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How The Entertainer leveraged 'unboxing' social media trend

Toy retailer The Entertainer launched an initiative last year to help bring new ranges to life on social media, which is helping contribute to the company’s “playground” feel, according to founder Gary Grant.

The Entertainer Squad initiative demonstrates new and trending products on the retailer’s Facebook, Instagram and YouTube channels and was created to be an online – and sometimes store-based – extension of the staff in The Entertainer’s shops across the UK. 

Gary Grant, executive chair of The Entertainer and co-founder of the business, says the inspiration came from the ‘unboxing’ trend that has developed over the last decade. Unboxing involves people filming and uploading online videos of themselves opening packages.

The trend is tied in with influencer marketing, and started with beauty, lifestyle, and technology vloggers opening branded products on camera and sharing their commentary and reviews. Some ‘unboxers’ have effectively made careers out of the process, producing sponsored content that drives millions of views online.

At this year’s International Toy Fair, trade body The Toy Association listed innovations around unboxing as a top industry trend for 2019.

The Entertainer Squad comprises Jake, Frankie, Izzy and Rory and is marketed online and in shop windows, and the team appear at events around the UK helping to promote the retailer. Grant says that the concept sits neatly alongside the global unboxing trend.

“L.O.L is one of our biggest selling toy ranges – you know you’re going to get a doll or a pet in the middle but you haven’t got a clue which one, so there’s all the excitement of the unwrapping,” he says.

Commenting further on the function of the squad, he says: “Kids want to see toys being played with, they don’t want to see an advert – although it’s not a case of either or.

“The squad works very closely with our suppliers to launch items through this platform.”

He adds that many of the toys the squad demonstrate won’t have been seen by children before, adding to a feeling of discovery when customers tune into an online video by a member of the squad.

Katie Gritt, senior social media, content and PR manager at The Entertainer, announced the launch of the squad last summer, saying the retailer had identified how reviews and demonstrations play a crucial role in toy purchases. She noted that videos and unboxing demos would support that process, and add some fun to shopping too.

Indeed, Grant’s aim is to create a fun environment in all The Entertainer does. He says he wants kids to visit stores as a treat after enduring the “boring shopping” elements elsewhere with their parents. The company creates this environment supported by in-store character visits, and encourages children to play with items before buying them.

The founder has even made “playground” one of his company's values.

“I get this idea of honesty and caring which you see in many company values, but the value of ‘playground’ is the atmosphere in which we operate our business. It’s about how we do what we do as a toy retailer to create a fun and exciting experience.”

In its most recent results announcement in March, The Entertainer said that its 1,700-plus members of staff will share £3 million in bonuses following a 31% increase in annual profit to £15.1 million for the 12 months to 28 January 2019.

The retailer reported a 12.3% increase in like-for-like sales and recorded a 38% hike in online sales via its TheToyShop.com website.

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