Sonner Toys closure in Cascades Shopping Centre leaves 'furious' customers owed thousands and looking for answers - and owner apologises

Customers have been left ‘furious’ after pre-ordering toys and models which never arrived from a Portsmouth toy shop which has now closed.
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Sonner Toys in Cascades Shopping centre closed unexpectedly on Monday, January 9 and by the following morning it appeared permanently shut with its windows covered by cardboard. Parent company Sonner Collectibles went into compulsory liquidation in December and director Harry Strevens shut his other shop in Salisbury last year.

Several customers say they have been left out of pocket. Stuart Clarke and his partner Sabrina Patel travelled from London last week to the Portsmouth shop to demand a £100 refund for an unfulfilled order made in June 2022. They had purchased Star Wars themed toys for their infant daughter from the Sonner Toys website.

Sonner Toys appears to be permanately closed at their Cascades shopping centre location.Sonner Toys appears to be permanately closed at their Cascades shopping centre location.
Sonner Toys appears to be permanately closed at their Cascades shopping centre location.
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Staff reportedly told the pair to come back the following day. When they returned to the premises on Tuesday, January 10 the shop appeared permanently closed.

Stuart said: ‘It was very disappointing. The staff in there must have known that they weren’t going to be there the next day, which feels a bit unfair.

‘I’m a very big Star Wars Geek and I’m part of a lot of communities online. To say that their name is mud would be polite about them.

‘Every collecting community at the moment is trying to warn each other to be wary of them.’

Harry Strevens from Sonner Toys in Cascades
Picture: Habibur RahmanHarry Strevens from Sonner Toys in Cascades
Picture: Habibur Rahman
Harry Strevens from Sonner Toys in Cascades Picture: Habibur Rahman
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Partner Sabrina added: ‘It was our daughter’s first Christmas so obviously quite a disappointment having to, last minute, find things to replace so that she had something to look back on.’

Director Harry Strevens started the company aged 17 and opened his Portsmouth shop in 2018.

Harry said factors like soaring costs and supply chain issues led the business to fail. He claims there was ‘never any doubt’ that orders would be fulfilled prior to an alleged smear campaign which started a ‘mass panic’ and compounded with other factors towards the downfall of Sonner Toys.

The 26-year-old issues with rivals led to his Salisbury shop to close, as well as what he called ‘overzealous landlords’ and the company’s ‘preorder model’ with unpredictable waiting periods leading customers to cancel after the business had already bought specific products.

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Harry said: ‘We had things very much under control and then we suddenly started drowning. It was my baby so heartbroken isn’t the word to be honest. The only real thing that I wanted to do was sell toys.

‘For years I haven’t even taken a wage from it. I didn’t ever envision that it would have grown to what it did, nor did I ever want to see it collapse.’

All customers will get an email in coming days detailing money can be reclaimed from their banks or the insolvency practitioner. Harry also said that he and those around him have been targeted by death threats and has contacted the police about his former home address being shared online.

Harry added: ‘I feel completely remorseful for what happened in the end. It’s not that people have been ignored it’s just that there is so much to do.

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‘I fear that many independents may find themselves in this situation as recession looms. Honestly, it’s horrific out there.’

The former Toys R Us employee plans to step away from the industry and ‘just survive’ while working numerous jobs.

But customers are angry.

Becki Clarke said: ‘I still have over £300 of outstanding orders at this point. In the middle of last year I listed everything that I had for pre-order and was like “look guys, this is a mickey take now. I understand that you’re an independent business, but this is over a year now – I need a refund.” I walked past and it’s all boarded up now. I was furious.’

Becki placed two orders for Funko Pops with Sonner back in 2019 and eventually received a refund for one.

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Anna Burns offered a similar account after not receiving Funko Pops that she ordered in February and June 2022. She has started a Facebook group for discussion about the situation. It currently has more than 240 members.

Delivery driver Alex Walton said he is owed more than £2,000 while Paul Hill said his wife had saved up £500 for rare Stranger Things figurines and has still received nothing six months later.

Since speaking to The News, Anna has a full £50 refund but others in the group are still looking for answers.

Anna said: ‘I started to smell a rat a little bit. Being part of a Pop collector group on Facebook, I popped on there and people were talking about Sonner Toys. I checked Trust Pilot and they were having negative reviews so I thought “wait a minute, obviously they are going under.”

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Lucas Ross director Kevin Lucas is handling the insolvency and said: ‘Anyone who has paid on a credit card can make the standard claim via the credit card company and anyone that has paid on a debit card can of course try to make a chargeback claim. If people have made bank transfers then they may be struggling to get their money back.

‘They need to speak to their bank and see if their bank believe there’s been some error, fraud or otherwise.’

Mr Lucas confirmed Sonner Collectibles had been transferred to Sonner Toys Limited then renamed Portsmouth Collectibles. Any stock owned by the company now belongs to Lucas Ross until paid for.

Cascades centre manager Andrew Philip said: ‘We sympathise greatly with those customers who have been affected, particularly as many had ordered items as Christmas presents in good faith and did not receive their goods.’

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Portsmouth City Council's regulatory services lead Edward Skinner said: ‘We are aware there are issues following the closure of Sonner Toys.

‘If you wish to make a complaint contact Citizens Advice Consumer Service (CACS) at or by calling 0808 2231133. If they cannot resolve your complaint they will refer it to our trading standards service to investigate.’

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