By ELLEN READ

How does a mother of 5-year-old twins single-handedly keep a toy shop open 24 hours a day, seven days a week? By using the internet.

Monica Tattersall's company, Out To Play, sells well-known children's toys such as Lego and Thomas the Tank Engine via a website.

The Aucklander started the business three years ago after noticing a drop in the number of toy shops and feeling frustrated when trying to buy for her children.

The original idea was to sell the toys via a catalogue but this proved time-consuming and expensive.

Her strong background in computing - she has been an IT manager for some big New Zealand businesses, including Ford, Lion Nathan and Bond & Bond - meant the internet was an obvious alternative.

The only start-up costs were for accounting and web-design software. The company does not hold a lot of stock, preferring to order from wholesalers according to demand.

This allows the site to offer entire ranges of brands while standard toy shops usually stock only part.

Other points of difference that work in Tattersall's favour are the convenience of internet toy shopping - there are no children to drag screaming out of the shop and it can be done quickly, and at any time of the day or night.

Repeat customers are a large part of Out To Play's success, as are people overseas buying for New Zealand-based friends and family.

By ordering through the site and paying a New Zealand delivery charge they can save a lot on postage.



The biggest challenge for Tattersall's business is publicity and knowing where to spend her advertising dollar.

"The concept is right. The challenge is getting the name out there."

One solution is her car. She drives a bright yellow VW bearing the company name.



Because she has an IT background, Tattersall can update the site daily, ensuring that regular customers have a reason to return. She convenes user groups of parents to ensure she meets their needs.

But maintaining the company's growth is a challenge, because the store is for children up to the age of 7 - and they grow up.

Out to play