Beloved Honiton toy shop which delighted thousands of children is closing after 32 years

(L-R) Pam Beckett, Mark Beckett and Jenny Beckett.

(L-R) Pam Beckett, Mark Beckett and Jenny Beckett. - Credit: Archant

One of Honiton’s most popular shops - which has delighted generations of youngsters - is closing after 32 years of trading.

(L-R) Jenny Beckett, Mark Beckett and Pam Beckett.

(L-R) Jenny Beckett, Mark Beckett and Pam Beckett. - Credit: Archant

The Honiton Toy Shop, in High Street, will close its doors for good this year following a family decision to shut up shop.

The decision has prompted an outpouring of support from Honiton’s community, which has given the outlet its busiest trading days of the year since the news was announced.

Pam Beckett, who has run the store since its opening on December 1, 1985, said: “We have actively been trying to increase trade in the last year, but it is more and more difficult to compete with online sellers.

“We sat down as a family and said if we continue trading, will it be a viable business?

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“We took the decision as a family to go out on a high.”

The store’s closure reflects a nationwide trend of high streets struggling to compete with the online market and make money.

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Pam said that trading in 1985 was completely different to that of the modern day, as the profit margins are now much tighter.

She added that youngsters’s and parents’ attitudes have changed towards traditional toys because of the introduction of gadgets, such as tablets and phones.

“Back in the day, we used to have a yo-yo surgery, where kids could come and get their strings replaced and swap yo-yos,” Pam said. “That does not happen now.

“Children would also come into the shop in the lunch breaks and after school to buy and swap Pokemon cards. We used to have a great deal of fun with that, but it is no longer happening.”

But it is not just children’s attitudes which have changed.

Pam said: “A parent will come in with their child and the child will ask to be bought a policeman’s helmet.

“The parent will ask ‘what does it do?’. The helmet will inspire the child’s imagination. They can’t see the helmet but for the rest of the day, they are a policeman.

“With a tablet, kids are just moving their finger. They are not really using their imagination.

“Toy shops are so important to high streets, because they offer the magic to children.”

The team at Honiton Toy Shop - Pam, Mark Beckett and Jenny Beckett, and Velda Fowler, would like to thank all the family and friends, and previous staff, who have contributed towards the success of the store.

Three real-life highlights from Pam Beckett, owner of Honiton Toy Shop.

“The abashed dad and his Hornby train set”

It is 2003 and Christmas is around the corner.

Pam is serving a man at Honiton Toy Shop who is purchasing an electronic Hornby train set for his four-year-old son.

“You shouldn’t choose that one,” she advises the gentleman. “You should get a wooden train set, or a battery operated push-along one.”

But the man is having none of it - he will not be persuaded.

“My son has grown out of that,” he declares, putting down the money for the electric train set, which generally advises use for children aged eight and above.

Despite Pam’s advice, the money changed hands and the gent set off for his friend’s house for Christmas, the train set tucked under his arm.

Days later, he made a return to the toy shop.

Pam recalls: “He said he had a miserable time because there were arguments with his friend’s son, who received a wooden train set for Christmas.

“His son would not play with the electric train set, because it turns out he wasn’t allowed.

“He was not allowed to plug in the electrics and when the train got going, it just went round a circular track.”

Meanwhile, the father’s friend’s son was enjoying his wooden train set which he could handle and play with properly.

So the man stood before Pam once again. “You were right,” he admitted.

He purchased a wooden train set for his son.

“A man is never too old to enjoy Hot Wheels”

It is 2018.

An elderly gentleman and his wife walks into Honiton Toy Shop and asked Pam if the store stocks any Hot Wheels cars.

He was in luck! “We just had a delivery,” says Pam, and the man’s eyes light up.

After all, he was a collector and he needed several cars to add to his collection.

“I have a few boxes out back”, Pam continues. “We’ll need to open them though.”

A few minutes later, and the man can barely contain his excitement - especially when the seal to the box is sliced by Pam.

She recalls: “He was so delighted that he was the first one to go through the Hot Wheels box and get his cars.

“He ended up taking away six cars, after his wife helped him determine which toy he needed for his collection.

“He was so excited - he was shaking with delight.”

It proves that no matter what age, a toy shop can make anyone feel like a child again.

“How many balloons can you fit in an Austin Metro?”

It is an unknown date.

A man is coming to collect 86 balloons, which have taken over one of the back rooms at Honiton Toy Shop.

He arrives - but to the disbelief of Mark Beckett - in an Austin Metro.

Even more comically, the gent has managed to squeeze an grandfather clock into its boot.

Mark recalls: “He could not understand why he could not fit 86 balloons in a Metro!

“I had to tell him that there was no chance he could get the balloons in the car.

“When he saw the balloons, he was almost stunned into silence.”

Needless to say, the man zipped off to empty his car before making a return to the store.

The Honiton Toy Shop is currently holding a 10% off sale.

Visit the store in High Street, or call the team on 01404 43741.

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