Business brothers bounce back from covid closure with new toy venture after supplier price hikes

A brother and business partner duo suffered a devastating blow when they had to close their bedroom furniture store following the covid-19 pandemic.

Paul and Michael Johnson launched PM Beds and Furniture store, in Stockton, in 2019 but it was forced to close its doors for the majority of last year.

When it reopened after the third lockdown, the brothers discovered that their suppliers had either gone bust or hiked their prices.

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But the entrepreneurs have bounced back after spending six months working on a new business venture.

And they’re hoping to delight Teesside’s children, and the young at heart, with their brand new toy store.

Speaking about the difficult decision to close their previous shop, 40-year-old Paul said: “We would have like to have kept it going, but we were literally going weeks without seeing any customers.

“We tried to eke it out as best we could, but we knew it wasn’t going to work.

“So we thought we would try something new and something that’s always been of massive interest to us.”

Dundas Street in Middlesbrough town centre

PM Toys and Collectables, which is now open at the Dundas Indoor Market in Middlesbrough town centre, is a mixture of new and vintage.

It sells all the classic toys and games which generations of children have loved, and for grown-ups it is offering collectable toys and figures which have a sentimental, ornamental or financial value.

Business is in the brothers’ blood as their late father ran a string of shops across Teesside, including the Used Furniture and Appliance Warehouse in Stockton.

The whole of the indoor market, let alone the toy shop, could easily fit into the family’s previous outlets but Paul and Michael have applied the same tried and trusted retail principles to their new venture.

“It’s all about knowing your margins, identifying your customer base and picking the right location,” said Michael who believes there is a huge demand for toys.

“Kids are always going to play with something tangible rather than being sat at a screen all the time, and at the same time parents will be buying the toys they liked when they were young for their children.”

Boys, girls, parents and grandparents have plenty of choice with the shop’s shelves full of Lego, Disney dolls, Play-Doh, Hot Wheels, Barbies, Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Ninja Turtles, Masters of the Universe, K’NEX and classic board games such as Monopoly, Connect 4 and Mousetrap.

‘They don’t make toys like they used to’

“There aren’t many places you can go now and look at toys. We’ve tried to get a bit of everything for everybody,” said Paul.

“Even though it’s our business we love toys as much as anybody else. We think the classics are best.

“They don’t make toys like they used to.”

He continued: “We’re not going to know how the business is doing until we get near Christmas

“If it goes well then, we would like to expand.”

PM Toys and Collectables joins a number of other new businesses at the indoor market.

Like the Johnsons, Dave Worton is bringing his experience and expertise from a career in retail to his Inspire Photography Services studio.

Simply Babywear is providing a much-needed service, particularly for parents of premature babies, and Baby Beautiful has made a seasonal return selling collectable baby dolls and accessories.

Market manager David Harris said after the dark days of lockdown it was great to welcome new traders, long-standing traders and shoppers.

He said: “I’m certain Paul and Michael’s shop is going to attract a lot of customers and that’s going to be good news for all of the businesses we have here.

“I’m always keen to hear from local people who are genuinely interested in joining our independent traders.

“If there’s one small positive to come out of the pandemic, it’s the number of people who have decided to focus on what they really want to do for a living and we’re here to support them.”

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