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Toytown stays in the game thanks to crucial £1.5m loan

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Prepared: Alan Simpson

Prepared: Alan Simpson

Prepared: Alan Simpson

A Northern Ireland toy shop chain had to take out a £1.5m loan to secure its survival after an "immediate" hit to cash flow as a result of lockdown.

SMF Ltd, which trades as Toytown, is due to open its eighth shop in Northern Ireland in Londonderry in August.

The family-run business is one of the biggest independent toy retailers in the UK and Ireland with 200 staff working across their 29 stores, including seven outlets in Northern Ireland. But owner and managing director Alan Simpson said it needed immediate help from its banker, Bank of Ireland, after lockdown.

It secured the £1.5m loan to support cashflow while its stores were closed so suppliers could be paid promptly and to ensure the business was ready for future trading when shops re-opened.

Mr Simpson said: "When our stores were closed overnight due to coronavirus, its impact on cashflow was immediate. We made a request to the bank for support and they were very quick to respond and ensure we had all we needed to help us navigate the challenges of Covid-19 so we can come out as a strong business the other side and we will.

"We still have our busiest trading period ahead of us from October through to Christmas and that's why it's crucial we are supported and ready to meet our customers' needs and I'm delighted the bank can help us."

Bank of Ireland UK said it had supported more than 6,700 business funding requests since the middle of March.

Provision is being made through a combination of its own business support measures and UK Government-backed schemes - including Bounce Back Loan Scheme and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme through which SMF secured funding.

Belfast Telegraph