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The B2B Publication For Preschool Products and Retailers

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ISSUE 52 JUNE 2021

01/03/2019 13:33

07/06/2021 13:57

Storytime meets quiet time. With tonies®️ Headphones, your little listener can enjoy their Toniebox wherever you go!

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PreschoolNews Advert 165 x 245_Layout 1 04/01/2018 16:20 Page 1


JUNE 2021

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@Prog_Preschool is the new online resource for the preschool product and retail sector. From the publishers of Progressive Preschool Magazine and the organisers of the Progressive Preschool Awards, this Above: Sustainability remainsand a prominent concern for the nursery and toy industry. new website e-newsflash portal will provide the very latest news, views, and hile the main topic generation to inherit a world that’s analysis across the preschool product full of potential” said another. You of conversation can read more from page 18. the recent G7 and retailat sector. We also find out how a selection Summit was on


Max Publishing Ltd, United House, PreschoRoad, isLondon the new online N7 9DP North resource for the preschool product and retail sector. From the publishers of Progressive T: 020 7700 6740 F: 020 7607 6411 Preschool Magazine and the organisers of the Progressive Preschool Awards, this new website and e-newsflash portal will provide the very latest news, views, and analysis across the preschool product

Copyright 2021. Whilst every effort has been made and retail sector. to ensure the information in this magazine was Launching with an unrivalled email subscriber a correct atbase theof 12,087 timereaders, of going to press, the publishers twice weekly newsflash will land cannot legal liability for any errors or directlyaccept in the inboxes of everyone in this fast-paced industry. omissions, nor can they accept responsibility for A modern, easy to navigate will provide central the website standing of aadvertisers nor any organisation resource for the trade too, offering mentioned inarticles, theantext. news, in-depth industryViews of contributors do not jobs board, retail analysis, digital issues of necessarily reflect those of the publishers. Progressive Preschool, and much much more. All advertising on the website is

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

duplicated to each and every newsflash, giving advertisers huge visibility and direct impact to retail buyers. is published by preschool sector experts, for preschool trade experts.

wait for big changes, as every small step taken towards sustainability will make a difference. is published by preschool sector experts… For those looking to progress their of toy and nursery suppliers have sustainable journeys, it would be well the Covid recovery, the group’s been making changes across their worth checking out the Sustainability pledges on climate change Launching with also an unrivalled email product lines – from Frugi and Bigjigs in Licensing Conference, too – which found themselves under the base 12,087through readers, a and Lässig – as to Dantoy is running virtually on 24-25 June with widersubscriber media spotlight. And,of with they begin content also available on-demand for the COP26 conference twiceclimate weekly newsflash will landthe education of future consumers at the earliest possible 30 days afterwards. Find out more at set for Glasgow in November, directly thewillinboxes ofstage. everyone Turn to page 24 for more. the issue is one in which It’s encouraging to see such Elsewhere in this issue, we continue to demand attention. in this fast-paced industry. progress being made, and not just in celebrate gardens – big and small Despite the challenges being A modern, to navigate terms of more eco-friendly products – and how retailers can make the brought about by the easy pandemic, and packaging. Companies also most of products such as mud sustainability has also remained a a central website will provide shared with us how they’ve been kitchens, trampolines, teepees prominent concern for the nursery resource for the trade too, offering adapting their office environment, and playhouses, while we also and toy trades, as Progressive switching lighting to reduce energy look at how the children’s parties Preschool underlines in this issue. news, in-depth articles, an industry consumption and replacing company and dress-up sector is looking to We asked four senior executives analysis,cars digital issues of versions. to electric or hybrid help people make up for lost time from jobs the toy,board, publishingretail and apparel one executive toldmore. us, don’t it comes to celebrations. industries to discuss thePreschool, changes Progressive andAsmuch much Allwhen advertising on the website is You can also find everything being made in their businesses, as duplicated to about eachtheand every you need to know well as their key milestones and Progressive Preschool 2021 goalsThe when magazine it comes to sustainability and awards do a great job in newsflash, givingAwards advertisers (pages 43-45). The product entry for our special roundtable. joining the dots between toy, nursery, gift, huge visibility direct deadline is Friday 30and July and we’ve impact And their responses when asked already been impressed by the why itapparel, was vital that sustainability publishing, and of course licensing to retail buyers. quality and breadth of nominations remains on the agenda for the whole andsector this were digital offering will further enhance – we don’t envy the judges! preschool very telling. “Quite simply, sustainability is the our position as a trade media partner that is published health and future of the planet” The Progressive offers a tangible response to advertising by preschool sector experts, for shared one. “We want the next Preschool Team Samantha Loveday, Willis, preschool tradeRob experts. Right:investment. Wilton Bradley’s mud kitchen range Jo Pilcher and Katie Roberts-Mason. focuses heavily in the garden play space. ADVERTISING AND COMMERCIAL:


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Meet The Team

Rob Willis

35 Samantha Loveday



n Conversation With: 06 News 40 IKidcentral The latest updates from across the preschool industry

Insights 13 Parents How the pandemic is changing parents and kids purchasing when it comes to toys

Columnist 15 Guest Why The Baby Club has become a lifeline for parents and carers during lockdown

Roundtable 18 Industry Four senior executives from

the toy, publishing and apparel sectors discuss why it’s vital that sustainability remains on the agenda

Big Interview: Kidly 22 The How founder James Hart is

marking the company’s fifth anniversary and planning for the next five years

ector Focus: The 24 SSustainable Generation


 Sector Focus:

Garden Play

How the company has evolved to become a key distributor within the preschool space

rogressive Preschool 42 PAwards 2021

Jo Pilcher

Everything you need to know about the industry’s big event on Thursday 11 November

he Big Interview: 46 TTonies

UK and Ireland md Lucia Kreuzer on the company’s epic 18 months of growth

Executive Profile 51 Roger Allen, ceo of Green Sheep

Katie Roberts-Mason

Group, in the hotseat

ector Focus: Children’s 53 Sparties and dress-up  Event Focus: 61 INDX Kids

in Numbers: 67 RTheetailer Olive Branch, Castle Donington

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05 05_Contents.indd 1

16/06/2021 12:22


EasyTots secures investment in the Dragon’s Den


business, which was founded in You’ve had some bumps in the road, eaning 2016, and is estimated to turn over but I think you’re a really credible company and £550,000 this year. entrepreneur. You just need a bit of manufacturer Helen Davies, founder of the help. So I’ll make you an offer.” of the company, left the den with £80,000 Along with the investment, bestselling EasyMat, EasyTots from Sara, in return for 30% of EasyTots has enjoyed the increased has welcomed an investor from the company. brand awareness and sales bought BBC’s Dragon’s Den on board about by the appearance and after a gruelling pitch You’ve had some bumps in also the social media coverage, in the infamous den. In a nail-biting the road, but I think you’re a really including from Sara herself, who took to Instagram stories on the pitch, Peter Jones, credible entrepreneur. You just need night the show aired to tell her Deborah Meaden, Tej Lalvani and Touker a bit of help. So I’ll make you an offer. 40.1K followers how excited she is to work with EasyTots. Suleyman, all declared Sara Davies Helen commented: “I themselves ‘out’, before In the den, Sara said: “I think it’s am so over the moon with this entrepreneur and founder of crafter’s brilliant. I totally hear the criticism the opportunity. This is going to be a supply company, Sara Davies MBE, other dragons have levelled at you. game changing moment for offered the money to invest in the

Casdon Toys marks 75 years With the company having been launched on 8 June 1946 by Thomas Cassidy, this month sees Casdon Toys marking its 75th anniversary. It now successfully trades internationally with offices in Hong Kong and distribution partners in the US and Australia but remains headquartered in Blackpool, in the original Casdon premises of the 1950s. Casdon products have been family favourites for years – from the Telephone Exchange, to the Bobby Charlton Soccer Game, to the vintage Casdon Hypertill. Their products are child-sized versions of items that adults may have in the home, allowing children to imitate the grown-ups and ‘help out’ through role-play, while also developing their imaginative and practical skills. Today’s bestsellers include the

officially licensed child-sized Dyson Ball vacuum, the Pick & Mix Sweet Shop, mini-Henry and Hetty vacuum cleaners and the Morphy Richards Kitchen Set. The company has launched a ‘Helping out in the Home Corner’ initiative to coincide with the milestone anniversary. The campaign will see 100 primary schools benefit through an interactive and resourceled programme including activity sheets, certificates and stickers, as well as child-sized home corner favourites from Casdon’s toy range to help enhance role-play areas in schools across the country. “Celebrating our 75th anniversary is a fantastic milestone,” commented Phil Cassidy, md of Casdon and grandson of company founder, Thomas. “Casdon was built on my grandfather’s belief that toys need to have a role in children’s learning and

development as well as being fun to play with. 75 years on, his legacy is celebrated with every new toy that we introduce.” Below: Thomas Cassidy, founder of the company, pictured on the Casdon shopfloor.

For the latest news visit

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Above: The Start-Rite concessions have opened in Fenwick Brent Cross and Kingston stores.

Above: Helen (pictured right with Sara Davies) says sales increased by 400% on the brand’s website after the episode aired.

our company and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen in the future.” Following the show airing, sales increased by 400% from normal on the brand’s website, while there

was also a significant sales volume on Amazon and Helen reports that products ‘sold out on Amazon pretty quick.’ She also reports a rise of 1,700 new subscribers on the night the programme aired.

Bigjigs celebrating Green Toys success Following the launch of its FSC® range, Bigjigs’ operating director, Sam Ireland expects consumers to demand more ethically produced products. Bigjigs’ FSC® collection launched in 2020, and all products in the range have been manufactured from wood obtained from forests which are sustainably managed. This comes after the company has made huge changes to its operation in order to become more sustainable, and joins the popular Green Toys range, which is made from 100% recycled plastic. The Green Toys range has seen sales soar by over 20% over the past 12 months.

Sam explained: “There’s still a lot of work to be done across the industry, but it’s been great to see everyone starting to make changes. “In coming years, I think there will be a much higher bar set by consumers - it won’t be enough to have recycled packaging, products will need to become the full recyclable circle like Green Toys.” Below: The Green Toys range has seen sales rise by over 20% in the past 12 months.

Fenwicks adds StartRite to its offering

Department store Fenwicks is now stocking all Start-Rite lines in two locations, with more due to roll out later this year. The new Start-Rite concessions launched in the retailer’s Brent Cross and Kingston stores over the May Bank Holiday. The shop fits took inspiration from the nursery supplier’s brand colours to create playful and welcoming spaces which reflect the brand values and sense of fun. Later this year, Start-Rite plans to launch in Fenwick Newcastle and Fenwick Colchester, while the brand’s full range of products across all categories including first shoes, summer styles, boots and school, will also be available on the Fenwick website. Sarah Northage, Start-Rite’s head of sales, said: “This is an exciting time for us. Much has changed over the last 12 months and despite a large amount of sales moving to online channels, there is still a huge demand for our products to be fitted by trained specialists in-store. “We can’t wait to welcome some new consumers and introduce them to our wonderful brand.”

For the latest news visit

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The UK’s only baby trade show

LET’S MAKE IT REAL AGAIN! #realpeople #realproducts #realatmosphere

Don’t miss booking the REVISED new dates 17th to 19th October 2021

Harrogate Convention Centre (visit the website to book your stand space.)



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BRIO forecasting solid growth through 2021


avensburger is looking to further build on the success the BRIO brand has enjoyed over the past year, with a host of new launches planned, supported by key marketing activity. The brand saw strong growth throughout 2020, up 35% on NPD

£ data which was driven by BRIO World. This year, further growth of 24% is forecast thanks to new launches which have so far included the battery-operated BRIO Steaming Train, five new engines and two additions to the BRIO Smart Tech Sound lines: Rescue Action Tunnel Kit and the Train Service Station. For the second half of the year, there will be a further two Smart Tech Sound launches including a 91-piece Deluxe Railway Set and a Waterfall Tunnel. BRIO has also joined forces with Disney to launch new Princessthemed sets, making it Left: The BRIO Steaming Train has proved popular since launch earlier this year.

Bumper Harrogate event on the cards The UK’s nursery industry is looking forward to a bumper trade show in October, with the confirmation of further favourite brands attending including Roma and Tutti Bambini. Harrogate International Nursery Fair - which takes place at the Harrogate Convention Centre from 17-19 October 2021 - recently announced participation of i-Candy and Kinderkraft, in addition to brands such as BabyStyle, Bebecar, Artsana (Chicco and Recaro), Cosatto, Cybex, Dorel Juvenile, Jané, Peg Perego, Silver Cross and Venicci to name just a few. “We are delighted to welcome back so many favourite brands – as well as quite a few new ones too – and look forward to presenting a fantastic show to the industry this year,” said Adrian Sneyd, show organiser. “There is a real buzz about the event, as it offers the first opportunity in over 18 months for retailers and buyers to get together to discuss business face to face.” The event will also be adding an extra hall (Hall D

possible for BRIO to reach new target audiences in railway toys. In terms of upcoming marketing activity, there will be TV ads, YouTube influencer outreach, social media and programmatic, cinema and print advertising. In addition, there is also a tie-up with more parenting magazines to extend the awareness of BRIO Builder, the open-ended construction system for children aged 3+. A social media campaign is due to run, too, focused on the Race Car from the BRIO toddler range. “Our ambition is to grow sales by a further 15% and double the business in the next three years, in addition to continue establishing BRIO as the leading premium preschool brand,” said head of marketing and product development, Katy Fletcher. “The BRIO team based in Sweden are working on a stellar new line-up for 2022 across BRIO World, Toddler, Builder and Games with a continued focus on the Smart Tech Sound range.”

Below: Roma is just one of the brands which has confirmed attendance at the show.

at the Convention Centre) to cater for demand for space. Adrian continued: “We are almost fully booked now, so if you are a supplier considering attending, we recommend not leaving booking until the last minute as we cannot guarantee availability.” You can find out further information at

For the latest news visit

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ECLIPSE Designed to grow with your family

Available as a travel system with isofix base included, plus an integrated bubba board.

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‘Sustainability must remain high on the agenda’


enior executives from across the publishing, toy and apparel categories have shared why it’s vital that the issue of sustainability remains on the agenda for the preschool business. Executives from Mattel, Keel Toys, Redan Publishing and TDP Textiles told PPS that momentum must continue to drive positive change in the preschool sector, despite several other major challenges facing the industry. “Pre-pandemic, sustainability initiatives were widely discussed within the industry, yet there is risk now that other factors such as the economic pressures created because of lockdowns could challenge the focus and commitment of us all to sustainability,” said

Lorraine Westbury, director of corporate social responsibility at TDP Textiles. “Conversations surrounding sustainability and the related issues have been on the rise throughout the pandemic amongst shoppers. “I strongly believe there is a substantial increase in the number of discerning shoppers with a moral conscience who now question their purchases - the sensible approach is, therefore, to continue to drive initiatives to ensure successful and sustainable businesses post-pandemic.” Pamela Gill-Alabaster, global head of sustainability at Mattel, believes that focusing on sustainability – from waste management to carbon emissions and energy generations – is “critical”, while Julie Jones, md of

Redan Publishing, said that “we all have a responsibility to protect the planet for future generations”. Julie continued: “Not only that, consumers have a big voice and we need to listen.” Steve Cox, UK sales director at Keel Toys, also pointed out that with retail back open the company is seeing many retailers which are looking to introduce eco alternatives. “Don’t wait for big changes as every small step taken towards sustainability will make a difference,” he said. Read more from Pamela, Steve, Julie and Lorraine (clockwise from top left) in a special industry roundtable on pages 18-21

Cybex launches new sport collection Global baby brand, Cybex has introduced a new collection of sports products, inspired by former professional athlete and founder, Martin Pos. The award-winning collection features the Cybex Zeno – a 4-in-1 running, cycling and cross-country skiing, multisport stroller - and the Cybex Avo – a lightweight running machine. Zeno (£739.90) is suitable for children from six months to four years and can be used with the hands

free technology, or choose to use the push mode. Meanwhile the Avi (£499.90) features a light aluminium frame, air filled tyres and rear suspension to provide a smooth run. It has one hand steering and reflective details. Martin Pos, founder of Cybex, commented: “As a team of former athletes and parents, we were excited to develop a series of products that would inspire active parents to be free for their sporting activities, resulting in healthier, happier lives for the entire family. “The debut styles in the Sport collection are just the beginning of an expansive category for us, with much more to come.” Zeno and Avi are both available in five colourways: silver pink, bleached sand, medal grey, maliblue and all black. The frames come in a choice of black/pink, crème/orange and black/ black. Left: The Cybex sport collection has been designed with active parents in mind.

For the latest news visit

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multi-mode pram that goes further

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RESEARCH Left: Nick Richardson, ceo and founder, The Insights Family.

HOW THE PANDEMIC IS CHANGING PARENTS AND KIDS PURCHASING WHEN IT COMES TO TOYS Last year saw usual routines when it came to play and toy buying upended by the pandemic, with some new hobbies coming to the fore, as The Insights Family discovers.


ast year showed how kids, as well as their parents, coped with the stresses of the pandemic. In uncertain times, kids changed their usual routines and spent more time participating in arts and crafts or playing with toys. For girls under six, arts and crafts are now the second favourite hobby. For boys in this same age bracket, drawing was the sixth favourite hobby in Q1 2021. February 2021 saw more children name arts and crafts their favourite hobby, than at any other point since Kids Insights UK launched in June 2017. After spending an extended amount of time at home, the popularity of board games since January 2021 also increased a record +400%. The most

popular games are Snakes and Ladders and Jenga (both 13%), Guess Who (10%), and Hungry Hungry Hippos (9%). Our data shows these activities have potentially been effective in easing mental health concerns, in a year where wellbeing has been pushed to the forefront of kid’s concerns. 12% more 3-6 year olds are now more concerned about their mental health than a year ago. For example, 3-6 year olds who say arts and crafts, painting or drawing are their favourite hobbies are 54% less likely to state that they get nervous easily, as well as being 40% less likely to agree that they are someone who worries a lot. This highlights how some hobbies and playing with toys

could help kids fight anxiety and generally has an impact on their wellbeing. Likewise, parents, whose kids (aged 3-6) play with Barbie toys, report that their children do not feel anxious and often enjoy trying new things. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU…? Currently, parents across the UK and Europe place the highest importance on their children's toys having educational value to them, demonstrating the increased focus on learning and development at home as we remain subject to the effects of the coronavirus. They are not only trying to entertain kids with new hobbies and toys, but help them to get through uncertain times. It’s clear that families are changing not only the reason they buy toys, but how they buy them too. The D2C (direct to consumer) model is emerging as one of the most successful ways of growing sales. With shops closed for much of the year, the pandemic has caused many brands to shift their models; circumnavigating traditional retailers to ensure their products reach the end consumer. This generation of kids is more discerning and selective than ever before. Direct to consumer models remove the traditional marketing middleman, allowing brands to communicate directly with their audiences. With more oversight on their supply chain and brand, companies can provide a more intimate level of service to their customers. This allows brands to tailor their content and products to the individual, building stronger relationships in the process. To learn more about the attitudes, behaviour, and consumption patterns of kids, parents, and families, and to get freemium access to the Insights Family real-time data portal, please visit: theinsightsfamily. com/progressivepreschool.

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collection collection

Grows with baby, from nursery to toddler’s bedroom.

One range endless possibilities Pembrey’s multiple colourways and versatile pieces create a stylish nursery, no matter the size.

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Having a baby is pretty tough at the best of times, but having a baby in a global pandemic has tested new parents like never before. With no access to playgroups or the usual support networks, The Baby Club on CBeebies has become a lifeline to parents and carers across the country, providing entertainment and interaction at a time when it was needed most. Emma Hyman, co-creator of the show, explains why.



hen we first dreamt up the idea of The Baby Club six years ago, we discovered through our academic research the incredible benefits that going to a baby club provides parents and their babies: social interaction for both the adults and their babies, inspiration for activities to play together, songs and stories that develop language and communication skills and exploring through the world through play. We knew how confidence boosting attending a baby club could be, the importance of the social network it provides and the improvements it made to parent and baby bonding and parental mental health. Sadly, the pandemic stripped all this away, leaving new parents isolated and babies lacking interaction. We, at The Baby Club, understood how much our show could help by offering inspiration, a moment of togetherness and pure entertainment. We quickly turned around two ‘lockdown’ series, providing relevant activities and beefed-up our popular social media activity to encourage even more of a sense of community. Even though real-life support had been stripped away, The Baby Club was still here, holding their hands through the tough times, sharing guidance, support and reassurance.

It’s this sense of community and the knowledge of how incredibly beneficial a baby club can be that is at the forefront of every decision we make about the show and beyond. We are truly passionate about helping people and this is at the heart of the success of the brand. The Baby Club community trusts that we will provide brilliant content and latterly, merchandise, which is as beneficial as it is beautiful. Uniquely, The Baby Club serves a dual audience, catering to both adults and babies. We want to entertain and inspire both audiences - that’s why Tesco is so excited about our new product (apparel and plush) launch. For an exclusive season, Poetic Brands has created a gorgeous range of babywear for Tesco with all the babywear classics – vests, sleepsuits, bibs and velour babygrows. When we began developing

Above: Emma Hyman, cocreator of The Baby Club.

our new range, it was vital to us to incorporate the message of the show. We worked closely with Tesco and our educational advisers to develop interactivity not only on the clothes but on the swingtags too, encouraging storytelling, play and early literacy, with lift the flap applique, song lyrics inviting tickles and opportunities for letter and number recognition. Each swing-tag has three ideas of how grown-ups can use that item to incorporate play with their little ones. For example, we encourage adults to count the sleepsuit poppers while changing a nappy or telling a story when snuggling in the blanket. And then there’s the Baby Bear, the much-loved star of the show, now in plush form. Since the day we launched the TV show, fans have been contacting us multiple times a day wanting a Baby Bear plush. This little bear’s swing-tag encourages imaginative play and we know our Baby Club community are going to love everything about it. For all of us connected to The Baby Club, this is a passion project. We all care deeply about our community and how we can help support to ensure that this crazy and wonderful time of parent’s and carer’s lives is as joyous and fun-packed as possible. Left: Baby Club worked with Tesco to develop interactivity not only on the clothes but on the swing-tags too.

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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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ark © Smart ademarks of ing © 2019 ary Poppins onal Inc. er and Shine 018 SPA & ensing LLC.

Publishing for a new generation

Centum Books 20 Devon Square, Newton Abbot, Devon, TQ12 2HR, UK. Office: +44 (0)1626 337736 • Fax: +44 (0)1626 334580 •

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PPS invites four senior executives from across the publishing, toy and apparel categories – Steve Cox, UK sales director, Keel Toys; Pamela Gill-Alabaster, global head of sustainability, Mattel; Julie Jones, md, Redan Publishing; and Lorraine Westbury, director of corporate social responsibility, TDP Textiles – to discuss the changes being made in their businesses, key milestones and goals and why, despite several other major challenges, it’s vital that sustainability remains on the agenda for the entire preschool sector.

Steve Cox

Pamela Gill-Alabaster

WHAT SUSTAINABLE STEPS HAS YOUR COMPANY BEEN TAKING OVER THE PAST YEAR/18 MONTHS? Steve: “January 2020 saw the launch of Keeleco endangered wildlife soft toys which are 100% recycled, 100% huggable and manufactured from plastic waste. Straight from the launch, Keeleco has been a great success with consumers looking for a sustainable alternative. The range has been extended in 2021 to include British Wildlife and a Keeleco Baby range featuring toys, rattles and comfort blankets. Through the business we have looked to reduce energy consumption, as an example by changing office and warehouse lighting to LED and replacing cars to electric or hybrid alternatives.” Pamela: “At Mattel, we are committed to managing the environmental impact of our products. We recently launched Mattel PlayBack, a new toy takeback programme that enables families to extend the life of their Mattel toys once they are finished playing with them. It is designed to recover and reuse materials from old Mattel toys for future Mattel products, and supports our broader goal to achieve 100% recycled, recyclable or bio-based plastic materials across all products and packaging by 2030. We are also engaging in pre-

Julie Jones

Lorraine Westbury

competitive collaborations with other members of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and recently conducted circular design training, led by global design firm IDEO, for our design, development, global brand and supply chain teams. We are actively looking for ways to reduce packaging materials in toys and we have been working to reduce our environmental impact tied to carbon emissions, energy consumption and waste generation.” Julie: “With regards to packaging, over the last two years we have worked hard to reach a point where all of our single-use packaging is made from materials that can be recycled with regular household waste or at a recycling facility. Any cardboard packaging we use is responsibly sourced from sustainably managed forests. We have also taken steps to limit the presence of nonrecyclable components in our plastic covermounts. We recognise the need to steer away from non-recyclable plastic components and have reduced our usage by 70% over the last two years. We are on target to reduce this further. In 2022 we anticipate having only 10% non-recyclable materials in our covermount products. We have also recently invested in a new national campaign which is launching later this year, called Recycle to Read.” Lorraine: “We have continued to review all areas of the business where measurable improvement can be

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INDUSTRY ROUNDTABLE made. The recycling of all samples is just one initiative where improvement can be quantified. Another is the installation of electric charging points and the replacement of company cars with hybrid alternatives. Our purchasing of sustainably sourced cotton continues to rise, and the development of sustainable alternatives continues. We have benefitted from our knowledge of supply chain, to consolidate our partners and achieve a shared focus on sustainable strategy. We have found that the effective communication of common goals can have a positive impact throughout our supply chain not only for the planet and the workers but also in terms of profit. The number of facilities in our supply chain that are engaged in a social and environmental programme continues to grow.”

Above: Mattel PlayBack enables families to extend the life of their Mattel toys once they are finished playing with them

where expected product life is limited. Support should be facilitated in terms of ‘guilt-free purchases’, where a customer can have confidence that the manufacture of the product purchased has not impacted negatively on society or the environment - in fact, on the contrary, manufacturing has had a positive impact by supporting local communities, protecting workers, and ensuring further damage to the environment is limited and, in many cases, prevented.”

HAS YOUR COMPANY SET ANY KEY MILESTONES FOR SUSTAINABLE GOALS? Julie: “To constantly research and adapt our practices and materials to be more environmentally-friendly; to reduce and eventually eradicate single-use, nonrecyclable plastic packaging; to drastically reduce non-recyclable materials in covermounts; to have clear recycling labelling; and to comply with licensor and retailer strategies.”



Steve: “Sourcing all the components has taken time, especially checking authenticity of recycled products.”

Pamela: “Our research shows that sustainability is a key consideration for parents and caregivers when they are choosing toys for their children. Most consumers agree that recycling is the bare minimum they can do for the environment and they want manufacturers to take responsibility for toys at the end of their life cycle. Mattel PlayBack is designed to do just that – the programme keeps toys out of landfills and gives parents a responsible alternative to dispose of the toys they are finished with.” Lorraine: “It is a shared responsibility to promote the purchase of sustainable product – this is especially important to parents and caregivers of preschoolers Below: The Keeleco Baby range from Keel Toys features toys, rattles and comfort blankets.

Julie: “The research and development of more sustainable practices and products takes a long time and change cannot happen overnight. It is a continuous journey as we seek alternative materials and products that have less impact on the environment, which children will still want and that are affordable. Also, I think most consumers perceive all plastic to be bad and we somehow have to change that perception. For instance, a simple move away from plastic does not necessarily enhance sustainability or reduce carbon impact of a magazine covermount. Therefore, before making any decisions we have to monitor the whole life cycle impact of all products through careful research and analysis.” Lorraine: “Currently, and for good reasons, there are boycotts on using cotton from certain sources. These sources account for significant percentages of global supply and while this is hopefully a temporary situation, it is influencing supply and price of all types of cotton, sustainable or otherwise.” WHAT FURTHER STEPS CAN COMPANIES OPERATING IN THE PRESCHOOL SPACE BE TAKING GOING FORWARD? Lorraine: “Ensure that not only sustainable materials are used in manufacturing, but also place equal focus on ethical and social conditions for workers in the supply chain - both are key sustainable development goals.” Julie: “Being sustainable is not just about products and packaging. More sustainable measures can be taken

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Above: Redan has reduced its usage of non-recyclable plastic components by 70% over the last two years.

right across the business and as we adapt back to office working we have recognised a number of measures we can take which will reduce our carbon footprint. Also, other companies and retailers could come on board with the Toy Take Back and Recycle to Read initiatives.”

in the number of discerning shoppers with a moral conscience who now question their purchases - the sensible approach is therefore to continue to drive initiatives to ensure successful and sustainable businesses post-pandemic.”

Steve: “Don’t wait for big changes, as every small step taken towards sustainability will make a difference.” WHY - DESPITE SEVERAL OTHER MAJOR CHALLENGES - IS IT VITAL THAT SUSTAINABILITY REMAINS ON THE AGENDA FOR THE PRESCHOOL SECTOR?

Inset: TDP Textiles’ sustainable business strategy is primarily focused on supply chain

Pamela: “At Mattel, our purpose is to empower the next generation to explore the wonder of childhood and reach their full potential, and we want that next generation to inherit a world that’s full of potential, too. Focusing on sustainability – from waste management to carbon emissions and energy generations – is critical.” Steve: “Quite simply, sustainability is the health and future of the planet.” Julie: “Sustainability issues are never going to go away. We all have a responsibility to protect the planet for future generations. Not only that, consumers have a big voice and we need to listen. Youngsters, in particular, are more aware than ever before as the topic of the environment and how we can all help to look after it is high up on the curriculum from the early years right through to teens. We also have to listen to retailers and licensors to ensure we align with their policies.”


Products of Change is the international digital membership platform which was built to drive sustainable change within the brand and licensing industry. Since officially launching the sustainability hub on 1 January 2021, POC has seen all manner of licensors, licensees, retailers, agencies, trade suppliers and supporting bodies join up as members including those featured in this roundtable.

Lorraine: “Momentum must continue to drive positive change in the preschool sector. Conversations surrounding sustainability and the related issues have been on the rise throughout the pandemic among shoppers. I strongly believe there is a substantial increase


Steve: “Sustainability was a major topic at the early fairs in 2020, but due to the pandemic it stalled a little. As retail is now reopening we are seeing sustainability high on the agenda for many retailers looking to introduce eco alternatives.” Pamela: “Many of our retail customers also have made commitments to operating more sustainably and have taken

If you’d like to find out more about POC, simply check out

concrete actions to manage their operating impacts and provide consumers with more sustainable product choices.” Julie: “We have been working with a number of the major grocers for some time now to ensure that we adapt and tie-in with the sustainable policies they expect their suppliers to adhere to. This has mainly focused on single-use packaging and is starting to stretch

to materials used for products themselves, too. We know that some of the majors have also been talking to WasteBuster about the Recycle to Read initiative.” Lorraine: “There is a steady increase in the presence of retailers choosing to actively participle in change, though generally the approach is not consistent and common goals are not effectively tackled.”

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Inset: Once Kidly reaches its goal of stocking 10,000 products, it expects its own label to make up around half of the range.

SUBSTANCE BEHIND STYLE Fresh from the fifth birthday celebrations of online retailer, Kidly, PPS catches up with founder, James Hart, to find out how the last five years have been, and what the plans are for the next five.


Left: James launched Kidly as he ‘figured it would be perfect for busy parents, like me’.

s the very first employee at ASOS, James Hart left after 15 years with a wealth of experience in online sales. And over the last five, since setting up Kidly, he’s added an abundance of knowledge of children’s online retail. Reflecting on the first five years in business, James explains: “We’re always learning but, for me, the key learning is that customers shopping for kids, understandably, care just that little bit

more what they buy, and who from, so we must never stop striving to source the best products, provide the most helpful service and act with integrity.” The customer service offered by Kidly is clear to see in all communications. James often takes to the blog talking directly to customers and even offering his personal email if they need to contact him.

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THE BIG INTERVIEW Left: The majority of the Kidly Label is manufactured using organic and recycled materials.

He continues: “It is a pillar of our entire business, and always has been, to be helpful and available to customers. We are therefore on live chat 16 hours a day, 365 days a year and have very generous policies to help customers, not to help us save money. “We are parents too and we know the hassles, for example, of late deliveries and faulty items, that are usually no fault of the customer. We take that stress away from our customers and always do the right thing by them.” And it was being a dad that drove James to launch Kidly: “As a parent myself, I couldn’t find one place to discover and buy design-led but useful things for my kids at affordable prices. Working at ASOS I knew the benefit of a one stop shop with a curated range backed up by an effortless experience.” Kidly’s customers appreciate design but also need to know that there is ‘substance behind the style’. James says: “We sell over 200 brands, as well as our very own Kidly Label. “We choose brands that fit our guidelines on design, quality, price (all three boxes have to be ticked) and that complement the products and design handwriting of our own label. The great thing is, this could be a large brand or a small start-up brand from anywhere in the world.” Despite stocking products from around the globe, Kidly is conscious of its environmental impact: “We are very mindful that we manufacture and sell a lot of product, we import our brands’ products then we ship thousands of packages a day around the country. All of this has a direct impact on the environment.” As a result, Kidly employs strategies to offset this, including the use of recycled packaging, and stocking sustainable brands where possible, among others. James concludes: “There is a long road ahead, but we are committed to this value as we grow.”

Having established its space in the market, the next five years will be spent expanding choice across all price points and categories. James comments: “We think the perfect collection will be around 10.000 things, so that is what we are aiming for.” What’s certain is that those products will all be carefully curated. James explains: “Our strapline when we launched was ‘Things for kids you’ll love too’, inspired by my desire to create a store full of things that I would love myself, either in an adult size or to have on display in my house. “I think a big trend now is towards these kinds of products where they are stylish and fun for the kids of course, but that also reflect the parent style and identity. I like to think Kidly has played a small role in this evolution and will continue to do so for years to come.”

THE PARENT TEST One of Kidly’s USPs is that it asks parents to test every product it sells and includes their reviews and photos with its listings. The retailer states ‘We trust our Parent Testers implicitly. So if they say something's not good enough quality, or genuinely useful, we probably wouldn't want to sell it.’ James furthers: “When buying products for kids too, it’s very reassuring to see what others think of what you are considering. We have collected over 20,000 reviews so far.”

Right: Kidly is mindful of those who have suffered during the pandemic thus creating the Kidly Family Fund, which has already raised £50K for kids and young families. Below: Kidly’s customers include anyone who buys for a 0-5 year old, who appreciates design but needs to know there’s substance behind the style.

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Far from being a passing trend, sustainability has proved to be an ever-growing movement, with the vast majority of companies in the preschool industry and beyond now on board to make changes to improve their eco-friendly credentials. But that development doesn’t come without cost and effort, which can create a barrier for some, so we chatted to some of the leaders in the area to find out how they are making changes for the better.

Inset: Lässig operates on six pillars of sustainability – material, production, products, employees, customers and commitment. Below: Consumers are able to trace the wood in Bigjigs’ FSC range to its source.

Below: Kit & Kin’s nappies are made in a carbon neutral plant, while the wipes’ packaging is recyclable and made from 50% recycled material.

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he preschool industry, by its very nature, is seen with the rest crafted from a process of turning PET plastic by many as the ideal place for sustainability to bottles into polyester that can be spun into yarn to make a be fully embraced. If we create products and waterproof fabric. sell them in an earth-friendly manner, we begin There are many examples of businesses with sustainability the education of future consumers at the earliest possible at their heart. Claudia Lässig, managing director, Lässig, stage, making it part of their comments: “We are proud of what we understanding of the world from have already created. Our sustainability the get-go. team is continuously working on different Christopher Money, co-founder projects to expand sustainability in all of Kit & Kin, explains: “If the new areas. These include projects such as generation can learn from a young upcycling collaborations, our packaging age about how to live a sustainable strategy, our code of conduct, sustainable lifestyle, then hopefully they will office design or a fair supply chain.” be more likely to continue this Stefan Lässig, joint md, continues: into their adult life. These small “Our current goal is to become climatechanges really do add up and make neutral by the end of the year.” a difference, so I believe the nursery And from long-established to newly industry has a responsibility to created companies, there are still promote sustainable choices as the businesses launching with sustainability first option for parents.” woven into their foundation. Lianne Boori’s marketing manager, Stevenson founded Green Cheeks, a Rebecca Ebden-Taylor, furthers: reusable nappy brand, during lockdown. “We have the ability to educate She says: “We’re all about reusing rather and influence families at such an than throwing away. There are various important stage of their lives. New materials that a reusable nappy can be parents are seeking advice from made from, we have chosen to use one HELPING THE COMMUNITY of the most sustainable fabrics out there, industry leaders on how to protect their little ones, so why not help Outside of its own sustainable credentials, which is hemp. them to protect our planet too?” “We try and avoid plastics in the Frugi has teamed up with global charity Furthermore, the amount of products where possible, we use no Eco-Schools to fund 150 schools in waste a baby can potentially create microfibre. Plastic is essential in creating England that will help pupils, teachers and the community earn a Green Flag is huge, so parents being able to the waterproof layer.” certification for their local school. access more eco-friendly products, There are some areas of the preschool The goal is to empower young people makes a big difference. business where it’s less straightforward to take environmental actions to get Ceilidh Cook, co-founder of to bring more eco-friendly practices their whole school and community Eco Rascals, comments: “One of into place, but it can still be done. Joolz involved. Schools follow a seven-step the most startling moments for me marketing and brand director, Irene programme to achieve the certification. when I had my first baby was the Muller, explains: “We use positive design The company also donates 1% of sheer volume of nappies, wipes, to create durable and high-quality its annual proceeds to environmental nappy bags and washing we would products. Our strollers last a lifetime and children’s charities each year get through in a year. I started to and so does our warranty. For each of through their Little Clothes Big Change question how one little human our strollers we have one sustainable programme and has so far donated could have that much impact on fabric option. These fabrics are made of £850,000 to various causes. the environment and looked to recycled plastic bottles. In some of our leading nursery independents to learn how I could make fabrics we use up to 120 plastic bottles. swaps to reduce the impact my child had on our planet.” “For every stroller we sell, we plant a tree in the Joolz Most of our industry has at least dipped their toe in the Birth Forest. Lastly, our Amsterdam HQ is located in a solar waters of sustainability. There are some whose businesses were founded on principles of sustainability, like Eco Rascals, and Frugi, as ceo, Sarah Clark explains: “Since Frugi was born in 2004 we have always believed passionately about caring for people and the planet. We want to be completely ethical, honest and transparent in everything we do.” Frugi uses sustainable fabrics for all products, including 100% GOTS certified organic cotton for 85% of its offering, Above: Last year, Frugi won two Queen’s Awards for Sustainability and International Trade recognising its commitment to sustainable practices throughout the supply chain. Right: Natural Baby Shower has seen a huge spike in shoppers adding its more eco and sustainable products to their basket.

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! w o n p i h s o t e l Availab

Images provided by our growing online community

Cleverly designed to convert from cot to a junior bed, for style that lasts for years to come. Stock now in across multiple colours and styles.

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SECTOR FOCUS Right: The bamboo in Eco Rascals’ products is only bought once the company has finalised its orders to ensure no materials are wasted.

Products of Change, an online hub to aid sustainable transformation within the industry, says that doesn’t have to be the case. “The largest obstacle is really getting started! There are so many options available to enable your business to become more sustainable that don’t increase cost. Most companies that start this journey actually see this being cost saving as designing our waste (material) actually saves you money. “Once you have started the journey and ticked off the easier elements to achieve (reducing packaging and single use plastics, switching materials) then there is the larger issue of your scope 3 impact (your factory base) which is harder to influence but definitely not impossible. Factories are seeing an increase in demand for sustainable practices, so there is a huge amount of positive movement happening, you just have to ask the questions, why can’t we reduce this, what is the impact of that…?”

panelled office, with greenhouses spread around it which helps purify the air and improve the lives of our employees.” There are also those who have changed their business model to become a more sustainable brand. Bigjigs operations director, Sam Ireland says: “In recent years, we’ve made huge changes to reduce our impact. From powering our warehouse with solar panels right down to using zero polythene and 99% paperless invoicing. Over 80% of our product range uses packaging that’s made from 95% recycled cardboard and is printed with soy inks. Bigjigs also recently launched its first FSC Certified product range.” Another toy company adding sustainable ranges is Dantoy. Ann Krogh Harding, sales manager, tells PPS: “Dantoy launched a new line of recycled toys last year. Green Bean toys are one of a kind, no two will look exactly alike due to the recycling process. SUPPORTING SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS The different shades of colour are created by randomly mixing the plastic waste available Products of Change is a membership platform built to help companies with their sustainability journey. It does at the given time. Green Bean products are this by providing educational content and research, live limited edition toys, as they are produced from webinars which are available for catch-up, a podcast our own excess waste materials we have in series and bi-weekly newsletters. stock, which makes this line of toys even more Helena explains: “We also build change from the ground unique. We are continuously looking for new up across the industry with peer to peer networking and bio-based materials.” collaboration across multiple categories and work-streams.” And at the other end of the chain, there are a number of retailers who embrace sustainability in their The effort required to get started is likely to pay off, way of working. Natural Baby Shower co-founder, Victoria as consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their Hampson, set up the retailer on those very principles: footprint. Helena continues: “The 2021 report from Deloitte “Being sustainable is at the core of the business and we states that one in three consumers claimed to have stopped make sure in every area of the business that we are acting purchasing certain brands of products because they had as sustainably and ethically as possible. ethical or sustainability related concerns about them, and “From reducing our use of paper with innovative that 61% of consumers have reduced their usage of single technology to avoiding single use plastics, and making sure all use plastics. Consumers are putting more responsibility our packaging is sustainable and recyclable. We also focus on on producers to produce in the right way, government is green shipping methods to avoid part-shipping. also driving legislation changes with the new packaging “We also heavily research all of our brands to ensure tax coming into enforcement in April 2022 and the new that they operate ethically, from the methods to production Extended Responsibility scheme in 2023.” to the materials used and ensuring there is absolutely no exploitation in any factories.” Below left: Dantoy is the first manufacturer of plastic toys to be certified to the Nordic Swan Ecolabel, thus complying with Many of these measures are costly and time consuming, requirements for health, the environment and chemicals. which can cause a barrier for some wishing to become Below: New business Green Cheeks plans to add to its range to include more sustainable. But Helena Mansell-Stopher, founder of wet/dry storage bags, washable breast pads and more styles of nappies.

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new sensory & developmental play from taf toys

kimmy koala

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Room to Grow, one of the UK’s leading specialists for sustainable and inspirational children’s bedrooms, has launched a nursery range catering for newborns to toddlers up to the age of three years old. With the collection comprising cot beds, furniture and accessories, the range has been meticulously planned to ensure it provides the quality and cuteness that Room to Grow is known for. Tel: 0808 1963344



HABA introduces My Very First Games - Animal upon Animal Junior, a younger version of the popular HABA classic. It has three wobbly animal stacking games for one to four children, aged two years and up. My Very First Games series will stimulate children repeatedly by setting appropriate challenges for their age, fostering their early development, holding their interest for a long time and, above all, being a lot of fun. Tel: 01205 260384

These light and soft animal teethers from Chicco are perfect for soothing little one’s gums during the teething period. Forming part of its new sustainably and responsibly sourced Eco+ range, the teethers are made of bioplastic from plant sources, making them lightweight and easy to grasp. Suitable from three to 18 months, the teethers are available in four different colourful animals, including Burt The Frog, Molly The Snail, Owly The Owl and Charlie The Dog. Tel: 0208 9536627

SNUZ Iconic sleep brand Snüz is excited to launch its range of next generation mattresses. Introducing the brand new SnüzSurface collection, offering the very latest technology to provide tailored support for each stage of a child’s development, from birth to 13yrs. The unique removable cover features a 3D breathable surface with a waterproof membrane, and is washable at 40°c. Ideal for any night time nappy leaks and also perfect during the potty-training years! Tel: 01789 734022

LE TOY VAN The ocean stacker from Le Toy Van consists of nine aquatic animals that can be balanced into towers, or used in imaginative play. The animals are made from sustainable FSC wood and decorated in safe water based, chip resistant paints. Complete with a cotton bag making the set perfectly portable and easy to store. Tel: 0208 9792036

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Janod has teamed up with worldwide animal charity, WWF and as part of a wider promise to help the planet, it’s donating a percentage of every sale within the collection to WWF’s charitable activities. The collaboration includes over 30 sustainably made products from animal themed push alongs, to awe inspiring underwater themed 3D jigsaws. Aimed at all ages between one and seven years, little ones will find the education of animal conservation fun and timeless. Tel: 0208 88782133



PlanToys celebrates its 40th Anniversary this year and since launching it has been producing sustainable wooden toys. To celebrate it’s releasing several bestselling products in a new Orchard collection. Products in the new line include the Stacking Rocket, My First Camera and the number one selling Beehives. Tel: 07870 132595

Every product in the Kabode collection is made from sustainably sourced, 100% cotton. The bedding collection includes sheets, pillow cases, duvet covers and embroidered quilts, with a mosquito net donated for every sale made, in an effort to help end child malaria around the world. Available from Kidcentral. Tel: 01530 569470

NIMBLE Due to popular demand the ecofriendly fabric softener now comes with the same signature scent as the brand’s hero detergent, Laundry Lover. The magic plant-based, vegan formula, which will ensure babies blankets and clothes are kept super soft, is entirely free from harmful chemicals, optical brighteners and dyes and now has a lovely new scent. Tel: 0203 9731460

ERGOPOUCH Ergopouch is the reliable and trusted innovator of natural, organic, premium sleepwear for ages newborn to six years. The collection is made with organic cotton for a healthy, safe sleep which is gentle on sensitive new skin. Products available include the Cocoon Swaddle Bag, the Sleep Suit Bag and the Sleep Onesie. Available from Kidcentral. Tel: 01530 569470

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SECTOR FOCUS Inset: Simba Smoby Toys UK has seen its playhouse offering grow substantially in the past 18 months


No matter how big or how small, people have really come to appreciate their outside spaces over the past 15 months. And part of this has been a considerable investment in garden play items – from trampolines, playhouses and teepees, through to sand and water play, mud kitchens and gardening tools for preschoolers. PPS chats to some of the companies which have been enjoying strong demand for their products and finds out why they expect this to continue.


n Englishman’s home may be his castle, but for his children, the garden is the real winner – big, small, grassy, paved or decked… over the past 15 months, we’ve really come to appreciate the extra space that gardens have afforded us. And, with the summer now here and many families choosing to remain at home this year, garden play is likely to remain a strong category when it comes to preschool toy sales. “In the past 18 months, we have really grown our Smoby playhouse offering,” begins Mayur Pattni, head of marketing at Simba Smoby

Toys UK. “There has been a huge appetite for the Smoby brand as a whole, with YOY sales up by 24% in 2020 (NPD Group, December 2020). This year, that momentum has only continued to build. In part, that’s thanks to the strength of our incredible selection of playhouses and slides.” The Smoby Nature Playhouse + Kitchen has been a top seller for the company, along with the Smoby Chef House. New additions for 2021 – including the Smoby Garden Playhouse and Smoby Teepee – have also been “flying off the shelf ”, says Mayur, and he expects demand to continue to grow. “We have good stock cover, but

we strongly encourage our retail partners to order now, so that they can take full advantage of the huge demand that we’re currently seeing for garden play products,” he adds. “Ultimately, good garden play products need to be really great quality, they need to be sturdy and built to last – and they should be based on timeless play patterns that can be enjoyed time and time again. Parents are going to be keen to see the value for money that these toys offer, as well as their play value.”

Below: The Growing Garden range launched in spring from Little Tikes and has been performing well.

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SECTOR FOCUS BEYOND SUMMER Little Tikes saw a “huge spike” in its core active play lines during the first lockdown last year (including slides, playhouses, Cozy Coupes, sand and water tables), says the company’s head of marketing UK, Michelle Lilley. “While outdoor active play has always been a key offering for us, it’s safe to say it plays an even more important part in children’s development during a pandemic,” Michelle tells PPS. “With all our outdoor toys at Little Tikes, the aim is to get little ones moving, encouraging active and imaginative play.” Little Tikes launched its Growing Garden range in the spring and Michelle believes that it adds something different into the mix of its current outdoor portfolio, while also expanding its seasonal retail offer. Michelle explains: “Sustainability is an important message that we want to convey in our toy ranges and we’re really happy to see little ones getting involved from an early age with this one.” She continues: “People are investing in toys that their children will play with for seasons to come. We’ve seen a huge demand for our core range, as well as new items like the T-Rex truck. Families are investing in outdoor products that can be used in summer and beyond - particularly our giant slides, Water Tables, Turtle Sandboxes and Cape Cottages.” IMAGINARY WORLDS Wilton Bradley has reported an upwards trend towards role-play products and has added new product lines into its Playhouse brand. “Last year, we had success with our award-winning Mucky Mud Kitchen and the larger Marvellous Mud Kitchen as families had additional time and money to improve on their homes and gardens and spend quality time outside,” Scott Eden, product director at Wilton Bradley tells PPS. “The Playhouse Marvellous Mud Kitchen provides hours of exciting fun for all kids who love mucking around in the garden, especially playing in the mud. Pretend play is a brilliant way for children to develop their

creativity and imagination, while having masses of fun.” 2021 has seen the company introduce two new offerings to the Playhouse brand – the Make ‘N’ Mend Workbench and the Ice Cream Van. In addition, Wilton Bradley also has a range of gardening tools in its Little Roots brand, specifically designed for little hands so that children can become involved in gardening from a young age. Scott continues: “It’s no secret that when it comes to outdoor play, kids love to create their own, imaginary worlds. Playhouse complements their desire to imagine and dream thanks to our range of kid’s garden play furniture. “Lockdown has reminded parents of the importance of outdoor play which has been reflected in demand in this sector over the past year and looks set to continue into 2021. Roleplay is the perfect stimulant for young imaginations and is a great way to keep kids away from the screen.” EMBRACING THE SPACE “From the first lockdown we have been playing catch-up trying to keep up with demand - thankfully our factories have gone above and beyond to service our requirements, we have worked incredibly hard to make this happen,” says Adam Pearson, key account manager at Geemac about its outdoor sales. “We already have established outdoor ranges but we found as Below: Wilton Bradley’s mud kitchen range has proved a hit, with the company believing pretend play is a brilliant way for children to develop creativity and imagination. Below right: Geemac has found that investment back into garden and outdoor play has drastically increased.

holidays were cancelled, investment back into garden/outdoor play drastically increased.” Adam says that trampolines remain the company’s number one in terms of sales, however its wood teepee, eco playhouses and outdoor easels, along with pools/inflatables, super palace and garden games have also seen considerable growth. Adam continues: “Partnering with Mattel on our Fisher-Price Toddler trampoline was a great opportunity, combining the number one infant and preschool brand with Sportspower, the largest trampoline manufacturer globally, has resonated perfectly with consumers. Retailers sold out early last year so it’s hard to put a number on growth but based on the success, we are increasing the range considerably with this brand for SS22.” One of Geemac’s best selling playhouses retails at £500, something the company didn’t expect, but it shows the level of investment which is being made in this category by parents, says Adam. “Outdoor products/toys are becoming part of the ‘garden’ trend - instead of a traditional trampoline that sits on top of the lawn consumers are digging a hole and putting them in-ground to make them a feature, then posting on social media. I think the same can be said for a number of toys - where a single swing has been popular for years, consumers have invested in a larger multi-play set and built in a designated area of the garden with wood chippings or rubber matting… they are embracing the space they have and active play for the kids,” Adam concludes.

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GARDEN PLAY SIMBA SMOBY The Garden Playhouse from Simba Smoby is perfect for budding gardeners aged two years and upwards. This playhouse comes with 15 accessories for lots of greenfingered fun. Also available is the fully-customisable Neo Friends House, which can be purchased individually or with a kitchen. Tel: 01620 674778



The Playhouse Marvellous Mud Kitchen will provide hours of exciting fun for all kids who love playing in the garden, especially in the mud. This high quality, ready varnished, solid FSC Canadian Hemlock wood play kitchen will last for years and is ideal for year round fun in the garden. The set includes stainless steel pans and utensils and there is a preparation area at the side and storage tray above and below the sink, providing plenty of space for storing all ingredients and utensils. Tel: 01626 835400

Wilton Bradley has developed a range of wooden garden games to its Toyrific brand. Its garden games sub-brand creates fun for the whole family through a selection of popular games and encourages kids to enjoy playing outside in the garden. Products ranging from giant wooden stack and fall, classic limbo to mini golf, there’s something within the range for all families. Tel: 01626 835400

MICRO SCOOTER The Micro Hopper delivers twice the fun, converting from an inflatable hopper for bouncing action, to a smart ride-on toy. Its unique ergonomic design means kids improve their balance and coordination as they play. The Hopper’s inflatable main body connects simply to a lightweight chassis with 360-degree nonmarking PU wheels. Lightweight and easy to transport so it can accompany the family wherever they go. Tel: 0333 3201030

CHICCO Forming part of Chicco’s new sustainable Eco+ range, the new Balance Bike is the first to be made of recycled plastic. Suitable from 18 months to five years, the bike has soft anti-puncture wheels and ergonomic handles, helping little ones acquire the necessary balance on two wheels before moving onto a bicycle with pedals. Inspired by nature, the bike has a strong focus towards sustainability and is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. Tel: 0208 9536627

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Julie Ann Mclean and Nicola Barnett first launched their business as a consumer website, selling products they loved, in 2014. Since then the company has evolved hugely and Kidcentral is now becoming a key distributor in the preschool space. PPS sits down with Nicola to Inset: Zoocchini was one of the first find out how it all happened and what’s next. brands distributed by the company.


even years ago, Nicola and Julie Ann were living across the road from each other, both busy mums to young children, running their online retail business. But before long, they took on their first brand as a distributor – Aloka night lights – which ignited the diversification of their business. Nicola explains: “We decided after taking on Aloka that we needed to find a few more brands to distribute. So then we found 3 Sprouts and the person who was manufacturing it, also manufactured Zoocchini, Lulujo and Juddlies. We said we really liked 3 Sprouts, can we bring it to the UK? And he said ‘yes that’s fine, but you need to take on my three other brands’. “Then we had Bobo Buddies of Dragon’s Den fame. We were good friends with James Roupell, the owner and he was going through a torrid time and asked us to distribute for him. So we took that on too.” So in quick succession, the company had evolved from retailing products, to taking on six

brands for distribution. Some time later, due to a change in manufacturing, the duo lost the distribution for 3 Sprouts, but the Canadian owners of the three other brands kept them on and came to meet them. Nicola remembers quickly setting up an office in Julie Ann’s house and bringing in friends to pose as team members in a bid to appear more credible. It obviously worked as the company asked Julie and Nicola to go into business with them. Unfortunately it wasn’t the right time for them to join with Kidcentral, but they continued to distribute the brands in the UK and work closely with the Canadian business. A few years later they decided to take Kidcentral up on the offer. Nicola explains: “It felt like a good time. The business was growing. We were distributing Fabelab as well, which is a Scandinavian brand, and when you’re a distributor, it requires a huge amount of cash investment to keep stock in place of so many lines. So Julie and I felt it was the right time to go into business with them.” Left: Doddle and Co’s soother range is a key part of the nursery offering.

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Above: Scandi is one of the key trends Kidcentral is seeing for the preschool market. Above right: The Moonie night light is ideal for the preschool industry and makes up part of a ‘compelling range’. Right: Ergopouch is one of the newest brands in the portfolio and stock of the key lines sold out quickly.

And Kidcentral UK was born. While the original company has merged, its foundations remain the same and its philosophy is very much aligned with its Canadian counterparts, which has been clear throughout the pandemic. Nicola looks back at the past year of business: “Lots of our customers were online customers anyway, so we were just checking in with them – are you okay? Can we help you? Do you need any stock? Do you want some new ideas? “We just tried to make it really simple for people to buy, which was our ethos and was the same as the Kidcentral ethos. It’s about giving people great customer service and the opportunity to make it easy so you can order whatever you want. There’s no minimum orders particularly, we just ask you to pay £10 if you order under £250, but you order what you like. If it works, order more, if it doesn’t in six months, send it back and we’ll replace it with something that does.” This approach clearly works, as the Kidcentral UK business is now distributing 14 brands to 350 retailers, largely made up of indies, but also comprising big names like Liberty, Kidly, JoJo Maman Bébé and Wayfair. Kidcentral’s goals for the coming year are to continue to grow its customer base of independent retailers, expand its five-strong team and to welcome new brands to the portfolio. Nicola explains: “We’re always interested to see new brands. We’ve just taken on Kabode, a new nursery line, which is based in the UK. If anybody has a new idea and they want to

get it to market and they're looking for a distributor, we'd love to hear from them.” And nursery is now a key focus for the team. Many of their current customers are gift or concept stores, but: “Now we’ve got a compelling offering for the nursery industry. We’ve got the Moonie nightlight, Ergopouch, some beautiful newborn Fabelab products and the Doddle and co soother, so we really need to get into the nursery market now, we’re ready to go with a really good offering for nursery clients.” The company has not been without its struggles over the past year. Stock levels have been difficult to regulate with factory closures during the pandemic, but it’s clear they work hard to keep their retailers and their brands happy and provide a great service. Inset: Toys like these, from Fabelab’s newborn range, are selling very well.

INSTA READY Marketing with a small team is a difficult task, but Kidcentral UK has found that Instagram is a great tool to promote both its brands and its customers. Nicola enthuses: “Instagram is almost like a bit of a gift to our retailers. We like to go on and we like to see what they’re doing, thank them, engage with them, share some of the brands. We try to do as much as we can to support the retailers and by being active on Instagram is helping them. Brands like to see it, too, it’s like a circle of life. “I suppose we are new kids on the block in terms of distribution, so we’re trying to make sure we are down with the kids.”

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Thursday 11 November 2021, The Grosvenor House Hotel, London



he PPS Awards have become the accolades to strive for, with the Awards event itself one of the most exciting and vibrant in the country, bringing together the entire preschool product and retail sector for an afternoon of celebration. The PPS Awards recognise and celebrate excellence across both product and retail, with special awards also covering marketing and individual excellence. The winners are announced during a sumptuous afternoon event each November, in London, at what is an essential date in the calendar for suppliers and retailers across toy, nursery, gift, apparel, publishing, licensing and more.

The preschool sector is dynamic, innovative and vibrant and the PPS Awards reflect all of this and much more. Be a part of it! The PPS Awards are owned and organised by Max Publishing, publishers of Progressive Preschool Magazine and

The Progressive Preschool Awards is back! Not that we ever went away… but the fun and frolics wasn’t quite as fun on a computer screen. We can’t wait to celebrate with the industry at a grand reunion on Thursday 11 November. Here’s what you need to action now:

ENTER! Entry remains online this year, via our super-efficient entry portal. Simply head to the site, create your account in less than a minute and get entering. SUPPLIERS – you can nominate yourselves into all categories, including The Marketing Award. 42-43_PPS Awards 2021_Spread.indd 1

RETAILERS – you can nominate yourselves too – and we are sure you feel rightly proud of being on the high street right now. The deadline for entering the product categories is Friday 30 July 2021. For the special awards – including Best Distributor, Marketing and Outstanding Achievement – entries are open until Friday 6 August 2021. The Retail categories, meanwhile (both nomination and self-nomination), are open until Friday 13 August 2021.

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Lewis and we are seeing the reward in our current trade and customer feedback. To our suppliers – thank you for voting for us!”

JUDGE! Judging will take place in late July / early August. Retail buyers keen to be on the product judging panel should contact Rob Willis to register their interest.

Lisa Rutherford, nursery buyer, John Lewis and Partners

BE THERE! Tickets and tables are being booked each week as the industry plans its first big party since you-know-what. All bookings are 100% refundable/deferrable should the event be altered due to outside forces, meaning you can book with complete confidence before tickets sell out. Head to or contact a member of the team to get this organised.

Let’s celebrate this fantastic industry and all its achievements! “We can’t wait for this year’s Progressive Preschool Awards to return to its physical format. Toy Fair is proud to continue to sponsor such a great event and with preschool products a key driver of the UK toy market, it’s important that we can come together as an industry to celebrate the preschool sector’s successes.”

“We’ve always loved attending the Progressive Preschool Awards so it felt great just to be nominated among so many great online brands. When was announced as the winner we were absolutely thrilled.” Stephen Hewitt, managing director,

“It’s fantastic to win recognition for all the hard work the whole preschool team at Argos have put in for the last 12 months. It’s especially exciting to win Best Mixed Category Retailer of Preschool Products for the second year running! It’s always so rewarding to be recognised by others within the industry and is testament to everyone’s hard work.” Mark Whitehead, senior buyer, Sainsbury’s Argos

* Please note that The PPS Awards is a totally free to enter event *

Rebecca Deeming, public relations and events manager at the BTHA

“The Harrogate International Nursery Fair team is proud to sponsor the Progressive Preschool Awards and looks forward to attending what is always a very professional and well-polished event. This year will be particularly special, having not been able to meet up for so long – and will be just weeks after our show in October. It will be another great opportunity to meet up with industry colleagues and celebrate the best of what the nursery sector has to offer.” Robert Anslow from Harrogate International Nursery Fair

“We believe it’s important that great products get recognition and are celebrated both within the trade as well as outside in consumer-focused awards and recognise that without the support of retailer displays it would be almost impossible to reach the end consumer in any meaningful way.” Richard Bamforth, director of sales, DCUK

“We are so thrilled to have won the Best Department Store awards – it is so exciting to be able to share such good news in a year when things have been particularly tough for our shops. We are working so hard to make these categories stand out at John

Contact the team: Jo Pilcher Entry, judging, sponsorship. Samantha Loveday Entry, judging, general enquiries. Katie Roberts-Mason Entry, judging. Rob Willis Anything and everything. Lisa Bryant PR and marketing.

SPONSORS INCLUDE: 42-43_PPS Awards 2021_Spread.indd 2

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Little Brother Books are proud to partner with many leading brands and major retailers to deliver best-in-class ranges, widest retail distribution and high brand visibility.

We have over 2,500 additional Annuals FSDUs in the market each year, compared to any other publisher. PRETAILE ARTNER R SHIPS

* Based on Nielsen and non Nielsen retail sales. Covers not final or approved.

Little Brother Books Ltd, Ground Floor, 23 Southernhay East, Exeter, Devon EX1 1QL

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A complete Annuals range for girls and boys from preschool to

young adult.





TBORANPDS +44 (0)1392 982082

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THE BIG INTERVIEW Inset: tonies® says it will continue to acquire licences for key entertainment and book-led brands.



At a time where we need positive stories more than ever, tonies® has a whole batch of them in its burgeoning portfolio. The past year has seen the company far exceed its expectations in terms of growth, while new licence signings plus own brand content are set to build on this even further. PPS catches up with UK and Ireland md, Lucia Kreuzer, and asks what’s the story?


e had big plans for tonies® in the UK last year, but the multifold growth we have seen has been far beyond our expectations,” begins Lucia Kreuzer, UK and Ireland md at tonies®. “We have been so overwhelmed by the positive customer feedback, press and awards we have received. During this difficult year, the tonies® offering has been greatly appreciated by many families and children.” Tonies is one of the companies which saw a major uptick for its products last year. With the move to

Above: Lucia Kreuzer, UK and Ireland md.

working from home across the globe, there has been a real challenge in keeping children occupied and entertained as parents and carers try to work, without resorting to entire days in front of a screen. Discussing the success, Lucia explains: “With tonies®, children can enjoy creative play, listen to the fun educational content, and stay connected to the family members they’ve sadly been separated from due to the pandemic – all without a screen or any assistance from parents.” In addition to this, the hand painted figurines add a collectability element,

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THE BIG INTERVIEW SUPPORTING CHILDREN’S DEVELOPMENT Tonies is also a keen supporter of initiatives which aid with children’s learning and development. In May, it confirmed its support for Life-changing Libraries, the education project for England’s most underprivileged communities, which has been established by Waterstones Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell and BookTrust. “We really believe in the power of education and that the Toniebox has the potential to close the literacy gap,” says Lucia. “Listening to audiobooks and music helps children to improve literacy skills and vocabulary in an enjoyable, accessible way. “This has just been proven by a report published by the National Literacy Trust that found that, during the first lockdown, more than half of children said listening to audiobooks increased their interest in reading and two in five said it made them more interested in writing. We have some powerful partnerships coming up to further support childrens’ development.” Above: The company has a dedicated team working on all sustainable aspects of its business.

while a number of preschool licences – with new signings this year already including Peppa Pig, Bing and Monty & Co – add further desirability. “In the past year we have added some very strong licences, including much-loved Disney favourites like Toy Story and Frozen and classic stories such as Elmer, to our ever-increasing portfolio, offering a curated and appealing range of stories, music and educational content for children,” says Lucia. “This year we have already very successfully launched our Peter Rabbit and PAW Patrol Tonies, and we have lots of fantastic Tonies coming in the next few months and years, spanning hit preschool brands to much-loved children’s classics, as well as educational topics and sing-along songs.” The company also has plans to launch more Creative-Tonies – these have space for parents to record their own stories or to upload up to 90 minutes of content. “They’re perfect for when children want to listen to something a little bit more personal,” explains Lucia. “Of course, there will be some more own-brand Content Tonies in the future, with a range of story-led and educational topics.” Growth in retail distribution has also been strong. Products are now available to buy in all major retailers including Smyths Toys, John Lewis and Selfridges, plus Easons and Arnotts in Ireland, independent toy stores and online at and Amazon. Lucia continues: “Excitingly, we also recently launched a tonies® pop-up at world-renowned

department store Harrods, which was open until 29 May – [it was] a wonderful way to bring the tonies® brand and products to life and feature our bestselling Tonies from the collection of over 100 characters.” The company also has a dedicated team working on becoming more sustainable in all aspects of the business – whether that is packaging, production processes or the product itself. “We are proud that our Tonieboxes are already products with a very long life, but there’s so much more we can do through repair and replacement programmes or second life options to give inactive boxes a reason to be used again,” Lucia offers. When it comes to where future growth opportunities will come from, Lucia says the company will continue to put a “great deal of thought, research and work” into the content it brings to tonies®. “We really foster strong bonds between children and parents through the magic of storytelling - whether parents are introducing their children to their own nostalgic stories, listening together to the latest blockbuster story that their child loves, as well as our wonderful music and educational content,” she says. “And, of course, we are always looking to consumer trends and insights to predict the next bestseller. “We will continue to acquire licences for key entertainment and book-led brands, expanding our partnerships with the leading entertainment studios and publishing houses. We have some exciting partnerships in the educational space coming up, and we are also growing our range of own-brand Tonies.” Left: The Gruffalo is among a strong licensed portfolio.

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Peaceful development from day one Introducing the beautiful new Boho Chic collection from Tiny Love, designed to engage and soothe as well as complement the design of any home with its natural materials and chic style. This collection features cute new characters; David the Toucan, Mark the Sloth and Janis the Koala and is comprised of a gorgeous Luxe Gymini, Luxe Musical Mobile, and the 2-in-1 Rocker.

RRP £54.99

The new Luxe Musical Mobile is the most stylish mobile from Tiny Love to date. The variety of electronic features, beautiful detailing and developmental elements make it a premium option for parents to entertain their little one and soothe them to sleep. The Musical Mobile not only boasts over 30 minutes of continuous music, but also has 5 kinds of white noise and a unique shushing feature, all designed to peacefully coax babies to nap. Technological features such as the volume control, automatic timer with three options and LED light for easy operation in the dark, mean that the mobile is simple to control and adjust to suit parents’ needs. The three plush character dolls, decorative leaf elements, vintage-inspired embroidery and soft mobile arm cover mean that the Musical Mobile is every bit as attractive as it is comforting.

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RRP £109.99

The elegant Luxe Gymini is made with natural materials and premium fabrics, and features over 20 stimulating activities to entertain little ones and aid their development. The standalone, natural wooden toy arch features a musical Mark the Sloth doll that’s activated by baby, three gripping rings with a rattle and fun satin ribbons, a crinkly eucalyptus leaf mobile, and a plush take-along Koala huggy doll with rattle. The deluxe double-padded activity mat is also packed with features including a dream catcher mirror, giant leaf kicker with rattle and crinkly textural plant toy with ring and bead ball. It’s also machine washable to make parents’ lives easier. The Luxe Gymini is accompanied by 12 developmental milestone cards, to help parents better understand how each interactive feature is helping their baby’s physical, cognitive and emotional growth.

RRP £99.99

This dual-mode rocker can be used either stationary for a comfortable nap, or as a rocker when little ones are feeling more energetic! It has 3 recline positions that can be adjusted using only one hand, a cosy inlay and the minimalist and lightweight design mean it’s easy to fold and store away. Made with premium soft materials and featuring a removable toy arch with a plush koala toy and rattle, both parents and baby will be kept happy with this addition to the Boho Chic collection.

Contact sales on 02082360707 or email To find out more visit, 48-49_PPS June 2021.indd 2

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Check out our extensive portfolio of partyware! There is something for everyone. View Online Now!

©Amscan 2021, ©Anagram 2021. All Rights Reserved.

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Roger Allen, ceo of Green Sheep Group, talks delivering the UK’s most-loved bedside crib, winning the Queen’s Award for Innovation and the power of a positive attitude.


HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN AT GREEN SHEEP GROUP? I initially joined Green Sheep Group in 2013 when I was appointed to the board as chairman. There were fewer than five of us at the time, a true entrepreneurial start up with obvious growth potential. Some four years later, having delivered exponential growth and delivering a truly profitable business, I joined the business as ceo. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT AT THE COMPANY? Winning the Queen's Award for Innovation in 2018. SnüzPod is now the UK’s bestselling bedside crib; we have come a long way since its launch in 2013. SnüzPod4 has built on the success of its predecessor, while maintaining its iconic design and quality. We have enhanced the breathability of the crib, offering increased airflow around baby thanks to unique air-flow vents, an air-permeable mesh liner and improved base ventilation. All of these features help put parents’ minds at ease thanks to the even greater temperature regulation they provide, and ultimately a safer nights sleep for baby.

Jacquie Habershon has been with us for six years after joining in 2015. We’ve been through the challenges you’d expect from a fast growth small business and Jacquie has been there to support us. WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHANGE WITHIN THE PRESCHOOL INDUSTRY THAT YOU HAVE SEEN SINCE YOU HAVE WORKED IN IT? A much greater understanding from new parents about the safety and comfort of their impending arrivals, and the immediacy of access to this information through the seismic change in digital and use of smartphones. From our study in March 2021, we learnt that during the pandemic, 44% of parents felt they did not have the support they needed or wanted with regards to their baby's sleep. It’s an important role for Snüz to play as the destination for baby’s sleep across both products and information, working closely with The Sleep Charity, health professionals and trusts.

“ Nothing excites me more than working on investment strategy.”

FAVOURITE PART OF YOUR JOB? Nothing excites me more than working on investment strategy. We are still a small business, but have ambitious plans to continue building off of the success of our two brands, The Little Green Sheep and Snüz. There is so much potential given the seismic shift toward natural and sustainable living, with parents increasingly aware of babies’ sleep, and how to create the safest environment. Our two brands are ideally positioned to cater for these customer needs. It would be remiss of me not to mention the team here at Green Sheep Group. A small, positive and intelligent group of unique individuals building a truly diverse culture. It is a fun, fast, and hard-working business. WHO IS THE UNSUNG HERO IN YOUR COMPANY? I feel finance teams are often overlooked or forgotten, but the work they do is a key foundation of the business.

WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE THAT YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN? Do what you say you are going to do, when you say you are going to do it. This has never let me down. It is the foundation of building trust, and trust is critical in all relationships, business or otherwise. BIGGEST LESSON YOU TOOK AWAY FROM 2020? How much difference a positive attitude makes. My personal goal and ambition at the beginning of lockdown in March 2020 was to ensure that not a single member of the Green Sheep Group team was furloughed or made redundant. We remained positive and focused on that goal. In 2020, Green Sheep Group achieved year on year growth rates of over 60% because of that positivity, tenacity and hard work, thus leading to the growth of our workforce by 36%.

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Above: Unicorns are among the popular preschool themes for Pioneer Europe and Qualatex.

With over a years’ worth of postponed events, the children’s party and dressup sector is hopeful that summer and beyond will be filled with celebrations. PPS catches up with a number of suppliers in the sector to find out their plans for the rest of 2021.


ith parties and celebrations of all types either scaled down or cancelled throughout 2020, the children’s party and dress-up category - buoyed by the arrival of the good weather – has been busy making up for lost time. For preschoolers, dress-up has long been seen as playing an instrumental part in the development of their imagination. For retailers, too, they offer multiple opportunities for promotion all year-round. “With the re-introduction of gatherings following past events, we have seen an uptake in retail accounts as people are starting to throw children’s birthday parties again where it is common to dress up,” says Fran Hales, head of content and marketing at Rubies Masquerade.

The company has been enjoying success with The Child (or Grogu) for preschoolers, while it also has high hopes for its new Sesame Street costumes based on Elmo and Cookie Monster. Oddbods will also play a big part in the expansion of Rubies’ preschool range, while Fran also expects Disney to remain strong through the summer. He continues: “We believe that over the past 18 months, consumers overall have re-evaluated their lives and finances and where they spend their money, not only to make it last longer but also to get the most for it. It is looking likely that consumers, parents in particular, will spend more now on higher quality pieces to last rather than the fast fashion trend of previous years and we are proud that our costumes stand up to this test of time.” VERSATILITY IS KEY For Amscan, the company’s head of marketing and design, Jennifer Wilson believes that consumers are certainly splashing out on occasions more, not only to make up for time missed in 2020, but also to focus on the here and now. The company is continuing to see a major uplift in balloon sales, while its summer ranged items Left: The Child has been a strong seller for preschool ages at Rubies.

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SECTOR FOCUS Left: Amscan has a new Hey Duggee have welcomed Hawaiian HALLOWEEN HOPES skeleton-style costume for Halloween. dress-up. In the party “Smiffys is expecting a category, Amscan has such as Sula from Bing and bumper Halloween after seen success in its licensed The Gruffalo. we all missed out on the ranges of Hey Duggee “Costumes offer freakishly fun antics last and Baby Shark, as well as multiple possibilities year,” says Sharon. “We have generic ensembles of classic for promotion year-round,” already seen pre-orders from evergreen characters Dinoshe continues. “Now that small independent retailers double Mite, Get Wild and Magical parties are allowed both indoors from those in 2019 (the last prePrincess – all of which and outdoors, this gives retailers Covid Halloween), showing that launched new for 2021. the opportunity to promote fancy the whole industry is preparing Jennifer comments: dress for birthday celebrations once for a party like no other this “When it comes to party, again. As well as adding excitement Halloween.” versatility is key. With and a sense of occasion to parties, Amscan’s Jennifer is also expecting celebrations to things still being a little fancy dress also brings fun to atbe back this year and the uncertain, being able to home play throughout the year, company has a number of new additions helping to ignite imaginations.” mix and match items from to its portfolio in the preschool space. ranges not only provides the These include a new Hey Duggee consumer with an element EXCITING AND INSPIRATIONAL skeleton-style costume, while its Peppa of individuality and ‘do Popular preschool themes at Pig Halloween portfolio continues to it yourself ’ but also our Pioneer Europe, meanwhile, be popular. “With Halloween being on customers with flexibility.” include dinosaurs and unicorns, a Sunday and in school holidays, we’ve Sam Taylor, dress-up while fusion/marquee bouquets also introduced plenty of games and category manager, continues: incorporating age number balloons craft activities to keep everyone busy,” “[Dress-up] is extremely or names are also very on-trend. adds Jennifer. important. Role-play is just Julie Dommett, head of one example, providing different characteristics and marketing, says that licensed character understandings, through to that child’s learning about partyware has sold continuously well via online those characters. It can encourage them to communicate channels throughout the pandemic, while high with peers in different ways, with various interactions demand for balloons has also remained. dependent on the character progression opportunities.” Looking forward, she says: “We are expecting balloon décor to perform particularly well, as children who missed out on special celebrations over the last year are treated to stylish celebrations with friends. Some big trends we are seeing include teepee and jungle-themed parties.” Julie also advises retailers to focus on “exciting and inspirational” displays, either in shop windows or on websites/social media, and to ask for images and permission to share photographs of parties they’ve supplied décor for. “’I’ll have one like that’ is the easiest sale there is!” she concludes.

“Customers are going the extra mile to create the party atmosphere we’ve all been missing with balloons, tableware and accessories.” Sharon Poulter, licensing and marketing manager, Smiffys

THE EXTRA MILE “Customers are going the extra mile to create the party atmosphere we’ve all been missing with balloons, tableware and accessories,” offers Sharon Poulter, licensing and marketing manager at Smiffys. “Because of this, we are expanding our tableware offering for this summer. Our Peter Rabbit range is brand new and perfect for preschool children’s birthday parties. Due to the demand we are expecting, we also have other kids licensed tableware coming soon including The Gruffalo and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” Sharon is also expecting classic children’s fancy dress themes to be top sellers in the coming months such as pirates and princesses. In addition, it has also added to its licensed toddler range with characters

Right: The Peter Rabbit range is new for Smiffys and is perfect for preschoolers’ birthday parties, the company believes.

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PRESCHOOL DRESS UP & PARTIES SMIFFYS Introducing Smiffys brand new range of Peter Rabbit tableware. With children’s parties firmly back on the calendar after a year-long hiatus, Smiffys Peter Rabbit range has everything needed to throw the perfect bash for little ones. Parents can set the table, decorate with bunting and balloons and add to the fun with party hats, masks and party bags! Pre-order now ready for a summer of celebration. Tel: 0800 590599



Smiffys new licensed dress up range of Judith Kerr costumes is available now. The classic storybook characters, including Mog The Cat and The Tiger Who Came To Tea, will be a hit all year round for imaginative play and book themed events. The deluxe all-in-one costumes feature embroidered logos and plush character headpieces. Available to order now. Tel: 0800 590599

This Red Power Ranger costume will help little ones Morph into their favorite ranger. The costume features a muscle jumpsuit with a muscle torso soft headpiece and attached belt. Sizes available range from aged two, to aged six. Tel: 001 877 8752557

DISGUISE Tiny heroes will love dressing up in these new Red Ranger Dino Fury Toddler Muscle costumes. This costume has it all - it’s cool, tough, and comfortable to wear. The costume features a full muscle jumpsuit with a foam belt and dimensional metallic buckle. It’s detailed with sublimated art throughout. The costume also comes with a soft, foam Red Ranger mask. Tel: 001 877 8752557

RUBIES Rubies’ new range of Sesame Street costumes will delight and inspire all audiences. Featuring the iconic furry friends, Elmo and the Cookie Monster in infant, toddler and adult sizes. The kids costumes feature a soft fleece jumpsuit and matching headpiece whilst the adult range consists of a fleece onesie. Available from this August. Tel: 01491 826500

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The latest products available from Hippychick

CLASSIC WORLD LITTLE FOREST STACKING RINGS A beautifully sustainable new wooden toy from Classic World, the Little Forest Stacking Rings. The perfect toy to teach little ones all about the environment whilst developing their hand-eye coordination. Hours of fun with this traditional stacking toy.



The famous octopus, designed to comfort premature babies as the tentacles remind them of the umbilical cord, is now available in four new stunning colours. The latest cuddly characters from Nattou are guaranteed to soothe little ones with the calming, yet completely on trend colourways.

After the success of the previous Classic World Music Set, it has been reinvented with bright, eye-catching colours and new educational elements. Children will have hours of fun with this six piece wooden music set. Included is a flute, xylophone, tambourine and castanets – fun for the entire family.

CLASSIC WORLD ROBOT WALKER The coolest walker around, brand new from Classic World. Stand out from the crowd with this incredibly quirky walker, equipped with lots of features to keep little ones entertained for hours. Xylophones, shape sorters, mirrors and adjustable arms, children are mesmerised whilst learning at the same time.

NATTOU SILICONE TABLEWARE SET Something a little bit different from Nattou are these three silicone tableware sets. The beautiful on trend colourways will make the perfect edition to any weaning, or tableware collection. Not only do they look good, but they are also incredibly practical. The fourpiece set comes with a plate with suction base, a bowl, a cup and a spoon. Everything needed to kick start that weaning journey.

Hippychick • Tel: 01278 434440 •

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B A B Y W E A R // +44(0)1923 932 230

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Cranmore Park will be welcoming the preschool industry back in July, with INDX Kidswear one of the first trade shows to take place since the start of the pandemic. PPS catches up with show organiser, Varsha Chohan, to find out more about the preparations. Above: 80 brands will be attending the INDX Kidswear show, with many familiar names to buyers among them. Right: Varsha Chohan, event sales and business development manager at AIS.

he landscape has to have been fully relaxed by been bare of trade the time of the show in July. shows since the very “With the restrictions and early months of 2020, uncertainty this year, the planning but this summer will start to see time for this event has been much the preschool industry slowly tighter than in a normal year,” Con Chocolate, Pex, Eddy Kids, returning to in-person events. says Varsha. “Registration has Deolinda, Pompetitpom, Allegra e One of the first shows out of the opened [in mid-May] and we Gastone, Viking Footwear and hair blocks will be INDX Kidswear, were encouraged by the number accessories brand, Verity Jones. which is due to take place at of visitors who have reserved There certainly sounds like there Cranmore Park on 4-5 July. their spot. Over the coming weeks will be plenty to see and buyers are “The last INDX Kidswear show the event will be marketed to no doubt champing at the bit to get was held in February 2020 – and the buyers and advertised with back to seeing product in-person. coincided with the worst storm our partner publications.” Varsha is also keen to stress that the to hit the UK in a decade,” event 80 brands will be attending key message is that the health and sales and business development the show including many of the wellbeing of all the show’s visitors manager, Varsha Chohan tells names which INDX Kidswear and staff remains the top priority. PPS. “Regardless of the weather buyers have come to expect such “We are fortunate that our conditions, many of the brands as Chipmunk, Kite, Steiff, Lilly venue, Cranmore Park, is our reported brisk order writing and & Sid, A Dee and Bowtique. own purpose-built exhibition a very busy couple of days. The In addition, newcomers to the space and as such we can respond buyers that braved the weather had show this year will include Pan quickly to any changes in made an essential journey and came with the intent to place INDX KIDSWEAR: NEED TO KNOW government regulations and event industry guidelines,” orders. The event utilised When: Sunday 4 July 9am-6pm and she offers. “We’d like to all four showrooms and had Monday 5 July 9am-5pm reassure anyone wishing to over 200 brands on offer.” Where: Cranmore Park Conference & Event Centre, visit the show that we will By contrast, at the time Shirley, Solihull, West Midlands B90 4LF be employing all the latest of writing, Varsha and her Website: measures and restrictions team were busy planning kidswear/kidswear to keep everyone safe and maximum capacity for that while we may look a Email: each of the showrooms little different, visitors will based on the government Buyers are required to pre-register by following the guidance from 17 May, simple online process: still receive the same warm welcome they’re used to.” and hoping for restrictions indx-fashion/kidswear/registration

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Feed Me Combi The Feed Me Combi is the ultimate 4-in-1 highchair that grows and adapts with your baby from six months of age through to t welve years old The sleek, modern wooden frame and clean white plastics will become a stylish piece of furniture furnitu to any home.

Helping make faces smile... BIG and small Dreamer Bedside Crib The Dreamer Bedside Travel Crib is the new updated version of an old favourite but with the massive additional feature of including a drop side to d allow for bedside safe sleeping. The dropside means baby can co sleep next to parents allowing for strong bonds to develop and gives peace of mind to parents. For more information and all sales enquiries please contact Red Kite on 01454 326555 or email

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This summer Baby Jogger is launching exciting new fashions, with improved fabrics across its City Mini 2 and City Mini GT2 stroller range. The new fashion range will cover the City Mini 2 in Opulent; the City Mini GT2 in Opulent Black, Stone Grey and Brick Mahogany; the City Mini 2 Double in Stone Grey and the City Mini GT2 Double in Opulent Black. This will be supported by new imagery and a digital campaign. Tel: 0800 4148502



The Push Me Pace Blush has been developed after listening to customer demand and is the latest addition to the popular Push Me Pace Travel System range from Red Kite. The new addition has a gun metal finish frame, soft grey leatherette on the bumper and handles, and a luxury blush pink fabric to finish. It also has multi lie back positions, soft padded seat liners, front aprons, a 2-in-1 stroller seat and a carry cot, a Group 0+ car seat and an optional IsoFix base. Tel: 01454 326555

Babies will be delighted by Taf Toys’ new Wonder Tissue Box – a fascinating ‘peek-a-boo’ box where they can hide and pull out an assortment of sensory delights. Complete with eight colourful organza squares and two crinkle blankies, the Taf Toys Tissue Wonder Box is ideal for babies who are starting to sit up, to aid them in developing their motor skills and understanding. Tel: 01254 872454

BEBELEPHANT Nupeaa’s all new Bottle Warmer Active is a portable, wireless and compact bottle warmer that warms a bottle in as little as four minutes anywhere, anytime and is compatible with most bottle brands in the market.The Bottle Warmer Active heats liquid to the perfect temperature every time, with three temperature settings to choose from while preserving all the nutrients in the milk through an innovatively designed antibacterial stainless steel heating plate. Available from bébélephant. Tel: 0208 82021467

ICKLE BUBBA Ickle Bubba introduces the Eclipse pushchair, available in three bundles - the 2-in-1, the all-in-one and the isofix bundle. The latest collection is the perfect choice for new families, especially those with a preschooler already in tow. Whilst the littlest ones are safely cosied up, their big brother, or sister can hop on board the built-in Ickle Bubba Board and enjoy the ride. The Eclipse All-In-One Travel System includes the carrycot, pushchair, car seat and the Isofix base as well. Tel: 01554 707022

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The new Snowdon collection from Ickle Bubba embraces traditional sleigh detailing and includes thoughtful design details, such as soft close doors and lots of storage options - this collection is a beautiful choice for any nursery. The range includes two size cot bed options, a wardrobe and a chest of drawers / changer. The Mini Cot Bed can be converted into four different options, including a daybed and a toddler bed, while the Classic Cot includes multiple height positions and a toddler bed option too. Tel: 01554 707022



Youngsters will have fun learning the alphabet with this 30 piece puzzle. Pieces show animals, people or items most children will recognise, and the simple layout makes it easier to associate objects with their starting letter or word. Letters and words are styled so children will recognise when they start nursery or school, and each object is phonetically correct. Supports Early Years Foundation Syllabus guidelines and helps to build a child’s confidence and knowledge. Tel: 01869 363842

CYBEX has launched its latest fashion collection, Simply Flowers. The collection exudes luxury, fashion and craftmanship of the highest quality, whilst making a feminine and romantic statement. The Priam and Mios strollers, Cloud Z i-Size infant car seat, footmuff and changing bag are all decorated with perfectly placed petals and unique blossoms which have been created using a laser cut technique. It’s available in three modern colours: pale blush, nude beige and dream grey. Tel: 0207 4264938

BUNDLEBEAN Keep little ones dry during every spring shower, during a staycation, or day out, with BundleBean’s lightweight toddler Ponchos. Easily to fold away and perfect for popping in the car, or base of the pushchair, one size comfortably fits toddlers aged from two to four years. The unisex, bold prints, including the new SS21 bright Seagull or classic Grey Elephant, are sure to have little ones splashing in puddles in no time at all! With this year’s family holiday being closer to home for most, the Toddler Poncho will be an essential for the very British summer weather. Tel: 0203 7957225

LITTLECONCEPTS Brooklyn based Candylab’s newest product in the Americana series is the Longhorn Sierra. Produced from solid beech wood, the new truck comes in a stunning autumnal colourway which is inspired by the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the Western USA. Also available in two other colour variations. Available from LittleCONCEPTS. Tel: 07870 132595

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• • • • • •

Grow-along • Grow-along woodenwooden highchair highchair from 6 months from 6 months Usable • from Usable birth from with birth Alpha withBouncer Alpha Bouncer Sustainably • Sustainably SourcedSourced European European Beech Wood Beech Wood Height-adjustable • Height-adjustable seat andseat footand plate foot plate Stable• &Stable Secure & Base Secure towooden Base Support tohighchair Support Your Little Your Ones Little Ones • Grow-along from 6 months Usable • up Usable 90up kgto 90birth kg with Alpha Bouncer • toUsable from • • • •

Sustainably Sourced European Beech Wood Height-adjustable seat and foot plate Stable & Secure Base to Support Your Little Ones Usable up to 90 kg

NEW NEW ALPHA ALPHA + + HIGH HIGH CHAIR CHAIR IN IN NEW ALPHA + ROSE ROSE HIGH CHAIR IN ForROSE more For more information, information, to arrange to arrange a visita from visit from the team the team or to or place to place your order, your order, contact contact the team the team by by For more information, to arrange emailing emailing a visit from the team or to place your order, contact the team by emailing

RRP RRP from RRP from

from £84.95 £84.95


Available Available from from Available from 2nd April 2nd April 2nd April | +44 (0) 1978 664 362 |362 | +44 (0) | +44 1978 (0)664 1978 362 664 | |

High Chair 315 x 240mm.indd 1

Chair 315 High x 240mm.indd Chair 66_PPS 315 x 240mm.indd 1 June 2021.indd 1


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“We currently have a range of bestselling products,” explains owner Julie Logan. “From the traditional classic wooden toys like Bigjigs Baby Walker and Wooden Rail Sets to more contemporary favourites including Orchard Toys Shopping List Game and Hape Press and Slide Jungle Run. The Puppet Company’s Puppet Buddies are always enjoyed, as are Usborne Little Sticker Dolly Dressing books.”

The Olive Branch


Based in Castle Donington, Leicestershire, the owners of family-run The Olive Branch Toy Shop, established in 2016, aim to put a smile on the face of everyone who visits them, with their friendly service and range of toys and gifts sourced from responsible and ethical suppliers.


“To have a toy shop closed throughout November seems unthinkable. But fuelled by mince pies and plenty of tea, we were kept busy gift wrapping and packing toys and gifts ordered online. We put lots of time and effort into making sure all our products were available on our website and making it user friendly.”


Above: The Olive Branch team is made up of five members of staff.

Above: During lockdown, the team delivered orders to local villages free of charge to help the community.


“We’ve often marvelled at the power of the internet during lockdown, that someone living so far away could find our little toy shop online and place an order.”


“There will always be a special place in our hearts for the Lanka Kade Deluxe Ark. From the moment we first saw it at our very first suppliers fair, we knew it would be the centrepiece of our shop. It certainly is a stunning decorative item as well as a treasured toy.”


“We’ve noticed that our customers too are much more knowledgeable and appreciative about the way our products are made. Environmentally friendly toys crafted from sustainable or recycled sources are very popular.”

The Olive Branch’s oldest supplier is Lanka Kade – there’s even an ark in the shop’s logo. “Lanka Kade has been a brilliant supplier and a friend to us from the very start.” The newest arrival is Toynamics, in particular the Hape range of wooden toys.


• “ We have five core members in our team.” • “ The average spend per customer is around £20.” • “ We refresh our window usually every fortnight. We aim to link in with seasonal themes and offers.” • “Our last delivery was four boxes full of Hape products from Toynamics.” • “ Team member Alex has done the sums and reckons we can fit 1,000 Deluxe Lanka Kade Arks in our little shop.”

Above: Lanka Kade is the store’s oldest supplier.

Above: Julie says traditional favourites like soft toys are making a comeback.


The reopening period has gone well for the shop. “We’ve helped grandparents choose gifts for grandchildren they are about to meet for the first time and shared in the delight of children bringing their Christmas money to spend. After such a long time of having the shop closed, it’s been a truly uplifting return.”

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Profile for Max Media Group

Progressive Preschool June 2021  

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