TOY NEWS AUGUST 2019
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TOY NEWS AUGUST 2019
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No. 208 | August 2019
Straight out of Office
Editor Robert Hutchins email@example.com
Sales Manager Rob Baker Rob.Baker@biz-media.co.uk
Designer Nikki Hargreaves firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow us @toynews online
he revelation that the vast quantity of Bibles read in the United States are in fact produced in and shipped from China hit me only last week, as I was causally reading through the list of imports now exempt from the fourth round of US tariffs. For all those switching oﬀ their Out of Oﬃces and returning from their summer of respite, the good news is that, while you were away, and in a welcome revision of tactics, the US President has delayed the 10 per cent tariﬀ hike on toys being shipped over from China until mid December. In what has undoubtedly been met with chimes of "it's a Christmas miracle," from our US counterparts, the additional lead time has oﬀered many the much needed window with which to start making alternative arrangements for their operations. The added glimmer of hope is, of course that, those who have been campaigning hard against the threat of taxation on toys - The Toy Association included - have a stronger footing with which to rescue toys from the frontline altogether and bring to the safety of the import tariﬀ exemption list. Now that really would be a pleasant ending to this dramatic tale. If only Brexit could somehow be magically resolved and we could all breathe out again. Surely Wow! Stuﬀ has something in its Harry Potter arsenal for such a job? Robert Hutchins, Editor Robert.Hutchins@biz-media.co.uk
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COVER STORY AUTUMN FAIR P26
Contents August 2019 Features
BIG INTERVIEW: HIPSTER VIBES
Opinion 06 Narinder Kaur 07 Ian Downes 08 Trudi Bishop 09 Greg Lansdowne
ToyNews talks to Hippy Chick about 20 years of success in the pre-school and baby business
ONE TO WATCH: HILDA'S ALIVE We get to grips with the new Netflix animation from Silvergate, Hilda, and what it is bringing to toys
FEATURE: ISLANDS IN THE STREAM Generation Media takes us on a journey through the evolution of content consumption
SHOW GUIDE: SEASON'S CHANGE Autumn Fair is upon us and with it we look at the changes being made to this year's show
Market Data 21 Media Sensations 35 Campaign of the Month Sector Guides 36 Girls market 42 Pocketmoney 49 Plush toys Back pages 56 Industry Moves 58 Bossing It...
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Universally speaking: Bringing diversity into the balance of the UK’s toy shops By Narinder Kaur
Being a first generation British Sikh born to Punjabi, Indian parents, the question that has always plaqued me is why there had not been a nice looking doll for second, third and fourth generation British Indians here in the UK. I have been surrounded by kids playing with all different ethnicity of doll, largely white and black ethnicities, or they would enthusiastically explore the fantasy worlds with alien toys, or magic-inspired dolls, but never one that reflected the community closer to home. Over time, the doll collections begun to reflect the worlds around them, all but our own. So, in 2017, we set about to create Satty, the first doll from our Apne dolls business. The toy industry is a vast, vibrant business with the reslience to withstand more strains than other businsses. This is largely due to the outstanding educational benefits of imaginary play. The toy industry is a wonderful world of something for everyone, isn’t it? That's what it purports to be, but is it really? It’s our aim to make sure that it is.
We want to cater for the some 450,000 British Sikh Indians in the UK, similar in Canada and the US, not to mention the more than 20 million in India and around the rest of the world. The benefits of multi-cultural representation in a multitude of areas of life have proven to increase selfesteem and confidence, after all. Like anything in life, we all like to have a choice, especially when it is for your children. The word Apne is a Punjabi word meaning ‘Our’, making them ‘Our’ dolls. Our dolls hope to redress the balance of variety on the toy shelves of the UK, withstanding equality in aesthetics, price point and toy safety standards. We hope to offer gifts to the currently unrecognised proud British Sikhs who have made the UK their home for the last 70 years. As we offer little additional gifts that can be purchased alongside the Doll and book, it enables parents to tailor make their little gift bundle with a choice of greetings cards and personalised message to make it a truly unique experience for each child. Our aim was to create something wonderful, inclusive, and to be proud of and that our children as a collective would love. With Apne dolls, we feel we’ve ticked those boxes.
"Our dolls will redress the balance of variety on toy shelves." Narinder Kaur is the founder of Apne Dolls, a range of dolls designed with the UK's population of British Sikh Indians at the heart of its story and product line.
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Game theory: Understanding the opportunities around video game licensing By Ian Downes
Licensing characters and brands from the gaming world is an area that is enjoying significant growth, and gaming brands are attracting the eye of retailers and licensees. Indeed Brand Licensing Europe recently announced it would be hosting a gaming zone this year, which is a measure of the status of this category in the industry. I recently spoke about licensing at the Develop Brighton conference and one of my themes was trying to convey to IP owners in the gaming category the potential that licensing offers them. While things seem to be hotting up licensing wise, I did remind the audience that licensing and gaming have long been partners, referencing the fact that I was involved in Sonic the Hedgehog in the mid 90s when one of my claims to fame was helping to launch Sonic the Comic. While this source of licensing might be new for some, the usual rules apply. Know your audience and understand the property. Contemporary licensing requires a bespoke consumer centric approach.
Successful gaming brands like Fortnite can go mass very quickly but there are a lot of gaming brands that offer opportunities for more refined collector and fan ranges. Funko is a great example of a licensee that has developed products that appeal to gaming fans and can be sold through specialist channels and online. Gaming brands are also well suited to emerging categories like tabletop gaming, board games and role play. Areas like graphic novels are natural fits as well, not least as a means of expanding a gamesâ€™ story arc. Rebellion is a good example of a company recognising this. They have an in house boardgame operation and a publishing arm that creates novels and graphic novels based on their own IP like Sniper Elite. Of course new technology offers toy companies a way of tapping into gaming franchises with opportunities around virtual reality and augmented reality. There is a crossover between toys and gaming which presents a good opportunity for NPD and licensing is a proven way into the market. Back in 1995, Sonic had a line of branded Daddies Sauce ketchup. Fast forward to 2019 and there is a real opportunity for gaming brands to add something more than sauce to the toy industry.
"Modern licensing needs a bespoke, consumer first approach." Ian Downes is the founder of Start Licensing, a licensing agency that works with some of the most iconic and recognisable brands from across pop culture. Downes' career in licensing has seen him work with classic IP from The Beano to Aardman Animations
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Give the consumer what they want: Are we listening to children’s demands today? By Trudi Bishop
At the beginning of July, I attended the Children’s Media Conference in Sheffield. Over the course of the event, there was a number of inspirational, and at times, awe-inspiring speeches by young ‘change makers’ and activists. They spoke on a number of issues close to their hearts with topics ranging from saving sharks, combating fake news, youth politics, reducing plastics and to that close to my own, the climate emergency. One very strong and common theme running throughout their speeches was the need for change. This request came as a clearly directed arrow at the adults in the audience (representing primarily the media industry and content creators). It simply asked: what are we doing to change the way we speak to, represent, educate, listen to, and act on behalf of our children and the generation of tomorrow? The young change-makers had strong, clear opinions and are making waves in their own spheres. What was obvious though, was that these were an exception rather than the rule when it came to kids managing to find a voice and being able to navigate their way through our new world of fake news, limitless content,
social media/gaming, as well as plastic pollution and the climate emergency. Although these are very confident, young people, they recognised they cannot do it alone and that they need help and guidance by the adults in the best position to influence. So the request came. What are we doing as content creators, toy makers, influencers, to create content and experiences that represent the diversity and challenges in children’s everyday lives? Kids want change in how media speaks to them, they want to be included, they want us to change our behaviours and help them navigate the world in a more sustainable way. Kids news programme like Newsround and Sky’s FYI are presented by kids for kids with stories that are topical and ‘adult’ in content, but presented in a way that kids understand and, more importantly, relate to. They don’t patronise; they involve and educate. But how can we as an industry include these elements into the non factual or entertainment content that is being produced today? Can w bring it into the play factor in toys and the books and magazines they read without being preachy or patronising, or boring? This is a real topic that kids today would like to engage with, so it's up to us to cook up the best ways in which to allow them. Get the brain ticking folks.
"Kids want change and to be included; but they need our help." Trudi Bishop is the founder of Bee Licensing and an active campaigner for sustainability in the toy industry. Bishop will continue to appear within the pages of ToyNews to promote this important issue.
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Sticker up front: What the Women’s 2019 Football World Cup is doing for collectables By Greg Lansdowne
When Nike revealed that its US Women’s National Team, France 2019 World Cup shirt was its bestselling jersey to have ever been sold on its website (in a single season), it was marked as one of the more eye-catching statistics amid largest attendance and highest TV viewing figures generated for women’s football over the last year. The good news for the sport doesn't end there; because when it comes to the collectables industry, women's football and women's sport trading cards and stickers are being produced in unprecedented numbers. They are selling in higher numbers and fetching sums never before seen, too. USWNT star forward Alex Morgan’s Panini Immaculate 2018-19 Patch/Auto card has been selling for in excess of £200 since the latter stages of France 2019, and while sales figures are as yet unknown, it is anticipated Panini’s France 2019 sticker album will have far outsold the 2011 and 2015 editions. On the back of this success, the 2019-20 Panini Pro League sticker album in Belgium will feature the country’s domestic women’s top division to an extent never before seen for any female European league. That will almost certainly prove to be the tip of iceberg as far as domestic women’s football is concerned,
with it being only a matter of time before the English Women’s Super League (WSL) and the UEFA Women’s Champions League have trading card or sticker collections dedicated to them. A persistent campaign also remains ongoing in Spain for Primera Division (women’s top flight) players to receive their own collectables, with a positive conclusion now in sight. Topps Europe has also begun to see the value of women’s football by featuring five players in its Match Attax 101, and then there are more niche markets to be tapped into: Netball, along with women’s cricket and rugby, has been explored by Australian company Tap’n’Play; Panini released its first Women’s National Basketball Association collection this June; Topps has been producing all-female releases as part of its WWE trading card range since 2016. While physical stickers and cards rely heavily on adult interest, Fantastec has started to release digital collectables via its SWAP app, and among its licensors is Arsenal, whose women’s team won the WSL in 2019. And as I write this, rumours abound that Panini is in talks over a buy-out, with US companies showing particular intent. However that pans out over the coming months, you can expect to see no abatement in the rise of women’s sport collectables in the months and years ahead.
"Women's sport trading cards are selling for unheard of sums." Greg Lansdowne is a freelance writer and communications professional, specialising in the collectables industry. He wrote Stuck on You - The Rise and Fall,,, and Rise of Panini Stickers and was part of a panel discussing collectables at Jumpers for Goalposts.
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HIPSTER VIBES 20 years ago, Hippychick, a successful name in the baby and pre-school sector turning over ÂŁ3 million a year, was little more than an idea at a kitchen table. ToyNews talks to founder and joint managing director, Julia Minchin about two decades of maintaining a reputation 10 | toy news | August 2019
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"Sustainability is front of mind for Hippychick going forward. We have made strides already, but there is plenty more to do. We don't want toys to be consigned to the scrap heap, so our message is, if it's repairable, we'll do what we can to restore it to its former glory." Julia Minchin, Hippychick
he kitchen table story is one wellknown within the toy industry, perhaps more so than any other, for the simple reason that for those of a particular mindedness - the likes of which are intrinsically drawn to this line of business - play comes naturally. Beyond the literal act of stacking one block upon another, play, moreover, is the act of imagining; tweaking, moving things about and then re-imagining it all again. It’s a process that most of us reading this now are all too familiar with. And among us is Julia Minchin, the founder and joint
managing director of the baby and preschool specialist, Hippychick, who did in the very literal sense begin her journey within the business of play from her kitchen table in Spaxton 20 years ago today. For it was while at her kitchen table that Minchin kickstarted her business with the invention of the Hipseat, a baby carrier devised to ease the strain on parents’ backs when carrying their baby or toddler on their hip. That was back in 1999, and from there it wasn’t long before Minchin's spine-saving innovation became the figurative back bone of a blossoming Hippychick business.
Recent headlines have drawn a great deal of attention to Hippychick, who is currently enjoying the limelight not only as it celebrates two decades of successful entrepreneurship within the pre-school toy sector, but for its redoubled efforts towards sustainability and eco-friendly toys amid a shifting consumer consciousness. It was earlier this month that the firm was championed across the national media for its commitment to recycling with the launch of its Wheelybug Clinic, run by the company’s resident Wheelybug Doctor, that repairs and upgrades old Wheelybug rideons in its own bid to encourage consumers and parents to re-use toys rather than consign them to landfill. The initiative has marked the start of what Minchin has outlined as major plans to promote the message of sustainability within the toy space from here on. “Sustainability is front of mind for Hippychick going forward,” she tells ToyNews. “We’ve made strides already but there’s plenty more to do. Our toys are all about quality and durability, and are really built to last, whatever an exuberant toddler will throw at it. “If they do suffer a surface graze, or a little nick or tear, we don’t want the toy to be consigned to the scrap heap when clearly it has plenty of life left in it. So, our message is, if it’s repairable, we’ll do everything we can to restore it to its former glory so it can be returned to its owner, passed down to a sibling or re-gifted. “Fortunately, we have a highly skilled technician at Hippychick who is delighted to take on the Wheelybug Doctor mantle and has enabled us to develop this area of the business which we intend to further develop for other brands of toys in our portfolio.” The idea, it would seem, is that when you buy into the Hippychick brand, you buy into a service, or a partnership August 2019 | toy news | 11
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that will take one through one’s product life journey. And if that's what a retailer is selling to its customer - a partnership with a brand (and one that pulls out all the stops to reduce returns) - then it’s little wonder Hippychick has become a favourite among so many of them. Hippychick is a healthy business with a turnover of upwards of £3 million, and one that packs a strong reputation across the toy industry and its network of retail platforms and diversity of retail partners. And it’s carved quite the position for itself within the traditional toys sector. “We have never been, and never wish to be in the business of selling tech-centric toys with bells, whistles and flashing lights, or following the latest toy fads,” explains Minchin. “Our toys are designed to be timeless classics that will have a positive impact on a child’s growth and will endure through future generations. “Demand for these types of toys has been there throughout the 20 years we have been in existence, and we believe it will still be there in many years to come.”
"We have never been, and never wish to be in the business of selling tech-centric toys with bells, whistles and flashing lights, or following the latest toy fads. Our toys are designed to be timeless classics that impact on a child's growth." Julia Minchin, Hippychick
Hippychick certainly has something. Enough even to have lured Minchin’s husband Jeremy out of the Metropolitan Police and his work as a detective and into the world of toys and pre-school products in 2001, to join the expanding business which now taps into a self-established,
and organically grown community of Hippychick fans and followers. Minchin and the team speak to this community (can we call them Hipsters?) on a regular basis, whether that’s through the company’s online blog, its library of free, downloadable e-books or its Hippychick Baby Club, to maintain that all-important dialogue between brand and its end user. “No longer can businesses such as ours be one dimensional,” says Minchin. “Consumers want and expect so much more from a brand. They look to one that will hand-hold them through the often-complex journey of pregnancy and parenthood, and that will ensure the successful future of their child. “We need to offer, at a very basic level, products that at least meet but for the most part exceed expectation, as well as informative and reassuring customer service. But we also need to offer added value such as informed advice for safe, productive and effective parenting.” This extends now into its position on environmentalism.
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“Many of our toys are already made from sustainable material, such as our Classic World range of wooden toys,” Minchin continues. “We recycle all materials in the warehouse currently and are looking to address our packaging in the near future, to try and reduce the surplus as well as the use of plastics. “Upcycling is also an area we want to encourage. We know, for example, that our Hipseats are used by film crews for supporting heavy camera equipment, so we want to spread this message. It’s great to know that my original invention has a life that extends beyond a toddler who wants to be carried.” Such success doesn’t come to anyone easily. While it may have only taken a couple of years since its concept stage at that Spaxton kitchen table for Hippychick to become the fully-fledged success, with expanding warehouses and a team of staff based in Bridgewater working through an ever growing portfolio of brands, it’s not without adaptability and foresight that the company has traversed 20 years’ worth of
change; be that changing markets, changing consumer demands, or the change at retail. “The retail climate has been and continues to be challenging, particularly as more and more retailers continue to reduce their footprint or cease trading,” says Minchin. “We have had to respond to demand for customer choice and to the way consumers now want to shop.
"We've always worked to remain true to our brand values which have defined us from the outset, never deviating however tempting." Julia Minchin, Hippychick
“We have achieved this by making our products available through several different channels, not just traditional brick and mortar. Everyday the team at Hippychick looks to improve processes and working
practices throughout all the departments with the objective of being the best and most efficient supplier in the market, and achieving our key objective which is to deliver exceptional customer service and exceptional quality of product. “During the past 20 years, the business has been enormously successful, but has also faced a number of challenges, but I believe Hippychick has managed to stand the test of time, mainly through intelligent, well thought through product curation. “We have always worked hard to remain true to our brand values which have defined us from the outset, never deviating however tempting. This has given us a solid and respected reputation in the industry: customers know they can trust our products to deliver on quality and integrity over time. “We also have a solid financial base, and that’s very attractive in a climate where there’s currently a lot of uncertainty,” Minchin concludes. And to think, it all started out with a kitchen table. August 2019 | toy news | 13
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THE HILDA’S ALIVE… Comic book creator Luke Pearson’s Hilda is the latest graphic novel IP to make the leap from page to the Netﬂix streaming platform, this time courtesy of the minds at Silvergate Media. Lisa MacDonald, Silvergate’s SVP of consumer products talks to ToyNews about the fantastical plans for this adventurous, yet heartfelt brand
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"There are a wealth of characters, alongside Hilda, in the show that will translate really well into the plush toy category, so we are expecting to see more than one stand-out hero from the animated series at this point. On top of that, plastic collectables and blind boxes will be a must."
Lisa MacDonald, Silvergate Media
hether it’s because of my aﬃnity with Scandinavian crime fiction, or my new found appreciation of the Japanese artform of manga and anime, I find myself inexplicably drawn towards Silvergate Media’s newest animated series. Of course, it should go without saying that the Netflix children’s animation that launched in September 2018 to much critical acclaim, touches upon neither the Scandi underworld of murderous criminals - fictional or otherwise - or the often genrebending topics of your modern day anime; yet it is a series that manages to strike a note of familiarity all the same.
Perhaps it is because it's the latest in a line of properties to have made the leap from the pages of a graphic novel or comic book series ( joining the likes of the currently popular Umbrella Academy) and onto the streaming giant’s global platform, rendering Luke Pearson’s fantastically illustrated work in moving picture, and thus sitting perfectly within the current pop culture zeitgest of today? Or perhaps it’s because Hilda, moreover, is representative of a trope that has followed us all throughout the centuries; oﬀering a look at a fantastical world deep in the heart of Scandinavian folklore that set the scene for this IP some 800 years ago?
It is a property, afterall, that takes its heritage seriously, from its mountainous giants hiding in plain sight, to its stone trolls and woodfolk, and even its titular female character Hilda - who, unlike her etymological descendent Hylda or Hurlda is not the image of the dangerous seductress of the forest to have first emerged around 1220 AD - but the free-thinking and independent hero of our story, more akin to the heroic women of Scandinavian folklore - or Shieldmaidens - of the 13th Century. And then, it is on top of all of this that Hilda (the series) most simply presents a cast of fantastical characters that lends itself immediately to the toy aisles. In fact, less than one year since its first launch to the Netflix platform, and that’s precisely what Hilda and the team at Silvergate Media have done. It’s through Spin Master’s plush specialist arm, Gund, that Hilda will make its toy aisle debut, marking the first big announcement of the year for Silvergate who sees Hilda “as a natural fit for the specialty channels at retail.” Talking with ToyNews about the latest developments for Hilda, Lisa MacDonald, SVP of consumer products at Silvergate Media, says: “We are super excited about working with Gund on the Hilda property. They love the show just as much as we do, and in those instances - when you get that level of collaboration immediately - you just know that it is a good fit. “There are a wealth of characters alongside Hilda in the show that will translate really well into the plush toy category, so we are expecting to see more than one stand out hero at this point.” Hilda’s universe is indeed a rich one, and one that - as it follows Hilda on her adventures as she moves from her home in the fantastical Scandi-influenced wilderness to the city of Trolberg - introduces a cast of standout characters just ripe for toys. “It’s so rich, that collectables are a must for us at some stage,” continues MacDonald, who, while ready to admit it is still somewhat early days for the property, is already very keen to line up further deals within the toy space. “Hilda lends itself really well to that, and certainly things like blind boxes, what with all the characters involved in the series.” This is even before we’ve mentioned August 2019 | toy news | 15
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that already Hilda has been commisioned for a second series on Netflix, which is now gearing up for launch in 2020, as well as the broadcast launch for season one in the coming months, a move that is sure to introduce further characters down the line. One year into it, and the animated series appears to be resonating well with its intended audience - one made up not only of the girls’ aged six to 11 market, but also the older, comic book and graphic novel reading audiences who has ultimately helped propel the pop culture genre to the success it currently enjoys among mainstream media and retailers today. But its pop culture ties, nod to the West’s growing anime movement, and intrinsic folklore trope aside, what is it about the series that helps Hilda carry such a strong appeal to a cross-generational audience? “When I think about it, I keep coming back to empathy,” suggests MacDonald. “I think Hilda is a hugely empathetic character both of herself and to others, and that makes her a littl bit stand out. “She is smart, inspiring and an alternative heroine, which is hugely relevant in an age where there is an increasing focus on positive role models for girls; and in a
current climate where we are calling out for greater empathy and greater care of the natural world around us, I think we can all learn a little bit from Hilda.” Of the global socio-political developments that MacDonald may well
"Hilda is smart, inspiring, and an alternative heroine which is all hugely relevant in an age where there is an increasing focus on positive role models for girls; and in a climate where we are calling out for greater empathy and care." Lisa MacDonald, Silvergate Media
or well not be referencing, the comic book adaptation is certainly more on the nose, and in fact it takes little time to throw Hilda
into the centre of a political spat in which an Elf Mayor attempts to evict Hilda from her home, thus following up on a promise he made to his electorates in order to get voted into power in the first place. As a show that deals with modern empathy, this isn’t one to water down its real world references. And just as the show treats its audience with respect and mutual intelligence, so too is it MacDonald’s ambition to provide a licensing programme of equal measure. “The consumer is a lot more canny than what they used to be,” she continues. “They are a lot more demanding of what they get, in a world that is more expensive. They want a bang for their buck and are more demanding about what that product stands for, where it comes from, how it is made, and be it something that does justice to the brand that they love. “This is what we'll be delivering on. We intend to create product that is as true to the show as possible; in terms of aesthetics and doing justice to its characters. There we see the appeal as not just Hilda, but wider than Hilda. Attention to detail is crucial, and that could be in the appearance of additional characters, little notes on
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handbags, secret tid bits of information that have appeared in the show and we are building into the Hilda-verse.” This is a direct influence of the growth of the pop culture fandom that is permeating the design process of so much of the consumer products in the space today. More and more, subtle nods to the smaller details of an IP’s universe is worn as a badge of honour by fans, that it is working its way up the list of key points to hit with each licensing programme. “To that end, Hilda will be bery much the same,” explains MacDonald. Interestingly, this in itself is part of an overarching influencing factor that is in the way in which content iteslf is being consumed. The fragmentation of this process has led to a multitude of platforms through with to reach an audience, which in turn fosters a strength in fandom. What this means, is that content developers like Silvergate Media, have to be at the top of their game on a regular basis. MacDonald explains: “Consumption of content is much more fragmented today, and retailers are much more cautious, with a greater expectation from the consumer about what a licensed product should
oﬀer. On Hilda, we will be talking to our fanbase directly and driving engagement. We know there’s a good, strong fanbase that we have seen through our social channels, and there is already the engagement to give them input onto the collectable lines we might be putting out, the characters they’d
"There is huge potential both for live and expriential licensing with Hilda, as well as tech developments. The show has so many layers for storytelling, discovery and characters, there's plenty for Silvergate to explore with her." Lisa MacDonald, Silvergate Media
like to see. Meanwhile, we are investing in events, having exhibited at Comic Con last
year with Netflix, and again this year with a booth decked out like the Woodman’s Cabin. At these events we get to engage with fans directly and see all the cosplay we see on social media. It’s how we maintain dialogue with our audience.” It’s also in the domain of the live and experiential space, as well as the digital, that Silvergate spies great potential for Hilda in the coming years. “It’s an overwhelming yes to that question,” smiles MacDonald. “There is huge potential both for live and experiential licensing with Hilda, and also tech. The Hilda-verse is so rich and diverse, with so many layers for the storytelling, discovery and characters, and as Silvergate we have a big presence in the experiential space in China with the likes of Octonauts, that we are well-versed, and can use that expertise to answer calls for it with the Hilda IP.” Further to this, the Hilda app, in which players must nurture a world of mythical creatures, is already a top ten downloaded app on iTunes; proving that more than a modern take on the 13th century folktale, Hilda has struck a firm tone with contemporary audience of not just children, but adults looking for adventure, too. August 2019 | toy news | 17
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ISLANDS IN THE STREAM
With the promise of a bold new future of streaming content at the hands of 5G network on the horizon, and a raft of newcomers including Disney+ threatening to dig into the content distribution pie; weighing up the linear TV and SVOD debate is more important than ever. Luckily, Generation Mediaâ€™s director of AV investment, Jonathan Chambers is here to guide us all along our journey down the stream. 18 | toy news | August 2019
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It's a topic we cover regularly with Generation Media's monthly columns in ToyNews, could you talk us through the evolution of content and how it is being consumed by kids and families today? The rise of 4G in the UK provided the infrastructure to watch video content on the go, and as a result diversified the number of devices we use to watch content. This facilitated the creation of the On Demand viewing culture we find prevalent today as streaming and downloading content is more efficient when not tied to a linear feed. VOD services which adapted to this cultural shift early, primarily Netflix, have successfully promoted Binge Watching as a preferable alternative to traditional linear patterns to quickly gain market share before the market inevitably becomes flooded with alternatives. This behaviour really taps into children’s desire to immerse themselves in the world of their favourite characters for extended periods compared to the short stints offered by broadcast schedules. Giraffe Insights’ Kids and the
"It's the longevity of children's usage that ensures Netflix subscriptions keep running, which is why Netflix is investing heavily in kids' content." Jonathan Chambers, Gen Media Screen research has charted the significant increase in Children’s usage of SVOD (Subscription VOD) services (Netflix, Amazon Prime), with some age groups spending as much time with Netflix as they do YouTube despite it being behind a paywall. The importance of children to the financial success of SVOD cannot be understated – whilst it might be the parent who signs up to check out the latest season of Stranger Things, it is the longevity of children’s usage which ensures the subscription isn’t cancelled once Stranger Things has been finished.
Therefore it is no surprise that Netflix recently announced it will be investing in new children’s content, primarily in partnership with Netflix, including titles such as Dreamworks Dragons Rescue Riders, Go, Dog. Go and Emily’s Wonder Lab, and more. How do TV viewing and SVOD/ streaming compare today? How will this continue to evolve - given the upcoming launch of new platforms, like Disney +? While digital native companies have led the way in this sector in recent years, traditional broadcasters have been slow to create the infrastructure to provide rival services. This will change in the next two to three years however, led by the launch of Disney+, as content creators look to ring fence their properties and maximise their profits going forwards. For example, Disney will likely eventually remove all of their owned content from other platforms over the next five to 10 years (starting with movie content on Netflix). While this might August 2019 | toy news | 19
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not seem like a huge blow to a company in Netflix which reportedly spent over $12bn in 2018, when you assess the appeal of Disney owned content it’s easy to see Netflix’s market share being eroded (although it will likely remain market leader for the foreseeable). It is easy to forget after all that the Disney stable now contains Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, The Simpsons, Grey’s Anatomy plus all of the original Disney creations. Whether it eats into Netflix’s share of viewing, or that of linear TV, could be determined by cost. Are viewers likely to add another SVOD service to their monthly bills, or choose one to replace another? How long is it until this market comes full circle with the launch of a platform (akin to Sky or Virgin Media) which collates all of the different platforms into a single service? Despite all of the above however, linear TV is still central to the viewing behaviour of children of all ages. Firstly from a device perspective it is the clear favourite for two to nine year olds, with Giraffe Insights reporting that 72 per cent of all viewing occasions (regardless of platform) occur on the TV set. When it comes to what they are watching on the TV set, it is undeniable that linear viewing is under pressure (CH415 impacts on the kids commercial channels fell -20 per cent YoY Jan-Jun). However, historically it has been so dominant that even after three years of consecutive double digit YoY decline, it is still the single largest source of children’s viewing. In fact, there are actually more children aged four to nine watching TV than ever before owing to the enlarged population – the problem is they are watching for shorter periods of time, with the average weekly viewing hours having halved over the past 10 years. Netflix is notoriously clandestine when it comes to its viewing figures, but has detailed a record setting 18 million viewers for Stranger Things recently - how is this indicative of the kind of numbers streaming services are pulling in? How can company's best leverage the apparent audience shifts when it comes to marketing? In a data rich and driven marketing industry, the reluctance of SVOD platforms
to reveal viewing figures is increasingly frustrating. This is why it's important to look to studies like Kids and the Screen which tracks the development of these services, and demonstrates that Netflix is the third largest platform for children’s viewing behind Linear TV and YouTube. This would make Netflix (and increasingly Amazon Prime) very attractive
"It's undeniable that linear TV is under pressure, but even aftr three years of YoY decline, it's still the single largest source of children's viewing." Jonathan Chambers, Gen Media propositions for marketers, were they to carry advertising. While this is not the case, this does not mean they should be treated in isolation to paid for media strategies. Increasingly marketing strategies incorporate content, which is why it is important as an agency we continue to maintain and grow our relationships with both traditional broadcasters and SVOD services alike. As audiences continue to migrate towards Netflix et al, we are best placed to negotiate placement of content to enhance paid for media strategies. What would be the best approach to marketing to children amid today's content viewing landscape? Does linear still have a place, how should companies be incorporating this or looking at viewership more holistically today? Ask a child today what their favourite TV programme is you might as readily hear them claim it to be Netflix exclusive Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia as you will Horrid Henry. This is important, because children do not differentiate between platforms (Linear/BVOD/SVOD/etc.) the same way we do in the industry. We need to rethink how we define our strategies, focusing on a holistic video approach as opposed to TV/YouTube/VOD/etc. working in isolation.
This does not mean, however, that every video campaign should incorporate all aspects of the media mix. Strategies still need to be concentrated on media channels which offer the greatest value within the confines of the budget, and therefore a hierarchy of choice still exists. TV remains the lowest cost means of reaching mass audiences in the shortest period of time, and importantly is the most commercially accessible (and also acceptable from a viewer’s perspective). The dominance of TV from a commercial perspective is of course being eroded primarily by YouTube, but it is not in a position to yet challenge as the number one choice, while VOD channels remain valuable extensions but only if campaigns budgets allow. While the hierarchy (in the most part) is relatively clear for the time being, we cannot assign values to how much of each should be used. This is because every product has its own unique set of variables which will affect the decisions made in arriving at the correct media channel mix. We developed The Media Aggregator to help answer this question. A proprietary planning tool assessing each campaign brief on its own merits versus the media landscape before returning a unique media channel split. What do you think the future holds for toy TV/platform advertising? 4G created greater accessibility to video content, and in turn changed how viewers of all ages consumed content by ushering in the era of binge watching. 5G, once fully integrated, could provide a similar shift. At the very least it will lead to quicker loading times when streaming and interacting with content, which opens up lots of opportunity for advertisers. For example, one of the biggest reasons digital clicks do not convert to site visits and therefore sales is site load times. 5G should eradicate this problem. Going one step beyond, could we even see functional shopping windows appearing within content, making the consumer experience that much more seamless? Predicting the nature of the changes may be challenging, however aligning yourself with partner companies that understand and embrace technology at their heart will ensure a competitive advantage.
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MEDIA SENSATIONS Just as the toy industry moves through its constant state of change, so too do the tools and approaches with with its talented teams of PR and marketing professionals use to showcase its best and brightest products. Robert Hutchins explores today’s PR and marketing landscape with the help of some of its top PR personalities
ow on earth do you conduct a UK focused PR campaign from Portugal, would have been my first question, had I not acclimatised myself steadily over the past number of years to the implications of the evolving world of personal technology. The world of PR and marketing has certainly changed over the last decade. I’m sure any number of you PR and media ‘types’ reading this now may well hark back to those heady days of cigarette smokefilled offices and working lunches, when the parties were long and time spent by the fax machine even longer.
Consigned to the archives of UK TV Gold are those Ab Fab tropes, where colleagues are ‘darlings’ and a mind mix is a cocktail that will knock you out for the week. But just as technologies and platforms evolve, so too does the marketing approach. What worked ten years ago may be all but dead in the water today - and without change like this, quite simply, how on earth would you conduct your UK PR campaign from Portugal? The benefits of remote working and the rise of the Virtual PR Agency - of which this article will explore in depth later - aside, the marketing landscape has shifted, just
as much in the past year alone, as for what the last half a decade can account; and no more so than in the business of children’s entertainment - be you in the toy game, the licensing hustle, or content creation. Fragmentation is the word that is today thrown about like tomatoes in Spain, and not only in reference to the way in which audiences consume their content (explained wonderfully by Generation Media overleaf) but in the way all media is curated by the consumer, and by extension the brands they choose to engage with, too. “And the media landscape is only going to become even more fragmented,” August 2019 | toy news | 21
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suggests Susannah Morgan, deputy managing director at Energy PR. “People will curate their information sources much more carefully, and so brands are going to have to work harder to be part of that.” Already, we are seeing this very much in action; rarely is it that a toy brand will launch without a digital driver, whether it's an app or YouTube content. And if crossplatform engagement is big now, what that picture will look like when the 4G network is rendered as irrelevant as the floppy disk by the prophesized fifth G, is anyone’s guess.
“This could mean brands doing more to create relationships with their audiences, offering added value, their own engaging content and brand experiences rather than simply selling products, to build loyalty over time,” adds Morgan. But that is then, this is now; and suffice to say that the marketing world of today isn’t too far behind Morgan’s vision.
"The world is so fastmoving and consumers are increasingly savvy - especially kids - that we just have no choice other than to keep ahead of the curve, because what worked for brand X one month will die on its arse for brand Y the next." Lesley Singleton, Playtime PR
Lesley Singleton founded Playtime PR five years ago this year, having worked with a number of toy brands as a freelancer before deciding to take the leap into owning her own business. In that half a decade - over which Singleton has picked up numerous accolades for her work - it’s fair to say that Playtime PR, along with a handful of other toy PR companies, has been at the vanguard of change across numerous industries. “The world is so fast-moving and consumers are increasingly savvy especially kids - that we just have no choice but to keep ahead of the curve,” Singleton explains. "What worked last month for X brand will die on its arse next month for Y brand, so we need to have a solid idea of where things are going, what trends are, what is it that kids love today but will drop like a fidget spinner tomorrow.” To that end, professional memberships such as with the British Toy and Hobby Association, or the industry’s wide banquet of insights and training groups, for that matter, can prove invaluable to the marketer navigating the waters of today.
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Core strength However, despite the clear differences in the media landscapes, the goal at the centre of any media and PR campaign remains the same now as it ever has done. “We can dress it up however we like, but when push comes to shove, our work is about getting the products seen by the right people, in the right places, at the right time,” continues Singleton. “The people and places have changed - TV, tube stations and tabloids still have their place alongside outlets like Insta, TikTok and YouTube and so strategies adapt accordingly. “But at its heart, it’s still about finding the most efficient way to target the people you want to reach, and so audience empathy and insight play a huge role.” The underlying message for the modern day marketer, then, would be that amid the metrics minefield and data disorientation, and whether you’re a toy firm outsourcing you PR or taking it all in-house, it’s important to maintain focus on your story. “PR, like the toy industry can be fad and fashion led,” confesses Julie Pittilla,
"For me, the fundamental remains the same: what's the message your promoting? Then look at who, therefore, has the best means of delivering that message. Who are you reaching? That's rule number one." Julie Pittilla, Pittilla PR
at who, therefore, has the best means of delivering that message.” As anyone who has spent any time plotting the journey of the social media influencer over the last year or so would know, it’s a platform that hasn’t been without its controversies. As with any kind of breakout platform, it’s taken some level of adjustment in order to regulate; it’s just one of the issues of treading new ground and exploring uncharted regions. “We have seen influencers start to be held to account by the ASA, and this is likely to continue to the point of regulation,” suggests
owner of Pittilla PR, drawing on an insight that spans 40 years within the toy industry and across a network of the sector’s most influential movers and shakers. “It’s fast moving and it’s fun. Social media is amazing, of course, and influencers are great; but look at who they are reaching, or who they are influencing. For me, the fundamental remains the same: what’s the message? Then look August 2019 | toy news | 23
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Energy PR’s Morgan. “This will force the influencers to be more selective about what they promote to fit their own brand, which ultimately will lead to better, more relatable content for their audiences.” Just how much that will affect the presumed organic nature of the social influencer remains to be seen, but what it will do for brand authenticity - an increasingly integral element to the success of any IP launching to market today - will most likely only be positive. “I am absolutely certain that brand authenticity will become more important than ever,” continues Singleton. “Consumers are more culturally and environmentally woke than ever before (even the kids) and they’re ready and waiting to question everything a brand does today. “The world is less trusting than it was before, consumers are questioning everything from fake news to fake follower counts so it’s becoming even more important for brands to really pay attention to who they align their products with. “It’s not OK to plead ignorance or pass the buck when the influencer space is evolving so rapidly, impacted by new
legislation and even curve-balls from the platforms themselves.”
Are you even remotely working? As if there hasn’t been enough for this bizarre world of marketing to contend
"ASA regulation will force influencers to be more selective about what they promote. This can only be a positive." Susannah Morgan, Energy PR
with over the past five years, also on the rise is the concept of the Virtual PR Agency - a new and emerging method of PR and marketing that allows a curated team of PR specialists to work to their own strengths on campaigns from wherever they themselves are based. It will come as little surprise to learn that Playtime PR is such a PR agency, and even less of a surprise to learn that Singleton - along with Charlie LeRougetel,
the founder of Big Top PR, the agency responsible for handling all of Brand Licensing Europe’s marketing efforts - is a founding member of the PRCA’s Virtual PR Agency steering group. “Big Top doesn’t have an office or a central location - our team is made up of freelance PRs who work flexibly and remotely and live all over the country (one of our extended team even lives in Portugal),” explains LeRougetel, thus answering the very question we opened this article with. “Everyone on our team is at account director level or above, and either specialises in an industry sector, a media sector, or a specific discipline, and teams are made up by dovetailing people with complimentary skillsets.” Imagine if you will (or indeed can) a functioning Brexit cabinet, the action hero line up of The Expendables, or a Tarantino film starring both DiCaprio and Pitt, and you’ve got the bones of just what a Virtual PR Agency can offer amid today’s PR approach: a hand-picked team of specialists with skills tailored to each job required. “The beauty of this approach is that we are very lean, but we can scale up incredibly
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quickly with exactly the right talent when clients or projects require more peoplepower to complete.” To illustrate the scalability of the Virtual PR Agency, last year Playtime PR allied with PR agencies across France, Germany and the US with plans to add more to the roster this year and beyond. It’s a savvy-move of course, that allows Playtime to deliver “hyper-local” campaigns for clients looking to bed their brands into these regions. “Having a team of experts like this,” says Singleton, “means that they want to work on their clients’ brands, they are loyal, and can create the exact work-life balance they need through our 100 per cent flexible working policy. “Day to day, the end experience for clients from a practical perspective isn’t radically different to that of working with a traditional agency - clients still have a dedicated account team and can speak to someone at almost any time of day; we still have team update meetings, and still produce monthly reports and such like.”
Going global Now, if there is one company that knows of the efforts that go into global branding,
it’s Energy PR, who - as well as having a slate of toy companies on the books
"Virtual PR agencies can curate a team of specialists with particular skill-sets to work on select projects." Charlie Le Rougetel, Big Top PR
- handles the marketing of New York’s International Toy Fair, arguably the largest toy industry event on the calendar. “A big challenge of that show is appealing to such a massive audience,” explains Energy PR’s Morgan. “Even though it might seem like you’re talking about the same subject (toys), you must find something relevant to a very diverse number of countries with quite strong cultural differences.” When it comes to multiculturalism, New York Toy Fair certainly delivers. The press centre alone is often populated by British, Dutch, Australian, Chinese, Russian, South
American, or European journalists (notably talking the internationally recognised language of ‘journalist b***cks’, I should add) at any given time, while the exhibition halls offer a pan-global snapshot of the world’s toy industry itself. “There’s the risk of making activity very vanilla in a bid to appeal to too broad a group,” Morgan continues. “So we focus on the added value that the show provides, and what that means to the different people that attend. We have a very tailored communications approach to all the media we work with to make sure their readers all get something different and interesting.” Reflective of the scaled down global perspective that New York Toy Fair offer, the toy industry is a rich rainbow of not just people and products, but ideas, concepts and approaches to market; and there is certainly no ‘one-size-fits-all’ magic formula to the marketing that any given product will require or indeed, sink or swim under. In fact, it is the concept of the different and interesting on which this industry thrives, whatever discipline one treads. And any PR agency worth its salt in this industry will readily tell you that, even if via long a distance call from Portugal. August 2019 | toy news | 25
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This September 1st, Autumn Fair will be hosting its annual event spanning the halls of Birmingham’s NEC. But seasoned veterans of this four-day show; ready yourselves, because this year it promises to deliver a whole lot of innovation, newness, and plenty to learn
or anyone heading to Birmingham’s NEC this September for your annual installment of Autumn Fair antics, you can rest assured - things won’t be how they’ve ever been before. 2019 marks a year of sweeping changes to the show that has become a permanent and must-attend fixture in the industry calendar, with a relaunch that promises a new location within the NEC itself, new stages, new show sectors, new theatres, and a completely revamped content programme for this year. “We’ve done everything we can to help ensure that suppliers and visitors are able
to stay ahead of the curve and continue to drive orders and sales into late 2019 and beyond,” Julie Driscoll, regional director for Spring Fair and Autumn Fair tells ToyNews. The plans for the 2019 event are large, but not wholly unexpected. Autumn Fair is a show now well into its third decade, and one that over the course of a generation has maintained its position as the definitive show for all those operating in the home and giftware sectors. Keeping such a reputation is no accident, and, at a time when the retail sector ‘continues to change beyond all recognition,’ this is an event that realises the importance of evolution.
“More so than ever, retailers need to be looking beyond the UK’s borders for competitively priced and quality products,” continues Driscoll. “Meanwhile, the boom in ecommerce and the emergence of social media as a venue for product sourcing has left many retailers feeling like they’re struggling to keep up with trends. “To reﬂect this, 2019’s show will be forward and outward looking. We have the must-know colour trends information for autumn/winter, as well as international sourcing and deal making opportunities with manufacturers and suppliers from all over the world."
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Alongside its line-up of exhibiting toy companies and the thousands of retailers from the independent outlets, to the major retail chain brands - that walk the halls, Autumn Fair has long been championed for its curated educational track. It comes as little surprise, then, that once again, the show’s organisers are placing a great emphasis on this aspect of the show. Driscoll explains: “It’s more important than ever for retailers to listen to each other, and experts on the sector, at a forum such as Autumn Fair - drawing on the shared knowledge and expertise to ensure that we have the know-how to overcome and adapt. “This year, the show will look at the sector’s innovators for their take on how we can make the most of digital disruption, the sustainability agenda, and Brexit.” This year, visitors will find a “totally revamped content offering”, with an increased number of retailers speaking at the show, while there will be a track - held at a dedicated Sourcing Theatre - that will take a look at business beyond the UK’s borders. It's teeing us up for Brexit. “We want to help retailers move into the growing revenue sources that is private label, or offer something a little different, to bring the best of the world to our
doorsteps,” adds Driscoll. “Speakers here will be well-versed in what it takes to find the best products from further afield and expand business horizons.” Of course, amid the revamp and the changes to this year’s show, one of the
"More so than ever, retailers need to be looking beyond the UK's borders for competitively priced and quality products, and that's what we're facilitating this year." Julie Driscoll, Autumn Fair constants will be Autumn Fair’s approach to the all-important toy sector. Throughout the show’s history, the toy sector has played an integral role to the success of Autumn Fair, and when it comes to 2019’s offering, Driscoll insists the plan is to double-down on efforts. “With cross buying opportunities aplenty, the biggest exhibitors on show and
new product inspiration, Autumn Fair is a one-stop shop for buyers,” she says. “With the all-new Play and Tech area now housed adjacent to the ever-popular Gift showcase, visitors can expect a greater range of products and exhibitors than ever before. “The show also has the potential to make retailers' Christmas if they really go in wanting to make the most out of their Autumn Fair experience. Very soon we’ll also be announcing some new features to really help visitors get to grips with the show’s size and allow them to make the most out of their visit.” On the topic of the evolving markets and retail space, none have seen such change as much as the toy industry these past few years, and it’s a point that the show’s organisers are only too aware of. Autumn Fair, according to Driscoll, is a show that “understands that what ignites and captures the imaginations of children and toy enthusiasts today, is not what grabbed their attention even a few years ago.” To this end, the show’s re-edit intends to bring a new sector to its attending toy buyers; a "sector for sourcing the kinds of products that will excite children and toy enthusiasts well into 2020.” “The new Play and Tech sector - housed in our gift showcases - will offer a greater August 2019 | toy news | 27
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focus on gadgets and interactive toys, while still retaining the all-important traditional suppliers that visitors have come to know and love.” With so much change happening around the business of toys, Driscoll consigns to the narrative - subscribed to by the industry’s envelope pushers and most optimistic, that 2019 presents a time of opportunity for the independent toy shop, and that the future belongs to those who can keep up with present advancements. “The next few years are going to be an exciting time for retail,” she says. “As a sector we’re now truly experiencing the effects of digital disruption and the emergence of new technologies. What we’re seeing is that young, innovative and diverse indies are absolutely thriving in this fastmoving market and embracing tech as a way of boosting their place on the high street. “I’d challenge anyone coming to Autumn Fair to look beyond the headlines and see for themselves how positive and upbeat the show’s visitors are. The people we talk to on the ground - particularly the
independent suppliers - are always very encouraged by the receptiveness and enthusiasm of buyers from even the biggest multis and department shops. “For independent retailers, Autumn Fair truly remains the best venue for discovering the trends and products that will drive sales
"I'd challenge anyone coming to Autumn Fair to look beyond the headlines of today and see for themselves how positive and upbeat the show's visitors are." Julie Driscoll, Autumn Fair
for the upcoming year. It variety and the breadth of sectors it spans means there will be something for you.” As for what the future holds for this Birmingham show, Driscoll has a clear plan to kickstart a whole new look for the show with the 2019 event. “Our commitment to newness is why we’re still relied upon as a key trade event and going forward, this will be no different,” she explains. “The 2019 re-edit is just the start of our commitment to continue to bring retailers the newest and freshest sourcing opportunities and trends. “We’re going to continue to focus on ensuring that retailers are getting the most up to date and relevant trend information, whether that be through partners like Colour Hive or via our diverse speaker lineups. We’re also going to review our content and ensure that visitors always have the chance to make the most of their show. “This means constantly challenging ourselves and by implication our visitors too, to expand their own horizons,” Driscoll concludes.
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Paul Lamond 0207 254 0100 Hall: 6,7, and 8 Stand: 7C80 - D81 Paul Lamond and University Games has a cast of new and evergreen products with which to delight visitors of Autumn Fair this year, spanning some of the best-loved licensed and gaming titles on the books. New titles for 2019 include the likes of Tip of the Tongue, a fast-paced game that promises to have the family in stitches. Players have two seconds - yes, two seconds - to attempt to answer quick fire trivia questions. They'll have to think fast to get their answer out, otherwise it will forever be on the tip of their tongue. Sort it Out is a game all about putting things in order. By guessing from a list, from the longest to the shortest, or fastest to the slowest, players can uncover facts and learn as they play. Sort it Out joins the family games portfolio this season. And that’s a portfolio that Paul Lamond and University Games can certainly boast
about, supplemented with some of the company’s best selling titles, all on display at the show this year. These include the ever-favoured Stupid Deaths board game, the quirky and innovative Are You Dumber than a Box of Rocks?, and the strategic dice game, Perudo, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. What’s more, the company has a slate of pre-school games ready to launch this autumn, including Inch Worms, Five Little Fish and Squeak and Seek Mice. Each has been designed to encourage learning through play. Meanwhile, The Horrible Histories board game has players racing through history to answer multiple choice questions and act out charades, while avoiding Rattus and his tricky Chance cards.
Finally, titles based on Roald Dahl’s characters - Matilda’s Splendid Spelling, Charlie’s Marvellous Maths and The BFG’s Whizzpopping Words - offer fun, educational play to aid both Key Stage 1 and 2 and encourage learning through gaming.
Pyramid International 0116 284 3645 Hall: 18 and 19 Stand: 19A02 - C01 Fans of the hit Netflix sci-fi series, Stranger Things will want to make the trip from the Upside Down and into Birmingham’s NEC (yes, there's a difference - you jokers!) this September, to get a first glimpse of Pyramid International’s striking collection of licensed merchandise this year. Hot on the heels of the show’s record-setting viewing figure pull of 18 million (reported by Netflix) for its third season, Pyramid International has introduced several new and engaging products. The range includes an arcade-machine-shaped mug and a hidden feature cappuccino mug, both of which pay homage to in-series locations, moments and themes with nods to the viewers of the show. Pyramid will also be exhibiting new additions to its Eco-Conscious range, a line that only launched at Spring Fair this year and has alrady proved itself to be the popular collection among consumers today. It features alongside Pyramid's rice husk eco mugs line, which will see expansion in the shape of The Lion King and Pusheen designs. Meanwhile the metal drinks bottle range welcomes licences such as Harry Potter, Rick & Morty, and Friends. What’s more, Pyramid will also use the show as the testing zone for new images of its highly anticipated Frozen II and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ranges. Both ranges, according to Pyramid International, are set to provide strong opportunities in the marketplace. August 2019 | toy news | 29
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Jumbo Games 01707 289 289 Hall 6,7, and 8 Stand 7F93 Moon & Me will undoubtedly be a hot pick at this year’s Autumn Fair and for anyone visiting Jumbo’s stand at the show this year, you won’t be disappointed as the games and puzzles specialist showcases a line to delight all fans. Jumbo launched the ﬁrst of its Moon & Me puzzles last month, with Shaped Puzzles, giant Shaped Floor and Fourin-One Puzzle Packs, and according to the company, it’s gone down a treat with customers already. What's more, the next installment of season one will air soon on CBeebies, so Q4 is sure to be a busy one for Moon & Me stockists. When it comes to licensed titles, though, there’s plenty in the Jumbo cannon this year, with releases based on Disney's everpopular The Lion King and Aladdin. The 1,000-piece puzzles both feature classic illustrated artwork from the original movies.
Meanwhile, The Little Mermaid celebrates its 30th anniversary this November, and Jumbo has just released a 1,000-piece movie puzzle for this aquatic classic. Also in the licensed Disney range are Snow White, Bambi, Dumbo and Mickey’s 90 Years Celebrations puzzles, a range that joins in with the character's birthday celebrations.
Away from licensing and treading new ground in the tabletop gaming space, and fresh from having exhibited at the UK Games Expo in June, Jumbo has been pleased with the response to its new board and card games including the likes of Overbooked, Caper, Forbidden City and How to Rob A Bank.
Asmodee UK 01420 593 593 Hall 6, 7, and 8 Stand: 7A80-B81 Two can’t-miss new Party Games will be headlining the Asmodee UK stand at Autumn Fair, with the major new releases Telestrations and Time’s Up! Party. They complete the latest key range, which highlights games that are perfect for getting larger groups laughing together. Telestrations is about interpretation in which drawings get passed around a table to hilarious results, while Time’s Up! Party sees players trying to help their team-mates guess famous names against the clock over three increasingly diﬃcult rounds. Also worthy of attention will be the boardgame adaptation of Tenable, the hit quiz show hosted by Star Wars actor Warwick Davis. Just as it’s done on screen, players will aim to complete top-ten lists across a wide variety of trivia categories. Following his well-
received appearance at London Toy Fair, plans are in place for Davis to participate in a launch event for Tenable later this year so, with awareness for the game set to receive a big boost, it’ll certainly be among the top ten attractions at the fair. Carpool Karaoke is inspired by the virally successfully segment from James Corden’s Tonight Show in the USA, the game encourages players to load up their favourite music streaming service to play along. Challenges include singing parts of a song to match a particular life event, or completing lyrics after the music stops. New to the Asmodee catalogue this summer is Ticket to Ride: London, a bite-sized edition of the Modern Classic board game set in the British capital. The game, which can be played from start to ﬁnish in 15 minutes, takes players to the '70s for a race around the city, playing cards to fulﬁl routes between major landmarks using iconic London buses. It’s the ideal introduction to the Ticket to Ride series.
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Winning Moves 0207 298 9507 Hall: 6,7, and 8 Stand: 7E80 The Harry Potter franchise is conjuring some impressive sales ﬁgures for Winning Moves, led by the success of its Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit, which continues to sell over 300,000 units a year for the ﬁrm. Last year NPD reports showed the Winning Moves product to be one of the Top Ten best-selling Harry Potter items, and with those kind of ﬁgures to its name, it’s little wonder the ﬁrms is on a winning streak, having seen business double in the last four years. Leveraging the success of the brand for 2019, Winning Moves is launching a further two editions of the licensed Trivial Pursuit game to test fans’ wizarding knowledge. The bitesize Trivial Pursuit Volume 2 will contain 600 new questions on muggles and magic, while the Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit Ultimate Edition boasts 1,800 questions. On top of this, the original, Volume One of the game will enjoy a refresh, too. Also on show will be LexGo! It was once again Harry Potter who changed the game with the recent introduction of spell tiles, and in early 2020 Disney will likewise incorporate fun tiles which will mix up the gameplay and bring some of its popular character to the tabletop. LexGo! Can be taken and played anywhere, and oﬀers engaging play for everyone, so make sure oay Winning Moves a visit to ﬁnd out all about it and more. As if this wasn't enough, Winning Moves is also oﬀering an Autumn Fair special of ﬁve per cent oﬀ a £500 order and 10 per cent oﬀ a £1,000 order, subject to terms and conditions. TN-AUG19-KIND + JUGEND.qxp_Layout 1 17/07/2019 14:55 Page 1
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Wow! Stuff 01902 390 428 Hall: 6,7, and 8 Stand: 6B91 Autumn Fair looks set to have more Harry Potter than you can shake a… well, broom handle at this year as Wow! Stuff readies to entice the crowds with its official Wizarding World of Harry Potter collection. Fresh from whipping up a frenzy across London this summer, Wow! Stuff’s Harry Potter inspired Invisibility Cloak will be on display - or very much not, as the case may be - at this year’s show. The innovative new line uses Augmented Reality to vanish its wearer into thin air. The Cloak is aimed at kids aged six years and upwards and features exact replica detailing as the cloak worn by Harry in the film series. The Invisibility Cloak comes with a free app that makes it look like anyone or anything has disappeared when filmed or photographed using a smart device. The cloak comes with a smartphone stand designed to hold the phone or tablet steady,
to ensure that videos are tremor free and photos are crisp and clear. The costume even comes with a unique authentication code that allows users to unlock the Invisibility Cloak section within the free downloadable Wow! Stuff app for iOS and Android devices. While wearing the Invisibility Cloak illusion costume, users
can view, photograph or film themselves re-enacting iconic scenes from the Harry Potter films and then save them to their camera roll. The Invisibility Cloak features authentic patterning as seen in the films, and a green silk style interior. It's also been awarded Innovative Toy of the Year.
Big Potato 07472 824 526 Hall: 6, 7, and 8 Stand: 6H56 The golden age of video rentals is back and on display at Autumn Fair and it's all thanks to Big Potato, and the firm's simply party game, Blockbuster. It's so easy to play, it's billed as ideal for 'anyone who has ever seen a movie.' To start, players split into two teams. In round one, each team will get to choose one of their members to go head-to-head in a quickfire buzzer battle. From ‘famous trilogies’ to ‘movies with a zombie in’, players must think quickly, shout out a movie and slap the buzzer to put the pressure on their opponent. The first player to run out of ideas loses the round - and gives their opponents a serious advantage in round two. Big Potato calls round two ‘movie charades with a twist’. The player that wins the buzzer battle picks up six movie cards, gives the hardest three to their opponent and keeps the rest for themselves. When ready, they’ll have 30 seconds to get their team to shout out the correct movies by using three tricky techniques – acting out the film, making up a quote, and describing them with just one word. Get them right quick enough, and the player will have a chance to steal from their opponents. If too slow, the opponents might get the chance to steal for themselves. With 200 classic movies, 60 category cards and a replica Blockbuster car park for a game board, this party game promises to bring home the entertainment again and again. 32| toy news | August 2019
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Hippychick 01278 434 440 Hal 6, 7, and 8 Stand: 6A81 Vilac, Wheelybug, HappyHopperz and Classic World Collections make up a cast of recognised and highly reputable brands under this Hippychick banner this Autumn Fair. And that’s not all the firm has to offer this season, with promise of a whole host of new lines, too. First up is Dëna, a collection of toys made from food-grade platinum silicone. Due to its minimalist design, this toy can be used by babies, pre-schoolers and older children in a variety of ways. With Dëna, children are not limited to one style of play, meaning the play possibilities are endless. Elsewhere, and a firm favourite in the premium toy sector, the traditional yet modern Moover White Pram features a timeless design and cut out heart. Now available in a white MDF format at a lower price point, Moover prams have become accessible to a much wider audience,
making them an attractive prospect for retailers both big and small. A high level of attention to detail goes into each Nattou plush character, encouraging parents and children to hold on to theirs for a lifetime. Kids can choose from bushy tailed foxes to lop eared bunnies and elephants, and each character helps weave an engaging story for kids.
New to Hippychick, myHummy is helping to give parents a decent night’s sleep. Each unique myHummy’s humming bears emit five different types of sound including white noise, which newborn babies associate with the comfort of being in the womb. Suitable from birth, they come with a Sound Heart that can play soothing sounds for up to 12 hours.
Kosmos Games UK 01580 212 000 Hall: 6,7, and 8 Stand: 7E92 Thames & Kosmos’ best-selling Exit escape-games range will be impossible to drag yourself away from at Autumn Fair this year, with titles including The House of Riddles in which players take on the role of detectives summoned to an abandoned house, and The Haunted Roller Coaster, where players embark on a journey through dark corridors filled with terrifying shrieks and bone-chilling monsters. If indeed you do manage to escape - or resist - the collection, Thames & Kosmos will also be introducing you to the new Fun Science range, which covers topics such as crystals, magnets, slime and more. On show will be Glow in the Dark Bouncing Balls. Suitable for kids aged eight and upwards, this kit includes special glow in the dark granules and moulds so kids can make luminous bouncing balls in just 10 minutes. Spying and gadgetry will also be big themes for the company this year, with the Thames & Kosmos UK team showcasing the latest products to join the Three Detective series. Appearing alongside Digital Safe, the relaunched Master Detective Toolkit takes espionage to the next level with a briefcase of investigative tools, helping kids learn how real detectives use forensic science to answer questions, gather evidence and solve crimes. Thames & Kosmos’ popular STEM character Pepper Mint will be back with some adventure-led kits for autumn, as well as new products in the company’s learning Globes range.
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Campaign of the month
A FLAIR FOR INFLUENCING THE DOLLS MARKET Flair launched its new baby doll brand, the Bellies Babies at the end of last month. This month, the firm’s head of marketing, Emmanuelle Cadet talks us through the new brand’s major marketing plans
P Flair is proud to announce the safe arrival of its new baby doll brand, the Bellies Babies; a quartet of babbling characters with a unique play value that has already taken the Spanish market by storm this year so far. The Bellies launched at the end of July, calling on some out of the traditional marketing box thinking from Flair to ensure the brand’s success and echo the level of popularity the new brand has already seen across southern Europe, where it currently sits in the top spot of Nurturing dolls in NPD. Central to all brand awareness activity for the launch and marketing campaign, will be YouTube. The Spanish Bellies Babies YouTube channel has been a key driver of The Bellies’ success, and the English channel is now available. Over the coming months, almost 50 episodes will be posted following Nursery Nurse Beth and the Bellies while at Bellyville Day Care. The storylines are great fun, highly colourful and perfect for the audience as they engage them not just with doll play but with the character storylines too. Driving the views is other influencer activity with one of the world’s top kids’ channels, Toys and Little Gaby, headlining a list of 10 kids’ channels. They have created their own Bellies episodes and in just the first two weeks, over two million views across 20 different videos were logged. This activity will continue through
the autumn with at least three new pieces of content each week. Emmanuelle Cadet, head of marketing, said: “The Bellies have been incredibly successful in Spain, so much so that it was important that we integrate the key learnings of this success into our UK strategy. Early readings on the YouTube videos have proven that the content is resonating with the UK audience and brand awareness is gaining. “This will all build-up our upcoming massive TV and digital campaigns to support the brand.” TV and YouTube advertising will begin in August across multiple channels and continue throughout the autumn. In-store events where fans can come meet the stars
of the Bellies episodes, including Nurse Beth are also planned to run throughout the year and across the UK. For more information about the Bellies, call Flair on 0208 643 0320 or email sales@ fairplc.co.uk August 2019 | toy news | 35
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TOYS TO INSPIRE Amid the evolving industry, the market formerly known as girls is brimming with new lines to teach and inspire kids to lead the next generation. Robert Hutchins casts the net to round up the latest products on the scene
Mattel 01628 500 111 As you’d very well expect, Barbie and Polly Pocket are leading the parade for Mattel’s girls’ market portfolio this season, joined by some exciting new licensed lines with BTS and Harry Potter. In AW19, Barbie is introducing its most diverse and inclusive Barbie Fashionistas range to date; with dolls reflecting physical disabilities, including a doll in a wheelchair and a doll with a prosthetic limb. The new body types for Barbie include small bust, a less defined waist and more defined arms, as well as a variety of skin tones, eye colours, hair colours and textures, introducing new braided hair texture and fashions to choose from. This autumn sees the introduction of the Barbie travel range, including the Travel Barbie Doll and her puppy, in a travel set that includes more than 10 accessories. The Polly Pocket range continues to grow, inspiring children that ‘Tiny is Mighty’ and allowing kids to explore the world of Pollyville.
New for AW19 is the Pollyville Mega Mall, Pollyville Stores Assortment, which include Peanut’s Pit Stop and Arcade, and drive around town with the Pollyville Vehicles Assortment. Polly Pocket World Compacts expand with new additions - Schoolbook and Birthday Cake, while for Tiny Pocket Places, there are now 12 to collect. The Enchantimals dolls introduce a Junglewood theme for AW19, with the Enchantimals Junglewood Café: a 2ft tall play-set. The Enchantimals Core Dolls introduce Tamike Tree Frog, Fanci Flamingo and Larissa Lemur to the range, and the Enchantimals Dolls and Large animal assortment introduce Hedda Hippo and Tadley Tiger for AW19. Mattel unveiled the BTS Core Fashion Dolls Assortment in spring, inspired by the superstar boy band.The BTS dolls stylish outfits are inspired by the groups ‘Idol’ Music video. Harry Potter fans can travel back to Hogwarts with the new Yule Ball Doll Assortment. Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione and Cho Chang dolls outfit are inspired by the Yule Ball in the now iconic film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
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Spin Master 01628 535 000 Spin Master has a unique new girls’ collectable this autumn, the Awesome Bloss’ems: a Magical Growing Flower-Themed Scented Collectable Doll that's sure to be a hit. There are 25 characters to collect, plant, water them and then watch them grow. With each pack, kids will find everything they need to bring their surprise Awesome doll to life. The fun starts from the moment the packaging is opened, as they find an Awesome Bloss’ems seed, sparkle soil and a leaf watering spoon inside. Each Awesome Bloss’ems doll wears a detailed outfit with a beautiful blossom on her head that smells sweet like flowers. Place the colourful seed into the pot and cover it with the sparkle soil. Make a wish and add about five leaf spoons of water, then watch as your doll starts to sprout from the soil — the flower on her head will hint at which character is blooming. Girls aged five and over can enjoy collecting the 26 Awesome Bloss’ems from five different themes, with rares, super rares or even an ultrarare doll with a real diamond tiara to find. Once your doll has fully bloomed, pick her out of the pot like a real flower and pose her to sit in the leaf spoon. Set up a terrarium on top of the lid and decorate it with the colourful chip art, then cover it with the glittery dome to display your doll.
Basic Fun www.basicfun.com Cutetitos launched late last year and continues to be a priority with over 1,400 kids TVRs confirmed so far this year. It’s being supported by strong PR and marketing throughout 2019. New waves of Cutetitos characters will be available throughout the year, while Cutetitos Series Two launched in June and rrps at £9.99. Series Three launches in October this year. Basic Fun also recently launched Babitos, a brand new baby Cutetito range in June, rrp £7.99. Each Babito comes packaged in a Taco, and reveals a Babito boy or girl wearing a removable nappy, embroidered with the range’s signature ‘Hot Spot’ Little Lucky Lunchbox is key for Basic Fun and is supported with a strong media spend, including Pop TV sponsorship - delivering over 600 TVRs to girls aged four to nine. PR support features regular activity across media and influencers between now and Christmas. Priced at just £6.99, each Little Lucky Lunchbox tin contains two Foodie Friends, with 50 to collect. Series One includes hot dogs, pie and juice. Series Two will launch in September with International foods. The original My Little Pony line starts from £9.99 and includes classics such as Cotton Candy and Butterscotch, plus Collector Ponies including Unicorns and Pegasus. Basic Fun is also bringing to life one of the brand’s original biggest selling products, the Pretty Parlour playset, complete with brushes and hats, which will retail for £24.99. August 2019 | toy news | 37
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Flair 0208 643 0320 There are four Bellies ready for a new home, each with their own stories and personalities. Take their plaster oﬀ to hear a heartbeat and listen to them babble in their own language or watch them interact with their Belly brothers and sisters. The surprises left behind in their nappy will hav kids checking the “Poopypedia” to see what type of care each baby needs. Already the number one dolls brand in Spain, Flair’s launch will be fully supported through TV, digital, YouTube and major inﬂuencer activity. Hairdorables welcomes Series Three Dolls with accessories to crimp, colour or curl their hair, Series Two Pets with a new shimmery look, and the introduction of their little sisters, Shortcuts, as well as HairDUDEables. Series Three will create a celebration in the aisles as the Hairdorables girls show oﬀ their new “party-themed” style. Discover the pyjama, disco and outdoor parties with each doll being dressed to suit, with accessories to match. Girls can unlock a world of surprises with the four new Shopkins Lil’ Secrets Shop Keypers Pocket Shop play-sets. Each miniature Shopkins world has a Shoppie that needs help getting inside the shops. Once open, each pocketsized store has a host of hidden features. Finally, the Spirit Riding Free range has grown in 2019 with new play-sets and deluxe ﬁgures. This month marks the arrival of the new Deluxe Spirit Walking Horse which features Lucky and her wild mustang Spirit, in an action-packed play experience. Press the button on his back and Spirit comes to life with realistic sounds.
Posh Paws 01268 567 317 Posh Paws has got a range of licensed plush destined to become a ﬁrm favourite among girls and youngsters this year - and pretty much like any year - as the ﬁrm unveils its new Love Hearts line-up for 2019. The 'super cute' Love Hearts collection of plush toys oﬀers an eclectic mix of vibrant colours adorned with up-to-the-minute messages such as ‘Be Unique’ and ‘Let’s Avo Cuddle’; as well as the more sentimental messages w've all come to expect from Love Hearts brand. Characters in this new range include Betty the Bunny, Mikey the Monkey, Farina the Flamingo, Mia the Unicorn, Pricilla the Peacock and a bang-on-trend Avocado called Alan. Just like the sweets that have inspired the collection, reads the saccharine press release, these cuddly characters will melt girls’ hearts, are perfect for collecting and of course, "are made with the amazing quality Posh Paws are renowned for." For more information about these and other girls collectables please call Posh Paws International on 01268 567317.
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Character Options 0161 633 9800 An out of this world new girls property has landed in the Character Options portfolio, so prepare yourselves to meet the Goo Drops from the far ﬂung Goo Goo Galaxy. Crash landing on Earth are the super cute Goo Drops who are looking for a Goo loving Earthling to rescue them. Their squishy, jiggly bellies are ﬁlled with some of the galaxy that they have travelled from, and their bobbly bodies wobble about as you play with and hug each of them. Each Goo Drop comes in Goo Pod style packaging to unbox, and inside kids can discover a fun DIY Galactic Slime Activity. Just add the Slime Crystals to the cup, add water and stir. Then, add the Cosmic Cloud with water and watch it magically grow. Finally, top with Starshine to see which message your Goo Drop has for you. There are four super cute Goo Drops to discover, all with diﬀerent glittery, squishy bellies and personalities. Their characters have been unveiled as part of a global inﬂuencer event in July which is now to be complemented with a heavyweight marketing schedule in the UK including TV advertising, animated preroll, mobile ﬁlmstrips and more.
Bandai firstname.lastname@example.org Foodie Surprise is a DIY sweet making kit with various food carts to collect, from Ice Cream to Pizza Trucks, allowing kids to create real food they can eat and share with friends. Each food cart becomes a mould for children to create their themed sweets and each kit includes collectable characters. The sugarfree range will beneﬁt from a heavyweight marketing campaign including TV and digital. Squishimals are made from squishy synthetic materials rather than foam, making them extra cuddly. In two sizes: 20cm and 32cm, characters include a bunny, fox, mouse and ladybird, while tapping into the unicorn trend, Rainbow Dreams is a soft plush unicorn that lights up with colours and plays sounds. Bananas feature Crushie characters hidden inside. The recent launch of Series 2 Rainbow Bananas saw new colour-waves, fruits such as Lemon & Limes, and characters to collect. Series Six of Smooshy Mushy introduces a new play pattern to the range. The ‘Sweet Squeeze’ collection sees characters housed in drinks cannisters, which include ingredients for children to create their own juicer. Autumn 2019 will also see Smooshy Mushy miniatures added to the range. The popular Rescue Runts brand has expanded with the introduction of Rescue Runts Babies, an assortment of 16 diﬀerent 12.5cm plush creatures to rescue, love and care for. The ‘Please No Fleas’ series launches in Autumn with new dog breeds and even more accessories.
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Playmobil 01268 548 111 Kids can embrace the world of winter this AW19 with the Playmobil Crystal Palace, and take a trip into a new fantasy land. Illuminated from within by a glowing crystal, kids must secure the kingdom against invaders with a lockable entrance gate, or sneak a sentry to the watch tower to seek out threats via the secret staircase. Watch the Princess’ magical hoop skirt change colour in the cold when you lower the temperature from 20 to 8 °C. With a multitude of accessories and scenarios, including three Playmobil figures, royal throne room and bedroom with dressing area, wintry role play is guaranteed for hours on end. But winter doesn’t have to end here – there are a range of additional sets to expand the story. Take the path to find the crystal with the 9470 Crystal Diamond Hideout. Journey between spring and winter worlds with the aid of your crystal bracelet with the 9471 Crystal Gate to the Winter World. Enjoy a romantic snow picnic for two with 9474 Sleigh with Royal Couple. Don’t forget to ride the 9472 Winter Phoenix, or to decorate its wings with enclosed jewellery case and studs. And don’t miss the 9473 Yeti with Sleigh, who may or may not light your way in the dark with the luminous lantern included.
Schleich 01279 870000 Several new additions to the Horse Club collection provide more variation in the paddock this year. Girls between the ages of five and 12 can look forward to new play-sets and horse breeds. The Rider Café provides just the place to stop, rest and relax after a hard day’s eventing. This 60-piece set includes a full café setting with a new character, Tom. The doors open and close and there’s a place to tie two ponies while the riders relax. Introducing popular horse lovers Hannah, Sofia, Lisa and Sarah; each girl has her own personality and relationship with her horse: blonde Sofia and her Andalusian mare Blossom form a real dream team, Hannah has a Quarter Horse gelding Cayenne, Sarah loves long rides with her Arabian mare Mystery, and Lisa regularly wins tournaments with her Hanoverian gelding Storm. Horse Club will also be supported with its first ever TV advertising in Q3/Q4 in the UK. From the bayala world, girls will be enchanted by new purple magic horses. The proud Moon Unicorn stallion and the dazzling Star Pegasus mare guard their Shooting Star foal with Argus eyes. All three figures are decorated with glitter and rhinestones. September will see the arrival of Schleich’s Advent Calendars, which feature Horse Club. Girls will love the advent calendar with delightful figures and plenty of accessories to play with in the Christmas run-up.
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Pocket money toys
MARGIN MAKERS The pocket money sector is a staple of any toy shop offering, which explains why its a sector simply bursting at the seams with new lines and innovation. ToyNews looks at the latest products in the space this season
Vivid 01702 200 660 Inspired by the world’s biggest YouTube star, Vivid’s Ryan’s World product range is already proving to be a sell-out success in the UK since launching in early 2019. Kids can bring Ryan’s World to life with the Mystery Figures, Mystery Squishy Figures and Mystery Putty. All items are blind packed, ready for kids to discover, with a whole line of Series Two product, too. Meanwhile, the Harry Potter Character Collectibles range comes with 36 to collect including the limited edition golden Harry Potter and Furry Hedwig versions, single ﬁgure blind bags, and seven-ﬁgure blister packs with both common and rare characters to collect. Next up, and Micro Wheels is a brand new way to race. It’s a toy line that features the new Boost Up Activation that kids can use to control the speed and performance
of their vehicles. The more they pump, the faster the cars will go. There are over 30 cars to collect, including common vehicles, special edition metallic, rare glow in the dark versions as well as translucent stunt packs. Each Micro Wheels single pack comes in an enclosed garage pack. Muddy Buddies are a line of abandoned pets that need to be adopted and rescued. Once rescued, wash them in warm water to reveal the beautiful friend hidden beneath. Each Muddy Buddies pet comes with its own brush, play accessory and collector ﬁle. There are 12 to collect in series one, with a second series following later in the year. Squeezamals 3Deez are the newest edition to the Squeezamals toy line. They are scented, soft and squishy, and what’s more, available in four cute animals. Splishies is a soft range of creatures with squishy, splashy insides, and come available in two sizes: Splishies and the larger Super Splishies. There are lots for kids to collect, shake, splish and squish.
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Pocket money toys
Character Options 0161 633 9800 Fresh to the Character Options’ collectables line up this season is a new segment for the successful Little Live franchise, with the introduction of OMG (Oh My Gosh) Pets! OMG Pets are the pocket money-priced puppies that combine unique silicone material and interactive technology. The result is a realistic and super-cute aesthetic to the softest, cutest, most realistic pets possible. With over 15 sounds and reactions, each puppy loves to be fed and nurtured. Included with a ready-to-play pup with batteries, each pack includes a colour-changing bottle and birth certiﬁcate too. Series One includes four favourite breeds, such as; Pierre the French Bulldog and Shep the German Shepherd. To add to the fun, an OMG Pets Bestie Bag play-set includes an exclusive puppy plus feeding bottle and bowl. OMG pets will launch in August with a full schedule of marketing activity, including TV digital and placement with the UK’s up and coming YouTubers. Of course, Character Options' portfolio doesn't end there. To ﬁnd out more, get in touch with the team today by calling them on 0161 633 9800.
Bandai email@example.com Series Three Bananas Bunches Three-Pack was recognised as one of Toy Fair’s Hero Toys 2019, and Bandai continues to invest and innovate to establish a long-term brand. Bananas takes surprise unboxing to the next level as kids peel the scented banana skin to reveal a variety of surprises inside. Series Two launched for SS19 with the introduction of new Rainbow Bananas and Lemons & Limes packs with more Crushies to collect, including twins. Moving into Autumn, Series Three includes chocolate-dipped and doodle themed Bananas, and Strawberries packs to further extend brand play and collectability. The range is supported with TV, digital, and inﬂuencer campaigns. Following the release of new ITV series Robozuna in late 2018, Bandai holds the master toy licence which includes a host of collectable lines. The Robozuna Battle n Build range features all the key characters from the show. Meanwhile, Slurpees Snot Suckers proved an instant hit following its Christmas 2018 launch and Bandai will continue to refresh and add to the range, with the introduction of three new characters and additional collectable characterled lines later in the year. Pomsies, Rescue Runts, Squishamals and Smooshy Mushy complete the robust line up of collectables brands for Bandai, with new 2019 launches from each. Contact Bandai for more.
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Pocket money toys
HTI www.htigroup.co.uk HTI’s pocket money portfolio remains integral to the business as its ranges expand in a world of evolving trends, fast-moving playground crazes and collectables. From outdoor-focused brands such as Hot Shots and Fun Sports to trend-led ranges such as Jokes and Gags, Slime, It’s Poop and Magical Kingdom, HTI is continuing to grow in this popular category. Sticky Poop from the Jokes and Gags range is perfect for shaping, throwing, moulding and even squeezing, boasting a sticky composition and realistic detailing. Just what you want. Super stretchy and ready to be launched, the Sling Shot Poop is guaranteed to send laughs ﬂying. With an impressive range and funky detailing, this playset will entertain as jokers watch the super squishy fake poop soar through the air. Meanwhile, you can develop hand-eye coordination with the Hot Shots MEGA Skimmer or learn the art of juggling with the Hot Shots Juggling Diabolo Set. Keep the cost of playing outdoors low with the Fun Sports range, which includes the Cricket Set. Comprising cricket bat with rubber grip, a four piece Wicket set and a sturdy rubber ball, the Cricket Set packs away in it’s own bag. Fruitopia includes a host of scented items such as bubbles, putty and charms.The scented Bubble Wavers are sure to be a ﬁrm favourite this summer. Simply wave the wand to produce heaps of sweet-smelling bubbles. Cutekins are new for HTI and feature the friendly and highly desirable Flamingo, Llama, Narwhal, and Sloth.
Little Tikes www.littletikes.co.uk Pocket money and collectable toys remain a key category within the toy industry. Collectables in particular invite children to engage in new ways of play as they work towards owning a full collection. Brand new to Little Tikes is Springlings Surprise!, a soft plush collectable which will have little ones jumping for joy. The adorable animals surprise and delight as they bounce into the air from their springy home at the push of a button. No batteries are required - simply pop them back into their home to be enjoyed time and time again. There are 12 diﬀerent furry animal friends to collect including a hedgehog, narwhal, puppy and unicorn. The fun never ends. Little Tikes continues to celebrate its 50th Anniversary with a range of fun activities and new product launches throughout the year, encouraging little ones to play big.
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Pocket money toys
Posh Paws 01268 567317 Kids can take along their favourite plush characters thanks to the wide collection of bag clips from Posh Paws, including many of the characters from this year’s blockbuster ﬁlms together with a whole brand new collection from the quality gift brand NICI. Bag clips are easy to display in store, eminently collectable and the perfect aﬀordable treat after a visit to the cinema. This year, high on the agenda will be the range from the highly successful third instalment in the Dragon’s franchise, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Recently named as the distributor of NICI in the UK and Ireland, Posh Paws also has a stunning collection of pocket money gifts and stationery items featuring the super-cute characters from the world of NICI. Included in the collection are pencil cases, notebooks and pens; all high quality and the perfect complement to the entire Posh Paws portfolio.
Schleich 01279 870 000 From ﬁrm favourites Horse Club through to prehistoric Dinosaurs, Schleich has many collectable pocket money purchases to choose from this year. Horse Club’s numerous new additions provide more variation in the horse yard. Introducing popular horse lovers Hannah, Soﬁa, Lisa and Sarah; each girl captivates with her individual personality and special relationship with her horse: blonde Soﬁa and her Andalusian mare Blossom form a real dream team. And also for Hannah, a passionate Western rider, there is nothing better than spending time in the stable with her Quarter Horse gelding Cayenne. Sarah loves to go on long rides and gallop across wide ﬁelds on the back of her Arabian mare Mystery. And Lisa is also of course mad about horses: she is a particularly talented show jumper and regularly wins tournaments with her Hanoverian gelding Storm. Horse Club will also be supported with its ﬁrst ever TV advertising in Q3/Q4 in the UK. Meanwhile, kids can pick up a prehistoric pocket money purchase with four new Dinosaurs to collect. Two never-seen-before prehistoric giants: the Plesiosaurus, a new underwater dinosaur with a bendable neck and the dangerous Dracorex; the dragonlike dinosaur will thrill fans of dinosaurs and dragons alike and provide plenty of action in the prehistoric game world. Also available for the ﬁrst time is the Diabloceratops, which is part of the popular Ceratopsia genus, as well as a cheeky baby Giganotosaurus with a movable lower jaw. All Schleich ﬁgures are for collecting and playing with and are designed with great attention to detail. Of course, as collections grow each of Schleich’s play worlds has many playsets too which make the whole play experience complete.
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Pocket money toys
Orchard Toys 01953 859 539 Orchard Toys has been designing and making children’s educational toys in Britain for over 40 years. With an emphasis on Learning Made Fun, the firm’s distinctive, colourful designs, educational benefits and high quality products have built it a reputation as leaders in its sector, with customers in over 45 countries. This season, it’s tapping into the pocket money sector with the Orchard Toys collection of 12 mini games, billed as perfect pocket money purchases or impulse buy. The mini game range offers all of the fun of a traditional Orchard toys product in a compact size, making them the ideal travel companion. The range of 12 from Little Bus Lotto to Llamas in Pyjamas features Orchard Toys’ twists on classic gameplay, including snakes and ladders dominoes, lotto games and matching games. With popular themes including dinosaurs and jungle animals, these compact games are small in size but big in fun.
Flair 0208 643 0320 Keeping your collectables close even when the school bell rings is easy with the choice of keychains and bag clips available within many of Flair favourite brands. Adding to the global gaming sensation, GP Flair is proud to introduce a new line of Fortnite accessories along with complimentary products ideal for back packs and pencil cases. Kids can stamp their favourite Fortnite characters onto anything with the Fortnite Stamper. There are over 36 different 8cm characters to collect each of which has a stamper in the base. Available in foil bags, duo and mega packs, each purchase comes with a handy collector’s leaflet. Keyrings and back pack chains are the perfect way to express their Fortnite style, and Flair’s line up has a whole collection with which to win the battle. Launching in time for the autumn term is MushMeez; the new moldable plush characters that have their very own unique look and feel. At pocket money prices and perfect to adorn the school bag are the MushMeez Clip-Ons; available in handy CDUs. Each has sparkly eyes and colourful personalities, and include popular designs of today. A rainbow Llama is joined by a rosy cheeked Unicorn not to mention a Dragon and super cute Penguin. Their unique material allows them to be squished, mushed and even molded, making them highly tactile and eminently collectable. Are you ready to MushMee?
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Pocket money toys
Spin Master 01628 535000 As the worldwide toy partner for Monster Jam and a commitment to detailed design and an authentic Monster Jam experience, Spin Master’s range of Monster Jam trucks incorporate realistic features and new tech. Each truck comes complete with BKT tyres, stylized chrome rims, an authentic chassis with chrome detailing and a moulded driver. The range includes the all-new 1:64 scale Diecast Monster Jam truck.With over 100 to collect, these 1:64 scale trucks come with a collectable Monster Jam driver figurine and collection poster. Candylocks are scented collectable dolls with hair that feels like cotton candy. Available in singles, BFF twin packs or Deluxe seveninch dolls, girls will be able to style their long, flowing locks. Each doll has 30cm of “cotton candy” hair, which is super soft, super long, and multicoloured. Collect all 20 dolls. Last but not least, it is the Spin Master’s Bakugan re-launch collection. The Bakugan Battle Planet toy line will retain the essence of what made the toys popular 10 years ago, with exciting new features that bring revolutionary card and game play. These balls instantly transform into multiple collectable characters when rolled over a magnetic card. The game will bring different levels of play, from beginner to advanced, offering enhanced collectability due to its wide range of strategy options.
H Grossman 0141 613 2525 Squidgies are still huge this year, a huge variety of the squeeze and pop back characters all in lovely summery pastel colours with lots of new designs, unicorns and mermaids to appeal to those with a love of all things mythical. It’s just a small percentage of the general increase in pocket money toys throughout the product range from Grossmans this year. Cost effective, child-led purchases with plenty of play value; hundreds of new lines have been launched, with more being added all the time from the team at H Grossman. Not forgetting the continuing story of slime and putty. As usual, Grossmans has led the way in variety and design. Dog Poo was the star of the London Toy Fair with masses of media coverage. The popularity of slime and putty shows no sign of abating and so HGL have doubled their product range in size with all sorts of innovations. Everything from Planet Putty, glow in the dark, glitter and rainbows to Mermaid, Flamingo, Shark and, of course, best selling Unicorn Poo is available. The Grow range, which consists of eggs immersed in water which then hatch to reveal their contents, has been a great success. Grow Aliens, Dinosaurs, Mermaids, Flamingos and now, of course, Unicorns.
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Includes 11” doll and story book introducing Satty and her family Trade enquiries firstname.lastname@example.org
CREATURE COMFORTS It’s time to jump head first into the plush sector this month, as ToyNews rounds up the latest in the cutest and cuddliest creatures… so prepare for a soft landing and we explore this heart melting sector
Flair 0208 643 0320 Pikmi Pops continues to cross the realms of plush and collectables with an abundance of scented characters to discover. Fresh for this summer will be the next wave of Bubble Drops; the Neons. As the name suggests these squeezy Pikmi Pops plushies are ultra-brightly coloured. Next to look forward to will be the FlipMi Fruit Fiestas. Each CDU holds 12 Pikmi FlipMis all wrapped up in its own fruity vessel. Once unwrapped, fans will find a reversible Pikmi character that flips into a piece of fruit with scents to match. Later in autumn two new Pikmi series will launch: Cheeki Puffs and the Pajama Llama! Following its confirmation as Plush Toy of the Year at the Australian Toy Fair, BIGiggles launches in August with four characters; Unicorn, Llama, Pup and Koala.
Each super soft BIGiggles character has articulated and poseable arms, dangling legs and a bobbling head that gives it a supercomical personality. Highly interactive features add to the fun, as it laughs, talks and giggles with you. Tickle its belly and it will mimic and chat back, while its voice changing switch will alter its tone. Keeping the plush zone fresh is always a must and this is where Flair’s MushMeez has the solution. MushMeez are moldable plush characters that have their own look and feel. Clip-Ons, Medium & Mega MushMeez are available in CDUs perfect for that pick me up treat. A rainbow Llama is joined by a rosy cheeked Unicorn not to mention a Dragon and super cute Penguin. Their unique material allows them to be squished, mushed and even molded, making them highly tactile and eminently collectable. And there's plenty more to come from Flair this year and beyond. August 2019 | toy news |49
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Little Tikes www.mgae.com Plush toys still remain a popular choice for children as they encourage nurturing skills while aiding development. A soft toy with a plush covering is an ideal first toy for any child. Little Tikes encourages development skills with My Buddy Triumphant and My Buddy Lalaphant from six months to three years. As children get older, My Buddy content evolves in three stages: Discover (six months and upwards) exposes baby to textures, cuddles and tickles, Learn (18 months and upwards) teaches the alphabet, counting and musical instruments, and Game Play (24 months and upwards) teaches children to follow directions. With over 200 songs, sounds and phrases, My Buddy is the ideal addition to any toy collection to aid onward development. Meanwhile, Springlings Surprise! are the latest addition to the Little Tikes infant pre-school category, and introduce playful and soft animal plush collectables to the Little Tikes stable. There are 12 characters to collect, each with adorable surprise play and a cute springing motion. Each Springlings Surprise pops out of its home, ready to play time and time again. No batteries are required, just press the button and watch the spring launch plush fun into the air. Little Tikes is celebrating 50 years of play through a series of activities and new product launches, while iconic toys that have remained at the forefront of the industry for many years continue to sell as well as ever.
Vivid 01483 449 944 Nestlings have a sweet surprise in store. Love and care for your Nestling, respond to her needs, and as her heart grows brighter her babies grow bigger. Her eyes show you exactly what she needs, is she sick or tired? Does she need a hug? Interact with your Nestling until the magical moment and her babies arrive. Kids can then play with their Nestling and her new babies. The launch is supported with a strong TV and digital focussed marketing campaign, as well as an exclusive unboxing launch with Kidfluncer sisters Ruby and Bonnie. Vividâ€™s longest standing brand AniMagic is back Arty and Peri as part of the AniMagic Goes Wild range. These fuzzy plush babies interact with their habitats and fall asleep when placed inside them. Children can take them out of their habitat to play with them, but they must take care and make sure that these babies feel safe and cared for. Give Arty and Peri a cuddle to hear them chirp happily. AniMagic is also launching Scoot, the schnauzer puppy, a pup that responds to your child. Call her name or clap and watch Scoot come running back to their best friend. With over 35 sound and motion combinations, Scoot barks excitedly, wags his tail and whimpers. Squeezamals have been a great success story with over 700,000 units sold in the UK alone since launch last year. The range continues to develop and expand into Autumn Winter.
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Posh Paws 01268 567317 Posh Paws’ extensive portfolio of beautiful plush toys has some popular additions this year with the introduction of Toy Story 4, Lion King and the infamous Love Hearts. Fans will be going wild with excitement for the adorable Lion King collection new to the Posh Paws line up this summer. In tribute to the 25th anniversary of the original Lion King movie, and the new live action ﬁlm release, it’s classically styled range of super soft plush really brings Simba and friends to life, perfect for new and age-old fans. Hitting the shelves this Autumn and new to the Posh Paws portfolio will be a Love Hearts range of plush toys adorned with up-to-theminute messages such as ‘Be Unique’ and ‘Let’s Avo Cuddle’; as well as the more sentimental messages you’d expect from Love Hearts. Characters include; Bunny, Monkey, Famingo, Unicorn, Peacock and a bang-on-trend Avocado. Just like the sweets that have inspired the collection, these cuddly characters will melt everyone’s hearts. Finally, a range not to be missed and is already ﬂying oﬀ the shelves, Disney Pixar’s Toy Story. As oﬃcial plush partner, Posh Paws range of Toy Story 4 soft toys features long-standing favourites including Woody and Buzz, alongside the new standout characters of Forky, Ducky and Bunny from the latest movie. With a host of new licensed additions to its portfolio there’s an opportunity for all retailers to step into the world of Posh Paws in 2019.
Character Options 0161 633 9800 From the ever popular Peppa Pig Plush toys range; the new Sleepover Peppa is the essential take along toy for a night with the grandparents or the perfect night time friend for home. Watch as Peppa gently glows as a night light when you press her tummy and she also plays a soft lullaby. Sleepover Peppa comes with her very own sleeping bag carry case making sure she too is tucked up when it’s time for sleep. This summer also sees the re-launch of an enchanting and imagination-inspiring range of plush characters under the name of FlipaZoo. Each quirky, cuddly and loveable FlipaZoo animal plush comes with a clever twist; the ability to ‘ﬂip’ into a whole new animal. Kids can ﬂip their Elephant to see him transform into a Tiger or watch as the snappy Crocodile ‘ﬂips’ into a Grizzly Bear. Available in both eight-inch and 16-inch scale this range is not to be missed and adds to a collection of feature packed scaled FlipaZoo plastic playsets that will also be available. For fans of Pokémon, plush toys are also key to the autumn line up and from July you can expect to see a whole new host of Pokémon featuring in the assortments, a hard to miss 24inch Pikachu and a 14 Inch real-scale Detective Pikachu plush who has already proven itself a huge success in eight-inch form. Added to this is the new Flame Action Charmander; this feature plush with its light up tail and mouth, joins Power Action Pikachu and reacts to movement and touch.
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Spin Master 01628 535 000 The oldest manufacturer of soft toys in America, Gund was one of the ﬁrst companies to produce a teddy bear in the early 1900s. The ﬁrm became a new division of Spin Master in 2018, bringing with it its premium quality and innovation. Gund will continue to develop original and licensed products to appeal to the next generation of customers. And for 2019 comes Flappy the Elephant, a singing animated plush with two play modes. Press the left foot to play an interactive game of peek-a-boo, and the right to hear the song “Do Your Ears Hang Low?" Another popular feature plush from Gund is Flora the Bunny. Press the left foot to play an interactive game of peek-a-boo, and the right to hear the same song. Spin Master’s range features HatchiBuddies from its Hatchimals collection. HatchiBuddies are cuddly, plush versions of your favourite Hatchimals CollEGGtibles characters. These huggable friends are hidden inside speckled eggs with ﬂuﬀy purple hearts.Measuring sixinches tall, they’re perfect to cuddle. Finally, Spin Master’s collection expands further this autumn with the Mighty Pups Superpaws plush characters, adding to its hit PAW Patrol range. Kids can use their imaginations to create new adventures for their favourite PAW Patrol Pups.
Tobar www.tobar.co.uk New for Q4 is the Animigos World of Nature range, an extension to the popular Animigos line with 26 new items from the natural world. Including some domestic animals like a Grey Tabby cat, goat, pig and a rabbit, the range focuses on wildlife and even guest stars the toucan, rhino and emperor penguin. Each comes with a miniature booklet ﬁlled with facts. It complements the New Born Animigos range which was introduced this year: baby animals with their own feeding bottle. Each is packaged in a high quality carry crate for storage and extra play value. Choose from a bunny, guinea pig, cat or dog. The original best selling Animigos range has had new additions too. This year has seen a scampering sausage dog join the existing pack. Dog lovers can pick a Fancy French Bulldog, a Walking Westie or a ScurryingScottie. A Flipping Puppy runs, barks and performs tricks while cat lovers are not excluded as they can choose from a cute kitten or a Ginger Kitten. Horses are always popular so there is a Trotting pony and of course, there has to be a Unicorn so the Rainbow Unicorn has joined the menagerie as a Tobar Exclusive. A piggy bank with a diﬀerence encourages young savers, and don’t forget the existing best selling playful piggy, running hamster and bouncing bunny. This year the addition of a quirky Dancing Penguin will be a top performer.
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Discover Where must-have toys, gadgets and big imaginations come together. Let the games begin! Discover more at autumnfair.com
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CROWDFUNDING CORNER The crowdfunding scene remains a hot bed of creativity for the toy and games space. Here, ToyNews rounds up the latest titles to hit the Indiegogo platform
Crumbs Created by: Dylan McCusker Status: Funded The story goes, a little old lady decides to spend a day in the sunshine by tossing out breadcrumbs for the local fauna; and from this moment, chaos reigns. Players take on the role of either the ducks, pigeons, squirrels, or chipmunks, each amassing an army that provides its own special abilities as they scuffle over spaces in the city park. Players must try to gain the best position each round before 20 crumbs are dropped onto the board, spreading out at random and turning the tides of power. Crumbs is an award-winning competitive area control game for two to four players. Players can take on the role of the ducks, pigeons, squirrels, or chipmunks in the fight for the most breadcrumbs - all the
Latice Hawai’i Board Game Created by: Adacio Status: Funded The original Latice board game earned over 500 five star reviews on Amazon before it ended its print run in mid 2018. Latice Hawai’i is the new, refreshed and definitive version of the game, with extended rules and an all-new design. Latice Hawai’i in its simplest form is a tile placing and matching game for two to four players. It features some vibrantly stunning artwork from the game’s lead designer, Takbeom Heogh, and gameplay from Justin Heidenreich that is easy to
while, granny distributes crumbs into the city park, unaware of the clamour she is causing. This 30 to 60 minute game comes with two boards, each with two unique maps on it, aiding the game’s replayability. The maps themselves are based on the Boston Public Garden and Central Park. Each box contains 39 wooden animal meeples, including one extra large dog meeple, four unique animal sheets, 45 small wooden cubes (crumbs), one granny token, two double-sided game boards, four plastic fences, 36 Daily Buzz mini cards, and a Daily Buzz and Dog House sheet.
Created by Dylan McCusker, Crumbs has secured £29,104 from 696 backers on Indiegogo, making up 112 per cent of its original crowdfunding goal.
learn and pick up, but according to the team, takes a lifetime to master. The game presents a series of play systems, each gradually more challenging than the last, making it ideal for kids as well as more experienced gamers. With 84 acrylic tiles, 16 sunstones, 20 halfstones, four tile racks, and one rule book, timer and game board, Latice Hawai’i has already caused quite the stir on the gaming scene. Clocking in with a pledge total of £10,872 from 285 backers, Latice Hawai’i is fully funded and ready to start shipping.
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Industry moves This month, Spin Master has appointed a new general manager, Fundamentally Children has bolstered its team with an industry favourite, Epoch strengthens its Aquabeads division and David Westnedge ups its marketing game FUNDAMENTALLY CHILDREN The play specialist has strengthened its front line by signing TRACEY DEVINE-TYLEY to its expanding squad, welcoming the toy industry expert to the role of head of sales and marketing. A life-long Liverpool fan, DevineTyley boasts an illustrious career in the toy industry, having served with both Rubies and KD. She will use her extensive experience to build upon the successful slate of events and experiential marketing programme for Fundamentally Children. Devine-Tyley will also be charged with spearheading new initiatives as the outﬁt continues to expand its portfolio and operations for 2019 and beyond. “I am delighted to be joining Amanda and Fundamentally Children at what is a very exciting time for the incredibly driven and passionate team,” said Devine-Tyley. EPOCH
SPIN MASTER Changes at the top of the international toy maker have seen Spin Master promote SARA TAYLOR to the position of general manager for the UK. Taylor’s tenure of almost 11 years with the company has seen her play an instrumental part in the ﬁrm’s global growth, an impact that has been felt since she joined the company in 2008. Taylor has been commended for the impact she made on the international third party business, preparing several European markets, as well as Russia, for the transition to aﬃliate status. In November 2016, she moved into the role of VP/head of sales for the UK, where she provided commercial direction
and talent development to the team. The sales team will continue to report into Taylor, as will Phil Hooper, commercial director of marketing for Spin Master's UK division. Taylor will now report directly into HEDLEY BARNES in his recently announced new role as general manager, of Europe and Russia. Barnes welcomed the appointment and said: “Sara’s new role will allow Spin Master UK to ﬂourish even further. The UK business is now the second biggest market for Spin Master globally, and this change will allow even more focus on strengthening and deepening our relationships with our UK business partner, including of course, our highly valued retail partners.
Epoch Making Toys has bolstered its arts and crafts brand, Aquabeads with the appointment of KIM NICHOLLS as its new brand manager. Nicholls joins the ﬁrm from her previous role at Vivid Toy Group, bringing with her a wealth of experience in the toy industry that she will utilise in her remit of expanding the Aquabeads brand for 2019 and beyond. “I am thrilled to be working with Aquabeads, a rapidly expanding brand that has great potential in the arts and crafts sector,” said Nicholls of her new role. “There are lots of exciting new products arriving soon, so I can’t wait to see how people receive them.” Meanwhile, Epoch’s YUKI OTSUKA has been promoted to head of marketing, having been the company’s marketing manager since 2015. Both have been welcomed into their new roles with Epoch by its senior management team. DAVID WESTNEDGE The classic and traditional card and board games supplier has bolstered its marketing operations with the appointment of a new marketing oﬃcer in LYDIA BATTY. In her new role, Batty will assume responsibility for marketing products, brand management and book buying.
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Prior to joining David Westnedge, she kickstarted her career in a variety of roles both in the UK and the US. Batty will utilise the experience gained from these roles to help drive sales for the company, both via bricks and mortar stores and ecommerce and online platforms. “Lydia’s greatest strengths are her creativity, drive and leadership,” said a representative from David Westnedge. “She thrives on challenges, particularly those that expand the company’s reach. She thrives in a collaborative and fast-paced environment, loving nothing more than a good data crunch to solve a puzzle and boost online performance.”
Interplay will continue to be run as a separate subsidiary, managed by UK managing director, ADRIAN WHYLES. Prior to joining the PlayMonster team, Gill successfully co-owned and managed McGill Assocs, an international sales and marketing consultancy for nearly 20 years. For the last more than seven years, Gill has consulted and worked with PlayMonster to expand its games into 50 countries outside of the US and Canada. KIDSKNOWBEST
PLAYMONSTER The ﬁrm has welcomed the toy industry veteran, RICHARD GILL to its line up of specialists, tapping the former coowner of McGill Assocs for the role of VP international, better known within the inner circle as Chief Explorer Monster. Gill brings over 30 years of experience to his new role, and will use that to develop and lead PlayMonster’s international division, covering all markets outside of the US, Canada and the UK.
Beano Studios’ former lead product designer, JAMES KIRKWOOD (above right) has joined the children’s insights and marketing specialists as creative director. Kirkwood is one of two new hires at the ﬁrm, who also welcomes the former Dubit director, PETER ROBINSON (left) to the role of chief operating oﬃcer. The news comes just weeks since KidsKnowBest announced its line-up of investors to help grow it to the next stage of
its journey here in the UK. “The addition of Peter Robinson from Dubit as KidsKnowBest’s COO ius a huge coup for us,” said co-founder Rob Lough. “Peter is hugely experienced in technology, kids’ entertainment and ethical marketing to children.” Joel Silverman, co-founder added: “James Kirkwood is an incredibly talented individual, as his work at Beano Studios and Mind Candy has demonstrated. He is someone we’ve been looking to work with for some time, as we know he shares our vision.” HAPE INTERNATIONAL The international toy ﬁrm has appointed DAVID ALLAN as managing director of its wholly owned subsidiary Marbel. Allan is well known in the toy trade; as well as working with key brands in the business for over 30 years, he has spent the last 12 years as director of DKL Marketing. “I shall be very sad to leave DKL Marketing as it’s been a great 12 years,” said Allan. “However, this is a fantastic opportunity to take my next step as MD of an international company which is ready to invest and grow in the UK market.
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Bossing it… with Amy Saunders
Each month, ToyNews selects a toy industry bigwig to put through the paces with a series of prying, probing and some might say, impertinent, questions. This month: Skyrocket UK's Amy Saunders
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ou've held various roles in the toy industry and I've always known you as Amy from Bandai... how did your career start? It was an accident that I got into toys. In the mid ‘90s I got my first job at a local logistics company who turned out to be a specialist in toy distribution. At that time, they were working on behalf of the likes of Playmates, Toymaster, Vivid Imaginations and Bandai. Fortunately, I got to work with them all during my five years there. Then Bandai MD and industry legend Julian Boyers headhunted me to join his team. With Julian’s guidance and absolute passion for our industry, I worked my way up through the ranks loving each and every second of it.
What was it like taking on the role with Skyrocket? What does the move mean to you, and also for the positive changes we're seeing in women leadership within the toy industry? I was looking to make the next step up in my career, so when the opportunity to work with an innovative company like Skyrocket came along, I had to jump at it. I had worked with them in the past and found them to not only be forward thinking, but they also shared my ethics. Working hard but also having fun with a team full of personalities is the way I like to operate. During my career I’ve seen many strong, inspirational woman within our industry in top jobs both on the retailer and supplier side. Our industry has moved with the times and it really shouldn’t be a surprise to see a woman heading up a business anymore.
How have you seen the toy industry evolve over your time within it? How would you like to lead either Skyrocket or the changes you are seeing in the space, from the front? For me the biggest change over the last 20 years would be the High Street vs online. We know consumers still want in-store theatre and to be able to go in and touch and feel the product but we cannot now underestimate the power of online and the affect this has had. I have also had to witness the closures of stores like Woolworths and Toys R Us, but our industry does continue to evolve and keeps innovating and coming up with new fads and trends. That’s why it was an easy decision for me to move to Skyrocket as they will move with the times to ensure we are bang on trend. What would you say have been the greatest achievements of your career so far? I have been extremely blessed and have worked on some top brands Bratz, Ben 10, Tamagotchi and my beloved Power Rangers which I was part of the team that kept the brand in the Top 10 in Action Figures in NPD for 20 consecutive years. Have there been any standout memories that shaped your career in - or love for - the toy industry? For me, the stand-out is always about the personalities and people in the industry. It really is the people that make it. Whether it be colleagues, fellow suppliers or buyers, I have made some incredible friends along the way. Industry friends who continually inspire, support and instil passion to continue to drive forward.
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