What do you love most about your job?
Having to be knowledgeable and have a clear understanding of all the facets of retail while understanding international trends, being able to travel to find wonderful, new and exciting products, being able to understand and operate in different cultures.
What qualifies you to be a toy buyer?
The principles in buying are all much the same, no matter what the field. We all buy for the best possible price at the best time and sell at the most competitive price while making the best margins possible. Once you have mastered these basic principles the next thing is to have a passion for your category and with that comes learning the intricacies of the industry. Every industry comes with its own complexities and toys are no different. I love the ever-changing life cycle that comes with the toy industry, feeling the pulse of the international trends that are created. And yes, I love playing with all the new gadgets that are released. My office is the playground in our building. People are always popping in to "test" the latest gadget, so sometimes a closed-door policy becomes an effective way to disappear and get some work done!
What is the most difficult aspect of your job?
The toy industry covers such a vast range of products. I would estimate that if you bought one of every toy available in South Africa, you would have about 10 to 15percent of the toy range available in the world. So the most challenging aspect would be making the decisions of the stock you do not want to keep. Moving out of your customers' pricing comfort zones is also very risky. We haven't delved into "adult toys" yet, that is one negotiation that I haven't managed to win, and somehow I don't think I am going to either.
Technology has been improving at a rapid rate. Has this had an effect on the toy market?
Absolutely. One of the biggest threats facing the toy sector worldwide is the fact that "children are getting older younger". Children embrace technology at a very early age and where many years ago a child of 12 to 14 would still be playing with Barbie dolls, today Barbie dolls are targeted at the 4 to 6 year olds and 14 year olds want laptops, mobile phones and Wii games. Toy manufactures are grasping the idea that technology must be put into toy brands if we want to keep children interested. Although they are still at price premium, Disney branding can be found on laptops, mobile phones, and many other technology advanced products. The toy market sector has been eroded by Sony PlayStation, Wii, cellphones, computer gaming and robotics.
Do you travel as part of your job?
I have had the privilege of travelling to some very interesting countries, cities and small villages. Toys demand much the same amount of travel locally and internationally.
Are most of your toys imported or made locally?
The majority are imported from Asia, but we do have a few smaller suppliers in South Africa who we support as much as we can.
Christmas is coming. Give us a scoop on some of the hot favourites for this year
There will be a few depending on age group, but by far the best brand will be Disney and within that portfolio the highest performers will be High School Musical, Hannah Montana and Disney's hottest new addition to their repertoire, Camp Rock.
Then a few fantastic lines that every child has to have, the full function remote-controlled car and a beautiful doll named Butterfly Kisses. She smells like a real baby and has 10 really cool baby functions. We also have the most awesome little helicopter called Sky Beez. It's ideal for learning to fly as a novice or for the businessman who needs some distraction from his or her daily routine.
How large is the toy section in Game stores? What is the price range?
Toys hold a small percentage of the floor space of an average store, but over the festive season this increases dramatically to hold the volumes of toys we carry over this period. We have adopted and tailor made our ranges to suit our customer profiles, depending on the area our stores are located in and how the customers react to different categories of toys and also different prices.
Do people tend to spend a lot of money on toys?
Yes they do. Every child will be spoilt at a different level. This year we believe customers will be looking for "value for money" toys at reasonable prices.