Wigwam Toys

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Wigwam Toys's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Wigwam Toys is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Shop owner Clair Letton
and Floor Manager
Inside Wigwam Toys
Wigwam Toys is an independent, family-run toyshop in
Fiveways, Brighton, dedicated to providing beautifully-
designed and quality traditional toys. Owner Clair Letton
says the company prides itself on its ability to sell toys and games that
remind people of their childhood, and the team go out of their way
to bring new and innovative toys to the marketplace. She discusses
The Parliamentary Review
the provision of a personal service
to customers and the joy of helping them find the perfect toy.
The way we shop has changed and online shopping is here to stay, but with
sensitive legislation around small business lending and taxation, as well as creative
business owners, there is no reason why we cannot have both a successful high
street and a successful online business community.
Higher rents and homogenisation
Twenty years ago, our high streets were a healthy mixture of chains and independent
business, ensuring choice for the customer. Higher rents have driven many independent
businesses away from our main shopping centres, meaning only those stores with
financial clout can occupy high street space. This has led to homogenisation and a lack
of choice and variety, with identical chain stores in every city.
The pendulum swung in favour of online and out-of-town shopping centres, reducing
the number of small businesses and local specialty stores. However, I firmly believe that
shoppers still want a retail experience and human interaction. In order to attract customers
back, businesses need to adapt and to offer their customers something different; a
sense of theatre, a personal or curated experience that is unique to physicalstores.
»Owners: Clair Letton and
»Established in 2013
»Based in Brighton
»Services: Independent toyshop
»No. of employees: 8
Wigwam Toys
Highlighting best practice
More than just a shop
A successful small business in the
retail world is more than just a shop.
It provides flexible employment for
local people, puts money back into
the community, a friendly face and an
asset to the area around it. A thriving
community should include, and can
support, a thriving businesscommunity.
The financial crisis and subsequent
tightening of lending regulations has
meant fewer businesses are being
born. In order to regenerate our high
streets and revitalise the retail sector,
we need to allow the one-man band,
the family shop and the start-ups in
on the game. In order to do this, there
needs to be an agreed-upon definition
of what constitutes an SME, as well as
specific lending and taxation policies
for microbusinesses.
Once microbusinesses are established,
local government policy has a large
part to play in their success or failure.
Town planning, public transport and
traffic management can have a huge
impact on whether shops succeed. If
customers find it difficult or costly to
get to their local shopping centres,
they will simply buy online, leading
to more store closures. We need to
be making it easier for those minded
to open businesses to do so. If
regeneration is to happen, it needs to
be nurtured from the ground up.
Keeping things fresh
We know that our success as a small
community-based business is our
customer appeal. We have limited
retail space, which means we buy
small quantities of stock on a regular
basis. As we are in a residential area,
and don’t rely on tourist or town
centre trade, we need to make sure
our customers who pop in weekly see
something new. Being small works
to our advantage, as we can work
with new and emerging companies,
supporting them by placing small
orders, trialling products in the store
and providing feedback. They get retail
exposure and we get to show our
customers exciting new products they
won’t find elsewhere. It is mutually
beneficial, and an example of how
microbusinesses can help each other to
grow into small or medium businesses.
The way we view the shopping
experience has to change as well. If
rents remain so high, landlords need to
be flexible regarding the tenancies they
accept. As an example, a former clothing
store that had been vacant for a year has
reopened with three microbusinesses
in residence, accessible through one
entrance. This creative thinking is vital
to our high streets’ survival and it is
vital that our microbusiness sector is
nurtured and taken into consideration
when making policy. New growth
must be cultivated otherwise there is
nothing to replacedeadwood.
Getting tax right
The taxation burden that falls on
small business means that small policy
changes can have a big impact on a
business’s viability. Last year, Justin
King suggested that VAT rates should
increase to 22 per cent and business
rates should halve, to help save
the high street. To me this shows a
fundamental lack of understanding
about the small businesses that make
up the heart of the UK retail sector.
If VAT rates were to increase, there
would have to be a price increase
to consumers, hitting the small
independent sector hardest and
actually speeding up the closure of
many high street and community
stores. His assertion that halving
business rates compensates for the two
per cent increase in VAT is incorrect.
Under small business rate relief many
small businesses currently pay very
little in business rates, but for most the
biggest single outgoing is the VAT bill.
In order to
our high
streets and
revitalise the
retail sector,
we need to
allow the one-
man band, the
family shop
and the start-
ups in on the
The difficulty lies in the description of
what constitutes a small business. The
political notion of an SME is undefined,
but the EU defines microbusiness as
fewer than 10 employees and turnover
of more than £2m, small business as
fewer than 50 employees and turnover
of more than £10m and medium
business as fewer than 250 employees
and turnover of more than £50m.
Part of the problem for businesses like
ours is that while legislation, which is
made with an uncertain target may be
intended to help, it can prove harmful,
as the very nature and scale of our
business is ignored when making
policy. Larger companies may benefit
from business rate reduction, but they
also already benefit favourably from
bulk purchase discounts and economies
of scale, enabling them to undercut
smaller businesses and offer products
at lower cost to the consumer, further
harming smallerretailers.
The Treasury’s review of business rates
is certainly welcome. Currently, it is a
complex web of rates and exemptions,
attached to original legislation created
decades ago that is not fit for the
purpose. Any new legislation should be
cut from new cloth, with consideration
given to all sizes and tiers of the UK
business community.
Adjusting to current challenges
Running a business during the Covid-19
pandemic has been a challenge to
us all. For small and microbusinesses,
the entrepreneurial mindset has been
key to our survival. It’s the ability
to think creatively and to solve the
problems that allows you to thrive, be
that supply or delivery issues, staffing
shortages or reduced footfall.
I know many have spoken about
increased community spirit.
Consumers have rediscovered, or
perhaps discovered for the first time,
the satisfaction of being part of a
community. For many the lack of readily
available resources during lockdown,
lead them to seek alternatives to the
supermarkets and larger stores. This
put them into contact with their smaller
local businesses, who are adaptive,
responsive and able to deliver the level
of personalisation and customer service
that we were once more used to, but
has declined in many of our largest
stores and on our high streets.
The inability to physically shop in the
way we used to, financial anxiety and
breaking from routine has led many
to examine their shopping habits and
question what we really need to be
happy or satisfied. Certain business
models no longer seem sustainable,
stores that rely on high volume sales
of cheap products no longer seem
My hope is that out of the ashes of
the pre-coronavirus retail landscape,
small retailers will be able to rise and
continue to grow, to be supported by
customers who can see the value in
what we have to offer.
My hope is that
out of the ashes
of the pre-
retail landscape,
small retailers
will be able to
rise and
continue to
Co-owners Clair Letton
and Jesse Marshall, with
Floor manager Benjamin
Rowling, outside
Wigwam Toys


This article was sponsored by Wigwam Toys. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster