In pictures: We visit the independent Bristol toy shop that’s still busy after 35 years

Totally Toys on Gloucester Road is well-prepared for the Christmas rush  

Long-running shop Totally Toys is already adorned with Christmas decorations as its owner gears up for the busiest time of the year.       

Paul Carpenter has run this Gloucester Road store since 1988 and the 70-year-old shows no signs of slowing down.        

The store - an Aladdin’s cave of toys - is packed with almost every toy imaginable. From classic board games, to crafts and Lego - even the new Bristol Monopoly is available.  

Paul took on Totally Toys after leaving his role as a Woolworths manager in 1988 and looking for an independent business to run.              

“I came across this and it looked like a fun business, a business I felt I could improve - and the rest is history. Thirty five years later, I’m still here and still enjoying it,” he said.      

“A big plus is Gloucester Road is one amazing, long, independent high street and the customers here are incredible, they’ve supported the whole street,” he added.   

“There’s probably a lot of good toy shops in areas where they don’t have that same sort of support, it’s all of us together that make Gloucester Road successful I think.”  

In terms of Christmas stock, Paul says there has not been a really strong film or craze that has affected his offering this year - which he sees as a positive.    

“I mean the Barbie film came out but I think that was watched by more adults than kids,” Paul explained.  

“It’s a great film and Mattel have done really well out of it, but I don’t think it’s the merchandise that’s sold, I think it’s the clothing, fast furniture and even the film itself has done extremely well.       

“For me that’s a win-win really because what I like to do is sell the range that does well all year. We do very well on crafts, farm and zoo animals, Lego and jigsaws.”        

So in terms of the best toys to buy this Christmas, Paul warns against getting anything that’s only going to be used once.  

“I liken it to the clothes industry. Don’t buy a Christmas tie, it’s going to be used once,” the toy expert added.     

“Get something you know your child likes, a trusted favourite. So if they’re a Lego fan, get some Lego because you know they’ll be playing it.  

“Don’t take a risk and then it just gets forgotten on Boxing Day, I think money’s too precious at the moment for that.”   

Every year the big stores publish the top ten toys for Christmas, but Paul doesn’t carry any of them as part of his selection.  

“We have our own views and what we want to carry and we are guided by the customers, they give you an idea of what they want,” he explained.    

Paul is adamant there will always be a place for toy shops on the local high street. He believes there will always be a need for toy shops, despite challenges such as online shopping and Amazon - which he calls a “soulless place”.  

“It’s a wet day today - horrible and miserable - but people will still brave the rain and do some real shopping,” he said . “I have a firm belief in longevity and that in 100 years there will still be retail shops, including toy shops.”   

Totally Toys, 109 Gloucester Road, Bishopston, Bristol, BS7 8AT. Tel: 0117 9423833.