The Middle East's most successful toy retailer opens in London
The Toy Store has become the largest independent toy store to hit the capital in 250 years as it launched its inaugural European store on London’s Oxford Street.
Opening on the cusp of the Christmas shopping period, the Toy Store is set to shake up the UK toy industry with its totally unique offering and instore experience. Encouraging children to completely lose themselves to their imagination, The Toy Store places a special emphasis on in-store entertainment and theatre, allowing children to play, interact with a host of well-loved characters, and enjoy live demonstrations when visiting the shop. Watching characters-come-to-life, demonstrations, competitions, live events and product launches, ensure that The Toy Store is the place to be for any toy-loving child.
The Toy Store will stock many leading toy brands such as Disney, Marvel, Lego, Barbie, TY and Sylvanian Families to name but a few, and will also be home to a brand new and exclusive Mr Men character, Mr Fun.
The Toy Store is being supported in its UK launch by charity partner Shooting Star Chase – supporting children suffering from life-limiting conditions, and their families. As part of the official ribbon cutting ceremony, The Toy Store were joined by two children from the charity – George Ludlow, 12, and Ruby May Grimshaw, 7, to fulfill their dream of dressing up as their favourite characters from Star Wars … accompanied by an army of brightly coloured Storm Troopers.
Gareth Marriot Davies, UK General Manager of The Toy Store comments on the launch: “We are incredibly excited to be opening our first European store, and looking forward to sharing The Toy Store magic with a UK audience for the first time. The Toy Store has already been very successful across the Middle East, offering children the chance to create lasting memories and have an inspirational experience each and every time they visit the store. We can’t wait to share this unique ethos and retail experience with UK families, and hope that parents and children alike will fall in love with The Toy Store offering”
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”