The Challenge and Success of 2020-21

Update -

The Challenge and Success of 2020-21

As the festive period rapidly approaches us and 2021 fades into a distant memory (even though 2019 feels like yesterday!), I feel it appropriate to provide our wonderful customers an insight into the toy industry, our current plans, and ways our independent business has changed in such a small period of time. 

It doesn’t seem too long ago that we were just a small store in our home city of Portsmouth, servicing the geek community that resides here, who had welcomed us with open arms, we had no idea we would become an online retailer servicing thousands of people around the world! However, the global COVID-19 pandemic forced our hand. By uploading a few products online, we had blown up almost overnight... Now this is fantastic for any small business, however, the infrastructure and people power just weren’t there. Because of this we have, over the past year, been opened up to a number of issues in a number of areas; packing & fulfilment, warehouse & inventory management, marketing, and customer services – all areas our little store never had to tackle.

Since then, we have been working hard to expand our operations, and change our entire business model to service our customers. This involved a number of changes, including the mass hiring of passionate individuals to lead and develop the key areas that needed improvement; packing & fulfilment, warehouse & inventory management, marketing, and customer services. There are a few creases still left to be ironed out, but as always, we are fully devoted to trying to improve and deliver the best collector experience we possibly can. There are though, a few issues we are incapable of tackling.

Despite restrictions here in the UK being entirely lifted, our planet is still feeling the force of this global pandemic. Manufacturing, logistics, freight and shipping are all still experiencing a delay like no other. Our expectations of fast convenience can no longer be met and the strain is being felt by retailers, distributors and manufacturers. Products can’t be made fast enough, products can’t be distributed fast enough, products can’t be received by customers fast enough. As the months drawer closer to Christmas, this stone will ripple throughout all industries even more than it is now.

I would like to emphasise the point that all pre-orders are guaranteed, if we cannot supply an item we will cancel orders, but pre-order delays are completely out of our control. The ETAs displayed on our site are all that we are provided by manufacturers and suppliers, but in this climate, it’s almost a lottery as to when we will receive an item. We understand the frustration when other stores receive products first, in an ideal world all retailers would receive the items they have ordered at the same time! We want nothing more than to ship all pre-orders, but as always, the bigger retailers will always receive products first. We are working with brand new suppliers and taking on even more manufacturers directly to ensure that we receive stock as soon as we can.

We are also working on improving our ETA update system to allow us to rapidly update ETAs on our product pages as and when we receive an updated ETA for an overdue product. This is starting to roll out, and older pre-orders will continue to use our legacy ETA list page until these are transferred to our new system. As great as new systems are, they take some time to implement.

Along with mass delays, come mass cancellations, as an independent business, cancellations are unfortunately one of the hardest challenges to face. Even though an item is cancelled, we still have to pay for it. While we appreciate that many customers are excited to receive their awesome collectible, we would like to remind customers that on the other end of an email is a person, and abuse to our customer service team will not be tolerated. Also, we’d like to personally thank every customer who has remained supportive and incredibly patient throughout our expansion, it means the world to our passionate team and really makes someone's day.

We have a great number of exciting events lined up for the rest of the year; we have a talented team working on something very special for Halloween, our Portsmouth store celebrates its third anniversary, with our Salisbury store celebrating its first! We’ll be bringing our full range to London Film and Comic Con which is taking place between 19 - 21 November, a Black Friday sale is being planned, and our love for the festive period will be expanding into new and exciting territories. Keep an eye on our social media channels and subscribe to our email newsletter, these are all not to be missed!

Once again, none of this would be possible without you all, we are forever humbled by the support we’ve received and the friendships grown throughout this experience. We’d like to also thank everyone for being so patient and helping us grow as a company, we are always looking at ways to improve and will continue to throughout our journey. 2022 will be a very exciting year for Sonner Toys!

 

Harry Strevens

Managing Director