Monday, December 21, 2009

Toy Story

The Guardian had a profile last week of Gary Grant, who runs the toy chain The Entertainer. It's managed to stay in business through the recession, despite not opening on Sundays and not stocking any Harry Potter merchandise.

"Last year I prayed more about my business than I have ever done and in October, for the first time, I felt God say to me 'you need to call the staff together,'" he says. "I said 'God, you're mad, I'm not doing that' – because you can have a personal conversation with God – I got to work on Monday morning and I heard God ask me again, 'are you going to call the staff together?'"

So he did. The born-again Christian – or "charismatic Christian" as he prefers – emailed workers inviting them to a "time of reflection". "Ye of little faith," he jokes. "I thought six or so would come along and sit with me and pray for Woolworths and the 28,000 people potentially losing their jobs. I got six chairs out and went to get more and when I came back there were 30 people in the room. It was very moving."

Apparently there's a global shortage of Lego. There's plenty at Legoland, or perhaps James May still has it all.


  1. Thanks for this post, I'd missed the original Guardian profile. A couple of observations:
    We have just had a branch of The Entertainer open in Chelmsford and ironically it's on the site of Woolworths, along with a new Lakeland. More concerning is that the shop has opened in the same street and just a few doors down from an excellent small toy store (lots of older style toys like wooden forts, puppets and educational games)and I worry that their trade will be undercut. I did look around The Entertainer and while it may not have gone for certain branded products, it has plenty of others and there wasn't anything that grabbed my attention. I'll have another look but I wasn't that impressed.

    The question raised for me is: should I be supporting this chain because of its Christian connections?

  2. It's a good question. I'm still not sure whether buying Bibles etc. through my local Christian bookshop is a good thing because it supports the bookshop, or a bad thing because if I bought them through WHS or Waterstones then the spirituality sections of mainstream bookstores might end up with a few more Christian titles to balance out all the New Age stuff. If all the demand is siphoned off to 'Christian' stores, we can hardly complain at the contents of the 'Mind Body and Spirit' sections.

    I'm guessing the former Woolworths sold plenty of toys, though obviously not enough to stay in business. From what you say, the two stores are offering different things. But yes that's an ethical dilemma - if the plans at the Entertainer to expand the number of stores aren't based on either a) picking up the slack left by Woolies or b) an expanding market, then they're taking trade from other people. But then, that's the rules that everyone plays by, and if you took that philosophy then no altruist should ever set up in business.

  3. Gary Grant lives in this area and is well known within Evangelical and Pentecostal circles. He is putting a lot of his personal money into christian ministry around here (The Chilterns). Mind you, this is the Bible Belt.