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No. 207 | July 2019
Stickin' it to the man
Editor Robert Hutchins firstname.lastname@example.org
Sales Manager Rob Baker Rob.Baker@biz-media.co.uk
Designer Nikki Hargreaves email@example.com
Follow us @toynews online
y spirits were lifted earlier this month when a news story landed across my desk detailing the eﬀorts of two UK school children's bid to tackle the corporate fast food chains McDonald's and Burger King and the pair's ongoing concept of plastic toy giveaways with children's meals. Having grown up on a soundtrack of my own father's anti-establishment rock music, with my teen years spent learning the funk-metal guitar riﬀs of Rage Against The Machine's entire discography, I am ready to get behind any form of youth revolt in my own vicarious desire to 'stick it to the man'. So it was with tremendous glee that I read that these two children - aged just seven and nine - had already gained 335,000 in support of changing a system in which kids were handed the kind of free plastic toys that will only end up as landﬁll before the day is out. I have a great love for all the good that the toy industry does. When it comes to shaping the future of the generations of children beyond us, there can be no industry with greater responsibility than our own. But it will only be worthwhile if we begin to listen to what those coming generations want with those futures - and from the support that communities have shown our two petitioning heroes, it would appear they have had enough of the plastic tat. Maybe it's time to take note? Robert Hutchins, Editor Robert.Hutchins@biz-media.co.uk
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Includes 11” doll and story book introducing Satty and her family Trade enquiries firstname.lastname@example.org
COVER STORY REALITY BYTES P18
Contents July 2019 Features
Opinion 06 Trudi Bishop 07 Anna Knight 08 Deej Johnson 09 Rebecca Deeming
Is the toy industry facing a spate of online and email fraudsters? ToyNews takes a look...
A WORLD IN MINIATURE We chat with Modiphius Entertainment's Chris Birch about the success his team has found in tabletop gaming
AR(E) YOU SATISFIED? AR technology in the toy space is on the rise, we look a little closer at the companies driving its success
A NEW HIGH STREET NARRATIVE With sales in decline for June, we talk to those who are tackling the high street's woes head on
Market Data 30 Kids Insights 33 Generation Media Sector Guides 34 Tech Toys & Gadgets 41 Dress-up and role play 46 Animals and play-sets
Back pages 56 Industry Moves 58 Bossing It...
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Conquering cover mount(ain): Why today’s kids’ magazines need to ditch the plastic By Trudi Bishop
Walking around my local WH Smith and inevitably I lose my son to the magazine aisle. His usual “I’m just having a look...” quickly evolves into “But, can I just have this one? It’s got a really cool [insert generic plastic toy here].” As a marketing tool, covermounts are brilliant. They generate a level of child frenzy and pester power (usually right next to the till) that only the strongest willed (or bloody minded, like me) of parents can withstand. It usually ends in a ‘compromise.’ But there’s a problem here; a very large environmental problem. We are drowning in plastic. Globally, every year around 300million tons of plastic waste is produced and it is predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. This needs to stop. Cover mounts (and the plastic bags that contain them) are one example of unnecessary plastic waste the toy and licensing industry is creating, contributing to our environmental emergency.
The magazines themselves are full of fantastic content for kids that can entertain them for hours, if not days. If your property has the brand power to support its own stand-alone magazine then you’ve reached the ‘unicorn’ status of the magazine world. Who would want to deny kids access to all these great brands and cool content? Not me. But I want the magazines to be able to sell based on the brands and the content within, not on the five minutes of excitement the cover mount offers; because after that time frame, we quickly re-label it: landfill. Some titles - and The Beano leaps to mind here have survived for over 80 years without the need for cover mounts, and it’s time all the other magazines stood by their content and took the decision to ditch the cover mounts for good. To do this, we need a consolidated effort by all of the publishers deciding an end date for cover mounts - that cheap, nasty plastic stuff, at least - so that all of the magazines in the market can stand on an even playing field togther at retail. I welcome an opportunity to work with them to organise an end to the landfill cover mount(ain). Together we can make a better future for our kids.
"I welcome the chance to work with publishers to end landfill." 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 the issue.
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Innovation, innovation, innovation: Just what to expect at Brand Licensing Europe 2019 By Anna Knight
According to Licensing International’s 5th Annual Global Licensing Survey: global retail sales of licensed merchandise and services grew to $280bn in 2018, a 3.2 per cent increase YoY. Licensed toys, however, suffered a 2.1 per cent decline. Despite the dip (attributed to the closure of Toys R Us) the market still represents 12.6 per cent of overall licensing sales. However digitised our world becomes, screens will only ever complement traditional toys, never replace them. But if the licensed toy sector is to get back on track, we can’t keep blaming Toys R Us, but encourage a shake up from all sides, and that means innovating and tuning-in to what the consumer needs. Evolution is essential if this sector is to stay relevant and profitable, and innovation is critical to it. We need more creativity and less risk-aversion from brand owners and licensees. Consumers want new ideas and twists on existing franchises. I look at the success of MGA’s LOL Surprise! Dolls as an example.
We should also attune ourselves to consumer values; particualrly in relation to the circular economy and environmental concerns. How can we improve sustainability through the use of packaging? And what role do retailers have to play in the cause? While concerns have arisen around online marketplaces recently, perhaps we can learn from those getting it right? Primark - who is rumoured to be eyeing growth in the toy space - just opened the world’s largest fashion store in Birmingham with five floors of ranges and experiences, including a Disney-themed cafe, a barbershop and a beauty salon. Half yearly profits for the retailer were up by 25 per cent; incredible for a retailer with no ecommerce. Licensing has a huge role to play in the future of the toy industry, which is why BLE is throwing its weight behind the sector this year to focus on toys as one the show’s core segments, both in content and exhibitors, retailers and manufacturers. In fact, visitors will find lots of inspiration to drive creativity in the toy space, as well as the chance to learn from our toy panellists who will debate this very issue live. Our License This! Competition always presents some interesting new properties that could extend well into toys, too.
"I think licensing has a huge role to play in the future of toys." Anna Knight is the event director of Brand Licensing Europe, the annual licensing trade show taking place at London's Excel this October 1 to 3. Register now for your free pass at www.brandlicensing.eu
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Why “What’s wrong with people?” is the wrong question… By Deej Johnson
Can you imagine telling children you’re going to play an exciting new game... And then making them turn 150 one-penny pieces head-side up before starting? No, nor can we. Still, that’s the utterly tiresome way one has to set up a game that we recently researched. Seriously, you need to ensure that up to 150 tiny counters are picture-side up before playing... Two minutes into this fiddly set up, we were asking ourselves: why do the counters have a full-colour logo on the back? Why not just have the picture on both sides? Printed that way, the game would need no setting up... You’d simply tip out the counters and start playing! But why do we think this matters? And why have I been recounting this specific memory to you? It matters because the design of the game lacks empathy. The inventors haven’t imagined the children’s tedium while waiting to play. While it’s an okay game, there’s no question that it sells less well than it might because adults aren’t likely to recommend it: it’s needlessly, miserably slow to get going. Sadly, my experience as a creative consultant, and Billy’s at Mojo Nation, suggests that this lack of empathy is a subtle, damaging and common issue
among inexperienced inventors. That’s because it’s too easy for anyone that comes up with an idea to focus so intently on the nuts and bolts of their concept that they forget the mindset of those they hope might one day buy it. That's of course time hungry parents. As a consequence, games built without empathy often share typical symptoms. Among other things, they can be approximated without purchase, have indecipherable rules, play very slowly, or are either too simple or too complicated for the age at which they are aimed. And it all begins to unravel for them. More seasoned inventors, however, know the importance of empathy. They design games that not only consider those that are going to buy it from them, but also everyone else in the chain... They empathise with publishers, distributors, retailers, customers and players, each of whom may be buying for different reasons. So if your idea isn’t bowling people over, don’t ask yourself what’s wrong with people… Ask people what’s wrong with the idea. And just remember to keep an open mind when you hear the answer. For the past few months, I've been slaving away at a keyboard - largely at the behest of Mojo Nation's Billy Langsworthy - to co-author a compendium of interviews with some of this industry's greatest minds on the topic of toy design. If you're so inclined, give The Snakes & Ladders of Creative Thinking a read.
"Seasoned inventors know well the importance of empathy." Deej Johnson is a creative force in the design sector and co-author of a new book exploring the topic of creativity, The Snakes & Ladders of Creative Thinking.
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BTHA Briefing: Don’t toy with children’s safety By Rebecca Deeming
Last month was a very busy one for the BTHA, as we launched our ‘Don’t toy with children’s safety’ campaign, calling on the government to close the legislative gap that allows third-party sellers to supply toys into the UK with no checks on safety by regulators or by the online platforms themselves. The BTHA research assessed and tested 200 randomly selected toys purchased from third-party sellers on three of the largest online marketplaces. The findings show that overall 58 per cent of these tested toys had non-conformity issues and 22 per cent of the total 200 had serious safety concerns. The BTHA wrote to MPs and ministers asking for support and we are calling on our members and the wider industry for your support, asking you to write to your MP to encourage the government to take action on such an important and serious issue. For support on this, please contact Del@btha.co.uk. You can see full details of the Don't toy with children's safety campaign on our Advocacy section on the BTHA website (www.btha.co.uk). The BTHA’s No Deal Brexit guidance document for members was also updated for the fourth time, in line with the projected changes that surround this
big topic. Members can view the latest version of the document on our website. The Public Affairs team has also been busy responding to nine government and industry consultations on behalf of members and the industry over the past few months. These consultation responses are also available to read on our website. Elsewhere the Toy Trust’s Big Challenge Day took place in Oxfordshire last month, where 150 industry professionals participated in various fundraising activities including a triathlon, 60km cycle ride or walking and running events. The event raised funds for children’s charities Over the Wall and AFK (Action For Kids) who work to better the lives of profoundly disabled children in the UK. The Big Challenge hopes to have raised £100,000 for the charity organisation. Later this month now, we will be hosting a connected toys webinar exclusive to members. Hosted by Antony Kirrane and guest speaker Valerie Vacante fomr the tech specialist Collabsco and Tech Up, the webinar will take place on Tuesday July 16 and will discuss ongoing UK regulatory work, various BTHA guidance documents, the latest research on the connected play landscape, and emerging technologies. It's a big and vibrant sector and if you would like to learn all about it, then we urge you to sign up to the webinar. Anyone interested can contact Kellie@btha. co.uk for more information on this special event.
"We've written to MPs to support of our toy safety campaign." Rebecca Deeming is the public relations and events manager and acting head of Toy Fair at the British Toy and Hobby Association. Check in with ToyNews for Deeming's regualr BTHA updates.
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SUSPECT AND SUSCEPTIBILITY: THE RISING THREAT OF ONLINE FRAUD
Following a news report on the Welsh language toy company Si Lwli’s unfortunate and costly incident with online fraudsters, ToyNews has learned of rising concerns of sophisticated email hackers targeting the toy industry
ccording to the Dutch investigative team working pro-bono on a case in which the Welsh language toy company Si Lwli was scammed out of £18,000, factories in China are having their email systems hacked routinely. These factories will of course (and have done so), when confronted by those victims of online fraud, deny this vehemently, suggesting that checking the authenticity of communications from overseas is in the care of a company’s owner. Blame will be volleyed back and forth, until the emotional weight will leave a small, independent toy company drained and battle-weary, while, the parties
behind it all - the hackers themselves - will have untraceably escaped, richer for it. This was certainly the experience of Awena Walkden, the owner of that small, independent toy company Si Lwli, who, once a global success story in the making, with orders for its Welsh language learning plush ﬂying in from across the world, is now left on the brink of collapse following an email scam that defrauded the company out of its Christmas takings. The dangers of online fraud and the unscrupulous nature of email scamming systems are widely publicised, but the trouble is, the methods and modus operandi of the world’s online criminal network is
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â€œWe've learnt that hackers had been watching and waiting for months, learning when the big payments were due, then stricking at us.â€? Awena Walkden, Si Lwli
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Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash
Photo by Lewis Ngugi on Unsplash
becoming more sophisticated, and it would appear it is starting to wrap its head around business fraud. “We received what looked like and what read like a usual email correspondence from our factory in China, informing us that we had to pay for our latest (our Christmas run) order of plush toys urgently,” recounts Walkden in an interview with ToyNews. “It was the total of £18,000 - the exact total to which our order ammounted. The only difference was a change of bank details. Due to the urgency of the email, we paid the amount. It wasn’t until we heard from the factory again some weeks later, stating that it required £18,000 in order to release its shipment of toys to us, that I realised we had been scammed.” Walkden went on to learn from an investigator based in Amsterdam, that in fact, hackers had been intercepting not just hers, but all email correspondence to come from this particular Chinese factory, re-routing it through their own email accounts for the best part of a year; reading all correspondence as it came in.
“It seems these criminals are becoming more experienced to how the toy industry works today.” Anonymous
“They were watching and waiting. They had been since May 2018, but didn’t actually commit anything until that December, once they’d learned when the big payments were being made,” continues Walkden. “The sickening part of this is, we have since been told that there are tools available for spotting this kind of activity and preventing it.” The issue is, given the political construct of China and the restrictions its government places on access to and the use of a number of those very platforms, these preventative security tools aren’t available to the Chinese factories. This places a hindrance on the effectiveness of ekeing out those email
hackers, which, for a business sector that commands the majority of the world’s toy manufacturing, and with email correspondence taking place with toy companies in their thousands on a daily basis, is a scenario less than ideal. But before ToyNews weighs in on the already mounting tension upon the relationship between China and the Western world - especially when it comes to its developing business infrastructure - it’s important to note that this kind of fraud isn’t exclusive to this region alone. It’s something the authorities have started calling ‘CEO’ or ‘CFO Fraud,’ and ToyNews has learnt that, even just within recent weeks, Wales’ Si Lwli is far from the only one to have fallen victim of it. An anonymous source - a rather major player on the global toy scene - recently got in touch in a show of support of Walkden and her business, and to highlight just how easy it is becoming to fall foul of the scammers of today, who are using more and more sophisticated methods.
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Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash
As in Walkden’s case, criminals had “stepped into our communications with an Indian supplier and copied and changed messages in order to receive advanced payments on manufacturing,” the source who wishes to remain anonymous - reveals. “It seems that these criminals are getting experienced in the way toy business works today.” The concern is that via this success in defrauding not only the smaller companies ‘with less infrastructure and resources to invest in online fraud detection,’ but larger ones as well, and as they learn the modes and operations of this very business, ‘hackers might just start targeting more toy companies now and in the future.’ Police are still investigating whether this particular crime was committed in India, close to the source, or via someone at an IT company providing services for the supplier. It’s unlikely that it will be of any consequence to our source who tells ToyNews that they have little hope police can do anything for the company now, but
the measure could help authorities build up a system of connections that can be used to prevent such crimes in the future. And there comes a word of warning. “It would be terrible if more toy companies were to become victims of this type of crime,” states our source, who has shared a set of practices it will now adopt with all correspondence of this kind. T If a new supplier or existing supplier changes their bank details, first check with all means possible the authenticity of the bank details prior to paying. T When it comes to POs and payment details, very carefully check the domain name extensions and your email address and the one of the supplier. T Perhaps even a call with the supplier to check when sending the email with bank details to see there is only seconds in between send and receipt. T Have IT check your forwarding rules on your email accounts of purchase department and colleagues involved.
As for Walkden and her entreprenuerial outfit over on the Isle of Anglesey, while “the experience has been heartbreaking,” and as the company prepares to take a break from trading for the next couple of months, she retains hope that they will be back up and running before this Christmas. “We have had a lot of community support, which has been nice,” she tells ToyNews. “One of our customers has set up a Kickstarter page to help raise funds for us to keep on going. “I do feel a responsiblity to keep this business going and to keep the Welsh language alive, but an incident like this is a major setback for us. I feel heartbroken and like a fool for falling for a scam like this, and I do feel like the factory has let us down. I will always believe it’s the obligation of the factory to ensure its systems are secure. “But until then, I just hope this case raises awareness for other toy companies to always remain vigilant and cautious.” July 2019 | toy news | 13
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A WORLD IN MINIATURE Modiphius Entertainment has made a name for itself in the miniatures tabletop gaming scene - a sector that, thanks to the continued success of the likes of D&D and Games Workshop, just grew 18 per cent over the past 12 months. Founder Chris Birch now has big plans for the seven year old company, and he was more than happy to tell ToyNews all about them
t’s a fair distance travelled from his days organising underground raves in the 1990s that Chris Birch, founder of Modiphius Entertainment, now finds himself in a three-storey London oﬃce block overseeing the production of wargaming miniatures. But while the parallels between organising crowds of some 15,000 pumped-up ravers, and the more genteel world of fantasy tabletop role-play games are diﬃcult to find, Birch - and the many gamer friends made during the period - can attest; they are very much there.
“We want to be a boutique producer of IP and become a leader in tabletop storytelling, whether gaming, audio adventures, or ﬁlms.” Chris Birch, Modiphius Entertainment “One minute I’m stood with the DJ, in front of a crowd going mad, the next I turn around and I’m talking to the guys from Orc’s Nest,” Birch reminisces. “It’s not the kind of thing you’d expect to hear, but that was what the scene was like, we were all gamers, even back then.” Over an eclectic career, Birch has fostered numerous relationships - across the tabletop gaming space, the licensing industry, marketing and PR - that have helped fuel Modiphius Entertainment to the success it enjoys
today. For anyone unaware, Modiphius is fast becoming a leading name on the UK’s tabletop gaming scene, with a reputation that can be pinned on a portfolio of breakout games within the growing wargaming miniatures scene. This is the company responsible for bringing Bethesda’s hit video game franchise Fallout to the tabletop gaming space, a move met with much adoration from an audience of digital and physical gamers, and one that has added yet more fuel to the ﬂames of a roaring trend of adapting video game IP for the physical gaming world, altogether. Seven years in the making, Modiphius Entertainment’s launch onto the gaming scene was certainly a well-timed one, coinciding with the welldocumented surge in popularity of the hobby both here in the UK and internationally. Since then, Birch and the ever-increasing team of developers, designers, and storytellers around him, have ridden the crest of a tremendous wave in the pop culture space that has now just seen the tabletop roleplaying and miniatures space grow a sizeable 18 per cent year on year. Today, some of the biggest content producers going are looking to tap into this audience, bringing beloved and major IP to the physical gaming scene. Just in the last couple of months, Mongoose Publishing has detailed a role-play title based on the Microsoft and Rare video game, Sea of Thieves, while ahead of its 40th anniversary this November, 20th Century Fox has planted its iconic horror sci-fi franchise firmly within
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the sector, with Alien: The Roleplaying Game. So it's big business here. Back with Modiophius, and it’s a portfolio of iconic IP such as Thunderbirds, Fallout, and Star Trek that has helped it make its mark on the miniatures market, as well as the recently revealed Elder Scrolls. “Roleplaying is on the resurgence at the moment, and miniatures are on the resurgence, too because things like Dungeons & Dragons and Games Workshop are doing well,” nods Birch, sagely. “When Games Workshop does well, everyone else in that market generally does well.”To that end, Modiphius is on a roll. Testament to this is the firm’s prolific roll-out in the licensing arena; this is a company that has attracted some big name IP, particualrly for an outfit as fresh to the scene as it is. And it is in its dealings in licensed titles that Modiphius has certainly found a vast number of new doors open ahead of it. “Creating wargames and miniatures games does tend to push you into more of a niche market,but when you get it right, it’s
“Kickstarter has been wholly responsible for the huge wave in popularity of the tabletop gaming space.” Chris Birch, Modiphius a great one to be in,” says Birch. "And the way that we have cracked it, by bringing big IP like Bethesda’s Fallout and Thundrbirds into the fold, that’s given us a wide and varied audience to tap into.” Of course, the audience for tabletop wargaming miniatures will only be so diverse, it does, by and large, remain a select pocket of board gaming, after all. However, it is on the growth path - the eagle-eyed among you may even have spotted a few miniatures specialists at this year’s Toymaster Show, while for others, Kickstarter has become a breeding ground. “Kickstarter has been responsible for the huge wave in popularity of tabletop
gaming. That money wasn’t sloshing around in the industry before; it’s not like retail has suddenly gone “Oh my God, our sales have suddenly halved and it’s all on Kickstarter,’” explains Birch. “A lot of them are great games, and there are now around 50 games out every week.” Birch is more than well-accustomed to the Kickstarter terrain, having grown Modiphius via the medium over the best part of a decade, when he launched the company with a series of role-play games under the Starblazer Adventures banner. “The Kickstarter was a crazy success and funded 12 books in the series. I thought we’d get around £10k and we ended up with £177k - this was long-before the millions that you see companies making on there now, of course,” he says. From here, Modiphius picked up new IP left and right, with Mutant Chronicles, and Thunderbirds (developed with Matt Leacock) among its first. “When Fallout came along, that game doubled the company,” reveals Birch. “And
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from the success of that, we have been able to build and build, picking up Elder Scrolls to launch Elder Scrolls Call to Arms which is a wargaming romp built on a similar game mechanic as Fallout. We’ve managed to keep the gameplay simplified, which does a lot for the accessibility and speed to learn and play. It is bringing us great revenue, distribution and builds a good community around us.” It’s upon this very point that Birch is hooking just where Modiphius goes next. This is a company with some very big plans in the tabletop gaming space, and it’s not shy of divulging its plans to become a leader in what it calls ‘tabletop storytelling.’ “The success we are achieving with licensed IP, it’s giving us the resources to let me go off and write my own games and develop my own IP. We want to be a boutique producer of IP, and - because of our size, we are in a good position to achieve this. A lot of big companies couldn’t do what we are doing; they couldn’t generate a gaming world for the kind of
money that we have done it with, because we can monetise it, we can create a load of concept art, get a board game out of it, and develop a revenue generating project. Big companies will have to generate hundreds of thousands before they see any revenue from it. Currently, Birch is teaming up with a Russian music producer to launch a series of audio adventures. It's proof that his stint in the music industry never really left him. Film is also on the radar, as is video games, at which point Birch will start the process of licensng out Modiphius’ own IP, such as Achtung Cthulhu, a game set in the world of H.P. Lovecraft’s Call of Cthulhu - a perennial favourite among the tabletop scene. Birch has also two new selfdeveloped properties he is waiting to reveal at the opportune moment. “We have created an audio adventure pilot, because audio adventure is a really big, new thing on Audible,” says Birch. “We did a 30 minute pilot for Achtung Cthulhu; I wanted to give it a go as I have always loved
the old Lord of the Rings Radio 4 series, and see it as a brilliantly immersive mode of storytelling for fans today.” It’s storytelling that sits at the heart of what Modiphius Entertainment is about, and the ability to tell a story - whether through licensed IP or his own, across any medium - is the dragon that Birch will continue to chase. It’s the passion that fuel’s Birch’s own appreciation for the world’s most iconic fiction writers, from Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.P. Lovecraft to Agatha Christie. “We’ve actually just announced a new licensing partnership with The Agatha Christie Estate to launch a new murder mystery card game called Death on the Cards,” says Birch, offering me a first look at this departure from the Modiphius norm. “This is going to be an exciting new venture, but one that captures the essence of what we are trying to do here.” Where's here? It feels like the start of a long adventure for Modiphius. And it’s already a long way from those ‘90s raves. July 2019 | toy news | 17
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AR in toys
AR(E) YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? The integration of AR technology in the toy space has hit a new level of success since the early days of Skylanders, with a wealth of innovation waiting to be explored for 2019. Robert Hutchins takes a look at how augmented reality is advancing today’s child’s play 18 | toy news | July 2019
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AR in toys
the net profits for the year prior. Three years later and the app game developer’s follow-up title, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite may not have delivered quite the same magic - with first 24 hour download numbers estimated at 400,000 and an initial revenue of $300,000 - but the depth of appeal to the franchise’s core audience suggests the game may enjoy a longevity that will outstrip the Pokémon title that started it all off. It’s true that recent weeks have seen a definite increase in licensed Harry Potter product launches, and the findings that one Harry Potter toy is now sold every five minutes in the UK, fuelling the franchise to £44m in value sales, probably came as little surprise to anyone.
Last month, the connected play research experts, Collabsco, led by the tech toy specialist Valerie Vacante, unveiled the 2019 Connected Play landscape within the pages of ToyNews. The Landscape - the result of a year of research and in-depth discovery in this evolving space - highlighted a number of key points, among them that the application of augmented reality technology within toys today, is certainly on the rise. Upwards of 260 companies now occupy the Connected Play Landscape, measuring a stark increase of 150 per cent on 2018’s study. The reason being, suggests Colabsco’s Vacante, is that technology, the likes of AR for instance, has started to find its rightful place within the scope of children’s playtime.
“Technology is an enhancer, and enhancing is the key word. It's not about tech first, rather it's about creating experiences that bring magic and wonder to the world.” Valerie Vacante, Collabsco
t’s fair to say that when Niantic’s Pokemon Go landed on the scene three years ago, it was a game that set the world alight. In a matter of days of going live, reports were hitting all media outlets of a generation of mobile gamers struck by the “Gotta catch ‘em all’ frenzy of the augmented reality driven app. Overnight, Pokémon Go made $2m in the US and was installed 7.5 million times. The numbers subsequently went up when it landed in the UK one week later. Not only did its arrival mark a new era for AR play, but also a revival year for the Pokémon franchise that, coupled with the launch of Pokémon Sun and Moon, hit a value of $143.3 million for the year; 26 times
Meanwhile, Warner Bros. certainly hasn’t been shy of backing developments in product innovation, including the new revelatory grasp that augmented reality is beginning to take on the toy space. And that all started, as things so often do, with Richard North and his Wow! Stuff team in the development of the Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak. From the company that “lives for innovation,” the Invisibility Cloak offers fans a magical illusion costume that through the use of authentication codes and augmented reality - will enable its wearers to disappear on the screen of their iOS or Android device. “It uses the same green screen technology as used in all of the movies,” says Wow! Stuff’s CEO Richard North, “as well as authentic patterning on the cloak. This is really advanced stuff, and a real honour and delight to be able to deliver to the legions of Harry Potter fans out there.” And it’s just one example of the step-change that augmented reality is experiencing here within the weird and wonderful world of toys.
“Technology is an enhancer,” Vacante tells ToyNews. “And enhancing is the key word. It’s not about the tech first, rather it’s about creating fun experiences that bring magic and wonder to the world. The best way to create a magical experience is to stay core to the brand, characters and storylines, and consider how technology will enhance those elements.” Take Niantic for example. This is a company that has founded its business on ‘getting kids and players active through its AR games.’ Like Pokémon Go, Wizards Unite will only be fully enjoyed if its players actively move around the map and travel to real life locations to engage with the game’s AR characters and tasks. Likewise, Wow Stuff’s Invisibilty Cloak is hardly a mode of play that can simply be consumed in a passive state. Yes, there’s a phone in your palm, but this is an augmented reality play kit - attuned to the franchise’s story and character - that enhances imaginative play. And from here, its potential for play is almost boundaryless. And the intergration of AR tech is only July 2019 | toy news | 19
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AR in toys
getting stronger. Look at what Rovio is doing with its new Angry Birds Explore concept; a platform for augmented reality experiences that allow Angry Birds fans to unlock by finding special codes hidden in the real world. “These codes will be found on our licensed products, or in-store displays, and elsewhere,” Simo Hamalainen, head of brand licensing at Rovio, tells ToyNews. “Once scanned, the codes unlock unique AR experiences such as mini games, an AR art studio, and other fun activities. It’s all about extending our fans’ experience with our physical products into the digital Angry Birds world. “It all gives us a great opportunity to create awesome expriences for our fans through licensed products and in the retail environment. Retailers are constantly looking for ways to improve the shopping experience, and with Angry Birds Explore, we can help them with that.” The plan is for these AR experience codes to be hidden in millions of Angry Birds products across the retail landscape,
and all ahead of the release of The Angry Birds Movie 2 later this year. It’s part of an ‘extensive licensing programme’ that Rovio has in place for 2019 and beyond, and Explore - according to Hamalainen - will form the basis of an “ongoing platform for more AR games and activities,” for the
"AR and our Angry Birds Explore is giving us a great opportunity to create awesome experiences for our fans both through licensed Angry Birds products and in the retail environment, where retailers are looking for ways to improve the shopping experience." Simo Hamalainen, Rovio
foreseeable future. “Retailers are constantly looking for ways to improve shopping experiences, and AR can be one of the solutions for the Retailtainment need and buzz,” continues Hamalainen. “Licensees also want to expand their products to the digital world, and, actually, we have helped them to do that for years - since the launch of our Pods. “With Angry Birds AR codes appearing on hundreds of millions of individual products and in multiple retail campaigns, we’re doing this thing on a larger scale than we have ever done. We want to make this as big as possible and create a platform for AR experiences that will be around for years to come," Hamalainen continues. Then there’s Mattel’s Hot Wheels id, a launch that has taken the concept of AR integration into physical play to a whole new level, and one that seems like it’s just about to set out a whole new path of redemption for the (until now) ill-fated toys-to-life concept - the kind that the now defunct LEGO Dimensions and Disney Infiinity once belonged to - that will sound
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AR in toys
a new era for connected play, entirely. A generous assessment of the Hot Wheels branded launch? Not once you’ve seen just what Hot Wheels id is throwing into the mix. The level of toy to video game interaction is beyond what we’ve experienced before, as Hot Wheels id developed in partnership with Studio Gobo - has the ability to inform its video game play through real-time physical play on a new scale. Not only does it tally up player stats of each individual’s cars within its digital world, but so too does it track player statistics gained in the physical play space. On top of this, through the Hot Wheels Play Portal, players can inﬂuence digital gameplay through real world variations, such as speed and even the angles of their physically-constructed racing track. Vehicle velocity and track incline in the real world will affect how well the car’s avatar performs in the digital game. The game screen even matches the track layout in the physical world automatically, all thanks to the micro-controllers hidden
“The Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak is really advanced stuﬀ, and it is an honour and delight to deliver it.” Richard North, Wow! Stuﬀ
within each track piece within the set, bringing player engagement up a notch. Will the Hot Wheels id launch prove as revolutionary as Pokémon Go did those three years ago? That iss yet to be seen, but there's no doubt that it certainly will play its part in the continued advancement of connected play, and pave a new pathway for further developments to come. July 2019 | toy news | 21
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THE ART OF INNOVATION While the first half of the year may have thrown up its challenges for high street retail, the beacon of hope amid the current rough seas is that innovation in toy design has never been healthier. ToyNews talks to Mojo Nationâ€™s Billy Langsworthy about the state of design and invention in the toy industry
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lance over your shoulder a second to look at the past first half a year and you’ll see a trail emblazoned with some of the best innovation the toy space has witnessed for some time. Despite the much-reported hardships 2019 has also brought with it for the likes of the high street (which suffered another stagnant month of sales in June) and retail, product innovation within the industry offers up a beacon upon which hope can be hung. We’ve already covered extensively what pioneering new tech is bringing to the toy space within the pages of ToyNews, whether you were dazzled by Wow! Stuff’s Invisibility Cloak (Yes, we’ll keep banging on about it - ed) demonstration at New York Toy Fair, or dumbfounded by ThinkWay Toys’ interactive Toy Story 4 toy line-up, in which Buzz Lightyear and Woody converse in ways previously
"Innovation is touching every category, and I think more companies than ever before are opening their doors to the global inventor community, and are increasingly happy to shout about the achievements of their design teams and invention partners." Billy Langsworthy, Mojo Nation only imaginable. But that’s not the only sector of the toy industry to have been touched by innovation. Look at what Worlds Apart (now Moose Toys UK) did
in the plush space with Scruff-a-Luvs, or the advancements being made in tabletop gaming. Innovation has well and truly infiltrated the toy industry and captured the zeitgeist wonderfully. “It’s fair to say that the toy industry’s invention and design scene is thriving,” says Billy Langsworthy, co-founder of the toy and game inventor body, Mojo Nation. “Innovation is touching every category, and I think more companies than ever before are opening their doors to the global inventor community and are increasingly happy to shout about the achievements of their design teams and invention partners.” Heading up an outfit dedicated to championing the efforts of those pioneers in toy design, Langsworthy spends most of his waking life immersed in the inventor community, a role that, despite common misconceptions around just what a toy inventor may indeed look like, has not left him an adle-brained crackpot yelling out equations in his garage. (He lives in a flat with limited on-street parking). Suffice to say, Langsworthy is quickly becoming the face of a sector of this industry that thrives on dynamism; and one that is quickly broadening horizons as well as diversities. “There is definitely no typical toy inventor,” continues Langsworthy. “All ages, genders, skill-sets, industry experience-levels, and design disciplines get involved in the world of toy and game design - that’s what makes it the best part of the industry in my humble opinion. “Even the tabletop space is embracing unique new themes because of it, with hits like Fog of Love (a rom-com in a board game) and Wingspan (players step into the shoes of keen ornithologists), and it’s the same in collectables, pre-school, the connected play area, licensed product, and the great thing is it’s agencies and freelance designers pushing this just as much as the incredible in-house R&D teams.” The reason Langsworthy has taken time out of an always busy schedule to talk to ToyNews is because this September 2nd will see Mojo Nation play host to its second Play Creators Festival, a two-day event that features a day of inspirational and educational talks, followed by a day in which inventors can pitch their concepts to some of the world’s biggest toy companies. July 2019 | toy news | 23
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And, as if to echo sentiments around the broadening inventor space, this year’s lineup holds a lot of promise. “We have a line-up that includes creatives from toy firms like Hasbro, Spin Master, and Moose Toys UK, as well as figures from design agencies like IDEO’s Brendan Boyle, Fuse’s Pete Cartlidge, and Making Things’ Fi Murray,” explains Langsworthy. “On the topics front, we have lots of sessions on different aspects of creativity and innovation, as well as a Room 101 panel where designers can air their pet peeves and see them banished to the room, as well as a panel discussion on the important topic of eco-friendly toy design.” In this regard, it’s clear that modern and current sensibilities towards topics such as
"Consumers are becoming far more sensitive to the topic of sustainability, and so is the design community." Billy Langsworthy, Mojo Nation
sustainability hasn’t escaped the toy design community. In fact, many have pin-pointed this very area as those at the vanguard of change in the eco-friendly stakes. It is in the innovation stage, after all, that waste and plastics can be designed out of a product and it’s a topic that has become of greater importance to the design community. “Consumers are becoming far more sensitive to it, so the toy firms are, and of course, the design community are passionate about the issue,” continues Langsworthy. “Green materials can often be pricier than the more traditional, less eco-friendly materials, but once one of the major playrs cracks it, you’d hope the rest will follow. We know most designers will try to avoid creating unnecessary or disposal product, whether it’s packaging
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Fi Murray, founder, Making Things Of the many big names joining this year’s Mojo Nation’s Play Creators Festival, Fi Murray of the toy design studio Making Things’ fame will be among the heavyweights to take to the stage and oﬀer her take on the sector. "Having been on both sides of the fence, professional creative connection events from Mojo are critical to both external creatives, inventors, design agencies, and in-house opportunity seekers and decision makers all coming together to bring ideas to life. "The Mojo Play Festival is unique as it sits aside from an industry trade show allowing nontraditional disruptive toy brands and companies to join the ﬂoor and the focus will 100 per cent be on design, creativity and innovation. or in the actual toy design. They strive to create toys and games that will be played with for years and years, and that in itself is a form of eco-friendly design.” Positioned in the midst of the toy development, Langsworthy is well-placed to observe emerging trends; the better integration of technology within the toy products of today, being a prime example, and it's something he believes is ‘becoming increasingly more creative.’ “Look at the work being done by the likes of Wow! Stuff, Pigzbe, Tech Will Save Us, Primo Toys, Kano, Storyball, LittleBits, Novalia, and Curiscope, then the likes of Hasbro, Mattel and LEGO who are equally pushing the boundaries in this space,” he suggests. “We see far less gimmicky implementations of tech nowadays. Like anything, it remains a balancing act, and I don’t see traditional toys or games falling by the wayside to make way for tech toys, but it’s an incredibly creative part of the industry, and one that we should continue to champion - especially when so many
tech-focused firms would rather position themselves in the tech space than toys. “There are key differences of course, like price points for one, but I think the toy and games industry and design scene is stronger with these tech players in it.” For the first time in its history, Mojo Nation’s Play Creators Festival will be hosting its own Play Creators Awards in an attempt to celebrate the achievements of the design community. “It’s our move to be vocal about a community whose great work doesn’t get shouted about enough,” says Langsworthy. “They can be quite a humble bunch, so we are happy to do that for them. “The Awards will take place on the opening night the festival on September 2nd and is our celebration of figures in the design space. It’s an informal networking event, where we give out ten awards across categories like Toy Designer of the Year and Game Designer of the Year." Given just what a year it has been for innovation in the toy space, it’s the
"The conference day is awesome - you learn new things from great people, you make new connections and you get to catch up with all your old friends. The pitch day is a critical professional event in the pitching calendar with Making Things being in its ﬁrst year of business and a 'micro' studio, I need to run it as eﬃcient as possible so this event allows us to 'speed-date' the world's greatest kid-centric brands and companies - all in one location, on one day, face to face. This year I'm looking forward to setting the design toy world to rights on the 101 panel."
unenviable task that Langsworthy lands of whittling the greatest developments of the year down to just ten. It's just as well this is a young business owner with an unbridled passion for the creativity of the industry. July 2019 | toy news | 25
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NEW HIGH STREET NARRATIVE
After suffering another defeat to ongoing Brexit uncertainty and gorwing ecommerce, June witnessed ‘the worst high street sales on record,’ and while it paints a bleak picture of the retail landscape of the moment, there are many not ready to give up on the high street’s current narrative. ToyNews takes a look at those being proactive in changing the retail story
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ate last year, the independent retailer Whirligig made quite the media storm with an innovative piece of theatrical entertainment that earned it headlines across its local media outlets. Subsequently, pick up went national, and just before Christmas, shop owner Peter Allinson found himself shoulder to shoulder with Kirsty Allsop for the presnterâ€™s special
Handmade Christmas on Channel 4. Howâ€™s that for a piece of self-marketing? It was good fortune that set all these wheels in motion, when by sheer chance a member of staff at Whirligig came across a Christmas wish list to Father Christmas handwritten by a child from the late 1800s within the pages of book taken out from the local library.
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It was however, intiative and creative vision that placed this historic find at the centre of a Christmas window display of this Canterbury toy shop, that soon saw visitors - most of whom subsequently and crucially parted with their cash in exchange for Christmas presents - flock to the shop in the midst of 2018’s festive season. For Whirligig - who later went on to hand the letter over to the local museum - it was a piece of publicity that paid off in dividends. There’s something to say, therefore, for the power of creating a narrative around your toy shop, whether you are fuelling a buzz at the height of the spending season, or simply driving footfall in those down months. Of course, any retailer worth its salt already knows the potential power its window display holds in bringing those customers through the door. And for as long as shops have been broadcasting their wares to the paying public, so too have brands looked to take prized position within them. In May this year, Rainbow Designs launched its own Window Display Competition to promote the momentous anniversaries of the popular children’s book characters: Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar (celebrating its 50th birthday
"We've got a vested interest in seeing the indie toy shops thrive." Rob Trup, Fiesta Crafts this year) and David McKee’s Elmer the Patchwork Elephant, who is now 30 years old this year. The comptition saw retailers across the UK dress their window and internal displays with POS materials supplied by Rainbow - as well as use their own, and over the month-long competition period, it was the task of Rainbow’s marketing team to judge and select its winning stores. After a deliberation, those accolades eventually went to Giddy Goat Toys in Manchester for its Elmer extravaganza, and Celebrations of Stourbridge for its The Very Hungry Caterpillar spectacle.
“There were some truly magnificent and colourful window displays lining the high street during the month of May,” says Anthony Temple, managing director of Rainbow Designs. “All entries were highly creative and showed some well-dressed displays, it was an extremely close run race." As well as fuelling a marketing drive for Rainbow Designs’ own ranges, the intiative played its part in drawing attention to participating retailers. It’s testament to the very fact that spectacle will always drive intrigue. And fuelling the public’s interest in its shop is the high street toy store’s best weapon against the ailing high street. It’s not Earth shattering news to learn of yet another tough month in terms of consumer spend on the high street this past June. Results from the British Retail Consortium indicate that total sales fell 1.3 per cent year on year, compared to the 2.3 per cent increase of 2018. It’s painted what Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC has called a “bleak overall picture” of the retail landscape, that has seen “rising real wages failing to translate into higher spending,” and it has all been brought round to concerns around Brexit. In what has been labelled the UK’s most severe case of uncertainty
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around Brtain's European exit, it seems that non-essential items have been hit hardest. But even before Brexit, the UK high street was in a weakened position, struggling against an ecommerce sector that has been gaining momentum and mass year on year, led by behemoths like Amazon. It even recently prompted action from the UK government in the shape of its High Streets Task Force, a move to support local leaders to revitalise high streets and town centres. High Streets Minister, Jake Berry MP, who conceived the initiative and launched it to the public sphere at the start of this month, said: “High Streets and the way we use them are changing, and this government is committed to helping communities to adapt. We want to see vibrant town centres where people live, shop, use services and spend their leisure time.” But to sit and wait for the UK Government’s rhetoric to actually come into effect is, understandably, a leap of faith too far for some. For them, a proactive approach is the most sensible course of action. Enter Fiesta Craft’s Rob Trup, who, having been cooking the concept since the start of the year, proudly launched The Real Store Club last month, in a move to help revitalise toy sales on the high street.
A free, online marketing resource, The Real Store Club is chiefly designed for small indpendent bricks and mortar toy shops. “By sharing contemporary marketing ideas and more importantly, practical ways to deliver them, we intend to help more shops survive and thrive in these challenging economic times,” explains Trup. Trup struck upon the concept of having spent numerous months watching many of his own customers - among many others struggle with the trading climate. Just like the UK’s many other toy suppliers, he has a vested interest in seeing these retailers succeed, it’s a point he’ll make no secret of. “And the good news is, we have seen shops create successful marketing solutions to keep customers walking into their shops,” he adds. “We wanted to share the best of these ideas and devise even more.” Upon subscribing to the initiative, members will receive a booklet with marketing ideas and much more planned for the future. This booklet will be presented as a compendium of ideas taken from in-depth research of all genre of walk-in stores from across the globe. It will also become a mind mix of insight from its own members. “Apart from the significant growng costs and ecommerce competition, the changing
digital consumer landscape means that previously ‘tried and tested’ marketing techniques - such as flyers, local adverts, shop windows etc - are not providing as much business as they used to,” offers up Trup. “And if you are a small shop, you may not have the different marketing skills now needed, so we wanted to find a way to help retailers get started, or just improve what they are already doing. “From a marketing point of view, improving customer experience and interactivity is key to the new retail landscape. Buying goods is so easy online, but people will always crave human interaction. Many stores have been brilliant at providing that drama and allure for a long time, but we want to encourage all stores to consider what activies - be they demos, talks, parties, or games nights - they can all do to become more of a destination.” In a call to arms in the ongoing fight for the High Street’s survival, Trup is encouraging retailers to sign up to The Real Store Club via realstoreclub.org, citing now being better time than ever to act on the marketng of your toy shop. It’s not everyday that your Christmas window display centrepiece falls on your lap from the local library, after all. July 2019 | toy news | 29
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Digital brands present new licensing opportunities for toys By Jonathan Watson, Chief Product Officer, The Insights People
he speed of change in the kids’ digital ecosystem continues to be unparalleled – and one recent example of this in our data is TikTok. At the beginning of the year TikTok did not really register (1.5 per cent in February) in our data, but fast-forward to June and it is at 11.2 per cent - a 646 per cent increase that makes it the joint favourite platform for girls between the age of seven and 13. This is just one example of the rapid changes occurring in the kids’ ecosystem. Over the last two years we have spoken about the ‘Gaming Revolution’ and how
mobile devices have increased accessibility to gaming, and technological advancements such as OTT and cross-platform play have changed the attitudes and behaviour of children today. Unlike TV consumption where kids are continually multi-tasking - be it playing with toys, or browsing the internet - when children are gaming they are more focused on the game itself. And while we have seen a number of examples of toy companies develop licensed products based on gaming properties – such as Hasbro developing Monopoly and Nerf Fortnite-licensed
products, gaming’s influence is moving in many other categories too. Looking at boys (aged six to 12), we can see that three of the top-performing magazines are based around gaming content. We have also seen the re-emergence of the classic 90s videogame character Sonic The Hedgehog, which has seen a 65 per cent increase in its popularity among boys aged three to seven in the first six months of 2019. According to our latest data insight, the upcoming Sonic The Hedgehog movie - despite the controversy - is the 11th most looked forward to film among boys aged seven to 14 this month.
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Kids Insights Another example is Sybo’s Subway Surfers game, which has seen phenomenal growth in popularity over the last three months. The endless runner mobile game has jumped 244 per cent in the last quarter among boys and girls age eight to 12, indicative of the demand for free-toplay mobile games among a demographic that is increasingly owning their own smartphones. Our portal enables you to not only look at the intent to purchase for all video games licensed products, but it also enables you to filter by property. As we can see from the graph below, children who are fans of Subway Surfers show a significant increase across a range of properties to purchase licensed products. So not only are children spending more time - and money - on gaming, they are also more focused on the game, as opposed to the TV content which they are consuming. This is one reason why we are seeing a greater number of game properties become successful from a licensing perspective, which meant that from April 1, Kids Insights has been collecting data on children’s intent to purchase not just TV and filmrelated licensed products, but gaming and social media too. And it is not just games that can represent good opportunities for manufacturers looking to expand their licensed offerings. Lifestyle and beauty YouTuber Saffron Barker has seen her popularity rise, climbing 350 per cent among girls three to 18 in the last month alone. Which is nothing to be sniffed at.
The Insights People is the market leader in kids, tweens, teens and parents’ insights. Operating in six countries across the UK, US and Europe, it works to provide unparallelled insight into the attitudes, behaviour and consumption habits of kids and parents through its Kids Insights and Parents Insights services. The team works with leading brands, including Crayola, Disney, Hasbro, Sambro, Vivid and Warner Bros. The Kids and Parents Insights portal enables clients not only to view, fliter and interrogate data, but also to crossreference and build bespoke analysis to understand their target audience in far greater detail than ever before. Surveying more than 95,000 kids and parents globally each year, the team produces four insight-led reports across the kids’ ecosystem and a further four across the parenting environment, every 12 weeks. kidsinsights.co.uk/toynews
We at Kids Insights can help brands spot the next Fortnite or Saffron Barker far earlier than the norm, and we can also not only identify them but provide significant insights into the performance of properties and the opportunities that they provide for many of the brands working in this space today. Understanding what is going on in the kids’ ecosystem has never been more important, and we specialise in helping clients identify new properties before the masses do, understand the true performance of a property and how to maximise their investment from a marketing and promotional perspective. For more information on how we can help call +(44) 0 330 159 6631, and to download a complimentary Kids Insights report, please visit kidsinsights. co.uk/toynews
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HOW NOT TO MARKET TO KIDS… (AND HOW YOU SHOULD) Children’s media specialists, KidsKnowBest was formed on the basis that brands need to target children by communicating to them via their peers. CEO Joel Silverman talks us through the concept
e created KidsKnowBest on the principle that brands need to target children and young people in the digital age by communicating to them via their peers. The idea came about because my co-founder Rob Lough took his five year-old twins to see a movie that had been universally panned by the (adult) critics – yet his daughters, and the rest of the kids in the cinema, loved the film. Kids like watching kids. We know that because our work with the likes of Zapf Creation (Baby Annabell), Universal (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), Smyths Toys, Percy Jackson (books) and more has produced strong, tangible results. Influencer marketing gets a bad rap from the media – and in some instances, with good reason. But it is incredibly effective, particularly when marketing to kids. Yet it is still undervalued.
There are myriad reasons why to work with influencers, including: • Influencer marketing is direct and more personal, like word-of-mouth advertising. • Influencers are trusted by their followers. • Content is created and distributed for you – excellent value for money compared to print or tv. • Content is fresh and relevant to the creator’s audience. • They help grow your own social channels. • And the big one – they drive sales. So how do you go about it? Well, of course, you could work with a children’s media specialist like KidsKnowBest! But if you want to give it a go yourselves, here are our top tips… Keep your eyes on TikTok Despite some bad press, TikTok probably has more safety measures in place than other social platforms. It’s a favourite of
KidsKnowBest and brands looking to reach younger audiences, not least due to the high rate of interaction by users. Engagement is worth more than views This is key to influencer marketing aimed at children. We recently worked with Zapf Creation for its Baby Annabell doll. We created a parody video around the birth of the royal baby in which two children impersonated Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and their thoughts on becoming new parents. It reached a 16 per cent engagement on YouTube and achieved over 1.2 million views across social platforms. Forget about traditional TV For the Children’s Media Conference we created a video asking kids about their viewing habits. Key findings were that kids hate watching non-skippable ads, they prefer on demand, and TV is still useful when it comes to connecting to VOD.
Inﬂuencer Marketing: The key stats What’s not to Like/Heart…? Here are some key statistics that may persuade you further that you need to embrace inﬂuencer marketing (source: Digital Marketing Institute)… 86% of women use social media for purchasing advice 74% of people trust social networks go guide purchasing decisions 70% of teens trust inﬂuencers more than traditional celebrities
Joel Silverman is the Co-Founder of children’s media specialist KidsKnowBest, which works with brands including Disney, Universal Pictures, MGA, Smyths Toys, the BBC, Harper Collins and more. Find out more at www.kidsknowbest.co.uk
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TV’S GREAT RESOLVE Michaella Williams Kids’ TV audiences are declining, as children spend more time across digital channels, but traditional linear still holds its own. Generation Media’s Michaella Williams explores below Source BARB May 2018
hen it comes to observing children's device and media habits today, it is increasingly easier for us all to assume that digital channels are outperforming traditional linear TV. It's the current narrative. However, as SuperAwesome/PWC’s Kids Digital Media Report 2019 (similar to that of Generation Media’s sister company Giraffe Insights latest Kids and the Screen) findings demonstrate, while more time today is being spent across digital platforms, television still has unprecedented reach among children. The report addresses that - although traditional TV time is being invaded with ‘fragmentation of audience time,’ across YouTube, Gaming sites/apps (Fortnite and Minecraft) and Subscription VOD (Netflix) - these “kids channels aren’t yet considered as effective as TV in terms of influencing sales.” There’s a clear difference in sales effect as a result of a YouTube influencer video campaign vs. a TV ad spot campaign with the latter on average resulting in greater peaks in sales. The cost of kids’ TV remains one of the most cost effective ways to reach children while many of the top influencers today are demanding upwards of £20,000 per video, with no guarantee on delivery. These videos may also receive a high number of views outside of the UK, which is potential wastage and likely the reason for the smaller peak in UK sales. Generation Media’s answer to this is, when running
influencer campaigns, always amplify content with YouTube TrueView featuring alongside influencer activity, and where appropriate, using micro-influencers over macro-influencers. When it comes to considering advertising across the digital channels, it is also worth noting that a large number of the popular platforms are not ad-funded, and therefore cannot be accessed by advertisers. This just goes towards further highlighting the importance of TV advertising among today's audiences. Where else will you get that advertising exposure? That said, should brands have available content optimised for the digital audiences of today, these platforms really do still remain key, as audiences look outside of traditional TV to see more content and further immerse themselves in their favourite shows, brands, and IP. Digital ad spend, of course, is expected to continue to grow in line with modern audiences’ increasingly fragmented media habits, making it a necessary addition to any media plans, however, television still remains very much a key player for the children’s advertising market, and is very much holdng its own, as conversation around the evolving space continues. To find out just how you can be making th most of the cross-platform generation of viewers, get in touch with the team at Generation Media, and get your plans in place for the coming months ahead.
ToyNews PlayTime is provided by Generation Media 0207 307 7900 | www.generationmedia.co.uk
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TECH TONICS The latest in the eath-moving tech toys space have landed, adding to this ever growing and ever more impressive sector. ToyNews rounds up the latest
Character Options 0161 633 9800 For a trolley full of tech toys including robots, high-tech tag blasters and an interactive Pokémon this year, you just need to take a look at the Character Options line up. Fans of Pokémon can interact with Pikachu like never before, thanks to the new electronic My Partner Pikachu Toy. With two interactive modes, Pokémon Trainers can discover all that’s possible with this new handheld friend, while also training Pikachu to react just as they need him to. Use Pikachu’s head, nose and belly sensors to unlock over 100 different reactions in Discovery mode then switch to Training mode to learn his cues and interact with him. There are nine different ways to train in Training mode but if your training is inaccurate Pikachu will be sure to let you know. For outdoor battles, the award-winning Laser X is a first choice in the category and has everything needed for the ultimate game of high-tech tag. With some very exciting range development in scope for Q3 2019 - starting with the re-launch of the classic Two Player Pack - the new Laser X Morph Blaster set contains two ultimate blasters which double up as gaming pods so you can play one on one in your very own Laser X battle or fold down either blaster into a gaming pod and play one of the three built in games to practice your speed and accuracy. Blast range increases to 90 metres and all Laser X gear works together so you can add to your collection to maximize the game play. Meanwhile, really R.A.D. Robots pack attitude and come with a host of features at affordable price points. The collection will continue through summer with the successful MiBro, a remote-controlled buddy with over 50 functions and sounds. He can prank, spy, play, or serve and comes with some awesome
accessories to help him do so. In late autumn MiBro is joined by Really R.A.D’s Turbo Bot. The full function remote control plus voice command feature makes Turbo Bot super controllable, while his allterrain wheels and autonomous explore mode means he can go where other robots can’t. Voice record and playback feature and light up eyes add to his personality which with all of these features combined, is brimming over with confidence. For a high energy game for all the family look no further than Tap It! consisting of four electronic light-up pods with four different built-in games to play. Choose from Pong, Switch, Memory or Wireless games and let the fun begin. Be warned, each is fast paced and hugely addictive. Can you master the beeps and defeat the opposition?
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Bandai email@example.com Tapping into the current wave of ‘90s nostalgia, Bandai is responsible for orchestrating the comeback of the original Tamagotchi. The original virtual reality pet is recognised as one of the most iconic toys to hit shelves and experienced a global craze as children clambered to hand rear their very own digital companion. With a mix of classic and new styles, Bandai’s Original Tamagotchi is available in either Gen1 or Gen2 versions with different games and characters to engage with. The Connect n Play range includes 12 classic Namco titles with the much-loved Pac Man version an evergreen favourite. A hero item within Bandai’s tech/interactive games portfolio, Pac Man Connect n Play comes in an iconic Pac Man games case and merges digital gaming with one of the most iconic video game brands. Meanwhile, a finalist in this year’s Toy of the Year Awards, Pomsies is the loveable, wearable, interactive pet. Launched at the end of 2018, this year brings new characters and styles including Bubblegum the Dog, Winter the Unicorn, and Khloe the Koala. These virtual pets resemble fashion poms and can accompany children wherever they go. Each has a fuzzy tail that can be wrapped around the wrist, hair, backpack, or whatever the inspiration allows. Pomsies’ eyes light up and change colour to reflect their mood.
Zuru FOB sales: Geemac 01604 401 719 Domestic sales: Tobar 01603 397105 Zuru offers a range of value-driven, interactive toys within its Pets Alive and Robo Alive ranges this year. Boppi, ‘The Booty Shaking Llama’ stole the show during 2019’s Toy Fair season with her unique ‘twerking’ and ‘head-spinning’ dance moves. Boppi dances to three catchy songs and is set to be a hit with kids and adults alike now that she’s available on shelves in the UK market. Tapping into the popular unicorn trend, the range also includes the Magical Unicorn; with over 20 different ways to interact and play. The Magical Unicorn comes alive with lights, sound and movement. The Cute Scootin’ Hamster, Adorable Angel Fish, Magical Mermaid, and Tiny Turtle will also be added to the Pets Alive range later in the year. The Robo Alive brand achieved growth figures of 200 per cent in the UK market for the Jan-Dec 2018 period, compared to 2017 YoY, and the growth is set to continue. The Robo Alive Dragon is one of the brand’s most sophisticated characters yet, available in a choice of two characters - Fire Breathing Dragon and Ice Blasting Dragon. Using enhanced robotic technology, both boast characteristics most often associated with dragons - walking, roaring, gnashing teeth, rotating head, adjustable wings and of course, breathing fire or blasting ice through an LED inside its mouth. The range currently includes best-seller, Robofish, followed by the Attacking T-REX, Crawling Spider and Creepy Cockroach. July 2019 | toy news | 35
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Smart Toys and Games firstname.lastname@example.org or 01903 885669 GEOSMART is the magnetic construction system that enables children from five years and upwards to build different structures. 2019 marks the arrival of the ‘Flip Bot’, which allows children to create their own RC vehicle; a robot car with turbo motors. For those not familiar with GEOSMART, it has proved to be an ideal STEM magnetic construction set, featuring bright colours, strong magnetic geoshape pieces and a patented double-safety system. And, since every piece is compatible with each other, this has become a popular collecable range. Following the success of Mars Explorer, GEOSMART has created another striking model to collect. Snow, sand or stone? Thanks to the unique chains and turbo motors, the Ski Patrol can master all terrains. GeoSmart Ski Patrol is a 31-piece geomagnetic construction set that includes turbo motors and unique track wheels that enable it to perform on multiple surfaces in the home and the classroom, including thick carpet. Budding engineers can use their STEM skills to build multiple remote-controlled vehicles and watch them go. An ideal STEM magnetic construction set, GEOSMART enables fun learning at home and in the classroom. Featuring bright colours, strong magnetic pieces and a patented doublesafety system, GEOSMART offers unsurpassed safety and durability for endless creative play. This educational range offers unsurpassed safety, with a patented double-safety system; add to that the highly durable pieces that are easy to clean, and you have the perfect product for limitless creative play. There really is something for everyone, with sets that range from a basic starter kit, to more technical battery powered remote controlled vehicles.
Tobar www.tobar.co.uk Toy Fair season this year saw Boppi ‘the booty shakin’ Llama steal the show. Boppi is part of the Zuru Pets Alive range and shakes her stuff to three epic dance tracks. 2019 also sees the introduction of the Zuru Pets Alive My Magical Unicorn, another winner packed with over 20 different interactive sounds and features. The Zuru Robo Alive range has been another award-winning line for Zuru and Tobar with new additions for this year including the Robo Alive Dragon, available in ﬂaming red or ice blue, while the Robo Alive Attacking T-Rex roars and walks and is still a favourite among kids. This year, the super-fast Robo Alive Cockroach and Spider have been added to the line-up. They all join the top-selling Robo Alive Snake and Lizard. All of which, have really lifelike movement at affordable price points. Go from creepy to cute with the Animigos range, the New Born Animigos are baby animals which come with their own feeding bottle and make sipping noises when fed. Each is packaged in a high quality carry crate for storage and extra play value. Choose from a bunny, guinea pig, cat or dog. These add to the existing best selling Animigos range which this year sees the addition of a scampering sausage dog to join the existing pack. A Dancing Penguin is new too and there is a whole menagerie of animals including a trotting pony, a rainbow unicorn and cats and dogs galore. All with a host of interactive features.
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Funrise 01908 555 640 The latest developments in the interactive toys space from Funrise arrive in the shape of a troupe of farting ninjas, promising to blow you away this summer. Fart Ninjas is a range of interactive, charismatic, yet farting ninjas that have been billed as perfect for kids who love pranking their friends and family. And, at pocket money prices, they’re not going to tear a whole in the wallet. Cheeky kids will love collecting the different characters to create a symphony of fart noises, perfect for pranking, says the firm. Be warned, each Fart Ninja comes with a motion sensor that will activate a series of fart noises when set off… all setting up users for the perfect practical joke. The range launches this month and is tipped for big success already. Included in the line up will be eight smaller collectable figures, as well as the Fart Ninjas XLs, which not only have motion sensor technology that produces fart noises, but also includes a remote control, meaning kids can activate the Fart Ninjas remotely and from a safe distance. Adding to the fun, they can even record their own fart sounds or messages and play back whenever they want to engage in some good old fashioned fart humour.
Flair 0208 643 0320 Flair boasts what it has billed as the smartest and most popular handheld tech game from the past three decades, with its very own, and wholly iconic, 20Q toy. 20Q is the ultimate tech toy and game, says the firm, that, through its in-built algorithms, always knows what its user is thinking. It’s a simple concept that forms the foundation of this toy - users simply have to think of something and then let 20Q guess what it is. It is practically guaranteed that 20Q can guess what it is, and all in less than the alloted 20 questions. Flair knows that the toy had a fanbase built around its original concept. If this is you - then worry not. Flair’s new 20Q is smarter than ever before and cmes with a new ergonomic design that makes playing with it even easier. Players can use it in solo play to test it against whatever object they can think of, or use it to amaze their friends with 20Q’s expert help in reading their minds. 20Q has been outsmarting us all for the past three decades, and it looks like this clever little toy has a bright future ahead of it, too.
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Vivid www.vividtoysandgames.co.uk This autumn/winter will see Vivid introduce its new Pooki to the interactive robotic market. Pooki marks the next generation of robotic pets that can respond and interact with kids. Through AniMotion technology and internal projection, Pooki can display emotions, adventures, presents and even cartoons on her screen. With over an hour of animated content and adorable responses to touch and sound via animatronic head and ears, Pooki interacts with its owner creating a long lasting friendship. Pooki likes to go on adventures and will take you all around the globe as well as give you gifts to show you how much she appreciates your friendship. Kids can feed Pooki to watch her munch happily on apples. She might even try a lemon - though she will quickly tell you, through the look on her face she pulls, that she is not a fan of sour treats. Connect to Pooki via the Pooki app to access additional content, review unlocked content and feed Pooki. Launching in July Pooki will be heavily TV and digitally supported with additional marketing investment into inﬂuencer, social and PR channels.
LEGO www.lego.com Announced in February at the New York Toy Fair, LEGO’s augmented reality powered LEGO Hidden Side is ready to wow kids and adults alike this summer, launching its innovative new kit that sees a cast of ghostly characters inhabit a building set through the power of its AR. LEGO Hidden Side boasts eight sets in total, including a haunted boat, graveyard, truck, train, high school, bus, diner, and lab, with prices ranging from £17.99 to £109.99. “Our years of experience pioneering the convergence of technology and physical play has taught us that kids expect exciting play experiences that move seamlessly between physical and digital worlds - something we call ﬂuid play,” said LEGO Group’s Tom Donaldson. “At our core we focus on tactile building, but AR presents opportunities to enhance physical LEGO play with new action and mastery elements. We’re breaking the mold of gamingﬁrst AR play experiences to create a new type of play where the physical world actually inﬂuences the AR layer, instead of the other way around.” The LEGO Hidden Side Boat comes with 310 pieces and is priced at £24.99, The Graveyard has 355 pieces and retails at £24.99, the Truck has 428 pieces and a price tag of £34.99, the Train has 698 and a £69.99 price tag, while the High School has 1,474 pieces and a £109.99 price tag.
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Hasbro www.hasbro.co.uk If you thought Hasbro’s Furreal range of doeeyed animatronic characters couldn’t get any cuter, think again – because it’s only gone and pulled this little number oﬀ. The global toymaker has detailed a new partnership between its own Furreal brand and Disney’s The Lion King, to launch Disney’s The Lion King Mighty Roar Simba, adding the popular character to its stable of fully interactive Furreal toys. Aimed at kids aged four and upwards – an age bracket ToyNews thankfully falls in to – the toy, like Hasbro’s already popular Furreal line, responds to touch and sound, and comes to life with movement, speech and interactive play. Disney’s The Lion King Mighty Roar Simba launched mid June ahead of the upcoming remake of the Disney classic’s release in cinemas on July 19. Simba will retail at £119.99. “Simba embodies all the fun, charm and humour of the animation’s most famous lion cub,” read a statement from Hasbro. Joining Simba in the growing Furreal line-up is The Furreal Munchin’ Rex, a funny baby dino with a gigantic appetite. Munchin’ Rex will slurp on his bottle, but when it comes to his treats he’s a little more picky. Rex will either chomp them down or spit them out...table manners aren’t on the menu. Pet the poseable prehistoric baby on his head and he will respond with more than 35 sound and motion combinations - along with some dino-habitat sounds. Wave at him and he will roar and bounce.
Wow! Stuﬀ www.wowstuﬀ.com After months of secrecy around the subject of Harry Potter Invisibility Cloaks, Wow! Stuﬀ and Warner Bros. Consumer Products ﬁnally revealed the innovative AR product to global audiences last month. The line is now on sale in the UK. The magical illusion costume 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, before saving it to their camera roll. The Invisibility Cloak features authentic patterning as seen in the ﬁlms and a green silk style interior. The Invisibility Cloak will be available in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Spain and Italy, and has also recently been awarded Innovative Toy of the Year at Sweden’s Toy Awards, the ﬁrst recognition of Wow! Stuﬀ’s newest innovation. The Cloak is suitable for fans aged eight and upwards. The Standard Version (RRP £59.99) includes detailed patterning and a foldaway stand to steady your smart device (not included) while in use. The Deluxe Version (RRP £69.99) features authentic patterning with serpent intertwined borders and includes a deluxe tabletop tripod to hold a smart device (not included). The Wow! Stuﬀ app works with devices running iOS 11 and above for iPhone & iPad, and Android 5.0 and above for Android devices.
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Dress up & role play
STACKED ACTORS Dress up and role play is the gateway to exploring the imagination, and is a sector in as rude health as it has ever been. Here, ToyNews lines-up just some of the latest products to be lighting up the stage this year, so let's take a look...
Pretend to Bee Pretendtobee.com / 0115 921 5690
The award-winning ranges from Pretend to Bee are industry renowned thanks to the companyâ€™s high quality and astute attention to detail. This year, the wide range of dress up lines are designed to be both long-lasting as well as easy to wear, using durable, machine washable fabrics across all products. In fact, most costumes are designed with Velcro fastenings, elasticated waistlines and large openings so that they grow with children too. The family run company Pretend to Bee has an unrivalled collection of themed costumes aimed at expanding a childâ€™s imagination this summer, encouraging them to interact with others and learn through play. The ranges have varying themes allowing retailers to capitalise on many key selling periods throughout the year such as Christmas and World Book Day. In addition to its generic costumes, which this year sees the addition of a Llama Zip Top costume to sit alongside the best-selling Unicorn Zip Top (can you spot the trends there) and a super new faux fur-trimmed Velour Cape with LED lights which comes in three colours. Also new are two deluxe Knight costumes and a range of stunning new tutu dresses featuring character detailing on the bodice, wings and a matching headband of a Swan, Unicorn, Flamingo and Peacock for all those budding ballerinas. Also new for 2019 are some exciting new accessories such as a plush jet pack to shoot to the stars, Light and Sound Wands which are the perfect accessory to the Light Up Capes and the perfect Sword and Shield for the Knight costume.
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Little Tikes 0161 302 0206 Little Tikes has a range of products, brand new and iconic, that invite children to trial new roles and experiences through play. Brand new to this category, the Little Tikes Tasty Junior range is cooking up something fun this summer. Little Tikes has teamed up with leading food brand and social media sensation Tasty to bring adventure into the kitchen, from role play and into a reality. Little tikes can discover key learnings while playing big. With the Tasty Junior Bake ‘n Share Kitchen, kids can play chef, film their creations using the in-built phone holder and share with their friends. Complete with parent/kid recipe cards and 38 playable accessories, including a turn table, oven mitt, coffee cups and utensils. An added feature is also included - this colourful grow-with-me kitchen can be raised in height as toddlers develop. Part of the Tasty Junior collection, the Bake ‘n Share Emoji Cookie set will bring baking play to life. The colour changing Emoji cookies will engage children and encourage creativity during playtime. With recipe cards and 12 accessories including cookies, plates, dough roller and cooking utensils. These cute colour changing cookies are sure to keep little tikes entertained for hours of role play. A firm favourite with kids is the Little Tikes Shop ‘n Learn Smart Checkout which comes with 35 unique scannable foods and accessories that are recognised by the checkout as they’re scanned. Parents can download a free app that adds additional elements to game play.
Re:creation www.recreationltd.co.uk Re:creation brings added feature fun to the party with two strong new dress-up items for the second half. Happy Waggerz electronic wagging tails are motorised, themed tails with automated wagging action. Available in three popular styles at launch – fox, unicorn and dinosaur, Happy Waggerz attach easily with an elasticated and adjustable waist belt. They feature auto-switch off for battery preservation. The internet has been abuzz with the catchy #rabbithatchallenge and Doolallie Flappers are set to bring the excitement to the UK with a range of four fun and friendly animal character hats. Wearable fun, these plush hats have ears that flap when airbags in the paws are squeezed. The Flappers fun is quite literally in kids’ hands. Llama, mouse, dog and bunny are available in wave one with more great characters to come soon. Re:creation will support both Happy Waggerz and Flappers with a major marketing campaign focusing on online, PR and events.
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Flair 0208 643 0320 / email@example.com Aliens, ninjas and pyjama clad pre-school heroes are all in the mix thanks to the dress up accessories available within Flair and Just Play’s licensed collections From PJ Masks, kids will be delighted to dress up and pretend to be their favourite night time heroes with the PJ Masks Costume Sets, or for an instant transformation, masks of Catboy, Owlette and Gekko are the perfect fix. Encountering aliens just like Ben Tennyson is just a twist of a dial away with both the Ben 10 Basic and Deluxe Omnitrix. With over 100 alien phrases and lights and sound effects, the New Deluxe Omnitrix is the ideal toy for recreating your own Ben 10 adventures at home. The all-new Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles collection offers not just the chance to play with your favourite heroes but become them too, with a line of fun role-play accessories that will turn little ninjas into turtles in an instant. The new Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Role-Play Masks have four different sculpts to echo the four brothers as they are in the ‘Rise of’ series. Our fans can channel their ninja powers with the Signature Training weapons range including: Leonardo's odachi sword, Donatello's Tech- Bo staff, Michelangelo's kusari-fundo weapon and Raphael's Tonfa - they also all come with throwing stars.
Casdon 01253 608 248 / firstname.lastname@example.org Casdon combines pretend play with internationally renowned household names to bring replica appliances and role play accessories to the playroom. 2019 continues to see a refresh across all packaging; with bright colours, bold designs and numerous languages now added. Whether children are Little Helpers, Little Cooks or even Little Shoppers, there’s something in the Casdon collection for retailers across multiple territories. The Little Helper collection is home of the Dyson replica vacuums. These toy vacuums features real suction and spinning beads and will be an instantly recognisable favourite. Launched in September 2018 was the Dyson Cord free Vac. This cordless vacuum is a direct replica of the life size Dyson and has been specifically designed to be true to life, right down to the last detail. The model features working suction, realistic sounds and twist and turn action just like the real thing. The spinning beads will mesmerise children, and will be an instantly recognisable favourite at home. Designed with the same bright colours as the real-life vacuum, kids will be able to feel all grown up by pretending to clean house just like mummy and daddy as well as developing essential life skills.
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Rubies UK www.rubiesuk.com Rubie's is now recognised as the world's largest designer, manufacturer and distributor of fancy dress costumes and accessories, with various Rubie’s oﬃces around the globe. The company has won, or been nominated for all the iconic industry awards, including several Licensing Awards, Toy Industry Awards and ‘Costume Company of the Year' over the last ﬁve years. It is known as the leading light in character costumes here in the UK, throughout Europe and the Middle East and is still run by the Beige family from New York, making it a family-run business for over 60 years. Rubie's oﬀers an extensive line of products that inspires the imagination with great costumes and accessories for all ages from everyday dressing-up and kids' playtime to myriad special occasions; Halloween parties, festivals, charity events, movie launches, sporting occasions and fan conventions to World Book Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas and beyond. This season, the focus is very much on the latest in movie releases from Disney, with ranges across Disney-Pixar’s Toy Story 4, includng Woody, Buzz, and the new character Forky, as well as Marvel’s Spider-Man Far From Home, Captain Marvel, and Avengers Endgame. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains a perrennial favourite of costume purchasers, while DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon has dress up lines spanning characters from the latest in the Dragons franchise, including fanfavourite Toothless.
Wow! Stuﬀ www.wowstuﬀ.com After months of secrecy around the subject of Harry Potter Invisibility Cloaks, Wow Stuﬀ and Warner Bros. Consumer Products have revealed that the innovative AR product will go on sale from June 19 across the UK. The magical illusion costume 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, before saving it to their camera roll. The Invisibility Cloak features authentic patterning as seen in the ﬁlms and a green silk style interior. The Invisibility Cloak will be available in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Spain and Italy, and has also recently been awarded Innovative Toy of the Year at Sweden’s Toy Awards, the ﬁrst recognition of Wow! Stuﬀ’s newest innovation. The Cloak is suitable for fans aged eight and upwards. The Standard Version (RRP £59.99) includes detailed patterning and a foldaway stand to steady your smart device (not included) while in use. The Deluxe Version (RRP £69.99) features authentic patterning with serpent intertwined borders and includes a deluxe tabletop tripod to hold a smart device (not included). The Wow! Stuﬀ app works with devices running iOS 11 and above for iPhone & iPad, and Android 5.0 and above for Android.
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Hasbro www.hasbro.co.uk Hasbro is all about the Power Rangers this year, and its comprehensive role-play line up themed around the franchise will have fans mighty morphinâ€™ all over the shop. Having showcased its new Power Rangers collection at this yearâ€™s Toymaster show, the global toy and childrenâ€™s entertainment company is keen to promote the line-up with marketing support throughout the year. The Power Rangers legacy continues with ďŹ gures, vehicles, collectables, and roleplay toys from Hasbro, celebrating Ranger teams from Mighty Morphin to the Beast Morphers. Hasbroâ€™s new Power Rangers collection aims to bring teamwork, action and adventure to all fans of the franchise. Core items in the range include the Power Rangers Beast Morphers Cheetah Beast Blaster which is powered by NERF; The Electronic Cheetah Claw toy and the Beast-X Electronic Saber, both of which feature reactive sound eďŹ€ects that respond to kidsâ€™ movements as they imagine battling monsters and
villains as one of the Power Rangers, oďŹ€ering hours of imaginative play. The collection also includes the Power Rangers Beast Morphers Mask, allowing fans to mask up like the Red or Blue Ranger. Both masks feature design inspiration from the new Power Rangers Beast Morphers TV show, which is due to air in the UK this Autumn. It's an action-packed selection from Hasbro this season, so don't miss your chance to become part of it, and drop the team a line now.
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CHILDRENâ€™S DRESSING UP COSTUMES AND ACCESSORIES FOR EDUCATIONAL PLAY
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Animals & Play-sets
PARTY ANIMALS Animals and play-sets are a staple of any toy box, helping children develop empathy and motor skills whether playing on the farm or exploring their imagination in a world of unicorns. ToyNews has the newest products on the scene
Character Options 0161 633 9800 Character Options kicks off our animals and play-sets proceedings with word that its’ Little Live brand is continuing to grow this season, and there’s no surprise with the line extensions that are planned for in 2019. In the collectable’s arena, and new for the hugely successful franchise is OMG (Oh My Gosh) Pets! OMG Pets are the collectable puppies that combine unique silicone material and interactive technology. The result is a truly realistic and super-cute aesthetic to the softest, cutest, most realistic pets possible. With over 15 sounds and reactions, each pet loves to be fed and nurtured. Each pack includes a 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 playset includes an exclusive puppy plus, feeding bottle and bowl. Also new for autumn, it’s time for Series Three of the highly fashionable and wearable Wrapples. There are four characters (Zahara, Raybo, Pink and Meggo) to collect, with multi-coloured, multi-textured fabric, so you’ll be spoilt for choice. Added to this will be Cozy Dozys, a cuddly, sleepy bear with super-cute sounds
and features while a feature-packed Rainglow Unicorn Vet Set, with light-up horn and sounds, plus interactive vet accessories will make the perfect gift purchase for the holiday season. The Little Live range will be heavily supported with a comprehensive media and PR campaign.
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Basic Fun www.basicfun.com Basic Fun offers a whole host of animal themed play-sets, and all at affordable prices for children aged three and upwards. The Cutetitos brand launched late last year and continues to be a priority with over 775 TVRs in spring, and further 500 from June onwards and will be supported by PR and marketing throughout 2019. New waves of Cutetitos characters will be available throughout the year, all with rarity ‘Hot Spots’ and added rarity features including extra fur, patterns and sparkly fabrics. Cutetitos Series 2 launched in June and rrps at £9.99. Elsewhere, Basic Fun has also launched Babitos, a brand new baby Cutetito range in June, rrp £7.99. Hot off the heels of Cutetitos, Each Babito comes packaged in a Taco, and reveals a Babito boy or girl, each wearing a removable nappy, embroidered with the range’s signature ‘Hot Spot’. Finally, the original My Little Pony is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. The 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. The range will appeal to mums who played with My Little Pony in the 1980s and now want to share those special memories with their own children.
Bandai firstname.lastname@example.org Unsurprisingly, Bandai has plenty to offer the animals and playsets market this season, with a range that spans Squishimals, unicorns, Rescue Runt Babies, and Pomsies, highlighing the popularity of the pets sector better than any. Squishimals is the super soft plush for girls made from squishy synthetic materials rather than foam making them extra cuddly. In two sizes: 20cm and 32cm, characters are all firm favourites including a bunny, fox, mouse and ladybird. Tapping into the ongoing unicorn trend, Rainbow Dreams is a soft plush unicorn that lights up with colours of the rainbow and plays magical sounds. With eyes shining brightly, Rainbow Dreams can also be used as a comforting nightlight. 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. In addition, the existing four Rescue Runts are joined by new puppies in AW19. Designed to nurture a child’s love of animals and show them how caring for a pet can result in great things, each Rescue Runt needs love and care before it transforms into a perfect pet. The ‘Please No Fleas’ series launches in Autumn with new dog breeds and even more accessories. Finally, Pomsies are loveable, fashionable, interactive plush pets you can take anywhere. Simply wrap the long fuzzy tail around your wrist, hair or backpack and let the adventure begin. New styles available for Autumn include a dragon, narwhale, unicorn, and koala. Pomsie Poos, the mini plush versions of Pomsies include 12 styles to collect, each with a heart-shaped clasp enabling children to clip their ‘pets’ on bags or belts for keeping them close while on-the-go. July 2019 | toy news | 47
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Animals & Play-sets
Little Tikes 0161 302 0206 Little Tikes' animal themed toys and playsets teach compassion and inspire role play as children become familiar with certain pictures, sounds and play patterns. My Buddy is every little tike’s best friend. With over 200 songs, sounds and phrases, children are encouraged to engage as they explore, discover and learn. Perfect for onward development, My Buddy is a toy that truly grows with a child from six months to three years and is available in pink and blue. The Turtle Sandbox is an iconic garden must-have, providing hours of summer play whether it’s a relaxing afternoon in the garden or fun for the whole family. Let little ones get creative with this colourful sandbox that is so versatile it can be used as either a sandpit or a ball pool. Springlings Surprise are playful and soft preschool animal plush oﬀering adorable surprise play and cute collectability – with 12 to collect from July. Little ones will jump for joy as each Springling Surprise pops out of its springy home, ready to play, time and time again. No batteries are required to pop the animal out, just press the button and watch the spring launch furry, plush fun into the air. Iconic to Little Tikes, the Rocking Horse is the perfect size for toddlers and introduces them to rocking back and forth with new moving motions. Available in blue or pink, it is the ideal addition to complement any little one’s bedroom or playroom.
Schleich 01279 870000 / Schleich@Schleich-s.co.uk. Farm World and Wild Life are at the centre of Schleich’s natural play worlds and there is even more to discover with the introduction of many new animals and playsets for 2019. Schleich’s new Farm World play sets will delight all farm fans, and little animal lovers can also continue to rejoice: from strong bulls and sweet calves to cute dachshunds, many new animal ﬁgures are waiting to be allowed to move in onto the farm. But that's not all, because the Farm World theme world is getting even more horsepower this year. Four new pony agility play sets provide even more variety on the farm and for the autumn, Schleich will be launching a large stable. This hero playset has endless accessories and features for extra play value. Thrilling new arrivals to the Wild Life range have made their debut too; a Komodo dragon lurking in the tall grass, a cheeky ring-tailed lemur and a vigilant Okapi– the latter is the ‘User Voted Animal 2018’. The new quokka is also especially cute – the funny marsupial is a must for every collection. Meanwhile, highly fascinating is the tarantula, which will also be crawling through the jungle. This is just a snapshot of what’s available for 2019. Schleich toys oﬀer play at its purest for little imaginations and are therefore a staple both in the toy box and also the toy shop. With support of retailer promotions and substantial PR campaigns, it will ensure this quality brand has great awareness with the consumer, both inside and outside of the retail space.
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Animals & Play-sets
Playmobil 01268 548 111 There’s plenty for animal lovers over at Playmobil this season, as the iconic building and play-set specialist launches its ultimate set, the 9275 Tiny Paws Pet Hotel this summer. Playmobil has called it the perfect paradise for all animals, both big and small - as long as they’re a toy… The play-set in question includes a host of engaging features to help young imaginations run wild, including a warm and welcoming reception area and a large outdoor play area that comes complete with its own doggy seesaw. Kids can expand the Tiny Paws Pet Hotel with the 9276 Purrfect Stay Cat Boarding play-set, the 9277 Small Animal Boarding play-set, the 9278 Mobile Pet Groomer set, and the 9279 Dog Trainer. Playmobil’s Tiny Paws Pet Hotel is recommended for children aged four and upwards - as well as the corresponding sets. For more information, Playmobil is encouraging retailers to get in touch with your sales representative or via the main office.
Flair 0208 643 0320 Flair and Just Play have a kingdom of animal toys to pet and collect this season. Just Play gets things off to a galloping start with its Spirit Riding Free range, a line that will grow with the introduction of new play-sets and accessories. The Classic Doll and Horse sets are perfect for any collector. Each horse stands over five-inches tall and is accompanied by its wild horse companion with poseable arms, enabling her to ride her trusty steed. The autumn will also see the arrival of the new Deluxe Spirit Walking Horse which features Lucky and her wild mustang Spirit, in an actionpacked play experience. Press the button on his back and Spirit comes to life with realistic sounds and movement.. Meanwhile, Just Play’s Flutter Friends sees the hummingbird land on shelves this season, as Flutter Friends bring with them lifelike movements, nurturing play value and interactivity in six different styles. Pet to activate the movements and experience its 40 realistic sounds. Tap its back twice and help it learn to fly. With feet that grip, it will balance on the flower feeder included and flap its wings, just as you would expect in the wild. To add to the fun, Flutter Friends will also interact with each other. When placed together they flap their wings and tweet to each other. Furthermore, they even react to sounds; simply click your fingers or clap your hands to activate more fluttering and sound effects. Finally in the feature plush category Flair’s Emotion Pets will see Toffee the Pony come to life once more. Toffee is soft and cuddly and includes a whole range of smart animatronics.
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Animals & Play-sets
Infantino +44 (0)7921 212072 / Jerome@infantino.com Launching this summer, Infantino is thrilled to unveil its latest addition to the ‘Grow with me’ collection and introduce the ‘4 in 1 Grow with me Playland’. Bring out your little one’s wild side with this action-packed activity center. Its thoughtfully designed staged learning provides endless play opportunities from nine months to three years. The activity centre is fantastically interactive and comes with a variety of features. Six diﬀerent grow-with-me games engage little minds as they can watch the balls roll, pop, and bounce to silly music and bright lights. Little hands can also press the hippo’s levers or drop the balls into the hippo’s mouth to watch them jump and bounce around the light-up plinko board. Little ones can also pin bowl the coconut into the monkeys to be rewarded with silly sounds, fun colors, and an early introduction to numbers. Don’t miss the chart-topping DJ Panda’s funky beats, ﬂashing lights and more. Having just launched, Infantino this character will be at the top of set lists this summer to keep babies bopping as they push, slide, and spin the turntable to activate the crossfader and pitch eﬀects, changing the music and activating the 16 sounds and songs. Suitable for babies from the age of six to 36 months, kids can change up their favourite beat and create sound eﬀects.
Smart Toys and Games 01903 885 669 Enjoy an interactive trip to the farm with Smart Games’ Smart Farmer, a fun game for children aged ﬁve and upwards. It’s an important job being the farmer, especially at this farm where the animals are in chaos. The pigs, sheep, horses and cows are making a mess and need to be separated, but the player will need to give this some thought as there are only three simple fences to divide the ﬁeld into separate meadows. Help by placing the fences so the animals each get their own space, and, don’t forget about the animal’s water - they each need their own supply. Jump In’ engages everyone both young and old. Bounce the bunnies and slide the foxes around the game board until all of the bunnies are safe in their burrows. This brain teaser contains 60 multi-level challenges ranging from the very easy to expert – perfect for kids from sevenyears and adults alike. Smart Games’ latest one player compact game is sure to have you puzzled. Introducing Colour Catch, where the player needs to match the colours and catch the bugs as they complete the 48 challenges. The player’s motive is to help the animals catch their dinner by placing the puzzle pieces in a certain way on the game board so that the frogs and salamanders capture the bugs and match the colours shown in the challenge. But watch out, the animals are transparent, and their colours will change on diﬀerent parts of the game board. Children as young as three can enjoy their favourite stories in a new way thanks to the ‘Once Upon a Time’ collection. SmartGames
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Animals & Play-sets
Stonemaier Games www.stonemaiergames.com Taking somewhat a bit of a departure from the line-up of animals toys and play-sets featured in the round-up so far, Stonemaier Games has made this monthâ€™s listing with its hit tabletop title Wingspan. Deisnged by Elizabeth Hargrave with stunning art work from Natalia Rojas, Anna Maria Martinez Jaramillo, and Beth Sobel, Wingspan is a title that spans both animals and play, being an ornithological tabletop board game that puts players in the role of birdwatchers. Wingspan is a competitive, medium-weight card-driven building board game in which players take on the role of rsearchers, bird watchers, ornithologists, and collectors, all seeking to discover and attract the best birds to their network of wildlife preserves. Each bird extends a chain of powerful combinations in one of your habitats. These habitats focus on several key aspects of growth, including gaining food tokens, laying eggs, and drawing from hundreds of unique bird cards all featuring the gameâ€™s stunning artwork. The game has been designed for one to ďŹ ve players with each game lasting for between 40 to 70 minutes. Wingspan is suitable for all ages from ten and upwards.
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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 Kickstarter platform
The Isle of Cats Creator: Frank West Pledge goal: £15,000 Created by the Bristol-based board game designer, and name behind 2018’s City of Kings, The Isle of Cats puts players in the shoes of citizens of Squall’s End (yep, no idea either) and on a rescue mission to an island populated by cats. Your task is to rescue as many feline friends as possible before the evil Lord Vesh arrives, presumably to exact some kind of revenge (though we can’t think what) on the island’s inhabitants. This competitive, medium-weight card drafting title for one to four players sees each cat represented by a unique tile belonging to a cat family. Find a way to make them fit on your boat, while keeping families together. The game features 30 cat meeples, one Vesh’s Boat meeple, 85 unique cat tiles, six
Pret -Å-Porter Publisher: Portal Games Designer: Ignacy Trzewiczek Pledge goal: £28,000 From Poland’s Portal Games - a company who has been in the gaming market since 1999 with more than 250 titles to its name, Pret-A-Porter is back for its third edition on the Kickstarter platform. Initially released in 2011, Pre-A-Porter is a popular title that has already secured rave reviews and nominations for various industry awards. Only 1000 copies were printed of its first edition, making it somewhat of a cult classic among gamers of
unique Oshax tiles, 44 common treasure tiles, 20 rare treasure tiles, four player boats, an island board and a number of
playing cards and tokens, an extensive hall that makes up this colourful title. The project has secured backing.
this ilk and fans of this genre of game play; a close portrayal of industry economics. The game revolves around international fashion shows - special Show rounds, in which all players will present their collections and compete for awards in four different feature categories. Recognised as "one of the most thematic economic games on the scene," it blends Show rounds with Working rounds for a full fashion industry experience. Already fully funded and rocketing some big pledge numbers, Pret-A-Porter features some stunning artwork and offers a real snap shot of the global fashion industry… so do expect a touch of Devil Wears Prada here...
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Industry moves A double-header appointments page this month sees Golden Bear bid farewell to an industry veteran, University Games and Paul Lamond strengthen the marketing team, Flair secure a double appointment, and Schleich prime for growth in the UK
University Games and Paul Lamond
GOLDEN BEAR After 40 years with the pre-school toy specialist, JOHN HALES has stepped down from his role as Chairman of Golden Bear to enjoy some downtime in well-earned retirement. Hales, a titan of the industry and co-founder of the popular toy company, will remain the major shareholder and a director of the company for the future. Meanwhile, the ﬁrm has also conﬁrmed that JOHN HARPER has come on board to take up the mantle of non-executive chairman with immediate eﬀect. Harper is a well-loved industry
personality himself, and boasts vast experience in the space, most recently having served Hasbro with a stint as president of Hasbro Europe to his name. Harper will work with the senior team at Golden Bear to bring a new approach to the business to ensure the company achieves signiﬁcant growth over the next three to ﬁve years, and tackles a changing toy industry head-on. “The toy industry is going through many changes and it is time I retired and introduced a new pair of eyes,” said Hales. “I have now seen over 50 Toy Fairs and I have enjoyed every minute of this invigorating business.”
The games and puzzles specialist has welcomed a new head of marketing in the shape of GEMMA LEWINGTON, an industry expert who brings over a decade of toy experience to the role. Lewington has previously worked with pre-school favourites such as LeapFrog and VTech, as well as her most recent tenure with Mookie Toys. “It’s a very exciting time of growth and development at University Games and Paul Lamond Games, and I am delighted to be joining such a great team,” said Lewington of her appointment within the team. She has been welcomed aboard by Richard Wells, managing director at University Games and Paul Lamond, who looks forward to seeing how her vision will help shape the business further.
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Alpha Animation and Toys Toy industry professional, ANNE-MARIE NOON has joined Alpha Group’s marketing team at a time of ‘impressive growth for the global animation and entertainment group.’ She comes with an impressive background in toys that includes roles in toy buying at John Lewis, and almost 12 years in brand and marketing management at GP Flair. As Noon joins Alpha Group, its proliﬁc toy brands like Super Wings, the inﬂatable range of WWE Airnormous, and SpongeBob SquarePants master toy line, are all building with new product design as well as introductions within its Baby Trend nursery category for the coming years. “The Alpha UK team has done an incredible job of building the UK business thus far, and I am extremely excited to be joining them,” said Noon.
Flair The toy ﬁrm is reinforcing its marketing team with the appointment of IULIA TOADER (pictured top left) as marketing manager for the GP Flair boys' and girls' toys categories, while GURPREET CHOHAN (pictured top right) has joined the team as its new product manager amid a strong year for Flair and its product portfolio across each of its major categories.
Toader joined Flair in February after spending ﬁve years in Dubai as marketing manager for the Middle Eastern toy brand and distributor I-Brands. Meanwhile, Chohan joined Flair on June 3 as product manager for the boys category, with a toy experience built in product development and retail, most recently with eOne Entertainment. Emmanuelle Cadet, Flair’s head of marketing, said: “Since joining us in February, Iuliua has adapted incredibly well to her role, I am delighted to extend her responsibilities and to welcome Gurpreet to the team.”
The Insights People The analytics and insights specialist is continuing to expand this year, welcoming a raft of promotions and new hires among the team, as well as an oﬃce move in the past two months to underpin its growth. JENNY KIERAS has stepped into the role of chief operating oﬃcer, having played an instrumental role in leading the business through a sustained period of growth over the past year. Meanwhile, JONATHAN WATSON has been promoted from product manager to the postion of chief product oﬃcer. On top of this, toy and licensing stalwart, DAVID MARTIN has joined the outﬁt as chief commercial oﬃcer, bringing with him a wealth of toy industry experience gained from roles at Crayola, Funrise and KD Group. He will now be responsible for driving further growth, as well as working closely with the research team to develop the next generation of services that the company plans to launch next year.
Schleich UK The company is strengthening its marketing eﬀorts across the UK and Ireland in what is shaping up to be a year of record growth for its business in the market. LETICIA GIBNEY has been named the ﬁrm’s new marketing executive, further strengthening the team and supporting its marketing activity across the UK and Ireland. Gibney brings with her previous toy industry exprience, gained from roles with Mattel in Barcelona, Spain. Adding to her CV, she has held a number of roles within marketing and business development outside of toys, too. “I am very much looking forward to this new role and so excited to be back in the toy industry, working for a great brand like Schleich, which is seeing such growth for now and for the foreseeable future and many years ahead,” said Gibney. Gibney joins the team at the point of change for the ﬁrm's global vision, underpinned by its recent majority share acquisition by Partners Group. The German toymaker is now eyeing major international expansion under the new owners. Dirk Engehausen, CEO of Schleich, said: “We are delighted to team with Partners Group, with is global footprint and strong operational capabilities, to lead Schleich in our exciting growth plans. “While the company has established itself as a leading toymaker in the DACH region, we see huge potential to build on our presence internationally and are committed to establishing the company as a true leader in the global toy market. We look forward to partnering with the Partners Group team to identify new regions. July 2019 | toy news | 57
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Bossing it… with Alpha Group’s Darren Lee Phillipson Each month, ToyNews picks on one industry bigwig to put through the ringer with a series of prying questions. This month, it’s Alpha Group’s vice president of global product design, Darren Lee Phillipson
ow would you describe the current toy industry's invention/ design scene? The toy invention scene is absolutely alive and kicking and just as strong today as it was 26 years ago, when I first joined the toy industry. Toy inventors can vary in terms of their size and set up. Some inventors are very well organized, large scale companies with 50+ employees and some are individuals who pitch to companies by themselves. Some toy inventors specialise in specific categories that companies find hard to develop internally. For instance, toy companies are very dependent on inventors to come up with new game concepts. Games need a certain mindset to figure out the mechanics and rules to make sure the game plays well for the intended target consumer. Some of the hottest toys that launch every year come from the toy invention community. How much of this innovation is actually making it to shelf here in the UK? Even though the UK is a much smaller toy market than other countries such as the US and Japan, it has always been a hot bed for toy inventor talent. Many of the biggest toy lines in the world have come from the UK inventors. The barriers tend to come from toy companies that are too marketing driven. Some of the best performing toy companies in the world right are more design driven. This innovation is then backed by some very creative
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and smart marketing to help convey the product messaging and positioning to consumers. What are the current trends on the invention scene? Inventors are extremely tuned in to what is happening in the industry and are still at the forefront of trends that are important to kids. More and more inventors are turning to digital platforms such as YouTube and Kickstarter to try and predict emerging trends. The advent of "Unboxing" has really spawned a new paradigm in the toy space along with "Celebrity Influencers" who can help drive sales with just the use of their name or brand on the toy. Toy companies are still trying to crack the digital (or phygital) play pattern, which is always a challenge as kids generally play with their mobile device separately to their physical toys. What do you think the future holds for the toy design space - what is shaping that future, and how will you guys maintain your place ahead of the curve? Toy design will continue to morph and evolve at a fast rate. The winners will be the ones that can flex and adapt quickly to the ever changing landscape in retail, content placement and consumer trends. At Alpha Group US, we approach every project with all of these constraints in mind. Events such as the Play Creators Festival are critical to help stay connected with the invention community...a true lifeline of creativity for toy companies!
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