Who are Bigjigs? - The Story Behind the Iconic British Toy Brand
In a nutshell, the Ireland family are Bigjigs! Started in 1985 by Peter & his wife Liz. Pete used to handmade wooden jigsaws at the bottom of his garden in the shed, and this started Big jigs Toys!
Liz & Peter were both teachers so were always interested in educational toys, and this has always been a strong feature in all Bigjigs toys, strong child development is at the forefront of all design. Pete decided to upskill himself and become a Craft Design teacher so went back to University. Out of term time he put the skills he was learning into making toys for friends children and soon the idea of forming a business for his toys, which were proving very popular began.
Their first toys were puzzles made from floorboards, they started the trend in upcycling for toys! These were sold by Liz at craft fairs in the UK. During one school term holiday they just made the decision to give up teaching and go full time into the toys business, and booom Bigjigs was started.
In 2017 their two sons Sam & Tom joined the business, making it one of the oldest UK based wooden toy companies still in the original family hands.
From those floorboard puzzles they soon branched into toys for newborn to 7 year olds, and this is still their focus today. In the 1980s they launched their first mail order catalogue, remember this was pre internet days! So this was an ideal way for them to continue to sell to the people they met at the craft fairs. Their orders came in the post with cheques, yes paper cheques!
The mail order catalogue meant their business grew. Rather than just be restricted to local craft fairs in Southern England, they could now reach all of the UK with their catalogue. This led to a boom in sales. At the height, they were printing and dispatching over 500,000 catalogues annually.
The next step was supplying other toy shops and soon the opportunity came to acquire another toy company which already distributed to other shops. This was the perfect fit fo them and soon trade business was their main income.
Never shying away from purchasing opportunities, Bigjigs purchased Tidlo Toys from John Crane Ltd in about 2018. Tidlo toys was another UK wooden toy manufacturer, originally started by John Crane (who’d have thunk it..) and Anthony King. At Baba Me, we have a long history with John Crane, and first started buying from them in 2004, just as a revival of wooden toys was beginning to happen. They were the original distributors for plan toys, then Pin Toys. Branching into their own brand they started Branching Out toys which later morphed into the Brand tidlo toys. This was then sold to Bigjigs so the two stalwarts of British wooden toys were all under the one roof.
They now employ just under 40 people in the UK and have a mahoosive warehouse in Kent with rumours of a 2nd one opening in Holland post Brexit. Their UK warehouse is powered by 219 solar panels making it one of the most sustainable warehouses in the UK. They were one of the first online toy companies in the UK, and the rest, as they say, is history!
Next : The Best Bigjigs Educational Toys