figures and it’s only recently many people had wrote Nintendo off. I’ve had promotional tie ins from a major printing company offering a free download of “Poképack” full of promotional template and our local Tattoo studio has been quick to promote Pikachu tattoos. I’ve yet to check if Wishes is a PokéStop and so far we’ve resisted ordering a crate of plush toys.
Will it last?
Should we be filling our shelves with Pokémon cards and gifts?
It’s a difficult decision to make. (Editors note: There’s no doubt that in August 2017 the Pokémon bubble has burst or at least slightly deflated).
Brave New World
We live in a fast moving world. Defined by Hash Tags, Viral Videos and short attention spans. A generation living and viewing through their phones. As a nearly 40 year old it’s strange to see yourself as out of date. Perhaps it’s about trusting our suppliers and believing in our own instincts. To listen to our customers and see what they are asking for.
To not be afraid of trying something new. Maybe just a small order at first to see how it goes and grows. To know the areas where our shops are based. Will a bloke from Barnsley would use a Minion mug for his Yorkshire Tea. Do you know your market and area as much as the trends and fashions of the whole world. Are you willing to give the new and wonderful characters a chance. To have the self-awareness to know that we don’t know it all. That The Flash is cool and that Bob Builder will once again get his tool belt back on. To stay forever young no matter the numbers on our birthday cards.