For the next in our series of interviews with some of the people who help make Southport, and Sefton, a great place to visit, we’re chatting with Colin and Chris who run Mind Games – Southport’s very own jigsaw puzzle shop!

With UK sales of jigsaw puzzles increasing 38% in 2020 a whole new audience are discovering the joys of this mindful and accessible pastime.

Tell us a bit about yourself

Hailing from Ainsdale (Colin) and Ormskirk (Chris), we worked together at a bookshop in the town centre. When the shop abruptly closed we lost our jobs overnight. Like many bookshops this one had sold jigsaw puzzles and we knew that there was a demand around the town. (It also helped that we both already loved jigsaw puzzles!). There are so many different jigsaws available and whatever your taste you’ll soon find one that appeals - from landmarks to Star Wars, XXL large pieces to small. The market is constantly evolving, and brands are always looking to release something new. Gibson’s have a 200-piece Christmas bauble jigsaw in a box that can be hung from your Christmas tree, and there are even light-up 3D jigsaw puzzles!

We decided to open a stall at the Southport Market Hall and our first day trading coincided with the relaunch of the market in 2012. After three good years it was time to move on and we opened our shop on Hill Street. The building that houses the shop has been owned by the same family for over 100 years, and we have a ghost who smokes cigars!

Having a whole shop to fill meant we could expand our offering and we now stock model kits such as Airfix, wooden construction kits, and lots accessories to support these hobbies. The town centre location is perfect for our customers, and we love feeling part of Southport’s community of small businesses.

What do you love most about what you do? 

For us it’s the people. We’re very much all about the customers in our shop - we consider Mind Games to be like a community hub. Many of our customers will come and spend an hour browsing just because they can have a bit of company. We also love giving people advice on gifts or if they have a newly-sparked interest in jigsaw puzzles. It’s so satisfying to help someone pick a puzzle to suit them, and then have them come back in to say how much they enjoyed it.

We once had a visit from a lady who’d travelled all the way from Canada! She was visiting London and made a special day trip to Southport to come and buy jigsaw puzzles!

What was your average day like pre-COVID? 

Before COVID most of our business was done in the shop – assisting customers face to face and dealing directly with suppliers. We’d also attend a few trade fairs each year; they’re a great way to find out about new products and meet other people in the same business as us.

What changes have you made to your business over the past year? 

We have had to change so much! Our website has been extremely busy during the last year, selling to places all over the UK… and a few international ones too! We have literally emptied the shop to Colin’s house in Ainsdale during every lock down - the back bedroom is the current Mind Games. We now deal with the local reps for the main suppliers (Ravensburger / Gibson’s / Falcon etc.) and they’ve all been so helpful in getting deliveries sorted for us to the house instead of the shop.

We had to divert our store telephone number to a mobile, and now even offer a free click and collect service from the house (COVID secure, of course!). As each lockdown ended it was back to the shop with all the stock and remembering to turn off the number divert.

Keeping in contact with our regular customers, and reaching out to new ones who are looking to alleviate some of the stress or boredom of lockdown, is really important to us. We’ve been using social media a lot to do this, and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

It’s been a challenge, but after three lockdowns we feel like we’re getting the hang of it and it’s certainly been an interesting time.

Which are your most popular jigsaw puzzles?

Right now, it would have to be Ravensburger's NYC Apartment 1000 Piece. It sells like hot cakes and we’re always restocking it. Wasgij (yes, ‘jigsaw’ backwards) are hugely popular. Rather than the picture being that on the front of the box, you’re recreating what you imagine the characters in the image can see. They’re not the easiest of puzzles to complete but definitely good fun..

What do you love most about Southport? 

What is there not to love about Southport? The locals really do support the small businesses around here and everyone seems to want to work together to make the town a success. I think we are lucky as a town to have so many independent shops, and I think after COVID this will only increase as people have come to really appreciate their local businesses and the services they have been able to provide during this strange and difficult year.

I also love the events, like the Air Show and Southport Flower Show. The town looks beautiful when it’s lit up for Christmas, and the lights switch-on has really grown into an annual occasion.

Mind Games Southport, 2 Hill Street Southport, Merseyside PR9 0PF

https://mindgamessouthport.co.uk/ / info@mindgamessouthport.co.uk / 01704536200

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