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The Entertainer store Hanley store front header2.jpg
The Entertainer store Hanley store front.jpg
UK News

Christian businessman Gary Grant on leading 2,000 of his staff through the 'most traumatic three months' of his career

by Cara Bentley

The Christian owner of major toy shop chain The Entertainer has told Premier it "has been the most traumatic three months in 39 years" of business but he is trying to prioritise his staff and be fair to the company's stakeholders despite all the financial uncertainty. 

Gary Grant started the business in 1981 and runs it with a Christian ethos, allowing staff to spend Sundays with their families, putting Biblical nativity scenes in his shop windows and giving millions to charity.  

With all 170 stores closed and no sign of them re-opening any time soon, Premier spoke to him about how he was coping with all the staffing, financial and business decisions he's had to make because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

He explained that just before lockdown The Entertainer made all toys half-price to allow parents to buy toys while schools were closed and to build a buffer of cash in order to pay staff for the next few weeks. 

"They're now on full pay to the end of May. It's costing a lot more money than the Government is giving us to give our staff full pay but what I don't want to be doing is, on the one hand, supporting foodbanks and, on the other, sending my staff down the foodbank. That for many of them will be the option - cut in income, can't afford to pay the bills, queue up to get the food at the foodbank - and that's not what I want for my staff."

He said he is well aware of his Christian witness as a business owner, asking himself: "Have we behaved fairly? Do our staff think we've behaved in an honourable, fair way? Are we being fair in the way we are dealing with all of our stakeholders?"

He added that being "fair" in the current circumstances couldn't necessarily mean every party in a business being able to honour their former contracts, but "all supporting each other, not somebody wins and somebody loses," adding that he is hoping to work with all the same landlords, suppliers and third parties again by keeping up good long-term relationships with them. 

Mr Grant, who became a Christian after founding the business with his wife Catherine, explained that much of their supply chain has currently been changed to help those in poverty: "The Entertainer is working with the Trussell Trust, the Christian foodbanks that operate at 1,200 locations around the country. We're using our main distribution centre in Banbury, which normally is shipping our 40 artics (lorries) of toys a week, it's now shipping out 40 artics of food a week."

Speaking about the future, he said browsing and kids running around toy shops could become "a thing of the past" if social distancing is applied long-term, with selling also being slower as people will simply shop for what they need and leave the store as quickly as possible.

When asked what he would appreciate prayer for, he replied: "I want to pray that my staff are well and that their families are well".  He also asked for an agreement to be reached with landlords and for the company to be a good witness to stakeholders.

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