14 September, 2006 - 13:55 By Staff Reporter

Swings and roundabouts for toy retailers

East of England toy retailer the Tobar Group plans expansion across all of its channels following a £42m investment led by private equity firm, Primary Capital and backed by Lloyds TSB Corporate and Lloyds TSB Acquisition Finance.East of England toy retailer the Tobar Group plans expansion across all of its channels following a £42m investment led by private equity firm, Primary Capital and backed by Lloyds TSB Corporate and Lloyds TSB Acquisition Finance.

The Harleston based toy and gadget seller plans to grow its operations in the region and will be moving into bespoke head office and warehousing facilities in Beccles, Suffolk in the Spring of 2007.

Founded in 1973, Tobar owns the Hawkin’s Bazaar retail and mail order businesses.

Hawkin’s Bazaar currently has 22 shops across the UK with plans to open 15 more by the end of this year and a further 100 across the UK over the next 5 years. Hawkin’s Bazaar has an active mail-order presence and transactional website.

Primary’s investment will back expansion of all of the channels over the coming years.

Toby Templer, MD of the group and son of the founder, said: “This investment will help us transform Tobar from a wholesale and mail-order led business into a multi-site, multi-channel retailer with a significant high street presence.”

Primary has taken a 50 per cent stake in the company. Lloyds TSB Acquisition Finance and Lloyds TSB Corporate provided £21.5m of senior facilities to the transaction.

Daren Watson, part of Lloyds TSB Corporate’s growing Norfolk team said: “This company has an excellent platform for growth.

“It has well over thirty years of trading under its belt and with this investment package I am sure it will become a major force in its marketplace.”

The deal was led and structured by Primary. Graham Heddle, an investment director with Primary, joins the Tobar board as non-executive director.

Graham Heddle said: “Tobar and Hawkin’s Bazaar are exciting retail and wholesale businesses. The track record speaks for itself. Our investment will bring more fun to more people as the group has the potential to become a significant player on the high street.”

Meanwhile, Toymaster Kingdom in Suffolk has cited difficult trading conditions for its lapse into administration. Administrators KPMG say they will be attempting to preserve the firm's 150 jobs.

The company sells toys from 14 stores around the UK, and has a warehouse and head office in Ipswich. It is one of the largest ‘members’ of Toymaster Ltd, which has not been affected by events at TM Kingdom.

Toymaster is the largest group of independent toy retailers in the UK and unlike most retail groups, however, its shops are independently owned, not franchises.

Ian Corfield, from KPMG’s Restructuring team in the East of England said : “Despite cost saving measures earlier in the year, the difficult trading conditions coupled with increasing costs have left the directors with no alternative but to place TM Kingdom into administration.”

“We will be working with the management of Toymaster Ltd, and the management at TM Kingdom, to find purchasers for the business as a going concern, to try to secure all jobs, and to ensure the survival of the business, particularly as it approaches what has historically been its most busy time of the year”

TM Kingdom currently employs around 150 staff who have been informed that the business is not being closed, and that the company will be trading under the control of the administrators whilst a buyer for the business is sought.

Toymaster Ltd will continue to pay suppliers all undisputed TM Kingdom invoices for goods.

In addition to its warehousing and office operations in Ipswich, Toymaster Kingdom operates a further ten outlets across the region.

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