For some businesses, trying to keep up with the modern retail world is a daily chore.
Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop has to do just that. Louise Heard, its current owner, has been working there since she was 16.
“I worked for the people that opened it in the 1980s,” says Heard. “You’re born into it and once you’re in it, you’re hooked.”
The toyshop first opened in Hoxton in the nineteenth century but moved to its current Covent Garden location in the 1980s.
Heard calls running and working in the shop a certain type of madness: “It becomes a family. There is a loyalty to it. We are strangely obsessed with what we do.”
Heard believes that the less old-fashioned businesses there are, the more people want them. “People love the history and admire that it’s still running,” says Heard.
Stay within your niche, stay true to what you are but embrace tech
The shop sells toy theatres, handmade music boxes, dolls, puppets and books.
But it is difficult for a place that focuses on more antique products to compete with a world that is so focused on the new.
“We try to move with the times,” says Heard. It uses a website and social media to help keep the shop in the now.
However, she says the infusion of young people working in the shop helps keep the energy going. She specifically connects the longevity of the shop to the passing down of the business through the generations. Not necessarily to blood relatives, but to the family inside the toyshop.
Heard bought the business in 2008. She believes that old-fashioned businesses really do have some advantages over newer businesses and startups.
“You don’t have the layers of history and you can’t manufacture that,” says Heard. “Old-fashioned can typically be connected to authentic.”
She says it is a struggle but people can do it. Offering some advice for other people interested in old-fashioned business she says: “Stick your elbows out, stay within your niche, stay true to what you are but embrace tech.”