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Mum gave up police career to launch Barrowford toy business
2:56pm Wednesday 11th April 2012 in Barrowford
IT’S a dilemma familiar to many parents; where do you find a toy that doesn’t appear to be either a computer game or run on batteries.
Beth France took matters into her own hands when it was son Harry’s second birthday in 2010, and it has proved a huge success.
“Harry’s birthday is on December 21 so we faced the added problem of finding both birthday and Christmas presents at the same time,” said Beth, 29.
“We really wanted to find him some proper toys but everything seemed to be made of plastic or electronic which got my husband Dave and I began thinking there might be a gap in the market.”
From that initial spark, Beth began to look seriously at the idea of setting up her own toy shop.
“We talked to all our friends with children and looked around on the internet and it became more obvious that we might be on to something.”
When the former Nat West bank in Barrowford went on the market, that was the final piece in the jigsaw.
Beth left her job in the police force and last March, Timeless Toys opened for business.
“It was all a bit frantic,” said Beth. “We basically did everything in a month including ordering all the stock and refurbishing the premises.”
Now, 12 months on, Beth is in the running for a young entrepreneur award and received a surprise boost from one of the stars of Dragon’s Den Theo Paphitis.
“Theo has an initiative called Small Business Sunday when businesses can tweet him between 5pm and 7.30pm on a Sunday, he reads them all and re-tweets just six.
“I sent him details of our business at the weekend and by 10 o’clock my laptop was going crazy with the amount of messages and hits we were getting having been selected.
“In two days we’ve got over 200 new followers and loads of inquiries.”
Beth runs the shop full time with help from husband Dave.
“Harry’s involved too,” she said, “he’s our chief toy tester. It does pose a few problems at Christmas though because he has seen everything we have in the shop so we have to work hard to find a surprise present.”
Beth is proud of the fact that Timeless Toys only has one battery-operated item in the whole shop – a little wooden train display that runs around a wooden track all day.
“When we started we thought most of the business would be via the internet site but actually we’ve had more people coming in to the shop.
“I think people do want toys that allow children to use their imagination,” said Beth. “Now we’re just over a year old we’re just beginning to see parents coming back for a second birthday present which is good.
“Very often parents will come in and see which toys grab their child’s attention before they buy, we don’t have a ‘no touching’ rule here.”
Dads its seems are particularly prone to nostalgia when it comes to the wooden toys Beth stocks.
“We get quite a few of them who seem taken by the wooden train sets and the castles,” she said.
Since opening, the pirate ship has been the shop’s best seller with tea trays and breakfast sets proving popular recently.
“I think families love the idea of traditional toys that everybody can join in with,” said Beth.