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Don't panic-buy but do support your high street, says Christian toy-shop boss

by Donna Birrell

A number of industries have reported problems with making deliveries - with a backlog of containers at some of the UK's shipping ports.

And some toy manufacturers are going against government advice and are encouraging parents to shop early this year.

So how should we respond to this from a Christian perspective?

Gary Grant is the Christian founder of The Entertainer chain of toy shops. Premier asked him how he'd answer people who are worried they might not get gifts for Christmas:

"I would say don't panic. We've had supply chain issues all year, there's been huge delays in stock leaving China. By late August, we had over 350 containers just sitting in factories and no containers to put them in. It has now improved and most stock is on the way. The problem is now a lot of stuff is backing up in the UK ports. It's not necessarily the ports' problem, there just aren't enough lorry drivers to bring the containers from the ports to our warehouse to be unloaded so they can be distributed to the shops.

"Plus there is this little thing called Christmas and therefore when things are late, they're late. During the year if things are late, it doesn't actually affect things, but Christmas is very critical. Delays now will make a difference as to whether we've got full shops or partially full shops as we go into the most critical time of the year."

Gary Grant

Despite the problems, Gary Grant is keen to reassure people there won't be empty shops during the festive season:

"Will there be empty shops on Christmas Eve? No, there won't. The toy shops on Christmas Eve will have a full range of stock, but they'll have much narrower ranges this Christmas than we've had over the years, so it is going to be a challenge."

Gary Grant founded his retail chain when he was just 22 in 1981. It is now one of the country's biggest toy retailers with over 170 stores. He says recent scenes of panic-buying at petrol stations was "just ridiculous" but he is appealing for people to support their local high streets after a very difficult time:

"Whether it is our business or any other retail high street business, we've been through the most traumatic 18 months that any retailer in any business can go through. It will be a challenge if we now have a very disappointing Christmas of 2021 because we've survived Covid but we have definitely not thrived.

 

"There were times in the early parts of April and May of 2020 when I actually thought we wouldn't survive as a business. I actually thought, this is it - this is the end of it, all our shops are closed. The income from our internet site was good, but it wasn't enough to maintain our business at the current level. But we've laid nobody off, we stood by our staff as a team and 2,000 members of staff were practically fully paid during the pandemic. 

"We need a good Christmas, so it might be 'Can I buy less, Should I buy less?' But I would encourage people to go back to the high street. The shops need you. If you value your local communities, use your local shops, it is absolutely critical. A lot of them are literally hanging on. They need a good Christmas this year to survive."

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