Are you juggling between a lot of activities on a daily basis? Don’t have adequate time to catch up with fun activities with your kids together? Well, there are alternatives, and buying high-end smartphones isn’t one of them. Meet Whirli, a London-based toy sharing subscription service. With Christmas just around the corner, toy subscription services are a fun way to get new toys and keep your kid from getting bored.
In general, most toy subscription services rarely live up to expectations. Most of the time, parents tend to overpay for a mediocre toy that eventually ends up under the kids’ bed. Notably, around 60% of toys at home are unloved and not played with – and many end up in the landfill.
The UK startup Whirli claims that it is set to change it with its approach that presents a chance for millennial and Gen Z parents to embrace sustainable consumerism.
In this regard, the company raised a £4M (approx €4.4M) Seed funding round led by Octopus Ventures, with participation from MMC Ventures. To date, the company has raised £5.2M (approx €5.7M) in funding.
The toy sharing service is planning to use the funding to expand its customer offering as well as continue investing in its proprietary technology.
With this funding, Whirli will be emphasising supporting parents on child development and learning through play, customer personalisation, as well as applications of data science using the ‘feedback loops’ inherent in circular economies.
Renting instead of buying
Right now the toy industry stands at with annual global retail sales of £70B (approx €77B), however, it has faced a decade of challenges and stagnation, culminating with the collapse of Toys R Us in 2018.
Founded by Nigel Phan in 2018, the UK company purchases toys directly from leading toy manufacturers. In this case, the subscribers rent the toy instead of owning them, and there are no time limits or penalties. The toys can be played with for as long as they are wanted and can be returned to Whirli to be swapped at any time.
Nigel Phan, Founder at Whirli, says: “Consumers wanting to shop sustainably should not have to compromise with higher prices or greater inconveniences. We’re proud to be at the forefront of this technology-enabled disruption that is reshaping consumer behaviour and retail. Through the power of the sharing economy, Whirli has created a winning proposition for parents and the planet, and we are delighted to welcome Octopus Ventures and MMC Ventures on our journey.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, one has to be sure about the safety and other aspects of the toy. In this regard, the company says, “We’re a full retail service and not a peer-to-peer marketplace. That means all toys come back to our facilities first and we sterilise them before sending them to another family to enjoy. We only stock the latest toys on the market that meet all UK and EU safety standards.”
50,000 toys in circulation
According to the company, parents are getting far better value for money, by borrowing, thereby reducing their environmental footprint, and their children are getting more varied playtime. Notably, any toy that is kept for 8 months can be kept forever, at no extra cost, or can be bought from Whirli at any time for a less-than-retail price.
At present, Whirli has around 50,000 toys in circulation between households. Also, unique customer features, such as Whirli’s gifting service, enable the platform to fully cater to how parents (and family or friends) shop in this category.
Starting from £9.99 (approx €11) per month, parents can choose toys from a wide range of categories and brands including Le Toy Van, Melissa & Doug, Fisher-Price, VTech, Micro Scooters, and many more.
Rebecca Hunt, the early-stage investor at Octopus Ventures, says: “The toy market is huge, but it remains mostly stuck in the dark ages of e-commerce 1.0 and offline retail. We believe there is a real opportunity for a new entrant like Whirli to disrupt with a new approach. What’s particularly exciting is that Whirli is good for parents and the planet. By enabling parents to ‘borrow’ only the toys they need for their children’s current life stage they avoid the clutter and expense of toy ownership, while the planet benefits from removing the toxic cycle of cheap plastic toys being purchased which then end up in a landfill.”
“The latest generation of parents are also much more comfortable with the sharing economy and recognise the benefits of borrowing rather than owning. We believe this will transcend to the toy category, particularly as more of the GenZ generation begin to have families of their own. These are trends which make now a great time to scale a business like this and we’re delighted to be working with Nigel and the Whirli team to help make it happen,” she adds.