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I am a self confessed huge geek...yes its shameful at 22, but show me a comic character or a transforming robot, and I'm happy, add lightsabers and online gaming and you have me giddy with excitement and childlike grinning! This leads me too...
"Smyth's" is a chain of toy stores that are across the country. My local one is on the Sterling Corner roundabout in Borehamwood, and as such all views and opinions in this review are based on this shop.
What do they sell? -----------------------
As I said above Smyth's is a toy store that is very similar to Toys R Us, they stock a large amount of toys and play equipment for children (and adults *cough*) in store.
Anything from dress up sets, Barbie's and doll houses to action man, transformers figurines and basketball hoops, all are available in store. The shop also has a range for babies, including buggies and prams as well as clothing and feeding equipment, again, this is very similar to the Toy's R Us; Babies R Us range.
This toy shop also sells electrical equipment, usually in child themes, such as bright pink DVD players and "cars" all in one TV/Video sets for children to enjoy also.
Smyth's also have quite a comprehensive range of gaming stock, Consoles, controllers, headsets and other game related bits are all sold here along with the actual games themselves. In both new and pre owned sections. Now this is the main reason I visit the store...the dress up princess outfit is just a bonus!
Layout and Purchasing ----------------------------
Most bits are stocked on high floor to ceiling shelving with everything laid out in sections. For example, there are aisles with clear signs showing where to look for Sci-fi or action and adventure toys, along with sections for soft toys and puzzles all signed for ease of finding your way around. The store is large and spacious and any items high up can be requested by a member of staff with a ladder to get for you. There always seems to be a few members of staff knocking about to help.
There are wide check-out counters for paying at the bottom of the store behind the toy section; they are always well staffed and never too long queues. The games section has is own counter where all the games are stored as they are not kept in the display boxes.
Pricing and Loyalty -----------------------
As far as prices go I have found Smyth's always to be reasonable and if anything quite cheap on a lot of things. The pricing on some of the larger items like the TVs or DVD Players are always reasonable and are cheaper then what I have seen the same products for else where. Not to mention the Master Replica Force FX lightsabers that they sell for at least £5 cheaper than Forbidden Planet or Toys R Us (only need Obi Wans for the full collection! *hangs head in geeky shame!*) so this is great.
The store also has a loyalty card for the gaming section. If you purchase a new game within the first 10 days of its release date, you will get a discount. Usually making a £39.99 game £34.99. This is included on all platforms, PS3, Xbox and DS etc. There are always a few older games that are also £1 cheaper if you have the card. All discounts are clearly marked on the boxes so you know if you can get something cheaper. I love this as the card is free to set up and use.
Overall Opinion --------------------
This shop is great; it has all the aspects of a large toy store like Toy's R Us, but with great discount rewards and just as much choice. It's not a well known toy store as far as I know, which is why I think it is always a little cheaper and quieter, but it trades well and all the staff members are friendly and helpful.
My favourite thing about this shop is probably its quietness. On a day when a large game release is out, if you haven't pre-ordered you usually miss out and have to wait weeks for more stock. Smyth's have a real time stock checker on their website to show if they have what you are looking for, this goes for toys as well as games, and will 99.9% of the time have any larger releases AND with a loyalty card, a lot cheaper than anywhere else. This is a fantastic thing to remember near Christmas for anyone after Wii Fit or DS lites, as they stock them.
I like the size and variety in the shop and like how easy and friendly the atmosphere is. It's definitely my favourite toy shop, maybe just beating out Forbidden Planet, purely because it's cheaper and not quite so specialist on more expensive items, although it does stock quite a few of them!