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ISSUE 217

September/October 2020

www.toynews-online.biz

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Editor's Letter

Welcome We're back, to the future No. 217 | September 2020 Editor Robert Hutchins robert.hutchins@biz-media.co.uk

Sales Manager Sarah Norwood sarah.norwood@biz-media.co.uk

Designer Paul Forster pforster@datateam.co.uk

Follow us @toynews online

Well, well… look who’s got their face back on the leader column of a print magazine. I certainly didn’t think that I would be writing only my third editor’s welcome note of the last nine months when 2020 began. But then, this has been the year that expedited change. Adaptation is a cornerstone of life; alongside takeaway menus and a prime home delivery slot with M&S, and 2020 has definitely been a test of our reflexes. Like many, ToyNews pressed its pause button for a spell back there. But, we made a virtue of necessity, stepped back a moment, and in doing so, we’ve come back with a new perspective (as well as a new layout and page size, you may notice). You have been a source of constant inspiration to us. Whether a retailer who's shifted from brick and mortar to online, or a supplier who has worked all hours going to meet demand, I say this in all sincerity: Bloody well done. It's given us some real food for thought. Over the last few years we've been aligning ourselves with the rule that the world doesn’t wait to update itself, and neither do your customers. Your news is happening now. You’re reading it, hearing it, and seeing it all, now. It's exciting to say that ToyNews will be pouring its energy and resources into the online space, to become the media hub for the industry and deliver the multimedia content it wants, wherever it wants it. The magazine will be here for the key points of the year, it has a rich history to celebrate in that; but we are looking to the future, and that curve is taking us in an exciting new direction for content. Get yourself over to toynews-online.biz and make sure you're a part of it. Robert Hutchins, Editor Robert.Hutchins@biz-media.co.uk

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COVER STORY GREAT OUTDOORS P14

Contents September/October 2020 Features

06

MERRILY ON THE HIGH STREET? We consider what Christmas could look like for the independent retailer this year

14

KIDS OF THE NEW FOREST Outdoor Learning is emerging as a new post-lockdown trend, we explore the potential for the toy industry

24

PAPER SCISSORS, ROCK! Award-winning and eco-friendly: We chat with the founder of the Build Your Own construction toy brand

33

HASBRO THE PRE-SCHOOL POWERHOUSE

Regulars Opinion 10 Trudi Bishop 11 Peter Jenkinson 12 Steve Reece 13 Rob Cormican

Market Data 29 Generation Media 30 Kids Insights 38 WildBrain Spark Sector Guides 41 Games and Puzzles Back pages 53 Sustainability with Helena Stopher

We catch up with Marianne James, VP, consumer products to talk akll things licensing for the firm

September 2020 | toy news | 5


Retail Analysis

DING DONG MERRILY ON THE HIGH STREET? There are no two ways about it, Christmas this year is going to look rather different to those gone by. With toy trends shifting as rapidly as consumer shopping habits, ToyNews explores the impact of the pandemic on the UK's indie retail scene

6 | toy news | September 2020


Retail Analysis

S

etting the shifting toy trends as highlighted by the top toy picks already released by retailers chasing the Q4 sales surge aside, Christmas could be looking rather different for the high street toy shop this year. A number of retailers from the UK’s independent scene have raised their own concerns about the stark rise that the online shopping sector has witnessed over the course of 2020, a tide of change that was amplified and quickened by the wide reaching lockdown measures taken to counter the spread of the world’s coronavirus crisis. It’s been well reported that the online goliath, Amazon, fared very well during the world’s lockdown period, seeing a stark sales surge as customers spent almost $11,000 a second on its products and services. While many of the UK’s independents managed to adapt to the measures with their own online offering and delivery

service, news that Amazon now plans to open further UK warehouses and employ thousands more in ‘picking’ and ‘packing’ staff this second half, leaves the indie scene feeling unsettled as it heads into the festive season. With talk of a second wave of the virus forcing the UK Government to revise its measures once again as we head into the autumn and winter months, there’s a credible cause for concern that the trend for customers to head to the online giants will be driven ever deeper. “I think a lot more people will be buying online [this Christmas], so as an independent retailer, the fear is that consumers will default to Amazon instead of making an effort to seek out independent shops or support their local retailers,” Amanda Alexander, director of Manchester’s Giddy Goat Toys, tells ToyNews. “I am concerned about the High Street as a whole. When a shopping area loses a few independent retailers there can be a domino effect where places become less interesting to visit and people stop bothering.” With safety measures in place, and social distancing and public mask-wearing, now in force across the UK, the failsafe arsenal that the independent retailer could often fall back on in its battle against Amazon and the like, has too been rendered ineffective. In-store demonstrations and the ability for consumers - kids and adults alike - to try out and play with toys within shops has been put on hold for 2020, in effect dampening the crucial experience that the high street shop can hold over online retail. Those who can have implemented virtual methods of driving product engagement, such as Walmart’s newly launched Wonder Lab platform in the US, in which children can virtually ‘play’ with their favourite products, giving them a test run before their parents click the purchase button on the screen.

Meanwhile, for independent toy shops and hobby stores, like Bus Stop Toy Shop, who relies on gaming events and meet ups like the Pokemon Trading Card Game events it would host regularly in pre-Covid times, the chance to drive that engagement doesn’t come quite so easily. “Like all hobby retailers, we rely heavily on the sale of trading cards, but if you can’t actually use the cards to play the games with other people, then why buy them?” says Duncan Conner, managing director, Bus Stop Toy Shop. “We’re seeing our trading card game sales way lower than normal, and I’d expect that to continue until such time as we can safely run events again.” “It’s hard to be genuinely optimistic about the indie toy retail scene for 2020 and moving into 2021. Discretionary spending is going to fall and there’s no getting away from that. We’ve also got the potential for further lockdowns in the months to come. “I’ve been doing this a long time, though and I’ve survived so far, so I’m not going to be unduly pessimistic about things. There’s no point worrying about the things I can’t do anything about, so I’ll just keep doing the things I can do as well as I can and everything else will be what it is.” General consensus dictates that this year will see the online shopping space hit new spikes for the festive season. Toy industry expert Steve Reece states in his ToyNews opinion piece this month that the ‘consumer is a creature of habit,’ and the pandemic has pushed a larger tide towards online shopping that - despite the high street being open for business - will not be swayed to return to brick and mortar purchasing. Recent weeks have also seen an eminent Britsh gaming brand come under fire from September 2020 | toy news | 7


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Retail Analysis

its network of independent retail partners for favouring online giants such as eBay and Amazon over the local hobby shop for the release of its latest, big box item. The move was labeled as a ‘crude money making manouver’ that would ‘come at the cost of the hobby’s independent retailers across the UK,’ a network that would benefit greatly from the launch of a highly demanded big ticket item ‘just to keep the doors open’. It was billed as an additional headache to the ongoing plight of the independent toy and hobby retailer. However, the scene has also been quick to sing the praises of the industry’s suppliers who have proved themselves to be the champions on the independent scene throughout the UK’s lockdown. “One thing that has stood out as important to me has been that sense of being part of a community,” says Giddy Goat Toys’ Alexander. “Most of our suppliers have been brilliant, keeping in touch via email or telephone and with many dropping carriage paid quantities to help us restock without spending too much.” While lockdown and social distancing measures have caused worrying headaches for many a number of independent retailers, there are some who have found the Government policies to be a blessing for business. One such operation is Oliver’s Brighton, an independently owned Harry Potter-themed toy and gift shop in Brighton that, after an initial furlough period through the height of the UK’s lockdown, has found business to be booming since its reopening on July 4th this year.

A toy shop that prides itself on the experience it offers its customers and one that finds itself the popular attraction for locals and tourists to the area alike, Oliver’s Brighton was quick to implement a store visit booking system that catered to groups of six people at a time. What started out as the store’s health and safety measures in the fight against Covid-19 has now become the store’s modus operandi, and one that has seen the average customer spend double in just a few short weeks. “We now have customers spending £250 at a time,” says Oliver Dall, owner of Oliver’s Brighton. “They’re spending like that because they have the shop to themselves, and the experience is made all the more special for them.” Dall operates the system with a calendar with which visitors can select their half an hour slot in the store. From here, they can opt for a prebook special and purchase a Butterscotch beer, an ice cream, and a gift to receive upon arrival. “It has been jam-packed. We’re fully booked most days, back to back. We do half an hour slots and then a 15 minute buffer to make sure the shop is clean,” explains Dall. “We saw the need to evolve and that’s what we’ve done, and it’s awesome.” Dall is currently working on plans to incorporate a secondary business within the current Oliver’s Brighton business, effectively dividing the store into two and utlise the freedom of space that the new booking system has allowed him. Savvy marketing has meant that Oliver’s rarely relied on passing trade, even in times pre-Covid, but moreover

thrived as a destination shop for locals and visitors to Brighton. As such, it stands to reason that the festive season offers an exciting prospect for Dall. “Christmas is looking amazing,” he tells ToyNews. “We’re so lucky, we have already got bookings coming through for December which is mad. Christmas for any retailer is their time. What’s fantastic for us, is that with the booking system we will be able to pre-empt business and footfall throughout December. We already have people enquiring, so I think - in a weird way this will be one of the best Christmasses that we’ve done; it’s going to be very structured. “We can generate more sales through our booking system because it’s the comfort and experience that people get with us. I predict it’s going to be flipping good.” Elsewhere it’s the understandable sense of trepidation with which the indie retailer enters the Christmas countdown this year. The pandemic has certainly put a question mark over much of the way of life the UK and the world was so used to, and in no place does that loom quite so ominously as the look of the British High Street in the years to follow. Giddy Goat Toys’ Amanda Alexander, adds: “I don’t know what the future holds for indie retailers, but it will be a sad day if kids can’t go and visit a local toy shop. There’s no anticipation to be had or nostalgia felt about browsing online, so I hope there’s still a future for us, and I’ll carry on doing my best to make shopping in my store a fun, positive, and enjoyable experience for children and adults.” September 2020 | toy news | 9


Opinion

When you say ‘degradable’, I say ‘debatable’ This month, the industry’s environmental and sustainability figurehead has had enough with the greenwashing and puts to task the claims that ‘degradable plastic’ is the answer to the plastic waste problem still plaguing the planet By Trudi Bishop

By the time you’ll be reading this column, schools will hopefully be back in full swing and stores will be gearing up for the back to school rush. Toy stores will be setting up for Christmas in the hope that they can make up for lost revenue during the lockdown, and, as an industry we’ll all be focused on putting the worst of this period behind us. But while Covid-19 has been - and is still - a major concern for businesses, the sustainability agenda has never been more important. I was enlightened to see that despite the challenges the pandemic has caused our industry, many toy companies are still driving forward with investments in less environmentally harmful products and packaging. Sustainability is an intergenerational responsibility, and the toy industry is at the forefront of this. If sustainable business practice is integrated at all levels of business, the short term costs far out way the long term savings and brand equity is increased. One positive to draw from the pandemic was people’s relationship to nature; seeing the clear skies, hearing the birds sing, getting out and walking in the forests, and turning to nature to plug a gap left by the temporary closure of shops around the world. It also highlighted our interconnectedness to the natural world and the harm we are causing. As such, consumers are looking more for products that do less harm. The demand is growing but the convenience and the prices the consumers demand are not yet there. I don’t believe we will or should get to the cheap prices demanded - for if we do, we run the risk of doing more harm than good as we strive for growth with an ‘eco-friendly’ spin on what we produce. Our ‘green products’ will become an oxymoron.

Our current drive for ‘greener’ goods, while having a very positive impact, can also have many unintended consequences in our strive to do the right thing, or, if I address this at its most cynical, looking to be doing the right thing. One such current trend that lands in this category is the use of ‘degradable’ plastic in packaging. The name makes it sound as though it will break down and disappear when disposed of in our bins. In fact, one major toy company now moving to use this material in the packaging of one of their most popular products declared that the material ‘will break down safely if disposed of properly.’ I see two problems arise here, and there may well be more. The first is the confusion over the term ‘degradable’, and the fact that many councils cannot accept this kind of plastic due to its tendency to contaminate plastic recycling. This means it simply can’t be ‘disposed of properly.’ What we end up with in this instance is ‘wish-cycling’ by consumers. Here we again have the responsibility being pushed down to consumers rather than the company taking the responsibility of reducing their packaging or using truly recyclable material. The second problem is for degradable plastic to breakdown, it mostly needs sunlight. Now, the chances of this plastic being exposed to the required levels of sunlight in order to breakdown while sitting in the middle of landfill is highly unlikely, and so the process is ineffective. If and when it does eventually breakdown, it breaks down into micro and nano plastic which gets absorbed into the soils. From there, it’s only a few short stops before it enters our food chain. Out of sight is out of mind, but not out of our lives - not by a long way. Both the British Plastics Federation and the charity Friends of the Earth agree that degradable plastic is not the best solution to a healthy Earth, and for anyone boasting that it is - it’s best to get back to the drawing board, I’m afraid.

"Out of sight is out of mind, but not out of our lives" Trudi Bishop is a toy and licensing industry expert with a drive for promoting the message of sustainability and eco-consciousness to the children’s sector.

10 | toy news | September 2020


Opinion

A Christmas cajole: The year that Covid changed everything The coronavirus may have changed what Christmas looks like this year, but as long as you've adapted to the shifting trends and planned yourselves some savvy marketing, Toyologist, Peter Jenkinson believes the goose is still looking good and plump By Peter Jenkinson

It’ll be a Yule like no other. That seasonal spike in toy sales in the final weeks simply won’t happen, there just isn’t the capacity across the delivery driver network for it to happen. Some of us might have a cheeky trip to the high street to see the lights, perhaps pick up a few bits, but Covid is the nail in the cliché coffin. The high street will always exist but it’ll need to work as a complementary outlet to online - and here, the opportunities are huge. For this Christmas, far from being cancelled (although anything could happen) right now it’s not just the way we’re buying that’s altering significantly but what we’re buying that is seeing a seismic shift in 2020. We know that toy sales have been enjoying a lockdown lift, and that is bound to have an impact on Q4 sales. We’ve spent more time indoors with our families, we’ve got to know them a little more, and, as a result will be more bespoke in our buying for them. A big decrease in the piling of the present haul but more considered purchases, bigger ticket items even, very much reflected in this year’s Argos top toy list. Creativity is going to play a part in gifting, a well-placed family picture in a hand painted frame for example, a retro

toy for a parent, a game for the family to play together, something with a personal touch; gifting that makes a connection, tells a story or enables you to tell one. There’s also a trend towards pre-Xmas gifting, sending a box of crackers and fairy-lights, a stocking full of Christmas cheer to get folks in the mood, starting the spirit of Christmas a little earlier(and do send spirits, that always helps). It’s been tougher than ever to get a real steer on what’s hot for the Christmas shop with no July based retailer events to talk the proverbial turkey with other journalists about their picks for gift guides. We miss the buffet food samples most of all. Gifting guides across press and broadcast will likely be much more considered too, much less “let’s fill these pages” and much more “now what would I buy for my mum/dad/insert other relative and or friend here”. To this end don’t send your entire product look books with all your wares inside, try and be a bit more bespoke about it, target your editorial staff, they really do notice, and you’re only a click away from the trash folder if an email pitch looks too generic. We did some work recently on the changing face of Xmas and the consensus was that this 25th December is a bit of a beacon, a chance to put a pin in the end of a rather average 2020, an outpost for us all to be optimistic about, it will certainly be a Christmas we’ll never forget.

"Christmas is far from cancelled, but what we are buying this year, and how, has seen a seismic shift." Peter Jenkinson is a tech and toy journalist known for his toy buying guides with the national papers and television appearances with Philip Schofield

September 2020 | toy news | 11


Opinion

Life after lockdown and the reasons to be cheerful Now that we can plan for the challenges coming out of the pandemic, suggests Kids Brand Insights' Steve Reece, there is no reason for 2021 not to be a successful year for the toy and licensing industries. The good news is: humans adapt By Steve Reece

2020 has been an unusual year to put it mildly. The good news is that due to general awareness of Covid and mass change in human behaviour we seem unlikely to need to return to hard lockdowns on a national basis in the UK. Regular visitors to Hong Kong and China had long found it peculiar how many people from that part of the world wandered around airports and even the streets wearing surgical masks. The fact we are now wearing masks across the board in the UK shows just how much our daily lives have changed. The long term but slowly advancing trend towards working from home has clearly been massively accelerated, with a fair degree of long-term impact looking likely at this point. This has huge potential impact on the toy industry in good ways and bad, it makes it easier for those of us with families to manage our time and can save a fair degree of time on commuting. On the flip side it seems likely to reduce footfall in town and city centres across the UK which is likely to have an impact on shopping footfall for high street retail. Additionally this is likely to accelerate the shift towards online shopping. Clearly some of that shift will be temporary

as bricks and mortar stores are now open again, but human beings are creatures of habit, and so we have probably seen a permanent advancement of online market share coming out of this pandemic. The most inspiring and reassuring outcome of the pandemic so far though is the resilience and adaptability of humankind. One of the reasons why humans have survived for so long is due to physical and psychological adaptation. As such, we are learning how to go about everyday life in the current circumstances. When the virus hit it came as a major shock, but people and businesses adapt, and therein lies reasons for optimism. We had no time to plan for changed circumstances, which meant we lost opportunities, we lost sales from licenses based on blockbuster movies which could not find open theatres to launch in, we lost the chance to visit our customers in their offices, to travel to vital trade shows like Distoy and to conduct face to face consumer research for our new products. For 2021, things look set to remain challenging, but at least now we have time to adapt. Above all consumer demand for toys has not reduced, even if it has changed. There is no reason why we can’t see a successful 2021 for the toy business now that we can plan to meet the challenges coming out of the pandemic.

"For 2021, things look set to remain challenging, but at least now we have time to adapt, and above all, consumer demand for toys has not reduced." Steve Reece is the founder of the toy expert consultancy, Kids Brand Insight, leaders in supplying services to the toys and kids entertainment industries

12 | toy news | September 2020


Opinion

Pots, pans, and pandemic plans: Tales of a board game cafe mid corona The Library Pot was one of London's many popular board game cafes forced to close at the height of the UK's lockdown, but that didn't deter owner Rob Cormican from making the best from it By Rob Cormican

Guess what the most played game was at The Library Pot in the weeks leading up to Lockdown? Too easy, it was Pandemic, the co-operative savethe-world from viral destruction board game. Players would name one of the viruses Corona (Covid 19 hadn't been mentioned by then) and call the others things like Ebola, C.Dificile, Irony, Wokeness or even the Vendetta Virus - spreading around the world. One of our BBC customers (British Born Chinese) came in with a throaty cough and she teased that she was from Wuhan. Oh, how we laughed while we were still open. Forced to close we could be quite phlegmatic about it. Meeting the criteria for a government hospitality grant meant we could afford to be stoic as well. For a bit. Having worked 12 hours a day for six days a week for four years, the first thing we did was catch up on sleep. For a month. It was better than a soma holiday (H.G Wells' Brave New World if you were wondering) as the only place we could travel otherwise was the garden (yes, we’re very lucky). When we resurfaced, all refreshed and having had time to stop and think, we had accidentally built a list of "improvements" we could make to the building while we didn't have to run a business and do the customer thing. Many ordinary jobs, but the two highlights were giving the outside of the place and the ground floor loo a facelift. At the end of April we were thinking about what it would take to reopen and so we sent away for a no-contact thermometer, a bunch of masks and loads of sanitisers. They came from China and the timing was such that they arrived

before July 4th, when we were allowed to reopen. There is quite a range of risk appetites out there and whatever your opinion is of the likelihood of catching and transmitting Coronavirus, there are plenty who are scared by the whole Pandemic, the mainstream media coverage, and the lack of actual facts. So we knew we would have to try and make prospective customers feel comfortable about going into what had recently been designated as a ‘no-go’ area, a board game cafe. We made some decisions and published them on our website, trying to avoid the risk of the virus getting in the place at all. We removed tables for social distancing, we collect a contact's details for Track & Trace, we have industrial strength non-alcohol sanitiser and spray. We spray games after use and quarantine them for 24 hours, we use the no-contact thermometer to check customers on arrival, we have reduced days to reduce risk, we ask customers to stay at their table - only one table to the games library at a time, we've set up a page on our website for customers to order online when seated at the table to reduce contact occasions (https://librarypot.uk/shop/), we prefer contactless payments, and we closed the ball pool (a moment that paints itself as a comi-tragedy). Our customers are taking this seriously. Some just wouldn't visit us until masks were made compulsory everywhere. We have had a couple of bookings cancel because one in their party has had a fever or been feeling ill. But mostly people are not going out. We are only [at the time of writing] on our fourth weekend of operation and numbers are improving though very low compared to February. But the lovely lady who is not from Wuhan is back this weekend for her second visit since we were allowed to reopen. To play Pandemic of course.

"We now quarantine our games for 24 hours" Rob Cormican is the co-owner of London's The Library Pot, a board gaming cafe that in times pre-covid, also had an adult ball pit.

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THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW F In her ongoing research The Changing Nature of Play During Lockdown, Valeria Miglioli, the founder of Pumpkin Projects is uncovering an emerging trend among parents and a newfound appreciation of the great outdoors and Outdoor Learning. Robert Hutchins grabs his haversack and penknife (OK - just a pen and a sandwich) and explores this new terrain 14 | toy news | September 2020

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t seems almost serendipitous that just as the world underwent its Great Pause at the hands of a pandemic, good weather struck the UK and welcomed a nation out of doors and into its local wilds, right at a time it needed it the most. All of a sudden, the 5km perimeter (political advisers exempted, of course) became the new frontier for thousands of families to explore, and the call of the wild took on a whole new concept. Outdoor Learning also managed to find a new footing as parents, children and families together were forced to look closer to home for their adventures, and new means for education and development. The online toy retailer, The Toy Centre is one of many across the UK to have seen a spike in interest in outdoor toys during those strangest of months, and a sales surge that buoyed its business through what could have been a tough trading time for others. Credit, according to the shop’s owner Janice Allibone, goes to the ‘new breed of consumer,’ to have emerged from the global lockdown measures;

one that is now “actively seeking out toys to engage and hold their child’s attention.” The question is, however, how much of this - a shift in mind-set and a greater value placed in the importance of play from the consumer’s point of view - is going to continue to drive sales, and how much will it shape the future of the toy space from here on out? In her ongoing research project focusing on the Changing Nature of Play during Lockdown, Valeria Miglioi, a toy designer, former creative director at Fiesta Crafts and now founder of the design and consultancy business, Pumpkin Project, has begun to uncover some positive results for the idea of Outdoor Learning. Based on the replies to her consumer-wide survey to date, it has emerged that over half of parents stated that outdoor play was the most sought after play activity by their children during lockdown. Meanwhile, gardening, going for walks in the forest and playing in the garden were some of the activities that children and parents enjoyed doing the most together.


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It’s this - a shared lockdown experience between children and parents alike - that Miglioli believes has helped take the notion of Outdoor Learning to the mainstream. The researcher even goes as far as to quote one parent within her study to have said that “what I learnt during this time with regards to playing with my child, is that as long as you’ve got the energy, free play and getting outdoors is key.” It’s with this in mind that she tells ToyNews that “perhaps this new mind-set is already happening and the experiences during lockdown are already leaving a positive impression on families without them fully realising.” The Great Outdoors When it comes to defining what Outdoor Learning actually is, the field of exploration is as vast as the concept that it embodies. Whether you’re ‘manning a yacht and making passage across the Irish Sea’ or counting the number of insects you find on a walk along your nearest river trail, Outdoor Learning is an idea for which its only parameters are the limits of imagination, accessibility, and desire to engage with the outside world. For children, the cornerstone of the idea is something we’ve all come to recognise as Free Play. “As well as the more straightforward physical activities like walking and running, during outdoor play, children are allowed to challenge their coordination and their sense of balance by moving in all directions, for example, while climbing trees or rolling down grassy hills,” continues Miglioli. “They develop strength and endurance by walking up hills, and carrying objects like logs and rocks.” According to the experts, it’s activities such as tying knots to secure a den, or even just picking up leaves and pebbles that all do their bit to strengthen fine motor skills in children. In essence, the outdoors provides “a new sensory environment in which to run wild.”

“Children are inspired to think independently when outdoors because the environment allows time, space, and opportunities to use their creativity - they are free to design, construct, experiment, problem solve and use their imagination,” says Miglioli. “On top of this, it is well known how physical activity and movement affects the body’s ability to regulate emotions, but spending time in nature can also lower cortisol levels in the brain, promoting calmness and relieving some of the everyday pressures that can lead to depression and anxiety.” Benefits such as these are pretty hard to argue against. But it is in the spaces between that the toy industry must find its way in. For David Strang, CEO and founder of the sports toys specialist, Wicked Vision, ‘outdoor learning’ is as much about switching off from the pressures of the traditional environment, as it is about the act of learning. “Sometimes, when our minds are inactive as far as actual learning goes, that’s when subconsciously we are thinking and processing skills the most,” Strang explains. “Switch off time can be kicking or batting a ball around, skipping or doing all these things, and that leads on to a whole new conversation of subconscious, meditative learning and mental health. All are massive issues within society today, and a great start to that is to simply get off screens, get outside, learn outside through activity, playing and having fun. “And if you can’t do it outside, do it indoors anyway.” For Miglioli, it’s in the simplicity of a toy that the greatest force for Outdoor Learning can be found, and that the toy industry is in the greatest position to “facilitate the developments of essential skills for children through play experiences, toys, and equipment.” “What we all want,” she says, “is to deliver what is best for our children, after all.” Such a pair to have spotted the potential for the toy space within the field of Outdoor Learning was Johanne Jones and Kay Miller, two former teachers turned entrepreneurs who struck upon the business concept of the Den Kit Company. Over the course of just a few years, the Den Kit Company has grown from a portfolio of two to 23 products, each designed to encourage kids out of doors and into adventure, taking inspiration from the duo’s own experiences of Forest School Teacher Training in which the pair were tasked with creating shelter for the night while in the woods. Now a full time business for the pair, Miller and Jones now find their range of den-making and explorations kits lining the shelves of The National Trust shops across the UK, The Eden Project’s own gift shop, filling shelves in Fenwicks, Kew Gardens, and a growing number of garden centres around the country. Their’s is a business that suffered relatively few knocks and no small uptake in sales over the past few months, fueled by the consumer’s September 2020 | toy news | 15


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desire to get their kids up and outdoors. Add to this the matter that The Den Kit Company taps into the rising interest for sustainable and ecofriendly products, and the reasons for its success over these short years begin to mount. “Buyers both b2b and b2c seem to be looking for activity based, sustainable, re-usable, openended toys,” Miller tells ToyNews. “In many ways, I think we have all taken the access to outdoor space for granted in the past. Lockdown went to highlight the strong, compelling need that children (and adults) have for just ‘being’ in a natural environment, and the many benefits it has upon our mental and physical health. We found that parents were desperate for absorbing activities to get their children off screens and out into the garden.” While it is instantly obvious that the company’s Den Kits appeal directly to children’s sense of adventure, it’s not by accident that they also pack an educational punch that is powered by the mere fact that these are facilitators for outdoor play. “As educators, it was always evident that, given the opportunity, most children thrive in an outdoor, natural environment - the best classroom of all,” continues Miller. “And passionate about the benefits of outdoor play - and concerned about the over-prescriptive nature of ‘creative’ gifts for children, we started a company to redress the balance. “Our Den Kits offer an effective teaching tool. Unencumbered by adult intervention, children are free to explore their own creative talents for problem solving, critical thinking and ingenuity.”

Miller admits she is being optimistic when she says she believes the trend for Outdoor Learning will continue post-pandemic, and certainly as we slide into the autumn and winter, the inclination to trapse the wooded paths in driving rain will undoubtedly drop off for the thousands that have enjoyed their sun dappled adventures. “But the evident need to focus on our children’s well-being and that of our planet is here to stay,” she adds. “We want people to remember what nature did for them during lockdown, and not to forget or neglect it as the world slowly returns to ‘normal.’” The part to play Back at her research, Miglioli is busy studying and uncovering the beneficial roles that the wider toy industry has to play within the Outdoor Learning concept; asking not simply ‘how can the industry tap into the opportunity to make money?’ but how to do so while facilitating the experiences that come naturally to children while they are playing outdoors. The true shape of it, suggest Miglioli’s findings, is that a child shouldn’t need toys in order to play in the wild and experience Outdoor Learning, not where a rock, stick, or the natural elements should suffice as their items for play. However, apply that to real life, and how successfully will a stick coax a six year old away from YouTube? Good luck with that. Therefore perhaps the toy industry does have a role to play - and more than a minor one - in inviting intrigue in a child enough to put the screen down and take a step outside?

“I have recognised that Outdoor Learning and Play is not quite so straightforward for parents when it’s taken out of organised settings,” Miglioli shares. “Parents need to be aware of how to encourage Outdoor Learning, what they can do, what games can be played, what the opportunities are, how to get started, and what is needed in terms of equipment and tools. “Also, parents will need help in identifying possibilities that can be explored by the children at different stages of their life and in different settings, like the garden, the local park, during the walk to school and so on. “I believe that the best potential for the toy industry will be the facilitating of these experiences with products which make outdoor play more accessible on a daily basis and all year round, that can assist families with guidance and ideas and can help with recognising the play opportunities which are around us.” Of course, Miglioli wouldn’t have been as effective a creative director or built such a reputation within the toy design circles had she not not only spotted the potential for the toy industry within the Outdoor Learning space, but started development of her own designs to fit within and facilitate it. “I have already been working on some low impact, ecologically-minded concepts for this that I am very excited about,” she tells ToyNews. But that’s all she is willing to say right now, the rest we will have to discover in due course. So until then, perhaps we’ll go for a walk in the woods for a bit. September 2020 | toy news | 17


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People

TEAM OF THE MONTH:

ZIMPLI KIDS From throwing its weight behind PPE and hand sanitiser production at the height of the pandemic crisis in the UK, to creating an entire eco-range of products, all while looking after Kira and Zeus, the office Dobermans, Zimpli Kids has had its hand full this year. ToyNews learns more about the team

So, Zimpli Kids - hello! Can you tell us who you have on the team? Zimpli Kids’ team has grown substantially over the years and each and every person has contributed towards our success. The Zimpli team is made up of our company directors; Eejay, Paul and Olivia, the Buying Department; Harmony and Faheemah, the Design department; Dan and Nicole, Accounts; Olivia and Katie, Sales; Lyndsey, Zoe and Grace, Marketing; Jess, Oliver, Beth, Elizabeth, Niamh and Jen; Warehouse and Production, Patrick, Michelle, Lynette, Mike and Helena, plus our fantastic packing team. Not forgetting, Kira and Zeus, our two office Dobermans! How have you guys managed adapting to the lockdown measures in the UK of the last few months? Lockdown has been very busy for us! We utilized our experience in warehousing and distribution to offer a range of PPE including alcohol-based hand sanitisers, face masks, visors, aprons and gloves.

Demand increased for our core Zimpli Kids products throughout lockdown especially on Amazon. Our products certainly keep the kids happy for hours so it came to no surprise that we had a spike. How have you kept the team morality up during the last few months? Although the majority of the office has been working from home, we had regular Zoom meetings to catch up, share ideas and keep the morale high. We are all back in the office now and it’s great to get back to some normally after a strange couple of months.

Moreover, we’ve just released our fantastic new Rainbow and Rocket Baff Bombz range which has already been deemed very popular. More recently, we made the decision to donate 100 per cent net profits made from our Rainbow Baff Bomb to NHS Charities Together. The symbol of a rainbow has represented the NHS for the last few months in the UK since lockdown began, so we thought what better way to show our support than to give a little extra to the heroes who have kept the UK standing strong in such difficult times.

What projects have you been working on for 2020? The whole team has been working extremely hard on creating an entire Eco-range, our Gelli and Slime are already certified biodegradable so, the next BIG step was to say goodbye to plastic bags and packaging and hello to recyclable packaging.

What's the best part of working in the toy industry? As a team we couldn’t agree more that the best part about working in the toy industry is seeing how much joy and happiness our products bring to little ones worldwide! Knowing how much fun we’re spreading to households, pushes us to create new products which get more fun and unique every single time. September 2020 | toy news | 19


Appointments

Industry moves The industry certainly hasn’t stood still these past months, and has become a hive of activity for the industry moves pages, including a directorial change up at Toymaster, an early retirement for industry champion Miles Penhallow, and a swathe of new starters at Gibsons, Interplay UK, and more

AIS - Play-Room

TOYMASTER COLIN FARROW and YOGI PARMAR have been appointed as interim joint managing directors of the buying group, following the departure of long-standing team member, IAN EDMUNDS who left the firm by mutual agreement earlier this month. Both Farrow and Parmar have been with the company for over 30 years, and will continue with their current roles while taking on the additional responsibilities as required by their new joint position. Toymaster’s PAUL READER has also been promoted to the position of marketing director. Reader has been with the company for 20 years and will continue with his current role and also take on the additional responsibilities. The board member change up arrives as Toymaster’s industry veteran Edmunds left his role with the company earlier this month. In a statement, chairman, Chris Blatcher said: “The Toymaster team is committed to Toymaster’s mission statement of Helping Our Members Trade More Profitably. With the appointment of Yogi and Colin as Interim Joint Managing Directors, and the promotion of Paul to the Board as Marketing Director, we will be able to utilise their passion for our group and Toymaster will continue to go from strength to strength.”

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MILES PENHALLOW, head of toys and children’s gifts at the UK buying group, is taking early retirement at the end of the month following a successful 12 year tenure with the firm. Penhallow has said that he will taking his leave of the business and the industry in order to manage a small property portfolio and pursue personal interests. “Although the past few months have been challenging for both members and suppliers, I believe that AIS is well placed to prosper in the future,” he said. “I will miss the interaction with both members and suppliers, but believe that the successful blueprint that we created for play-room when formed in 2008 will continue to evolve to the benefit of our members under new leadership. “I would like to wish everyone in the trade all the best in the years ahead. I truly believe that I am blessed to have made a living in the Toy Trade for over 30 years and will miss all the friends that I have made withn it.”

MGA Entertainment The departing managing director of Epoch Making Toys, NEIL BANDTOCK, is returning to MGA Entertainment from October, where he will take over from the firm’s current MD, ANDREW LAUGHTON. Laughton resigned from MGA earlier this year, following a 12 year tenure with the company. Having worked in the toy and children’s entertainment industry for over 16 years, Bandtock joins MGA Entertainment from EPOCH toys, where he has been managing director for three years. Previous positions also include global retail director of Merlin Entertainment Group (2015 to 2017) and of course managing director of Vivid Imaginations (2010 to 2014). From 2004 to 2008, Bandtock worked as UK general manager for MGA Entertainment, overseeing many of its most celebrated brands including Bratz and Little Tikes.


Appointments

Gibsons

Women In Toys

The independent games and puzzles company has welcomed a brace of five new members to the team; appointing three new full-time members and two maternity covers. SAVANNAH DAVENPORT and AVINA JAYRAM (pictured) have taken up new roles of customer services, website and social executive, and assistant accountant, respectively. Meanwhile, RAVINDER RAI has been appointed as operations manager and brings with her a wealth of experience working with major retailers, including Amazon. ZOE WALSH joins the team as junior international account manager to cover for head of international sales, ALICE TOURNAIRE as she goes on maternity leave. EMILY CHARLES is also going on maternity leave, and covering her will be EMMA KILBY who has been appointed to manage the development of new puzzles and games over the coming year.

Interplay UK A

The organisation has appointed DELANIE WEST to its board of directors as the team’s first Diversity and Inclusion Chair. In her role, West will be leading the company’s efforts to cultivate diversity, inclusion, and belonging as critical priorities across its global community. The drive will commence with the new initiative, Black Women in Toys, Licensing, and Entertainment and its focus on attracting, recruiting, spotlighting, and advocating for Black women across the entertainment industry. West will work alongside the WIT leadership team on all D&I strategies, initiatives and programming, including the B-WIT task force team. Moved to take action because of the lack of representation of Black women in the toy industry, WIT and the B-WIT task force are dedicated to navigating complex issues and developing solutions through regular, direct and candid dialogue within the WIT community and the industry, developing programming, activities and an actionable roadmap focused on three main disciplines: Recruitment, Programming and Scholarships.

Toynamics

New faces join the UK toy firm this month, as well as promotions across sales, marketing, and finance. New recruits include MARK MURRAY who joins as UK sales manager, JENNY HODGES from LEGO and Schleich as national account manager, and ALISON CLAPCOTT as sales administrator. Meanwhile, KAREN PATTERSON has been promoted to the role of national accounts manager. JUSTIN CLASBY has joined as senior marketing manager, while due to the impending retirement of BARRY HINE, former University Games exec MATTHEW KIRSCH has been named finance director. The line-up is completed with GRAHAM JACOBS who joins as the firm's new operations manager.

The company’s UK and Ireland operations has appointed EMMA FINCH to the role of national account manager. Finch previously worked at Skip Hop UK and brings with her vast experience of the nursery industry. In her new role, Finch will be active in integrating the Skip Hop and Hape ranges with her customers for the Toynamics UK and Ireland outfit. DAVID ALLAN, managing director, Toynamics, said: “I am delighted to welcome Emma into the Toynamics team as she will help spearhead the Skip Hop sales team.” The Europeran toy distributor was appointed as the exclusive distributor for the Skip Hop brand across the UK, Germany, Iceland, and Austria in June this year, in a deal that has come in to effect as of this September. Toynamics now offers a broad assortment of Skip Hop products across the market.

University Games The games and puzzles specialist has welcomed JESSICSA FORESHEW to the team where she will take on the role of national account manager, following the company’s acquisition of The Lagoon Group earlier this year. Foreshew has a wealth of experience in the gift sector, having joined The Lagoon Group in 2017 where she focussed on national and major accounts in the UK, as well as working with international distributors. Prior to her time at Lagoon, she also gained extensive experience in both the mulit-billion technology and cosmetic industries. Foreshew’s role will see her work alongside MARK JONES, head of sales at University Games, on major national accounts across both the fast-paced toy and gift sectors.

PlayMonster The US toy firm has appointed JEFF FREEMAN to the role of vice president of global operations. The move comes hot on the heels of the appointment of industry stalwart TIM KILPIN (pictured) to the position of president earlier this year. Freeman is a veteran senior level business management and operations executive whose career includes 20 years in leadership positions at American Girl/Mattel. He joins PlayMonster in the newly created role and will report into the company's CEO BOB WANN. His new role with the firm will now see him lead and oversee all areas of manufacturing to build and develop global operations. Kilpin, meanwhile, is recognised as a leader within the industry for over 35 years, for having set strategies and creative direction for many of the world’s most iconicl brands, including Mattel's Hot Wheels, Disney Princess, Barbie, and Mickey Mouse. He has also held senior roles with some of the market’s biggest names in toys and entertainment, including Mattel, Disney, and Activision Blizzard where he oversaw franchising models for some of the world's leading digital IP. September 2020 | toy news | 21


SLIME OF THE TIMES Before it even began, 2020 was earmarked as the year that Zimpli Kids rolled up its sleeves and did its bit for the environment. Even in the face of a global crisis, the toy manufacturer never lost sight of the vision to bring sustainability to the heart of its operations. Robert Hutchins talks to head of marketing, Jessica Coy, about how that endeavour panned out

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y its own admission, this time last year Zimpli Kids was a company left feeling unfulfilled. It’s an odd thing to say about a firm who at the time was sitting with some of its best sales figures to date under its hat, while it’s hard to imagine that, for a company who all but pioneered the way of social media marketing and YouTube engagement for toy firms in the UK, there was much - if anything - still to conquer. Yet indeed there was. Zimpli Kids may well have put the first steps towards sustainability in motion over the course of 2019, promoting the company’s eco-messaging through marketing efforts to highlight the biodegradability of its flagship Gelli products, but 2020 has certainly been the year that the business has put its stake firmly in the ground. This is a toy company that wants to put sustainability at the centre of what it does, and nothing - not even a global Covid-19 pandemic is going to quieten that message.

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One packaging overhaul later and Zimpli Kids is ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with a growing number of toy companies tackling the sustainability issue head on in the pursuit of a greener industry and a mission to work in unison with a greener environment. “2020 was the year that Zimpli decided to make some big changes to do our bit for the environment,” Zimpli Kids’ head of marketing, Jessica Coy, tells ToyNews. “Not only is this driven by our passion to create a sustainable future, but the increase in the public’s interest in purchasing eco-friendly products. “Our mission has always been to create fun, safe products for children to enjoy but creating eco-friendly toys is now also at the forefront. Zimpli Kids Gelli and Slime are loved by children worldwide, and we are proud to be able to continue to offer these household name products, with the added peace of mind that they are friendly for the environment.”

While recent months have seen conversation shift its focus on to the impacts of the global coronavirus crisis, it’s done little to deter the trajectory of the sustainability movement from a consumer point of view. Findings from both industry analysts, like Valeria Miglioli of Pumpkin Projects, as well as retailers and manufacturers already working within the ecofriendly space, tell us that rather than stunt the sustainability movement, the pandemic has only sewn a desire for greater change further in the consumer mindset. “Sustainability is becoming more and more important by the day in the toy industry, and many manufacturers are moving in a greener direction,” continues Zimpli Kids’ Coy. “Whether that’s through reducing plastics, packaging, or changing to recycled materials. “Being sustainable is now not only an attractive addition to your offerings, it is becoming far more important, especially in the toy industry.


Sustainability interview

Toys that are made to be more eco-friendly are not only keeping children happy, they are there to educate them on protecting the environment from an early stage.” But it’s no easy task. Coy will be among the first to admit that going sustainable is a cause to which manufacturers will have to be dedicated if they are to make a success of it. “Taking steps to becoming more environmentally friendly certainly isn’t something that happens overnight,” she says. “We have worked hard developing our eco range and there have been many challenges along the way, but it’s worth it when you can offer a fully eco-friendly toy by the end of it.” For Zimpli Kids, the return on its efforts has been two-fold. Its Eco Gelli Play has already been recognised by the nation’s independent toy retailers as a top product on the eco scene, and just last month it was awarded a Gold medal in the Independent Toy Awards 2020 in the Eco Category.

“We have been working so hard this year to be able to offer a selection of fully eco-friendly products, and we have only gone and done it,” says Coy. “We first launched with our Eco Gelli Play and Slime Play, which will be followed by the full Eco range of best-selling products available in 2021. “We are using the same much loved products that allow children to turn water into certified biodegradable Slime of Gelli.” Zimpli’s Eco boxes have also been re-designed to communicate the new multi-use aspect of their best-selling Gelli and Slime products, with each pack now offering up to six play uses, or one bath use. If you want more, how about this: Zimpli manufactures 95 per cent of its products in its company-owned UK factory. In 2019, the firm achieved ISO 9001 accreditation, and it has just been accredited with ISO 14001, a coveted environmental certification awarded only to companies who prove they minimise how their operations negatively impact on the environment, and comply with all applicable laws with regards to ‘effective environmental management’ and sustainability. As well overhauling its packaging to develop recyclable boxes, leaflets, and bags (turning to card and paper over plastics), and passing the Bio-degradation Test OECD 301B as tested by Intertek across its biodegradable Gelli and Slime compounds and powders, Zimpli Kids has also introduced its first eco-friendly in-store display. Featuring the new Eco Gelli and Slime, plus the new Rainbow and Rocket Baff Bombz, the FSDU is made up of 99.5 per cent recyclable packaging while all products are biodegradable. The new Eco range will be exclusive to the FSDU pre-Christmas, with the full range launching early 2021. It’s fair to say that Zimpli Kids has put in the legwork to develop a marketable eco-friendly offering, all while, like the rest of the world, it was battling the challenges thrown up by global pandemic. Yet, if that wasn’t enough, Zimpli Kids also took it upon itself to give over a portion of its warehousing and distribution operations to the development of a range of PPE, including alcohol-based hand sanitizers. “Covid-19 has been a challenging but very busy time for us at Zimpli Kids. Our MD was even driving himself to hand deliver our hand sanitizers to our local NHS foundation trusts at one point,” recalls Coy. “We are now getting back to some sort of normality and can focus

on the Eco range, which is ultimately our most important product launch to date. “Obviously it will take some time for the industry to get back to pre-Covid times, but we are going to concentrate on pushing our sustainability efforts and showing off what we have been busy developing.” And still there’s another string to the Zimpli Kids bow. It wasn’t so long ago that the firm was detailing its latest moves in the sensory play market, a growing sector and one of increasing interest to the toy and education industry. With the development of a targeted educational range, Zimpli has found itself on the precipice of a whole new market. “Parents are now starting to introduce sensory play to their children from a really early age as it is so important to develop their senses,” says Coy. “The unique texture of our products make them extremely versatile with many uses such as multi-sensory play, messy play along with benefits for children with Autism, sensory issues and much more. In fact, the Sensory play trend has inspired us to re-brand the educational range to be bigger, better, and eco-friendly. “This specially designed range for the educational sector will encourage the use of our products for multi-sensory play in educational environments. We have already achieved international brand awareness of our core products, Gelli Baff and Slime Baff with distribution in over 50 countries across the globe. “We are now planning to replicate the international distribution with our Eco educational range.” Success in the field will be no mean feat, but if achieved will align Zimpli Kids with a number of the leading global companies to be actively promoting the sustainability message through not only toys and play, but their own practices and methods of packaging, too. It will also mark another step for the toy company on its own journey towards fulfilment. September 2020 | toy news | 23


The Q&A

PAPER SCISSORS, ROCK Having only launched to the scene at London Toy Fair 2020, Build Your Own is already scooping up retail awards and leading the STEM category towards a new sustainable future where card and paper is king. Robert Hutchins talks to the man behind it all, Paper Engine’s founder Keith Finch

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or 20 years, Keith Finch has been somewhat of a hero of the pop-up book scene. An origami entrepreneur, Finch has headed up his Paper Engine business since 2012, over which time he has designed and developed some of the most intricately striking imagery across the marketing and book publishing space. Through the power of pop-up paper design, Finch has worked with the likes of Egmont Publishing and David Walliams - in partnership with Alton Towers - all through the medium of Paper Engine, an expert purveyor of the paper and board. Come London Toy Fair 2020, Finch and the Paper Engine team made their first mark upon the toy industry with the grand unveiling of Build Your Own, an in-house off-shoot of the Paper Engine business with a mission to develop eco-friendly, STEM-inspired children’s toys that kids and families could build for themselves from the comfort of home. Having made its debut with the Build Your Own Telescope, and the subsequent launch of the Build Your Own Paper Plane Launcher and Build Your Own Microscope, Finch seems to have found a home within the toy industry. Only last month, Build Your Own collected a Silver Award from the 2020 Independent Toy Awards - the independent toy shop-led awards curated by Toy Shop UK - in the STEM category for its flagship product, Build Your Own Telescope, proving that paper and card certainly have their space among the toy shelves of the 21st century. ToyNews catches up with Paper Engine founder and man behind the award-winning Build Your Own range, Keith Finch to learn more about the company and its plans to inspire an industry with its eco-friendly designs. Hello Keith, thanks for joining us. Can you talk to us about the Build Your Own brand? What are you guys bringing to the UK toy market? Build Your Own are the creators of an exciting new range of eco-friendly, STEM-inspired children’s toys that you can build yourself.

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The idea for Build Your Own began in 2018 when I first started experimenting with making products in-house; designing and creating selfbuild toys from paper and board. Shortly after, Build Your Own was born. Headed up by myself, we are a UK-based team of paper engineers with decades of experience engineering pop-up books, direct mail pieces, packaging and more. After many years designing and engineering for clients, we are really excited to now be making our own products. We launched at Toy Fair 2020 with our first product - the Build Your Own Telescope - and have since launched two more: our Paper Plane Launcher and Microscope. Our paper engineers have been working in paper and board for many years, and we are incredibly passionate about creating cardboard toys that can be built as part of a family experience.

Build Your Own brings a fresh energy the UK toy market with our innovative toys. Our kits have been designed to encourage children to immerse themselves in the fun world of science and exploration, helping to reduce screentime and bring families together to create rich memories. Our goal is to inspire curious young imaginations through our fun and growing range of eco-friendly toys, to keep innovating and pushing design boundaries. And so far it’s going very well for you. Congratulations on the recent award wins at the Independent Toy Awards this year. How does this reflect the growing popularity of the Build Your Own brand here in the UK? Winning the 2020 Independent Toy Awards has been a huge pat on the back for us, and we are immensely proud of our achievement.


The Q&A

Build Your Own was built from passion and a vision to create sustainable toys, rather than experience in the toy industry; so, winning these awards feels like a rubber stamp of approval that we’ve got it right. We know from customer and reviewer feedback that the STEM and eco-friendly elements of our products are a huge part of their attraction. So, winning Silver in the STEM category and Bronze in the Eco category is fantastic for us, and fully supports the appeal and growing popularity of Build Your Own. A key element of the Build Your Own brand is the sustainability of the product. How is the award win reflective of sustainability as a growing issue of importance among UK consumers? Designing products from high-quality, sustainable materials is at the forefront of our creative process. We use minimal plastics in both our kits and packaging without compromising on integrity. Winning Bronze in the ECO category for our Build Your Own Paper Plane Launcher is absolutely reflective of a growing movement of eco-consciousness, yes. We know that more and more consumers are looking for sustainable products, and want to engage with and purchase from brands that reflect their own values. The awards will help us reinforce our sustainability credentials to ecoconscious consumers. Following Toy Fair 2020, the BBC featured Build Your Own with a focus on our eco-friendly credentials – it is great to see that further supported now with this award. Why is that eco-conscious aspect such an important topic for you guys? Being eco-friendly is at the very core of Build Your Own’s ethos. At inception, the team were concerned about how the majority of plastic toys eventually end up as landfill; we decided that cardboard was definitely the best way forward. While unable to completely eliminate plastics, we aim to keep it as minimal as possible. Sustainable cardboard and paper will always be the core components of our products and packaging. We only have one planet, so we’re doing our bit to create toys that are not only fun, but sustainable too. Our company ethos is ‘Less plastic, paper fantastic!’, and we’re incredibly passionate about being environmentally responsible in all that we do. How receptive has the toy industry and retail scene been to the sustainability movement? What - if any - sort of impact do you think the recent lockdown had on the message? Consumers are definitely becoming increasingly eco-conscious and I think this movement will continue to grow. And rightly so.

We are receiving growing interest in our product range from retailers looking for sustainable toys, reflective of consumer demand for eco-friendly. Consumers have a wealth of choice available to them; many people are looking to buy from responsible, ethical brands with a story that resonates with them. Brands that they can trust. That’s of course why online product reviews and recommendations play such a huge part in influencing their purchasing decisions. The recent lockdown has encouraged us to focus on and promote our eco-credentials with confidence; as a result, we have experienced a really positive response to this message from the media, retailers and consumers. How has business been for you guys this past year? How have you met the challenges of the pandemic, and what opportunities have you spotted within it all? The pandemic accelerated our product development plans. It pushed us to really focus on Build Your Own and fast-track ideas that had been in the pipeline for a while, and then to grow our team. Demand for Build Your Own products grew as people were looking for fun and engaging ways to entertain their children. With schools closed, home-schooling and finding new and exciting ways to occupy active young minds became a priority for many parents. We focused on growing our online presence and PR support to drive sales. An incredible number of opportunities have followed and we are very proud of what the team has achieved in just a few short months. It’s been a very exciting time for Build Your Own, and we’re looking forward to seeing our plans unfold as we enter into Q4.

How are you guys looking as we head into the Q4/Christmas season? What expectations do you have for the portfolio this Christmas? We are extremely excited for Q4/Christmas. This will be our first Christmas and we have so much more to come. We have just released our Build Your Own Microscope, which has been received incredibly well by the trade. The Build Your Own Marble Run launches in October and we’re delighted to have retail distribution underway and growing. It is a really fun product and will be a fantastic addition to the range. It’s our most technical build so far and gives children a light introduction to science and specifically physics. We are supporting our full product range in Q4 with an integrated marketing campaign including digital, PR and social media activity, plus much more. We also have plans to create a fresh, engaging Christmas experience for consumers on our website. And of course, we have a few surprises up our sleeve... Oh really? So what are the next big plans for Build Your Own? Our main focus is to expand our distribution. We are keen to build relationships with retailers and look at developing collaborations. As a flexible, agile business with full control of our own manufacturing, we’re also in a strong position to explore and develop fresh ideas and projects with others in the industry. We have a number of exciting retail opportunities coming in Q4 and beyond; and we have ambitious plans to further expand this growth. The Build Your Own team is growing too which means that we are able to deliver focused, ongoing PR and marketing campaigns to drive brand growth. And there’s so much more to come for 2021. Watch this space. Contact the Build Your Own team on 07484 543387 or jason@paperengine.co.uk September 2020 | toy news | 25


Interview

MEEPLE POWER Among the many things the coronavirus has brought along with it, an increased interest in the board gaming sector is one of the better. Eclectic Games’ Becky Ottery believes that this new audience for board gaming could be here to stay, if the market understands the best way to treat its new members

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here will be trends and culture shifts that stick with us once the fog of the pandemic has finally cleared, and there will be those that won’t. Fortunately, the Thursday evening clapping was one of the first to go. Others, like the weekly crush for the five remaining M&S food delivery slots available only at 3am on a Monday, are taking a fair bit longer to fade. Then there’s the trend for board gaming and puzzling that has emerged from the lockdown mire that for retailers, hobbysists, and all-round absolute aficionados of the tabletop gaming space, like Becky Ottery, owner of Reading’s Eclectic Games, is one of those that is hopefully here to stay. It was already a pastime on the incline, even before social distancing became the best excuse not to get fully dressed in the mornings, but one that hit such heights during the peak lockdown months across the UK, that sales for some of the leading names in the market, the likes of Asmodee, for example, hit Q4 levels of revenues. And that was in June. According to Ottery, this wasn’t just sales from the already established board gaming audience, looking to laden their shelves with a supply of entertainment for when Netflix ran out of programmes to feed them, but a wider, new audience to the gaming scene “looking for anything to keep them from killing the family they’d be locked in their house with,” and opting for the likes of Villainous or Carcassonne. If it were possible for the Pandemic to fuel any kind of passion, it was for the casual gaming market, and it’s a movement that has stirred a hum of excitement for the potential that could be unleashed for the sector over the coming months. 26 | toy news | September 2020

“Games and puzzles are counter-cyclical every time there’s a recession,” explains Eclectic Games’ Ottery from her now re-opened games and hobby store in the centre of Reading’s shopping district. “Games does better because there is much better value for people, so that’s within expected norms. In terms of when you lock people up with their families inside their houses, there is only so much Netflix you can watch, and having games gives you a nice structured way of interacting with each other, that doesn’t involve killing each other.” Jigsaw puzzles, two player games, and co-operative games are topping the bill for Eclectic Games, being the choice for many both throughout the lockdown period, and now, on the other side of it; those seemingly to have gone through a gestation period of nurturing a new interest in board gaming. “The people that have discovered this during the lockdown are now coming back and going, ‘We’ve played this one a lot, is there another one?’ So we are seeing people starting out on discovering board games because they have made a virtue of necessity,” Ottery continues. “And what’s nice is that people are stopping off at the shop, and choosing to shop local; proving that it’s not all about Amazon. We have discovered a lot of new customers.” That’s not to say that these are times of abundance for Ottery and the Eclectic Games team, and what with the ban on large or mixed gatherings, the store hasn’t been able to operate its usual weekly roster of game nights and competitions - a key money earner for the shop. On top of that, the shop had to deal with the impact of a closed door for a long month at the height of the UK’s measures. But Ottery was quick to react to that one.

“Our website sales have picked up massively,” she explains. “Because I didn’t furlough quite all my staff; I had two people working from home while I came into the shop to do deliveries. They were making sure that everything was on the website. It used to be that our website was for selling tickets to events, but we’ve now moved to actually selling a whole load of stuff, so that has increased nicely for us. “It was a lot of patient data entry. It was simple but a lot of it was new to the website simply because before, there wasn’t any need to have it on there,” says Ottery. “I’m talking about all the little pots and paints… and it turns out that during a lockdown, people really like painting miniatures.” The proof of that is in the latest trading update from Games Workshop, who in the three months to August 30th this year saw sales rise to an estimated £90m up from £78m the year prior. The miniature wargaming manufacturer and retailer has credited its success over the lockdown period to the strength of its online operations and the healthy growth in sales it saw there. Ottery meanwhile, is with us when she says that a large thanks has to go to Superman and The Witcher actor, Henry Cavill who outed


Interview

himself to the globe as a closet Warhammer nerd via a video of himself painting Games Workshop miniatures via Instagram. “The Henry Cavill doing Games Workshop video was shared around quite a lot,” says Ottery. “I’m not surprised, it was definitely a good thing, but I am not surprised. “There is a whole generation of people who were six or seven when this was a hot hobby, and they never felt the need to give it up because ‘geek’ is becoming more and more mainstream. “It used to be that games were just for kids, then the kids that had computer games grew up and as they did so, realised that ‘there are still games being made for me’, and suddenly adults are playing games. Then all you need to do is translate that back into board games. The whole notion that only six year olds play games is as utterly ridiculous as it has always been.” So yes, audiences are playing games more now. But not all are ready to commit to the price tags that come attached to some of the geekheavy releases, the big box items, or even some of the miniatures kits themselves. There’s a whole middle tier of casual gaming just for them, and it’s what Ottery is currently refitting her own store with, in order to appeal to as much of

the board gaming audience as possible. “Consumers are certainly coming to appreciate extended use of things. People are going ‘well that’s expensive, that’s £50 worth of board game,’ she explains before divulging her sales secret to ToyNews readers. “But, when you point out to them that: ‘you’re going to play that 10 times, that’s £5 per game, that’s four of you paying that £5 per game. It would be £50 to take four of you to the cinema without popcorn and drinks and that’s two hours, does this stack up?’ “So people are appreciating it, however I am seeing many more people going: ‘I don’t want to be spending £60 or £70 on the solid hobby board game titles’, anything with giant minis that was on a Kickstarter or so on, and I am adjusting my product to be looking more at the £25 to £40 range, because that is manageable for people and that represents solid value.” The current situation dictates that the big box, big ticket items - the Gloomhavens of the world, for instance - are a hard sell. Consumers are reluctant to spend £150 plus on a board game that - for reasons of game nights being temporarily suspended - they can’t even try before they buy.

For Ottery, Disney’s Villanous continues to be one of her bestsellers, as well as (ironically or not) Pandemic Flashpoint, Ticket to Ride, Seven Wonders, Duel, Patchwork and Thames & Kosmos’ latest, Aqualin. “As for the new audience that found gaming during lockdown, I think they can be here to stay,” muses the store owner. “The only reason they’d have not to from now on, is if they have negative experiences. They are not going, ‘I’m doing this because I am desperate and I will try anything,’ they are going ‘of the many things that I could do, I have done this.’ And so long as they don’t run into a ‘Oh my god, I’ve got into this horribly complicated game and I don’t understand it,’ or they pick something that is completely inappropriate for their play group, there is every chance that we will retain them. “Long term, if we can all survive the oncoming pain, it’s going to feel great. Short term it is mostly about whether or not the people supplying their games do a good job of making sure they get the right games. “That is where indies do really, really well, and usually where your giant onlines are less well equipped to do that personal recommendation.” September 2020 | toy news | 27


Retailer of the month

THE MAGIC TOUCH OF OLIVER’S BRIGHTON Oliver’s Brighton is a multi award-winning independent retailer that dedicates its craft to the world of Harry Potter. ToyNews talks to owner Oliver Dall about the big changes the store has undergone since the UK’s lockdown and what its future holds

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liver Dall, owner of Oliver’s Brighton, a Harry Potter-themed toy and gift shop situated along one of Brighton’s most popular shopping streets, finds itself in the unique position that it no longer needs a front door. In fact, such is the nature of the business that takes place within the ambient orange glow of this treasures and trinkets emporium, that a shop front has become less of a necessity and more of a hindrance. Oliver’s is no longer a destination that relies on passing trade of tourist footfall, but one that accommodates its daily visitor numbers via an online booking system. In essence, Oliver’s has become an experiential day out for fans of the Harry Potter franchise, and one that finds itself fully booked - with groups of up to six visiting the store for half hour periods throughout the day - from now right up until December. Things weren’t always this way. The multiaward winning independent retailer - that insists, by the way, that it holds no corporate affiliation with Harry Potter, Warner Bros. or JK Rowling - used to operate like any normal high street store. It was a moment of time off from the day job through the Government’s furlough scheme and the ensuing measures taken by Dall to make his store Covid-secure that put the latest evolutionary step of his business into its forward motion. “We saw the need to evolve and that’s what we have done,” Dall tells ToyNews. “Initially it was for health and safety, but straight away from day one of re-opening, people were like ‘We love this!’ and from there, the spending doubled.” 28 | toy news | September 2020

For Dall, modern retailing is about constant reinvention and the ability to roll with what the consumer is demanding from its shopping experience. Notable is the matter that at the heart of the sentiment, experience has become the focal point for what being an independent retailer in 2020 is really about. “We’ve realised that through the booking process, and the limited group numbers, we have turned a visit to Oliver’s Brighton into an immersive experience for our customers,” continues Dall. “What’s it like being an indie retailer in 2020? For me, it’s always been about standing out.

“You’re not just a shop anymore. You can’t just put products on the shelves and that’s that. It’s boring. It is so easy for people to buy something from Amazon at the click of a button that you need to make it worth their while to come to something physical; for me it’s about every inch of the experience to be perfect.”

Walk into Oliver’s Brighton and you’re instantly hit with the smell of butterscotch, produced by a machine that Dall has set up as part of his mission to deliver the ‘wow factor.’ The furniture and decor of the shop is themed to the Harry Potter lore, a touch put in place to make the immersive experience all the deeper, while one corner of the store features an ice cream machine - to the particular delight of the children and the grandparents that visit. “For me, if the shop was always the same, I would eventually give up. The customer would say ‘Oh, there’s no point in going to Oliver’s Brighton; it’s boring, it’s the same thing,’” says Dall. “What we do now, ideally once every week minimum, is we bring in new items and it keeps it fresh. We use social media to showcase the new stuff we have coming in, because you have to make the audience want to come to your shop.” So what about that front door? Is there really a future for a high street shop without one? One half hour conversation with Dall will convince you there is. In fact, it’s now part of Oliver’s Brighton’s plans to do away with the shop front as it is, completely. “We’re actually moving the Oliver’s Brighton business to the back of the shop, and the front of the shop is where I am planning to open up a second business within the building. Oliver’s Brighton is doing really, really well, and I have always had the idea of transforming it into a book-to-visit experience, which will firstly make the front door redundant, and open up the entire shop front to a new business venture… something in food, is what we’re planning.”


Generation Media

EVOLVING YOUR EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING IN THE NEW NORMAL With festivals and national sporting events cancelled at the hands of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s been a need to innovate new forms of experiential marketing. Generation Media’s director of entertainment, Greta Bisetto Donelan explores how the likes of TikTok and other social platforms have been put to use by the industry’s creatives

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he very phrase ‘experiential marketing’ implies a physical event, in which a brand’s target consumers are invited to immerse themselves in a memorable activity that increases brand loyalty, drives a call to action, or achieves some other marketing KPI. But with everything from iconic festivals to national sporting events cancelled, what hope does this area of the industry have for survival, or relevance, in the new normal? It would have been all too easy for brands to simply write off the idea of running any experiential marketing during Covid, but in common with so many other parts of the media landscape, creative thinkers have responded to the fact that hard times call for innovation, pivoting and rethinking ways to deepen the relationship with their customers. Parents in particular have been calling out for opportunities for their children to connect with the outside world now traditional interaction has been curtailed, and the kids and youth markets have risen to the challenge. TikTok was one of the first out of the gates with a major new initiative, partnering with LiveXLive to host a 48-hour music festival featuring over 35 artists who performed live

from locations ranging from private studios to backyards and bedrooms. Meanwhile, Mark Ronson took the immersive experience one step further by creating a music video for the track ‘Pieces of Us’ on Instagram Stories using AR effects, stickers, and video clips provided by the fans themselves. At Generation Media, we adapted a planned cinema-led experience for the launch of the video game Fast and Furious Crosswords by pivoting to a drivein cinema experience, fulfilling our client’s original objectives whilst complying with local lockdown restrictions. Virtual events such as these have of course increased greatly in number since March. However, they’ve been a part of the media mix on digital platforms for a while; they are a scalable offering with huge reach that can be amplified on social and they offer that audience an opportunity to interact and gain a deeper level of connection with brands in a way that other methods can’t. Physical live events are starting to slowly return, and they too will continue to deliver on everything from PR and marketing objectives, to clear measurables such as footfall and sales. For brands seeking to amplify messaging via non-traditional advertising, experiential

marketing remains an opportunity worth serious consideration. Crucially, and contrary to some assumptions, it’s measurable. The key is to set out with clear KPIs at the beginning of any experiential event so you know what success looks like and you have the relevant measurement in place. Live events enable brands to sell or sample products to fans, while their virtual equivalents can include tagging to ecommerce sites and create a huge wave of social engagement, from which retargeting campaigns can be built, and bespoke research sits perfectly alongside. Generation Media knows the market intimately. Experiential remains a strategically important platform for brands that are looking to engage their audience and tell their story in new, immersive ways, wherever that experience has to take place. Get in touch with our Generation Entertainment team today for a virtual coffee and to see how your brand can benefit from experiential marketing.

September 2020 | toy news | 29


IS LIVESTREAM SHOPPING OUR NEXT STEP FORWARD? The coronavirus pandemic has pushed the number of children now shopping online a further 25 per cent, while the forced temporary closure of many stores spurred a surge in innovation by brands looking to meet their customers where they now were. Kids Insights explores the notion of livestreaming as the next evolution of the consumer buying habit

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ue to the restrictions imposed because of the Covid-19 pandemic we have seen a change in consumers’ shopping behaviours to become more online; seeing a 25 per cent increase in the proportion of kids who are shopping more online than offline (46 per cent) peaking with older teens (60 per cent). With many shops having to close their doors in lockdown, brands have had to look for new ways to reach their customer base, coming up with more innovative, state-of-the-art ways to stay connected with consumers. One of the latest trends in terms of spending for kids is INXP. In-Experience purchasing continues to grow at a significant rate through spending on apps and in app purchases. UK children (aged three to 18) are spending in total more than half a

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billion pounds (ÂŁ581m; $754.8m) on apps and in-app purchases every year, while in the US this figure is over $5bn. Although still small in the UK, Europe and the US, Livestream or live shopping is a popular way to shop in China, which is one of the top sources of revenue per hour. The basis of this is instead of pre-recorded shows going out, it is similar to the QVC shopping channel where everything is live. The content is highly interactive with potential shoppers being able to comment or ask questions to the host who can see these comments and react in real time. They tend to host a mixture of influencers, celebrities or models who help promote the product or company. These types of platforms offer consumers a new more social way to shop online showing an opportunity for growth over here.


Kids Insights

Direct to consumer models are becoming increasingly popular in advertising while traditional retail stores decline. Consumers become fully engaged with these brands as they present an easy, hassle free way of shopping and many brands such as Amazon are doing this, effectively cutting out the middleman. Amazon has started letting influencers earn a commission based on the sale of products featured in their livestream, therefore making it easy for consumers to buy. With 55 per cent of kids in the UK using YouTube, 32 per cent Instagram, and 27 per cent Facebook that all have livestreaming options and swipe up features, kids’ can now discover new brands from their favourite platform/influencers and go direct to the brands’ website or where to buy, helping streamline this pathway. Therefore, livestreaming could become more popular in these countries with the backing of the largest online retailer behind it. 9.2 million kids in the UK are saying they use YouTube daily. With influencers being a key part of the livestreaming shopping, popular YouTubers are in the best place to help promote livestreaming shopping platforms. When looking at the favourite YouTuber for kids aged three to nine years old, Ryan’s World comes top, he regularly reviews toys that then go to sell out. Therefore, getting the right influencer is imperative for brands when decidimg to livestream their product/brand.

Streaming services in other areas of the kids' ecosystem are popular with this generation, so shopping could be another area that grows. In gaming we have seen livestreaming become more popular. Twitch, the livestreaming gaming platform, has grown by 11 per cent over the last year for kids watching it, and Fornite’s live music concerts have brought in new players and show these platforms can be used for more than just gaming. Those who use Twitch are 55 per cent more likely to buy toys relating to their favourite video games than the average kids who play video games, showing an opportunity to sell toys to kids that already stream.

"Livestream shopping may become a new way for customers to buy the products they want." Kids Insights

We have also seen a growth in esports with over a third of kids in the UK now watching or part-taking in esports (35 per cent) and TV platforms that use streaming services are more of a norm, with 53 per cent more kids watching Netflix more this week than last compared to two years ago, therefore showing kids’ preference towards streaming services now days. We know kids are increasingly becoming more independent financially; being 16 per cent more likely to use PayPal, 18 per cent more likely to use cash card, and 8 per cent more likely to use a debit card to spend their own money than a year ago. They also now have more influence over their parents’ shopping decisions, and our data

has shown an increase in the proportion of kids saying they have a lot of influence over 18 out of the 20 household items we track, with 52 per cent saying they have a lot of influence over toys growing by 10 per cent. With this new power they are spending their own money on their favourite toys and games stickers (16 per cent), puzzles (16 per cent) and fun stationery (12 per cent) which could be potential areas of growth as well as other toys products their parents buy. Overall, Livestreaming is in its infancy for shopping in the UK, Europe and the US. However, if we continue to see the reliance on streaming services grow there are indications that this type of shopping may become a new way for consumers to buy the items they want. Any Livestreaming shopping platform would need to be compliant with laws and regulation around kids which may mean that Livestreaming is not a viable option for the younger kids at the moment but more so for their parents. We are helping a lot of brands evaluate and determine their retail to consumer strategies, as there is no doubt that one of the lasting impacts of Covid might be the transformation of retail to become fully direct to consumer. Our research and strategy team works with clients from across the sector, using data from surveying 200,000 kids across the globe. We provide insight to help clients develop their advertising, content, licensing, marketing, product and sales strategies. To download a complimentary Kids Insights report & get access to the demo version of the award-winning portal, visit kidsinsights.com/toynews.

September 2020 | toy news | 31


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Interview

HOW HASBRO BECAME THE PRE-SCHOOL POWERHOUSE With the Entertainment One portfolio now fully integrated into the Hasbro fold, the global entertainment company is sitting pretty as a prince with all bases covered from pre-school and beyond. Robert Hutchins talks to Hasbro’s VP of consumer products, Marianne James about where the licensing division goes from here

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hen Hasbro first made clear its plans to take over the Entertainment One entity at the end of 2019, the writing was pretty much on the wall that 2020 was going to be an atypical year for the world of children’s entertainment, licensing, and toys. It’s difficult not to roll into the Richard Burton opening narration, ‘No one would have believed, that at the turn of the [insert your chosen century here]’ but really no one would have believed just what a topsy-turvy year 2020 was to be. And yet, the licensing and toy industries have persisted, and here we stand, on the edge of the first virtual Festival of Licensing in place of our usual Brand Licensing Europe, where Hasbro is about to unveil a whole new slate of content for Peppa Pig, new toy lines developed in house - for PJ Masks, and its latest plans for Ricky Zoom. Alongside all of which, we hasten to add, the global powerhouse of children’s entertainment and now one of the world’s biggest players in the pre-school space, will also be rolling out the latest franchising, licensing, and merchandising plans for that staple portfolio of brands such as NERF, Power Rangers, Transformers, Monopoly, My Little Pony… the list goes on. It’s of little surprise then, that as the four week licensing extravaganza prepares to get underway from this October 6th, that Hasbro’s showcase is among one of the most anticipated by an industry just waiting to find out those mighty plans. It should also come as little shock that Hasbro is now not only looking to put its stake in the ground in the global pre-

school market with Peppa Pig and PJ Masks leading the charge, but developing way beyond the current flagship IP to turn the pre-school space into its own veritable playground. Here, ToyNews catches up with Marianne James, VP of consumer products at Hasbro to discuss the integration of the Entertainment One property over the course of the year, how 2020 has forced the global entertainment house to evolve to the next level, and just what else Hasbro has cooking now that it spans the entertainment spectrum.

Well, Marianne, it's been one eventful year, and one that all kicked off with the acquisition of eOne. How has Hasbro's licensing division adapted to and moved with the changes of the past year? The biggest major change we made from an organizational perspective is that we’re now one fully integrated Licensing team following the acquisition of eOne last year. At the beginning of the year, we devised a new organisational structure to support our expanded portfolio across EMEA.

September 2020 | toy news | 33


Interview

We are always striving to find new ways to work with our retail partners to maximize the breadth and depth of our portfolio. Our goal is to bring a high level of expertise, of knowledge, to every demographic and play pattern. In today’s market there is no substitute for expertise, it is crucial that we stay on top of all areas in order to be the best partner for retail that we can be. We know that our brand portfolio is our strength. It will set us up for success in 2021 as we work to activate in every imaginable retail channel from the traditional and beyond. Our goal is to lead the market in a 360 approach from CP, digital, experiential, content and brand marketing.

It has been a real benefit, allowing us to leverage the vast talent pool from the eOne team while combining it with the Hasbro team. Together it is a true powerhouse that has strengths in so many different areas and a portfolio that is second to none. In terms of adapting to the vast changes that have occurred externally in the past year, we were quick to pivot and pause our licensing activations during lockdown and create a suite of digital assets for families to enjoy at home. Going forward we recognise the need to be flexible and offer a diverse category mix that can evolve with the changing needs of the world. Our retail approach will focus more closely on e-commerce and the value channel in reflection of what we’re seeing in the marketplace and we’re ready to embrace those opportunities with our product and promotional offering. 2020 has seen Hasbro take on the position of powerhouse in the pre-school space, and you've already given us a taste of what's to come for Peppa Pig, PJ Masks, and Ricky Zoom. How much has the acquisition informed Hasbro's approach to the licensing space this year and going forward? Can you talk us through plans here? The acquisition of eOne dramatically enhances our storytelling capabilities and franchise strategies through TV, film, digital and other mediums. The new content creates greater opportunity to deliver amazing stories for all screens and audiences. Anytime you acquire a stable of IP as notable as eOne’s, your approach to the business must reflect that; such is the case here. With a strong foothold in the preschool space, we are now particularly excited to dive deeper in that area and explore themes and play patterns complementary to our existing brands. 34 | toy news | September 2020

You mentioned Ricky Zoom, PJ Masks and, of course, Peppa Pig, as the standouts and I can only say that we have more pre-school brands in development now and these will be given the opportunity to leverage the success of those brands. What is the vision for Hasbro now it spans all entertainment markets, from pre-school to adult? That must be a very exciting dominion for you to be looking after, too... It is quite exciting. Right now, we are working towards a smooth and compelling integration of our combined portfolio into the retail market. With a repertoire of brands that span every age, demographic and category, organization and careful planning become paramount.

Away from the eOne brands, Hasbro has a portfolio of massive IP like Transformers, Power Rangers, My Little Pony, Hasbro Gaming, NERF... can you talk through some of the biggest developments for these brands? How will Hasbro continue to push the envelope of innovation in the licensing space through the development of this IP roster? There is a great deal going on! We always like to mark milestone anniversaries, and next year we have the 35th anniversary of Transformers. We also have the 85th anniversary of Monopoly commencing later this year. Both events give cause for timely celebration and will be leveraged with exciting collaborations, consumer promotions and retail activations. Owing to our growing understanding of the changes in consumer behaviour, Nerf is also a property that we believe will enjoy a rapid expansion across multiple categories next year. Its growth will continue to cement our position as a leader in the active lifestyle and sports category. The Nerf franchise will benefit from significant above the line


Interview

investment in 2021 with soon to be revealed experiential marketing initiatives set to bring the brand to life like never before. The way we approach our CP program is guided by what we call the ‘Brand Blueprint’. This refers to our strategic framework for bringing our brands to life in exciting new ways to create immersive, 360-degree experiences for our audiences. Right now, we’re focused on deeper consumer engagement, innovative brand and product experiences and increasingly expansive opportunities for our portfolio. It’s really all about leveraging these great story driven properties like Power Rangers, My Little Pony and Transformers by giving fans new and exciting experiences both at retail and online. What are some of the key emerging trends within the licensing/consumer product space, and how is Hasbro aligning itself with them and maintaining its position of strength in the field? Following lockdown, the importance of digital content and e-commerce platforms really came to the fore and that’s a key strategic focus for us. In a very short space of time, access to entertainment and retail via digital platforms really accelerated at an unprecedented rate and given the uncertainty surrounding the next year that’s something we need to be mindful of in every aspect of the business.

We are always monitoring and evaluating all the information we can gather regarding widespread changes in consumer behaviour. There is real value in being able to not only react but anticipate consumer behaviour. There are fundamental changes that occur that will have reverberations for the industry,

so we strive to keep on top of it. Currently, growth is evident in Food, Health &Wellness, Personal Care, Puzzles &; Games, Home Goods, and Classic Play. As always, we will work to service the growing demand and find good fits within our brand portfolio.

September 2020 | toy news | 35


Licensing Interview

WHEN ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE: FESTIVAL OF LICENSING AND LESSONS IN STAYING GLOBAL It hasn’t been easy waters to navigate these past few months, but that hasn’t stopped the industry’s creative thinkers from innovating new modes of staying afloat. Among them is Brand Licensing Europe’s team Informa Markets who is turning to the virtual playing field to bring the world together for the month-long Festival of Licensing. Robert Hutchins talks to Global Licensing Group’s VP, Anna Knight about BLE 2020

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n a year that has so far witnessed brands the world over pushing the envelope of innovation in a bid to maintain a foothold in a rapidly shifting ground underfoot, it is perhaps the events and hospitality space that has had to do the most legwork. Industry-wide, the usual calendar of events and trade shows has well and truly been through the grinder, but when it comes to making the best of a bad situation, the organisers of Brand Licensing Europe are looking to re-write the rule book. It will come as little surprise that the annual trade show will not be taking place in its physical form this year, opting instead for the virtual platform to best facilitate the yearly event with digital interactivity that will allow the show’s usual crowds to enjoy Brand Licensing Europe’s usual fodder minus a drink or two at The Hand and Flower - from the comfort of their own homes. But why on earth would it want to stop there? And, with a global audience of licensing industry bods surfing the digital interface over face-to-face meetings, why indeed would it stop short? Well, it hasn’t. Instead, Brand Licensing Europe will now be but one week of a four-week long Festival of Licensing covering the European, Asian, and Americas markets, culminating with its Licensing Leadership Summit in the fourth and final week. ToyNews catches up with Anna Knight, Informa Markets’ Global Licensing Group Vice President, to talk about this year’s Festival of Licensing, and how it could be setting a new precedent for trade shows to work across the physical and the digital as part of the world’s search for the ‘new normal’.

36 | toy news | September 2020

So, Anna - The Festival of Licensing sounds very grand and exciting. For those who haven't heard yet, can you tell us about the premise? Why did you guys decide to turn this into a four-week licensing bonanza? Well thank you for saying so, ToyNews. The premise of Festival of Licensing is that it’s a celebration of the global licensing community, and that’s why we’ve turned it into a fourweek ‘bonanza’. When we organised Licensing Week Virtual after postponing Expo, we quickly realised it’s not possible to host a global event on one time zone, and yet our brands have global coverage and resonance. By launching Festival, we can have regionalspecific events that really work for those markets and the customers they serve, and it means we can host live content specific to each market’s time zone. So, we have Europe in Week One, Asia in Week Two, and the Americas in Week Three. And when we were looking at postponing the Licensing Leadership Summit in New York, we realised it actually made perfect sense for this to become the fourth event and a great way to round up Festival. What can visitors expect in terms of the layout and experiences? How will you guys be translating what we know of the physical BLE experience - and its brand immersion - onto the virtual platform? If you’ve been to BLE before – either as an attendee or an exhibitor – you will find everything that you’re used to, and more. So, the focus will be on doing European licensing deals and we’re facilitating meetings in as many ways as we possibly can.

There will be daily live keynotes, live exhibitor showcases and live ‘after hours’ performances, which we’re hoping will blow people away. There will also be tons of content to view on demand, and a Community and Wellbeing offering that will include careers advice and business mentoring. And, for retailers, there will be exclusive content, too, including ask the expert sessions. How will Festival of Licensing encourage and facilitate visitor engagement and interaction with exhibitors? Likewise, how will it help exhibitors connect with visitors? We really want exhibitors to make the most of what virtual offers. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, but the virtual environment really does make the impossible possible. So instead of making a standard sizzle or product-focused PowerPoint, we want exhibitors to think about doing live store or design studio walk rounds, for example, to really wow attendees. In that same vein, how do you best replicate the networking opportunities of a physical event within the confines of the virtual sphere? All attendees will get access to our Matchmaking service from September 8th, and they’ll be able to use this to pre-schedule meetings. We will have showcase pages for all of our exhibitors, which will be built to show off their IP, products and services and we will encourage attendees to view these and request meetings. We’re also encouraging exhibitors to post videos that, again, will drive meetings. During the event, attendees will be able to go on to an exhibitor page and activate “drop-in” video meetings, which are similar to how a walk-on meeting would function at the physical event.


Licensing Interview

The Festival programme line up seems very exciting, with lots to engage with over the course of the four weeks. How will you guys be maintaining the momentum and atmosphere, and the general buzz of show, for the stretch of a month? So, Festival takes place over a month, but it’s not 30 days of content, because that would be way too much for everyone. Each event is live for two to three days and we are suggesting that visitors only attend what’s right for them. There is absolutely no pressure to attend every event, or every day. So, if you’re interested in doing deals with European licensors, then come to BLE. We’re acutely aware of time pressures on everyone, and that’s why we have restricted how much live content there is to just three hours per day, plus the evening performances. Everything else (and all of the lives once broadcast) will be available on demand for five weeks after each event has come to an end, so visitors really can take their time to take it all in.

“There will be daily live keynotes, live exhibitor showcases and live ‘after hours’ performances, which we’re hoping will blow people away. There will also be tons of content to view on demand.” Anna Knight, Global Licensing Group In terms of the general buzz, we’ve some great ideas and mini events for keeping everyone enthused, including our wellbeing workshops and our global charity fundraiser, that we’re hoping to announce shortly, and which will of course include a leader board that will keep everyone tuned in. How will the show's main components be presented to visitors and exhibitors? How can the toy industry, for example, best navigate the Character & Entertainment zone? Much in the same way BLE works, there will be multiple ways of searching the Festival exhibitor list, including by category, which will really help visitors to identify which companies to contact. Also, we can’t emphasise enough how important it is to populate your Matchmaking profile with as much information as possible. The more you put in, you will receive more and better targeted suggestions of companies to meet.

What can visitors expect to find in the Character & Entertainment zone this year? Exhibitor wise, how is the list shaping up for the virtual event this year? It’s a little early to say, as we only announced the event a few weeks ago. But we have had amazing feedback from the industry, and we are expecting all of the exhibitors you usually see at Brand Licensing Europe to be at Festival. To what extent do you think Festival of Licensing can set a new precedent for trade shows going forward? What do you think the future of trade shows will look like in the years following this pandemic - are we looking at a transition to virtual-physical hybrid? Licensing is such a relationship-based industry that I am 100 per cent confident that physical trade shows – BLE, Expo, and so on – will return in 2021.

However, I also believe that - moving forward all trade shows should include a hybrid element. We reached new audiences – exhibitors and attendees – during Licensing Week Virtual because it was virtual. And this is brilliant news for Brand Licensing Europe and for the industry as a whole, so it would be remiss of us to then exclude these people from future events. We want to be inclusive and educate more and more people about the power of brand licensing. Licensing is also a very creative industry and virtual allows, stimulates and encourages innovation, which is a great thing for everyone. Any food for thought to leave us all with? The only thing I would like to add is that we appreciate that virtual is new and for first time attendees it can feel intimidating, so we do recommend everyone registers in advance (from August 17), plans their diary, and reaches out to us if they have any questions at all. We’re here to help and we’re happy to do so.

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WildBrain Spark

THE FRANCHISE BUILDERS WildBrain Spark is an expert in navigating the YouTube scape and developing emerging IP in the children’s entertainment space into world-conquering franchises. This month, WildBrain Spark’s commercial director, Rachel Taylor illuminates the industry on the firm’s current partnership with Mattel and its new kids’ property Cave Club

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ouTube has changed the way in which the toy world works, how kids play, and how they identify which products will be at the top of their wish-list. Indeed, analytics show that kids are more likely to encounter brands on YouTube than ever before. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March, YouTube viewing of kids’ content in WildBrain’s total network climbed a sizeable 36 per cent in Europe, and an impressive 57 per cent in North America during the subsequent two months. That’s not a year to date comparison, that’s in comparison to the prior two months alone. The average monthly watch time rose 1.2 billion minutes and 1.6 billion minutes, respectively.

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There’s no avoiding the fact that the life cycle of toys is now, almost inextricably, tied to their popularity on YouTube, so taking an innovative marketing approach is essential. Toy companies are increasingly looking to YouTube to launch and sustain the popularity of their brands rather than heading down the traditional linear TV route. While it can initially be a little daunting for companies to take the plunge with a digitalfirst launch strategy, the data and insights speak for themselves with toys ranking as one of the largest genres on YouTube. In this article, we look at a bold, forwardthinking strategy we are pioneering with Mattel - the development and execution of a digital-first launch strategy for its new franchise, Cave Club.

We’ll also explore how we are working with Mattel to roll-out the Cave Club brand in EMEA on YouTube before it launches at retail, and the benefits of taking a digital-first approach with new brand and toy launches. Head first into digital first When we were approached by Mattel to cocreate an international YouTube-first strategy for its new Cave Club franchise in EMEA, it was clear that the team at the international toy maker already recognised the value of strong digital content in driving new audiences, raising awareness and creating demand for product. Since the beginning of 2020, we’ve been working closely with Mattel to create an


WildBrain Spark

engaging YouTube strategy, spanning channel management, content curation and paid media, which would serve as the primary driver for its Cave Club launch. This digital-first strategy would be designed to introduce audiences to this exciting new IP, build excitement ahead of the retail launch, and also to create a solid fandom to sustain and grow the brand’s popularity for the long-term. In a study for WildBrain Spark, research shows that YouTube drives buying decisions - with 80 per cent of parents in the US saying they would consider buying a toy, game or apparel based on their child’s favourite YouTube character. It’s clear therefore that creating strong visibility for your brand on YouTube ahead of product hitting shelves is key. The type and quality of content created to support a brand is also pivotal. Our data tells us that for girls watching YouTube, animation and toy play content rank as the number one and number two content formats, respectively. To tap into this demand, WildBrain Spark built a marketing strategy for Cave Club around the launch of two original series from Mattel. Firstly, Cave Tales is a CGI doll play and motion comic hybrid which introduces the dolls and their adventures. The series, which is being produced by Peacock Kids and Relish Interactive as the studio providing the animation, has been designed to bring the characters to life through animation, creating fan affinity to the brand.

Alongside this is a world-class 2D animated series called Cave Club, which is being produced by the Academy Award winning studio, Six Point Harness. This series brings core themes of the brand to life with dynamic colours and humour. With each episode containing a stand-alone story, this type of content allows the WildBrain Spark team to create YouTube compilations which are highly effective for extending brand engagement. We also match keywords and descriptions on each video to popular relevant searches on YouTube, and thematic playlists in the YouTube Kids App.

Since the Cave Club channel launched in July, it has already received 60M global views and the response to the advertising campaign has been 110 per cent above industry benchmarks. In today’s multi-platform and multi-screen world, toy companies and brand owners need to make sure they are playing where their audience is. By taking a bold approach and launching a brand with a YouTube-first strategy, Mattel and WildBrain Spark are trailblazing a smarter way of getting on the radar of an increasingly digitally native generation and their families.

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Games and Puzzles

IT’S A FAMILY FARE Sales surges of 240 per cent at the height of lockdown, reports of some manufacturers hitting Q4 levels of sales throughout June, and a nation that owes its sanity to the vast spectrum of board games and puzzles out there and the retailers and suppliers that have been keeping them in stock; the games and puzzles sector is having it’s moment in the sun. ToyNews takes a look at some of the hottest new lines to be keeping the market inspired for the rest of 2020

Gibsons 020 8661 8866 | www.gibsonsgames.co.uk | sales@gibsonsgames.co.uk Back in August Gibsons, the 101-year-old jigsaw puzzle and board game company, launched a wide range of Christmas gifts and traditional puzzles. Later this Autumn, it will be launching a variety of contemporary puzzles, as well as some fantastic games that will keep the whole family entertained. Quirk! is Gibsons’ laugh-out-loud family card game. Embrace your silly side with sounds and actions while causing a whole lot of mischief for your family and friends. Get your best impressions at the ready to gather characters and claim your quirky title by collecting the most 'Quirks'. Quirk is ideal for both children and adults and is an amazingly silly game that promotes interactive play. With 26 characters, each game includes two decks of cards so you can mix and match your favourites to make every game different. Gibsons has expanded its Transport for London licensed range following record sales of the card game, Mind the Gap. This September Race the Rails will be launched, which is the new card game for two to eight players aged eight and upwards. Play as passengers in a hurry as you race across London on the Underground. Follow the routes of the famous lines, make the connections on time and try not to get held up by obstacles along the way. Last year Gibsons launched its White Logo Range of contemporary design puzzles. In August it added two circular puzzles to the collection, London Buildings and Rainbow Heroes, and this Autumn it is adding a brand-new 1000 piece Puzzle of Positivity. This Puzzle of Positivity is definitely needed during these difficult times. Packed full of pick-me-ups, along with a dash of sarcasm and a healthy portion of puns, this quirky puzzle has been illustrated by Katie Abey and provides bucket loads of happiness and motivation.

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Games & Puzzles

THE DEMAND FROM OUR ONLINE RETAILERS WAS ASTONISHING Thought that the UK’s lockdown period had taken businesses town a gear these past few months? Try telling that to the team at Coiledspring Games who has been moving at a whirlwind pace to answer the demand for board games up and down the country, and now more than ever, online. We catch up with founder and MD, Roger Martin

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t was the role of entertainer that Coiledspring Games took on at the height of the UK lockdown, when it pioneered the print and play platform that gave families across the UK access to downloadable and printable board games - for free - from across its popular gaming portfolio. If the British hobby specialist hadn’t already played its part in fueling the nation’s growing interest in the tabletop gaming scene, then the pandemic proved to be the moment it cemented its place in the hearts, and homes, of the country’s newly discovered - or re-discovered affinity for the board. The print and play concept was but a mere cog in a much larger machine at Coiledspring Games, however, who has subsequently, found itself as busy as ever over the last few months, meeting demand from online retailers, keeping consumers engaged with the brand, and generally moving at a whirlwind pace all despite the widely-accepted notion that the coronavirus pandemic had slowed life down a gear. With a surge in demand for tabletop gaming from the UK’s audiences to be met, all while adhering to the restrictions of the UK government and safeguarding its own personnel in the process, it’s only now - and only just (we had to wrestle for it) - that Coiledspring Games has found a momentary pause for some reflection.

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“Things have been incredibly busy for us here at Coiledspring Games - we simply didn’t stop throughout the whole lockdown period,” Coiledspring Games’ Roger Martin tells ToyNews. “The demand from our online retailers was astonishing and continues to be a growing area of the business. “Of course, this brought up many challenges. Our key priorities were to keep the team safe and support our retailers as much as we could. To do this, the whole Coiledspring Games team were working from home and we reduced capacity in the warehouse to ensure social distancing. I am incredibly proud of how well and how hard the team worked to meet those priorities.”

It’s been well reported that the games and puzzles market witnessed a spike in sales during those key lockdown months, soaring a massive 240 per cent in the first week of lockdown alone. Fueled by a need of the population to keep its grey matter in tact while adhering to the Government’s #StayHome messaging, board game titles such as Coiledspring Games’ own Sushi Go, The Mind, Anomia, and Forbidden Island all began to find their place among the more mainstream audiences. “Our audience has definitely broadened since the lockdown in March, with a more mass appeal,” continues Martin. “While of course, this time has brought many difficulties, families were brought closer together with an opportunity to discover and dedicate more time to new and old pastimes - board games and jigsaw puzzles being some of them. “Utilising our social media channels over the past few months has enabled us to tap into the consumer demand for our products in a unique way. Combining the joy of playing board games with the Government’s stay at home messaging had a great influence on how our products have performed at retail. “Our range of jigsaws have performed extremely well, with some of our most popular lines selling out over the last few months meeting the demand has been a real challenge for us.” Some of those most popular items for Coiledspring Games include its Wrebbit 3D products, and the Harry Potter line in particular.


Games & Puzzles

As a result, the firm is preparing to launch two new lines this autumn in the form of Harry Potter: Flying Ford Anglia, and Harry Potter: Mini Hogwarts Express. Meanwhile, Martin explains, the firm has also expanded its games range with the launch of its Autumn Supplement. “We’ve focused the range more this year than others, to bring in only the best in class” he says. “While the market seems relatively strong, it is still very turbulent and we appreciate that our retailers need our support more than ever. We’re still facing some knock on impacts from the beginning of the year for some products, however, we’re working hard to counter these with other lines.” While it’s true that the lockdown did help with the re-ignition of the board game and tabletop gaming space, it hasn’t been without its difficulties, too. Martin explains that yes, audiences may have broadened, but tastes have remained a little more conservative than pre-lockdown times, with the majority of the audience sticking with the well-known titles. “People are less willing to take risks,” Martin continues. “We’ve seen a huge increase in interest in best-sellers such as Forbidden Island, Qwirkle, and The Mind, but new releases such as the award-winning Ishtar haven’t got the traction we expected. “Over the coming months, I expect to see a lower volume of new releases, but of a higher quality. With consumers’ budgets being more limited, they will continue to be less willing to take a chance on two or three new games, and just buy one great game, potentially at a higher price point.”

A recent participant of Virtually Expo, the 2020 pandemic-adjusted online version of the annual UK Games Expo, Coiledspring Games has been a first-hand witness to the evolution of the gaming space and the ways in which publishers and distributors engage with their audiences. “How exactly we do this is still under discussion,” he says. “But I am convinced that there are some really exciting opportunities there.” Until that vision comes into focus, however, Coiledspring Games certainly isn’t wasting time on the new releases front, with a portfolio of powerful titles ready to tackle the business end of 2020 and take the company charging into 2021. “We have some fantastic new releases from IELLO in the form of Unmatched and Kitara, joining our strategy range alongside Talisman:

Star Wars,” Martin divulges. “Scorpion Masque will be releasing the highly anticipated Zombie Teenz Evolution, the sequel to the top-selling Zombie Kidz Evolution, in October. Not only is this a standalone game, it can also be combined with Zombie Kidz for the ultimate zombie battle. “Then from Blue Orange we have Dragomino, featuring gameplay elements from Kingdomino aimed at a younger audience, and a new party game: Cross Clues. All of these new releases, in conjunction with our already stellar line up of product in 2020 and staples such as Kingdomino, Quacks and King of Tokyo will lead us right through the peak season, and into a fresh start with some new surprises to come in 2021.”

September 2020 | toy news | 43


Games & Puzzles

CREATING A BIGGER PICTURE Following the birth of his daughter and the realisation that the toy industry was in need of better representation and diversity within its product roll-out, Patrick Adom sprung onto the jigsaw puzzle scene with Very Puzzled. ToyNews talks to the entrepreneur about the importance of exploring cultures through play and the wider plans for his business

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or Patrick Adom, the founder of Very Puzzled, the puzzle company with the primary goal of introducing children to a world of diversity, a jigsaw puzzle is more than just a picture that needs piecing together, in much the same way that his company is more than a toy business. For Adom, play - and particularly jigsaw puzzling - is a medium through which children and families can explore parts of the world vastly underrepresented in modern mainstream entertainment, while the Very Puzzled puzzle range are the tools with which cultural enrichment can be facilitated and encouraged today. Having sprung into life back in 2018, the black-owned Very Puzzled business made its intentions very clear; to counter the lack of diversity in the toy market and ‘highlight the majest of Africa and the African Diaspora through an initial range of eight jigsaw puzzles exploring Africa, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jamaica, Nigeria, South Africa, London, and Kenya.

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“Having a daughter opened my eyes to the lack of diversity in the toy market and in other sectors,” Adom tells ToyNews. “I was interested in creating a product that would allow her to explore and learn about her heritage. I believed that if I had this need, then there would be other parents in a similar situation and that this would be a viable business. “Our puzzles should be used as a way for families to sit down together and have fun and meaningful interactions.” It’s with a raft of ten additional lines that Adom and the Very Puzzled outfit recently took to the crowdfunding platform, Indiegogo, in order to raise funds and awareness enough to break into the mainstream toy space. The mission is still very much underway. “The reaction we have had from the smaller, independent retailers has been exceptionally validating as they’ve been really positive about our products,” says Adom. “The retailers we work with have had great feedback on our products from their customers, and so place orders on a regular basis.”


Games & Puzzles

The range initially really took root within the home school community, but has since according to Adom - starting picking up better and better traction and momentum among the wider African Caribbean community here in the UK. On top of this, Very Puzzled is also seeing significant sales in Germany where the firm currently has three stockists. From here, Adom has set his sights on entering the French market, planning for a warm reception to its Mali, Cameroon, and Senegal themed puzzles within the region. “We also have a monthly newsletter that goes out to our stockists which they appreciate and we give them previews of upcoming puzzles, and often get orders for these before they are available,” he continues. Here, ToyNews speaks to Patrick Adom, founder of Very Puzzled, about the importance of creating a platform for children to experience and enjoy diversity through play.

The feedback from our customers and companies that we have interacted with has been very positive and encouraging, so much so that we’ve recently been able to secure licensing deals with big name brands and have been privately commissioned to create bespoke puzzles. Such opportunities have been very exciting and have validated the work that we are doing here at Very Puzzled.

Patrick, hello. It’s great to see Very Puzzled beginning to gain some traction within the children’s sector and retail. Why do you think it’s so important for Very Puzzled to add its voice to the sector? We are currently living in a moment of history that has been shaped one way or another by the personal views of some placed upon many. These views which have led to systemic injustices are mainly formed during childhood and therefore it is important that our children are exposed to the beauty and strength of diversity. Very Puzzled jigsaws are a catalyst towards a greater understanding of the people in our global community.

"Systemic injustices are mainly formed in childhood, it's important our children are exposed to the beauty and strength of diversity."

What have you had by way of reaction from, or engagement with, the toy space so far? As a company we are still relatively new to the sector and as such most of our interactions have been with customers and the shops that stock our puzzles. Though we haven’t interacted very much with many of the trade bodies or organisations within the sector this is something we’re very excited to do in the near future.

How did you land upon the idea of presenting the ethos of the company through jigsaw puzzles? Jigsaw puzzles just resonated with people, it reminded them of their childhood, they automatically got it and understood the need for the Very Puzzled range of puzzles. The concept didn’t need any explanation. We are currently working on other concepts, such as a card game and a subscription box, and we’re hoping that these will be available at some point soon.

Patrick Adom, Very Puzzled

So why are puzzles the perfect medium to be presenting the Very Puzzled ethos? Jigsaw puzzles was a perfect medium because they are something that all members of the family can enjoy, building puzzles together is fun and provides a bonding experience as well as a range of educational and developmental benefits. Our puzzles are also affordable and don’t require much in the way of time and space so they work really well for most people. The entrepreneur in me has a lot of ideas whirring away for the business, and my ultimate passion is to scale the Very Puzzled concept.

We have a few additional ideas and concepts that we are working on and excited to introduce to the public. Our ethos and mission is what drives us as we want to bring families together to have meaningful interactions that also exposes families to the richness and diversity of our world. What sort of reaction have you had from the retail space so far? The reaction from the smaller independent retailers has been exceptionally validating as they’ve been really positive about our products. The retailers we work with have had great feedback on our products from their customers and so place orders on a regular basis. We have a monthly newsletter that goes out to our stockists which they appreciate and we give them previews of upcoming puzzles and often get orders for these before they are available. Where have you seen the best traction for the puzzle range so far? Our jigsaw puzzles took root within the home school community however it is now gaining traction amongst the wider African Caribbean community in the UK, there is also significant sales in Germany where we have three stockists. We’ve set our sights into entering the French market as we hope that our new puzzles for Mali, Cameroon and Senegal will do well within this region. Reading up on Very Puzzled, you talk openly about wanting to keep production in your own hands and eventually see it roll out from Ghana. Can you talk to us about these wider ambitions for Very Puzzled? Making our own puzzles is a long term ambition, however it is very important to the Very Puzzled value system as placing our logistics into the hands of the very people that essentially inspired the ethos would be a personal achievement. This is something that we intend to do once we have a broader range of puzzles and have scaled the company to a reasonable size. In the meantime, we will continue to expand our range of diverse puzzles with a focus on Africa and the African-Caribbean diaspora. We will also enhance other areas of our business such as working with other companies to make licensed puzzles and collaborating with corporations to make bespoke jigsaw puzzles. We will also be expanding our range to include additional products that complement our jigsaw puzzles To date, we have been very humbled by the positive response that our range of jigsaw puzzles has received. We are extremely grateful for everyone that has purchased one of our products, we always welcome and appreciate feedback both good and bad so we are happy for your readers to contact us at jambo@verypuzzled.com. September 2020 | toy news | 45


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Games and Puzzles

Asmodee 01420 593 593

University Games 020 7254 0100

www.university-games.co.uk

Following its acquisition of the Lagoon Group this summer, University Games now has over 750 lines available, spanning the pre-school market through to adult with the promise of more to come. It’s going to be a magical Christmas for Harry Potter fans thanks to the successful launch of University Games’ range of Harry Potter Puzzles this summer. The wizard-themed range of 3D Puzzles allows Potter fans to recreate the magical buildings of the films and books in detail, including the likes of Hogwarts Castle, Hogwarts Express and buildings from Diagon Alley, such as Gringotts Bank, Olivanders Wand Shop and Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. Joining the Harry Potter range this autumn are the challenging new Harry Potter Head 2 Toe Ultimate 9 Card Puzzle Challenges. With three different styles to choose from, the fantastically difficult puzzles, with just nine-pieces, have thousands of incorrect combinations, and only one correct one. Just place the nine cards together to form a 3x3 square image. It sounds easy but with characters on each edge of a card, you must make sure you match all the ’heads’ and ‘toes’ to all the cards that surround them. The new Murder Mystery Party Case Files arrives this autumn and there is a murder to be solved. Perfect for individuals or as a great dinner party game, the Cary Underwood cold case has been reopened and it is down to the team to solve the murder. With over 50 pieces of evidence, and hints and conclusions online, the case will take a true detective mind. University Games has also strengthened its family and adult portfolio this season with the addition of the family-friendly Dumb Criminals board game. This game offers additional strategic levels of play to keep inquisitive minds busy trying to solve the crime and secure the cash, while for over 18s there’s Don’t Drink and Draw, and Bigger is Better - two new adult party games with riskee humour. The World of David Walliams is igniting the children’s portfolio this year with titles such as Gangsta Granny’s Stash the Swag, Grandpa’s Great Escape Twilight Towers Amazing Break Out, and the Mega-Tastic Challenges board game, as well as four educational games and 250 piece jigsaw puzzles. There is also the ever popular Horrible Histories board game, Tyrannosaurus Rex, What’s Up, Charades for Kids and Yes!No! Now available to keep the youngest members of the family entertained is the new In the Night Garden series featuring the double-sided The Great Garden Adventure board game, perfect for any little Igglepiggle and Upsy Daisy fans. Also available is a 16 piece Giant Floor Puzzle and a 4 in 1 Puzzle Set, all of which have been created specifically for pre-schoolers from two years of age. Two other great new lines now available, and created especially for two year olds, are the new First 100 Words Activity Game and Colours, Shapes and Number Bingo Game, both ideal for helping to create and develop those first word /picture associations.

sales@asmodee.co.uk

Another big year for Asmodee’s flagship Dobble range is set to continue this Christmas. Following the successful launch of the giant-sized Dobble XXL for summer fun, the holiday period is to see a major focus on Dobble 360, which adds a 360-degree twist to the smash-hit game of speedy observation. Featuring a mechanised display system that rotates two cards while players try to spot the matching image between them, it adds a memory challenge to Dobble’s already-addictive family fun. The UK’s number one game of 2018 and 2019 has launched an exciting new licensed edition in the form of The Gruffalo Dobble earlier this year, with another - Dobble L.O.L. Surprise, partnering with the huge-selling toy brand - about to make its debut. The Dobble brand will continue to grow into 2021 with plans for more environmentally friendly packaging and new licensed editions. Some of Asmodee’s Modern Classics - which represent the most enduringly popular board games of the modern era, the must-have items that should be any stockists’ first port of call - have been making significant gains during lockdown, particularly iconic titles Catan, Ticket to Ride and Pandemic. A widereaching digital campaign will be put behind all these games in Q4 to support listings at retail. Brand-new games have also made an impression, including recently released party game Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza. This riotously funny card game sees players reciting silly words as they take turns playing cards and frantically rushing to perform actions when a matching or special card is revealed. Asmodee has enjoyed a great launch in 2020 for Bananagrams Duel, a two-player-only edition of the big-selling word game that has proved ideal for those stuck at home. Meanwhile, the classic Bananagrams game continues to go from strength to strength, with over 2,500 schools signed up to the Bananagrams Schools Club, which rewards educators for using the game in class.

September 2020 | toy news | 47


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Games and Puzzles

Tomy 01271 336 155 With the nation spending more time than ever at home in recent months, households have re-discovered their love for games to keep their families entertained during this unprecedented time. TOMY Games will be adding a new licensee to its portfolio, launching a Harry Potter board game in August – a magical quiz perfect for four or more Harry Potter enthusiasts. This virtual game from the number one most recognised franchise, follows a decade of unforgettable magic and, with over 1000 questions, is perfect to test knowledge of avid superfans, parents and kids. July also saw the highly anticipated launch of the second edition of its LOGO Board Game hit the shelves, featuring all new questions and brands, this new game for Drumond Park is sure to be a huge hit with avid LOGO fans and those playing it for the first time. Also new to the Drumond Park family games category is the launch of Fill Your Pants - a unique take on a scavenger hunt – which is both easy to play and certain to guarantee a night of family fun. With fifty different possible categories, including “something spotty”, “something shiny” and “something squishy”, each game offers a new and hysterical combination. Another well-loved addition to the category is Drumond Park’s Sketchy. This drawing game requires one team member to draw pictures onto the screen provided which will then appear on the reverse side for the opposing team to guess. With this latest launch you need not be Monet to enjoy it. AW20 also sees TOMY Games launch Screwball Scramble Level 2, a topsy-turvy crazy maze. Featuring ten new obstacles and fun new surprises, this game is certain to challenge kids’ skill patience and dexterity as they steer their ball through the tabletop board. The sequel to the classic game of Screwball Scramble, Screwball Scramble Level 2 also connects to the original game to form one giant maze with a bridge attachment for those who seek even more fun.

Ginger Fox 01242 241765

www.gingerfox.co.uk

This autumn, Ginger Fox is excited to launch its new range of Carnovsky Jigsaw Puzzles. The mind-bending 500-piece puzzles explore the interaction between colour and light with three different images sitting on top of each other. The resulting picture is unexpected and mesmerising. The colours mix and the lines and shapes entwine as your eyes try to make sense of what they see. Make use of the digital app or look through the red, green and blue viewing glasses, included, to isolate each layer of the spectacular image. Visually impressive and challenging to complete, the 500-piece Animals, Ocean and Jungle puzzle illustrations have been created by the artistic duo Carnovsky and each includes an artwork print. A new addition to the Ginger Fox line up this autumn is an exciting license. Based on the hit BBC2 show hosted by Richard Osman, the House of Games Board Game is the ultimate test of knowledge and skill. Team up to tackle some trivia or face off against each other in the iconic Answer Smash! Who will be the House of Games champion in this competitive compendium of games? Guaranteed to add to the festive fun this Christmas is Don’t be a Dik Dik, a hilarious card game for grown-ups who love nature and a little naughtiness. Titter at the tufted titmouse, chuckle at the large cockchafer, snigger at the sticky willy, but whatever you do, don’t get left holding the dik dik! Fans of Rubik’s can celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Rubik’s Cube being sold internationally, by testing their brain power with mindbending visual and logical puzzles. With beginner, medium and difficult levels, are you ready to put your brain to the test with Rubik’s Puzzles? If you’re looking for a fast-paced lateral thinking game that will make your palms sweat, your brain buzz and your mouth ramble, Know Nine will get the whole family talking. Simply, link the words, defend your answers, and score the most to win. From Ultimate Arrogance, an easy-to-learn, high-stakes naming game of bluffing and deception, to racing to get rid of all your cards in the action-packed Emoji Action card game, there’s something to entertain everyone in the family this Christmas. From September 2020 onwards, we’re starting our journey towards making Ginger Fox truly environmentally and socially sustainable. Head to our website to find out about our sustainability promise.

September 2020 | toy news | 49


Games and Puzzles

Big Potato emily@bigpotato.co.uk London-based game creator, Big Potato, has just released two brand new board games for 2020. One fresh off the farm called Herd Mentality and another fresh out the oven called P for Pizza. Herd Mentality is an absolutely moo-velous party game where players have to think like the herd and write down the exact same answers as each other. Meanwhile, P for Pizza is a quick-thinking, pizza-slice-grabbing category game, where you’re racing to shout out answers and build your pizza slice to victory. Although they might be different, both games stick to Big Potato’s golden rule: easy to learn and quick to play. So, whether you’re staying in with family or going out with friends, both games should give you a quick and easy way to get the party going. In Herd Mentality, the aim is to win eight Cow Tokens before anyone else. Each round, players will hear a random question, such as “What’s the worst day of the week?” Everyone writes down an answer, then reveals them one by one. If your answer is part of the majority, you get to collect a Cow Token from the Paddock in the middle and take one step closer to victory. However, there’s one cow in the paddock that you won’t want to collect... and that’s the squishy pink cow. If your answer is the odd one out, you’ll have to add him to your herd. Whilst the pink cow is sitting in front of you, it’s impossible for you to win the game - so you had better hope someone else collects him before it’s too late. Here’s a couple of questions to give you an idea of how it works. Remember, it’s not about writing the most ‘correct’ answer, but about writing the most popular one: Name a food with a hole in it. Out of all the players, who is the best dressed today? What is the best Christmas movie? Meanwhile, P for Pizza is known as the easy-cheesy letter game, but you don’t need perfect pizza knowledge or super spelling skills to play - you just need to be able to shout out answers as quickly as you can. On each card, there are three categories, each one next to a random letter. To win a card, you’ll have to think of a word that matches the category and begins with the letter opposite. For example, if the card needed a TV show beginning with B, you could shout... “Baywatch!” If you’re the first to shout a correct answer, you win the card and add it to your collection. Once you’ve won nine cards, you’ll have enough to build your giant pizza slice and win the game. Herd Mentality and P For Pizza are both available to order now.

50 | toy news | September 2020

Ravensburger sales@ravensburger.com There’s a strong collection of launches across games and puzzles from Ravensburger through the second half. The company continues to outperform the category and the latest introductions provide a powerful platform to build on results achieved in the first half. Ravensburger will support both new and evergreen products with major marketing investment including TV, PR and digital activations. Families are increasingly turning to games to create time to connect away from screens and autumn’s games offering from Ravensburger won’t disappoint. Already named a Toy Fair Hero Toy, Big Money is the game of risky rolls and big investments sees players take their chances with the three throws of the dice to grow their fortunes and then invest in exciting businesses in a bid to become a zillionaire. Classic game, Labyrinth, is also set for new news with 3D Labyrinth joining the range and taking the gameplay to new dimensions. Players are challenged to find their way through the 3D style maze to find the treasure. For younger children, action game, Slimy Joe, combines edge-of-the-seat fun with gooey slime. Players take turns to pick flutterbies from inside the giant carnivorous plant’s mouth, hoping it won’t snap shut on their turn. Ravensburger continues to grow its immersive games portfolio with high profile partnerships seeing the company further making its mark in the category. Recent launch, Back to the Future: Dice Through Time, offers an authentic dive into the world of the popular movie franchise in the form of a cooperative dice game. With half a million Villainous games sold to date, new launch, the much anticipated Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power, is set to extend the franchise. This game will see players take on the role of an iconic comic book villain. It features villains Thanos, Hela, Taskmaster, Killmonger and Ultron. Reaching out to a slightly younger audience, quick-to-play, cooperative game, Hocus Pocus, challenges players to beat the Sanderson Sisters before the sun rises and features favourite quotes and spells from the film. Number one in adult puzzles, Ravensburger achieved impressive results in 2019 and 2020 is seeing continued strong growth in the category for the company. With the festive season fast-approaching, Ravensburger is set to launch the 24th in a series of limited edition 1000 piece Christmas puzzles, as well as the delightful We Wish Moo a Merry Christmas 500 piece animal selfie puzzle. Joining a raft of launches in adult 2D puzzles, these jigsaws offer a perfect activity for holiday afternoons. Ravensburger continues to dominate the licensed puzzle category, and the company has recently welcomed Hey Duggee, Elmer, Ricky Zoom and 44 Cats and more exciting licenses to its portfolio. The company also builds on the solid performance of its Gruffalo range, with new introductions showcasing further characters from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's books including Zog and The Snail and The Whale. New products for the second half include The Snail and the Whale My First Floor Puzzle and Zog and Other Stories 4 in a Box. In 3D puzzles, the latest data reflects strong double-digit growth for Ravensburger. Among the new introductions for autumn are a light-up Gingerbread House and a 3D puzzle incarnation of the Lamborghini Huracán, which joins the popular Porsche 911 and Porsche GT3 Cup in the 3D car collection.


Games and Puzzles

James Galt/Jumbo Games 0161 428 9111 It's no understatement to say 2020 has been a turbulent year for all, with lockdown presenting consumers with an unprecedented number of challenges as they navigate an entirely new way of living. Throughout lockdown and beyond adult puzzles continue to provide much-needed moments of mindfulness and relaxation, and the growing selection of brand new, top-quality puzzles from Jumbo Games is certainly no exception. July saw the eagerly awaited release of the official Christmas puzzles from both Falcon de luxe and Wasgij, spreading festive cheer ahead of the fast-approaching holiday season. Featuring Falcon's quintessentially British illustrations, 'The Christmas Carousel' 2 x 1000-piece puzzle set depicts a traditional Christmas market with quaint stalls, fairy lights, and a stunning carousel as its centrepiece. A further 10 Falcon de luxe releases are sure to delight fans of these beautiful, highquality puzzles throughout the second half of the year. Wasgij, Jumbo's leading puzzle brand, is the original brainteasing jigsaw and the number one adult puzzle brand in the UK (source: NPD Full Year 2019). The unique concept challenges puzzlers to use the humorous illustrations, and their imagination, to piece together the 'solution' to what's on the box. In spectacular Wasgij style, Wasgij Christmas 16 'The Christmas Show!' is a 2 x 1000-piece puzzle set with a hilarious twist, as a school Christmas play takes an unexpected turn. With this release there is also an extra 1,000-piece puzzle of the box image included absolutely free. Jumbo's popular Jan van Haasteren brand, the leading puzzle brand in The Netherlands with a rapidly growing UK fanbase, has 5 new and distinctive puzzles due for release, so be sure to stay up to date with all our latest news for details. The Disney Classic Collection is bringing the magic of your favourite movies to adult puzzles with the release of five stunning 1000-piece designs including '101 Dalmatians' and the enchanting 'Cinderella Movie Poster'. Jumbo Games is not only the home of leading puzzle brands but also those all-important accessories. The Portapuzzle and Puzzle and Roll ranges provide neat and tidy solutions for keeping your progress safe and secure, allowing puzzlers to store and transport their favourite jigsaws conveniently.

Rex London 0208 746 1700

www.rexlondontrade.com

Bring back some good old fashioned fun this festive season with Rex London’s delightful selection of traditional toys and games. Building on last year’s collection of undigital gifts for a screen-free family Christmas, the award-winning giftware company has expanded their range of eclectic, exciting and educational presents for kids of all ages. Rex London’s classic wooden toys are a nostalgia trip for parents - forget computer games and social media, we’re talking yoyos, boomerangs and dominoes. Think retro themes with a modern design twist. Also available are beautiful wooden pull toys, including a vintage racing car, retro racing car, hedgehog, sausage dog, circus horse and a whole duck family. Keep young minds occupied for hours with colourful children's puzzles - popular products include 150- and 300-piece jigsaw ‘puzzles in a tube’ in a variety of designs, and 3D wooden dinosaur skeleton puzzles. Or for younger kids there is a whole host of matching puzzles and memory games with cute characters, which provides a fun way to boost children's cognitive development. Bring families together this Christmas with charming games for all ages. Classic board games in travel sizes, traditional jacks and travel bingo are perfect for taking to visit friends and family over the festive period. For the budding storyteller, the fairytale dice game will let their imagination and creativity run wild, and enrapture their audience. Younger children will adore the Wild Wonders wooden balance game, ideal for improving their hand-eye coordination. Rex London is an internationally renowned wholesaler of extraordinary gifts and the 2019 winner of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade. All their products are exclusively designed and lovingly curated by their inhouse design and buying teams. They are available to order through a secure and easy to use trade website, with real time stock availability and no minimum order.

September 2020 | toy news | 51


Games and Puzzles

Rock Saws - Zee Productions www.zeeproductions.co.uk To celebrate its first anniversary, Zee Productions is spreading its wings with a raft of new puzzle releases this Autumn. Originally conceived by Zee Productions’ self-proclaimed metal-head Steve Beatty, the Rock Saws label shook up the traditional puzzles sector by turning classic heavy metal album artwork into puzzles, with seminal artists including Iron Maiden, Metallica, Motorhead and legendary stadium rockers Queen. “I want to make jigsaws that are for the music fan. Vinyl came back and I loved the idea of making great record sleeve art into jigsaws, maybe stick the record on and do together,” said Beatty. Now attention is being turned to the mainstream music genre, with the release of a range of 500 and 1000 piece puzzles Sep/ Oct 2020, featuring official album artwork from late 20th century music icons including David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, The Clash, Nirvana, AC/DC and Pink Floyd. Highlights include David Bowie’s symbolic studio album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars, whose cover featured in the Royal Mail’s “Classic Album Cover” postage stamps issued in 2010; one of the most famous album covers and best-selling albums of all time in popular music, Nevermind from Nirvana; and Exile on Main Street, viewed as The Rolling Stones’ greatest album. As Tom Hanks stars in Greyhound, his first war movie since Saving Private Ryan, military and puzzle enthusiasts can look forward to the release of Bellica on 19th September 2020. This new military history-themed range of 1000-piece puzzles is designed by award-winning aviation artist and commercial illustrator Keith Burns and features ten stunning WW2 combat depictions that will be of interest to any military history fan. Memorable battles depicted include the Atlantic Convoy Attack by the Luftwaffe Fw 200; the Luftwaffe strafing D-Day beaches in Fw 190 Over Normandy; and the RAF Lancaster and crew’s last mission in Lancaster – When We Are Back. The wonderful aesthetic of this range is accompanied by sleeve notes so you will know what the illustration is about, the conflict, the equipment and the protagonists. This will draw military enthusiasts into the pleasure of puzzling and puzzle enthusiasts into the world of military history. “The success of Zee has been amazing and it’s way ahead of schedule to be launching the Bellica range,” said Beatty. “I am super excited to launch this with the amazing art of Keith Burns. I intend to make Bellica the home of military puzzles.”

52 | toy news | September 2020

Wentworth Wooden Puzzles www.wentworthpuzzles.com You’ll not have missed the rise in popularity of the jigsaw puzzle over lockdown; from soothing activity for mindfulness and wellbeing, to a boredom buster and brain trainer, puzzling was quickly named the sanity saver and new household essential with more people trying their hand (and hand-eye) at puzzles for the first time than before. While understandable that the increased interest in jigsaw puzzles caused a large uplift in news customers to its site, Wentworth Wooden Puzzles also spotted an interesting trend than an ever-growing percentage of those customers were from a younger demographic. 25 to 34 year olds topped the age group for the most number of new visitors from February to May, while the 18 to 24 year old age group was the fastest growing, with nearly four times as many new visitors when compared to the previous three months. “It’s clear that puzzles are here to stay so we wanted to ensure that we catered for the diverse variety of people that have taken up puzzling, especially during lockdown,” said Sarah Watson, managing director of Wentworth Wooden Puzzles. “As well as refreshing our brand identity and packaging, we’ve launched an exciting new collection of contemporary designs to appeal to the evergrowing number of younger dissectologists. We have also moved box production back to the UK and dropped shrink wrap from our packaging, as part of our move towards minimising our impact on the planet.” Continuing to prove that its jigsaw puzzles are anything but ordinary, Wentworth Puzzles is pulling puzzles into the 21st century with a modern and exciting collection of contemporary puzzles aimed at a new generation of puzzlers. Working with a wide variety of exciting artists and photographers to produce this killer jigsaw puzzle collection, Art That Slays features the very best of quirky and modern art. From curious creatures to breathtaking photographs and amazing locations from our own world to pure fantasy, the collection is as diverse as the puzzlers who complete them. The collection consists of 25 brand new puzzles, which are all available in 250 piece and 500 pieces, prices start from £29.95.


Sustainability

THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGING From a staple of the licensing and merchandising industry to becoming the face for the sweeping change rumbling through it and the minds of consumers across the UK, Helena Mansell Stopher is the director of Products of Change, a platform on a mission to bring sustainability into the heart of the consumer products space Hi Helena, thanks for chatting with us. To start off, can you talk us through Products of Change? What is the concept, and what is it setting out to achieve in the consumer products space? Of course, I would love to. Products of Change is currently transitioning from a local group discussing sustainable practices, to a global sustainable networking group driven through an online digital hub. The hub will enable members to be sustainably educated through research and educational content, to learn through our webinars and podcast for quick on the go learning, as well as connect through our members hub on site directly to share best practice and gain knowledge. How did the move all come about for you? What drives you and the mission statement of Products of Change? It was during my time as licensing director of National Geographic Partners that the devastating effect of climate change and the impact that the consumer goods industry was having on the environment really hit home, we worked extremely closely with the National Geographic Society and once I knew what we were doing, I couldn’t ignore it. I got a small group of leaders within the industry together to discuss how we can start to make change through sharing best practice. Our mission statement is really ‘educating to inform change’ through bite size pieces of content, we really want to drive peer to peer learning as the only way we can have a positive impact is if we come together collectively to do this. What has reception been like from across the industries to Products of Change and the movement that you guys are championing?

Why is now the right time for everyone to be joining the 'movement'? It’s been a phenomenal response, what is encouraging to see is that people truly want to make sustainable change but they just don’t know where to start. Covid has made 2020 the toughest year for business and though many companies are focusing on keeping their head above water, what has become more apparent is the relationship between human activity/ business and the natural world, they are all interlinked and have dramatic effects on each other. If we are to future proof our business we must first look at how we extract materials, our transportation, our carbon footprint, the list goes on to reviewing the full lifecycle and impact of actually creating product, we can then start to build better systems that don’t harm the environment and enable us to look after the planet and its wildlife, and in-turn look after ourselves…. To me this is the reason why the movement is so important now, we have to be the first generation that creates this new path forward for the next generation to follow and excel. If we look at the toy space specifically - we are seeing a lot more attention being paid to the topic of sustainability from retail and toy brand perspectives, but there's still a long way to go. Can you talk us through some of the activity Products of Change is starting to see in this department? How do we start to get businesses to think about the significance of the issue today? For me the toy industry has some of the most imaginative inventors, there are so many elements to play with and because of this I really do feel the industry can start to take a lead in this area, though the flip side of this is

the mix of material input in the toy process as it does pose large challenges for the end of life of a product. There are some amazing initiatives out there, new materials that will enable the market to move forward and circular business models which will change how we look at product design, there is monumental movement happening here. The European parliament and most recently the UK government have issued new legislation for plastics and packaging, that for the UK will come in to effect in the next 17 months, this has woken up many retailers and manufacturers as if you don’t have 30 per cent of recycled plastic in your packaging you will be taxed, the infrastructure is not yet in place to supply such a large demand so you can imagine what’s happening in the background to supply this material in time for the April 2022 start date. Because of this, Products of Change is working closely with the leading children’s UK educator Wastebusters who deliver in class environmental education to all UK schools. Wastebusters have built a market wide recycling infrastructure for hard to recycle plastic toys and plush. We are working with them to drive a national campaign called Recycle to Read (R2R), working with the Children’s Literacy Trust to deliver the programme across schools and retail, children will bring in toys/plush/clothing/waste electronic to be swapped in school and at retail for eco points, the eco point will buy schools books and equipment to aid education. The R2R programme launches for Waste Week in March 2021 and is currently looking for all producers and brand owners to become part of the programme, you can find out more here https://toytakeback.org. For the Wastebuster campaign we are also working with EPPIC (the extended plastic partnership for innovation within circularity) September 2020 | toy news | 53


Sustainability

for their flexibles infrastructure which has just launched with the Co-Op and will roll out across retail in the coming months, as well as building a plastics group within Products of Change that is lobbying for parity with plastic signposting, we are working with WRAP, OPRL and a handful of leaders to achieve this. When we focus on toys, the design stage seems the most fundamental to promote sustainability with, design sustainability into a product from the outset. How integral do you think this is to the idea of sustainability in the children's space? The design stage is one of the most important stages of creating sustainable product, It’s so much harder and more costly to add sustainability in at the end of producing something. Designing sustainably is more than just using a recycled material, it’s also asking questions like what happens at the end of life of a product and how do you design so that it can be easily recycled, how do you keep a product in circulation (are there bits that can be reused?) etc. We are designing products for the future generation, a generation who is more aware of climate change than we were and is leading their purchasing decisions. We also have to work together to educate consumers, currently big box means big value, we have created that, so we can reverse that rule and build new value in. The packaging can

becomes an integrated part of the toy (not to be thrown away) the opening of a product a positive experience, I’m looking forward to seeing some creative packaging solutions coming through over the next few months. Do you think the toy industry is being reactive enough to the issue of sustainability? Big question - is it right to be reactive, or should businesses be setting the standard for the consumer? I think that the full consumer goods industry is being reactive, there’s a few standout leaders like Unilever, Ikea, LEGO that have been building sustainable practices into their business for the last ten years, but they still have their challenges. Even the fashion industry who is ahead of the toy industry started the conversation with launching small collections of ‘eco’ product, priced higher as an alternative for the consumer, not necessarily looking at delivering every day sustainable product at a fair price, however there are a few leaders two being Asda and H&M, delivering their everyday sustainable clothing at the same price. The needle is moving with many companies now stating their intentions of what they want to achieve over the next ten years to become a more sustainable business, we need to have the faith that this will all be delivered. Can you talk us through the Sustainability in Licensing Conference

- what have you got planned for the big event this year... and however it may look this year? Yes of course, the event has been pushed back to November the 25th due to Covid, we would absolutely love to still run the event physical but with guidelines changing daily we are tracking them to see what our options are for the November date. Covid related issues aside the conference was created to be the starting point for the industry to learn more and build sustainable practices in their business. We have an amazing line up of presenters talking about the importance of design, new ways of thinking such as the circular economy, new technologies such as break down plastic and new tech within manufacturing, through to marketing, insights and finance, our aim is to touch on all the core pillars of creating a more sustainable business for the industry. Thanks Helena, anything you'd like to shout about? I’m just really pleased that the conversation has started, we have a long way to go but I do believe that together we can do this, we can no longer use sustainability as a competitive advantage, we must share the knowledge we have to accelerate change and start to reimaging what a sustainable future will look like across the full supply chain and end of product life. My ambition is that through Products of Change we can cooperatively achieve this change together.


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