As a child, Kylie Watts used to wander around an enchanted wonderland, feasting her eyes on all manner of toys, books and games. The wonderland was Mainly Toys. Fast-forward a couple of decades and two young children of her own - and Kylie is now the proud owner of that very same toy shop.
How did you come to own Mainly Toys?
It was more an opportunity that arose. I was on maternity leave from the corporate world with my first child when the shop came up for sale. Running a toy shop gave me more flexibility with a young child, and a second just around the corner!
Your mum Raewyn works in the shop. Is it a family business?
Rae plays a huge role in the smooth running of the store, and in many ways is the glue that binds everything together. We also have a fabulous team around us, headed up by Jess, our store manager. Interestingly, it was through mum working at Mainly Toys that I was made aware the store was up for sale. Given this solid relationship, the previous owners knew they could entrust us with their "baby".
Why did you move Mainly Toys to Remuera?
Whilst our Mt Eden store was a magical place for children, with its nooks and crannies, it wasn't so practical for their mums who were pushing the prams! It's a big decision to fix something that isn't broken but in Remuera we have a much more customer-friendly layout, and we are part of the village, rather than just being a 'destination shop' like we were in Mt Eden.
What was your favourite toy as a child, and do you stock it in Mainly Toys now?
Toy cars with traffic play mats. I probably got into them because my younger brother wouldn't play dolls with me, but they became a firm favourite. We stock a huge range of them now, just different brands.
Which toys do you think have 'stood the test of time' and are still popular today?
Lego defiinitely. Also Sylvanian Families.
You have two small children. How do you stop them from wanting to take toys home all the time?
At first they wanted to bring everything home, but the novelty soon wore off - which was great for removing the clutter from my lounge! Now when they come into the shop they'd far rather play "grown-ups" and help behind the counter. They're handy to have around when it comes to trialling new products though, as it means we can give our customers first-hand knowledge and reviews.
Would you like to keep the shop in the family when your kids grow up?
They are only 5 and 3 years old now so there's a while to go before that could happen. They have a great time helping our customers now, when they're in the store with Mum. For now, they're learning some great life lessons through watching mum and also through their own experiences in-store. I like to think the business is growing as they do!
How tough is the toy market, when you are competing with online and overseas retailers?
The market is definitely challening, but our product range is unique - quality educational toys with the fun factor. We steer clear of fads and licensed merchandise, and people appreciate seeing toys from the past... albeit modernised and brighter coloured. And we have exceptional customer service! Our customers often pop into the store on their way to a birthday party, have a quick chat and are out the door again in five or ten minutes with a beautifully wrapped gift they know will be a hit!
Do you have future plans for Mainly Toys?
The shop is like my 3rd child, and I'm still nurturing it and establishing our footing in the new location. We're keeping busy meeting our new customers and learning their needs, so we don't have any huge expansion plans - yet! Given that my mantra is "never say never"... well, you never know what could happen in the future.
Tell us three things about yourself that people might be surprised to know.
Part of my childhood was spent in Singapore, I grew up wanting to be an air hostess, and whilst I've done nothing amazing like swim the Cook Strait, I was the school discus champion at primary!
Mainly Toys, 333 Remuera Road
Ph: 09 638 6318 www.mainlytoys.co.nz
Photography by Vanita Andrews and words by Fiona Wilson