A Sydney retailer has survived the coronavirus pandemic thanks to a unique line of products: small plastic Doctor Who figurines.

Key points:

  • Who Central is one of the few certified Doctor Who retailers in the world
  • Online sales made up 9.8 per cent of total retail turnover in July
  • Struggling businesses are urged to “never follow the masses”

The Who Central shop in Sydney’s north-west has seen record sales in recent weeks, selling out of most products and propping up its main picture framing operation in the shop next door.

The owner’s partner Mark Anstis said figurine sales rose 14 fold between January and July.

“The fans just love them because they represent their favourite characters on the show,” he said.

“I think it’s to do with Government stimulus.

“People have been holding onto their money then all of a sudden they’ve said, ‘well let’s spend some’.”

Mark Anstis holds one of the popular Doctor Who figurines.(ABC News: Josh Bavas)

The shop is one of a select few certified Doctor Who retailers in the world, operating mostly as an online business but next door to the couple’s small picture framing store in West Ryde.

Mr Anstis said if not for the figurine sales, the framing store would have closed by September.

“The framing industry almost came to its knees in March and April,” he said.

“We would have been looking, at the end of this month, at closing.

“The Doctor Who sales came through and really gave us a big lift.

“Without that help and without the help of our landlords … we wouldn’t have got through.”

Figures released last week showed retail turnover had risen 3.2 per cent in July, up from the 2.7 per cent rise in June, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Online sales made up 9.8 per cent of total retail turnover.

National Retail Association chief executive Dominique Lamb said countless retailers across the country were diversifying and pivoting to online sales to survive.

“In times like these, there is no one size fits all,” she said.

Fans have been snapping up the figurines from one of the few certified Doctor Who retailers in the world.(ABC News: Josh Bavas)

“Make sure you do your research and spend time understanding your customer, make decisions to suit your business — never follow the masses.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have seen many consumers change their habits and certainly this has led to an uptick in online.”

Doctor Who fan Carl Hemsworth said he felt the urge to buy the collector’s items when new lines of figurines recently became available.

“There’s been almost a drought of Doctor Who merchandise in Australia for the last few years,” he said.

“We got a few things that only recently became available.

“There are a few sets from the current series with Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor, Bradley Walsh as Graham O’Brien and the other companions, Ryan, Yas and a new Jadoon.”

Sales have risen during the pandemic because there has been a “drought of Doctor Who merchandise in Australia”.(ABC News: Josh Bavas)


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