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The B2B Publication For Preschool Products and Retailers

ISSUE 50 JAN/FEB 2021

New Products and Ranges NOW AVAILABLE! Contact: sales@toynamics.co.uk T: +44 (0) 116 4785230 l W: Toynamics.co.uk

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MARKET LEADING TRADE MAGAZINES

March/April 2013

this month JANUARY/ FEBRUARY 2021

MARKET LEADING TRADE EXHIBITIONS

MARKET LEADING TRADE AWARDS

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It’s safe to say that the last few months and weeks have been something of a mixed bag for the preschool industry – but despite the challenges faced by us all to one degree or another, there are also some clear success stories we can take heart from. According to The Centre for Retail Research, there was a welcome boost in Above (l to r): Jacqui Parr, Jo Pilcher, Rob Willis and Samantha Loveday, part of trade for smaller independent stores in the Progressive Preschool team. the six weeks leading up to Christmas, with sales up by 7.2% as they benefitted from the ‘shop local’ sentiment seen across much of the country. That certainly ties in with what we have seen across the preschool sector, as consumers seek out ways to support local businesses and ensure they have a high street to return to, once the restrictions have been removed. Elsewhere, supermarkets have seen toy sales soar by 10% in the last two months, while online sales have also continued to grow – NPD figures reveal that toy sales are up by 50%, while GfK puts that figure at 57% for the nursery trade (up from 40% in 2019). It’s clear that having a strong e-commerce foundation in place has never been more crucial. However, the long-term impacts of repeat closures will no doubt be severe for many businesses – but at PPS we have been consistently impressed with and inspired by the independent toy, nursery and gift retailers who have continued to adapt and innovate. The focus on being as proactive as possible and approaching what feels like an impossible situation with a seemingly never-ending supply of optimism is something to be truly admired. There are of course other causes for optimism – the vaccination programme is currently in full flow and appears to be meeting its targets, giving us all hope for the year ahead. Things won’t be back to ‘normal’ for some time yet though, as has been acknowledged by the various trade show organisers who have shifted their dates for this year’s shows. The Harrogate International Nursery Fair is set to be the first of these to take place, with a new dateline of Sunday 16 – Tuesday 18 May. “After an extremely tough year for everyone it is great to have a positive goal to aim for,” says show organiser Adrian Sneyd. “We will be working hard to pull everything together to make this memorable event for all of the right reasons!” There is no doubt that the lack of traditional trade show season throughout January and February has left something of a gap in the preschool calendar. With that in mind, we have spoken to a number of suppliers across the toy and nursery sectors to find out more about what they have in store for the year ahead and what we can expect to see (starting on pages 33 and 45). It makes for some interesting reading! Unsurprisingly, Brexit has also been a hot topic over the past few weeks. After much political to-ing and fro-ing, are preschool businesses feeling relieved that, after four-and-a-half years, the historic trade deal has finally been done, allowing British companies to sell goods to EU countries without tariffs and quotas? As with so much over the past year, the ultimate focus seems to be on being both willing and able to adapt to and learn new ways – turn to pages 63 to find out more. We have also spoken to Sainsburys about childrenswear (page 29), Rubies about World Book Day (page 55) and 8th Wonder about the year ahead (page 68) – so there’s plenty to keep you motivated and inspired while we look forward to the shops opening up again. It can’t come soon enough!

The Progressive Preschool Team ISSN 2515-8570

Rob Willis, Jacqui Parr, Samantha Loveday, Jo Pilcher Ian Hyder, Jakki Brown, Warren Lomax PROGRES SIVE PRESCHOOL

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contents 33

TAKING STOCK

63

THE BREXIT DEAL

07 21 23 25 29 33 56 59 63 67 68 75

NEWS GFK PARENTS INSIGHTS ASK ANNA SHOP TALK: SAINSBURYS TAKING STOCK & LOOKING AHEAD TALKING TO: GREEN SHEEP GROUP RETAILER IN NUMBERS: THE TRADING POST THE BREXIT DEAL: UNPICKED RETAILER IN NUMBERS: TOY CORNER TALKING TO: 8TH WONDER RETAILER IN NUMBERS: ARMADILLO TOYS

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NEWS TOP STORY

Nursery industry continues ‘essential retail’ campaign

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ith the UK's third lockdown set to continue until at least 8 March, the nursery sector has been continuing to campaign for the industry to be included in the 'essential retail' listing which would allow retailers to open physical stores. The campaign has been ongoing, with an active government petition continuing to attract signatures and calling for the current 'non-essential' classification to be reconsidered, outlining that ‘nursery stores sell life-saving and legally required items such as car seats’. Much of the campaign's focus has been placed upon the fact that it is currently against the law for a newborn to leave hospital without a car seat, which should ideally be sold in person to

Small Stuff UK is recognised for its Covid lockdown response Sheffield children’s shop Small Stuff UK has beeen recognised with a national award from the Independent Retailers’ Confederation for its innovative response to the Covid lockdown. Above: The IRC judges were impressed with Small Stuff UK, Hellen's tenacity. which specialises in ethical and eco-conscious products, thrived during lockdown, with owner Hellen Stirling-Baker using her customer knowledge to deliver the very best service, adding Zoom videos for gift purchasing and local hand delivery for the local community. “The award couldn’t have come at a better time, given everything we have had to deal with with Covid,” said Hellen. “It just drives me more and more to continue what we are doing and push forward with this independent business that I have grown.”

ensure correct fitting – a fact recognised in Scotland, Wales, Italy and Germany, which all list baby equipment stores as ‘essential’. Brands including Cosatto, Bebecar, Babymoov, Joolz, Roma Prams and BabyStyle have all lent their support to the petition. The Baby Products Association (BPA) has made direct contact with a minister for trade and business, with an official request for nursery retail to be added to the essential retailer list. “In both Germany and Italy nursery retailers are able to remain to remain open and are classed as essential,” explained Andy Crane, BabyStyle’s managing director and chair of the BPA. “We are simply asking for the UK industry to be given the same status.”

“A child car seat is only effective in protecting children when fitted correctly in a vehicle,” adds Robert Anslow, managing director of the BPA. “Parents... are being left alone to make what could potentially be a life-threatening decision.” In the meantime, all preschool product retailers will remain physically closed from Tuesday 5 January until at least 8 March, with the possibility of an extension to those dates. Above: Preschool retailers will remain physically closed until at least 8 March.

Preschool names celebrate wins at The Licensing Awards 2020

A host of preschool names and brands were celebrating in the run-up to Christmas after picking up prestigious accolades at The Licensing Awards 2020, which were held virtually on Wednesday 16 December. Peppa Pig picked up the award for Best Preschool Licensed Property while Ladybird’s Peppa Pig range won Best Licensed Written, Listening or Learning Range. Christy’s By Design picked up Best Licensed Dress-up or Partyware Range for its The Very Hungry Caterpillar Butterfly Dress-up for George @ Asda, while The Very Hungry Caterpillar Royal Horticultural Society Summer Partnership – put together with Rocket Licensing – won the Best Licensed Promotions Campaign. Cribstar’s Peanuts collection was named the winner of theBest Licensed Preschool Apparel or Accessories Range.

Golden Bear Toys kicks off 2021 with new branding Golden Bear has begun 2021 with the unveiling of new company branding, which reflects the company’s continued bold ambitions to be at the forefront of innovation in the toy industry. The new look also includes a modernised website full of fresh and engaging content which

showcases Golden Bear’s history and product portfolio to its global audience, while also outlining the company’s core values and sustainability credentials. “The redesign of our logo and website brings our brand right up to date and aligns both our heritage and our contemporary outlook and vision,” commented managing director Barry Hughes. Left: The new Golden Bear icon brings the brand right up to date.

Character Group reports £5m profit despite pandemic challenges Depsite the challenges faced by the pandemic, The Character Group has issued results for its year ending 31 August 2020, reporting a profit before tax of £5 million, on a turnover of £105 million. The report noted that the performance of the Group since the end

of the first UK lockdown in early July and in the lead up to Christmas has been 'tremendous' and, as a consequence, the anticipated growth of the group’s business will be realised in the current financial year. The official statement ended: “Character’s success in preserving

profitability in troubled times and positioning itself to take advantage of the current opportunities has been down to the management’s ability to read and respond to the Group’s fast-evolving market trends... the prospects for the current financial year ending August 2021 are looking extremely positive.”

For the latest news visit PreschoolNews.net PROGRES SIVE PRESCHOOL

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by

Broadgate, Broadway Business Park, Chadderton, Oldham OL9 9XE UK T: +44(0)161 688 1226 I F: +44(0)161 682 6808 I sales@widdop.co.uk I www.widdopandco.co.uk

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NEWS TOP STORY

UK toy market sees 5% value growth in 2020

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espite a difficult trading year for many industries, the toy market saw overall sales increasing in value by 5%, with the biggest spike in sales coming during the first lockdown of 2020 (+22%). Total sales for the year were £3.3 billion, maintaining the UK’s position as the largest toy market in Europe and fourth largest globally, reported The NPD Group. Games and puzzles saw the highest category growth (+19%), as families spent more quality time playing together, while building sets and outdoor toys grew by 18% and 15% respectively. The periodic closure of schools and nurseries drove a 9% increase in sales

Government confirms new legislation will deal with nappy waste

The British government has confirmed that powers outlined in the new Environment Bill will legislate on nappy waste. Environment Minister Rebecca Pow revealed that the new legislation will include a focus on the waste caused by single-use nappies. “It’s great to finally see nappies so high up on the agenda in parliament.” said Guy Schanschieff, chair of the Nappy Alliance. “Modern reusable nappies are an existing sustainable solution, they are easy to use, affordable, stylish – and they work.”

Toy Fair New York 2021 is cancelled

The Toy Association has confirmed that Toy Fair New York 2021 – originally planned to be taking place from 1 – 4 May 2021 – has now been cancelled. Plans for Toy Fair Dallas 2021 remain on course however and the event is due to run from 5 – 7 October. The organisation also reiterated its commitment to providing ongoing opportunities via Toy Fair Everywhere. Dates for Toy Fair New York 2022 have been confirmed as 19 - 22 February, in a newly expanded Jacob K Javits Center which will allow for new exhibitors, new educational offerings and expanded networking opportunities.

of learning and exploration toys such as scientific sets and musical instruments. The toy sector also enjoyed a strong November, up 11% YOY, followed by lower than usual sales in December (down 9% YOY), exacerbated by lockdowns across the UK. Classified as essential retail and able to remain open during lockdowns, grocery chains fared well for toy sales in the last two months and were up by 10% YOY. “Manufacturers and retailers worked hard to meet the need for toys of all kinds for all ages,” commented Frédérique Tutt, global industry analyst at The NPD Group. “2020 accelerated changes already underway in the toy sector and underlined the importance of innovation, strong supply chain and

channel management.” Roland Earl, director general at the BTHA, added: “2020 was an extremely challenging year for retail as a whole, and toy retailers of all sizes had to adapt and innovate in this difficult environment in order to ensure consumers could still obtain the products they require.” Above: Preschool favourite PAW Patrol was among the top 15 best-selling toys.

Cybex launches Digital Training Academy Global baby brand Cybex has launched a brand-new digital training platform exclusively for retailers, aimed at helping nursery businesses adapt their online offering. The Digital Training Academy is an online interactive portal that will provide the latest product information at the touch of a button, ensuring that retail staff can access information through an easy-to-use app.

Precious Little One enters administration Popular nursery retailer and e-commerce brand Precious Little One entered administration proceedings on Monday 11 January 2021, resulting in consumers responding angrily to the news that many paid-for orders would not be fulfilled. An official statement from the administrators stated that they were aware that some customers had placed and paid for orders but said it was 'unlikely that the company in administration will be fulfilling those orders in the near future'. There had been signs that Precious Little One was struggling in the months leading up to Christmas, with a number of social media posts apologising for late deliveries, delayed dispatch dates, missing orders and other communication difficulties.

The new platform will feature interactive videos and live demonstrations. It will also be regularly updated with product changes, updated legislation, messages, new launches and key product information. “We are delighted to have launched the CYBEX Digital Training Academy,” says Luke Burns, UK general manager. “The app allows us to offer the best experience to retailers and in turn, our customers.”

Hamleys launches on eBay

Iconic toy store Hamleys has launched its first eBay shop as part of its plans to expand its online presence. Over 1,600 product lines will feature, including Hamleys own-label range of toys. The addition will give a further boost to eBay’s growing toys offering, with The Entertainer and Early Learning Centre also recently joining the online retailer. “As the pandemic continues to disrupt the high street, we're pleased that we can give iconic brands like Hamleys another online shop window,” said Murray Lambell, general manager at eBay UK, “bringing the magic of their experience in-store to reach the millions of customers we have in the UK and worldwide.” Below: The Hamleys magic will now be available on eBay.

For thewww.progressive-preschool.com latest news visit PreschoolNews.net PROGRES SIVE PRESCHOOL

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NEWS TOP STORY

Harrogate International Nursery Fair moves to May 2021

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he organisers of Harrogate International Nursery Fair have announced that this year’s show will be taking place from Sunday 16 to Tuesday 18 May 2021, at the Harrogate Convention Centre in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. The show, which was originally scheduled to take place from 28 – 30 March, has been rescheduled in response to the ongoing Coronavirus restrictions and the recent dramatic rise in cases. The decision has been supported by exhibitors who are keen for the event to return at a date that will offer security to retail buyer visitors.

Rockit to champion exporting on DIT webinar

Nursery brand Rockit will be taking part in a Parliamentary Export Programme webinar, led by the Department of International Trade (DIT) and championing export Above: Rockit from within the UK. is using its own experiences Last year Rockit was to help other appointed as an Export businesses see Champion by the Department what advice and grants are for International Trade and available. featured in the ‘Exporting is GREAT’ campaign. “Rockit has received ongoing advice and grant funding from the DIT to make it a success around the world,” said Rockit’s founder Matt Dyson. “I have been invited to tell our story on a Parliamentary Export Programme webinar, which will be hosted by Dr Liam Fox MP.” The one-hour webinar will take place at midday on Thursday 11 February, including updates from HMRC and DIT on the trading opportunities and funding available.

Above: The new May date will give the nursery industry something to look forward to.

“In light of the new strain of the virus and essential precautions by the government to contain the spread, we now feel that the March date will be too soon,” explained show

Licensing industry legend Kelvyn Gardner has passed away

It is with enormous sadness that Progressive Preschool's sister title LicensingSource.net shared the devastating news that licensing industry legend Kelvyn Gardner died unexpectedly of a heart attack on Tuesday 26 January. Hugely respected and much loved by all, Kelvyn, the founder of Asgard Media, was a long-time managing director of Licensing International UK and active Light Fund committee member. Tributes have been flooding in from all corners of the licensing business, describing Kelvyn as 'a oneoff, irreplaceable and unrepeatable', 'the heart of the licensing industry', 'incredibly charismatic, insightful and inspiring' and 'a true gentleman of the licensing industry'. Above: Industry legend Kelvyn Gardner was well-respected throughout the industry.

Toy Industry Awards hails retail superheroes

Following what has been a difficult year for retail, this year’s Retailer of the Year awards (organised by the British Toy & Hobby Association) celebrates those who have shown great altruism and innovation, and who have gone the extra mile during such a challenging year. “This is a change from our usual awards,” explained Phil Ratcliffe, president of the BTHA and chair of the Retailer of the Year judging panel. “We made a conscious decision to take a completely different tack and celebrate the retailers who have gone the extra mile.” The following retailers were recognised for their efforts throughout 2020: Toy Corner (Galway, Ireland), The Trading Post (Kingsbridge, Devon), The Entertainer and Smyths Toys. The winner of the inaugural ‘Ultimate Superhero’ Award – also new for this year – was Lisa Clay of Armadillo Toys, who has delivered an excellent service to her community, using innovative ideas to make safety restrictions child-friendly and fun.

organiser Adrian Sneyd. “Obviously, the safety and well-being of everyone participating in Harrogate International Nursery Fair is our priority and we will continue to be guided by government advice. However, after an extremely tough year for everyone in the industry it is great to have a positive goal to aim for and we will be working hard to pull everything together to make this memorable event for all of the right reasons!” The show website – www.nurseryfair.com – contains all of the latest show information including a current exhibitor list, hall plans and layouts.

LÍLLÉbaby joins the Thrive family

Award-winning baby carrier brand LÍLLÉbaby has been acquired by Thrive International, with Ian Schaffer, an industry veteran of over 40 years, beginning his tenure as ceo immediately. LÍLLÉbaby has joined Moby Wrap and Petunia Pickle Bottom at Thrive, both of which have seen significant growth under Schaffer’s strategic leadership, since being acquired in 2019. “We are excited to welcome the LÍLLÉbaby brand as the latest addition to our growing brand line-up,” says Ian. “LÍLLÉbaby’s innovative products will bolster Thrive’s continued growth, as key personnel of LÍLLÉbaby will be joining Thrive’s best-inclass management team.”

NEWS IN BRIEF ▶ Preschool retail brand Early Learning Centre has partnered with educational experts to support UK families’ home learning experience during the latest lockdown. ▶ Reusable nappy company Bambino Mio has been named one of Britain’s top 100 fastestgrowing businesses by The Sunday Times’ Fast Track 100 league table. ▶ Belfast-based Tigeroo Toys – which is run by Raymond Kirkpatrick – is the latest retailer to join the Toymaster buying group. ▶ As a global leader in designing child car seats and nursery products, JMDA Design is celebrating its 30th year in product design in 2021.

For the latest news visit PreschoolNews.net PROGRES SIVE PRESCHOOL

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TOP STORY

2021: Baby boom or baby bust?

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hen the UK entered the first lockdown last March, the media was full of predictions of a post-pandemic ‘baby boom’ – but the latest consumer data tells a different story. As people sought to make their own fun while at home, the nursery industry looked forward

to late 2020 and early 2021, when the first wave of lockdown babies could be expected to arrive. However, the latest research from PwC suggests that the UK could actually see a ‘baby bust’ in 2021 with the annual birth rate dipping to the lowest level since records began, as families delay having children, citing financial concerns and uncertainty due to the pandemic. The report – which drew on a number of surveys and analysed ONS data to forecast the predictions for the year ahead – predicts that just 569,000 babies are likely to be born in 2021, compared to almost 720,000 ten years ago.

Licensing Expo and BLE confirm new 2021 dates and multi-platform format Global Licensing Group has confirmed the 2021 dates and a new event format for both Licensing Expo and Brand Licensing Europe. Licensing Expo will take place live and in-person at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas on 10 – 12 August, while an online event will be held two weeks later from 24 – 25 August. Brand Licensing Europe, meanwhile, will take place live and in-person at ExCeL London on 17 – 19 November, with an online event from 30 November – 1 December.

“We have decided to carry forward the successful elements of this year's virtual events and learnings from them to run alongside our in-person events in 2021 and beyond,” said Anna Knight, vp of the Global Licensing Group. “Multi-platform events are definitely the future, and the combination of live and online offers no limits to global participation.”

Products of Change officially launches Global membership hub Products of Change (POC) – which aims to help individuals and businesses drive prolonged and achievable change on the sustainable front – saw a successful launch in the run-up to Christmas. Products of Change began life in 2019 as a small networking group of licensing professionals and now brings together all the latest thinking, learnings and best practice in sustainability in one place. The cross-sector organisation

centres around an interactive online educational hub which is set to progress real sustainable change across consumer product markets and beyond. Products of Change is owned collaboratively between Helena Mansell-Stopher and Max Media Ventures/Publishing (the team behind Progressive Preschool). To find out more, visit www. productsofchange.com.

Béaba acquires Belgian business Childhome Leading baby product company Béaba has acquired the Belgian childcare company Childhome, incorporating the business into Béaba’s global organisation. The acquisition brings the two renowned brands together to continue creating well-designed, innovative and safe products for all families and young children. “We are looking ahead and preparing for a potential baby boom in the second quarter of 2021.” revealed Julien Laporte, ceo of Béaba Group. “By expanding our range with Childhome and Béaba products, we are ready for the challenges that 2021 will bring.

One report, which was conducted in April 2020, found that 58% of people who had planned to have a child in 2021 had decided to postpone their plans, while a further 19% had abandoned them altogether, due to financial concerns, health worries, or other pandemicrelated concerns. Conversely, a survey released by parenting forum Mumsnet in December 2020 revealed that one third of the site users who are currently pregnant say the pandemic played a positive part in their decision to conceive. Left: The latest research from PwC suggests that the UK could see birth rates drop in 2021.

TRA’s Toy of the Year Awards revealed

Following a difficult year for retailers in 2020, the TRA’s Toy of the Year committee adopted a different approach to the selection process for its awards this year. TRA has highlighted four ‘outstanding’ categories which played their part in delivering a 5% increase in the overall sales figures and highlighted a 'winner' in each category to represent the largest overall contribution to the category in a unique year for the industry. The games and puzzles category topped the growth (year-on-year), with Ravensburger chosen as the standout performer in this category. LEGO was named the leader for building and construction, Mookie Toys for outdoor and sports and Hasbro for arts and crafts.

LICENSING LOWDOWN ▶R  ocket Licensing has signed the representation rights for Nevison’s BAFTA and Emmy-nominated preschool TV animation, Floogals. ▶ Metrostar has welcomed Danilo and Robert Frederick to the licensing programme for Elmer the Patchwork Elephant. ▶ P opular UK doll brand Baby Annabell has teamed up with best-selling author and children’s food expert Annabel Karmel as part of the brand’s ongoing Ask The Experts campaign. ▶ Acamar Films is continuing to build its direct-to-consumer relationships, with the launch of its first e-commerce store for preschool property, Bing. ▶A  pparel specialist Poetic Brands has added preschool animation Gigantosaurus and heritage publishing property, Brambly Hedge to its range of clothing and accessories.

For the latest news visit PreschoolNews.net PROGRES SIVE PRESCHOOL

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© 2019 Rovio Entertainment Corporation and Rovio Animation Ltd. Rovio, All Angry Birds logos and characters are trademarks of Rovio Entertainment Corporation and Rovio Animation Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Avengers © 2019 Marvel. Baby Shark © Smart Study Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Pinkfong® Baby Shark™ is a licensed trademark of Smart Study Co., Ltd. Captain Marvel © 2019 Marvel. Dumbo © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. Fingerlings® and all product names, designations and logos are trademarks of WowWee Group Limited. Copyright 2016-2019 WowWee Group Limited. All rights reserved. LEGO, the LEGO logo, the Brick and Knob configurations and the Minifigure are trademarks of the LEGO Group. ©2019 The LEGO Group. The Lion King © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. © MGA Entertainment, Inc. L.O.L. SURPRISE! TM is a trademark of MGA in the U.S. and other Countries. All logos, names, characters, likenesses, images, slogans and packaging appearance are the property of MGA. Mary Poppins Returns © 2018 Disney Enterprises, Inc. Match Attax © TOPPS Europe Limited, 2019. All rights reserved. © 2019 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved. NICKELODEON, NELLA THE PRINCESS KNIGHT are trademarks of Viacom International Inc. © 2019 Spin Master PAW Productions Inc. All Rights Reserved. PAW Patrol and all related titles, logos and characters are trademarks of Spin Master Ltd. Nickelodeon and all related titles and logos are trademarks of Viacom International Inc. Shimmer and Shine © 2019 All Rights Reserved. Nickelodeon, trademark of Viacom International Inc. Spies in Disguise™ and © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. Property of Fox. Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse © 2018 Marvel © 2018 SPA & CPII. © 2019 Super Wings™ All Rights Reserved. The Nutcracker And The Four Realms © 2018 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Secret Life of Pets is a trademark and copyright of Universal Studios. Licensed by Universal Studios Licensing LLC. All rights reserved. DreamWorks Trolls © 2018 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All Rights Reserved. TM & © 2019 Ugly Industries Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Wonder Park TM & © 2019 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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TOP STORY

Smyths Toys UK operation reports record €737m revenues in 2019

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ew accounts filed by Smyths Toys UK show that the toy retailer saw revenues at operations in Britain and Northern Ireland increase to a record €737 million in 2019. The Irish Times reported that sales at the company increased by 7% (from £581 million to £622.6 million) in 2019, while sales at the Northern Ireland arm totalled £45.19 million resulting in combined revenues of £667 million (€737m).

The company operates 104 stores in England, Scotland and Wales and an additional seven in the North, where

pretax profits for 2019 totalled £904,000. The accounts confirm that the British company declared a dividend of £31 million in February 2020, with this following a dividend of £9 million in 2019. Pretax profits declined by 14% to £12.48 million in 2019 as the retailer continued to expand further in Britain. The company spent £19 million on the purchase of property in 2019, following a spend of £14 million in 2018. Left: Smyths Toys UK saw sales increase by 7% in 2019.

Good Play Guide restructures for ongoing expansion Dr Gummer’s Good Play Guide is putting plans in place for its expansion into the US market, with an internal restructure, fresh online offering and new members of the team. Dr Amanda Gummer, child research psychologist and founder of the Good Play Guide, has revealed that a number of new guides are in development which, alongside

the upcoming international expansion and redesign of the website, has prompted a wider restructure of the business. The Good Toy Guide is also continuing to grow as the e-commerce site evolves and a new team will be coming on board to look after the expansion of this new aspect of the business. The Good Activities Guide, Good Kids Book Guide and Good Nursery

Orchard Toys welcomes new Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland distributor

Orchard Toys has appointed Banaghan & Co as its exclusive distributor for the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The appointment follows on from the retirement of Orchard Toys’ Irish agent, Bryan Walker, last summer. “Bryan did a fantastic job for Orchard Toys over many years and we wanted to ensure that we considered all options before making an appointment, so that our Irish customers continue to receive the best possible availability and service, particularly given the complications that Brexit will create,” explained Simon Prest, sales director at Orchard Toys. “We are thrilled to have entered into a partnership with Banaghans, as they share so many of our own values.” Colm Banaghan added: “We look forward to working with such a well-known and respected brand in the retail trade and a company with a track record of delivering on service and quality. We will safeguard the high profile of this range in Ireland and ensure maximum availability of product going forward.”

Toy Trust supports 35 small UK children’s charities in 2020 The Toy Trust awarded £108,000 in grants to 35 small UK children’s charities in 2020, helping thousands of children. In a special update sent out to the trade earlier this week, Graham Canning, Toy Trust committee chairman, acknowledged that COVID-19 made for an extremely challenging year for many UK children’s charities that the Toy Trust supports. “I am pleased to report that the Toy Trust Committee remained active in 2020 and felt compelled to respond positively,” Graham commented. “And so, we invited small UK children’s charities to apply for funding. We assessed applications carefully in line

with the Toy Trust’s application criteria to ensure funds achieve the best possible outcome for disadvantaged children all over the UK through grants given.” The Toy Trust will remain active throughout 2021 and will shortly be re-opening applications for funding. In the meantime, the annual Media Auction is now live and the toy industry is being encouraged to place their bids on packages from broadcasters and channels including ITV, CITV, Milkshake, Sky Kids, Turner and Ketchup TV among others.

Guide are being included in the new structure, with senior appointments for these divisions being announced in due course. Meanwhile, Fundamentally Children – the business-to-business arm of the organisation – is continuing to offer highquality research, consultancy and training to organisations providing products or services for children.

PEOPLE NEWS ▶ Global baby brand Cybex has strengthened its team with the appointment of new visual merchandising designer, Joanne Hinsley, while Victoria McKeown has joined the Cybex customer relationship management team and will be responsible for supporting independent and national retailers with product orders and customer questions. ▶ Nicola Jenkins has joined the Good Play Guide team as head of the Good App Guide while Frances Cain has come on board to oversee the international expansion of the business. ▶ Toynamics UK & Ireland has welcomed Emma Damerell as head of marketing to work across the full Toynamics portfolio, while Amy Sweetman joins the company as national account manager and will focus on growing and developing national accounts. ▶ After 23 years in the nursery trade, Fiona-Jane Kenworthy – marketing manager for Central Medical Supplies (CMS) – will be leaving the industry at the end of January to take early retirement. PPS wishes her the best of luck!

For the latest news visit PreschoolNews.net PROGRES SIVE PRESCHOOL

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INDUSTRY INSIGHTS

A REVIEW OF 2020 AND A LOOK AHEAD As one of the world’s largest market research companies, GfK offers retailers and suppliers valuable insight into the way people live, think and shop. Here, client insight manager Marco Salerno reveals what’s behind the the decline in value sales and how we can expect to see the markets change as the UK comes out of lockdown.

A

s reports of sharp declines in consumer spending emerge it’s clear that the baby care market has been hit hard throughout 2020, like many others. Overall value across the baby care markets fell by 25% over the 12 months to November, equating to a massive £149m, with volume also down 16%. Although some online retailers will have benefitted from the changing shopping habits of consumers in lockdown, it’s clear that trading conditions are still very tough for high-street retailers coming into 2021. Nevertheless, there are causes for optimism looking ahead towards the later year. Starting with an overview of the main trends in 2020, perhaps the key area to note is the increasing share of online sales as a proportion of total market value. Over the last 12 months, the value share of online sales compared to in-store has risen from 40% to 57%. This rises as high as 86% in baby monitors and 83% in highchairs. Even among the lower-priced categories, which are typically more reliant on in-store impulse purchasing, the movement has been substantial. More than 20% of soothers sold (by value) have been generated through online sales – up from 11% last year. Periods of lockdown and store closures have of course driven these trends and once the current nationwide restrictions end we can expect a reversal. Yet at the same time the shadow of the pandemic will undoubtedly last long into the future and many consumers, some shopping online for the first time, will continue making their purchases this way even once stores reopen. At a category level the transport markets have the most dramatic

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impact on these topline declines. A 40% year-onyear value fall in strollers and 25% fall in car seats indicates that consumers are not replacing or upgrading their models to the same extent, with firsttime buyers more likely to rely on second-hand models. This fall in demand is entirely expected, with many facing financial hardship, alongside the restrictions placed on travelling outside the local area. If we exclude these two major categories then the overall baby care market performance – while still in decline – is far healthier, with a 6% fall in value over the 12 months to November. Volume performance is weaker however, down 14% overall with all but one category in decline. This highlights a second notable trend which has been seen across many markets both inside and outside baby care. The average price of each product sold has risen over the year, by anywhere from 7% (baby monitors) to 14% (highchairs). A couple of factors are likely

Below: £449 million has been generated by the baby care market over the past 12 months.

21

to have contributed to this trend – firstly, the reduction of in-store price promotions, most notably in supermarkets, as the focus moves towards more indemand markets. Secondly, lockdown shopping habits have exaggerated the effect of the historical trend that consumers generally spend more online than they do in-store. This is not due to individual products being priced higher, but because shoppers often trade up to higherspec, higher-priced models. On a more positive note, there are certain baby care sectors which are bucking the trend and achieving ongoing value gains. Bottle warmers and sterilisers lead the way, continuing longer-term growth, alongside teethers and baby monitors. The 3% value gain in baby monitors (worth £680,000) is especially notable, given the yearly declines seen from 2016 through to 2019. Although growth in these areas was concentrated more heavily towards the early year and first lockdown period, they do give hope for various brands and retailers coming into 2021. Similarly, given the huge impact of lockdown in driving the declines in car seats and strollers, the eventual end to these restrictions and store re-openings should unlock, at least in part, the postponed sales desperately needed. The need for brands and retailers to then capitalise on this demand later in the year, both through their in-store and increasingly online offerings, will likely be crucial in shaping the future industry landscape.”

Total Baby Care value falls back sharply over the year, led by the transport categories, as sales shift online during lockdown Great Britain – Baby Care

£449million

Value growth %: MAT Nov20 vs. previous year** -25%

generated across total Baby Care* over the last 12 months

Total Baby Care

-25% vs. previous year

Ongoing lockdown-led sales

-1%

trends move value away from transport categories. Bottle Warmers & Sterilisers, Monitors and Teethers only markets to record value gains.

-25%

3%

Baby Monitors

3%

Teethers Breast Feeding Highchairs

-8%

Bottles & Teats

-16%

-40%

Bottle Warmers/Sterilisers

-7%

-10%

Car Seats and Strollers show substantial declines in both value and volume.

3%

Soothers

Baby Tableware

Online share of market value

40% 57%

MAT 2020 MAT 2019

Strollers share of market value

31% 40%

Car Seats Strollers

GfK GB PoS Data. All figures in value GBP. **December 2019 – November 2020 vs. December 2018 – November 2019 *Baby Care tracked categories: Car Seats, Highchairs, Stollers, Bottles & Teats, Soothers, Teethers, Baby Tableware, Bottle Warmers & Sterilisers and Breast Feeding.

GfK ©©GfK

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PARENTS INSIGHTS COLUMNIST

GEN Z PARENTS PAVE THE WAY FOR GAMING AS FAMILY PASTIME

Over a third of UK parents aged 21-24 play on a console with their toddlers, a 76% increase on the number of parents aged 45+, who do the same, according to new research from Parents Insights.

T

he Insights People recently announced the launch of its global Parents Insights, surveying 130,000 parents of children aged between 1 and 16 in 13 countries every year. The Insights People has recently identified a trend in its real-time data, which sees gaming becoming a family pastime, particularly so with Gen Z parent families. The trend features in the first ever Parents Insights Future Forecast report, which makes ten predictions for the parents and family sector in 2021. The report has been produced to mark the enhanced and improved Parents Insights. The new service went live on January 1, 2021 and surveys more than 2,600 parents of children aged 1-16 every week, totalling more than 130,000 parents per year across 13 countries, with all responses

Above: As more gamers become parents, the trend of shared gaming experiences with their children will continue to grow.

being available in real time via the company’s bespoke portal. The report discusses how gaming has become a family pastime, particularly among younger parents, who have

grown up as gamers and are handing down this hobby to their kids. When it comes to creating shared gaming experiences with their children, over a third of parents aged 2124 play on a console with their toddlers, a 76% increase on the number of parents aged 45 and above who do the same. As more gamers become parents, this trend will only increase in future generations. Another key theme is consumer sustainability. Rather than the sustainable consumer being a niche audience, it has now become the mainstream. A third of parents believe that taking care of the environment is an important value to instil in their children, and this sentiment becomes more prominent with parents of preschool children. A third takeaway from the report is kids being the CTO of the household. Over the last three years, the average level of access a 3-5 year old in the UK has to a mobile phone, has increased by 16%, and with this, The Insights People is able to track how kids’ influence over household decisions, such as broadband providers, is also continuing to grow, meaning brands will need to shift their product focus to incorporate the full family unit. Nick Richardson, founder and ceo of The Insights People, comments: “Since launching our original Parents Insights service in the UK in 2018, we have had increased feedback from clients to gain more insights on families and parents of children not just in the UK, but globally. As a result, over the last few months our expert team of researchers, strategists and developers have been working on this and from January 1 we started collecting data of parents in all the 13 countries we currently operate in.” To download the full complementary Parents Insights Future Forecast 2021 report, please visit: www.parentsinsights. com/futureforecast .

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GOOD PLAY GUIDE COLUMNIST

ASK PREDICTIONS FOR 2021 ANNA

Last year’s lockdowns had a big impact on how children could play. With activity classes cancelled and schools closed, parents were left looking for ways to entertain their little ones and fight the cabin fever that quickly set in. The UK is currently in its third lockdown, so it doesn’t look like social distancing will be over any time soon. With this in mind, it’s likely that many of the new trends we saw last year will continue over the next few months at least... sticks help avoid any spills, plus everything is all in one place for a quick and easy set-up. ACTIVE PLAY

Above: The Play Press Gruffalo Pop-Out Playset (3-5 years) features all the familiar characters from the popular preschool story.

Anna Taylor is a researcher at Dr Gummer’s Good Play Guide, an organisation dedicated to helping children learn and develop through play. GoodPlayGuide.com

IMAGINATIVE PLAY With social distancing, youngsters aren’t getting the chance to play with other children as much as they might have done right now. This is important for their social skills so parents are keen that they don’t miss out. Imaginative play can help little ones practise these social skills - by taking on the roles of different characters, they can empathise and see the world from a different point of view. For instance, the Play Press Gruffalo Pop-Out Playset (3-5 years) allows children to build the deep, dark wood and recreate the story, with all of the familiar characters from The Gruffalo.

Back in the summer we saw families flooding their local parks and woods so their children could blow off some steam. Of course, this is weather dependent - so during the chillier months, parents will need alternatives to wear their little ones out and give them some muchneeded exercise. Perhaps this is why Pillowfight Warriors (3-5 years, £11.99) - historically-themed safe and soft play weapons and shields - were one of GoodToyGuide.com’s biggest sellers over Christmas. Through imaginative play fighting, children are encouraged to be physically active, indoors or out. Below: Let tear-free battle commence, thanks to Pillowfight Warriors (3-5 years).

ARTS AND CRAFTS Above: The Tomy Toomies Hide and Squeak 2-in-1 Eggventure Train got full marks for fun.

VERSATILE TOYS With many parents now working from home, they are grateful for any toys that can distract their child for a while. Toys with multiple uses give children variety which is great for holding short attention spans. The Tomy Toomies Hide and Squeak 2-in-1 Eggventure Train (18-36 months), for example, is a versatile set that includes the popular Hide and Squeak Eggs, a spinning Ferris wheel, and a push-along train with carriages. Our testers gave it full marks for fun!

Arts and crafts can keep many children occupied for hours, so they became a popular activity last year. Once again bearing in mind that many parents are working from home, customers may be looking for art materials that minimise the risk of mess and allow children to be left to their own devices a bit. We like the Little Brian Mini Art Station (3-5 years) because the paint and chalk

Below: Everything is kept in one place with the Little Brian Mini Art Station (3-5 years).

KEY TIPS FOR 2021 TRENDS: T Toys that children can use in lots of different ways, as independently as possible and with minimal mess, can give parents who are working from home some time to concentrate and get jobs done in peace. T Active, social play is really important and parents are aware of this, so highlight toys that support these types of activities to get them noticed. T With the shift to online shopping, honest independent reviews are more valuable than ever - contact hello@ goodplayguide.com to find out how we can help you develop, review and market your products.

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SHOP TALK: SAINSBURY’S

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Supermarket Style Melanie Fieldsend, buying manager for childrenswear at Tu, speaks exclusively to Progressive Preschool to reveal how one of the UK’s leading clothing brands approaches the preschool apparel market.

P

icking up a new pack of babygros, a dino-themed snowsuit or emergency pair of Gruffalo wellies has never been easier, with Sainsbury’s Tu clothing range offering a market-leading childrenswear collection which champions affordability, style and value-for-money. “Tu Kids is performing exceptionally well in both volume and value at the moment,” said Melanie, who has been part of the Sainsbury’s buying team for the last 13 years. “The difficulties faced by retail

SAINSBURY’S STATS

■ T  he first ever branch of Sainsbury’s opened in 1869. ■ More than 2,400 branches of Sainbury’s are now open across the UK, with 400 of them selling Tu clothing, including baby and childrenswear. ■ T  u has been operating as an online business for the last five years, offering customers choice, flexibility and convenience. ■ T  u is the tenth biggest clothing retailer in the UK by value, offering more than 3,000 items of clothing at any one time. ■ A  s a socially responsible business, Sainsbury’s aims to be carbon neutral by 2040.

Above: Sainsbury’s has seen a spike in its sales over the past year, due to the pandemic.

in 2020 meant we have seen a spike in our performance over the past year as well as a growth in our online business thanks to a new customer mindset.” With more than 400 branches of Sainsbury’s offering the exclusive Tu clothing range – which is also sold via Argos.co.uk and tu.co. uk – it is the tenth biggest clothing retailer in the UK by value. Sitting comfortably alongside leading high street brands, Tu takes inspiration from both ready-to-wear runway and everyday street style to ensure the strong design credentials and high quality that the brand is known for. “We have a dedicated in-house design team which focuses on trend and innovation on a daily basis,”

Melanie continued. “This has allowed us to create our own handwriting for kidswear, particularly from a fashionability point of view. We do benchmark our quality against the high street but aim to be more competitive in price than our direct competition.” The past 12 months have seen the Tu team identifying a number of significant trends across the preschool childrenswear sector this year; primarily the focus on leisurewear which has been seen across the entire apparel market. “Obviously with the schools being closed daywear was big for us this year but we also saw a great performance in nightwear,” Melanie revealed. “Families were including their kids in their focus on dressing for comfort!” 

Below (l to r): Tu’s baby and childrenswear range is all designed in-house.

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©2020 Kerr-Kneale Productions Ltd. Licensed by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

To Life!

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©2020 Kerr-Kneale Productions Ltd. Licensed by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

©2020 MATTEL.

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SHOP TALK: SAINSBURY’S Left: Tu clothing is also sold online at Argos.co.uk. Below: Licensed lines are key for the brand, with Peter Rabbit popular throughout 2020.

Last year also saw  Sainsbury’s being

named the Best Supermarket Retailer of Preschool Products and Argos the Best Mixed Retailer of Preschool Products at the 2020 Progressive Preschool Awards, a highlight for Mel and the rest of the preschool team. “These awards mean a great deal,” she explained. “Huge amounts of work go into the ranges so it’s great recognition for the team to see that their products and ranges are award-winning. Preschool ranges will always form a big part of the childrenswear offering at Tu.” According to Melanie, babywear has been a standout performer this season, across both fashion and essentials. “Character clothing in particular has been strong over the past year, with Peter Rabbit ranges on baby selling out pretty much as soon as they landed, both in store and online. Casual dressing and wardrobe building is also important for us and our

BLISS X BABY TU

In October 2020, Tu launched a new range of clothes specially designed for premature babies, as part of a new partnership to support Bliss’ vital work for babies in neonatal care. The new Baby Tu Premature range is Sainsbury’s smallest baby clothing range, suitable for babies from 2lbs to 4lbs. The range is made from super soft cotton and features soft flat seams to sit comfortably against delicate skin, while hook and loop fastening makes dressing easier. The collection is available in a range of fun prints including dino, floral and safari, giving parents of premature babies greater choice when choosing their babies’ first outfit.

customers love multi-pack product across daywear and nightwear.” Licensed and branded goods are an essential part of Tu’s childrenswear offering, with a growing number of DTR relationships allowing the brand to differentiate in the market. This is particularly the case online, where a spike in character sales reflects the customer’s very specific search mission. “In addition to the Peter Rabbit baby collection, our ranges with Magic Light Pictures on Gruffalo continue to be strong, with Zog standing out as the definite winner this year, particularly in our younger boys range. We’ve also seen Disney licences performing well and taking on more of a leading role within our trend drops as opposed to just being character styles in their own right. Licensed clothing will always play a part in our preschool ranges as long as the customers continue to buy into them.” Offering customers an enjoyable and affordable shopping experience is crucial for any retailer, balancing expectations against practicalities. “It is vital that we are able to meet or exceed customers expectations,” Melanie explained. “Sainbury’s is wellknown for its customer service and we are fortunate to enough to be able to utilise that right across the Tu brand.” Of course, meeting customer’s needs during the ever-changing year that was 2020 was often easier said than done, and this was particularly true for the seasonal occasions and events which form key focus points throughout the Tu childrenswear calendar, with World Book Day, Easter, Summer, Back-to-school, Halloween and Christmas all throwing up their own specific challenges. “Events are definitely more backended than they ever have been and this year has obviously been unlike no other in terms of the customers’ appetite for events,” Melanie revealed. “We do aim to fully trade all ranges before committing to new, so we have worked hard with our supply base to speed up the critical path in order to deliver the newness to the customer.” The past year has seen a number of other changes

31

GREEN FASHION As a leading UK fashion retailer, Tu is focusing on helping to ensure a sustainable future by ramping up its efforts in a number of areas; recycling, the materials it sources and the production processes it uses. Some 76% of the cotton Tu uses in its cothing ranges is sourced through the Better Cotton Initiative, while an inreasing number of lines are being designed using REPREVE, a polyester material created from recycled plastic bottles. On average each year, Sainsbury’s customers divert around 15 million items of textiles from landfill by donating their unwanted clothing in Oxfam textile banks, raising significant funds and providing a sustainable option for clothes recycling. as well, with online participation growing significantly over the last few months and showing no signs of slowing down. Of course, social media has played a huge part in this and Tu has also seen some good success with user-generated content. “We’re lucky on kidswear that customers really love our ranges. We have a raft of regularly-used tags on social and it is great to see the clothes being worn and enjoyed!” However, instore sales still account for the highest percentage of Tu’s childrenswear sales, suggesting that the core Sainsbury’s Tu customer still enjoys the convenience of being able to pick up their sleepsuits, World Book Day costume or Christmas jumper along with the week’s groceries. “We have a huge opportunity as we move into 2021,” concluded Melanie, “to react to changes in the market and continue delivering for our customers, both existing and those who are new to us as a brand this year. We will keep this momentum going!”

Below: Popular lines include The Gruffalo dress-up and baby-friendly multi-packs.

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W NE

s r a t S e h t r e d n Sleep U Inspire sweet dreams with our NEW Baby Mobile, the perfect addition to baby’s bedtimes. Encourage relaxation with a celestial array of hanging charms, designed to dance above your little one’s head as they drift into the land of nod.

Email: trade@snuz.co.uk Call: 01789734022 www.snuz.co.uk

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A YEAR IN NURSERY

33

As a new year begins, it’s important to take stock as we prepare for the coming year – whether that is with optimism, pragmatism or a healthy mix of the two. PPS asked a number of nursery suppliers to look back at 2020 as they also let us know their hopes, concerns and predictions for the year ahead – here’s what they had to say.

Inset: Ickle Bubba is seeing an increasing amount of post-natal, repeat purchasers for its travel systems.

Taking Stock and Looking Ahead

W

ith a global pandemic continuing to stop many bricks-andmortar nursery retailers in their tracks, online retailers navigating Covid-safe collections and deliveries and a newly-agreed Brexit trade deal adding an extra layer of complexity to any UK/EU business, 2021 is already set to be a particularly interesting year. And that’s without even mentioning homeschooling! But the nursery industry is nothing if not determined, focused and adaptable, as we soon found out.

Style and Value

Nursery brand Ickle Bubba’s main hope for the coming year is that all nations pull through the pandemic as quickly as possible and get back to a bit of normality. “Partnerships with stockists and retailers are paramount to our success,”

Right: Green Sheep Group is seeing high demand for products such as SnüzPod4.

explains managing director Fran Vaughan. “We appreciate that many customers will be keen to see the product in-store and hope this demand will help the high street bounce back.” “We are also keeping an eye on the progression of the trade agreement talks between the UK and Europe and will be ready to react accordingly,” he says. “We have registered in different European jurisdictions for VAT and compliance purposes but are trying to remain optimistic that any supply chain issues between the UK and Europe will be short-term.” Ickle Bubba will continue to assess the European trading landscape in line with its expansion plans, but in the meantime, its website is a great tool for showcasing the brand as are bricks-and-mortar stores. Fran also points out that consumers

DEALING WITH THE UNKNOWN “I truly hope that our high streets can bounce back, but some bricks and mortar businesses will fail and Covid will speed this up. We will continue to see things change and e-commerce will continue to grow. But the preschool industry will not be facing challenges alone – all product companies will be impacted by Brexit and Covid. We are already seeing disruption to supply chains, so I hope we can all just keep going until things

get sorted. As far as Brexit goes, I have tried to stock up as much as possible and have also split shipments up, so if one gets delayed then another should get in! Dealing with the unknown is stressful but we are all doing it.” Cara Sayer, founder, SnoozeShade

are looking for greater value these days, partly due to the wider economic fears surrounding Brexit and another recession. But he’s looking on the positive side: “Style and value are at the core of our offering and we’re seeing an increasing amount of repeat purchasers. We hope our continued commitment to offering affordable, stylish products will stand us in good stead for continued growth.”

Strong Opportunities

For the team at Green Sheep Group, the focus for 2021 is on small independent businesses. “The shift from retail to internet was always inevitable,” says commercial director Donna Storey, “but Covid has been the catalyst fueling the growth. 

Inset: Snoozeshade is well-prepared for any potential Brexit-related suply issues.

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Sleek and practical full Travel System including 0+ infant Carrier Car Seat

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A YEAR IN NURSERY

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FULL OF HOPE “After such a tough year, I think 2021 will be full of hope. The baby market is in a very strong position and is set to grow. It’s so exciting to see all of the new innovations – we have a few things up our sleeves too, so watch this space! I think there will always be a place for high street retail as some products and services just don’t translate well online – although that’s where our main focus is now. I do think it will be tougher on the high street in 2021 though.” Sarah Cooper, managing director, Nap Nap Left: Nap Nap believes that the baby market remains in a very strong position and is set to grow.

Positive Trends

 Over the coming year I believe we will

continue to see the high street shift and change as it adapts to a new normal.” Donna predicts that retail’s bigger players will falter, opening up opportunities for smaller, innovative start-ups, particularly online. “There is a really strong opportunity for small independent businesses to flourish.” She believes that Brexit and Covid will both continue to challenge UK retail over the next 12 months, with price increases, transport charges, exchange rates, workforce issues and shipping all coming together to make continuity of supply a major risk. “As a small business this is especially important for us, given the high demand for products such as SnüzPod4,” Donna continues. “Managing the impact carefully so that we’re supporting our retailers is going to be critical in the next 12 months.” Green Sheep Group has been in discussions with suppliers, hauliers, couriers, and shipping companies for some time now, but ultimately, Covid will have a bigger impact on the company’s supply chain than Brexit. “From a business perspective, I am looking forward to developing our retail relationships over the coming year,” says Donna. “Particularly in the independent sector who have supported us from the very beginning. I am also looking forward to many exciting product launches – we’ve got 10 next year alone!”

A Steady Recovery

“Following on from a challenging year, we hope 2021 will see a steady recovery phase for the economy,” begins Holly Brewer, marketing manager for Ergobaby UK. “Consumers will continue to have children, which will sustain demand, and in the baby carrier market innovation, convenience and usefulness will fuel growth.” Ergobaby’s main challenge has been the restrictions which have prevented the company from visiting

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Above: Ergobaby has a number of key launches planned across carriers, sleep and strollers in 2021, so it’s an exciting year ahead.

retailers in person – and of course these are expected to continue into 2021. Traditional bricks and mortar retailers remain important to the brand and Holly predicts that the high street will recover in time. “We have been supporting retailers and working closely with them to find alternative ways to reach and inform their customers without being able to discuss and demonstrate products in person,” she explains. “During the first lockdown we introduced an online portal for retailers as well as digital launch assets, in-store training and planning for key events, launches and promotions to help retailers as we emerge from lockdown restrictions.” Ergobaby has an exciting year ahead, with a number of key launches planned across carriers, sleep and strollers for 2021. “We’re also looking forward to seeing the return of live trade and consumer shows,” says Holly. “These are extremely valuable channels for connecting with both our retailers and consumers.”

Frugi, the UK-based organic and ethical childrenswear company, has enjoyed a burst of consumer growth last year, of over 60%, while TotsBots (the reusable nappy brand now owned by Frugi) has grown by 80% over 2020. This positive trend began in March and continues with strong year-on-year growth thanks to the widespread uplift not only due to online consumer buying but also to a significant shift in consumer spending on sustainable products. “Our online retail business has increased more than our wholesale business over the past year,” says pr and partnerships manager Sam Dark. “We expect that our online business will continue to dominate until the pandemic has passed completely and lockdown measures are a thing of the past.” Frugi is well-prepared for Brexit, with a second warehouse located in the Netherlands, which means that European and international orders will not face any delays over the coming months. “We anticipate a very good year for Frugi and TotsBots as we continually prove that you can be sustainable and profitable at the same time,” adds Sam. “Both companies remain on track to exceed expectations for the 2021 financial year.” 

Right: Frugi’s strong year-on-year growth can be attributed to the widespread uplift in consumer spending on sustainable products. PROGRES SIVE P R E S C H O O L

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A YEAR IN NURSERY

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Far left: The Bobby Baby Bouncer is one of many new products being launched in the UK by bébélephant in 2021. Left: Johnston Prams predicts an increase in demand for outdoor buggies with large wheels, such as the robust, yet light Noordi range. Below middle: Love Radius is focusing on promoting its range via UK influencers, magazines, awards and babywearing consultants.

“My biggest hope for the year ahead is that I will not have to reschedule our Harrogate hotel booking again!”

Changing Market

Strongest Year Yet

For Elliot Bishop, owner of nursery distributor bébélephant, 2020 was the company’s ‘strongest year yet’. “We saw some great newness coming through and strong sales from retailers, with strong websites,” he reveals. “We predict 2021 will be a year of continued growth, especially as we emerge from the pandemic and consumers’ pent-up demand is realised.” “There will always be a high street presence, albeit in a different format – the pandemic simply hastened the changes,” he continues. “Online retail has always been important, the only difference is that now retailers without a strong presence online will suffer.” For Elliot, Brexit is still an unknown – but bébélephant is in a strong position. “We always retain a good level of stock, so even if there are issues at the ports, we will be fine. I suspect others have done likewise and this is a storm cooked up by a pro-remain media.”

Retail Support

With the relaunch of the Johnston Prams site imminent, Donna McCullough is looking ahead with

ESSENTIAL ONLINE

great confidence to the year ahead. “I predict (and hope!) that consumers will make more ‘considered’ purchases and give a bit of thought to the authenticity and provenance of the goods they are buying,” she begins. “I predict that consumers will support smaller retailers, with a willingness to support independents and help secure local jobs.” In terms of product trends, Donna expects to see a move towards greener, more sustainable products which are ethically sourced and made in the UK or the EU, or somewhere where the people and environment are not being exploited. “We have prepared for any potential supply chain issues by investing in a huge warehouse facility, new staff and professional advice from Brexit experts,” she continues, “as well as a number of new lines, so we are all stocked up and ready for a busy 2021.” One of Donna’s key focuses for 2021 is on consumer and trade shows, which are crucial to the business. “We all love sourcing new brands, but if trade shows at home and abroad are off the cards then it’s an impossible situation,” says Donna.

The biggest challenge for international baby carrier company Love Radius is to get past any Brexit complications, explains associate director Sophie Huard. “We’ve seen a huge change in the UK market over the past three years,” she said. “We used to be in John Lewis, JoJo Maman Bébé and plenty of independent stores but that has all changed. Hopefully, by the end of 2021, Love Radius will be back in the UK.” The company is keeping innovation as its driver, developing new products and offering retailers support wherever possible. “We need to expand internationally without being able to travel,” Sophie continues. “It’s tough. I guess the biggest lesson to learn from Covid is to forget about being able to predict anything!” Online business has always been important for Love Radius as that was how the company started 12 years ago. “Hopefully high street retail will bounce back but all retailers need to look online and innovate across their omni-channel strategy.” For the moment, Love Radius is focusing on finding a good distributor for the UK market and promoting the brand via UK influencers, magazines, awards and babywearing consultants. “We will continue to push the brand,” concludes Sophie. “And I really hope that when everything settles down with Brexit, business will be back!” Below: MuslinZ increased stock levels last year and has more stock arriving early 2021 – including a number of new products.

“I think Covid means that early 2021 will continue to be will be challenging for everyone but I am expecting to see a bounceback by late spring and summer. Retail will return for retailers offering a service and unique offering but it will take some time. Online retail is currently essential for business and buyers alike at present. A key challenge is getting product information out for parents – currently this needs to be online, so the challenge is to get it seen among all the other social media traffic. We have no Brexit-related supply issues at the moment as we increased our stock levels in 2020 and had more stock arriving early 2021 – including some new products! I hope that life is able to get back to normal soon, as new parents need the support that our industry offers so well.” Caroline Taylor, managing director, MuslinZ PROGRES SIVE P R E S C H O O L

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Soothes babies to sleep, just like the car Zed mimics the feeling of being in a car. His clever technology recreates soothing low frequency vibrations that are known to send babies to sleep. Simply place Zed on the mattress by your baby’s feet and press the snooze button. The fifin nely tuned vibrations ripple gently through the mattress, comforting your baby and encouraging a deep sleep.

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WHAT’S NEW NURSERY JOIE

ARK

New from Joie is Fortifi, the clever reclining booster that makes the ups and downs of every journey comfortable. With four reclining positions, this innovative group 1/2/3 booster is expertly crafted for both quick outings and longer journeys. It grows with the child as the headrest can be raised and the Autoadjust side wings allow it to be made wider to accommodate growing shoulders. Available in dark pewter and coal. Tel: 0800 9520061 www.uk.joiebaby.com

Introducing Ark, a thoughtfully designed 3 in 1 travel system, unlike anything else currently on the market. With its unique breathable carrycot, genius shock absorbing wheels, one handed fold, and unbelievable compact design, Ark has been engineered to perfection. Designed and engineered in the UK, Ark supports families in towns, countryside or even on the beach, from birth to preschool age. Tel: 01730 895761 www.arkbeststart.com

MUSLINZ

SNUZ Snüz, the much-loved baby sleep brand behind the UK’s leading bedside crib, is thrilled to announce the launch of the SnüzMobile. Sure to inspire the sweetest dreams and hours of sleep, the SnüzMobile is the perfect addition to baby’s bedtimes. This sleep accessory encourages relaxation thanks to its celestial array of plush grey and white stars, puffy white clouds and pom poms, all of which surround a calming crescent moon. Tel: 01789 734022 www.snuz.co.uk

Baby accessories specialist Muslinz has launched a new set of prints to its popular cotton muslin product range as part of its 2021 Tile collection. The range has been designed in house at MuslinZ’s head office in Oxfordshire with inspiration from old Victorian tiles. The exclusive new Tile prints include a blue, grey and red option. Currently available in 70x70cm muslin squares - the must have baby accessory for every new parent. Tel: 01295 810008 www.muslinz.com

CHEEKY RASCALS Cheeky Rascals is delighted to offer the new Love To Dream Bed and Bath Bundle, including must have products to support the bedtime routine this winter. Featuring the Bath Support for easy bath times, the Cuddledry Handsfree Towel to keep little ones dry and cosy before being tucked up in essential Love To Dream Swaddle UP to guarantee the best night’s sleep. This thoughtful bundle will take little ones from bubbles to cuddles with no fuss at all. Tel: 01730 895761 www.cheekyrascals.co.uk

NIMBLE Nimble is delighted to now offer Nappy Lover, a naturally powerful solution to keep cloth nappies stain free. Nappy Lover joins the other recent launches including Cuddle Lover, a brand-new, allergen free fabric softener and a new litre size of its much-loved non-bio liquid detergent, Laundry Lover. The expanding collection also features the brands flagship and patented Milk Buster Baby Bottle Cleaner, and Sticky Stopper, a bleach-free antibacterial surface cleaner. Tel: 0203 9731460 www.nimblebabies.com

PROGRES SIV E P R E S C H O O L

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WHAT’S NEW NURSERY MY BABIIE My Babiie MB51 strollers are high quality, lightweight aluminium framed buggies that offer great protection, comfort, manoeuvrability and easy handling. Suitable from birth to 22kg, the MB51 has lockable, swivelling front wheels and an extra-large shopping basket. With modern, trendy, unique designs from leopard print, to marble, to rose gold blush, to a sophisticated black quilted, there is something for everyone. www.mybabiie.com

SILVER CROSS

HIPPYCHICK

Introducing Buffet, a new highchair from Silver Cross. Suitable for newborns and toddlers, Buffet is packed full of features to help make mealtimes fun. With a unique newborn cradle mode, multi-stage reclines and five height positions, Buffet comes in two colours, Candy Pink or Cool Grey. Tel: 0345 8726900 www.silvercrossbaby.com

The original back saving Hipseat from Hippychick now comes in the coolest blue denim colour. Specifically designed to address one of the main causes of adult back pain 21 years ago, the Hipseat is still a winner for parents. Ideal for carrying children between six to 36 months, the best-selling toddler carrier is renowned for its durability, style and comfort. Tel: 01278 434440 www.hippychick.com

BABYBJORN Three of the most popular BabyBjĂśrn products are now available in new leopard prints. The two prints in the collection are a traditional leopard-print in cotton and an anthracite leopard-print in an airy mesh fabric. The three products available in these new prints are the Baby Carrier One, the Baby Carrier Mini and the Bouncer Bliss. Tel: +46 854496800 www.babybjorn.co.uk

ENESCO Brand-new into its Izzy and Oliver collection, Enesco has announced the addition of a range of baby wear and accessories. The range includes onsies, sleeping bags, hats, bibs, hooded towels, car blankets, booties and tagalong comforters. Each piece in the collection is suitable for newborns as well as older babies. Tel: 01228 404022 www.enesco.co.uk

PROGRES SIV E P R E S C H O O L

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The Right Toy at The Right Time 3-in-1 Airtivity Center TM From floor play to game play, the 3-in-1 Airtivity Center is designed to keep babies exploring and developing starting from around 6 months to 3 years. There are more than eight different ways to play that little ones can discover, and each is designed to encourage different areas of development as the child grows.

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WHAT’S NEW NURSERY BABY JOGGER Launching from March, the new Baby Jogger Summit X3 is suitable for jogging from six months and has an exciting new look with reflective accents on the canopy and harness. Parents can go anywhere with this highly manoeuvrable stroller. With its all-wheel suspension, the Summit X3 provides exceptional performance on any terrain. Tel: 0800 4148502 www.babyjogger.eu

MARY MEYER

CYBEX

Within Mary Meyer’s new Scandanavian-inspired Leika line, it’s introducing a nine inch-long silicone teether design which has the durability needed to soothe baby’s new teeth, but it also adds the soothing softness of a velour plush tail or ears. The teether is dishwasher safe and the fabric ears /tail is removable and machine washable. Available in raccoon, fox, bunny, and owl. Tel: 01243 780501 www.whitepebbleinternational.com

CYBEX has launched a brandnew i-Size impact shield car seat, designed to provide over ten years of safety. Suitable from over 15 months (a minimum of 76cm) to approximately 12 years (up to 150cm or 50kg) the Pallas G i-size 2-in-1 car seat grows with the child to provide optimum support, superior protection and comfort at each stage of their development. Tel: 0207 4264938 www.cybex-online.com

RED KITE BABY The Feed Me Combi from Red Kite is the ultimate 4-in-1 highchair that can be used for a six-month baby to a 12-year-old young person. The sleek, modern wooden frame and clean white plastics will add a stylish piece of furniture to any home. Supplied as the full package, the Feed Me Combi seat is a padded foam filled wipeable surface that is both comfortable and practical. Tel: 01454 326555 www.redkitebaby.co.uk

BÉBÉLEPHANT Mizzie The Kangaroo is the UK’s newest and most exciting natural teething toy and educational toy brand from Australia. Mizzie has been tried and tested with Australian parents since 2015 to provide purposeful, safe and naturally derived toys. Mizzie the Kangaroo toys are designed by parents specifically to help little ones develop through fun – with each product in the range designed to stimulate a sensory or core skill during playtime. Available from bébélephant. Tel: 020 8202 1467 www.bebelephant.com

PROGRES SIV E P R E S C H O O L

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21 JUMP START

I

t’s long been said that the toy industry is remarkably recession resilient, as parents will prioritise spending on their children. This was certainly in evidence last year, too – the toy market saw overall sales increase in value by 5%, with the biggest spike in sales coming during the first lockdown (+22%). Total sales for the year were £3.3 billion, maintaining the UK’s position as the largest toy market in Europe and fourth largest globally, The NPD Group reported. Challenges remain, however, although there are also positives and optimism among the trade.

Greater appreciation

“After the year that we have had, I know that whatever issues we face,

Left: Fiesta Crafts is introducing 3D Mask Craft Kits this year.

we will find a way through by finding ways to adapt and be creative,” says Andrew Bacon, director of Fiesta Crafts, citing higher shipping costs, unpredictable demand and more lockdowns as potential challenges going forward. “Once we are through all the lockdowns, I believe that the retailers who have survived will come out stronger. “There will also be a greater appreciation for the value of physical shopping. Yes, online retail is more important, but this is a trend that has been happening for years and it

there is a massive benefit to children dressing up to play all year round. We are encouraging our customers to get their kids dressing up at home to help entertain, inspire and educate them throughout home schooling and lockdown.” Right: The Gruffalo is among Smiffys new dress-up launches.

PROGRES SIVE P R E S C H O O L

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2020 was certainly a year like no other, with all of us forced to adapt and be creative in our business lives. But what of 2021? PPS asks some key toy and dress-up suppliers for their predictions, hopes and concerns for the year ahead.

Inset: Taf Toys has a full roster of new releases, building on last year’s demand.

ENTERTAIN, INSPIRE AND EDUCATE Smiffys will be working with a number of new preschool licences in 2021 including The Gruffalo, Bing, The Tiger Who Came To Tea and Mog the Forgetful Cat. “After a tough year for everyone, we are positive about the year ahead of us,” says Sharon Poulter, licensing and marketing manager. “We are expecting Book Day to be a smaller event this year as schools are likely to still be closed. However, we believe

A YEAR IN TOYS

has just sped the process up - it has been a wake-up call for many.” Andrew’s hope is that we will all have learned many valuable lessons from 2020, which will make businesses stronger going forward. “I feel that generally people are much more personal in their interactions and I hope that continues as it makes business much more pleasant and gives a deeper understanding of how much we all need each other to survive and thrive,” he says.

Valuing play

The pandemic has shown that consumers value play and the importance of toys to entertain and educate, says Michael Hick, vp and country manager UK at Mattel. “We’re feeling positive about this year and our brands; Fisher-Price has had a strong performance and we have plenty of new product introductions,” he tells PPS. “We will be heading into 2021 with an increased investment in our brands and we will be strategic in where we place it. We have demonstrated that in 2020 Mattel can be agile and we will continue with that approach making sure we work closely with our retail partners to support them.” The high street will continue to evolve, however consumer buying patterns have changed, Michael highlights. “But 2020 was all about looking at things through 

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A YEAR IN TOYS

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BOUNCING BACK “We’ve seen how quickly our retailer partners have bounced back after lockdowns so we know

consumers will happily go back into stores to browse, demo and buy toys,” says Emma Weber, Vivid’s marketing and licensing director. Looking at sales across the US and Australia, the company is predicting big things for Love, Diana, a star on YouTube with over 4.8 billion monthly views globally. A range of dolls, collectables, dress-up and beauty products launched in January. Another challenge for Vivid will be balancing its marketing and knowing when to switch campaign

 a different lens, and we are lucky that

in the UK we have such a good spread of retailers and so many routes to market,” he adds. “Variety is healthy. We all need each one of these channels, and they all have a vital role to play. This is why it’s so important that everyone in the toy industry plays their part in ensuring the indie retail scene in particular stays healthy and robust.”

Surges in demand

Judith Stark, md at Halilit, says the company has headed into 2021 with a “strong sense of positivity”. “Consumers do appear to have found increased confidence in online shopping which we are anticipating to be a further growth area across many industries not just toys, and we expect that as some level of disruption to ‘normal’ life continues into 2021, the demand for toys which entertain and educate at home such as our developmental ranges like Halilit and Edushape will continue to grow,” she says. The company saw significantly increased demand for its brands (including Taf Toys), which it believes was driven by the prevalence of strong

Above: The Fisher-Price brand continues to perform strongly.

reviews online. “While we had already brought forward supply timescales for early 2021, unfortunately the lack of containers in the Far East through December/January has impacted this,” Judith continues. “We are hopeful that when containers are more readily available we will be able to make the most of the surges in demand with minimal impact from Brexit.”

Working together

Posh Paws has strategically planned its 2021 product launch dates, ensuring regular newness, to hit key consumer shopping periods and what works best for retail launches, says Lauren Shipman, the company’s group brand and marketing director.

SKYROCKETING ONLINE SALES Mayur Pattni, head of marketing at Simba Smoby Toys UK, says: “Online sales skyrocketed in 2020, with people locked in their homes and able to order items so easily on their smartphones and other devices, through retailer sites, and even through Instagram commerce and more. So yes, online certainly will be a key focus for us this year.”

targeting, says Emma. “Our strategy moving into ’21 is to keep a mix across kid targeted marketing, but also to funnel investment into that all important messaging to parents and gift givers,” she comments. “We also hope that we can get back to more experiential marketing, especially across our games portfolio where we know consumers love that hands on experience immersing themselves into playing games.” Left: The Crayola brand is set for further growth in 2021.

“This year will still have its challenges, but we wanted to make a big impact in the first quarter to give ourselves and our customers the best chance of having a strong start to the year,” she explains to PPS. Posh Paws is continuing to invest heavily in its digital marketing and PR activity. It has invested a lot of resource into its online business, says Lauren, and is working closely with customers to ensure their stores and its products are promoted in the best way to drive sales and trust. Lauren is also confident that high street retail will bounce back. “We believe it will, as it always has done when it’s faced difficult times, but it won’t be easy,” she says. “We are continuing to work more closely than ever with our existing customers, and reaching out to new ones with the promise that we are ready to support them as much as we can and we want to work together in making 2021 a better year.”

A general shift

For Amscan, bricks and mortar and online retail are both as important to the company as ever. “While lockdown has seen a general shift to the world of online, we have been so impressed by the way our high street retail stores have found ways to adapt

Left: Simba Smoby Toys has some strong launches coming up, says Mayur.

The company will also be looking to continue to build and drive the Smoby brand and grow its footprint with the Jada range in 2021. “Across the whole portfolio, we have some really strong launches coming up, so really our biggest hope is that these will be as successful as we expect them to be for both us and for our retailer partners,” Mayur adds.

PROGRES SIVE P R E S C H O O L

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An Exciting New Toy Range for Preschoolers! © P&Co.

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A YEAR IN TOYS

Far left: People are looking for nostalgic brands which bring comfort. Left: Products for Blue’s Clues & You are among new launches from Just Play. Below: Posh Paws will be ensuring regular new releases for retail.

consumer minds than it is right now.” Among the challenges, Anthony is also looking to mark 50 years of Rainbow Designs’ this year: “We are immensely proud of the heritage and values that we have built and we truly hope that we can get back to a situation where we can share and celebrate our golden anniversary in style with the whole of our Rainbow family at some point in 2021.”

Right: Traditional formats have been given a new sustainable message at Amscan.

 to ensure they

can still provide products and services to their customers,” says Jennifer Wilson, head of marketing and design. “From running virtual shopping trips and then sending for delivery, to click and collect services, all our customers are facing the challenge head on and really showing their determination to keep making things happen.” Amscan has a host of new preschool designs launching, while its licensed portfolio continues to grow. In addition, it has reinvented some traditional formats with a new sustainable message with classic lines such as table covers and party bags transitioning to paper. “While we have really seen numerous positives blossom out of this challenging time, such as relationships growing stronger and our industry working more closely together than before, we are confident that with further hope building each day, life as we knew it will start to show signs of returning,” Jennifer adds.

Adaptable and responsive

“If 2020 has taught us anything it is that 2021 is likely to be impossible to predict!” says Anthony Temple, md

LEARNING TO BE NIMBLE

Innovative and resilient

of Rainbow Designs. “We all just need to try and be as adaptable and responsive as we can so that we can react and adjust to anything thrown at us. For us, it is also about putting that trust that we have, not only in our strong and dedicated team but in our heritage brands. “We know that during these tough times people look for comfort and to stay in touch with loved ones using brands that have sentiment, nostalgia that have stood the test of time such as our Winnie the Pooh, Peter Rabbit and Paddington Bear.” Anthony says that one of the positives that last year has left everyone with, is that we have all had to embrace technology, accelerate our digital learnings and adapt to change in order to maximise opportunities. “These learnings and enhancements will continue to evolve as we move through 2021 and the high street retailers that have already adapted and are ever-evolving to meet the new ‘normal’ for shopping, will gain strength,” he says. “#ShopLocal and #SupportLocalBusinesses has never been more at the forefront of

Charlotte Rodgers, marketing manager for the Just Play brands portfolio at Flair, says the company is optimistic about the year ahead. “The toy market has shown it can be innovative and resilient, but shops closing for lockdowns and the lack of pester power has made things harder than before,” she says. “But we are optimistic for the year ahead. We have some fantastic new products and new launches, especially in the preschool category.” These include a new Blue’s Clues & You collection, plus new arrivals from premium plush brand Trudi and extensions within the Doc McStuffins range. Charlotte continues: “There’s no doubt that last year was tough on the high street, and yes, online has played an important role, with online accounting for more sales than ever amid store closures and restrictions. Independent retailers, in particular, really deserve a huge amount of recognition for quickly finding a route to market and there’s been a lot of support for local businesses. But as restrictions lift, we do expect the high street to bounce back and I think even as shoppers, we are all keen to get back to browsing and seeing products ‘in real life’.”

Right: There has been an increase in demand for educational toys.

“We will all need to be nimble in 2021,” points out Heather Welch, international brand manager at EDX Education. “Educational toy companies will find reduced demand in some areas and boosts in demand in others. “In 2020, Edx Education saw a boost in demand for outdoor play products, like Step-aForest, Joey Jump, Whizzy Dizzy and we had predicted a boost in sustainable indoor home learning activities especially maths activities, creative design like the Rainbow Pebbles and GeoStix. We have learned to be more nimble with our production timelines to cater for unprecedented changes in consumer preferences.” The company will be launching new ranges including specific educational toys for 2021, with Heather saying it has seen an increase in demand online on educational toys and resources for children, for learning both indoors and outdoors. PROGRES SIVE P R E S C H O O L

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TM and © 2021 Sesame Workshop. Sunny Bunnies © 2021 Digital Light Studios LLC. BBC logo © and TM BBC 1996. BBC Earth logo © and TM BBC 2008. Licensed by BBC Studios.

+44 (0) 1268 567317

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sales@poshpawsinternational.co.uk

Gloucester House Basildon Essex SS14 3BX UK

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WHAT’S NEW TOYS LITTLECONCEPTS PlanToys, available in the UK from littleCONCEPTS, continues to be at the forefront of sustainable children’s products. The new Rubber Road and Rail Set invites children to bring their imagination to life in a city of their own. The rubber roads can be placed on any surface, be it a slope or curve. They also are reversible and can be used as railways. Tel: 0117 2302112 www.littleconcepts.co.uk

TOMY

PLAYMOBIL

Toomies, from TOMY, is set for an ‘egg-citing’ year ahead with the launch of two fantastic products – the 2-in-1 Transforming Tractor and the Stacker Decker Bus. Children can take these eggshaped friends for a ride on the Stacker Decker Bus, or push along the 2-in-1 Transforming Tractor and enjoy the bright colours. Both toys will help children as they develop fine motor skills with the mix and match ability. Tel: 01271 336155 www.uk.tomy.com

In 2021 Playmobil 1.2.3 will be celebrating it’s 30th birthday in the UK, with new imaginative play ideas added to the range for children aged 18 months to four years. One product new to the range will be the Animal Train. The animals can move individually, or can be connected into a long train. Little ones can tell their own stories by assigning pictures to the various animals. Tel: 01268 490184 www.playmobil.co.uk

SPIN MASTER Following the success of PAW Patrol’s Dino Rescue range, Spinmaster will be launching its Moto Pups line in 2021 with new themed outfits and deluxe vehicles for all six pups. The unique motorcycles feature authentic graphics and details, large wheels and a pull-back function that allow for performing wheelies and ‘pawsome’ stunts. The highlight from the range is the Moto Pups HQ Playset which looks just like the PAW Patrol’s action-packed headquarters from the show. Tel: 0800 206119 www.spinmaster.com

RAINBOW DESIGNS Rainbow Designs is celebrating 50 years of the Home of Classic Characters in 2021 with the addition of some fun new wooden toys to join the Guess How Much I Love You and Fun with Spot collections. There will be colourful new Shape Puzzles, Building Blocks and playful Wooden Pullalongs, as well as a fun Balance Toy and Wooden Bowling Set. Tel: 01329 227300 www.rainbowdesigns.co.uk

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WHAT’S NEW TOYS BRIO BRIO fans will go crazy for this all-new battery-operated Steaming Train. The battery-powered engine produces safe-to-touch realistic steam from the chimney as it speeds down the tracks. Once out of water, simply refill the engine using the refill load that’s pulled behind the train. Another fabulous product from the BRIO World range. Tel: 01869 363800 www.brio.uk

FLAIR

TOMY

Flair and Just Play’s fantastic Blue’s Clues & You range brings the fun-learning preschool show to life, delivering show-to-shelf storytelling in core segments, based on proven preschool play patterns. There’s feature plush that captures Blue’s loveable personality, from soft bean-filled plush to interactive plush - there’s something for all children. Tel: 020 86430320 www.flairgp.co.uk

TOMY’s ever-exciting Ricky Zoom range is set to accelerate into 2021 with an expansion of its popular toy range. A key launch for 2021 is Maxwell’s Transforming Trailer. Available in March, children can convert Maxwell’s transforming trailer into a mobile repair station and including both Maxwell and Ricky bikes, they will love recreating roadside rescue scenes from the show guaranteeing hours of zooming fun. Tel: 01271 336155 www.uk.tomy.com

CHARACTER OPTIONS Spring/summer 2021 will see the introduction of a range of Peppa Pig plush, made from 100 per cent recycled materials and designed using plant-based printing inks. The eight-inch Red Dress Peppa is supplied in its own platform box. Peppa’s dress features a green leaf emblem to indicate that she’s an eco-friendly toy option and the packaging also highlights that the toy is manufactured from 100 per cent recycled materials. Tel: 0161 6339808 www.character-online.com

SIMBA SMOBY Not to be missed this spring is the Smoby Garden Playhouse. Perfect for budding gardeners aged two-plus years, this playhouse comes with 15 accessories for lots of green-fingered fun. Also available is the largest Smoby house to date – the fully-customisable Neo Friends House, which can be purchased individually, or with a kitchen. Tel: 01274 765030 www.smoby.com

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WHAT’S NEW TOYS POSH PAWS The Ragtales baby comforters from Posh Paws are perfect for newborns to cuddle up to and give them comfort when they want to sleep. Based on the much-loved Fifi and Alfie Ragtales characters, the baby comforters feature adorable bunny’s, tucked underneath a premium quality cloud shaped blanket for babies and toddlers to hold on to and snuggle with. The Fifi comforter has cute pink ears, stars and raindrops printed on the cloud shaped comforter, and the Alfie one has light blue eyes and stars, with green and yellow raindrops on his. Tel: 01268 567317 www.poshpawsinternational.co.uk

GALT

POSH PAWS

The Puzzles and Play and Learn ranges from Galt are growing to include the Alphabet Animals puzzle and Memory Friends game. Suitable for ages three years and up, the colourful Memory Friends game improves memory through tactile learning while encouraging expression and language skills. The Alphabet Animals Giant Floor Puzzle is a wild extra-large 30-piece puzzle that helps little ones learn the alphabet with extra help from the adorable animal frieze that can be put on the wall as a look and find guide. Tel: 0161 4289111 www.galttoys.com

Sesame Street is the latest license to join Posh Paws preschool portfolio and it will be launching its range of feature and basic plush toys this April. The first products to be available from Posh Paws will be favourites such as the talking ‘Tickle Me’ Elmo toy. Other toys in the range will include a Cookie Monster feature plush and a range of traditional soft toys featuring more iconic characters from the hit preschool show. Tel: 01268 567317 www.poshpawsinternational.co.uk

HALILIT New from Halilit is Dodo, an exciting new range of educational puzzles for children aged 18 months to six years old, combining vibrant and colourful designs with developmental benefits, ensuring that children learn whilst having fun. The range also encompasses popular children’s toys and gifts such as colouring posters and sticker packs, featuring fairies, pirates and mermaids. Tel: 01254 872454 www.halilit.co.uk

HORNBY Hornby is introducing Playtrains, a totally new range of toy trains for the young enthusiast. Children can develop, build, interact with and ultimately have bundles of fun with these new toy trains. The Playtrains are remote controlled, battery train sets which feature working lights, multiple sounds, three speeds in both forward and reverse and an easy to clip together track system. Tel: 01843 233500 www.hornbyhobbies.co.uk

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TALKING TO: RUBIES MASQUERADE

World Book Day is typically one of the biggest seasons in the fancy dress calendar, with nurseries and schools encouraging children to dress up as their favourite book characters for the day. Rubies’ head of marketing and content Fran Hales explains why lockdown doesn’t mean the fun has to stop.

Right: A versatile offering includes this Bristol Novelty Saxon boy, which has many different uses. Far Right: New launches include this Raya and The Last Dragon costume from Rubies’ Disney collection.

Page Turners

W

ith the latest UK lockdown now in place until at least 8 March, it quickly became clear that this year’s World Book Day will be a little bit different. The organisers have announced that it will be going ahead despite the current pandemic and will continue to take place on Thursday 4 March, despite schools remaining closed for most children then. Most, nurseries and early years education settings have continued to run throughout the current restictions, offering many preschoolers a degree of normality. However, many other four- and five-year-olds will sadly be at home during this year’s celebrations. Will they still be able to join in?

WORLD BOOK DAY 2021

Taking place on Thursday 4 March, this year’s World Book Day will be a little different, although parents and carers are still expected to make the most of the occasion wherever possible. There are four £1 preschool books available for this year’s event. They are: ■ There’s a Wolf in Your Book, Tom Fletcher ■ Luna Loves World Book Day, Joseph Coelho ■ What the Ladybird Heard, Julia Donaldson ■ Gigantosaurus, Jonny Duddle

“Absolutely,” Fran enthuses. “World Book Day can still very much take place at home. It has been proven that the wearing of costumes motivates children when learning to read, which is the reason schools and nurseries encourage dressing up as part of the event. We fully endorse anything which opens the doors to educating children and opening their eyes to the joys of reading.” Keeping the kids entertained and focused during lockdown is far from easy and so wearing a costume could help make the day a little different from the usual routine. Bringing a favourite character to life in this way will help lift spirits while also help very young children embrace storytelling. “It is important to recognise the core principle of World Book Day,” Fran continues. “A costume should be utilised as a tool to encourage creativity and nurture the joy we get from reading or through reading to others.” Rubies has been preparing for World Book Day for many months, ensuring it will be able to provide the support to all its customers and retailers as the big day approaches. “We have multiple new characters and costumes coming into the licensed range this year, such as Raya and The Last Dragon from our Disney collection. We are also focusing on promoting the strong curriculum range from Bristol Novelty, having built on this last year with

new additions including Saxon warriors and Tudor royalty.” The fancy dress industry has become a master at adapting over the past year. With most parties cancelled, the focus has been on adapting to ensure consumers – and children – can still celebrate landmark events in their lives, such as birthdays, Halloween, Christmas and now World Book Day. “Schools will do their best to support the day in whatever form that may take online, as will we here at Rubies,” Fran concludes. “Our job is to make sure we continue to help raising spirits through the power of costumes while ensuring we promote the positive message about picking up a book and reading – more so in lockdown than ever before.”

Below: Don’t forget the teachers! These Harry Potter designs from Rubies are just the magic!

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TALKING TO: GREEN SHEEP GROUP Left: The iconic design and style of the SnüzPod4 makes it a top choice for both retailers and parents Below: Commercial director Donna Storey has made the most of her first year with the business.

Baby Bedtimes Established in 2006, Green Sheep Group specialises in top-end baby products which make sure everyone in the family has a better night’s sleep. Progressive Preschool spoke to commercial director Donna Storey to find out more.

G

reen Sheep Group started almost 14 years ago, when university friends Paul Maurice and Mark Nicholls launched a range of organic mattresses, based on the simple idea of providing babies with the safe and natural sleep environment possible. Things were going well for The Little Green Sheep – as it was then – but it was the introduction of the multi award-winning SnüzPod bedside crib in 2013 which really saw things taking off. The new brand – Snüz – quickly established itself in the market as a premium range with a personal touch, offering retailers access to innovative and stylish baby products. The two brands were given their own identities and quickly established themselves in the market. “Since then, our focus has been on increasing the product offer across the board and establishing

our global distribution – but most importantly, on continuing to engage with and dedicate time to the independent trade,” Donna explains. “When I first joined the business it was made abundantly clear to me that the independents were our first supporters; there is a huge amount of loyalty to them that runs right through our entire company culture.” With a career history spanning Amazon, Tesco, Not On The High Street and Mothercare, Donna has a strong grounding in retail, particularly e-commerce. She joined the Green Sheep Group in January 2020, to focus on the brand’s online offering – just as Covid was first becoming an issue. “We could never have known what was going to happen just a

few weeks later,” she says, “but ultimately it was perfect timing.” Of course, the past year has been a time of change for everyone in the nursery industry, but Donna has been able to turn that to her advantage, focusing on making sure that Green Sheep Group’s website and e-commerce offering was as efficient and effective as possible. “The first thing I did was to make sure that there was clear differentiation between our sales channels, so we could protect both retailers and direct customers. For the website itself, I looked at how we attract, retain and convert customers – it’s so important not to forget the basics,” Donna adds. “I always say ‘retail is detail’, but that is multiplied by so many times online – especially when we really dig deep in the data. It’s absolutely fascinating to see how consumers move around the site and react to any little tweaks we make!” Green Sheep Group has made a number of other changes over the past year, with a restructured sales team now headed up by sales manager Sam Tyack, who previously looked after the independent sector. Hannah Cammock has also joined the Green Sheep Group team to work alongside Shaun Windsor-Turner looking after the independent sector, while Keiran Thompson has taken on the role of export and country manager for Ireland. “We have massively strengthened that team, specifically so we can

FACING THE CHALLENGE

“We know there will be a number of challenges to face in 2021 and we are looking to meet these head on. We will be ensuring continuity of supply, managing increasing demand and balancing costs to attempt to mitigate any impact on retail price for our customers. As a small business this is especially important given the high demand for products such as SnüzPod4. Managing the impact carefully so that we’re supporting our retailers and the retail position is going to be critical in the next 12 months.”

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TALKING TO: GREEN SHEEP GROUP Left and below: The Little Green Sheep’s new natural pocket sprung mattress is made with lambswool and coconut fibre, providing even sprung support for little ones.

better look after the independent sector,” says Donna, “and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. When the team did the online launch for the SnüzPod 4 it was amazing to see so many genuinely heartfelt messages coming in on the chat. There was genuine comaraderie there which was really touching.” Green Sheep Group’s unique relationship with the independent sector has seen the business look for ways to support them even further; investing in point of sale, creating exclusive bundles and giving them the opportunity to do something different. “We have hundreds of independent retailers throughout the UK,” Donna explains. “They are a very significant chunk of our business, and I do think that’s because we have grown up together – we are a young company, we’re not one of the giants.” Of course, the various trading restrictions which have been imposed over the past year have seen the independent nursery sector more in need of help than ever. Because of Green Sheep Group’s relatively diminutive size (there are just 25 members of staff at HQ), it has been able to react quickly and nimbly to the Covid restrictions, offering drop shipping wherever possible and dealing with challenges head on. “I do love the agility of being a small company and how entreprenurial

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the team are allowed to be,” adds Donna. “The ability to be reactive and respond to what the independent sector need from us is exciting, but it does also mean that we don’t have huge cash reserves or other back-up when things start getting difficult. Huge credit has to go to our ceo Roger Allen who has manged the past year impeccably – it has been his careful financial control which has ensured that we haven’t passed any of the costs on at all, they’ve all been absorbed internally.” Moving on from the difficulties of the past year, it is always a challenge to stand out in the nursery sector, but for Green Sheep Group it’s all about product differentiation and delivery for customers. “We offer products that customers want to buy – and the money we invest goes into making sure those products are of a great

AWARD WINNERS Green Sheep Group was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2018, recognising the company’s innovative products, impressive growth and a strategic approach across all areas of the business.

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standard, look fantastic and are best in class for their product sector. Really, the beauty of our two brands is that the overall perception of them in the marketplace is much bigger than we actually are.” Sitting at the top-end of the bedside crib market, Snüz has become an aspirational brand which maintains a high-profile within the parenting community, leading the way for other bedside cots and sleep solutions. So what sets it apart? “One of the things I love so much about Green Sheep Group is the way we approach things,” says Donna. “When the new safety standard was announced, rather than just make a small change, we did a complete grassroots redesign. We spoke to customers and found out that temperature regulation was a key concern, so for the SnüzPod4 we focused on breathability and airflow, which ultimately helps baby sleep. And of course, if baby sleeps better, everyone sleeps better!” With Snüz earmarked as the destination brand for child sleep, Green Sheep Group will continue to add lines to the product portfolio which help bolster that messaging to parents. At the same time, The Little Green Sheep has a strong focus on being the go-to brand for the natural family and home. “We launched a natural pocket sprung mattress at the start of this year in response to consumer demand,” Donna explained. “It’s been a huge amount of work, but the reception has been fantastic and it’s great to be able to offer parents another choice in our natural mattress collection.” So with one new successful launch already undertaken for 2021, what’s in store for the Green Sheep Group across the rest of the year? “From a business perspective, I am looking forward to developing our relationships with our retail partners,” concludes Donna, “especially at the moment, as small businesses will need to be supported through what will undoubtedly be another unpredictable year. But I am also looking forward to a number of exciting product launches; we’ve got ten lined up for next year already!”

Above: The Green Sheep Group’s Queen’s Award for Enterprise was officially presented by the LordLieutenant of Warwickshire.

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THE TOP “Our best selling products of 2021 so far include new LEGO, jigsaws and craft items such as Clockwork Soldier’s origami animals.”

MY HERO!

“We sold a lot of Swingball last spring. I’m currently unsure as to what the hero item of 2021 will be.”

The Trading Post:

IN NUMBERS The Trading Post has been a fixture of Kingsbridge in Devon since 1989, selling children’s toys, games, bikes and wetsuits. The team – headed up by Julia Wingate – was also recently recognised for its efforts throughout 2020, receiving a Retailer of the Year award from the BTHA. PPS find out more.

ON THE WAY

“Home learning items like Orchard Toys educational games. Also more wooden and recycled plastic items.” “There are less sales of blind bags.”

ON THE WAY

OUT

LOCAL LOVE

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UP

FACTS AND FIGURES

“We are surrounded by over 100 other independent shops and businesses in Kingsbridge; it’s a great market town.”

Above: The Trading Post is based in Kingsbridge, with the store surrounded by over 100 other independent businesses, says Julia.

STORE STATS

• “Being a keen swimmer, the shop is made up of one Olympic sized swimming pool.” • Average spend per transaction ranges from £12-£20. • The store has two full time and three part time members of staff. • “Our last delivery included new LEGO so there were over 50 boxes”.

CHANGING TIMES

Above: The store is made up of one Olympic sized swimming pool, says Julia.

SUPPLIER STARS

“We’ve worked with loads of suppliers for over 20 years – LEGO, Playmobil, Orchard Toys, Bigjigs and Gibsons. Key new suppliers include Clockwork Soldier and Djeco.”

Above: LEGO was a top performer throughout 2020.

Above: Orchard Toys’ educational games are in high demand.

“We have increased stock uploaded on the website, furloughed staff and reduced opening hours to service click and collect collections. 2021 is about survival. Hopefully once we are out of lockdown, we will see an increase of tourists in our area so increased footfall and sales.”

PROGRES SIVE P R E S C H O O L

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INDUSTRY FEEDBACK 63

THE BREXIT DEAL: UNPICKED

Now that the historic Brexit trade deal has been agreed – allowing British companies to sell goods to EU countries without tariffs and quotas – most preschool businesses are feeling relieved that, after four-and-a-half years, a deal has finally been done. Or are they? Progressive Preschool finds out what the deal really means. The Devil is in the Detail “ I never really had too much doubt that a free trade agreement would be reached. Anyone who has followed EU politics over the years will recognise the tactics of the Commission to take any deal to the wire. That said, it is a relief and brings certainty to ABOVE: Elliot is not trading conditions and importantly, expecting to see any stability to exchange rates – the changes to the way key concerns for a distributor. bébélephant trades. The devil may well be in the detail, but time will tell how well the deal will stand up. A free trade deal is a triumph for both the EU and the UK and appears to live up to the promises made by the Government at the last General Election. However, I suspect there may now be a raft of other free trade deals in the offing – keep an eye on India and China is my tip for 2021! The new arrangements should bring stability to imports and prices so in theory, there should be no change to the wider preschool industry – we are not expecting to see any changes to the way we trade. I do think most people were resigned to a third lockdown once society was opened up for Christmas. As a company, we are ready for what Lockdown 3.0 throws at us – our back office continues to be working from home and stock levels are fine. I applaud the campaign of the nursery sector to classify stores as essential – especially given the requirements for new parents to only leave hospital with a car seat, where appropriate. Let us now come together as a nation, and support the Government’s efforts to rollout the vaccine with all haste. ” Elliot Bishop, owner, bébélephant

Biggest impact yet to be seen “ Free trade agreement’ appears to be misleading our customers into thinking there will not be additional charges, and this is not the case at all. For a small independent retailer, the added costs associated with administration probably equate ABOVE: The deal has fallen well to a 5% price increase, as well as short of Inside Out the additional pressure on cash Toys’ expectations, flow due to having to pay VAT on says Julian. goods imported from the UK. The value of the order is irrelevant – there is still the same amount of paperwork and the same fees to pay. This is effectively penalising small businesses as the additional costs are disproportionate to the value of goods. The alternative would have involved paying some tariffs, but all the paperwork required to import goods is still the same. The deal has fallen well short of our expectations – perhaps naively we would have anticipated less impact to our business. Unless you produce your goods in the UK, you are now disadvantaged compared to other European businesses. The biggest impact is probably yet to be seen, as we move from CE to UKCA marking. The costs associated with these changes could well be significant if we deviate from the existing European CE safety standards and require additional testing and certification to be carried out. This will inevitably mean price increases for the end consumer. Now that we understand what the free trade agreement means, as a small business, we will need to re-evaluate whether trading with the EU remains viable. ” Julian Garner, owner and md, Inside Out Toys 

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INDUSTRY FEEDBACK 65 

Mixed feelings “ I have very mixed feelings [about the deal]. For those in our industry who produce their products in the UK or EU it’s definitely a better outcome than not having ABOVE: For those a deal at all. For those companies who companies who import their import their goods goods from outside the EU from outside the and UK it is far from a free EU and UK, it is far trade deal. from a free trade deal, says Sam. Essentially we now have double duty payable on a wide range of products. Firstly when they arrive into the UK and then again when they go into the EU. This will force prices to be increased. For retailers I think it will change what they buy. There will be some suppliers they deal with in the EU who will not want to, or will not be able to deal with the extra compliance hurdles and will simply not want to trade with UK customers any more. They might go down the route of finding a distributor instead, which in turn will likely increase the costs of the product ranges they bring in. Many retailers who trade online were supplying products to consumers across the EU. With the new duty and tax complications associated with shipping to those consumers outside the UK, they will now choose not to offer products to those markets. The flip side is that there will be a reduction in the amount of retailers from the EU who choose to sell their products online in the UK for the same tax and compliance reasons. This could give UK retailers a boost as the amount of people they compete with will reduce. ” Sam Ireland, operations director, Bigjigs

Keeping a close eye “ I am pleased that there is a trade cooperating agreement which is now in place. Clearly the devil is in the detail so I am not sure I would describe it as a free trade agreement given there is more documentation and regulation in regards to the movement of goods, however, there are no additional tariffs to pay which is clearly a benefit. I believe the true impact will take time to become ABOVE: HTI is apparent. I feel the agreement is a good start, but I do keeping a close eye on feel that the agreement will have a price impact from a raw cross boarder traffic, material and currency perspective - I would hope in the says Colin. longer term this will normalise. We have started to change our compliance certification labelling for the UK from an EN standard to a CA standard, so most of our products will need to carry both from a compliance point of view. One of the key elements of having a deal is harmonisation of certain safety regulations which helps with cross boarder traffic, including the Northern Ireland question. ” Colin Houlihan, ceo, HTI Focus on the Future “ I am relieved that a deal has been agreed and we actually have certainty to plan with – even though it is not ideal for European trade. The alternative would have meant even larger price rises and the possibility of change so would have been even more unstable. Ultimately, the deal doesn’t live up to what I was hoping for – I had initially hoped for customs union as it ABOVE: Jonathan had initially hoped would have meant little if any change. I do believe the new for a customs union agreement will see prices rising and a loss of small importers agreement. both in and out of UK/EU trade in the short term. In the long term we can possibly see the idea of returning to making things here in the UK, so it may be a useful long-term medicine in that respect. After spring I do believe things will begin to settle down. Actually meeting people again and doing face-to-face business rather than over Zoom will be great and let us achieve what is almost impossible now, such as product launches and finding new clients. All we can do really in Q1 is plan, develop, try to keep contacts and communication strong while we keep our eyes firmly focused on the survivors and emerging trends. ” Jonathan Feingold, UK director, Inglesina

Adapt and Learn “ I am really delighted that a free trade deal has finally been agreed – although it is rather annoying that some holes in the description ‘free’ are starting to potentially appear. It is a lot better than no deal, and once everything has settled down and becomes second ABOVE: Jeremy nature, I am sure it will be perfectly is delighted that a deal has finally manageable. The inevitable consequence been agreed. unfortunately is that it is going to make goods more expensive, as the costs of shipping are spiralling. I think that the commercial supply and demand equations will be much narrower, making prices higher and margins tighter – with the cost of freight and documentation going up sharply, it is becoming very expensive to source from, or sell to European countries, which is going to make life more challenging for everyone. We will adapt and learn new ways – just as we have had to adapt to every change in the 21 years we have been in business, from the growth of the

internet, to next day delivery expectations, packaging and materials legislation, environmental concerns, Covid, etc. If we do not adapt we will fail. We are currently very busy getting 2021 lines confirmed in the absence of any trade fairs and customer meetings. The biggest immediate challenge we have is the shipping chaos and costs – in the short term we are planning to keep stock coming and avoid price rises wherever possible. During this latest lockdown we are continuing to operate as normally as possible with all recommended and sensible social distancing and PPE measures in place – as a business we are lucky that staff have a fair bit of natural space around them and all those able to are working from home. Orders are good and we are helping customers with drop shipping and direct despatch wherever possible. At the end of the day – we all need to support each other and I think we should all realise how lucky we are to be in an industry that is less radically affected than others in the hospitality or service sectors. ” Jeremy Minchin, managing director, Hippychick

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FACTS AND FIGURES

MY HERO!

“My Boredom Busting Box was my 2020 hero item. Customers give me a bit of information about the recipient(s) and I create a box full of fun for them to a value of €50. It was one of the main reasons I was awarded this year’s Toy Retailer of the Year award. In 2021, I have a couple of ideas up my sleeve, but I think my hero item again will be something that I create from my product range rather than any one existing product.”

Toy Corner: IN NUMBERS The store may have only been open for 16 months – six of which were solely online due to local lockdowns – but Toy Corner in Galway has already made a big impact. With owner Hazel McCarthy’s efforts recognised by the BTHA with a Toy Retailer of the Year award, PPS finds out more about the store she describes as “a little Aladdin’s cave”.

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LONG TIME FRIENDS

“My shop has only been open 16 months so I don’t have a long business history with any one supplier, but I learned the trade growing up in my mum’s shop - Hopkins in Wicklow - and many of the reps I met first when I was as young as ten years old. I won’t specify who they are, as they probably don’t want to be reminded that over 20 years have passed since our first meeting!

Below: Hazel describes the store as “a little Aladdin’s cave” Inset: Hazel learned her trade growing up in her mum’s shop, Hopkins in Wicklow, and still deals with some of the same reps today. Above: Sales of jigsaws are still going strong across all age groups.

GOING GLOBAL

“I have had customers order from my site from 11 different countries, from as close as the UK and as far away as Singapore and Australia.”

THE YEAR AHEAD

“If I can at least maintain what I managed to do in 2020 I will be really happy - I’ll know the shop is viable and it’s not a COVID-19 induced fluke! I foresee my main challenge this year will be in timing orders to keep the shop well stocked. With the added impact of Brexit affecting delivery timelines along with COVID-19, I will need to be even more on the ball with forecasting and ordering.”

STORE STATS

• “ So far, the team is just me! A lot of late nights and early mornings, and lunch breaks are distant memories, but I hope to grow the team this year.” • “ Toy Corner is a little Aladdin’s Cave about the size of one quarter of a tennis court! Space is always a challenge, but it really tightens up my range and means I really stand by every single item I stock.” • “Average spend I would guess about €30 for in-store over the whole year, which is skewed slightly by Christmas. Generally €20 would be average for the noncrazy months of the year.” • 23 boxes were in the last delivery. • “I aim to change the window every two weeks when I’m open, and every week during lockdown.”

Above: Hazel aims to change the store’s window every two weeks when open and every week during lockdown.

TOP SELLERS

“Jigsaws, jigsaws, jigsaws, jigsaws, jigsaws! You would think everyone would have had enough of jigsaws by now, but they are still going really strong, from children to adults.”

PROGRES SIVE P R E S C H O O L

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THE BIG INTERVIEW: 8TH WONDER

Wonder kids Despite the challenges of 2020, the year ended up being the best ever for 8th Wonder, with the company experiencing significant growth. And, as PPS discovers, plans are in place to ensure this upward trend continues in 2021, thanks to a strong mix of new preschool licences and existing range refreshments.

A

ndrea Gornall, senior product and business development manager at 8th Wonder, readily acknowledges that 2020 was most certainly not the year everyone had planned it to be. However, the company adapted and revised its plans and ended up recording its best year ever, seeing significant growth. “The pandemic made everyone rethink and we planned to increase our investment and bought in additional domestic stock,” Andrea explains to PPS. “This plan worked and enabled us to start working with lots of new partners, as well as support our existing customers.” The company’s top performing brand was Hey

Duggee – with its wooden range for the BBC Studios’ property shortlisted for Best Licensed Toys or Games Range at The Licensing Awards 2020. New lines were

Above: The PAW Patrol Character Skittles were a new addition to the portfolio in Q4. Below: Andrea Gornall, senior product and business development manager, 8th Wonder.

introduced in Q4 which saw it move up into the higher price points, too, with products including the Hey Duggee Vehicle Block Set (£39.99). Best sellers across the year included the Light and Sound Train, Character Skittles, Carry Along Club House and the new Hey Duggee Plush Chair. “We have a strong preschool category and other brands also grew, like Bing and In The Night Garden,” Andrea continues. “The new Bing Skittles, Carry Along House and In The Night Garden Activity Cube all performed well. “In Q4 we also added PAW Patrol to our portfolio and, although we only launched Character Skittles and a Puzzle Clock, both lines had outstanding sales. This range will grow further in 2021.” Indeed, Andrea says that 8th

Below: Hey Duggee was 8th Wonder’s top performing brand in 2020.

PROGRES SIVE P R E S C H O O L

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THE BIG INTERVIEW: 8TH WONDER

Wonder has set itself up to see significant growth in 2021. “We are now working with new licensing partners and feel so happy to have expanded our brand portfolio in all toy categories including preschool, girls, role-play, arts and crafts, games and boys,” she says. “For example, brands like Paddington and Fisher-Price will see our preschool category strengthen; both brands have significant heritage and brand awareness. “Role-play will become a key player for us and we will launch products from both Little Tikes and Barbie. However, we knew that we had to also invest in people to make this all happen. Our team in the UK and Far East has been strengthened by recruiting 14 new roles, covering various areas like sales support, QA, CR and design.” As well as the new brand additions, this year will also see the launch of range extensions to existing properties in the 8th Wonder portfolio. Andrea continues: “Together they will all strengthen the preschool category for 8th Wonder and enable us to offer a range of products that showcase our design strengths. They will also give our growing customer base the chance to offer their consumer’s products that shout sustainably and products that offer real value for money.” Notably, sustainability remains high on 8th Wonder’s agenda, despite the additional challenges from the pandemic. “All our wood

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comes from FSC certified forests,” says Andrea, “and this is a key message to get across. We will also continue to look at ways to reduce the amount of packaging in our products and are working together as a team to achieve this.” New lines and plans are currently being showcased to partners and retailers via Teams or Zoom. “We all had to quickly adapt to

CHALLENGES AND GOALS Andrea admits that it is uncertain how the year will unfold and that it’s likely lots of challenges will need to be faced. “From container shortages, container price rises and shipping delays to embedding our new team into 8th Wonder while working at home is all challenging,” she tells PPS. “Let’s hope after Chinese New Year things start to improve.” When it comes to what she would like to achieve during the year, however, Andrea has very clear goals. “I would love to see the team achieve our ambitious growth plan and see our portfolio of products, that cover lots of different toy categories, be as successful as it deserves,” she stated. “The team have pulled together during this terrible time and they deserve to see all their hard work pay off.” PROGRES SIVE P R E S C H O O L

69

Above left: Sustainability remains top of the agenda for 8th Wonder, with all of its wood coming from FSC certified forests. Above: The In the Night Garden Activity Cube was a strong performer last year.

new ways of working during 2020,” Andrea says. “Like most suppliers, all previews have been via Zoom or Teams and getting to grips with new technology like our showroom camera was fun, however it all seemed to work out. “It’s not easy to get the breadth of offer and quality of product over in this format, but overall the trade reaction has been amazing, very positive. I think our retailers are delighted and even shocked with how much news we have to share – every preview has seen such positive comments. I do wish the toy fairs had been able to go ahead, as that would have given us a big opportunity to showcase our offer. Also it is challenging to get time with customers that you don’t currently trade with or customers which don’t know 8th Wonder. Everyone is so busy and facing their own challenges, so we will continue to support them.” With a strong portfolio and the team’s impressive work ethic, it’s not hard to see why 8th Wonder is forging ahead. And Andrea’s confidence is infectious: “I know 2021 will be a success for us,” she concludes. “All the hard work will pay off, I’m sure.”

09/02/2021 14:13


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WHAT’S NEW

Blade & Rose Reveals SS21 Collection

BLADE & ROSE Blade & Rose has revealed that its iconic knitted shorts and coordinated tee sets will return for spring/summer 2021. Featuring bright and playful designs which Blade & Rose is synonymous for, the first sets to launch in February will include Mermaid, Campervan, Fifi Flamingo, Fox, Charlie the Squid and Highland Cow. Tel: 01539 730880 www.bladeandrose.co.uk

Back by popular demand, Blade & Rose have revealed that their iconic knitted shorts and coordinated tee sets will return for SS21, with brand new designs launching in time for the Spring

KABODE

season.

Founded by a dad of two, Kabode is a creator of inspirational children’s bedding that is and Highland Cow. beautifully designed specifically to be the centrepiece of any little Offering the perfect transitional pieces for a child’s Spring-Summer wardrobe, Blade & Rose’s Tees one’s bedroom. The collections are made from a light-weight jersey cotton and feature shoulder poppers for easy dressing, while the include the award-winning super-soft Knitted Shorts are designed to keep little ones looking cute as can be and feeling just as Alphabet Bedding range and comfy. comprise quilts, fitted sheets and bedding sets for cribs, cots and All designs are available in sizes 0-6 months - 3-4 years. Trade prices range from £3.50-£10. cot beds. For more information about Blade & Rose visit www.bladeandrose.co.uk Tel: 0208 0171346 Instagram: @bladeandrose Facebook: @bladeandrose www.kabode.co.uk Featuring bright and playful designs which Blade & Rose is synonymous for, the first sets to launch in

February ‘21 will include (pictured above); Mermaid, Campervan, Fifi Flamingo, Fox, Charlie the Squid

For information, samples and images contact Katie Fox – E: katie@katiefoxpr.com

ENESCO Enesco has announced a brandnew collaboration between two of its biggest licensors to create a unique collectable offering. Beatrix Potter is teaming with award-winning artist Jim Shore, to bring some of the author’s iconic characters to life. The brandnew collection includes Peter Rabbit, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and Jemima Puddle-Duck figurines to name but a few, with each piece presented in a branded gift box. Tel: 01228 404040 www.enesco.co.uk

-ends-

SMIFFYS From the classic storybook by Judith Kerr, Smiffys has a brand new The Tiger Who Came to Tea costume for 2021. The deluxe costume is an all-in-one featuring a plush tiger hood to help bring the character to life. The Tiger Who Came to Tea costume will be available in ages three to six years from February. Tel: 01427 616831 www.smiffys.com

THE LITTLE GREEN SHEEP The Little Green Sheep Natural Pocket Sprung Mattress has been beautifully handmade, championing only the highest quality natural materials. This innovative dual-sided mattress has been designed to provide firm support for baby as recommended by safe sleep experts, and progressive support as they grow to toddlerhood, and beyond. Tel: 01789 734022 www.thelittlegreensheep.co.uk

PROGRES SIV E P R E S C H O O L

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WHAT’S NEW NANA’S MANNERS Nana’s Manners’ new expanded ranges break the weaning journey down into three simple steps, allowing parents to instantly understand their child’s needs at each distinct phase; Stage 1 – Discover, Stage 2 – Confidence, Stage 3 – Independence. Each range is designed and developed around children’s learning, co-ordination and fine motor skill development, approved by experts and used by paediatric and healthcare professionals. Tel: 0203 1792350 www.nanasmanners.com

BEABA

COT COOL

Beaba’s award winning Babycook Neo has an exciting new colourway – Eucalyptus. This simple, stylish, safe and convenient 4-in-1 meal-making machine steams, blends, defrosts and heats. With its large glass bowl and increased capacity stainless steel steam basket, it has the capacity for parents to prepare 33% more ingredients in one go. This new neutral, pastel eucalyptus green with coordinating pink detailing, will provide the perfect ‘pop’ of colour to any contemporary kitchen worktop. Tel: 07584 709186 www.beaba.com

Cot Cool helps babies to sleep by cooling and circulating air around their sleep space. Simply attach it to the cot or crib rails and press the power button. Warm humid air is converted to cool fresh air, relieving a baby’s discomfort in the heat and encouraging a restful sleep. Cot Cool is great for expectant Mums and small enough to take on holiday too. Tel: 07967 085927 www.cotcool.co.uk

EASYTOTS The new EasyMat MiniMax has all the features of the brand’s bestselling EasyMat Mini, including four corner suction points, portable folding sides, a sealed lid and a carry case. However, the MiniMax features an open plate, rather than divided sections, which maximizes the space for food, and it has an additional strong suction base in the centre of the mat, making the mat extra strong. Tel: 01744 419936 www.easytots.com

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The coolest way to keep kids’ meals fresh. Coolbags are collapsible when empty and PROGRESSIVE PRESCHOOL compact when full. They are easy to clean and an exciting, fun way to carry kids’ snacks and lunches. 73-74_General WN.indd 2

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Glob


FACTS AND FIGURES

STRONG SELLERS “Unlike during the first lockdown when it was everything educational and craft, so far customers are wanting games and toys to reward children for their hard work. I am still selling a lot of animal, dinosaur and the Schleich Eldrador figures and we have sold quite a few Lottie Dolls, too.”

PEOPLE POWER

“We are a small team - I have two members of staff who work in the shop and myself. My dog Jasper comes with me every day and my husband is the unofficial handyman, although I do many jobs myself, too.”

Armadillo Toys

IN NUMBERS

Established in 2003, Armadillo Toys benefits from a loyal local customer base and has made numerous changes over the past year to cope with the pandemic, including reinstating the shopping cart on its website, offering click and collect and delivery and, when open, adding in key safety measures for staff and customers. Plus, owner Lisa Clay was named the BTHA’s Ultimate Super Hero, as part of this year’s Toy Retailer of the Year Awards. PPS finds out more.

LOCAL LOVE

“We did notice last year a real sentiment to shop local among our customers, with many mentioning how they were going to do their Christmas shopping locally and not online. We do have a very loyal local customer base for us and the other independent shops in Chapel Allerton.”

OLD AND NEW FRIENDS

“Lanka Kade is the only supplier that I have continually stocked since I opened in 2003. It’s still going strong and the chunky wooden animals have been very popular. Last year we started stocking Djeco and it has rapidly become one of my top five suppliers.”

Inset: Armadillo Toys is approx. 12 armadillos wide and 24 armadillos long.

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CHANGING TIMES

“My head was spinning with the many twists ands turns during the pandemic last year, but we have settled down with a basic set of rules we now all follow. Shop closed, click and collect, delivery, one way systems, minimising customer numbers, hand sanitiser, face masks - it was a hard balancing act between policing customers and trying to give good service. The main change for me has been the reinstatement of the shopping cart on my website. The other key change is the increased number of social media and email contacts made by customers wanting help and advice.”

2021 WISHES

“I think I am of the same opinion as most independent shop owners - I just want to get through this and out the other side. When we do I am sure we will all bounce back. I really hope we don’t lose any independent toy shops; we are an important part of the local and national economy.” • The shop is approx. 12 armadillos wide and 24 armadillos long. How long is an armadillo I hear you ask? I would say about 50cm. • Average spend was a bit more in the last quarter, about £30. Normally during the rest of the year it would be more like £20. • “I am not ordering much as the shop is closed, so the last delivery was just two boxes. I have had six deliveries so far this year.” • Windows are refreshed as an ongoing process, when a new item arrives or a product is sold out, with a complete re-do happening every couple of months.

Above: Owner Lisa Clay was named the BTHA’s Ultimate Super Hero as part of the Toy Retailer of the Year Awards.

MY HERO!

“We did very well with the Schleich Eldrador range last year - if we could have got our hands on more stock we could have done even better.”

Right: The store focuses on classic, durable toys and has worked with Lanka Kade since it opened. Djeco came on board last year and rapidly became one of its top five suppliers. PROGRES SIVE P R E S C H O O L

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Profile for Max Media Group

Progressive Preschool January/February 2021  

Progressive Preschool January/February 2021