Image

Turn off the TV and get outside!

A news article in The Times shows a worrying trend that children under 12 spend less than 2 hours a day outside – even in summer – and cannot recognise conkers or insects! Many children prefer to stay inside watching TV and playing computer games which does not bode well for a healthy lifestyle or future development. Our advice? Switch off the TV and computers and take them out to play in the fresh air in the garden or park. Why not take them on a look and listen nature walk and talk about the plants and birds seen on the way?  Fun, exercise and informative!
This same article* quotes research that says that making a den was top of children’s wish-lists for outdoor activities so why not make their dreams come true and have a look at our popular Den Kit for a real outdoor adventure?  It’s bound to be a summer winner.

*The Times, 23rd April 2014

Bloggers wanted

Having recently taken over the Letterbox brand we are looking at all of our promotional activities to further raise our profile and spread the news about our thriving company.

We are a British independent family run company and our guiding principle is to select the type of toy and gift that parents remember with fondness from their own childhood or that Grandparents will want to buy for their grandchildren. You can read more about us here.

We currently do everything in-house – we select and play with the toys we sell, write about them, produce our own promotional materials and maintain our own website – but now we are looking for enthusiastic Bloggers to work with who will empathise with our standards and help us enhance our Brand.  If you blog about child or parent issues would you like to work with us on some of the great ideas we have to promote our products, Brand, Website and Catalogue?  We would love to hear from you so why not email us – andrea@mulberrybush.co.uk and tell us how we could work together?

Personalised Gifts – Back by popular demand!

We love to hear from our customers and following your overwhelming requests for the Letterbox personalised  range we are delighted to re-introduce many of their incredibly popular best sellers. So here they are – we’ve got it all wrapped up from towels to pencils to placemats and more! Our new catalogue featuring these and lots more exciting new products will be mailed around mid March. But if you can’t wait – you can get an early sneaky peek on our website now!

Are your toys made in Britain?

Some months ago we saw a couple from Kent, the Bradshaws, interviewed on TV as they had determined to buy only British made products.  We were reminded of the “I’m Backing Britain” campaign of the late 1960s (which shows our age) and wished them luck with their quest. We sent them a message to this effect but did warn them that finding British made toys might prove difficult.  Our only suppliers that produce everything in the UK are Orchard Toys, and their range are printed card games, perhaps not manufacturing in the strictest sense.

Now we see the Bradshaws’ year long project has come to an end and the only area in which they were unsuccessful was, as we predicted, sourcing British made toys.  We take no pleasure whatsoever in saying we were right, particularly just after another Christmas season when the long lead times from the Far East have, again, resulted in a number of out of stock items that could not quickly be replenished, and a few disappointed customers.

We’ve been carping on about it for some time but we do think it’s about time some of the toy manufacturers looked again at what  might be made in the UK.  We’ll be seeing many of them at the London Toy Fair in a couple of weeks time and you can be sure we’ll be asking them their plans in this regard.  The Bradshaws believe their may be some green shoots for 2014.  Let’s hope they’re right.

Letterbox joins Mulberry Bush

We are delighted to announce that we have acquired the Letterbox brand and website www.letterbox.co.uk from the Tobar Group, with effect from 31st October 2013, and will be incorporating Letterbox into Mulberry Bush.  Letterbox was founded 25 years ago in Cornwall and offered a range of traditional toys and childrens’ toys and gifts very similar to our own, with a specialisation in personalised children’s gifts.

Mulberry Bush already includes many of the Letterbox favourites in our own range and, whilst it will not be possible to order via the Letterbox website for the time letterbox-logobeing, we do aim to introduce toys and gifts that Letterbox were so well known for, especially the personalised range such as the personalised pencils, etc., into our collection as soon as we can.

As a family business, who ourselves have been selling wooden and traditional toys, gifts and games for children for 17 years, we are proud to be the new owners of the Letterbox name.

We want to assure former Letterbox customers that we offer timeless and traditional toys and games for boys and girls and we look forward to helping you with your gift selections. You can rely on us for quality, efficiency and good old-fashioned service as our own satisfied customers will happily confirm.

Jonathan and Shirley Copeland

Directors, Mulberry Bush Ltd

Can your child swim a length?

Interesting news today from the the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) warning, according to the BBC, that more children may drown if they are don’t have the recommended annual number of hours of swimming lessons at school.   This is the sort of news that Breakfast TV like to report on, showing children – who must have got up at an unearthly hour to have their moment on TV – practising swimming, jumping in and diving.   In the report they did make the very valid point that it surely isn’t just down to schools to teach children to swim – their parents also have a responsibility.

As a keen swimmer myself, almost as happy in water as on land (and definitely more so than on a ski slope!) I’m all for encouraging swimming, one of the few sports that can last you all your life and the only one that helps to save lives.  This summer we have come up with a small range of items that are designed to help children swim and gain confidence in the water and all of them can be seen here.

I’d especially recommend the Swim Jacket, a buoyancy aid that really helps children to swim because the buoyancy element can be gradually reduced as the child becomes more confident.  A good idea to have one for boating or playing on the beach in any case – assuming we do get a summer this year!

When I was a boy I used to spend hours diving to the bottom of the pool picking things up.  We practised for life saving with heavy rubber bricks I remember, but I would have loved the brightly coloured dive sticks we now sell, and the games you could play picking them up in order, or from different ends of the pool, all with one breath.  I guess I could still manage to pick up a few although the breathing’s not what it was – although to be fair I am now eligible for a bus pass.

One Easter holiday when I was about 12 I spent several hours every single day at Cheam Baths, mainly underwater,  and I vividly remember my eyes streaming for the rest of the day because of the chlorine, but people just didn’t wear goggles then.  Now I wouldn’t be without them and nor need your child be and I highly recommend the goggles we sell.  Inexpensive but good quality and just the ticket for preventing pink eyes, and in two different colours.

So no excuses – get your child down to the local pool and make sure they are able to swim the required 25 metre length by the time they’re 11 – yes apparently it’s statutory now!

Warehouse Sale – Update – 2nd Day cancelled

We’re sorry to disappoint anyone who was planning on coming on Thursday 23rd May but we have had to take the decision not to open our warehouse sale for a second day.   Today, the first day, was a great success – to the extent that most of the items had sold by the end of the morning.  We have so few sale items left that we think you’d have a wasted journey tomorrow.

This was our first ever sale at our premises and we didn’t know what to expect.  We were overwhelmed by the number of people who visited us and their pleasure at the bargains they bought was fantastic – it just goes to show the power of Facebook in getting a message out.  It was great to meet so many of our customers too and hear how much they like our range of toys.

Many thanks to all those who came along today, and again sorry to disappoint those who couldn’t make it.  We’ll be announcing our charity donation to Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice as soon as we know our figures.

Toys Made in Britain??

The BBC Breakfast programme is featuring a family who are trying to buy only British made goods.  How good to see that idea back I thought as I watched, reminded of the We’re Backing Britain campaign of the late 60s.   Then I choked on my cornflakes when I reflected that, if they were looking to buy toys for the couple’s young children they might be hard pressed, remembering what we sell ourselves that is made in the UK which, I’m sorry to report, is not very much.

Believe me it’s not because we don’t want to sell British products it’s just that there is precious little manufacturing left here.   A lovely range of dolls houses, forts and garages we still sell used to be handmade in Worcestershire, but they were one of the last to go and have now moved to China.  We had a beautifully crafted Bagatelle that was made in Devon until 2011.  It’s coming back later this year, but it’s now made in the Orient.

The notable exception is Orchard Toys and we’re pleased to stock a number of their beautifully designed games.  I  understand they print the components for the games and the boxes in Britain then assemble them in their own premises in Wymondham, Norfolk, itself a lovely English town.  How idyllic is that.

A little closer to home for us, in Sussex, we have Blackbird Games who make a very nice little range of Treasure Hunts , again printed and assembled here. They are fun packages but the company are a small business, presumably without major overheads, and perhaps as they grow they’ll feel the pressure to look abroad to reduce costs.  I hope not.

One of our most popular products for very many years is Write Your Own Book, again printed and assembled in England, although I wouldn’t want to guarantee that the pens are British made.

So there’s a thread running here, which is that printed items can be made cost-effectively in Britain, presumably because we still have a competitive printing industry that can produce paper and card based components at a price that won’t be substantially beaten overseas, but we struggle to make anything else.

The only non-paper based products we sell come from a company in Lincolnshire that take pride in manufacturing in Britain with a range that includes the Daisy Wooden Dolls Pram.  It’s a nicely made product and was a popular item last Christmas but price-wise I now see that it’s about 30% more expensive than a similar item, made in the Far East, from one of our other suppliers and launched at the Toy Fair in January so as to be available later in the year.  Is that one up for Britain?  Hard to say.

So is there any light at the end of the tunnel?  Possibly.  This year, and indeed in the run-up to Christmas, two of our very largest suppliers whose toys are made in Indonesia have had their supplies badly affected because of industrial action in the factories, possible politically driven, and the impact continues.  We wait to see what these companies’ contingency plans will be, but it does bring home the possible repercussions of moving manufacturing abroad.  We think it’s about time a few toy suppliers started to think about bringing at least some manufacturing back, but will you, the customer, be prepared to pay a little bit more?

There is one other manufacturer, Lanka Kade that deserves a special mention, not because their toys are made in Britain as they’re not, but because they really focus on the ethics of Fair Trade, manufacturing their range in what is their home country of Sri Lanka.  But that’s an article all on its own and for another time.