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Retail 07 Hacked off! After the latest spate of internet toy hackings, we ask ‘should the industry be worried?’

No. 182


16 Action packed Action Man celebrates his 50th anniversary with a limited edition run from Art + Science


19 Kosmic games Thames & Kosmos is growing its gaming arm with award-winning titles this year

April 2017

Marketing 40 Shopped out We send out Mystery Shopper to Bath. Did they visit you? Read on to find out...

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             

   

    

    

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10/03/2017 13:06

Follow us @toynewsonline

MEET THE TEAM Robert Hutchins Editor Jade Burke Deputy Editor Jack Ridsdale Staff Writer Jodie Holdway Sales Manager James Marinos Production Executive Julie Champness Designer Andrew Wooden Content Director


CONTENTS Regulars 06 08 08 09 10 12 38 58

News Campaign of the Month Playtime Euromonitor Industry Movers Industry Opinion ToyShop UK ToyTalk

Features 07 Spy toys 14 Interview: Funko UK 16 Anatomy of a Blockbuster 20 News Pre-school 23 News 26 Pre-school sector guide Retail 37 News 38 ToyShop UK 40 Mystery Shopper 43 Sector Guide: Games & puzzles

Editorial: 0207 354 6017 Advertising: 0207 354 6000 Web: PRINT SUBSCRIPTIONS To subscribe to ToyNews please go to Should you have any questions please email UK: £50 Europe: £60 Rest of World: £90 FAQ’s can be found develop/FAQ’s. Please note that this is a controlled circulation title and subscription criteria will be strictly adhered to. NewBay Subscriptions: The Emerson Building, 4-8 Emerson Street, London SE1 9DU Email ToyNews is published 11 times a year by NewBay Media Europe Ltd, The Emerson Building, 4th Floor, 4-8 Emerson Street, London SE1 9DU NewBay Media Europe Ltd is a member of the Periodical Publishers Association AUDITED CIRCULATION: Average Net Circulation: 5,419 July 2015- June 2016

©NewBay Media Europe Ltd 2017 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system without the express prior written consent of the publisher. The contents of develop are subject to reproduction in information storage and retrieval systems. Printed by Pensord Press Ltd, NP12 2YA Print ISSN: 1740-3308

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The big issues


y the time this magazine lands on your desk, doormat or dinner plate, the clocks would have sprung forward one hour, signalling the arrival of spring. Westminster, on the other hand, would have finally found the time to trigger Article 50, transporting the whole of Britain itself back half a century. Personally, I have been keeping myself busy in this drawn out interim of uncertainty by looking up house prices in Scotland and acclimatising myself to a diet of batter and Irn Bru. But we’re not here to cast aspersions over the political machinations of Ms May, but rather tackle the issues in which the voices of the people can be heard; kicking off the April issue by opening up discussion into concerns around gender roles in child’s play, the recent spate of database hacking among internetconnected toys, the imposition of increased business rates on the independent retailer and what further steps toy shops can take to help and encourage parents of children with autism. Meanwhile, we have also managed to pin down Funko UK’s Andy Oddie for just long enough to get an interview out of him, as he discusses the recent takeover of Underground Toys and the growing demand for Funko Pop! here on home soil, before celebrating the last 50 years of Action Man in our exclusive Anatomy of a Blockbuster Toy feature. In hindsight, it seems like a missed opportunity to not have questioned the man of action on his own thoughts on Brexit, but perhaps that is for another time. In the meantime, I have been brushing up on my 1930s War Time songs and whistling Under the Arches as the team strolls arm in arm into a very different Britain.

As Westminster finally triggers Article 50, we kick off April by tackling the issues in which the voices of the people can be heard, discussing gender roles in child’s play and what shops can do to aid parents of children with autism.

Contact: April 05

22/03/2017 15:04


UN’s Equality Line aims to break down gender stereotypes with dolls for boys The dolls will launch across North America following a successful Kickstarter campaign. BY JACK RIDSDALE


he UN’s HeForShe Initiative, a worldwide campaign for gender equality, has partnered with Boy Story to launch a duo of dolls aimed at boys. The first of their kind ‘action dolls’ aim to challenge harmful gender stereotypes where they start: childhood. The dolls aim to encourage young boys to develop emotional intelligence and empathy and break down the harmful stereotype that dolls are only for girls. Boy Story’s co-founder Kristen Johnson explained their process for understanding the way that children learn. “Kids learn through play. When we start to dissect how kids learn and what they’re learning, we see that they gain different skills through different types of play,” said Johnson. “At ages three to four kids begin learning the skills of human interaction and basic emotion, five to six, they learn character imagination and empathy. Once they reach seven and beyond, they are learning companionship and emotional intelligence.” The dolls are available online now and part of all proceeds raised, will go towards UN Women’s programmatic work on

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women and girl’s employment globally as well on-the-ground efforts to improve gender equality

We want kids to be free to be themselves, and for all kids to have the opportunity to learn skills through play with dolls. Kristen Johnson, Boy Story such as the Malawi effort to end early childhood marriage. The

HeForShe initiative has garnered support from corporations, universities and even high-profile celebrities including Emma Watson and Anne Hathaway. “HeForShe and Boy Story had been friends for a while, when we realised that our missions were very much aligned with each other,” Johnson explained. “HeForShe is all about getting men to participate in gender equality in order to make true strides toward equality. Boy Story is about breaking down harmful stereotypes that tell boys they can’t play with dolls and tell girls that dolls are something only for them. We want kids to be free to

be themselves, and for all kids to have the opportunity to learn skills through play with dolls. It’s not fair to any kid to limit their play based on old, outdated biases.” With the brand’s newfound momentum from the collaboration with HeForShe, Boy Story shows no signs of slowing down, looking ahead to the future of the brand. “We are definitely hoping to expand our accessories very soon, as well as release another pair of dolls,” added Johnson. “We ship the dolls to the UK via our website but shipping costs can be high. We would love to bring the dolls to the UK retailers, we just have to find the right distributor.”

21/03/2017 20:00


Spy kids

With so many toys connected to the internet it’s no wonder hackers are targeting toys. Now that Spiral Toys has been involved in a data breach, Jade Burke speaks to the industry to understand the dangers


eb-connected toys are a major part of the toy industry, as everything from tablets to dolls are all connected to the internet. But with this often comes dangerous outcomes, with various toy manufacturers suffering from security breaches and hacks. One of the most recent to hit headlines involves Spiral Toys’ CloudPets, which saw the items caught up in a personal data leak. Vulnerabilities were discovered in the plushies’ Bluetooth functionality, which could allow anyone to connect to the toy’s Bluetooth LE, upload a recording and then play it back. This was first uncovered by Paul Stone, principal researcher at Context, who found that even though the Bluetooth LE had a range of about 10-30 metres, anyone standing outside a house would be able to hack into the toy. “You have to be in fairly close proximity to the toy to connect to the toy, but someone sitting outside your house could probably connect to it,” Stone told ToyNews. “It’s disappointing, but not surprising that the manufacturer hasn’t secured it properly.” Soon after an open database linking to more than two million voice recordings from the cuddly

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toys were found, which were even held to ransom by hackers. Stone continued: “Servers storing large amounts of personal data are targets for hackers who want to either sell the information or to ransom it (as happened to the CloudPets database). Hackers will always go for the easiest targets, they probably see toy companies as such.”

It’s important when considering such toys as gifts, parents look beyond the fun aspect and consider the impact it might have on their child. David Emm, Kaspersky Lab This is undoubtedly true, as there have been many cases in the past where toy firms have been targeted, including VTech’s Learning Lodge, while others including the My Friend Cayla Doll and Hello Barbie have been a cause for concern for owners. Security researchers previously revealed that Mattel’s Hello Barbie could steal personal information and turn the microphone into a surveillance device, however the

toy giant has revealed that security is of the utmost importance when releasing toys. In a statement, Mattel said: “As a leader in the toy industry for more than 70 years, Mattel is committed to safety and security when bringing new products to market. “Mattel and its partners take a number of steps to ensure all of our products conform with applicable laws and standards, including the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.” Considering how simple it was for hackers to steal data from the CloudPets plushies, it’s clear that manufacturers need to put in place more security measures, not only to protect their consumers, but also their own name as a business in the toy space. Harbottle & Lewis’ Jeremy Morton believes firm’s who design web-connected toys should put in place a system that will help them deal with potential hacks. “Every business handling significant personal data should put in place an action plan for dealing with data hacking or other data loss and its consequences. This includes a media plan and communication with customers,” Morton explained. “While companies falling victim to hacking can investigate and try to pursue hackers, this is not

likely to be easy, and ultimately responsibility for security lies with the company itself.” David Emm, principal security researcher from security firm Kaspersky Lab, concured, revealing that it is a manufacturers duty to ensure toys are safe to use, but advises that parents should be more vigilant when it comes to purchasing these types of toys. “It’s really important that, when considering such toys as gifts, parents look beyond the fun aspect of a toy and consider the impact it might have on their child and the wider family,” Emm added. “However, there is also a role for the manufacturers of connected products and the security industry. We need to work together to ensure that strong protection and patch management is designedin from the very start. Once a product is on the market, it is already too late.” We live in a connected world, but if toy firms and parents can work together to completely safeguard their children from malicious hackers, data breaches will no longer be a threat to today’s children enjoying playtime. ToyNews also reached out to Spiral Toys to discuss its involvement with the data breach, and are yet to receive a response from the toy firm.

April 07

22/03/2017 12:57


Squinkies return Re:creation springs into Summer with a new season of the popular brand, expanding this colourful world. CONTACT: RE:CREATION: 0118 973 6222


quinkies are making a welcome return this year and this time around fans can enjoy Squinkies ‘Do Drops, as the residents of Squinkieville can now be customised with a series of collectable ‘Do’s such as hats, hairstyles and crowns. Re:creation are supporting the relaunch of this much-loved brand with extensive marketing activity throughout the year. Squinkies ‘Do Drops are tiny, collectable friends that can be customised with additional ‘Do’s – a selection of fun accessories like hats, crowns or hairstyles. Season One introduced 150 new Squinkies characters and 50 ‘do’s. These are complemented with a

range of great value playsets – all under £20. Playsets incorporate exciting features and additional accessories for children to explore, such as the hidden compartment in the fun Squinkies ‘Do Drops Clubhouse – the perfect hang out spot for the Squinkies. Season Two is set for launch this summer and will bring with it a raft of new characters and themed playsets from new corners of the Squinkies’ world. With a wealth of personality in the brand, the launch will be supported with bursts of TV throug the year that will showcase character andof course, collectability.

A series of print partnerships will showcase the huge array of engaging assets this brand has to offer and focus on character personality and the customisation play pattern. A sampling programme will give kids the

chance to get hands-on with Squinkies to start their collection, while sticker sheets throughout the year add to the play. Launched in January a PopJam channel is engaging followers in character and dress-up ‘Do play patterns. Thousands of followers have already joined the brand channel and activity has achieved huge engagement rates with unique web content. Additional social media activity will also promote a series of ‘Squinkiesodes’ - animated shorts showcasing the playful Squinkies storyline. Kids press competitions, product placement and blogger outreach will complement the marketing programme.

Generation Media’s Lauren Coombs examines the marketing potential pop-up children’s channels hold for toy companies Source: BARB 2016


or all of those avid Kids TV viewers out there you may have noticed that during certain times of the year we see the introduction of new pop-up channels. These stations provide multiple benefits to not only the sales house in terms of alleviating pressure from other channels and providing an opportunity to increase their share of viewing, but it also helps advertisers alike. The reason being, that the channel only focuses on its highest rated programmes therefore providing some level of guarantee that TVR delivery will perform up to the predicted levels. If you tune into channel 625 on Sky or 129 on Freeview you will find the latest version, a channel called Pop Max.

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The channel re-launched on 9th February with news that it will showcase 4x of the most popular programmes from Pop and run back to back episodes of Power Rangers, My Little Pony, Totally Spies and Transformers Rescue Bots. However, despite the fact that the channel is set to finish on the 30th March, we have not yet seen any Transformers content airing. At the time of writing this article there is still 3 weeks remaining so there is time left yet. If we cast our mind back to when Pop Max was airing last Summer (14th July-31st August) schedules focused on The Littlest Pet Shop, Totally Spies, Transformers and My Little Pony. It is interesting to see that Littlest Pet Shop was therefore dropped in favour

of more boys-focused content Power Rangers, perhaps a need for the channel to bring in more of a gender neutral audience for potentially capturing greater advertiser revenue volumes. Other pop-up channels include Kix Power that replaced Pop +1 in certain school holidays such as October half term 2014. Unsurprisingly, it is the Sony channels that have focused on these type of

stations in the past. Following their relationship with Sky who sell their airtime and the fact that Sky have control over the EPG and carriage costs it is easier for them to implement such changes. But it will be interesting to see whether any other sales houses utilise this approach across OctoberNovember to enhance audience share by focusing on key content to deliver much needed impacts.

ToyNews PlayTime is provided by Generation Media

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21/03/2017 20:05


Picking up STEAM


nteractive toys, which are electronic toys that can directly play with a child either via movement or speaking to them, such as WowWee robots, have become more commonplace among toy makers as demand for these products has risen. While many of these products are largely aimed purely at entertainment, new introductions suggest that there could be a new direction for these products. 2016 introductions, such as Mattel’s Fisher-Price Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar and Spin Master’s Meccano MeccaNoid G15, as well as LEGO’s recent CES introduction Boost, all encourage children to develop code for a toy that plays with them. The combination of an interactive smart toy with tools for educational improvement may soon become the norm, as they may finally be able to bridge the gap between keeping children interested in both playing with and learning from their toys.

Demand for interactive smart toys to rise Toys-to-life products were first introduced in 2011 with Skylanders and blended physical toys and video games to create a new interactive toy experience. Many other companies soon joined in, and the industry grew by over 400 per cent between 2011 and 2015, reaching $1.4 billion. However, in 2016, Disney Infinity, one of the largest toysto-life brands, left the market, and now it seems that the toysto-life category will begin to stagnate. Despite this, demand for interactive toys remains, with room for other areas of traditional toys to fill this demand. Remote control toys is expected to be one of the few traditional

MATTHEW HUDAK Project Manager Euromonitor International

toy categories to see year-on-year growth accelerate over time; in 2020 it looks set to see the highest growth of any category globally, with five per cent constant value sales growth on the previous year. Technology becoming biggest factor in STEAM Science, technology, engineering, arts and mechanics (STEAM) toys have been a high growth area, as parents want to take a more active role in their children’s education and give them a leg up in important areas of learning. Technology is, however, becoming increasingly important for parents, especially in developed markets. In particular, computer coding has become very important as parents see that skill set as a path towards a highquality career for their children. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of graduates in science

programmes grew by 15 per cent in developed markets, which was the fastest of any programme and was due in large part to increase in computer science degrees. This is only expected to grow over time, and parents will likely see computer programming as an essential skill for their children. However, growth momentum is expected to fall slightly for STEAM toys and the addition of interactive elements, similar to what is found in remote control toys, may help put year-on-year growth back towards an upward trajectory. Blurring the lines LEGO Boost attempts to bridge children’s desire for interactive toys with the parental desire for educational playtime. This could point to a new way for interactive products to differentiate themselves from other noneducation-focused toys.

Encouraging children to code is hot on the market with various toy makers offering smart items for kids to get interactive with. Euromonitor’s Matthew Hudak takes a look at how vendors can keep the momentum for STEAM-based toys flowing in a market that is constantly evolving Coding will likely be the primary area of focus for interactive smart toys, as this will continue to be a focus for parents, but other areas of STEAM could be explored. Mathematics would be an ideal candidate, as robot toys, like Anki Cozmo, already come with a variety of simple games to play with the robot, and adding math elements would likely be simple. Should this hybrid of interactive and STEAM toys prove successful, it is likely that, just like toys-to-life, many more will enter the market. To avoid toys-to-life’s current path of stagnation, toy makers in this marketspace will need to work to keep children and parents engaged, offering new ways to both play and learn.

Euromonitor International is the world’s leading independent provider of strategic market research. The firm creates data and analysis on thousands of products and services around the world. Euromonitor’s Passport database provides insight on industries, economies and consumers worldwide, helping clients analyse market context and identify future trends impacting businesses globally. For more on Euromonitor and Passport, head to

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April 09

17/03/2017 11:50


Industry moves This month sees a raft of industry appointments including a new UK VP at construction toy juggernaut LEGO. Elsewhere, Excell Marketing bolsters its Bulls-i-Toy brand, while Generation Media reveals a series of promotions

LEGO n The LEGO Group has appointed MARINA EDWARDS as vice president and general manager of BU UK Ireland. Based in LEGO UK, Slough, Edwards is taking over from FIONA WRIGHT who has been covering the role on an interim basis since 2016, in parallel with running the Nordic, Benelux and Baltic business. Boasting a diverse career, Edwards started her profession at Procter and Gamble in 2000 and has previously headed up leading businesses, including Beauty Care and Gillete. “I admire the values the company has been true to – to develop and inspire children through creative play and learning. My team and I will work to continue the momentum the company has seen over the past years,” said Wright.

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Generation Media n The firm has celebrated its continued progress with a swathe of new promotions. ELLIE START has been promoted to the role of associate director with immediate effect, due to outstanding contribution to Generation Media’s Continuous Professional Development programme in recent months. Meanwhile, MICHAELLA WILLIAMS has been promoted to senior account manager, effective from April, in recognition of her effort, energy and progress over the last year. “We recognise that as a company an important asset is our client facing product and rewarding individuals for their hard work and achievements,” commented DEAN WELLER, CEO of Generation Media. Bulls-i-Toy n Excell Marketing has boosted its team with the addition of TIMOTHY J. NOLAN as president of the Bulls-i-Toy division. Nolan joins the firm from Imperial Toy where he held the position

of president and leader of sales marketing teams. He also boasts experience in the corporate merchandising divisions of Target and Walgreens. “With the considerable resources of Excell Marketing at our disposal, I believe Bulls-i-Toy will be a top 10 toy company in the next five years,” said Nolan. “Licensed collectables is one of the hottest segments in the toy industry right now and we are poised to establish Bulls-i-Toy as a leader in that category.” MI PR n The PR agency has bolstered its team with the addition of RUTH LEONARD as marketing director. Having spent 15 years in senior management roles, Leonard brings a wealth of experience to the role where she will be responsible for marketing and strategic communications, as well as new business developments. “Ruth is well known and highly respected in the industry and brings a fantastic skill set to the company,” said JONATHAN ROSE, MD of MI PR. “This new appointment will further strengthen the MI PR Global team and will positively impact our client base directly.”

CBS Consumer Products n CBS Consumer Products has appointed a new director of licensing in the form of MARIE-CECILE GIRARD-JONES. In her new role, the former Sesame Workshop executive will oversee the apparel, accessories, housewares/home, gift and social expression, as well as collectables categories in the firm’s portfolio. Previously of Sesame Workshop, Girard-Jones has a breadth of experience including positions at Marvel Enterprises and the National Basketball Association. Warner Bros. Consumer Products n Former Mattel exec, JOHN LOUIE, has been named as new SVP of international at WBCP, taking on responsibility for the development and management of Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Canada. Louie boasts a wealth of experience across various industries including roles at The Walt Disney Company, Bain and Company and more. As SVP, Louie will work with leaders across various departments to drive revenue growth and longterm brand building.

21/03/2017 20:14

21st June 2017, Forge, London

REWARDING THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE COMPANIES The Licensing People Awards are the UK’s only licensing awards that recognise the individuals and teams who have nurtured and established brands over the past 12 months. Join us for drinks, canapÊs and celebrations!

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Going it alone Three years ago, Sarah Greenswell took the gamble on breaking the toy industry with her Elf for Christmas concept, which went on to scoop multiple awards. She discusses why more toy designers should take the risk to head out on their own

When I look back from where we are now, I am glad I took that chance on an idea, despite the challenges. If you have a strong idea, go for it! ABOUT THE AUTHOR Sarah Greenswell is the director of Big Little Toys and the mind behind the multi-award winning Elf for Christmas line. Sarah Greenswell can be contacted on


oing it alone always seems like a daunting prospect, particularly when you’re trying to break the toy industry. In fact, as a mother to a newborn child, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the whole idea is a little crazy. But it was something I was determined to do. I put pen to paper with the idea of Elf for Christmas in 2014. I was on maternity leave, it was approaching December and I was thinking about the Christmas traditions our little family could start and I did some research online. I was looking for something endearing, with style and that would help me instil some good oldfashioned values. Despite having no experience in product design or

in the toy industry, I decided, in my ‘new baby-haze’ it was a good idea to invest our life savings, and create something myself. I spent about six months designing Elf, writing the magical rewards kits, coming up with my concept and figuring out the story around the brand. I had spent ten years running a branding agency so I knew the importance of getting the brand story and the product perfectly aligned. I was on the arc of a very steep learning curve, and about to embark on a very exciting journey. I had spent a lot of time getting product made up and shipped over and by autumn 2016 I launched our website. When the orders started coming in from retailers, I slowly began to realise the potential.

But the big breakthrough moment came when we visited London Toy Fair with the idea of researching distributors that would be able to help us navigate the move in to retail. Appointing Asobi as our UK distributor was a great breakthrough moment for us, they have really got behind the brand and have taken us into some leading retailers. We are now increasing our range and expanding into exciting new territories. The whole experience of going it alone has been challenging, exciting and thoroughly enjoyable. When I look back from where we are now, I am glad I took that chance on an idea, despite the challenges. If you’re reading this and you have a strong idea, I’d say go for it. The hardest part is just getting started.

Head in the game The board game market is booming, with more choice for consumers to enjoy than ever before. Nick Wright, joint MD at Gibsons takes a look at technology, innovation and the market to find out why these items are back on the radar

Technology has played a big part in stimulating innovation. Creators can ‘go it alone’ using crowdfunding to get ideas off the ground. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nick Wright is the joint managing director at Gibsons, an independent, family owned British board game and jigsaw manufacturer. 020 8661 8866

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uch has been made of the resurgence in the board games market – up 18 per cent in 2016, according to NPD. It’s certainly a welcome development but what has caused this? Firstly, the tradition, whether it’s the Christmas puzzle or the new board game, it’s a bit of light relief for the whole family after the rigours of Christmas dinner. Innovation has always been a big influence and while the old favourites are a safe choice, families are looking for something new and a bit different. Over the years we have seen new game concepts creating whole new sectors, and with further range development these have become enduring franchises.

Some launches have been equally dramatic, but perhaps shorter lived, once the craze has worn off. Secondly it’s the technology. Parents are undoubtedly concerned about the ‘solitude of the smart phone’. games bring families together. Social media has also played a major role in promoting new games – it was a YouTube video that created the Pie Face phenomenon. In the past only the well-established games could afford TV support. Now, social media can achieve equal if not better results through more accurate targeting. Technology has also played a big part in stimulating innovation. Formerly, game inventors would ‘peddle their wares’ amongst

the large companies, nowadays they can ‘go it alone’ using crowdfunding to get the idea off the ground. Recent developments have also blurred the lines of market description. What was a children’s action game is now a firm family favourite or what was a cerebral challenge is now mainstream. Another factor is the purchase motivation. When so many interactive or video games are now downloaded, the boxed game becomes all the more attractive. Finally, this resurgence is driven by both consumer ‘pull’ and retailer ‘push’ factor; retailers are giving more space to new games from smaller suppliers and startups, offering incremental sales and good margins.

21/03/2017 20:25


Get switched on With the launch of Nintendo’s latest console, Switch driving excitement among geeks and gamers across the globe, Robert Hutchins looks at how the toy retail scene can cash in on the extended Nintendo universe

Unlike the hit and miss gamble of a one-time movie release, video game franchises boast a long-standing appeal among fans young and old. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Rob is the editor of ToyNews and renowned consumer of sandwhiches. In 2005 Rob failed his driving test for hurling a green shell at a fellow motorist. Rob Hutchins can be contacted at


ere at ToyNews Towers, we work within very close proximity to the weekly video games trade title, MCV. Which goes some way to explain the odd smell in the office. But overhearing in depth conversations about how best to ‘level up’ in something I believe to be called ‘World of Witchcraft’ aside, it means that I have managed to get my hands on a Nintendo Switch. And the experience is a delight. For the uninitiated, Nintendo Switch is the latest gaming console to hit the market, grabbing headlines and fuelling consumer hype with its unique ability to be played almost any way gamers can possibly imagine. It boasts a tactility that is not only unlike anything seen in the market before, but manages to enhance player engagement and immersion, before you even get started on the actual game. But this really isn’t much to be surprised by. Nintendo is, after all, deeply rooted in the toy industry, meaning that tactility and tapping into that children’s market is something the company has always done well. And actually, with such fan engagement through its back

catalogue of recognisable franchises like Mario and Zelda among many others, as well as its enjoyable playability, the Nintendo Switch is very toyetic in its nature. If it were only not for its £279.99 price tag, a hefty sum of itself, yet one that still hasn’t deterred strong opening sales of

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an estimated 1.5 million units (according to SuperData). And while that may mean that toyshops are highly unlikely to be clambering to bring the Switch into their own in-store offering, there’s still plenty for our own market to be excited about. Last month, ToyNews explored the boom in sales of video games consumer products, with demand for toys based on titles like Five Nights at Freddy’s, Minecraft, Roblox and even Overwatch reaching new heights among today’s youngsters. Meanwhile, the toys-to-life market remains strong with Nintendo shifting 53.6 million Amiibo units through 2016 and start-up firms such as Beasts of Balance and Oniri Islands emerging from Kickstarter on a regular basis. It’s clear then that the synergy between the video games and toy market is enjoying a current strength in appeal. With excitement surrounding the launch of the new Nintendo Switch reaching fever pitch among kids and gamers alike, it’s only a matter of time before we see the high street retailer embrace this burgeoning market in a big way. Nintendo Switch landed on the scene accompanied by one of Nintendo’s largest gaming

franchises in its arsenal, Zelda. Already the firm is preparing for the launch of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and a new Super Mario title hitting retailers in the coming weeks. A knock-on effect of this will inevitably be an increase in output of Nintendo’s consumer products, with the gaze falling upon the likes of Jakks Pacific, USAopoly and its many more licensees, as the toy market will undoubtedly see efforts doubled to fuel a sector of the entertainment industry that is already fast outpacing the traditional movie and TV avenues. Like the happy chime of the summer blockbuster movie – and let’s not forget that Despicable Me 3 is landing in cinemas this year, too – the launch of a new console brings many new opportunities for the toy retailer to make a bob or two. However, unlike the hit and miss gamble of a one-time movie release, video game franchises boast a longstanding appeal among fans, and even a bad Mario Kart video game will have to go some stretch to deter those Mario fanboys and girls from getting their hands on their favourite plumber in plush. The impact of the launch of Nintendo Switch on the toy market does, of course, remains to be seen, but if I were a betting man, I’d be putting it all on red.

April 13

21/03/2017 20:25


Funko soul

With the UK market in the midst of a collectables renaissance, it seems that pop-culture collectables specialist Funko’s acquisition of distributor Underground Toys could not have been a more timely move. Funko UK’s CFO Andrew Oddie talks to Robert Hutchins about the growing demand for a bit of Pop!

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21/03/2017 20:27



hey may be short in stature, but there is no denying that Funko Pop! figures are giants within the global collectables market. It was only a few months ago that the brand swept the International Toy Fair’s Toy of the Year Awards, taking home the coveted gong for the US collectables market. And when you take a look at the expansive collection of collectable licensed products the firm has to offer, it should come as no surprise. From evergreen licenses such as Harry Potter to the more niche pockets of collector-dom like Netflix’s Stranger Things, Funko has something to offer pop culture fans of any and all descriptions. However, it’s not only within the US market that the Funko name is making some rather sizeable waves, having recently taken over its European distribution business, Underground Toys, to create a UKbased powerhouse in Funko UK. The move is certainly a confident one, and only testament to the strength of the Funko name here on home turf. “If you look at the 12 months to the date of the acquisition in January, we were over 200 per cent up in sales,” explains Andrew Oddie, CFO of Funko UK. “What has happened in the last couple of months since the deal has gone through is a lot of activity on our side, preparing for further increases in sales for 2017, 2018 and 2019. “We are now in a position where we expect to double our business again in the next 18 months.” Having turned out a very profitable business from pop

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culture fandom, Oddie is as close to the bubbling collector’s scene as any man. It is therefore with a degree of certainty that when he describes it as a market to be on a sharp upward trajectory, you could put money on it. Historically closely aligned with the hobby and pop culture geared retailers, recent years have seen Funko creep into the traditional, with growing presence across the likes of Tesco and Asda, as well as Toys R Us, Smyths and HMV. Key to driving this increase in big name retail shelf space is the firm’s expansive portfolio of partnerships across some of the biggest selling licenses in the toy space.

We’re encouraging retailers to carve out collectables areas and have a place in store where there will be exclusive content available. Andrew Oddie, Funko UK And now, with the strength of the US business behind it, the brand is making a concerted effort to boost its presence on the High Street. “With the synergy that we already have in the US you can expect to see a greater prevalence of in-store Funko collectable sections over the coming 18 months,” explains Oddie. “Where perhaps in the past, you might have seen a smattering of Pop! in the Star Wars or Marvel sections, we are encouraging retailers to carve out collectables

areas and have a place in store where fans can return to, knowing that there will be great new and exclusive content available.” With such plans already in place only three months into the acquisition, pressing the likelihood that the UK will eventually see the launch of dedicated, Funko stores emerging on the High Street seems to be the next logical step. Yet it’s one met with only a tease of information from the UK outfit’s current CFO. “All of our options are open,” quips Oddie. Fundamental to the growth of Funko and Funko UK, is its close relationship with break out properties, just as they are beginning to reshape the industry as a whole. Much of this is driven by the emergence of underground or digital communities. “Our number one license at the moment is Five Nights at Freddy’s,” continues Oddie. “We are the number one manufacturer of merchandise for Five Nights and have all of the categories tied up. It’s an interesting fright concept that the eight to 15 year old market appears to be adopting in their droves, and there is a tremendous amount of retention-based interest.” Herein lies the beauty of video game franchises: their ability to retain consumer interest via ingame updates, modifications and iterations, lending their consumer products output a wealth of opportunity for the continuous roll out of new content. “Fans want to revisit the game and keep up with the release of new items with every new iteration of the game.”

It’s a stark contrast to the shelf life of movie related toys that can so often present a risk to retailers should the franchise fail to achieve take off in the consumer space. “We are trying to take that uncertainty away from the retailers’ strategywith the idea that we will provide for all properties: immediate hits, evergreens, medium term hits to one location in-store,” explains Oddie. “That dedicated collectables space will return higher revenues without the risk that individual movie theatrical releases sometimes end up being a burden to retailers because they have used that space and the film has not worked out.” While at its heart it maintains the UK-centric sensibilities so ingrained within its Underground Toys roots, Funko UK, from the outset has the forward thinking attitude of its US counterpart, and with it, the migration of many of the American business’ ideas. One example would be in the UK operation’s current outlook on the largely US-inspired concept of the monthly subscription box. “The Disney Box and Star Wars, Marvel and DC Subscription box concept is one we are reviewing for this market,” says Oddie. “We are very much behind the concept as a company. We know that there is a strong, significant demand and we would like to feed that demand, quickly as possible.” If there is one thing Funko UK can be sure of, it’s demand. With projections to double the business over the next 18 months, it’s little wonder these little Pop! figures are leaving big footprints across the collectables market. April 15

21/03/2017 20:27


Anatomy of a blockbuster toy:

Action Man He’s the man who has undergone more costume changes than your average touring Panto company and boasts a rich history starting back in 1966. And this year, Action Man is making his return to the toy scene in a big way. Robert Hutchins explores the story of the iconic plastic hero as on his 50th anniversary, he cements his place in the all-time toy hall of fame.


t’s hard to believe that for someone looking so youthful and, as they say, full of beans, that Action Man is celebrating his 50th anniversary this year. Ask anyone who spent their most formative years between 1966 and 1984 avoiding the swingers parties and the rule of Thatcher by playing with toys, and you will undoubtedly hear that Action Man makes up a large portion of the happiest memories from their youth. For those of us born a little later, the icon of imaginative play remained at large, standing head and shoulders above the many action figures that began to line the shelves; inciting a shift in tide that was largely kick-started by the heroic figure himself. More than 50 years on from his emergence on the toy scene and Action Man maintains his status as a blockbuster toy and, despite his North American roots, stands tall – well, 12 inches tall, as an emblem of innovative British toy making. The big guy’s British history actually began in Brighton where he was first launched to the crowds of eager toy enthusiasts at the city’s very own Toy Fair. It was 1966, just two years after GI Joe had burst onto the scene in the US and fans around Blighty lapped him up in their droves. In fact, the action figure, or as he was known back in the heady days of the mid-Sixties, ‘moveable fighting man’, shot to resounding success and went on to sell over a

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whopping one million units in the first year of launch. This moveable fighting man has since gone on to enjoy a very rich history, with more costume changes than Christopher Biggins and as much flexibility as Craig Revel Horwood. While it was the US’ Hassenfield Brothers that gave birth to the original GI Joe figure, it was Palitoy that steered Action Man’s course to one of a more British character. In 1970, Action Man obtained his flocked hair, by 1973 he was given

You can see the memories light up in people’s eyes when they talk about their first experience playing with their Action Man toys. Karen Clarke, Art + Science. gripping hands and as 1976 rolled around, Action Man gained the ability to watch you move from one side of the room to the other with the introduction of the now iconic Eagle Eyes action. By 1979, and short of the handle bar moustache, the figure of masculinity that was Action Man went full Freddie Mercury, finding himself suddenly clad in muscles and fake tan, most likely helping to confuse a generation of curious youngsters. And their fathers.

Action Man then took an eight year hiatus, but by 1992 and 1993 he was back on the scene, revamped under Hasbro’s leadership with an all new fantasy/ action theme that witnessed the introduction of Professor Gangrene and Dr X. This Good vs. Evil motif ran until 2006 when the icon celebrated his 40th anniversary with a nostalgic collection aimed at the older generation of fans. Ten years on and it fell upon Art + Science to lead the procession with the launch of its limited edition 50th Anniversary range, each based on the original hand made figures and boasting that renowned flocked hair (a much envied hairstyle) and gripping hands. “The reaction to the line has been amazing, particularly when someone stops to see the product up close, you see the memories of their childhood light up in their eyes and they talk about their first experience playing with their Action Man toys,” explains Karen Clarke, Brand Director at Art + Science. It is the nostalgic factor that the new line is tapping into, geared towards parents and grandparents who were fans of the original Action Man brand the first time around, going some way to explain the release of

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the iconic footballer Bobby Moore Action Man last year. The 2017 limited edition collection will now feature at least eight more figures, including a Deep Sea Diver and Astronaut, playing on the extensive and world renowned heritage of the much loved action figure. “Action Man was a pivotal children’s toy, and for many years was marketed to the young boys’ market, the format changed to move with trends and smaller, more toyetic formats appeared and the branding changed to fit the audience.” continues Clarke. “However, over all of these years, generations of fans have stored the collectable figures in lofts and garages, ready for the day when they could share their childhood memories with their children and grandchildren.” And testament to the longevity of the brand is the sense of nostalgia it does instil across the generations, often signified by the surge in searches on market places such as eBay each time the brand is revived. And while Action Man has been making waves in the toy space for the last 50 years, it’s no secret that the character has often been found making his presence felt in additional markets, through the strength of a robust licensing programme throughout the years. Short of confessing to you that this piece has been written from the comforts of an Action Man bed spread, surrounded by Action Man wallpaper while this writer drinks from an Action Man beaker, it is without doubt that the Action Man licensing roster has paid dividends for the establishment of the brand in the annals of the toy and cultural hall of fame. And while we do not know about Clarke’s own personal choice of home décor, it’s certainly a sentiment she is only too willing to show her support for. “Action Man is a very strong brand in terms of recognition in the male 30 plus market,” she

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explains. “This audience will engage with new product innovation combined with an instantly recognisable brand look. “This year, fans can expect to see giftware from the gift brand partner Sports Souvenirs, and fashion from Park Agencies with many other opportunities and partnerships in discussion with categories such as health and beauty, high end fashion and publishing coming along the pipeline. “It is truly captivating to see grown men retrace their past in an instant through the Action Man brand. The range is now appearing at retail for the first time in a very long while and the

The 30 plus male market will engage with the new product innovation combined with the instantly recognisable brand look of Action Man. Karen Clarke, Art + Science. feedback is again very positive.” As the world prepares for and celebrates the 50th anniversary of this cultural icon, the action figure is now beginning to appear in a wide variety of toy and gift accounts, including within the new National Army Museum, slated to be stocking the range when it opens later this month. Of course, it is not all about looking to the past, and by utilising and leveraging the growing online community around the Action Man brand, Art + Science is more than ready to propel the brand into 2017, too. “From Art + Science you can expect to see innovations on social media platforms, using the best of today’s digital technology,”

explains Clarke. “As for bigger plans, you will just have to wait and see. All we can say is that it will be exciting. Action Man is back.” Whatever Art + Science has in store you can bet that it will be fuelled by innovation and creativity and boosted by the brand’s enviable legacy. Despite his years Action Man is showing no signs of slowing down. Here’s to another 50, big guy.

April 17

21/03/2017 20:33

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Going stratospheric Now that the Escape the Room trend is bigger than ever in the UK, it makes sense that Thames & Kosmos is tapping into this theme with its own line of Exit Games. Jade Burke catches up with the firm’s sales director, Jo Drage, to chat about the company’s new partnership with Acer and it’s plans to adapt a book into a board game


ow is the games market shaping up for you guys? We have been very lucky to have Kosmos’ great reputation for board games behind us and so our introduction into the games market has been easier than most. Kosmos Games has been awarded many Spiel Des Jahres awards and nominations, and we have so many great titles to translate that we can choose how we develop the range. This year our games are going into some major retailers, so I think we’ll really put our stamp on the market. This year you unveiled 12 new board games at London Toy Fair. Which of these are you most excited about? I have to say the Exit Games, (of which there are three in the range). The escape room phenomenon has been sweeping through the UK, and our Exit Games are based on the same principal, so the launch is timed perfectly. We’re confident they’ll prove popular and the English-language editions have been highly anticipated – the Exit Games were released in Germany in November and sold over 100,000 units before Christmas. At £13 each RRP, they are a very cost effective way for people to experience the escape room trend. We’ll be adding three titles to the range next year. What new games should fans and retailers look out for from you guys throughout 2017?

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In September, bestselling author Ken Follett is launching a new book called A Column of Fire, which we have adapted into a board game to be launched simultaneously. The game is shrouded in secrecy at the moment, but it plays incredibly well, and will be popular with the legions of Ken Follett fans and gamers alike. For families, Kerala is a really fun and beautifully presented game, whereby the player has to make

true to the Barbie brand, opening up a new audience, who historically may not have been interested in a Thames & Kosmos product. This strongly reinforces our company ethos that knowledge of STEM subjects will improve the future of every child. You guys exhibited at London Toy Fair this year. How important are industry events like these to you guys?

We were excited to be approached by Acer, who we’re partnering with to develop a coding kit for their schools. Jo Drage, Thames & Kosmos

elephant platforms for the Kerala Elephant Festival. The rules are so simple that any family member can play, but there’s a very strategic element to keep it fun. Last year you teamed up with Mattel for new Barbie themed science kits. How well have these performed for you guys? We feel passionately that it is important for science to be for – and to appeal to – everyone. So we wanted to partner with a brand that inspires storytelling and imagination to create a new and exciting project that would stay

We absolutely have to be at London Toy Fair, it’s where all our major customers come to see us and where we unveil our new catalogue portfolio. We have also exhibited at Spring Fair for the last five years, and Autumn Fair for the last two. We like to try out a new industry trade fair every year, so that we can mix it up a bit, and we all thoroughly enjoy them. The popularity in board games is constantly on the rise and we are now starting to see an abundance of board game cafés open. Why do you think that is?

I think that the rise in popularity of board game cafés is partly because the British tradition of going to the pub is getting more expensive and so people want to be entertained at the same time. Also, people are stimulated by different forms of digital media all day, and so it’s good to be able to put down the electronic devices, and get back to basics. Code Gamer was named the 2017 tech toy of the year; do you think you’ll add more tech games into your portfolio in the future? Yes, we are working on more tech toys all the time. We launched Happy Atoms this year, which is a very unique product encouraging learning about atoms through an app, and Robotics Workshop (available from September), which is another toy that teaches coding. What does 2017 have in store for Thames & Kosmos? Aside from moving into new premises complete with showroom and play space for product research, we were excited to be approached by technology firm Acer, who we’re partnering with to develop a coding kit for their summer schools. These kits will subsequently be rolled out to the education sector as a classroom kit, which is a new market for us. We are also partnering with our neighbouring Maidstone Museum to offer board game nights in the summer, which I’m really looking forward to. April 19

17/03/2017 11:54




Jakks Pacific champions girl empowerment with DC Super Hero Girls The toy giant has partnered with Warner Bros. to develop a new line of action pose dolls and role-play items inspired by the characters from the hit franchise BY JADE BURKE


hampioning empowerment with young girls is key to Jakks Pacific’s latest collection with Warner Bros. DC Super Hero Girls (DCSHG), which the toy firm believes will be one of its ‘most important and exciting initiates’ to date. Boasting a collection of action pose dolls and every day dressup outfits inspired by all the key characters, the company is hopeful that the line will allow for kids to have strong self-esteem. “We are confident that this licensed range is one of the most important and exciting initiates that we have,” Jill Nordqvist, SVP of marketing at Jakks Pacific, told ToyNews exclusively. “I am excited that girls will be able to act-out empowering superhero moves through imaginative play with our entire DCSHG line of action pose dolls, everyday dress-up and extensive role-play items.” Designed to inspire girls to be who they want to be, DCSHG shows that males are not the only superheroes these days, while Jakks’ range celebrates this notion

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by offering young girls more ways for imaginative play. Nordqvist continued: “Our DCSHG lines provide girls with empowering and aspirational dress-up and role-play offerings. “There is nothing more important than empowering our youth and allowing for imaginative play. These both allow for kids to have strong self-esteem and develop healthy attitudes about valuing their own uniqueness and celebrating the diversity and uniqueness of others.” Considering the success of the Warner Bros. franchise, no doubt Jakks’ line will be a hit at retail when it launches later this year. And with plans for additional items to roll out, it looks like there is still a lot to come from the latest consumer products partnership. “In the future, the line will expand to represent additional superheroes and additional items that represent the power of the franchise,” Nordqvist concluded. Jakks Pacific is the latest toy manufacturer to get on board with the DC Super Hero Girls brand, following a partnership with LEGO to develop a line of six building sets featuring the show’s heroic line-up. Jakks Pacific: 01344 638 900

This licensed range is a very important initiate for Jakks for this year. Jill Nordqvist

22/03/2017 15:11


Jumbo marks 20th milestone with drive for licensed puzzles The games and puzzles firm has planned various celebrations throughout 2017, which will see the launch of a Special Edition 20th anniversary version, as well as ten new puzzles for the portfolio BY JADE BURKE


017 looks set to be one of the ‘biggest years’ for Jumbo Games’ Wasgij puzzle line, as the brand prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. With all sorts of festivities planned throughout the year, including ten new puzzles and a Special Edition 20th anniversary version, the firm has also revealed it is on the look out for new licenses to come on board in the company’s future portfolio. “We expect this to be one of, if not, the biggest years for Wasgij,” Steven Russell, senior marketing

executive at Jumbo Games, explained to ToyNews. “We have previously had great success with licensed Wasgij puzzles for Carry On, Only Fools and Horses, Coronation Street and Disney. So if you have a license that you think would be perfect, please do get in touch with us.” As the Wasgij brand features three main concepts; original, destiny and mystery, licenses with a sense of humour would be a suitable match to Jumbo’s iconic puzzle range. Russell added: “It’s hard to pin-point specific licenses, but knowing our Wasgij fan base and the varied audiences that the

brand appeals to, the licensed Wasgij puzzles that have worked best are ones that appeal to the majority market.” But it is the humour and comical situations that each Wasgij artist is able to create that Jumbo believes

makes the puzzles such a popular brand with avid puzzlers. “Our fans collect these puzzles, and from what we have seen, they have dedicated rooms or space in their houses, exclusively for Wasgij puzzle ranges, so that they can enjoy them time and time again,” said Russell. With plans already underway for 2018 releases and deals to be announced for retailers, it looks like the Wasgij brand will continue celebrating for another 20 years. Jumbo Games: 01707 260 436

Cartamundi to ‘win hearts’ with Play-Doh take on Shuffle card game As the very first card game to feature Hasbro’s iconic putty, Cartamundi is hopeful that the release will be a success with avid fans, while response from retailers has already been positive BY JADE BURKE Cartamundi is hoping to ‘win the hearts’ of a big audience, with its latest addition to its popular Shuffle portfolio. The firm has added Shuffle Twist Play-Doh for fans to enjoy, which marks the very first card game to feature the iconic putty. “It has all the elements you need to win the hearts of a big audience: a key brand in Play-Doh, two very fun evergreen games in Memo and Happy Families, and let’s not

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forget, this is the first card game with real Play-Doh included inside,” Hayley McAuley, UK sales and marketing manager at Cartamundi, told ToyNews. Players can take part in two games with the cards; Happy Families and Memo, which Cartamundi feels will ensure the Shuffle Play-Doh is a hit with every fan of the original card game. McAuley declared: “As Play-Doh is a very well-known and well-loved brand, and tubs of Play-Doh are included with the cards, we expect this game to be a success this year and beyond.”

Launching at WHSmith and online via Amazon later this year, a number of other top retailers are also in talks to take on the new branded game. And with responses already proving positive, it looks like Cartamundi could have an ‘enormous hit’ on its hands.

Philip Van Herck, category manager of children’s card games and educational at Cartamundi, added: “Shuffle Twist Play-Doh combines two delightful family card games and the fun and creativity that has been the hallmark of Play-Doh for over 60 years. We are sure this game box will be an enormous hit with the family market.” Cartamundi hopes that the game will allow players to ‘share the magic of playing together’, while bringing Hasbro’s iconic brand to a new generations of fans. Cartamundi: 01268 511 522

April 21

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17/03/2017 10:09



Parents urged to be more vigilant as unsafe toys continue to raise concerns Fears over toy safety have intensified after several pre-school-aimed toys have been recalled due to hazards



onsumer products safety regulatory board UL has urged parents to be mindful of the products that they buy for their children after a slew of product recalls have hit national toy chains. “Consumers should make sure that they read and check warning and age information on a product prior to purchase to ensure that it’s suitable for the child,” explains Hendrik Dold, marketing manager at UL. “Always ensure that the toy you buy has a CE mark present, and always look out for counterfeit products as they may present a higher risk of non-compliance and should be avoided.” Over the past month Toys R Us was forced to recall the Kids II Oball Rattle due to a hazard being found in it’s core, while Smyths experienced similar problems with their Safari Ball Pit, which has raised safety concerns from several locations. Elsewhere Tesco has recalled its Wooden Alphabet Pull-Along. In the wake of the numerous recalls, largely around the preschool sector, many have argued that toy firms are simply not taking enough precautions to ensure

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the safety of their products at the design stage. “Manufacturers should be performing a safety assessment to ensure that the product does not present an unreasonable hazard to the user, this is a requirement within the UK Toy Safety Regulations and should be being executed on products prior to them being placed on the market,” Dold told ToyNews in an exclusive interview piece.

“Working alongside a safety lab or a consultant is often a good option where the manufacturer or designer needs assistance.” However, some online retailers have faced criticism for not adhering to trading standards at all. One such retailer is who found itself in hot water when a child was found with their teddy bear’s wiring around its neck. “From a testing perspective there does not appear to be an

increase in toys which fail during laboratory assessments. However, unsafe toys in the market does continue to be an issue we must deal with,” adds Dold. Despite the product recalls over the past month, Dold reassures it isn’t a regular occurence. “Pre-school has always been a popular area of the market so we don’t see a correlation in the products we receive for assessment,” he concluded.

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Simba Smoby roars into pre-school with Wissper The firm has been named master toy partner for the hit pre-school series, airing in the UK on Milkshake and Nick Jr. BY ROBERT HUTCHINS


imba Smoby is gearing up for the launch of a new pre-school toy range based on the popular TV series, Wissper. The master toy partner will kickstart the pre-school property’s presence within the toy market with a line of dolls, figures, plush and play-sets, hitting shelves across the nation this month. The range is based on the hit series, Wissper, currently airing in the UK on Milkshake and Nick Jr. a show that stars a little character

called Wissper who can talk to animals and enter exciting worlds of adventure and learning. The CGI animated series has proved a hit with pre-schoolers everywhere thanks to its colourful cast of characters and brightly imaginative setting. To support the new toy range, Simba Smoby is implementing a heavyweight marketing campaign, with a robust TV initiative to push the range in front of pre-schoolers nationwide, along with a dedicated digital site on Tiny Pop. Mayur Pattni, head of marketing and licensing, Simba Smoby, said:

“We can’t wait to launch Wissper into the toy market. “The range looks really strong and it’s as if the characters have walked off the screen and onto the toy shelf. We have lots of exciting marketing activity in place to really drive sales and are looking forward to seeing Wissper toys in stores.” The intial roll-out will be followed with the launch of further play-sets featuring multiple play mechanics across multiple lines this autumn and beyond.

Super Wings fly into UK retail with RC, Collectables and more Alpha Animation is readying its first UK toy line inspired by its pre-school property Super Wings, which will feature R/C toys, collectables and transforming figures, all boasting a range of play patterns for kids to enjoy BY JADE BURKE Having already been a success internationally, Alpha Animation is bringing a new line of toys inspired by its Super Wings property to the UK market. Designed for preschoolers, kids will be able to get their hands on a line of collectables, R/C toys and transforming figures, all boasting a range of play patterns and unique features sure to please boys and girls across the spectrum of preschooler aged youngsters.

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And with response from retailers already off to a good start, Alpha anticipates an ‘exciting launch’ for the range. “The reaction from retail really has been excellent, and when you see the quality of the line, its easy to understand why,” Mark Hyndman, UK general manager at Alpha, told ToyNews. “We are super excited to be launching such a lovely property into the UK market. Super Wings has been a hit with pre-school children internationally and we hope the UK and Ireland will add to this success over the year and the show’s ongoing future.”

Since its debut, Super Wings has conquered Europe, having been named on the top five properties in Italy, Spain and France. “We are hoping the UK will follow the trends of our previous launch markets and be a big hit with children here in the UK and Ireland,” cited Hyndman. To help market season one of the toy range, Alpha is looking at trade support from the UK retail scene, where the firm hopes to deliver ‘on-time, every-time’. Hyndman continued: “Our season one toy line offers the consumer various play patterns and encourages children to play out stories they see in the series.”

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Younger games In the ruthlessly competitive pre-school sector, there will be not one, but a festoon of victors this year as it continues to drive retail sales. Robert Hutchins explores the latest products to be fuelling the sector this season ORCHARD TOYS Orchard Toys is growing it’s pre-school offering, now making more games than ever, targeted specifically at the younger years and pre-school market. Many parents today use the trusted brand as their go-to firm for products to help prepare children for developing early learning skills and later as they start school. Leading the line up for this season, Smelly Wellies is a fun and simple matching game for ages two to six, where players turn over welly cards to find matching pairs of wellies for their monsters.

The quirky monster characters are bound to get children giggling, while teaching key early skills including matching, turn-taking and hand-eye coordination. Meanwhile, designed for children aged three to seven, Alphabet Flashcards introduce kids to the letters of the alphabet. With colourful, friendly illustrations and a double sided card for every letter of the alphabet, Alphabet Flashcards are the perfect tool for conscientious parents looking to teach children their ABCs and first words. 01953 859 525

MATTEL This year, Fisher-Price is encouraging children to do what they do best: play more, make believe and figure things out and learn things for themselves. This will be supported with an integrated marketing campaign across TV, digital, social media and PR, and with a range that helps children learn to think independently, the Fisher-Price brand is confident of success. The infant category introduces the new BeatBo Buggies and Bright Beats Juniors, featuring playful melodies and bright lights. Meanwhile, the new Monster range develops gross motor skills, featuring the Hungry Monster Maze, Press n Go Monster Vehicles and more. The pre-school learning category, meanwhile, introduces the Smart Scan Colour Chameleon and Tech n Tag Movi, an interactive learning buddy that gets children moving. Elsewhere, the Little People range, including the Sensory Farm, focuses on

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teaching children core soft skills, including manners and sharing, caring for others and teaching feelings and emotions. Over in the new-born category, and an exciting collaboration with Fisher-Price’s creative director, Jonathan Adler, delivers a range of cute prints including the Monkey Mirror, Activity Alligator, Activity Elephant and Signature

Style Rattles and Teethers. The Baby Gear category introduces the Laugh and Learn Puppy’s Activity Jumperoo and Puppy n Pals Learning Gym, as well as the launch of the Adjustable Rock n Play Soother, featuring an adjustable incline and soothing optional vibrations. Fisher-Price’s Imaginext encourages children to unleash

their inner superhero with the DC Super Friends Arkham Asylum, DC Super Friends The Joker and Harley Quinn Battle Vehicle and Power Rangers Megazord. The Fisher-Price Friends portfolio sees the new Shimmer & Shine range boast the Float n Sing Palace Friends, Talk & Sing Shimmer and Shine Dolls, Magic Flyin’ Carpet and more. Meanwhile, Blaze and the Monster Machines introduces Light Riders while extending its range with RC Blaze, Hyper Loop play-set as well as the animal themed Wild Wheels range, including the Stunts and Jumps Jungle Play-set. Go Jetters introduces the Kyan & G.O. Roll and Souvenir Selfie Camera and Jet Pad Headquarters. New additions to the Octonauts line include Gup-A-Great Adventure, while Bing introduces new soft toys and vehicles and the new Toilet Train Bing. 01268 500 000

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THAMES AND KOSMOS Thames and Kosmos is set to strengthen its pre-school offering with new additions to the ever popular Kids First range of STEM kits for three to four year olds. The range, designed to start laying the groundwork for strong STEM related skills and comprehension, allows parents to introduce scientific topics and hands on empirical learning to young children. Adding to titles such as Amusement Park Engineer, The Human Body and Chemistry kits, Thames and Kosmos introduced The Robot Engineer and Science Lab at the end of 2016. Now, new for 2017 is The Boat Engineer, available from August. This 52-piece science kit combined with the illustrated storybook,

FIESTA CRAFTS provides an engaging way to teach simple engineering concepts and helps develop fine motor skills, science and maths skills, visual spatial skills and reasoning and concept development skils. Children can read the funny story of two inquisitive young engineers, Ty and Karlie and their family’s robots, Huxley and Remus and build simple models of the ten boats they encounter in the story. Large, colourful plastic building pieces make it easy for small hands to put the models together and the boats actually float on water, 01580 212 000

Fiesta Crafts understands how important it is that young children work on developing their fine motor skills, as well as their concentration skills, while having fun doing so. Aiding this, the firm has three fantastic threading sets that will engage and amuse little ones while they piece and thread together the different images. With a choice of animals, people or vehicles, children can choose to match up the correct parts together, or their very own creations. Another set of preschool toys that help with skills is the Fish N Spell and the Fish N Count games. The Fish N Spell is an exciting

speed spelling game for two players. Not only does it promote co-ordinations skills, but it also helps to improve literacy. Meanwhile, Fish N Count uses sticky rods for players to fish out ducks with numbers on. If the duck is yellow, the player can add the number and if the duck is green then they must subtract the number, The child then uses maths to make the target number on the card. There is even an element of danger – get caught by a crocodile and you go back to the start. These games are a great way for children to increase their confidence, spelling, counting, memory and fine motor skills. 020 8804 0563

SPIN MASTER With the incredible success of PAW Patrol, the pre-school phenomenon broadcast in over 160 countries and territories, kids love bringing the adventures of Ryder and his heroic pups to life. PAW Patrol fans can enjoy new adventures this year with the Jungle Rescue theme featuring the new pup Tracker, who lives in the jungle with his pal, Carlos the monkey. Voted Best New Toy in the Preschool Characters category at this year’s UK Toy Fair, the PAW Terrain Vehicle is designed to help Ryder and the pups on jungle missions. Its off-road, six wheel drive can conquer any terrain including crossing rivers. The vehicle carries everything the team needs, including a tent that stores on the back of the vehicle, two animals and a rescue carrier. It also includes a crane to rescue animals and pull vehicles

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from murky mudslides and sticky, tricky situations. Meanwhile, kids won’t want to miss out on the PAW Patrol Basic Vehicle assortment, including Tracker’s Jungle Cruiser. Each of the vehicles have been transformed to endure the rugged terrains of the jungle with bigger wheels to ride through muddy grounds, brush guards to shield, and camouflage deco on the side. Basic vehicles retail at £13.99. Plus, with character plush assortment, as well as new Action Pack Pup and Badge sets at £7.99 to £9.99, there is something to suit all price points at retail this spring/summer season. 01628 535 000

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Trends UK has a strong portfolio of licensed toys for the pre-school market this season, kicking off with the family favourites, Peppa Pig and Thomas and Friends. Peppa Pig and Thomas Electronic Learning Toys from Trends UK are each designed to help pre-schoolers develop early learning skills while having fun. The Peppa Pig and Thomas ELAs include activities for understanding colours, communications, phonetics and numeracy through a myriad of interactive play features. Trends UK’s ELAs will be supported with PR and marketing support across key online, social media and lifestyle press. For spring, Peppa Pig fans can join in with Peppa Pig Launch and Learn Alphaphonics, selling at £17.99, while autumn sees the

The Honeybake Collection is leading the line up for the preschool specialist Le Toy Van this season, welcoming new additions in the form of the popular shopping trolley playset, complete with groceries. A stylish, unique wooden shopping trolley with two internal compartments and a fabric storage level underneath, the trolley is a delightful addition to any play room. Special features include a detachable, high quality fabric shopping bag and a mini chalkboard that youngsters can jot their shopping list on. This trendy bit of kit is also eco-friendly, with a ‘bag for life’

launch of the new Peppa Pig Play Mat, priced at £22.99, and designed to entertain fans with fun graphics and activities, sure to delight youngsters. The Peppa Pig ELAs will also have TV support. Young Thomas fans will love the fun new toys with lots of exciting movements and sounds to explore. The range launches with the Thomas Flip and Learn Phone, priced at £10.99, and Thomas Learn and Play Alphaphonics, retailing for £19.99, that will help boost kids’ grasp on language. 01295 768 078

PAUL LAMOND GAMES Paul Lamond has introduced some fantastic new additions to its extensive licensed pre-school range of games and puzzles this year, with product including We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and The Tiger Who Came to Tea. Landing this spring, two new lines for the renowned Tiger Who Came to Tea will get its own Memory Card Game and 4-in-1 Game Cube. The new Tiger Who Came to Tea 4-in-1 Games Cube is a box packed with four games for pre-schoolers – Matching, Bingo, Snap, Twisted Pairs and Four Shapes in a Row. These new lines join the Tiger Who Came to Tea 4-in-1 Puzzle Set and 24 piece Jumbo Floor Puzzle. Following the Christmas

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TV premiere of the animated children’s classic We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Paul Lamond has launched a new range of games and puzzles featuring the artwork from the animated film. The new lines include We’re Going on a Bear Hunt 4-in-1 Games Cube, a Memory Card Game and a Jumbo Floor Puzzle. These new additions join Paul Lamond’s portfolio of pre-school games featuring some of the top infant brands such as Dear Zoo, Noddy, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and more. A line of pre-school craft products complete the line up this season, with the Let’s Get Boj-ing craft sets based on the successful CBeebies show. 0207 254 0100

concept that has been a winner among buyers at the recent run of Toy Fairs. An addition to the award winning Le Toy Van Honeybake role play collection, this shopping trolley is great fun for both boys and girls and helps children develop their social and speech skills through role play. 0208 979 2036

CHARACTER OPTIONS Character Options continues to grow its pre-school line up with some of the OPTIONS most exciting CHARACTER properties in the sector. The Peppa Pig classic range is growing with the launch of a must-have, hero line. Peppa’s Family Home Play-set will wow pre-schoolers with six rooms across three stories, plus an articulated Peppa figure and lots of accessories. Character is celebrating the new licensor-supported theme centred around Play Days with the launch of new play-sets including a school bus with sound, a classroom set and more. The learning theme continues through to plush with the launch of the new ABC Singing Peppa. Meanwhile, Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom continues to provide fans of the show with the most authentic toys to reflect the animation. Nanny Plum and Princess Holly make an entrance in the new Royal Limousine, while elsewhere, the new iconic Deluxe Thistle Castle Play-set is filled with magical features such as the toadstool that magically opens the door.

2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the Teletubbies and it’s party time for the autumn Teletubby collection at Character Options. The new collection of eightinch talking Party plush includes all four characters, while later in the year, fans can add Tiddlytubby toys to their toy collection in three unque styles. Also new to the collection is the Shuffle and Giggle Tiddlytubby in pink who shuffles along and giggles as she crawls. Celebrating another anniversary is the loveable Fireman Sam who turns 30 this November. The Electronic Pontypandy Fire Station playset is packed full of original features and emulates the new headquarters in the TV series. 0161 633 9800

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©2017 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.


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FLAIR From the best of pre-school licenses to a new range of cuddly friends, GP Flair has something exciting in the toy box for every little one this season. The Doc McStuffins Toy Hospital range continues to be the go-to place for fans of Doc and friends. Since launch last autumn, the collection has been offering action packed and fun-filled role play toys such as the Magical Toysponder and the Big Book of Boo Boos. New for spring is the Doc’s Accessory Set which includes five different accessories for imaginative play. The Toy Hospital Care Cart also makes a brilliant option for preschoolers with its interactive light and sound X-Ray machine and realistic Toy Hospital features. The kid-powered Peppy Pups range launched last year with phenomenal success, and this year pre-schoolers can add even

more of the pets to their kennels. A trendy Pug has joined the range, while autumn will see a French Bulldog and a Unicorn join the popular line up. Also, under the Snuggle Pets umbrella is the cuddly character sleeping bag available as a Bunny. Doubling up as a practical bedroom accessory and loveable plush friend, this cuddly sleeping bag comes with a removable and washable character pillow and offers excellent value for money to consumers. Alternatively, Flair’s heritage Stickle Bricks brand makes for an ideal pre-school option. For toddlers aged from just 18 months, Stickle Bricks promotes the best in development of dexterity and imagination with their easy to hold bricks that lock together any way they like. From autumn this year, the Farm Set will be capturing tots’

imaginations with special farmthemed pieces for endless play opportunities. The range also includes the Big Red Bucket filled with lots of assorted bricks and doubling up as a handy storage container, it’s perfect for little hands with big imaginations and an easy tidy away. OPTIONS CHARACTER

Alternatively, the Stickle Bricks Beginner’s Box is the ideal start to any toddler’s collections. The uniquely stickled lid doubles up as a play base for added play value and is the perfect platform from which to build upwards. 0208 643 0320

activate lights and sounds with a push of a button designed for little hands and beginner flyers. The hero World Airport play-set is set to be a big hit with fans of the show and where all their adventures start. This ultimate play-set, for pre-

school boys and girls, features a large 35-inch scale set including electronic sounds and lights, plus many features for children to receate their favourite Super Wings scenes and missions. This play-set includes mini transforming characters, Jett and Donnie, that can attach to the fly-bar and spin to circle the World Airport before they come in for a landing. Children load them into the elevator and lift them up to the Control Tower, then launch them down the ramp and flip open the base compartment to reveal a rotating luggage carousel and a cargo-scale, offering hours of endless fun for kids and fans of the show. 01293 804599

ALPHA ANIMATION Alpha Animation is excited to introduce a new range based on its animated pre-school series Super Wings. A popular action-packed preschool animated series, Super Wings launched on Cartoonito in February this year with a storyline aimed at children aged three to five, encouraging them to develop problem solving skills while introducing them to different cultures around the world. The product launch will consist of over ten different product lines featuring the star hero Jett and his friends across Transforming vehicles, RC toys, feature playsets, electronic toys, ride-ons and a whole lot more. Blind bag Collector packs with over 20 characters to collect from the entry price point line, Transform-a-bots are Super Wings figures that transform from a plane to a robot in just three easy steps. The Transform-a-bots are also available as collector

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packs, allowing young fans to recreate their favourite missions. These sets include mini-figures with characters from the popular airport crew. The key products in the range are the Transforming Planes. These have excellent play value with over ten articulations to transform from jet to robot, with each character boasting the ability to transform differently depending on their unique form. The range will be supported with TV advertising. The range will also include Jett and Dizzy as a remote control Dance n Transform vehicle, Jett and Dizzy dance and spin 360-degrees, and can transform from bot to jet with a simple remote control. In addition to motion, users can

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XXXXXXX IMC TOYS Disney xxx Junior’s animated xxx Mickey and the Roadster Racers, a madcap carracing adventure series for preschoolers lead by Mickey, and his pals Minnie, Pluto, goofy, Daisy and Donald, will launch in April. IMC will launch its brand new toy collection in July, supported by a multi-platform marketing campaign and TV advertising. IMC’s collection takes imagery out of the new series, bringing it to life with play-sets filled with play possibilities. The firm’s extensive range includes everything from articulated figures, mini vehicles, play-sets, radio controlled vehicles to feature plush. Key toys from the new collection include the popular Mickey Roadster Racer’s garage, Minnie’s Happy Helper House and, of course, the hit Mickey’s Racing Tracks play-set.


Meanwhile, kids can prepare for a Roadster Racer Adventure with Mickey’s Garage. This playset looks just like the garage in Hot Dog Hills with lights and sounds effects. The set includes one exclusive Mickey Mouse figure and two cars with interchangeable chassis. The set includes lots of racing and mechanical accessories. For even more fun, the Mickey Mouse figure which activates the lights and sounds when you place him in the garage, it’s magic. Let’s play with Minnie Mouse’s spectacular Happy Helpers house, a set that includes an elevator, Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck figures and lots of accessories, bound to be a hit with any Minnie Mouse fan. 01904 488 944

XXXXXXX BANANAGRAMS Bananagrams, xxx the anagram game xxx that drives you bananas, now offers an award-winning game for pre-schoolers and early readers, My First Bananagrams, a new title for the younger, greener, player. The iconic Bananagrams pouch is now a ripening green and in response to customer requests, contains colourful lower-case letter tiles. The collection of fun games within caters to

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a wide range of reading abilities. There are ten curriculumbased mini games for early learners, and word game challenges which grow in difficulty as the child’s skill level advances over time. This culminates in a simplified version of Bananagrams and introduces children to the classic game that sees players racing to complete their own grid. My First Bananagrams uniquely includes new doubletiles with vowel-teams, word families and digraphs. This makes it the perfect game for children as they learn to read and spell. For more information, contact Winning Moves. 0207 298 9500

The xxx My First Scooter continues xxx to pick up awards for its unique design, which makes it the perfect starter scooter at a very affordable price for parents. Starting off on a sturdy four wheels, young children can get to grips with the speed and feel of a scooter. Once they grow in confidence, parents can reduce the scooter to three wheels and then as

their ability develops, they can progress to two wheels. New for 2017 is the Twist and Fold Scooter, a stylish scooter available in three colourways, with four wheels and height adjuster which folds away. It’s bound to be a winner doe the summer 2017. 0141 613 2525

HTI From role-play, music and bubbles to wheeled toys and dolls prams, HTI provides the pre-school market with a wide range of first fun toys with some XXXXXXX of the biggest pre-school brands. xxx number one pre-school The xxx property in the UK, HTI provides an extensive range of PAW Patrol musical, roleplay and battery operated bubble toys, as well as walkie talkies and a new line of character cases. Featuring popular characters Chase, Marshall and Skye, each uniquely tooled carry case contains fun musical instrument toys that pack away inside for tidy away play. An evergreen pre-school brand, HTI provides an extensive range of Peppa Pig role-play toys, music and dolls prams as well as pocket money toys and bubbles. From a variety of character shaped themed cases, each containing fun play accessories, to kitchens, cash registers and tea sets, HTI offers Peppa Pig fans a world of

imaginative play. The new Peppa Pig Kitchen features a recycling bin, mechanical blender and a host of accessoroes for hours of creative roleplay fun. Also new for 2017 is the Peppa Pig House Tea Pot Set which is modelled directly from the house in the TV series. A global phenomenon loved by millions, HTI offers Teletubbies role-play musical instrument and bubble toys. With unique character tooling, fun sounds and light effects, the line includes a My First Kitchen, Tea Set, the Right Start Award-winning Electronic Guitar, Xylophone, Keyboard and Musical Band sets. From the enchanting CG animated Nickelodeon TV series, HTI’s Shimmer and Shine range offers pre-schoolers a choice of magical wheeled toys. 01253 778 888

22/03/2017 15:49

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RAINBOW DESIGNS Rainbow Designs has a portfolio bursting with a plethora of brands and products perfect for the pre-school marketplace this spring/summer. The Home of Classic Characters is delighted to be launching the brand new TV Peter Rabbit Toy Collection this summer. This fun-packed range not only includes a soft toy assortment of the characters from the show but also two feature plush lines. The cuddly 24cm Talking Peter Rabbit and Lily Bobtail characters speak five different phrases when you squeeze their soft tummies. “Let’s hop to it” and “all rabbits need a little help from

SIMBA DICKIE GROUP their friends,’ says Peter, while ‘not bad for a rabbit’ and ‘you need a big hug,’ are just two of Lily’s phrases. The collection also includes the award-winning 40cm Talking and Hopping Peter Rabbit and Lily Bobtail feature plush toys. Peter and Lily not only voice five different phrases and giggle away, but also waggle their cute little ears and hop up and down, providing hours of fun and entertainment for fans of the seires and little ones. Rainbow designs’ pre-school portfolio also includes the funloving Paddington Movie range, The Very Hungry Caterpillar Toy and Craft ranges as well as My First Toy and Friends, Elmer, Peppa Pig for Baby and Miffy collections. With such a robust line-up of popular preschool licenses and hit TV properties, Rainbow Designs is confident of every success and is excited to deliver to the bustling pre-school market this summer and beyond. 01329 227 300

Simba Dickie arrives on the preschool scene with a whole host of exciting ranges for youngsters this season. Irrespective of the destination, the Big Bobby Trolley will accompany small travellers aged three and over wherever they go, combining the practicality of a suitcase with the fun of a ride-on. The dog-shaped trolley offers up to 15-litres of space for all those essential travel necessities including wide locking clamps, a XXXXXXX secret locking mechanism and two secret compartments in the ears, the perfect storage space. In addition, Simba is proud to offer Eichhorn railways range of beloved wooden toys. The railway range includes both

smaller sets for beginners and larger train sets with track lengths of up to 4.6 metres. Seeing as it is possible to combine the various sets with one another, the tracks can be extended as much as you like, resulting in positive works of railway art. Be it a circular track, a figure of eight or with bridges and turnouts, there are tons of possibilities for creative play. Combining and assembling the various parts playfully promotes the motor skills and creativity of children and with numerous accessories, such as locomotives, wagons, bridges and platforms, the possibilities are almost endless. 01274 765 030

BLADEZ TOYS After a successful first season, Bladez returns to the pre-school market ready to capitalize on the popularity of its Teletubbies, Peppa Pig and Thomas & Friends radio control inflatable ranges in 2017 and introduce some innovative toys into its licensed offering this year. To support Teletubbies’ 20th anniversary, Bladez presents the Teletubbies Track Playset, designed for pre-schoolers to mix and match tile pieces while the Tubby Car drives around the funpacked track. Joining its Peppa Pig line is a radio controlled inflatable George, available to order now, which joins the Muddy Puddle Playmat and the new Peppa Pig Jump and

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Squeak Pogo in a fun and robust line for the summer. Finally joining Bladez offering is the new radio control engine from Thomas & Friends. Alongside this comes a new playset, arriving in the autumn where children will be able to watch a batteryoperated motor driven Thomas engine speed around the Sodor themed eight tile piece track. 02392 658 255

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THE PUPPET COMPANY The Puppet Company is incredibly proud of the valuable contribution many of its products offer to the early years sector. With design input from an experienced pre-school teacher, our puppets reflect the interest of young children and also the desire of a teacher or parent to provide an element of fun combined with valuable learning experiences. The wonderful Rabbit in Lettuce set is an excellent example of this. The Rabbit hides down inside the Lettuce and will not appear until the child is quiet and focused. He will then appear and congratulate the child by clapping his paws for complying with the instruction. He may, on other occasions – with the help of the operator – bring out a certain object, i.e. a small toy or an object to instigate a conversation, This boxed set

comes complete with three finger puppet mini beasts for the child to find and interact with. The Rabbit hides back inside the Lettuce for a wonderful game of Pee-Boo. Other popular ranges that appeal particularly to the pre-school sector are the best-selling My First Puppets. These are realistic favourite animals that are machine washable, take an adult and are excellent value for money.

The new Cuddly Tumms, meanwhile, are also proving to be immensely popular and really do have that special cuddly appeal. The Traditional Story Sets continue to sell well, both to schools and nurseries and also to the general public to use within the home. Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the Three Little Pigs and the Traditional Nursery Rhymes Gift boxes really do help bring these classic favourites to life. To see all of these and our extensive range of puppets and finger puppets, please visit the website, www. 01462 446 040

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Retailers ‘must do more’ for autistic kids, says NAS Following Toys R Us’ quiet hour for autistic children, The National Autistic Society hopes that more multiples and independents on the High Street will start to show more understanding towards autistic children and families BY JADE BURKE


on-profit organisation, The National Autistic Society, is urging retailers to be more aware of children with autism. The charity, which works with autistic people and families, believes that retailers could do a lot more to ensure that they are catering for people with autism, including toy stores. “Retailers on the whole could do a lot more than what they are doing at the moment,” Daniel Cadey, autism access development manager at The National Autistic Society, told ToyNews. “I would say some are not doing enough at the moment but we are starting to see a little more understanding across the UK, with certain stores doing something.” Retail giant Toys R Us previously offered a quiet hour for autistic children attending stores during November last year, but Cadey feels more could be done on the UK High Street. According to a survey carried out by the charity of over 7,500 autistic people and their families, shops topped the list of places


Stuart Grant, The Entertainer

Geoff Sheffiled, The Toy Store

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people most wanted to see become autism friendly, while only 16 per cent thought that the public actually understand autism in a meaningful way. Therefore surely more multiples and indies should ensure that they are offering a suitable environment to cater for autistic children? Dave Carter, co-owner of Arcade Toy Shop, believes so. “We understand the needs of these kids and more retailers need to take time to give some consideration to it,” he explained.

Helen Gourley owner of Scottish independent, Toy Hub, claims that indies can offer a bespoke service to children and families with autism, since they know their customers on a much closer basis. “We know our customer base, which means if someone comes in and we know that they have an autistic child and they have an issue with noise, then because we know them, we do it without being asked,” Gourley added. Similarly, Charlotte Croser, owner of Jollys Toys & Games,

thinks retailers must put more focus on children with autism. “With autistic children I am more understanding of how they may find it challenging,” Croser continued. “I know my customers individually and I know to do a little more to help with certain ones.” With some indies already catering to the needs of autistic children, it’s clear majors and indies still need to ensure that they are offering alternative services to ensure their stores are inclusive to every child.

ToyNews takes soundings from its Retail Advisory Board on toy industry issues. The current members are:

Linzi Walker, Argos

Brian Simpson, Toytown

Clare Barton, Sainsbury’s

Neil Mitchell, Shop Direct

Annalise Quest, Harrods

Steph Strike, Asda

Ben Redhead, Firebox

Alphonse Madamombe, Maplin

Helen Gourley, Toy Hub

Miles Penhallow, Play-Room

Karla Mitchell, XBite

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Business boom

The High Street has never been more competitive with more grocers and online stores cropping up than ever before, and with Government plans to increase business rates, could this spell the death of the indie retail scene? Jade Burke asks this month’s ToyShop UK listing how the hike will affect today’s toy retailers


here’s no doubt that the UK’s High Street has suffered over the years with the development of more online stores and grocers taking over the retail landscape. Despite this, we are still continuing to witness a bustling High Street, just look at Brighton and Bath’s indie retail offering where the streets are filled with shoppers on the lookout for a unique item that they cannot find in a local chain store.

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However, the future of our High Street hangs in the balance, as the Government plans to revaluate business rates across the UK, which could see many store owners suffer miserably as prices look set to hike to an immeasurable amount. Taking place from April 1st, 2017, the revaluation will update rateable values to reflect the market, which aims to ensure that business rate bills more closely reflect the property market and that all

businesses are now getting a fair deal on rates. This change is the first to happen for seven years, sending many independent business owners into disarray, as The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) predicts that the average micro business based in London, which employs fewer than ten people, will have to pay around £17,000 to cover business rates once the change goes into effect from April.

Of course the change is expected, as the Government states that the revaluation is anticipated to happen every five years, however many trade bodies and retail gurus have warned the change could be deathly to the UK High Street. It comes as no surprise that the changes will affect the indie toy crowd that has filled the High Street, with one retailer questioning if the Government even wants a High Street at all.

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Commenting on the competitive nature of business, and the amount of hurdles indie stores already have to face, Julian Shelford, owner of Plymouth’s Final Frontier, believes that the increase in rates will substantially affect the indie scene. “Let’s be honest, it is hard enough in business as it is, with the pension, increase in minimum wage, the fall of the pound and any increases in rent. Business rates is going to have a knock on effect on any business,” he tells ToyNews. “To compete on the High Street is hard with parking charges, competition from the internet, out of town shopping centres and supermarkets – there has to be some benefit to smaller independents in any business.” The unknown state of many owners’ businesses is a worrying

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aspect, but the Government has offered some respite in the form of its relief scheme. The transitional relief it has always offered will still be in place for small and medium businesses, meaning that no small property will see more than a five per cent increase next year before inflation, due to the revaluation benefitting 500,000 small businesses. It’s a helpful alternative, but will this really make a difference in the grand scheme of things? Wendy Hamilton, owner of Grasshopper Toys, is less than hopeful. She declares: “The increases will signal the death knell for many small businesses.” Joseph Kornbluh, owner of Trampoline and Parts, seconds this notion: “I don’t understand why they want small businesses to go out of business.” Following the announcement of Brexit, already retailers have noticed a change with costing from suppliers oversees, coupled with the devaluation of the pound; 2017 has offered very little positivity to the UK’s indie retail scene. This is a point that John Guiver, from Southport’s Models R Go, believes will greatly affect the small guys, who are constantly battling it out with larger chains. “We’re still in austerity after the financial crash and in a period of uncertainty following Brexit. Let’s raise rates just to add to the burden,” he quips. “And what about quarterly tax reporting to add to the paperwork. What brilliant incentives to get our High Streets repopulated.” The new business rates will of course not affect everyone, and differ depending where each business is based. For example, London is expected to see an increase of 23.7 per cent, while the East Midlands will see prices spike by 7.4 per cent. Meanwhile the North East and Wales will see prices decrease by 0.9 per cent and 2.9 per cent, respectively, while those based in North West and Yorks and Humber will remain unaffected. This is certainly an optimistic outcome for some toy stores who are based in these areas, as

Mitch Brown from Darths Hutt in Northwich will avoid the hike. “My business rates will disappear, which will be a huge benefit to my business saving me over £550 a month, this I can put back into the business helping me build,” adds Brown. “I know if I moved premises then it could be financially crippling for a small independent and it may affect my plans of moving to a larger shop in the future.”

It is hard enough in business with the fall of the pound and any increases in rent. Business rates is going to have a knock on effect. Julian Shelford, Final Frontier Clearly the revaluation will make a difference for a small number of stores, but the changes will indefinitely damage many businesses on the High Street. “Hopefully the Government will reconsider, otherwise not for every business it will stunt growth, and I’m not sure I want the country to become a huge warehouse,” explains Shelford. Despite his plea for the Government to change its mind, it looks like the changes to business

Toy Shop UK is a consumer-led, online directory that helps toy suppliers, retailers and licence holders promote their businesses to an audience of up to 10,000 unique visitors per day. Popular weekly giveaways, the esteemed Independent Toy Awards and special supplier listings are just three of the ways

rates will be going forward following the Chancellor’s budget announcement last month. Philip Hammond delivered his first budget as Chancellor in March, where he revealed to business owners that he would not abolish business rates, but had ‘listened to the concerns’ of businesses. To help ease the strain of the increases, Hammond has put in place measures that will see any business coming out of small business relief benefitting from a cap, which prevents the rate that it pays from going up by more than £50 per month. Meanwhile, Hammond said that he would provide local authorities with a £300m fund, to ‘deliver discretionary relief’ in local areas. Paired together, these developments could offer some much needed relief for toy retailers. However, Peter Allinson, from Whirligig Chichester, believes that indies are here to stay despite the revaluation. “It will be harder but if indies focus on being unique then they will have the edge with their customers,” cites Allinson. Certainly indie stores do have an edge over corporate chains that churn out the same stock, but many retailers are still seemingly nervous about the change this month, as Karen Daw, owner of The Toy Cupboard, emphasises: “Business rates are already so high, I fear small independents will be greatly affected.”

that Toy Shop UK can help you increase your online presence and complement your other marketing activities this year. CONTACT: Michael Hawkins 07786 295756 for more information.

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Mystery Shopper: Bath This month ToyNews’ Mystery Shopper heads to scenic southwestern town Bath. With no time to relax in the world-famous Roman Baths, we got to work visiting as many toy shops as we could find, and the verdict is... Eric Snooks 22-24 Union Passage, Avon, Bath BA1 1RD

My Small World 19-21 St Lawrence Street, Bath BA1 5AN As soon as you step out of Bath train station you are greeted by My Small World, a shop quaintly decorated with costumes, traditional toys and activity sets. This store had a wonderfully old school vibe that is sure to make even the most jaded adult feel nostalgic for their childhood days. I requested a recommendation for a gift for a seven year old girl and was delighted at the amount of choice on offer. I was asked what her interests were, to which

I answered she is creative. The passionate staff member on hand directed me to a wall of colourful arts & crafts sets as the staff member took some out of their packages to demonstrate them for me. I was invited to explore their diverse range and try out products. The staff were happy to tell me more about the business, explaining that the shop focuses on independent suppliers, curating a range of products that are of the highest quality. A great start.

Verdict: A bright and endearing store with an eye for quality products that will capture the imagination of children and adults alike. A near-perfect shopping experience.

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Eric Snooks is another top notch independent store, adding a little more sparkle to Bath’s high street. This shop was a great allrounder, running the gamut from LEGO to outdoor toys. There was a focus on traditional toys including animals, train sets and teddy bears but to my surprise there was also a decent amount of STEM products and activity sets. Eric Snooks was a little busier, but the staff were still more than

happy to give me a guided tour of the shop floor, highlighting any products that were a hit. Particularly impressive were the range of LEGO products with a focus on the female audience. Less impressive were the smartphone-themed diaries and notebooks that played a 30 second plus, horrifically compressed version of Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘I Really Like You’, every time they were opened. Surely a recipe to drive parents loopy!

Verdict: Despite misgivings on certain products, this was still a top shelf experience. The range was comprehensive, staff attentive and the layout aesthetically pleasing.


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Hawkin’s Bazaar 40 Stall St, Bath BA1 1QH

While this branch of Hawkin’s Bazaar was slighly smaller it was no less packed with cool toys and gifts. Prominently positioned on Bath’s scenic high street, Hawkin’s was easily the busiest shop I saw, drawing in families and adults alike. The product range on offer here was clearly more skewed towards older children but there was still a decent range of

products ranging from licensed gear from the likes of Star Wars and Harry Potter to familyoriented board games and novelty gag gifts. The young staff here were happy to help but seemed fairly fresh to the job and weren’t able to offer the same level of in-depth guidance as the other shops on my tour. Nontheless, I found some great options here.

Verdict: As always, Hawkin’s Bazaar had great stock ranging from novelty gifts to innovative games and tech gifts. While not quite on the level of Bath’s independents, this was a positive shopping experience all the same.


This cosy store was a little different. Pitched, simply as “a shop for children”, this shop boasted a combination of children’s clothing as well as a selection of unique toys and games. From cute cushions to card games to collectable dolls this shop was perfect for younger children, especially little girls. The store manager was more than happy to give me a tour of the packed shop floor, despite the fact that there were other customers in the store, inquiring about who the gift was for and making some great suggestions from crafty gifts to collectible dolls to soft toys. The only drawback to Spotty Herbert’s was the shop’s size. The ranges on offer were very limited and I couldn’t help but imagine the potential of this highly curated store, if it had a little more shelf space to play with.

Located only a few doors down from Hawkin’s Bazaar is a high street chain with much the same schtick – novelty gifts and toys aiming to please all ages. Tigers have sprang up in many towns and cities across the nation in recent years, this Danish concept has become a hit due to its quirky offerings of toys, gifts and household items at low prices. The shop is structured as a single path, which customers are corralled through eventually

reaching the till to purchase the accumulation of reasonably priced and questionably necessary items. The shopping experience is as much a novelty as the products, but it’s not to everyone’s taste. There are few staff and those present couldn’t offer much help. While I appreciated the creativity on display throughout Tiger’s range, I couldn’t help but feel that other shops in Bath provided better versions of the same kinds of items with more charm.

Verdict: Tiger has a pleasing selection of toys for kids young and old but doesn’t quite hold up when compared to some of the more homely Indies around Bath.

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As a place to get clothing and toys, especially for very young ones, you couldn’t do much better than Spotty Herbert’s. Here’s hoping that the store is able to expand in the near future because it had a special, rare kind of charm that deserves to be seen.

Verdict: This homely store is old fashioned in the best way, boosted by passionate and knowledgeable staff. As well as a surprisingly robust online presence. Spotty Herbert’s is definitley worth a visit for any family, especially those with an affinity for crafty, cute and quirky items.



Tiger 1RW, 11 Union St, Bath BA1

Spotty Herbert’s 5 Queen St, Bath BA1 1HE

Bath is a small, scenic city located in the south-western county of Somerset. It’s world famous for its Roman-built baths, however in the Toy industry it is just as well known for its rich supply of independent toy retailers. While Bath doesn’t offer the wealth of choice that other towns may (chains like The Entertainer and Smyths are nowhere to be found) it more than makes up for it in quality and passion. If what you’re looking for is hand-crafted and lovingly designed toys, Bath is the town for you. My Small World set a great precedent for what was to come with an idyllic spot, directly outside the train station, this store was an oasis for children and parents alike. Boasting a slightly bigger shop floor, Eric Snooks was a good contrast, offering more of the standard toy lines from LEGO to Schliech’s animal toys to outdoor

playthings. There was something for every child here, from preschool to pre-teen and the staff were more than happy to offer their time and expertise. Given that my mission was to find a toy for a younger child, Spotty Herbert’s was another good pit stop. This cosy shop had some top alternatives including arts and crafts options as well as adorable cuddly toys. If these charming stores don’t fulfil your needs, Hawkin’s Bazaar offers a different flavour of product. From licensed ranges to board games, you are sure to find something for the older child here, whilst younger children may be a bit out of their depth. Finally, Tiger and Builda-bear workshop round out Bath’s toyshop offerings. These international chains offer specialised shopping experiences, tailoring to specific audiences. While far from unique, they offer a nice bit of variety to the town’s high street.

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Got game? There’s no doubt that more friends and families are choosing to sit down with a game or puzzle, and it’s no wonder thanks to the constant innovation. Here, Jade Burke highlights some of the latest items in this space GP FLAIR This autumn, GP Flair’s portfolio will expand into the everpopular games market with the introduction of two suspensefilled action games. Laughter will ensue as children put their speed, skill and luck to the test with these thrilling new games. Party Crasher is the new board game with a difference – there’s a greedy puppy hidden underneath waiting for his share. In this tense game of chance, children must roll the dice to see how many times they can press the cake on the dinner table. After the cake has been spun, players must press the cake and brace themselves in case the meddling puppy jumps up from beneath the table and steals their dish. The aim is to keep your dishes and whichever player has one left

at the end of the game wins. At a mid-price price point, this nervewracking game can be enjoyed by children aged three and above, and two to four players can be in it to win it. The roles reverse with Flair’s second new game release, Rat Trap – now the aim of the game is to steal the cheese from the pesky rat trap. Designed like a real Rat Trap, this game takes suspense to a whole new level as players race to steal as much cheese as possible before they get caught. The objective is to end the game with more slices than the opponent. With 30 cheese cards included, Rat Trap has an ideal game duration and children can play on their own or with their friends. 0208 643 0320

THAMES & KOSMOS Further signaling the increasing popularity of the ‘exit room’ trend in the UK, Thames & Kosmos UK is launching three new games based on the phenomenon, which were previewed at London Toy Fair – The Exit Games. In a move that sees the brand launch a total of 12 new board games this year, including Kerala, Word Slam, Exit Games, Harry Hopper, Lagoonies, Monster Trap, Jungle Party, Brutal Kingdom, Mag-OMag and Ingenious, this move marks the first time the brand has launched significantly more games in the first half of 2017 than in any previous year. Thames & Kosmos UK is reinforcing its commitment to the growing board games

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sector in this country, while also supporting the growing trend of games amongst playful Brits. As with all games in the Thames & Kosmos portfolio, the new Exit Games range expands play boundaries by offering unique,

innovative and often surprising play experiences. Designed for up to six players and with each game lasting between 45 and 90 minutes, players aged 12 and up can bring the real-life ‘exit room’ experience

trend to the tabletop to enjoy with friends and families. In each Exit Game, the team starts out locked in a room and together players must solve a series of riddles and puzzles in order to unlock doors and reveal new riddles. Each correct solution brings players to another riddle and eventually to freedom. However, the clock is ticking and players must solve all of the puzzles as fast as possible – the faster the team escapes the room and the fewer hints they use on the way, the more points they earn for themselves. There are three different titles in the Exit Games collection including The Pharoah’s Tomb, The Secret Lab and The Abandoned Cabin. 01580 212 000

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MATTEL Mattel continues to provide entertainment for the whole family in 2017, with an expanding portfolio of games from staple favourites to exciting new licenses and launches. Bringing something new to the card game sector, UNO Emoji will join the UNO range early this year adding a fun new dynamic to classic play; featuring cards with Emoji faces and symbols, players must imitate those Emoji expressions and hold them or pick up more cards. The UNO range continues the excitement with the relaunch of the family favourite UNO Extreme, plus the continuation of the classic product range that includes the classic game Get

Wild 4 UNO, which sees players matching card colours and numbers in a race to get rid of all their cards first. Scrabble continues to remain a popular choice as number two

in the total family games sub category, offering fun mind and educational challenges. A strong range for the full year includes Scrabble Original, Scrabble Junior, and Scrabble Deluxe with

exciting new innovation joining the range later this year. Making game play magical this year is the special edition Harry Potter Scrabble. Scrabble celebrates the unique vocabulary from the world of Harry Potter with a special glossary of wizarding words with additional magical cards that can help score more points. 01628 500 000

Jumbo has unveiled 10 new puzzles to its rapidly growing Falcon de Luxe puzzle range, adding to the 10 January new releases in a portfolio of over 100 puzzles that are available now. Following the anticipated release of Disney/Pixar Cars 3 this July, Jumbo is launching the exciting Disney Cars 3 Piston Cup Race Game this June. The game features a rotating racetrack, miniature Cars characters and electronic Piston Cup model with sound animations.

To support the game launch, there will be an extensive puzzle range available in June. Also new to Jumbo’s licensed Disney range is the refreshed Disney Princess Glass Slipper Game, which features a light up glass slipper with sound effects. Jumbo will be adding to its Peppa Pig portfolio this autumn with two new games; the two-inone Flip ‘n’ Find Matching Memory Game and Giant Muddy Puddles Floor Game, that will both be showcased at upcoming shows.

Other key launches in Jumbo’s pre-school children’s portfolio include the recently launched Thomas & Friends Foam Floor and Bath Puzzles, Bob the Builder Foam Floor and Bath Puzzles, as well as the new Disney Mickey and the Roadster Racers and Disney Elena of Avalor puzzles. Jumbo has also added to its GOULA range this year. Additions include the Butterfly and Rabbit Peg Puzzles, along with Magnetic Character and Animal Puzzles. 01707 260 436


Continuing the 20th anniversary celebrations for Wasgij, Jumbo is launching seven new puzzles, to add to the three January releases. Other key June launches include the Wasgij Original 26: Master Chief Chef, and Wasgij Back to…?: Barbers and Beehives 1,000-piece puzzles, Special Edition Wasgij Original 27: The 20th Party Parade, and Wasgij Christmas 13: Turkey’s Delight. Both of which contain two 1,000-piece puzzles for the price of one.

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ORCHARD TOYS Educational games and puzzles manufacturer, Orchard Toys has launched six brand new additions to its travelsize mini game range, as well as Magic Maths, an exciting maths game for older children. Launched at the AIS show in April 2016, the original six mini games were a great success for the brand, garnering popularity with both trade retailers and consumers alike. This is due to its year round appeal as an under £5 pocket money toy, summer travel game and stocking filler. Based on traditional family favourites, the range gives six classic games, from snakes and ladders to happy families, a fun ‘Orchard Toys’ twist, These include Little Bug Bingo, Animal Families, Spiders and Spouts, Animal Match, Jungle Dominoes and Llamas in Pyjamas for children to enjoy.


Orchard Toys has taken the fun magical elements of its Magic Cauldron Game and made it even better to create the new title Magic Maths. Designed for children aged from five to seven years old, players must solve a range of sums to fill their board with six yucky spell items. However, the game has an exciting and magical twist – players must rub their finger over the heat sensitive patches to reveal the correct answer. Orchard Toys predicts that the new mini game range and Magic Maths will both be strong sellers for 2017. 01953 859 525

Filled with suspense and excitement, Toilet Trouble is a new game for both kids and families. The aim of the game is to flush but be the last player left without getting sprayed. Players take turns spinning the toilet paper roll, which will dictate how many times each competitor must flush the toilet handle. If the flushing sound is heard, but no water is sprayed they are safe, but watch out for the random spray of water as that player will be eliminated. Cluedo Junior is part of the Hasbro Gaming junior range, which also features Monopoly Junior and The Game of Life Junior. With the new Cluedo Junior game, kids can put their XXXXXXX detective

skills to the test to discover who took the last piece of cake, while finding out when they took it and what they drank with it. Players can look under the characters and furniture to find clues and eliminate the choices one by one. The game features iconic characters, such as Miss Scarlett, Mrs. Peacock and Col. Mustard, as well as Dr. Orchid. Speak Out Kids vs Parents brings laugh-out-loud fun for the whole family, with the ridiculous mouthpiece challenge game. Mums and dads pick from the Parents deck of cards, filled with typical phrases, such as ‘This playroom is a positive pigsty’, while the kids’ choices include ‘What a bummer, brother.’ Those with the most cards wins. 020 8569 1234

PAUL LAMOND GAMES The games and puzzles firm has unveiled over 30 new products for 2017 including family board games, new licensed pre-school games and even a touch of magic. Following the Christmas TV premiere of the beautifully animated children’s classic We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Paul Lamond has launched a brand new range of games and puzzles featuring the stunning artwork from the animated film. The new lines, that are available now, include We’re Going on a Bear Hunt four-in-one Games Cube, a Memory Card Game and a Jumbo Floor Puzzle. Two further additions to the licensed pre-school portfolio include The Tiger Who Came to Tea four-in-one Games Cube and Memory Card Game, which are also now available. Paul Lamond Games has also made its debut into the world of magic this year in partnership with Britain’s Got Talent phenomenon,

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Jamie Raven. Now available are four mind-blowing Magic Sets: Card Magic, Magic of the Mind, Street Magic and Sleight of Hand. Uniquely, each of the sets features a web link where Raven teaches how to perform the tricks. Also available are four new 1,000-piece That’s Life Spot the

Difference jigsaws. The funpacked puzzles include Kitchen Chaos, Train Turmoil, Canal Commotion and Bar Bedlam. Joining Paul Lamond’s extensive family games range this summer are some exciting new titles that include board games, based on one of the most successful music

compilation series of all time; Now That’s What I Call Music and the hit TV quiz show, Who Dares Wins. Action-packed Silly Spaghetti and ThinkFun’s Colour Cube Sudoku and Roller Coaster Challenge are also set to be new additions to the children’s games range later in the year. The popularity of murder mystery dinner parties is on the increase and so Paul Lamond is adding an intriguing new title to its successful murder mystery portfolio. The brand new six to eight player murder mystery dinner party game; A Slice of Murder will be available for fans this summer. The new action-packed murder mystery dinner party game will join the thriving range that also includes popular titles The Brie, The Bullet and The Black Cat and The Diamonds, The Dagger and One Classy Dame. 020 7254 0100

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JOHN ADAMS Fresh from a successful 2016 with the launch of popular games Silly Sausage and Soggy Doggy, John Adams is expanding its established games portfolio for 2017 with a host of new lines for the whole family. Joining the range for autumn 2017, Mr Bucket is the original, racing, chase the bucket game. Players aged four and over must pick a colour and race to be the first to scoop up all of their coloured balls as Mr Bucket moves around the floor. Children must catch the balls and get them back into Mr Bucket before he can shoot them out again. The first person to complete the task and pick up Mr Bucket by his handle wins the game. Also joining the John Adams action games portfolio this year is Giggle Wiggle. Designed for children four and up, players must press Giggle Wiggle’s button to watch him start dancing to the

samba music. Then they must race to be the first to stack all of their coloured balls on Giggle Wiggle’s hands as he twists and turns to the music. Designed with hilarity in mind, Don’t be a Donkey provides plenty of laugh-outloud fun for the whole family. In this fast-paced action game, players aged six-years-old and over must wear their donkey headbands and pass the cards until they get a full house. At this point they shout ‘donkey’ and grab a carrot. The last person to react must lift up one of the donkey ears on their headband. If a player misses out three times they must wear the donkey mask and they lose the game. A twist on the retro classic, Tetris Dual brings the iconic video game to the tabletop. Featuring two games, players must go head to head in a strategic battle and

race against the clock to create rows of the famous bricks. The electronic unit keeps score until a winner is declared. A new challenge for the youngest Rubik’s fans, Rubik’s Junior is Rubik’s in animal form. Available as bear, bunny, cat and puppy characters, little ones can twist and turn the crazy XXXXXXX



The Re-Gifter, The Thief, Switcheroo and Pouch Head are just some of the 14 chaos-inducing Party Power tiles in the new Bananagrams Party game edition. Each tile gives the receiving player the power to unleash a special action on the opponent of their choice. Whether it’s making them play without using their thumbs, or forcing them to do a lap around the table, each action is sure to cause mayhem, while players race to use all of their letter tiles and complete their own word grids. A sociable spin on the classic anagram game that drives you bananas, Bananagrams Party is available now. The original Bananagrams game has sold more than

Following the success of The Gift Collection in 2016, Gibsons has released 12 new jigsaws to join the popular puzzle range. Packaged in compact, square boxes that measure 16x16cm, The Gift Collection now offers 22 different designs that have been painted by some of Gibsons’ most talented artists. “Before developing this range we identified that limited storage space is a real problem for both the High Street retailer and independent gift market,” said Nicki Gumbrell, sales director at Gibsons. “We wanted to introduce a range of puzzles that could still be enjoyed by the keen puzzler who loves the challenge of a 500-piece jigsaw, but that could also be stocked by the most compact of retailers. The linen finish on the boxes and beautiful imagery make the

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eight million copies in over 30 countries globally since launching in 2006, and is loved by an army of fans including the cast of ITV’s Downton Abbey, Dame Judi Dench, Scarlett Johansson and many more. The Bananagrams Challenge, a primary school tournament for children in Key Stage Two, is now in its third year in the UK. 020 7298 9500 (Winning Moves)

animals to create wacky mixedup characters. Players must then keep twisting until they ‘solve’ the puzzle and turn them back to their normal state. The award winning Doggie Doo also has a brand new look for 2017, now featuring a cute dog and new and improved food. 01480 414 361

puzzles an ideal gift for those wanting to give puzzling a go.” Terry Harrison, Emma Ball and Robert Opie are just a few of the many artists who have contributed to the 12 new puzzles in the collection. With designs ranging from idyllic country scenes to Mike Jupp’s hilarious “I Love…” cartoons, there is certainly something for everyone in this increasingly popular collection. 020 8661 8866

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WILD CARD GAMES With over £4 million of retail sales in the UK, Wild Card Games continues to add award winning games to its portfolio. Top sellers Who Knows Where, Mapominoes, Frenzi and Backpacker and award winners Arithmanix and Astronauts are joined by Ski Run and 6 Suits. With 10 per cent off orders placed at the upcoming AIS Independent Toy and Gift Show and Toymaster Show, 6 Suits enables users to play all their favourite card games and more in a fun new way. Ski Run, has been a massive hit, with three reprints in its first year. This classic family

ZING GAMES race game is popular with everyone and sells strongly from September through till the end of the ski season in April. The lead changes constantly in this game of fluctuating fortunes, where players use the right cards to stay ahead of their opponents. Who Knows Where? is the global location guessing game in which players try to be the first to travel around the world by locating famous places. With over 1,000 locations to guess in five categories it’s a fun way to learn about our world. Everyone guesses every question and they can copy opponents’ guesses. 07916 349 942

Blast Box from Zing Toys is a suspense filled action game with an explosive outcome that will make players jump out of their seats. Users need only inflate one balloon per player and place them inside the included Blast Box. Players can use the spinner to determine how many spikes are needed per turn. But players should be careful of where they place them – burst a balloon and you’re out. Younger kids and families will have oodles of fun playing the fast-paced Stick’em game. Players must arm themselves with the suction cup stick, while keeping an eagle eye on the picture cards placed in-front of them and get ready to match XXXXXXX the right picture with the sound from the app. Beep-beep, moo,

playing this game. Freddy, the demon teddy, holds the tokens and is resting peacefully when the lights are low. Players must then take suspense-filled turns spinning the dial and taking tokens from under his nose. One token too far and they wake Freddy from his slumber, unleashing his terrifying fury. A game of memory, speed and skill is on the cards with FlipSlide. Inspired by classic games such as Tetris and the Rubik’s cube, FlipSlide is a highly addictive and fast moving game that

has players flip and slide the blocks to solve the puzzles – definitely not to be missed. For adrenaline fuelled fun indoors or out comes Laser X, the new game that allows players to blast their opponents with impressive light and sound effect infrared guns. Unlike other games

miaow, nee-nah – match and stick the most to win the game. Wet Head, the famous game that drenches losers with water following a nerve-wracking truth or dare game continues to be popular with fans. Supported with TV and social media support, Zing’s game is available for £19.99rrp. 01295 768 078 (Trends UK, national accounts) 01353 724 140 (Wind Designs, independents)

CHARACTER OPTIONS The toy firm is raising the bar with an all-new line-up of games launching in autumn. Jump-scare, electronic memorisation and laser-style gaming are just a few of the game-play patterns for kids and adults to discover. Thrill-seekers will enjoy Boom Blast Stix: the explosive stacking game. Featuring sensitive, interlocking springs that can go off at any time, the aim of the game is to stack as many of the 40 interlocking pieces as possible before they explode. Presented in a tube that doubles as the tower’s base, this game is unpredictable, addictive and loads of fun for all ages. Nerves will be pushed to the limits with the jump-scare Five Nights at Freddy’s game. Bringing one of the world’s most popular mobile games to life in 3D form, kids and young adults will love

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in the market, Laser X infrared guns allow players to shoot their opponent from up to 61 metres away, making this one of the most action-packed and competitive games on the market. For multi-player action, challengers can choose red, blue or neutral colour for their vest to signify their team, and the full colour lighting effects help to keep track of shots and hits. What’s more, each vest comes with an interactive voice coach who gives tips and feedback to players during the game. Plus, headphones can be connected to allow players to hear the soundtrack or further effects. Licensed games will also launch with the Piston Cup Race Game, which sees players frantically race to the finish with characters from the new Cars 3 film. 0161 633 9800

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CHEATWELL GAMES 2017 has been a great year for Cheatwell’s games portfolio with a tranche of new titles to appeal to the toy and the gift markets. Soar-away successes at the fairs were Round Tin Games. Three fun titles all super simple to learn – open and play – no complicated rules but plenty to keep brains buzzing as players try to find missing animals in Silly Safari, learn to talk like a Caveman or collect sets of cards to Lift Off. For retailers looking for travel games, the Game Pod has landed – three tried and tested titles in a storage case that allows for easy dealing and cycling of cards. Cheatwell’s games for the gifts line is also very strong this year with two brand new games – What’s in the Box from renowned designer David Snow and Quirky,


The Quiz where players decide the answers. Snow’s What’s in the Box boasts a solid wooden box with the games cards inside – simply find an object, place it in the box then invite players to guess what it is, using a limited number of careful questions and guesses. Quirky, invites users to make it up as they go along – but be ready to fight your corner, as if anyone thinks a player is wrong they will challenge their answer. We’ve not forgotten the puzzles either – a brand new range of devious brain teasers. For fans of traditional dexterity and reasoning puzzles, The Great Zucchini range will delight with chunky metal puzzles and wooden logic problems. 02392 524 098

Happy Salmon has finned its way across the Atlantic into the Coiledspring Games warehouse. The simple, fast-paced card game is packed to the gills with high-fivin’, fin-flappin’ fun. Actions will have players doubled over laughing. Each time a player gets a match, they discard a card. The first person to get rid of all their cards wins, Family favourite Anomia is back for 2017 with some serious XXXXXXX shelf esteem, in a bold, vibrant box that communicates the

game play. Fast moving and hilarious, Anomia always has everyone roaring with laughter as they try to shout out their answer before their opponent. Kids will love the new puzzle and play-sets. Four Schleich sets each come with not one, but two original figures – meaning play goes beyond the completion of the puzzle. Tractor brand John Deere includes a miniature SIKU John Deere tractor as well as nine Playmobil play-sets. 020 3301 1160

RAVENSBURGER Whether it’s a character jigsaw or a colourful puzzle that consumers are looking for, Ravensburger has something for every age and taste. The established collection of Paw Patrol puzzles includes ten jigsaws, each featuring colourful images of the gang. Supporting, Beauty and the Beast, is Ravensburger’s XXL100 puzzle, which includes glitter highlights all over the jigsaw. It really is a stunning puzzle to complete and ideal for children to relive their favourite moments from the film, over and over again. Launching in the next few weeks are four PJ Masks jigsaw puzzles and three fun games. The range of puzzles include a Giant Floor Puzzle, a 35-piece, Four in Box and an exciting 60-piece Glow in the Dark Puzzle – perfect for PJ Masks fans. Also available will be a Mini Memory and Card

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Game, and completing the range is a PJ Masks Night Sight Game, where players are on a secret mission to ensure Romeo does not steal the toys. With a summer of blockbuster films, Ravensburger has a large range of puzzles and games to match. In time for Despicable Me 3, Ravensburger is launching five children’s jigsaw puzzles, three fun family games and six 3D puzzles, including a Shaped Minion and Despicable Me 3 Sneaker 3D Puzzle. To coincide with the release of Cars 3, is Ravensburger’s range of seven jigsaw puzzles, a 3D puzzle and three family games. With existing properties such as

Animal Jam, Rachel Ellen and Paddington already available,

Ravensburger has a whole world of character puzzles to choose from. 01869 363800

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ESDEVIUM GAMES After a terrific show season, Esdevium Games is gearing up for 2017 with its best-ever selection of key family gaming titles. With the Dobble Card Game now an established family favourite amongst customers and stores alike, Esdevium Games is looking to build upon this success with a number of new and existing titles that are now quickly establishing themselves. New for 2017 is the Rory’s Story Cubes range of products from The Creativity Hub. Led by the original game (Rory’s Story Cubes) the collection has found popularity across the globe with over seven million games sold worldwide. Esdevium has taken on distribution of the full range of StoryCubes, including the additional nine-cube sets in Actions and Voyages and the licensed range including properties Doctor Who, Batman, Scooby-Doo, Moomins and Looney Tunes. The range of SKUs will continue to grow in 2017 with the introduction of a brand new nine-cube base set in the form

of Rory’s Story Cubes Fantasia and the addition to the licensed range of Rory’s Story Cubes Adventure Time. Fantasia combines the cubes from Mythic, Medieval and Enchanted MIX sets (three cube top-up packs) to make up a brand new ninecube base set. Set to launch at the popular UK Games Expo in June, fans shall be able to get their first taste of the Fantasia version. Rory’s Story Cubes Adventure Time will allow fans to create their own Finn and Jake inspired stories in the colourful and bonkers world of the cartoon. Appropriately, Adventure Time will launch on the Esdevium stand at MCM London Comicon in May. Two other successes for Esdevium from London Toy Fair were board games, Codenames and Cortex Challenge. Codenames was awarded the

Spiel des Jahres seal of approval back in 2016, the highest accolade in board gaming for its simple yet challenging word association mechanics. Meanwhile, Cortex Challenge XXXXXXX is a quick fire card game in the mould of Dobble, where players are tasked to use different parts of their brains to solve the various tests including memory,

recurrence, problem solving and even tactile cards, which have been introduced for players to guess using only their sense of touch. Cortex was received fantastically well by the toy industry in 2016 and the company will be looking to grow the game’s distribution throughout 2017. 01420 593 593

give a correct answer and win the most cards to win the game.

Boasting thousands of combinations each game play is different. At home or out travelling, Name That is the perfect game for all ages to enjoy. Beat the Flush is a new game for the warmer summer months from Megableu. The winner’s the one who lands the most bugs in the bowl before it flushes. If the loo sprays a player then they’re out of the running. Each of the Megableu games will be promoted with TV support for key lines and PR campaigns across all 2017 games. 01295 768 078 (Trends UK, national accounts), 01353 724 140 (Wind Designs, independents)

MEGABLEU GAMES Megableu Games is bolstering its gaming offering this year, with three new additions that promise a combination of thrilling suspense and laugh out loud fun. Fans can find the perfect balance with Tumball. Players must observe the cluster of balls, which are suspended by nothing but some thread. But how many balls will each player be able to balance on them, before the cluster finally separates? Go ahead, make your move, but be careful, don’t tremble or the balls will tumble. Tumball has been designed for two to four players aged from six years and up. Name That, the frantic word game where players must think fast to win. Person? Place? Food? The answer to the category

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shown on each card lies in the letter shown on the next card –

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CLEMENTONI Having launched numerous new licensed and non-licensed puzzles earlier this year at London Toy Fair, Clementoni continues to strengthen its 2017 puzzle offering. Clementoni is expanding its licensed portfolio with many additions; a key hero line expected to be popular is the newly launched children’s animated TV programme, Shimmer & Shine. The Clementoni product includes interactive giant mats and puzzles with 3D jewels and glitter elements, offering retailers and consumers a unique variety inspired by the show. Ahead of the highlyanticipated film Despicable Me 3, Clementoni has new adult SKUs on the way including a 1,000-piece impossible puzzle


with all three popular characters and high definition imagery, perfect for testing adults’ intellectual skills. Also, adding to its nonlicensed collection, the eyecatching 3D virtual reality puzzle range received fantastic attraction at Toy Fair in January 2017 for its unique features such as panoramic qualities, covering themes of cities, animals, scenery, sightseeing and much more, which can all be enjoyed through the 3D goggles included. This luxury panoramic range will expand with other SKUs throughout 2017. 0208 782 1136

SmartGames’ award winning portfolio of games boasts multilevel challenges from the very easy to the very challenging; perfect for players of all ages to enjoy with friends and family. Each has a unique and innovative game mechanic with themes that appeal to both boys and girls. With the brand new Jump ‘In, little ones will discover how to play in this magical world,

by working out how to get the rabbits in their burrows. With features such as puzzle pieces that are safe and easy to hold, a story book with images and a booklet with differentiated challenges, it is a toy within itself. Suitable for children aged six years and up, SmartGames is hopeful that kids will enjoy solving this puzzle. 01903 885 669

BIG POTATO Independent board games company Big Potato, is launching three new games for summer 2017, including First Dates, The Chameleon and Thunderbrain and the Color Machines. First Dates is the official board game of the cult Channel 4 reality dating show. It’s an adult party game that pairs players up on a fictional dinner date and gets them to answer some seriously awkward questions. Other players on their own ‘dates’ earn points by predicting the answers. To fit the restaurant theme, questions come in the form of a starter, main and dessert. As players progress from starter through to dessert, questions become more controversial and squirm-in-yourseat awkward. You don’t have to

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be in couples to play First Dates; in fact, couples might find some questions too awkward to handle. The Chameleon is a family game all about bluffing, deduction and debate. It was created by

legendary board game designer, Riki Tahta. Played in a group, one person is secretly appointed the role of the chameleon. The aim of the game is for the chameleon to try and blend in by sneakily working out the secret word without being caught. The other players must try to expose the chameleon without giving away the secret

word. At the end of the round, all players must debate and vote for who they think is the chameleon. If the wrong person is chosen, the real chameleon escapes. Games are short and sweet and will be played over and over again. Thunderbrain and the Color Machines is a family trivia game from the inventors of quiz card game, Linkee. Players are split into teams, and each team is given 11 different coloured cards. A colour-related question is called out and teams must answer by placing a colour (or colours) face down on the table. The first team to do so shouts out ‘thunderbrain’, which gives other teams 10 seconds to answer before the time is up. Questions range from ‘what colour is a baby swan?’ to ‘what colour is Charlie Brown’s shirt?’. Teams only earn points when other teams make mistakes. 07852 597 530

22/03/2017 11:25


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23/03/2017 10:06


Team of the Month pays a welcome visit to ToyTalk, as rockstars break into games and more toymakers take on Trump’s grotesque visage.

TEAM OF THE MONTH Who’s in the team? Nick Saunders, Sales Director, Julie Greenwood, Commercial Director, Rosanne Kenealy, Product Development Director, Debra Tiffany Marketing Manager, Sales Team; Sam Marshall, Louise Raynerd and Ross Seddon all supported by our fantastic Operations Team. What have been your biggest successes of the last year? StikBots was far and away our biggest success in 2016. It’s a toy that ticks so many boxes in that it’s a tech toy, a collectable, a pocket money and is highly educational. Bringing the first social sharing toy to the UK has been brilliant and the traffic to the YouTube Channel StikBot Central from the UK has increased quite significantly. What has been the biggest challenge in the last year? None of us could have predicted just how popular StikBots would be and so keeping our stock levels

at a premium was a real challenge as it was literally flying out of our warehouse and into stores. What projects are you working on at the moment? We have launched our own new brand Craft Time which was launched at Toy Fair and this is our first foray into this category. We have also just created our own Games Division too which we are extremely excited about, particularly for Q4 where we will be supporting them with robust TV advertising. What’s your favourite part of working in the toy industry? It’s hard to find an industry as fast-paced as the toy industry. It has an amazing ability to keep up with current trends and what appeals to each generation. StikBots is a prime example of that – it’s taking a traditional toy and bringing it into the digital. What’s the hardest part of working in the toy industry?

The hardest part is actually the start of the year with all the shows. It’s a hectic and exciting time seeing what the trade thinks of our new products. What are you looking forward to throughout the year? We are really looking forward to launching our brand new products and of course our new categories. We are also very excited about the arrival of two Brainstorm babies this Summer Sam and Leanne in our Sales and Logistics teams are both adding to our ever expanding group of young toy testers. Who’s the best dressed? Nick, (he likes to think of himself as the office heartthrob) shorts, checked shirt, socks, crocs and flat cap.

Queen Monopoly Will Rock You Hasbro has found itself Under Pressure to come up with new Killer Queen ideas for licensed Monopoly games. Enter, Monopoly Queen, a new spin on the game that takes players through the gig history of the legendary rock band. When questioned on the process of creating the game Brian May implied

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Trump of the Month Another month, another piece of chuckleworthy Donald Trump paraphenelia. This month we’re highlighting the Humpty Trumpty, a poltical take on the storybook character in the form of a vinyl desktop figure which spouts Trumpisms when pushed. You stop making them and we’ll stop laughing.

that he Wanted to Break Free of the constraints of recording albums and create a game for Somebody to Love. When the game was completed May could possibly have yelled Don’t Stop Me Now and told his colleagues to Beat It. Yes it was quite the Thriller…. wait we’ve strayed into Michael Jackson puns…

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13/02/2017 11:25

ToyNews 182 April 2017  

April's issue of ToyNews boasts an in-depth interview with collectables specialist Funko, as well as features delving into the rise of data...

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