Progressive Preschool August 2023

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ISSUE 64 AUGUST 2023 The B2B Publication For Preschool Products and Retailers
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is the new online resource for the preschool product and retail sector. From the publishers of Progressive Preschool Magazine and the organisers of the Progressive Preschool Awards, this new website and e-newsflash portal will provide the very latest news, views, and analysis across the preschool product and retail sector.

e may be in the midst of the long summer break – sunny or otherwise, depending on where you are in the world – but thoughts in many camps have already turned to the autumn trade fair season.

In the world of preschool, the autumn period is key and, possibly for the first year since the pandemic, this has probably never been more evident than in 2023.

First in the calendar, and Autumn Fair (3-6 September) has been busy promoting its new Connect initiative which aims to link up exhibitors and buyers more effectively.

WLaunching with an unrivalled email subscriber base of 12,087 readers, a twice weekly newsflash will land directly in the inboxes of everyone in this fast-paced industry. A modern, easy to navigate website will provide a central resource for the trade too, offering news, in-depth articles, an industry jobs board, retail analysis, digital issues of Progressive Preschool, and much much more.

The industry then heads to Cologne for Kind + Jugend (7-9 September), with the show organiser Koelnmesse confident it will be able to return to its former strength when it comes to visitor numbers, thanks to international travel to trade shows returning. This is already being borne out by the exhibitor numbers for the show –around 850 at time of writing, twice as many as last year.

Fast forward another few weeks, and it’s New York’s turn, and the eagerly awaited debut of Toy Fair in its

new autumn slot (30 September to 3 October). The signs are also good here – speaking to The Toy Association for this issue, almost 1,000 companies had signed up to exhibit, while registration was up 7% over Toy Fair 2020 (the last time the show took place). Crucially too, buyers from over 1,400 retail outlets spanning all 50 US states and 59 countries and territories, including 22 of the top 25 sellers representing the $40 billion US toy market have registered to attend. Yes, the US retail landscape is markedly different to the UK, however buy in from retailers to trade shows is the holy grail and The Toy Association should be applauded for the work it has done behind the scenes on ‘The Toy Fair Reimagination Project’.

Back to London, and Brand Licensing Europe (4-6 October) will welcome toy, children’s and baby buyers from retailers as varied as Primark, M&S, My 1st Years, Next, Frasers Group, Asda and The Entertainer, to name just a few.

The magazine and awards do a great job in joining the dots between toy, nursery, gift, apparel, publishing, and of course licensingand this digital offering will further enhance our position as a trade media partner that offers a tangible response to advertising investment.

The popularity of BLE with the preschool industry continues to underline the importance of brands within the space. And it’s not just character and entertainment brands any more either… brands from the

Copyright 2023. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information in this magazine was correct at the time of going to press, the publishers cannot accept legal liability for any errors or omissions, nor can they accept responsibility for the standing of advertisers nor any organisation mentioned in the text. Views of contributors do not necessarily reflect those of the publishers.


heritage and museums arena are beginning to make their mark, while companies such as Casdon have known about the power of lifestyle brands for some time, with its latest collaboration with Joseph Joseph proving incredibly popular.

For Harrogate International Nursery Fair (15-17 October), four of the five halls were almost fully booked by March – a strong indication that it is shaping up to be a ‘not to be missed’ event. There is still space in Hall Q for last minute exhibitors; check out our story on page seven for details.

Also, don’t forget to put Tuesday 14 November in your diaries for the Progressive Preschool Awards. The finalists announcement is imminent and it’s the perfect event to end your autumn in style.

advertising on the website is duplicated to each and every newsflash, giving advertisers huge visibility and direct impact to retail buyers.

The team at Progressive Preschool is looking forward to catching up with as many of you as possible at the upcoming events. Until then, enjoy the rest of the summer.

The Progressive Preschool Team

For the latest news visit

03 Max Publishing Ltd, United House, North Road, London N7 9DP T: 020 7700 6740 F: 020 7607 6411 ISSN 2515-8570
Above: Harrogate International Nursery Fair 2023 is shaping up to be a ‘not to be missed’ event.
AND CONTENT: Jacqui Parr Sam Loveday is published by preschool sector experts… All advertising on the website is duplicated to each and every newsflash, giving advertisers huge visibility and direct impact to retail buyers. Preschoo News net is published by preschool sector experts, for preschool trade experts. PreschoolNews net is the new online resource for the preschool product and retail sector. From the publishers of Progressive Preschool Magazine and the organisers of the Progressive Preschool Awards, this new website and e-newsflash portal will provide the very latest news, views, and analysis across the preschool product and retail sector. Launching with an unrivalled email subscriber base of 12,087 readers, a twice weekly newsflash will land directly in the inboxes of everyone in this fast-paced industry. A modern, easy to navigate website will provide a central resource for the trade too, offering news, in-depth articles, an industry jobs board, retail analysis, digital issues of Progressive Preschool, and much much more. The magazine and awards do a great job in joining the dots between toy, nursery, gift, apparel, publishing, and of course licensingand this digital offering will further enhance our position as a trade media partner that offers a tangible response to advertising investment. @Prog_Preschool PreschoolNews Advert 165 x 245_Layout 1 04/01/2018 16:20 Page 1
P r e s c h o o l N e w s . n e t is published
P r e s c h o o l N e w s . n e t
by preschool sector experts, for preschool trade experts.
@Prog_Preschool PreschoolNews Advert 165 x 245_Layout 1 04/01/2018 16:20 Page 1 Follow us at: LEADER
05 CONTENTS WHAT'S INSIDE For the latest news visit Meet The Team Rob Jo Pilcher 06 News The latest updates from across the preschool industry. 11 GfK Difficult decisions for first time parents. 13 Parents Insights Sustainability shaping the face of the toy industry. 15 Guest Columnist Katy Rugman, product and marketing director at The Puppet Company, on why Elmer was the perfect licence to help the business enter its next chapter. 18 Industry Roundtable The power of working with influencers. 23 Show Preview Kind + Jugend 29 Sector Focus Licensed Preschool Apparel. 34 Focus on… Sustainability 38 Show Preview Toy Fair (New York) 2023 41 Executive Profile Mitch Levene, chief operating officer at Green Sheep Group, in the hotseat. 43 Retailer in Numbers From the Stork Bespoke Baby, Trentham. Samantha Katie Gary 23 29 34

Toy Fair achieves highest re-booking rate in many years

Toy Fair – which is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2024 – has attained its highest rebooking rate in many years with more than 90% of the exhibition space being re-sold to returning exhibitors.

In addition, the show has also received more than 60 new applications, some from companies returning after a period of absence, some brand new.

Exhibitors looking to repeat a successful 2023 showing earlier this year include the likes of Golden Bear Toys,

Vivid Goliath, LEGO, Ty, Hasbro UK, Orchard Toys, Zapf Creation, Basic Fun! and Character Options among others.

Toy Fair will return to London’s Olympia from 23-25 January 2024 across the Grand and National Halls (including both galleries), with the entire ground floor and popular Greenhouse area for smaller companies already sold out.

“We are blown away by the support and loyalty the show continues to receive from its returning exhibitors,” commented Majen

Immink, BTHA’s head of Toy Fair. “It’s incredible to achieve such a high rate of re-bookings especially in the current climate, which reaffirms the value and importance the industry places on the fair. We continue to work hard to maintain the event’s relevance and hugely appreciate and acknowledge this ongoing support notably as we reflect back on the success of the past 70 years of Toy Fair.”

Majen continued: “With many new applicants still to allocate and

JoJo Maman Bébé’s Helping Hands initiative returns

For the second year, JoJo Maman Bébé is running its Helping Hands initiative, supporting local community projects in the UK and Ireland.

Registered charities, not for profit organisations and local community projects are being encourage to apply (until 15 August) for a chance to win £10,000. Entries will be shortlisted by the nursery brand’s board of directors, with six winners then selected by public vote.

The winning community projects will be announced in September.

Previous winners of the initiative include grassroots social enterprise, It Takes A Village; community centre, café and library, THE HUB; Creative Minds, which helps to improve the mental health and wellbeing of children, adults and young people who have suffered trauma; and The Little Ted Foundation, which provides grants and getaways to families across the UK with seriously ill children and bereaved

families who have sadly lost a child.

“Connection with our communities has always been at the heart of JoJo,” commented Gwynn Milligan, ceo at JoJo Maman Bébé. "Chosen by our customers,

our community grants will provide much-needed funds to key local initiatives and not-for-profits to help deliver or improve a project that supports the community we are a part of.”

For the latest news visit

Above: JoJo Maman Bébé will successfully launched the Helping Hands initiative in 2022.


“The team very much looks forward to welcoming the industry back in January and celebrating the show’s 70th year by creating some nostalgic moments whilst also eager to witness the many incredible new products launching at the show and throughout 2024.”

considerable ongoing enquiries, we are working with the venue throughout the redevelopments with regards to possible

expansion of the show’s footprint in order to accommodate the growing appetite for space.

Are you ready for Harrogate?

With the countdown to Harrogate International Nursery Fair in October continuing apace, the show organiser is urging both exhibitors and visitors to confirm the logistics of their trips, including accommodation.

"Harrogate is a beautiful North Yorkshire town and a popular tourist destination too,” commented Adrian Sneyd, show organiser. “With so many people attending Harrogate International Nursery Fair, both exhibitors and visitors, hotels and guest houses could be booked to capacity, so the earlier people reserve their accommodation the better."

Nursery Fair has teamed up with Mice Concierge ( which has secured rooms in the town's major hotels from as little as £109 per night. This includes Doubletree by Hilton Majestic, Crowne Plaza, The Crown, The Harrogate Inn, The Yorkshire and The Old Swan (to name a few). It can also offer preferential rates at venues such as Rudding Park and The Grafton.

Visitors attending the show – which runs from 15-17 October - are also being reminded to ensure they register for the event as soon as possible to ensure they

Companies still considering exhibiting are encouraged to apply as soon as possible to avoid missing out. Apply online at www.toyfair. For exhibitor and sponsorship enquiries, please contact Rebecca@ or phone 020 7701 7271. Visitor registration will open in early October.

receive regular newsletters with show and exhibitor information, plus details of special show offers.

For companies wishing to exhibit at the show, some space remains in Hall Q. Email Adrian on adrian@ for further details.


Harrogate International Nursery Fair.

For the latest news visit

Adrian Sneyd, show organiser,
Above: The entire ground floor and popular Greenhouse area for smaller companies have already sold out for Toy Fair 2024. 07.–09.09.2023 NEW PERSPECTIVES FOR YOUR BUSINESS International Business Media Services Ltd. 42 Christchurch Road, Ringwood BH24 1DN, Tel. +44 1425 48 68 30 SECURE YOUR TICKETS NOW!

Click Europe secures major Playmobil deal

Click Europe has become an approved UK distributor for Playmobil, with the company now distributing new, exclusive ranges to the UK market, as well as end of line discounted stock and pre-filled FSDUs with in-store support materials.

Click Europe has been an approved Playmobil UK stockist since March 2020 and has recently expanded its wholesale distribution network to enhance both scale and product offering, further building on its strong ties with the Playmobil brand.

The two companies have previously joined forces to enhance their marketing expertise and run joint promotional competitions, including influencer campaigns which further raise awareness of product lines and the brand.

The next collaboration will be towards the end of summer, with Click Europe set to run a competition across Facebook and Instagram, complementing Playmobil’s series of TV ads across the Pop and Tiny pop networks.

“At Click Europe, we’re always looking to enhance our product portfolio with brands that are known and trusted,” commented Steve Finch, md at Click Europe. “Playmobil, with its heritage and reputation for imaginative play truly fits with our core values of timeless, family, fun.

“I’m so proud that we can now add ‘approved UK distributor’ to our offering and am excited to see where our already

flourishing relationship with Playmobil takes us.”

Alf Blohm, head of sales and operations at Playmobil, continued: “We are delighted to have Click Europe as an approved UK distributor. Their commitment to quality and their understanding of the toy market make them an ideal partner for us.”

Below: The addition of Playmobil has further enhanced Click Europe’s product portfolio.

Aldi now second favourite supermarket among UK parents

New data from The Insights Family has found that Aldi has overtaken Asda in the last year to become the second favourite supermarket among UK parents.

Parents Insights – which is the UK’s largest ongoing tracker on UK families’ attitudes, behaviour and consumption

by surveying more than 10,000 UK parents every year – has seen that Aldi’s popularity in Q1 2023 has increased by +27% since Q1 2022.

This means it has now overtaken Asda as the second favourite supermarket among parents of kids, tweens and teens (1-16 year olds) in the UK.

In addition, Aldi is closing in on Tesco’s reign as the go-to supermarket for UK families, with just 7% more UK families reporting to choose Tesco over Aldi in Q1 of this year. However, this gap has reduced by -40% since the

start of 2022 as Aldi’s popularity has grown significantly.

According to Parents Insights UK, the top three concerns for UK families currently are all financially related, be it living costs (21%), money (14%) and the economy (6.2%), with this growing by +10% in the last year.

Notably in Q1 2023, UK parents that reported Aldi to be their favourite supermarket chain over-indexed on all three of these concerns compared to the average household, indicating that its low-cost approach to grocery retail was winning over their hearts against long-standing brands.

This low-cost approach is what seems to be driving Aldi’s favourability among UK families, with 1 in 4 parents saying it is their favourite supermarket chain and a growth of +3% since January this year.

Inset: 1 in 4 parents now say that Aldi is their favourite supermarket chain, according to Parents Insights data.



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In June 2023, the total market for Baby Care started to decline versus the period January to June 2022. At a topline level, total market value remained flat year on year but continued to be 8% behind its preCovid position in 2019.

Volume sales continue to decline, dropping 9% when comparing January to June 2023 against the same period last year. Volume is now 26% behind 2019.

The average price for a Baby Care product continued to rise, up 10% versus 2022. However, not all of this increase is due to inflation as consumers shift to premium brands and products.

The majority of the volume in Baby Care is still purchased instore, but only 51% of the value is accounted for by these purchases.

In-store value was up 41% in the last six months, online value was also up, but only by 12%.

In-store volume is falling slower than online, down 6% while online has declined 8% year-on-year.


It is well known that having a baby is expensive and for first-time parents costs can quickly mount. The average price for basic supplies in year one of a baby’s life as tracked by GfK totals approximately £1,705. This is based on average prices over the last six months, which is up 6% on the same period in 2022 - not quite as high as we report at a total market level for a baby product.

This is the cost for one child (based on products for newborns and the first year of life: 10 bottles with teats, a car seat with a base, a highchair, baby

monitor, eight soothers, two teethers, bottle warmer, bottle sterilizer, stroller, breast pump, three tubes of nipple cream and nursing pads three a day for 180 days). This figure excludes the nappies, clothing and furniture that parents will also need to buy. The most expensive items are a car seat and a stroller. However, basic supplies to care for and protect mum can also quickly add up if you are using disposable nursing pads and nipple creams.


Having a second child increases costs further, but not all products may need to be purchased again. Clothes, furniture, and even items such as soothers and bottles can be reused. However, parents may need to purchase additional car seats which could be costly if a second base is also required. This alone can increase costs by up to 50%. Parents may also choose to change their current stroller to a double - or may just want to have an additional stroller which will increase prices again.


Parents also have a number of other factors to consider. When purchasing car seats for any height/weight, parents will pay on average 104% more to upgrade from an R44 seat to an R129. To scale up from a digital audio-only baby monitor to a smart monitor with app compatibility comes in at an average of 460% extra. The move from plastic to alternative materials like wood and silicone can also be very costly. Prices for eco-friendly highchairs are 167% higher, and shoppers can expect to pay 71% more for ‘green’ tableware and 192% more for teethers.


For the remainder of the year, GfK expects the market to decline in terms of volume. Value will remain stable if price inflation continues, but as we approach the end of the year, we forecast value to decline. Premium products and brands will continue to be popular with consumers, and we expect spending at this end of the market to continue, especially if parents want the best money can buy.

1 © GfK Upgrading to the ‘best’ Great Britain – Total Baby Care Source: GfK GB PoS Data. Data based on dates January 2023-June 2023. R44 > R129 +104% Digital Audio Only > Smart App Compatible +460% Plastic > Bamboo/Silicone +71% Plastic > Wood +167% Plastic > Silicone/Wood +104%
GfK’s Emma Wade discusses the latest total Baby Care market performance and examines cost considerations for new parents.
Don’t miss your chance! FOUR halls fully SOLD OUT Space options available now in final hall Don’t miss out! Send in your stand request online TODAY Harrogate International NURSERY FAIR 15th - 17th October 2023 Email: Tel: 01902 880906


The Insights Family looks at how eco-conscious parents are driving a significant transformation in the toy industry as they increasingly prioritise environmentally friendly products, compelling manufacturers and brands to re-evaluate their practices.

The prevalence of sustainability as an attitude among parents has propelled the ascent of sustainable toys, emerging as a defining trend that will undoubtedly shape the future of the toy market. This article talks about the remarkable impact of this shift on children, exploring the growing popularity of sustainable toys, and charting an insightful trajectory for the industry's progression towards a greener, more sustainable industry landscape.

A significant shift in parental attitudes is evident, with environmental concerns now ranking amongst their top ten worries, according to Kids Insights data from June 2022 up until July 2023. Our Parents Insights UK data in Q2 reveals that 15% of parents with children between the ages of 3-5 expressed their concern about environmental issues, representing a +4% increase in

Q2 of this year when compared to the same quarter last year. Our Parents Insights UK data also reveals that while purchasing products, 48% of parents of 3-5s, in the past year, stated that they considered eco-friendliness as a preferred criterion while making shopping related decisions.

Interestingly, preschoolers (3-5) in the UK demonstrated a growing concern for the environment. Our Q2 data shows that the environment is currently the eighth biggest concern for 3-5s in the UK (9%). When comparing both genders, our data reveals that girls (52% of 9%) are slightly more likely to express environmental concerns when compared with boys (48% of 9%), when considering Q2 of 2023.

According to Kids Insights data, in Q2 2023, 38% of children in this age group have expressed awareness of the impact of their actions on the environment. The data further reveals that such environmental concerns saw a

+17% increase in Q2 compared to Q1.

Recognising the importance of sustainability and responding to market demands, several toy companies are taking bold initiatives. For instance, LEGO is one of the many companies announcing its plans to use recycled materials from plastic bottles in the manufacturing of toys. LEGO’s 2025 Strategy for sustainability by mandating all packaging to be of renewable or recycled materials also showcases a visionary approach to a greener future. This is significant given the immense popularity of LEGO among kids. According to Kids Insights UK data, LEGO has maintained its position on top, being the most favourite toy to play with for 3-5s in the past year.

Similarly, Mattel is also making significant strides towards sustainability. Last year, Mattel announced its Goal to Reduce Plastic Packaging by 25% per Product by 2030. According to our Kids Insights data Barbie ranks on the top (12%) as the new toys preschool girls (3-5) would like to own, when considering data from Jan 2023 onwards up until now. Similarly, Hot Wheels is among the top five new toys that boys 3-5 would like to own in the same time period.

A commitment to sustainability and adoption of responsible practices is expected to become more ubiquitous in the toy industry in the near future. As more and more families prioritise ecofriendly products, the industry is poised to undergo a transformative shift. Toy companies must continue investing in research and development to discover innovative materials and manufacturing techniques that reduce environmental impact. Moreover, technology offers exciting opportunities for sustainability in the toy industry. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) toys can provide immersive experiences without excessive use of physical materials. These innovative toys can spark children's creativity and learning while significantly reducing waste.

The Insights Family is the global leader in kids, parents, and family market intelligence, providing real-time data on attitudes, behaviours and consumption patterns.

Sign up to receive our latest Industry Knowledge report discussing the growing influence that British kids have over family spending here: https://go.theinsightsfamily. com/kids-influence.


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I’ve been involved in the wonderful world of puppets since I was 11 years old – our family business, set up by my parents who were both ex-teachers on a mission to share joy. Our company motto is ‘have a puppet – have fun’ and as both a business and a family we’re always looking at new ways of sharing the magic and power of puppets. Enter Elmer, the iconic Patchwork Elephant loved by millions around the world and the newest addition to our Puppet family, marking the start of a new chapter for a whole lot more fun to be had. Everything we do is about encouraging children to learn through play, to use their imaginations and to have fun. Elmer the most-loved elephant is the perfect partner to start our licensing journey, being all about sharing stories, celebrating diversity and making people smile. We have been approached by many different licences over the years, but have never found quite the right fit. Having worked in the licensing industry myself many moons ago, I was also hesitant – we are so passionate about what we do that to take on a new licence had to be something really special, and from our first conversations with Andersen

Press we knew we had found it.

First published by Andersen Press in 1989, Elmer the Patchwork Elephant remains one of the most iconic and widely read children’s books of all time. Written and illustrated by the late, great David McKee, it has sold over


lectures on the use of puppets in our early days, I’ve experienced first-hand just how useful puppets are as teaching aids and opening up new play value. Our whole team are passionate about early years education and the benefits of sustainable, creative play. Our Elmer puppets provide a great way for children to develop core skills and are perfect for increasing interaction, imaginative play and language development. Being puppets they also help with refining motor skills through the use of finger and hand manipulation.

The introduction of Elmer at this point in our journey comes as we enter a new chapter of exploring new ways of sharing the magic of puppets and we are so pleased to have started with such a firm favourite.

ten million copies worldwide and shows no signs of slowing down.

In line with all our in-house puppets and soft toys, our Elmer hand puppet and finger puppets have been specifically designed to be both affordable and accessible to as many people as possible. Puppets are wonderful tools to help young children especially engage and relate to and have a huge variety of uses including encouraging speech and language development in young children. Growing up around teachers and sitting in on

We also have another very exciting licence launching next year that will sit alongside our own in-house products and be the perfect friend for Elmer as we continue to bring stories and imagination to life. The arrival of Elmer this year also coincides with the start of some really exciting other partnerships and projects, including working to support children and families with some amazing charity partners. We love that Elmer champions diversity and inclusivity and are really excited to be working on some amazing new puppets celebrating these themes to help raise funds and awareness for some really key causes.

Having loved Elmer myself as a child and now reading (and rereading) it to my young son, I am so excited to see how our Elmer puppets will bring story time to life and help inspire imaginations for the littlest readers and beyond.

Katy Rugman,
at The
Company, discusses why Elmer the Patchwork Elephant was the perfect licence to help the business enter its next chapter.
Katy Rugman, product and marketing director, The Puppet Company.
“ Everything we do is about encouraging children to learn through play, to use their imaginations and to have fun. ”
Left: The introduction of the Elmer brand marks the start of a new chapter for The Puppet Company. @misirliukltd @misirliuk @misirliuklimited
“D elivering innovation, qualit y and value on time....ever y time.”
“D elivering qualit y and value on time....ever y
For license enquires contact: Shannon McGregor Email: T: +44(0) 116 2645 860 Shannon McGregor 860


PPS is joined by leading executives from the nursery sectorKerry Anderson, marketing manager, Joolz; Anne de Montbel, area manager, BabyBjörn; Anna Owers, iCandy PR manager; and Jen Fuller, ceo and Etta’s mum, Etta Loves – to discuss their work with influencers, the success of their campaigns and what impact collaborations have on sales.


Anne: “We have been working with influencers for years and believe it is an effective way to reach our target audience and showcase products in an authentic and relatable manner. We plan campaigns strategically throughout the year. The frequency varies depending on product launches, seasonal campaigns, and other marketing initiatives.”

Kerry: “Influencers have been a part of Joolz marketing for the last 10 years plus, and have grown in importance over the years. We always consider influencer campaigns when launching new products, as well as continuing to build ongoing relationships to promote our core product range in a way that feels organic and authentic.”

Anna: “iCandy has been working closely with influencers for many years now and has a successful track record of strategic collaborations and partnerships. Our extended iCandy family includes high profile influencers and celebrities such as Molly-Mae Hague, Zara Phillips, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, the Beckhams and many more. We plan our collaborations to

align with our overall PR and marketing strategy, linked to either a product launch, campaign or key focus.”

Jen: “We’ve been working with influencers in some capacity since we launched in 2016; it’s always been an important part of our social/PR strategy, but the role and value of influencers has changed as both we’ve grown and social media has evolved. We have an always-on strategy, engaging with and gifting to people as they announce their pregnancy or have their baby, and we keep in touch as their baby grows.”


“It’s really important for us to work with influencers who are genuine and authentic, and families who really love Joolz as a brand and are excited by the products we offer. It’s key for us to work with influencers that feel like the right fit, rather than to just gift anyone with a larger following. We look to work together with micro and even nano influencers, and hopefully help them grow their personal brand over the

Anne de Montbel Kerry Anderson Anna Owers Jen Fuller Left: Babybjörn works on long-term partnerships with its influencers.

Above: Etta Loves doesn’t work on paid campaigns, but gifts items in return for a request of a mention.

Above middle: Men’s fashion and lifestyle content creator, Kwadwo Benko, works with iCandy.

partnership too – this quite often lasts many years, and many babies.”

Anna: “Authenticity and a true affinity with the brand is vital to iCandy. We feel very passionate about who we work with and ultimately, the aim is to create meaningful content to share with our loyal customer base, as well as ensuring that the influencer’s overall personal brand aligns with our own core values.

We very much prioritise diversity and authenticity by working with real families from all walks of life. We are selective about the influencers we choose to partner with as this will have a significant impact on overall brand perception. It’s important we truly connect with our audience whilst also demonstrating our brand's commitment to inclusivity.”

Jen: “We work in collaboration with our UK and US PR agencies to decide who we’d like to gift to, as well as directly contacting people. We look at their audience and engagement levels, their tone of voice, and critically we need their values to align with ours – making sure they are a supportive and warm voice. We work with both huge and micro influencers and the results are often surprising. We don’t pay to work with influencers, instead offering product in return for a request of a mention or visibility so it is somewhat hit and miss given that they don’t have to mention us.”

Anne: “When selecting influencers, we carefully assess several key factors to ensure a strong and authentic fit for our brand. The primary considerations include:

Relevance: We look for influencers whose content aligns with our products, audience and brand values.

Engagement: We prioritise influencers with a highly engaged and loyal following, as this indicates a deeper connection with their audience.

Credibility: We seek influencers who have established trust within their community.

Geographic reach: Since we operate in multiple markets, we consider influencers with a strong presence in our key markets.

Safety and family focus: We ensure the influencers we collaborate with share these values and prioritise the wellbeing of children and parents.”


Anne: “Yes, we have observed direct impacts on sales. When influencers authentically promote our products and share positive experiences, it resonates with their followers, leading to increased interest and demand. The personal touch and trust established by influencers often result in higher conversion rates and a positive impact on sales.”

Jen: “It depends on who has mentioned us and what they’ve said. Some of our biggest mentions in terms of follower numbers haven’t done anything notable, whereas a mention from a smaller influencer can have an instant lift on sales, as in general a smaller influencer will give a fuller explanation to what makes our products so special. We definitely feel there is a value from working with influencers, but it’s certainly not a quick win most of the time”.

Kerry: “We have seen sales impact but also traffic, social following and brand awareness, which is just as important. We are now working with more retailers on influencer partnerships, which is going really well and helps to build awareness of our stockists too.”

Anna: “This can vary from campaign to campaign, but we often see an immediate correlation between sales and when activity goes live, particularly with some of our more highprofile influencers.”


Jen: “We ran a baby sensory zoom event in the UK last month and the groundswell from the 10 influencers who attended live, and subsequently talked about or showed the event and our products, was very positive for awareness and sales. It also gave them a genuine utility above and beyond gifting the products.”

Anna: “iCandy is currently collaborating with Molly-Mae Hague on the Peach 7 in Biscotti and this is our most successful high-profile partnership. Molly is a wonderful ambassador and her genuine love and enthusiasm for the pushchair has been evident since day one. She is a pleasure

Above right: Etta Loves works with both huge and micro influencers and says the results are often surprising.
Lilliputiens creations are full of unexpected details and activities, a constant source of wonder, discovering and learning. Juratoys UK Ltd. Tel: 0208 878 2133 E:

Inset: Babybjörn encourages influencers to create content that showcases products in various real-life scenarios.

Measuring impact: Use appropriate metrics and tracking tools to measure the impact of campaigns, including engagement, click-through rates, and conversion rates. Long-term relationships: Build long-term relationships with influencers to establish lasting partnerships and advocacy.”

Jen: “Have realistic expectations and a clear brief. Sometimes smaller influencers can have a far bigger punch when it comes to awareness, engagement and sales, so test out what works best for your objectives – is it awareness, understanding, followers or sales? Choose people who show a genuine interest in your brand, as they will always deliver a more authentic representation and in doing so will capture the attention of more people.”

with and, as a brand based so close to her hometown, the partnership has felt like a natural fit from the beginning. The response has been incredible, with pre-orders impressively exceeding our expectations.”

Kerry: “Over the years we’ve had some fantastic collaborations, with mega influencers and celebrities, but just as important as the peaks they create, are the continuing relationships and coverage from our dedicated network of micro and nano influencers.”

Anne: “One of our most successful partnerships was with a well-known parenting influencer who had a substantial following. The influencer created engaging content showcasing how our baby carrier simplified her daily routines and brought her closer to her child. The campaign not only generated a significant increase in product awareness and interest, but also led to a substantial boost in sales.”


Kerry: “Clear campaign objectives but a fluid approach with the aim of building a relationship so that organic content is created far longer than fulfilling the basic obligations of an agreement.”

Anna: “We always aim to allow creative freedom, and trust that influencers know their audience best. Allowing them to exercise creativity is key to content landing successfully. Naturally, we oversee every campaign to ensure deliverables are met and products are being represented safely and correctly, but we avoid micromanaging.

We believe in building long-term relationships with our influencers, and provide many of them with converter kits for their iCandy prams as their families grow. In our experience, this means the influencer is more invested in us, and we trust them to produce high-quality content, often way outside of their agreed deliverables.”

Anne: “Clear communication: Provide influencers with a thorough understanding of our brand values, product features, and objectives to ensure alignment and effective messaging.

Diverse content: Encourage influencers to create content that showcases products in various real-life scenarios and situations.


Jen: “Yes, I believe so. We are constantly assessing who we work with and how we engage with more families and potential ambassadors for Etta Loves. On a practical level, not having a baby anymore myself, means that we need to get our products into new family’s hands to show the magic, as seeing really is believing.”

Anne: “We firmly believe influencers will continue to play a crucial role in our marketing mix in the future. Influencer marketing allows us to connect with our target audience on a more personal level, and enables us to showcase the benefits and features of our products in a relatable and authentic manner.”

Anna: “Absolutely. The future of influencer marketing looks set to stay. However, it is a fast-paced, ever-evolving industry so it is vital that brands stay on top of trends such as working with micro-influencers and integrating AI.”

Below: Molly Mae’s collaboration with iCandy on the new Peach 7 in Biscotti has been the brand’s most successful collaboration to date.


For 2023, the organiser of Kind + Jugend is focusing on bringing back more national and international visitors to the event.

Markus Majerus, communications manager for the show organiser, Koelnmesse, explains: “As we have been able to attract a very respectable field of exhibitors, we are very confident that we will be able to return to the old strength of Kind + Jugend in terms of visitors this year.

“Our aim is, and remains, to make Kind + Jugend the best possible business platform for the international baby and toddler trade.”

Koelnmesse is seeing international travel to trade shows returning. Markus tells us: “Companies are now striving to be more sustainable, so instead of many customer visits and meetings during the year, the trade meets all relevant suppliers at one time, in one place. This is also proven by the number of exhibitors at this year’s Kind + Jugend. With around 850 exhibitors, there are currently twice as many as last year.”

Exhibitors at this year’s show come from across Europe and further afield, including from Turkey, India, Pakistan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Israel, Thailand and the US. Koelnmesse sees this and a range of other factors as key in drawing in international visitors: “Many well-known brands are back for the first time this year after the Covid break.

“We are particularly proud of the fact that we have also been able to win back many large and marketleading companies. These include Joie, Nuna, Graco, Britax Romer, Thule, Uppababy and more. Cybex will also


The annual Innovation Awards will return for 2023. Markus says: “This year, 120 applications were received for the Innovation Awards. This shows how renowned and established this competition is in our industry. Here, too, the entrants come from 45 countries. It is further enhanced by the World of Sustainability category introduced last year and the new Midwives’ Choice Award which will be awarded for the first time in 2023.”

often impressively innovative ideas, is fully booked.”

Kind + Jugend reports a high calibre of visitors to past shows too, with 77% in management positions and 92% involved in purchasing decisions.

Aside from the strength of exhibitors and visitors, the show offers a range of content and events to enhance visitors’ experiences. Markus concludes: “In terms of content, we expect the topics of sustainability and smart technology to play a major role and visitors can expect to see innovative ideas in all areas of our industry.

be there again, albeit with a smaller presence.

“In addition, there is a large number of other top brands that contribute to the attractiveness of the show. But Kind + Jugend is also an important business platform for many small and medium sized companies. In my opinion, the special charm of the fair is that, in addition to the large players in the industry, many young companies and start-ups are also represented. Our Start-up area, which is reserved for young and newly founded companies, with their

“Our events such as the After Six event are the places where many a business deal has been initiated in a relaxed atmosphere. Also Cologne, our host city, offers all the opportunities and a top infrastructure for socialising after a long day at the fair. All these points together make Kind + Jugend so unique.”

Following a successful return to its full event post-Covid in 2022, Kind + Jugend is heading to Koelnmesse, Cologne from 7 – 9 September, 2023. Progressive Preschool finds out what the plans are for this year’s show.
Below: Many major exhibitors are back for 2023, including Britax Romer. Above: The awards feature a new Midwives’ Choice category this year, awarded to three products.

4-in-1 multi-mode pram

For more information and all sale enquiries, please contact Joie on 01889 808 900 or email:

*infant carrier and carry cot sold separately


CYBEX introduces its Platinum Collection Change featuring elevated design updates and five new colours for the iconic PRIAM, e-PRIAM, MIOS and COŸA strollers, as well as the PLATINUM FOOTMUFF. Created

Tel: 0121 2708301


Joie is updating its car seat range to bring them in line with the latest R129 standard, and the latest launch is the elevate R129.

Elevate R129 is suitable from 76cm – 150cm (approximately 15 months to 12 years) and has a wellmarked coloured installation path and dual lock offs, making it easy to install with a three-point seat belt. Elevate R129 is i-Size certified when in the belted booster mode and has a GrowTogether headrest and harness which adjust simultaneously. Comfort is key with ventilated sides and a plush, memory foam seat pad, as well as removable machine washable covers.

Tel: 01889 808900



with the strongest attention to excellence, the new palette features a range of elegant, classic yet modern colours: Sepia Black, Mirage Grey, Off White, Peach Pink and Leaf Green.


With its innovative approach to baby essentials, Etta Loves is now launching its very first range of bath toys. With a fun, underwater theme, each toy is hand painted on one side with raised features on the reverse, for a physical sensory experience as well as a visual one. The high contrast black, white and yellow colours will engage even the youngest of bathers. Made from 100% natural rubber, they are as good for chewing as they are for water play. They are also fully sealed so no nasties can get in.


Nuna’s PIPA urbn is the only baseless infant car seat with a built-in ISOFIX system that is seemingly integrated into the car seat, enabling it to install in seconds into taxis and cars and weighs an ultralight 3.3kg. It is super-portable and features a one-handed vehicle and pushchair release for effortless transfers, making it the most genius way of travelling around town with baby. Equipped with a three-point harness and side impact protection for ultimate baby safekeeping, along with a Merino wool headrest and body insert that supports growing babies.

Tel: 0800 9520062

Axkid has introduced a new 4-in-1 bike trailer in a move outside its range of award-winning car seats. The Axkid Grand Tour offers a versatile solution for parents, with the option to use it as a trailer, a running buggy, stroller, or extra storage. Continuing its passion for child safety, Axkid’s new product boasts a range of features to offer maximum comfort, security, and adaptability for families. With its fully versatile functions, the Grand Tour Bike trailer offers an adjustable handle and suspension system, making it perfect for going off-road. Tiltable seats are ideal for allowing young babies to lie flat, or for extra storage.


Come and see our multi award winning mother and baby gifting collections. ENESCO LIMITED, Brunthill Road, Kingstown, Carlisle, Cumbria, England, CA3 0EN. UK Customer Services Telephone: 01228 404022 Email: Overseas Customer Services Telephone: +44 1228 404066 Email: Cologne, 7th – 9th September 2023 Find us in Hall 10.01 E029 © Disney


Further supporting the baby feeding journey from day one, Baby Brezza is delighted to welcome the 2-in-1 Steriliser Dyer Advanced, and the Bottle & Breast Milk Warmer – both of which cleverly use steam to sterilise (killing 99% of germs) as well as gently and safely warm formula or breast milk. Sure to be an essential for any new arrival, the Baby Brezza Steriliser Dyer Advanced offers the most advanced way to sterilise and dry bottles and pump parts using natural steam, killing 99.9% of germs in the process. The BPA free Bottle & Breast Milk Warmer is the only warmer on the market with two settings to safely warm breast milk or formula.

Tel: 01730 895761


Enesco’s new collection features some of Disney’s most beloved characters in their child-like form including Simba from Disney’s The Lion King, Dumbo from Disney’s Dumbo, Marie from Disney’s The Aristocats and of course Thumper from Disney’s Bambi. This best-selling collection includes a wide and versatile range of items such as an ABC Blanket, a Baby Milestone Blanket, and a Hooded Towel. There is also a set of three Bandanas, Bibs, and Muslin Squares, not to mention Changing Mats, Messenger Bag and a Backpack, as well as an Insulated Bottle Bag, Soother Case, and Stroller Organiser.

Tel: 01228 404022


Iconic nursery brand, Sweet Dreamers is delighted to announce it has partnered with The Lullaby Trust, the UK’s leading safer sleep charity ,on the brand’s innovative Misty the Smart Cloud. Its room thermometer is truly invaluable, helping to ensure parents and carers have the perfect room environment for safer sleep.  A soothing colour coded temperature gauge and digital numerical display clearly shows when parents need to adjust bedding, tog ratings, clothing and/or the overall room temperature, reassuring them they will always have the optimum conditions for safer sleep. Its mobile phone app not only provides live data of their child’s sleeping environment but will also alert parents if the nursery gets too hot or cold.

Tel: 02392 262332


Set to revolutionise the home environment, the brand-new Crane Drop 2.0 4-in-1 Humidifier with Sound Machine is the thoughtfully designed humidifier which safely releases moisture into the air, promising to bring wellness, and much more, to the entire family. Super stylish and easy to clean, the whisper quiet 4-in-1 humidifier features an ultrasonic cooling mist, three soothing sounds, an aroma tray to enhance relaxation and an optional nightlight. Boasting multiple health benefits and promising to promote better sleep, this is a must for every family home.

Tel: 01730 895761


To complement the ergoPouch Cocoon Swaddle Bag is the New Baby Tuck Sheet - a firm-fitting mattress sleeve designed for newborns who are not yet rolling. Designed for use over the top of a swaddle, the TOG-rated Baby Tuck Sheet provides added security, comfort and warmth for a newborn during sleep without the risk of coming untucked.  Plus, for added peace of mind the Baby Tuck Sheet has been stringently tested and is in line with the Lullaby Trust safe sleep guidelines.

Tel: 07598 269191


Ahead of Brand Licensing Europe in October, PPS checks in with some key licensed preschool apparel and accessories specialists to find out how the category is performing, some of the top brands, challenges and trends.


The licensed preschool apparel category is one which balances the evergreen classic brands – embracing innovation in design to keep them fresh and appealing to both retailers and consumers – with new properties to the category.

It is also a category which, while it certainly has its challenges, seems to be weathering the current cost-of-living crisis pretty well.

“The Blues Group has significantly grown our licence portfolio over the last two years; baby through to adult in daywear and nightwear,” begins Ruth Golightly, sales and design director at Blues Nightwear. “We are a trusted supplier to all the UK retailers for baby and preschool products and as a consequence, this category has seen steady growth over the past few months.

“In the current climate, our customers are backing the evergreen brands and the sales have come through. Our top sellers Peppa, Bluey and PAW Patrol remain strong, as well as Peter Rabbit and Disney classics for babywear. We have also welcomed some new brands such as Pip and

Posy and are already seeing demand for this.”

Ruth names price and speed to market as two of the current challenges, while Kim Bown, director at Misirli, highlights retail space and the number of options available. “There are so many brands available fighting for space, therefore having a wide portfolio to cater for all retail needs is very important,” Kim tells PPS. “We are lucky in that the preschool sector will always be in healthy demand and is an area where consumers are happy to spend. There are a lot of new properties that are breaking through and challenging some of the classic evergreens, showing there is room for core licences and newness.”

When it comes to trends, Kim says that Misirli is seeing more requests from retailers for capsule ranges that are coordinated across the company’s product areas: “Unicorns, rainbows, sparkles, vehicles and dinosaurs remain key but reimagined to remain relevant and fresh. Family coordinated ranges continue to perform well and allow us to use brands that aren’t typical preschool brands on products for the whole family.”

Inset: Classic Brands such as Peter Rabbit are among the top sellers for Blues Group.

Ruth agrees that retailers are looking for capsule ranges, saying that design is at the heart of this. “Softer, muted colour palettes are still relevant, however fun and vibrant ranges are popular as parents and grandparents are looking for something to brighten and lift moods,” she says. “Licences and characters that tell a story, educational theme or heart-warming feel good themes do well, such as Peppa collaborations.”


For Anne Bradford, director at Poetic Brands, preschool continues to be a key area with a huge number of properties in the space. She highlights Disney’s 100th anniversary celebrations has been a strong focus for a number of retailers which usually hold DTRs, meaning a lot of space has been dedicated to this so far this year.

Anne continues: “With more movie releases this year and people heading back to the cinema, we are looking forward to Trolls as this looks like it’s going to be a fabulous film.”

Anne also highlights some challenges of the moment: “There’s less money in people’s pockets to spend and more hesitancy to spend if it is there. Hand me downs are


Taking place on 12 September at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London, The Licensing Awards 2023 will see a number of preschool apparel specialists line-up as nominees in the Best Licensed Preschool Apparel or Accessories Range.

Among these will be TDP which has received a nomination for its Disney Classic Baby Range for

Aykroyd & Sons and Roy Lowe have been nominated for their Bluey collection, while Aykroyd & Sons has also received a nod for its PAW Patrol Aqua Pups Collection for; Vanilla Underground is lining up with its PAW Patrol 3D Apparel and Footwear; Blade & Rose is in contention for its Peter Rabbit collection; and Hunter Price International’s Peppa Pig Hair Accessories collection is also feted.

The category is rounded off with nominations for ELF Infant and Preschool Range from George @ Asda; Elmer the Patchwork Elephant SS23 Range from JoJo Maman Bébé; Paddington Collection for F&F at Tesco from Blues Group; Peanuts Collection for Primark from Blues Group; and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt for TU Clothing from Blues Group.

more prevalent and if people do buy something they want it to last so that they can do this. We always ensure that our product is great quality. If you pick it up and feel the quality you won’t want to put it down again.”

Anne continues: “I would say that the last couple of years have been pretty challenging and will continue to be so given the current economic situation and how it has affected people. However, licensing is a key part of many children’s lives. Whether playing, watching or wearing, it has a huge impact on their everyday. By driving great content and quality consumer product programmes at a time where durability and sustainability are key will be fundamental to the continued success of this sector.”


As with many other categories, sustainability has become a watch word within the licensed preschool apparel space.

“Our aim and ambition working with retailers is for all our cotton to be responsibly sourced and a high proportion of polyester content to be recycled, when sourcing fabrics and working with mills and factories at source this is our minimum standard,” comments Louise Harrop-Williams, production director at Blues Group. “We are working with our direct factories on their sustainability goals through platforms such as Higg and ZDHC. As a business, we are working on our own sustainability plan to reduce our impact on the environment with circularity in mind.”

Poetic Brands’ Anne adds: “[Sustainability] is incredibly important and has been a big focus within our business for some time now. Watch out for the Sustainability in Licensing Conference (8 November), when we will be sharing more of an insight into this area.”

As for aims for the remainder of 2023, Misirli’s Kim is keen to continue to build on the company’s portfolio of brands in the preschool category across nightwear, underwear and hosiery, as well as delivering further growth with its existing partners.

Meanwhile, Blues’ Ruth teases: “We have lots of exciting projects, collaborations and new brands to launch at retail, so watch this space for more news when we can reveal more details.”

Right: Poetic Brands’ Anne Bradford says that licensing is a key part of many children’s lives. Far right: The next Trolls film is among those which Poetic Brands is looking forward to. Right and below: Misirli says that it is seeing more requests from retailers for capsule ranges that are coordinated across its product areas.
C M Y CM MY CY CMY K ai1678894958100_BLUES GROUP ADVERT MARCH 2023 v4.pdf 1 15/03/2023 15:42:42


According to data from Kids Insights for Q2, 39% of preschoolers in the UK have environmental footprint awareness, while quarter on quarter, climate change related concerns among 3-5s in the UK have risen by 17%.

Meanwhile, year on year, the number of British parents with preschoolers who state the environment as a key concern of theirs has grown by 4%. Now, 15% of these parents share such concern, making the environment the seventh biggest issue to this group.

Interestingly, according to the Kids Insights’ data, almost half of parents with preschoolers (48%) say they are influenced by eco-friendly credentials when making purchases.

This shift in attitudes is something which companies in the preschool space are certainly taking into account.

“Consumers are definitely seeking to look for sustainable alternatives not only for the benefit of reducing waste, but with the cost-of-living crisis too,” Stephanie Revill, owner and founder of Modern Cloth Nappies, tells PPS. “I think that since the DEFRA report was released earlier this year, a lot more consumers are now more aware of the environmental impact of disposable

nappies vs reusable and people are more keen to get their waste down and help to protect the environment.

“We have received an increased interest in our business and products and we are always continuing to develop and meet the needs of this changing market. It has also helped us develop with new manufacturers to ensure we manufacture our products as ethically and sustainably as possible.”

For Gareth Lloyd, commercial manager at Golden Bear Toys, people are making better choices in everything they purchase. “Not only do parents want the best for their children, but they also want to promote a positive message about sustainability and invest in products that will stand the test of time,” he comments. “With a bigger focus on sustainable products, parents can pass toys down from child to child without compromising on quality.

“We’ve always strived to consider the environmental impact of our product development and distribution – so having parents and consumers be more on board with products that prioritise this is an added bonus for

As consumer demand for ecofriendly products keeps rising, change continues apace across the preschool industry. PPS speaks to a selection of suppliers across key categories to find out more on the progress which is being made.
Above: Licences including In the Night Garden in Golden Bear’s portfolio have moved over from virgin to recycled polyester for both the outer fabric and inner stuffing.

us as a business. With the attitude consistently changing as more consumers switch on to a sustainable future, we have to ensure everything we do from a design, planning and development perspective is factoring in the importance of a recyclable, sustainable product.”


Bambino Mio recently commissioned research which uncovered 92% of UK parents are worried about the impact of plastic waste on their child’s future. “Shockingly, almost half (48%) said they were more concerned about the impact of plastic waste than their child’s education or future career prospects,” says Guy Schanschieff, founder of Bambino Mio. “The biggest challenge with waste caused by single-use nappies is that change needs to come from the very top, at a government level. Our research found 86% of parents want the government to be doing more to tackle nappy waste, so we started a petition asking for policy makers to create a national strategy to reduce it.

“Put simply, we know the nappies are a necessity, but the waste they cause doesn’t have to be. Our findings indicate that there is a huge lack of education when it comes to reusables, which ultimately impacts parents’ choice of which nappies they use from the


“There’s a lot of work that goes into developing sustainable toys, from sourcing ethical materials to developing ecofriendly packaging,” explains Bigjigs’ Liz. “These redesign efforts can be costly, and at times we may face availability issues with the materials, but doing our bit to look after the planet is a big priority for us and we’ll always do our best to overcome these challenges, so we can move forward with our sustainable objectives.”

Golden Bear’s Gareth notes that one of the biggest hurdles has been the lack of availability of more sustainable materials at commercially viable costs, particularly on hard plastics. “A significant amount of work has and is being conducted in this area though, as was highlighted to us in the recent BioToy conference earlier this year, so we continue to probe and challenge ourselves to source more sustainable materials knowing that advancements being made should hopefully facilitate positive steps in the coming years,” he comments. Meanwhile, Little Concepts’ Philip says that parity is probably the company’s biggest issue: “Not all wooden toys are created equal and it can be difficult to communicate this succinctly,” he says.


beginning. In fact, 87% of parents said they would have chosen reusable nappies for their baby if they’d been midwife or hospital recommended.”

Education is also key in the toy space, continues Gareth. “In the past three years, we have seen an explosion of communication and collaboration between fellow toy companies and subject experts, which has allowed us to draw on one another’s creative thinking and expertise to problem solve the challenges and hurdles to become more sustainable,” he says. “As we all have a common goal which is at the top of all respectable companies’ agendas, we will hopefully see some great achievements in solving the more challenging sustainability problems in the coming years. We cannot wait for consumer demand to drive the changes needed to protect and restore our planet so continuing to push ourselves as well as being pushed by other stakeholders, particularly retailers, licensors and content creators will continue to drive the momentum forward.”


When it comes to new product launches, there is a lot going on, too.

“All of our new products are entirely plastic free and made from FSC-certified wood. All of our products come packaged in fully recyclable packaging, using no plastic,” explains Bev Cochrane, national account manager at Orange Tree Toys. “Our recent launches for 2023 have been our Woodland Animal range, some additions to our Peter Rabbit, Paddington and Winnie the Pooh collections, and a very exciting launch for Disney 100.

“Due to the demand for lower priced products, we introduced a much wider range of pocket money toys and products under £10, which have proved to be extremely popular. Being able to keep the prices down and competitive, while remaining sustainable and using FSC- certified wood is a challenge.”

Philip Nelson, co-founder of Little Concepts, adds:

Right: Modern Cloth Nappies’ Stephanie Revill says the costof-living crisis is also causing consumers to seek alternatives. Inset: Latest research from Bambino Mio found that 86% of parents want the government to be doing more to tackle nappy waste.

products we distribute is integral to our business and PlanToys leads the way. Two of the most popular lines from them this year have been the Flexi Jellyfish which is very engaging, it is designed to fit in a child's palm and is great for encouraging dexterity and manipulation. The other has been the Sailing Boat Walrus which is made using a unique waterproof wood created from leftover sawdust.”

Philip continues: “End consumers are so much more aware of their personal responsibility towards environmentally positive choices; they look at the whole cycle of their order from selecting products online vs carbon dense catalogues, looking at how a product is packaged and shipped, the longevity of a toy and how it will ultimately breakdown.”

At Bigjigs Toys, the last 12 months has seen the company expand its Simply Scandi range to feature new toys made from 100% food-grade silicone and ethically harvested FSC certified wood. While the company has been crafting sustainable wooden toys for almost 40 years, Liz Ireland, founder and md, explains it has significantly ramped up its eco focus in recent years.

“We have cut down on plastic by boxing 95%

revamping our entire collection to ensure sustainable materials are used for as many products as possible,” she says. “The

internal packaging of every Bigjigs

Toys item has also been reviewed, and considerable cardboard engineering has been undertaken to eradicate the use of plastic packaging inside our boxes.” When it comes to further launches, Liz says the company’s product specialists have spent the past few months designing some “stunning” educational toys made from sustainable silicone and/ or FSC certified wood. “You can expect quirky puzzles, balance stackers, counting games, ride-on toys and themed railway sets and accessories,” she says. “We are also working with our friends at Green Toys to launch a collection of 100% recycled toys made from plastic at risk of entering our oceans. Another of our partner brands, Tiger Tribe, is launching its new ECO range, featuring rattles, building blocks and stacking toys made from plant-based bioplastic.”

Modern Cloth Nappies has recently launched bedtime reusable nappies made from super-soft organic bamboo material, as well as a new changing bag range. Stephanie continues: “We have a very exciting new collection being released late summer/autumn time which will give a lovely refresh on our already loved range of products. We are also working on something very exciting for 2024.”

Golden Bear’s Gareth says that the company’s sustainability goals and objectives continue to be a “huge focus” for its AW23 and SS24 launches. The Curlimals range is expanding with five new skus, while its ranges for Bing, In the Night Garden and Hey Duggee are also growing. “We also have a brand-new product in our Smart Ball range for AW23, the Soccer Bot, that combines toys with tech, resulting in a durable, smart product. AW24 will also see the introduction of some exciting new multi-licence ranges,” he says.

Ultimately, Gareth says that there is a common goal at the top of all respectable companies’ agendas, and there will hopefully be some great achievements in solving the more challenging sustainability problems in the coming years.

“We cannot wait for consumer demand to drive the changes needed to protect and restore our planet so continuing to push ourselves as well as being pushed by other stakeholders, particularly retailers, licensors and content creators will continue to drive the momentum forward,” he concludes.

Right: The Sailing Boat Walrus is one of the most popular lines from PlanToys this year. Left: The Stacking Apple & Pear is among the new launches in the Simply Scandi range from Bigjigs Toys. Left: Orange Tree Toys’ Bev Cochrane says all of the company’s new products are entirely plastic free and made from FSC certified wood.


We have to think back to February 2020 –pre-pandemic - for the last time that the global toy industry was able to head to New York’s Jacob K Javits Convention Center for Toy Fair.

Since then, the Javits’ expansion project has been completed – with an estimated investment of $1.5bn, and including a significant increase in exhibition space as well as a number of other features – while The Toy Association also undertook its own project. The ‘Toy Fair Reimagination Project’ included focus groups, surveys of toy manufacturers and retailers and other research, along with consultation from an outside company which specialises in trade shows.

From this, the decision was made to shift the show from its traditional February slot to the August/September

window. This year’s dates are 30 September to 3 October and, from early stats, it seems that the return of Toy Fair is being keenly awaited.

At time of writing, almost 1,000 companies had signed up to exhibit, while registration was up 7% over

Toy Fair 2020 with registrants representing 73 different countries and territories. This includes buyers from over 1,400 retail outlets spanning across all 50 US states and 59 countries and territories, including 22 of the top 25 sellers


The Toy Foundation’s Toy of the Year Awards serve as the kick off to Toy Fair, explains Kimberly.

“Taking place on 29 September, the night before the show, this year’s mustattend event will give guests the exclusive opportunity to celebrate the best of the best toys, properties, campaigns and people across 23 award categories; honour the Toy Industry Hall of Fame inductees; bid on one of a kind auction items; and experience a dynamic musical performance from Grammy Awardwinning artist Wyclef Jean,” Kimberly tells us. “Attended by the industry’s top leadership and executives, media and influencers, the night is a prime opportunity to connect and expand your network.”

The awards also act as a fundraiser to support the philanthropic work of the Foundation. Since its inception in 2003, TTF's signature Toy Bank has provided $225 million in toys to more than 26 million underserved children coping with serious illness, enduring temporary home placements in the foster care system, living with domestic violence and/or dealing with natural disasters.

After a three-year absence, Toy Fair is heading back to New York City in a new autumn slot and boasting a number of new features. PPS catches up with Kimberly Carcone, evp of global events at The Toy Association to find out more.
Inset: At time of press, 153 companies and brands with infant and preschool products will be on display at Toy Fair.

representing the $40 billion US toy market.

“We can’t wait to celebrate the return of Toy Fair to the global stage,” says Kimberly Carcone, evp of global events at The Toy Association. “For everyone at The Toy Association, it’s the opportunity to showcase the show’s legacy while also highlighting all the new elements we’ve incorporated to evolve alongside the ever-changing landscape of the toy industry and provide the industry with the tools and resources they need to succeed.”

The new elements include a Visual Merchandising Initiative which requires exhibitors to make product visible in at least 20% of their aisle-facing booth space – which comes as a result of feedback from the retail community and media to create a more engaging show experience – plus new product zones to help attendees tap into toyadjacent industries and trends. The World of Toys Pavilion is in partnership with Spielwarenmesse eG, while there are also pavilions from France, China and India.

A new Halloween Pavilion will emphasise the influence of these products and experiences, while there will also be a ‘Hot for Holiday’ display keyed into what families will be vying for in Q4 and a ‘Pet PLAYce’ section highlighting products for pets.

“These new dedicated zones at the show reflect how play trends reach beyond the toy space and highlight areas for growth and opportunity avenues for growth,” explains Kimberly.


“While Toy Fair’s primary objective is as a buying/selling show, part of the show’s reimagination is built on levelling the playing field for all participants and offering more tools, resources and opportunities than ever to help companies of all types tackle the evolving retail landscape, connect exhibitors with buyers and press, and fuel the collective success of the overall play community,” says Kimberly. “Part of that is through the different tracks of Toy Fair University which aim to tackle the most pressing needs of the global toy industry.

“The programming is also designed so that attendees can pick the issues that are more important to their businesses, such as gaining perspective on the intersection of business and play in the metaverse; tapping into new datadriven research on trends and consumers; hearing insights on toy legislation, safety and compliance; learning growth strategies for retail; and much more. There will also be a track of programming dedicated specifically to meet the needs of today’s inventors and designers.”

There will also be nearly 350 first time exhibitors on the show floor which Kimberly says illustrates Toy Fair’s strong pipeline for innovation and creativity, regardless of the time of year.

“New ideas and innovation are what ultimately drive change and this industry forward,” she comments. “We talk a lot about diversity and inclusion in the toy space, but this idea also applies to creating pathways for diverse and inclusive product assortments. This is at the forefront of what Toy Fair spaces like Launch Pad, which is designed specifically to feature up and coming toy inventors and international companies interested in expanding their products to the US, are all about - helping facilitate those business-accelerating connections between freshman exhibitors and buyers and media.”

When it comes to the preschool sector, Kimberly is quick to point out just how important it is, not just to Toy Fair, but the toy industry as a whole saying that it serves “as a gateway to

child development, discovery and early learning concepts”.

As PPS went to press, 153 companies and brands with infant and preschool products will be on display at Toy Fair including the likes of Aurora World, Crayola, Educational Insights, Fat Brain Toys and The Step2 Company among others. Kimberly continues: “These companies will exemplify how they are tapping into the play and design trends transforming the space including the rise in sustainably made playthings; the growth of sensory, social-emotional learning, and STEM toys for little ones; as well as toys in muted colour palettes that align with home décor.”

There’s certainly going to be a lot of ground to cover at the show and, much like Santa will be making his list and checking it twice, Kimberly advises that attendees make a clear list of objectives about what they want to accomplish, create a game plan and stick to it.

She concludes: “Toy Fair’s heritage as the largest toy, game and play product experience will carry forward, bringing the global toy industry together to make even more connections, share new innovations and preview what’s coming next. We’re ready to play!”

Above: Registrations for the show are more than 7% over Toy Fair 2020 so far. A number of familiar preschool characters are likely to be walking the aisles at the Javits.
Left: Kimberly Carcone, evp of global events, The Toy Association.



I am relatively new to GSG with a few months of experience, although previously I was heading up Artsana for 12 years, with key brands such as Chicco, Recaro and Boppy. While leading the growth in Artsana was brilliant, the excitement of joining GSG was too exciting to turn down.


In a matter of weeks, we have been able to transform the culture and install workable strategies. The place is ‘on fire’, within our headquarters in Stratford Upon Avon, plus our incredibly hard working colleagues in our distribution centre. The company and trade customers have been quick to unite behind the ‘next chapter’ of GSG’s great growth path. The emphasis here is upon the colleagues and their appetite to be heavily involved in something that is developing into greatness. This has spread throughout the industry and will be valuable for parents, babies and grandparents.


‘People first, the numbers will follow’. This is my motto and I strive to deliver everyday by my actions. Catching people doing things right is amazing. Especially when it repeatedly happens. Investing time and energy in colleagues and seeing them progressively develop and deliver better results is a privilege.


Too many to call out - there are heroes everywhere. I am acutely aware that I am demanding a lot from our colleagues. Guiding them to be even more results focused, solution oriented and reflective. This is an organisation that is breeding success due to pulling together as one unit. The unsung hero is Green Sheep Group as ‘one’.


Specifically, the introduction of a total new category titled as bedside cribs. Snuzpod and Chicco Next2Me were

introduced 10 years ago. While they have very different designs and aesthetics, together they created a multimillion international category and most importantly, a parent and baby solution. While mid-wives strongly recommended parents to not sleep in the same bed with their babies, Snuzpod allowed the parent to bond easily with their baby in its own ‘space’ connected to the parental bed. A genius solution.

In general though, the internet. Stores are still vital as prestigious brands and products such as the Snuzpod and SnuzBaskit are often ‘sampled’ in shops, although researched online. The latter can often make up the majority of a retailer’s sales.


Enjoy your life, it’s the only one you are likely to have. Unsure from where this quote emanated or if I just created it - although it seems right. It’s open to individual interpretation, although behind it, one should always be considering other people. Hence, be ethical and supportive while having that fun.


Remain agile by being calm, confident, humble and determined, taking people with you on the journey of success. Some of this may sound paradoxical, although agility at the front end helps deliver these ‘attributes’.


Our consumers need innovation to help make their lives fun, happy and easy. Parenting should be an immensely satisfying experience. Even more innovation as opposed to copying brand leaders should be encouraged, hence it is good to see retailers with broad minds who fully back the expertise delivered by brands.

Mitch Levene, chief operating officer at Green Sheep Group, on uniting behind the company’s next growth phase, investing in colleagues, the introduction of the bedside cribs category and why even more innovation should be encouraged.
Right: Mitch Levene.
“ Our consumers need innovation to help make their lives fun, happy and easy. ”


Andy Lane, owner of From the Stork, tells us:

“Our current best selling range is our soft toys and pram accessories by Little Dutch. Our all time best selling range is Blade & Rose clothing.”


Having started life just two years ago in 2021, From the Stork Bespoke Baby has grown steadily since opening. Parents themselves, Steph and Andy Lane opened the store to provide gifts and clothing for babies after spotting a gap in the market in their local area of Trentham.


“Although the country has seen household costs increase and we had tailored our business to prepare for this, we have seen sales increase 18% from 2021 to 2022, and have seen an increase of 11% YTD 2023. Our free personalisation offer has allowed us to remain competitive.”


“Our longest term supplier is Blade & Rose, and our newest supplier is Little Dutch.”


• “We currently have six employees and Steph and myself.”

• “The average spend per customer is £21.”

• “There were four boxes in our last delivery.”

• “We change our window displays weekly.”

• “Shop one is about 650 sq ft, or 160 baby blankets. Shop 2 is 1,500 sq ft, or 375 baby blankets.”


“As we’ve only been trading since 2021, I cannot say we’ve seen more people support local business but we do see a huge support from our customers who are very loyal, for which we are very grateful.”


“This year we opened our second shop at a shopping mall about 15 miles away from our first and at the moment, our sales are around 80% from the physical stores and 20% online.”


UP“We see our customers looking for something a little bit different and have seen an increase in Nordic style products. We have not really seen any products losing popularity.”


“Social media allows us to promote ‘us’ and our products to a wider audience and our local clients. We use it to run competitions, showcase popular products, current offers and to create a place where our customers can communicate with each other and ourselves on a social level, as well as a business.”


“Our standout hero product is our personalised pom pom newborn hats.”

Above: From the Stork Bespoke Baby’s free personalisation service has allowed it to remain competitive. Above: The original shop opened in the summer of 2021. Above: The couple opened a second store about 15 miles from the first, earlier this year. Below: Owners Steph and Andy Lane, who were inspired to start their business after the birth of their daughter.
BATH TOYS Fun and stimulating Juratoys UK Ltd • • 0208 878 2133