Ducklings’ new owners take on the challenge of providing toy shop magic

Written by Gerald Isaaman.

A truly traditional independent toy shop where children can roam, touch and play with toys and feel they are in their own magic land.

That is the aspiring aim of the new owners of Ducklings, the toyshop in Hilliers Yard, Marlborough, which was put up for sale after its dedicated owner, Chris Birkett, was taken seriously ill last year.

“Buying this place is one of the best thing we ever did,” says Janice Pattison (pictured), who has bought the store with her husband Colin. “It’s an opportunity that fits with what we both want to do and connects with our family.”

“The recession?  That’s a challenge.  We can’t sit on our bottoms and let the economic situation takeover.  We’re going to be fighting it here and establishing a shop that will not have the problems others have had.”

“The plan is to make Ducklings the sort of shop that people will want to come to from a distance and enjoy their experience being here.  We’ve put toys out for children to play with.”

“We want them to touch things.  We want them to play with things and feel comfortable while they are in the shop.”

And the Pattisons, both 50, from Winterbourne Monckton, where they have lived or the past decade, have chosen the right moment to make their bid for success.

They are the only toy shop in Marlborough, a similar independent in Hungerford is closing, there is no independent toy shop in Swindon, from which customers are already coming to visit Ducklings.

“This is a very different kind of toy shop,” insists education IT expert Janice, whose husband has worked as a designer and buyer for major stores, and whose two teenagers, Tom, 19, and Isobel,16, will also be helping out with sales.

“We want to be a traditional toyshop for small children, wooden toys, soft toys and train sets.  And for bigger ones it will be craft and science kits, loads of Lego, Airfix and Meccano, all the sort of toys we’ve always had.”

The couple have also launched A Ducklings Christmas Club, which will enable customers to order toys from a catalogue and pay off the bill bit by bit, as they can afford it, and they are introducing a discount scheme for schools, playgroups and educational organisations.

“This is the first year that the retirement age goes up to 68,” explains Janice. “So we can run Ducklings till then.  And it’s been the whole family being part of the decision making.  It’s one of the best things we’ve ever done.”