Little Treasures Toy Shop - Lancashire Business Profile

Doreen Crowther reports from a treasure trove toy shop in Ramsbottom

There’s treasure to be found in Ramsbottom, but it’s not hidden. The super-sized robot in the window of the Little Treasures toy shop on Bolton Street, the 16ft dragon suspended from the ceiling inside and the giant gingerbread house all vie for attention.

And this family business that specialises in children’s fantasy furniture and top quality toys has had such an impact since it opened in April last year that it has been judged the Best Independent Toy Shop in the North and Scotland.

The accolade, and a trophy, came from the British Toy and Hobby Association and the Toy Retailers’ Association, and delighted owners Caroline Duthie and Jamie Donnelly who live in Rawtenstall with children Charlie (12), Erin (three) and Evie (six months).

A spokeswoman for the British Toy and Hobby Association, which judged the nominations, said: ‘Little Treasures had an outstanding entry with the judges agreeing that the store was bright and inviting for customers and the imagination used to display and promote toys was original and exceedingly well done.’

Caroline and Jamie opened their first shop in Rawtenstall in 2006 when they realised they could not find the toys of the quality they wanted for Charlie and Erin. ‘We decided that if we couldn’t find something nice and a bit different, then other people couldn’t either so we decided to open a shop ourselves,’ Caroline says.

So without any retail experience - Caroline was a purchase ledger manager - she ran the shop which Jamie, a cabinet maker, fitted out. The move to bigger premises in Ramsbottom was a success and they now employ two assistants. As well as working on plans for re-fitting the shop, Jamie makes the bespoke fantasy furniture, which is a hit with youngsters, and it is easy to appreciate why this is.

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Primarily, the shop was opened to sell a range of stimulating toys including top brands such as Le Toy Van, Djeco, Haba, Lilliputiens, The Puppet Company, Moulin Roty, Fashion Angels and many more. They plan to introduce some other well-known makes such as Lego. But they realised there was also a demand for creative children’s furniture.

The ethos of the business is that every child has a fantasy place, person or a special dream and that fantasy becomes reality at Little Treasures.

So a little girl who yearns to be a princess may go to sleep in a princess carriage or a fairytale castle while small boys would probable prefer a safari adventure bed, pirate ship or racing car.

We decided that if we couldn’t find something nice and a bit different, then other people couldn’t either so we decided to open a shop ourselves

Jamie may design whole bedrooms - wardrobes, desks, toy boxes etc - and at home Little Erin has a princess carriage while Charlie opted for a space ship bedroom. Baby Evie has a solid oak cot ready for her.

Sometimes the customer comes up with a theme or, Jamie, a memberof the Guild of Master Craftsman, may visit a home and suggest a design that suits a particular bedroom. But he insists that standards are high onthe quality of wood used and the number of hand applied layers ofnon-toxic paint and varnish applied. Such perfection does not come cheap.

The cost of a bed may range from �700 to �2,500. But obviously some people are happy to pay for top quality. And among them, perhapsnot surprisingly, are professional footballers. Caroline is too discreet to name them though. Caroline says: ‘We believe we are the only shop which has that quality and range of furniture in the country.’

Among the toys the wooden dolls houses cost from between �80 to �120 and were the shop’s best selling items last Christmas. Boys liked the castles, which range from �35 to �110. But there other quality toys in the shop, which are not so expensive. Caroline has not only kept a loyal clientele from Rawtenstall, but as well as local customers has attracted trade from London. ‘Every day we are getting new people in and are building up our client base,’ she says. ‘Parents want toys that will last and say they are sick of things that break easily.’

The shop is very child friendly and Caroline is happy for the children to play with toys. ‘Sometimes children go into shops and are told not to touch anything. But children learn through play,’ she says

While Caroline and Jamie continue to work hard in Ramsbottom, they hope eventually to have three shops, perhaps even another one next year. While, obviously, Caroline and Jamie are running the business to make a living it is also a labour of love. They say: ‘One reaction from a child on seeing his completed bedroom for the first time was ‘It’s better than Christmas’ and this is the pleasure we strive to give all our customers.’

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