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ITâ€™S HERO TIME
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No. 192 | March 2018
Editor Robert Hutchins email@example.com
Senior Staff Writer Jack Ridsdale firstname.lastname@example.org Sales Manager Jodie Holdway email@example.com Production Executive James Marinos firstname.lastname@example.org Designer Mandie Johnson email@example.com Managing Director Mark Burton firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow us @toynews online
nd breathe. That's Toy Fair season done and dusted for another year, and as always (and making our jobs so much easier) there's plenty to report on from both here in the UK and afar. Word from the US is that the world's number one toy market is feeling the same pressures as we are currently facing here on home soil; the ongoing Toys R Us strife is a topic of much - and largely unprintable - discussion, production costs in China are increasing and downward pressure from retailers is resulting in many a tete-a-tete continuing behind closed doors. At the time of going to print, ToyNews was being lined up for a 5AM slot on BBC 5Live to talk through the impending administration of Toys R Us' UK arm, and while the propsect of getting up two hours after going to bed is a thrilling one, we can only hope the call doesn't come any time soon. That said, the toy industry remains an exciting playground in which to operate with some very good looking product heading to shelf over the next few months. If you haven't yet, make sure you get your overalls on as slime looks to be rolling in thicker and faster than the annual President's Club Christmas party bus, while toilet humour is having a definite splash back. And that's just never not funny. Robert Hutchins, Editor Rhutchins@nbmedia.com
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COVER STORY NICKELODEON P10
Contents March 2018 Features
COVER STORY: IN THE SLIME LIGHT We talk to Nickelodeon's Mark Kingston about the studio's 2018 plans. And yes, there's slime.
ON THE 'TUBE How can brands intergrate their message with today's influencers? We delve into the topic.
PLASTIC FANTASTIC? With the issue of plastic waste a hot topic right now, we look at sustainability in the toy space.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK A round-up of the US toy market.
Regulars Opinion 06 Nikki Collins 07 Jessica Coy 08 Louis-James Davis Market Data 30 Generation Media 31 Campaign of the Month 32 Euromonitor Product Guide 37 RC Toys 41 Outdoor Toys 46 Collectables Back pages 56 People 57 Team of the Month 58 Final word
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Bear necessities: How is child development being fuelled by play? by Nikki Collins
Parents are constantly interested in how they can promote healthy development in their children, when in fact it’s an awful lot easier than they think. Free time for play in children has been decreasing in recent years, with many parents looking to encourage children towards academia as opposed to play, thinking this is the way to produce the best future adult. However, free play has many benefits for children from a cognitive, social and emotional perspective. If play were something that we weren’t supposed to do, we just simply wouldn’t have such a fundamental need to do it. Before a time when structured schools existed we simply didn’t have need for academia; everything we needed was learnt through play. As you can imagine, while children play they learn to interact with the world around them in a new way and play-act the roles they will fulfil later in life. They explore creativity and social interactions, both with others and while they are alone, acting out various scenarios from their vantage point and also from the vantage point of others. For example, with small children they generally only feel primary emotions and are quite egocentric. It’s not until the child becomes older that they realise that others feel emotions too. This
wonderful ability is explored and developed through play alone, as no other outlet allows them the safe place to explore other’s perspectives. Through play, emotions and ideas are expressed freely and in this way children grow confident in expressing themselves, as scenarios and their possible outcomes are examined. If children are playing in groups they can learn to read social cues, something I mimic in my book series, as healthy social development is something that should be fundamental in all children. They learn negotiation skills by putting ideas across to others and if rebuttled by the group, children learn quickly that life carries on. Traditional toys also carry many benefits, as children use their imaginations more freely. Plush toys carry huge comforting benefits. Oxytocin, a hormone linked with love and calming is released even from hugging a plush and that is not something that any tablet or smart phone can replicate. Character toys expand development in a new way, allowing children to explore imagination through pictures. This has been linked to greater intelligence and increased skill development, as learning to cultivate the pictures made in our minds allows us to use visual imagery as a skill later in life. Play in today’s society is commonly overlooked as a tool for developing children, however it could very well be our most powerful aid..
"Through play emotions and ideas are expressed freely." Nikki Collins iis the creator of Max Mindpower, a unique plush toy and book series, designed to help children develop their emotional intelligence through mindfullness.
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Slime and nourishment: How slime is flooding the toy aisles By Jessica Coy
Starting in 2017, the slime trend has turned into a global craze and the demand among children (as well as adults) really has exploded. This gooey trend has taken the internet by storm with over 5 million #slime posts on Instagram and endless numbers of videos on YouTube with reviewers making their own Slime. In fact, 'How to make slime?' was actually the most popular query Googled throughout 2017 in the UK. It is therefore evident that slime really has captured kids’ imaginations, the fact that they are experimenting and mixing together different textures, colours and even glitter is almost like a creative project that kids can really get excited about. The demand for slime products has resulted in it becoming a toy category in itself, and it is just a matter of time before everyone takes advantage of this growing trend. However, many DIY slimes use household products such as borax and glue, which have had an abundance of negative press in regards to the safety of the ingredients. Not only are Gelli Baff and Slime Baff 100 per cent safe (no borax or glue in sight), they have over 3.5 billion views on YouTube from independent reviewers
all over the world in just over two years. It's a trend that none could have predicted. Slime was the talk of the London Toy Fair this year and I will admit, we loved it. Zimpli Kids hit the ‘must see’ feature of BBC News talking about the gooey trend that children are going crazy for and the fact that we just can’t keep slime on the shelves is fantastic. Our most popular products; Gelli Baff and Slime Baff are always a huge hit at Toy Fair, but this year the demand was even greater. The toy market is certainly making the most of the slime trend, but our products stand out among them. We are proud to say our products are 100 per cent safe, stain free, non toxic and environmentally friendly. The slime trend has also pushed our YouTube campaign to new heights. The exposure that Zimpli Kids has received from our YouTube campaign is mind blowing, with 3.5bn views from independent reviewers worldwide in just over two years. YouTube has allowed us to build brand awareness worldwide, with YouTubers from the UK, US, Australia, Europe and Asia sharing products on their channels, creating demand for our products throughout the world. Due to the huge success of our slime products, Zimpli Kids is extending the range for 2018 with brand new colours, Glitter Slime and even a Unicorn Slime. I think it’s fair to say we have all truly been slimed.
"Starting in 2017, slime has become a toy category in itself." Jessica Coy is head of marketing at Zimpli Kids, the top manufacturer of all good slime-based products.
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Teching it to the frontline: How new tech is helping in the counterfeit crackdown By Louis-James Davis
It has become something of a festive tradition in recent years for councils and central government to warn us all of the dangers of online retailers selling toys at prices that seem too good to be true, and this Christmas was no exception. This year, parents desperate to get their children Fingerlings or Hatchimals – the latest must-have gifts – were warned by local authorities to be wary of turning to suspect online sellers to get hold of toys that are out of stock elsewhere, as they may not be as advertised. But the fight against counterfeit toys wasn’t limited to warnings to consumers. Councils across the UK took action, seizing thousands of fake toys and other goods entering the country in the run-up to the festive period. Thurrock council’s Trading Standards team, for example, seized 86 per cent of all products tested – a total of 88,000 items, many of which were toys – and all arrived at ports between July and September. Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards, meanwhile, confiscated 2,581 fake Fingerlings toys imported from China through Heathrow Airport, as they lacked the paper work verifying they met the required safety standards.
As good as the crackdown seems, the disclosure of supply chain info is patchy across the toy sector and traceability is constrained by technological limitations. However, there are solutions available now that can help resolve the issue of incomplete supply chain information and improve traceability throughout a toy’s journey from manufacturer to consumer. The cutting-edge scannable authentication technology can be used to verify whether a product is genuine or not. Printed on the underside of a toy, it can be scanned by Trading Standards teams or retailers using a mobile phone to reveal key information including provenance, whether it has been certified as meeting safety standards and even whether import duty has been paid. Using such tools, lawful manufacturers can go a long way towards helping councils and retailers sort genuine products from the fake ones, and remove dangerous counterfeit toys from the supply chain before they reach consumers. This information can also play a role in tracing rogue manufacturers and vendors so they can be shut down, helping to minimise the risk of the problem re-occurring well into the future. Unless manufacturers and authorities take action now, the cycle will only continue. It is time for manufacturers and authorities to take advantage of innovations in tech to tackle this issue now.
"It is time for manufacturers to tackle this issue now." Louis-James Davis is the CEO and founder of VST Enterprises, a firm dedicated to exploring the solutions that can help protect consumers from purchasing counterfeit toys..
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Forward thinking: How Zuru is bringing Industry 4.0 to the toy space By Nick Mowbray
Industry 4.0 is being marked as a saviour in manufacturing – a phrase referring to the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies, with smarter supply chains as well as increased data integration and connectivity. Companies are now able to utilise this information when understanding the correlation of variables in order to increase efficiency. While increased efficiency is something that will always be sought after, this need is also being pushed by increasing costs of resources in China: China’s labour costs have more than quadrupled since 2006, and demand for paper and cardboard is still outstripping supply into 2018, with prices on the rise annually. To combat these increasing pressures, Zuru Toys is pioneering Industry 4.0 in the toy industry. Zuru is centralised out of Shenzhen, owning over 180,000 square feet across two factories, and is currently in the process of finding a third. This is what sets Zuru apart from other toy companies who generally do not own their own factories, but sub-contract instead. For Zuru, this means that all data collected from the manufacturing processes can be used to put back
into the process to improve operations, reduce waste, reduce asset downtime and drive process optimisation. We have set our sights on being the largest, most efficient company in this industry and are investing significantly in automation and manufacturing optimisation. However, creating these smart factories takes time, and the toy industry moves very quickly, making it tough to drive manufacturing 4.0 in this space. All of Zuru’s machinery is designed internally, driving scale. With a team of over 100 automation engineers and newly opened software divisions in Italy and India, we are developing machinery now responsible for producing over 270,000 Bunch O Balloons, 3 million X-Shot darts and 100,000 X-Shot dart blasters per day. Zuru’s next frontier is to disrupt the die-cast car category. The company is aggressively entering this category and is building capacity to an impressive 50,000 Metal Machines cars per day, and 500,000 metres of track per month. The special molding machines, which create actual metal bases for the cars, hence the name, are helping to half the costs of production. Regular new styles are planned, each one being designed from scratch and produced internally. Industry 4.0 is a real driving force in keeping up with today’s consumer demand and one that could help the toy space speed to the next level, too.
"Industry 4.0 helps toys combat pressures in China ." Nick Mowbray is the co-founder, director and co-CEO of Zuru Toys, the firm that shot to fame with the success of its Bunch O
Balloons line and most recently, the Fidget Cube.
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IN THE SLIME LIGHT Having been appointed vice president of consumer products at Nickelodeon and Viacom as the studio is named number one for pre-school for another year, Mark Kingston can’t help but smile. Robert Hutchins talks PAW Patrol, Nella the Princess Knight and why the iconic green stuff is destined to be this year’s must have product for the pre-school specialist
f you’ve never sat opposite Nickelodeon’s VP of consumer products, Mark Kingston as he quietly asks you what you know about slime, have you ever really experienced London Toy Fair? It turns out that while we at ToyNews like to think we are clued up on the latest trends, and slime is certainly one of them, Kingston is a font of knowledge on the topic in which we are happy to bask. But of course, he would be. Nickelodeon has, after all, been synonymous with slime for the last 30 years. It’s a concept that has adorned the Nickelodeon logo in some form for the most part of a generation and the Nickelodeon channel is not shy of the odd A-list celebrity getting an on-air sliming. “We can certainly stake a claim to having invented the slime genre all that time ago,” says Kingston, supping from a bottle we assume contains water, yet could have equally been a fresh brew of the green stuff itself. Recently appointed to the role of vice president of consumer products at Nickelodeon and Viacom, heading up licensing for all international markets outside of the US, Kingston really is the only man for the job; living, breathing and exuding the kind of energy and excitement Nickelodeon is so well known for. And when he began to notice the trend for the oozy compound picking up in the toy space, it wasn’t long before he and the consumer products team around him realised the huge potential for the studio within it. From there, it wasn’t a long journey to reach the conclusion that the only firm up to the job was the long-term product partner, Sambro. “Sambro is a key partner of ours and has worked across multiple categories with us,” says Kingston. “So
we really wanted them to come on board and develop not just Slime compounds – which they have done exceptionally well – but to really encapsulate the essence of Nickelodeon Slime in products.” Unsurprisingly, Sambro said yes and used London’s Toy Fair as the opportunity to showcase the first line of products, including Slime Guns and a raft of Slimethemed games. “We have had unanimous response to this new line,” explains Kingston. “Sambro has had a great London Toy Fair and this is a very good retail pick up, so we are very excited about this.”
PAW Patrol has been a phenomenal success for us, and as we move in to its fifth year, it is truly becoming an evergreen Mark Kingston, Nickelodeon Having worked extensively on a style guide for the iconic Nickelodeon Slime, both the studio and Sambro are looking to expand the franchise into new categories, as well as search new partners to bring the brand into clothing and accessories. Slime, however, is but one string to the Nickelodeon bow. Currently, the firm is sitting rather pretty, seemingly dominating the pre-school space with the likes of PAW Patrol, Shimmer and Shine and the newly launched Nella the Princess Knight. March 2018 | toy news | 13
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Big interview “Pre-school is on fire for us,” said Kingston. “Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. in particular, have become the owners of pre-school and when we look at our brand positioning at the moment, we dominate that space. “PAW Patrol has been a phenomenal success for us, and as we move in to the fifth year of the franchise, it is truly becoming an evergreen property for us and our partners. Spin Master has done an incredible job as co-production partner in making sure each episode weaves into different themes that then carry through into their toy range.” Now the number one pre-school property in the UK for the second year running, the demand for PAW Patrol doesn’t appear to be easing up. In fact, the company was all but forced to launch a new live PAW Patrol show last year, Pirate Adventure, supplementing Race to the Rescue and the surge in demand for more PAW Patrol, more of the time. “Location based experiences are big business for us in terms of our theme parks and PAW Patrol Live Race to the Rescue,” continues Kingston. “In fact, that show has been a sell out in every single market it has been in. We now have a second PAW Patrol live show, Pirate Adventure. It’s just
launched in the US, so we have two live shows on at the moment globally. “There was too much demand for just one show to fill,” he adds. “Add to this the great new themes coming through with Ultimate Rescue at the end of the year, we see 2018 being another solid year of success for PAW Patrol.
"Pre-school is incredibly competitive - one of the most in the toy and games industry." Mark Kingston, Nickelodeon “At the same time, we are seeing really positive trends coming through for Shimmer and Shine as we start now to capitalise on the great ratings we had last year and see sell through at retail. Retailers are getting really excited about it, just as much as they are about Nella the Princess Knight.” With a product line led by Vivid, Nella the Princess Knight represents somewhat of a step into new territory for Nickelodeon, working with an international-led master toy licensing partner. However, it is
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a gamble that has certainly paid off for the studio who has already witnessed ‘unanimous positive reception across trade both in the UK and globally,’ to the range. “The work Vivid has done on Nella the Princess Knight has been phenomenal. The company has really got under the DNA of Nella and the toy line is a range that really encompasses the role play and transformation of Nella into a Knight.” From a pre-school perspective, Nickelodeon appears to have it sewn up. The firm boasts a confidence that comes with its top ranking position in the space, and, with two new launches in Top Wing and Sunny Day (hitting screens in May this year and 2019, respectively), is certain of maintaining that strength in the years to come. “Pre-school is incredibly competitive- one of the most in the toy industry,” continues Kingston. “But as long as you are staying true to the essence of what the show is and doing the literal translation for those products, you are going to stay ahead of the competition. We are proud of our position as number one in the pre-school space, but we have to work hard to maintain that position.”
"Audiences are consuming more content than they have ever consumed." Mark Kingston, Nickelodeon For Kingston and the team, part of that hard work is keeping ahead of the latest trends among its biggest consumer base: kids. It’s with its keen eye for what children and tweens are engaging with today that Nickelodeon was able to secure the JoJo Siwa brand and bring it under the Nickelodeon banner. Having began her career as a YouTube star, JoJo Siwa has since become the highly recognisable face of a number of Nickelodeon shows, including her own 30 min' show, JoJo My World and a role in the upcoming Nickelodeon movie, Blurt. On top of that, you may have noticed the emergence of the JoJo Siwa name across multiple new products in the toy space, too. “JoJo Siwa has not only gone from strength to strength here in the UK, but it
shows the flexibility of how Nickelodeon is prepared to work in a changing media landscape,” says Kingston. Seamlessly, Nickelodeon has managed to weave the JoJo Siwa brand into traditional linear TV while staying true to the emphasis on social media, where she rose to fame and from which her fan base grew. “It’s a tricky dynamic for everyone to be working through the ever-evolving media consumption. Audiences are consuming more content than they have ever consumed in the history of mankind, and really, TV has never had a better time than now. “Meanwhile from a licensing perspective, JoJo has been a runaway success. We are delighted with both partners coming on board to take that risk with us, but also retailers supporting it as well. We see JoJo having a phenomenal year in 2018 and we are already working with her and her management team on the next iteration of JoJo and what it means for 2019 and beyond.” So armed with a slate of new TV series, new partners on board and a new passion for the slimey stuff, it is with some confidence that both Kingston and Nickelodeon stride into 2018 and beyond.
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2/22/2018 11:20:33 AM
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TOTALLY TUBULAR With its complete creative freedom and free accessibility, YouTube is quickly overtaking TV and other streaming platforms to become youngsters' primary source of video entertainment. But with new controversies springing up every week, kids' brands are understandably cautious when it comes to exploiting this lucrative platform. Here, Jack Ridsdale takes a deep dive into the world of YouTube creators to find out how brands can avoid their reputation going down the tubes
n January, parents who have lived blissfully ignorant of the world of YouTube creators were forced to confront a muscle-bound meathead named Logan. Unfortunately we’re not talking about the Marvel superhero, but Logan Paul, a YouTube vlogger that boasts some 16.7 million subscribers, the majority of whom fall neatly into the lucrative ‘pre-teen’ market. Paul’s daily vlogs most frequently involve goofing around with his entourage of obnoxious fratboy friends, content that is ostensibly without artistic value and serves primarily to promote his various merchandise lines, a practice that is shared by his brother Jake. To the world outside of YouTube’s youthful bubble, the Paul brothers' antics flew under the radar until when in January, barely 24 hours into a bright new year, the viral personality made international headlines by posting a video in which the subject of his trademark tomfoolery was the corpse of a real-life suicide victim.
Despite the scorn from critics far and wide, the pair still boast an obscene online following of youngsters, with a combined audience of almost 30 million subscribers. And for the unaware, Logan’s equally controversial brother Jake was on hand at NY Toy Fair to promote his merch lines.
"When it comes to business, the best course is to remain authentic to the content we create." Dan and Phil Logan is not the first high-profile YouTuber to court controversy by any means. Last year Disney dropped Felix ‘PewDiePie’ Kjellburg for making several videos with anti-Semitic jokes, and later dropping a racial slur on a live stream. March 2018 | toy news | 17
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Meanwhile an entirely different kind of controversy was spreading rapidly through the platform, in the form of auto-generated content. The odd practise was busted open by an in-depth Medium article by US tech and culture critic James Bridle, who took a deep dive into the esoteric world of crudely animated ‘auto generated’ content. The videos he found mostly drifted between amusingly bizarre and sinister, with the more objectionable videos depicting genuinely disturbing images of family-friendly characters engaging in or being the subject of grisly acts of violence. The cacophony of controversies came to a head in 2016, with what some creators have dubbed the ‘adpocalypse’, a mass exodus of prominent advertisers from the platform, creators in disarray. Seeing the need for stricter management of the kind of content cropping up on YouTube, various agencies like ViralTalent have emerged to help parents and content creators work with YouTube in a positive way. “Recently, Google tightened their policies to tackle content featuring minors and content creators which were violating their terms,” explains Laura Edwards, CEO. “We take child safety seriously and it is a relief that Google has implemented new policies to protect minors.”
“Recently Google tightened their policies to tackle content featuring minors and content creators which were violating their terms of service.” Laura Edwards, CEO, ViralTalent
Despite this, kid YouTubers who specialise in unboxings and vlogs are an undeniable market force when it comes to the toy space and nowhere was this more apparent than at this year’s Toy Fair. Everyone’s favourite ‘Kidfluencer’ Tiana was on hand at both the London and New York toy fairs, showcasing her new toy line with Vivid. “It was great for us to work with someone who is of the same age as our audience and is genuinely excited and enthusiastic about the products that we’re making,” explains Tom Bennie, senior brand manager at Vivid. The toy line takes the appeal of unboxing channels and distils it into toy form with a line of collectable dolls and accessories. “The partnership came about from an idea that our products development team had in-house, to build a product range around the millions of kids that are totally obsessed with these unboxing channels,” Bennie continues. “With Tiana being this young, popular, British YouTuber, who has one of the biggest followings in the space, we felt partnering with her would really set us apart from other toy companies that might have had the same idea. We reached out to her agents and they were very on-board with the idea.”
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"With a built-in audience of millions who Tiana can reach directly and on a daily basis its easy to see why toy brands are eager to strike a partnership with creators." Tom Bennie, Senior Brand Manager, Vivid With a built-in audience of millions who Tiana can reach directly and on a daily basis its easy to see why toy brands are eager to strike a partnership with creators. With all factors taken into consideration its actually a surprise that more toy brands haven’t taken the initiative to strike up direct partnerships with creators, and no doubt the issues surrounding regulation of content and negative public image are no small part of that hesitation. “Here at Viral Talent we work closely with the brand. Once we have discussed the product that the brand wishes to promote, we know immediately which Kidfluencer will complement the brands’ products,” elaborates Viral Talents' Edwards. “If the child does not connect with the product then this will be reflected in the
content created and not make for good viewing or engagement. "We make sure we recommend the right talent that could potentially become brand ambassadors, and this could be just one tier one Kidfluencer or a few of our Micro-influencers.” One firm that made use of influencers throughout various campaigns is WowWee, who detailed the importance of being thorough when finding influencers to represent the brand. “Over the last few years, it has become a tougher job due to the sheer numbers of social media users looking to break into the influencer scene. From a brand perspective, the comms team is very thorough,” comments Tiffany Kayar, communications manager at WowWee.
“We have teams members dedicated to looking through all of the up and coming video bloggers, seeing who would be a good fit, who has the tone we are looking for. It is a manual job. There are algorithms that people suggest and equations that look at the number of views and subscribers, but really you have to get stuck in and get to know each and every one of these guys to be able to assess who would represent the brand in the best way.” With a reputation for youthful, irreverent games with uniquely quirky twists, it was no surprise that one of the first board game firms to dive into the world of YouTubers was Shoreditch-based Big Potato. With a multi-year legacy on the platform and a fanbase that has been faithful to the pair since their teenage days, Dan and Phil had built up a reputable brand that the company felt very comfortable to align themselves with. Co-founder of the firm, Trist Hyatt-Williams explains that their partnership was born out of a mutual admiration and appreciation for each other. “Dan and Phil very kindly played some of our games on their YouTube channel and seemed to have a good time, so they approached us when they had the idea of inventing their own game,” enthused Hyatt-Williams. “We were a bit starstruck when they walked through our Potato Cave door. And they’re tall. Giants of men!” “The pair brought a lot to table when developing their first board game, Truth Bombs,” continues Hyatt-Williams, “We took Phil’s party game concept he used to play with his pals, hammered away at it for a while and out popped Truth Bombs.” From a marketing perspective, Dan & Phil’s audience of tweens, teens and young adults also provided a boon to the indie games house. “We’re still quite a small games company so we can’t splash out millions on expensive advertising. When Dan and Phil walked through the door they brought six million followers with them.” Dan Howell and Phil Lester, share the Big Potato team’s enthusiasm for the product. Speaking to us via email, the pair expressed their passion for creating original and inspired consumer products. “Living and working in the online, digital space, it has been refreshing to be able to launch a game that people can play around a table with their friends and family. It’s
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YouTube good to know that even in the age of the internet, people still love a traditional tabletop gaming session.” “The game concept is 100 per cent from Phil, and it’s based on a game he’d invented years ago to play as an icebreaker when friends come around,” adds Dan Howell. “Big Potato helped finesse gameplay elements and also with the styling of the game packaging. They were a wonderfully co-operative team to work with and really understood what we were trying to achieve with the game.” "When it comes to business, the best course is to remain authentic to the content we create," the pair added. "Our audience is smart and they would know immediately if we were doing or promoting something that our hearts weren't into." As you may have gathered from the range of responses, the rapid explosion of the YouTube platform has left best practices up to guesswork. In many ways YouTube is still in its infancy and some teething
“We’re still quite a small games company so we can’t splash out millions on expensive advertising. When Dan and Phil walked in, they brought six million fans with them." Trisy Hyatt-Williams,
Co-founder, Big Potato
problems are to be expected when brands begin utilizing the platform in major ways. Whether partnering with a content creator for products or just collaborating with them for marketing materials, its imperative for brands to be diligent in finding creators that fit their brand, and remain untarnished by scandal or exploitation. Organisations like Viral Talent go some way to protect the interest of brands, however many feel that the onus is now on Google to take a bigger hand in regulating its content to create a safe environment for kids. “We meet the parents and their children and we discuss a strategy with them to help them build their social media journey in a child safe way,” adds Viral Talent’s Edwards. “We ensure they are aware of YouTube's community guidelines and we stress how important it is to create ‘safe content’ to protect viewers, uploaders and of course, children. “We also make it clear to content creators that if the guidelines are not respected and adhered to that they realise the consequences which could lead to demonetisation of their channels or their channel being taken down by YouTube.” Edwards also points out that disclosure of paid promotions in kid’s content can also land less diligent firms in hot water.
“It’s important for us to build a strong relationship with the brands and we educate them on how to work with Viral Talent’s content creators in the most effective way to maximise the brands ROI and meet their strategic objectives,” details Edwards. “Once the content is produced it must conform with Google Ad Policies of which we are responsible to comply with and disclose to viewers that it is ‘Paid Promotion’, when this is the case. “Once we have found the right influencer for us, it is a case of maintaining that relationship to make sure the message is always the right one,” concludes WowWee’s Tiffany Kayar. “Of course, we don’t want to stifle someone’s personality or creativity, because that is what draws in the views, but ultimately when the brand’s reputation is in someone else’s hands to a certain extent, you have to be very, very thorough.” While certain controversies have scared brands away, it's reasonable to picture a future in which YouTube and toys can form a powerful symbiotic relationship that serves both brands and creators, without either one’s reputation going down the tubes. Tiana and Viral Talent's roster of creators are powerful examples of this symbiosis, giving the industry and idea of how the platform could be utilised to great effect. March 2018 | toy news | 21
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ATTAINABLE? With conversation around the issues of plastics and plastic waste growing in importance in the public eye, Robert Hutchins kicks off a new ToyNews campaign to look at the concept of sustainability in the toy industry
lain De Rauw is lamenting that at a New York Toy Fair housing over 1000 exhibitors, he hasn’t any competitors in the busy toy marketplace. To those who don’t know the director of Plan Toys, that could most certainly be construed as an almighty humble-brag. But before we bring out the tiny violins, there’s a sincerity in the Belgian toy magnate’s tone that paints a very different picture. De Rauw, after all, heads up the only known toy company to be what he calls ‘truly sustainable,’ a message his firm has been pushing for the last 25 years, long before the conversation around plastics picked up such attention from media outlets the world over. Recent weeks have seen the topic of plastics and plastic waste become the subject of fiery discussions across a multitude of industries, brought to light by the release of some staggering figures surrounding the issue. The conversation itself has been spurred by China’s recent refusal to accept any more foreign waste for recycling, forcing the UK to face up to its own plastic waste output. And that is no small issue by any measure. According to the HMRC, the UK exported 800,000 tonnes of plastic waste for
recycling to nations like China in 2014 alone, while it was left with 1,244,774 tonnes of packaging sent either to landfill or incineration in 2016. Earlier this year, Theresa May called out the UK’s plastic waste problem, labelling it as ‘one of the great environmental scourges of our time,’ adding that ‘in the UK alone, the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year would fill 1000 Royal Albert Halls.’
"In the UK alone, the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year would fill 1000 Royal Albert Halls." Theresa May, PM Yes, the statement may be dripping with the casual privileged nuances only to be expected, but the sentiment is not lost, supporting May’s long-term strategy to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042. While according to the BTHA, toy and hobby packaging equates to only 0.7 per cent of all retail packaging and 0.4 per cent of all packaging, with approximately 90 per cent of it being recyclable, the topic of sustainability March 2018 | toy news | 23
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continues to pick up recognition within the industry. Not only are questions now starting to be asked of how May’s 25-year plan to eliminate plastic waste will impact upon the market’s packaging strategy moving forward, but also how the toy space can continue to push the message of sustainability within its product output. It’s the reason why, sat with De Rauw in a New York exhibition hall and sipping from a recycled coffee cup, the director’s appeal for more competition in the space in which he operates is less of a brag and more of a heartfelt plea. “We hate waste,” says De Rauw. “It was the vision of the founder to one day end waste and a message that we continue to push to this day.” Each product in the Plan Toys portfolio is produced from this recycled wood, sourced from the rubber tree plantations of Thailand and brought into the factory by the truckload where it is heated and dried. Even the left over sawdust is mixed with a small dose of organic pigment or a less than one per cent of naturally occurring glue, meaning it can mould and colour its wood without the use of chemicals. “It’s time consuming and expensive, yes, but we don’t care because we are simply making the best products with the best results for the environment,” says De Rauw. Not only is Plan Toys the only toy company to be utilising the leftover material
from Thailand’s rubber tree plantations, it is also the only one to be producing its own energy to power its factory, using any leftover wood as pellets of energy. De Rauw continues: “This is why we really are not joking when we talk about just how seriously we take sustainability. We really have everything in place and when we say we are the most beautiful company in the world, this is what we mean. The big-
"It was the vision of the founder to one day end waste and a message that we continue to push to this day." Alain De Rauw, Plan Toys
gest issue we have is bringing the consumer around to the same way of thinking.” There is no getting away from the fact that the toy industry is one that must follow where consumer habits lead. It has, after all, been buoyed through arguably one of its toughest years in recent history by the surge in demand for categories such as collectables. So while every intention may be good, the power is in public hands. “Sustainability is a big issue for us,” Dr Wendy Hamilton, owner of the independent UK toy retailer, Grasshopper Toys tells ToyNews. “We are acutely aware that we are providing toys and learning experiences to young children who face an increasingly polluted world, and it’s a reality that doesn’t sit easy with us.” Last year, the collectables market grew 7.5 per cent, helping to buoy the overall UK toy market that totalled £3.4 billion in sales through 2017. While many of today’s collectable toys look to tap into the fandom that will not view them simply as throwaway items, LEGO being a prime example (and one that has made publicly concerted efforts to encourage a sustainable model within the toy industry), it is to Hamilton’s chagrin that this isn’t always the case. “We try to select suppliers who do not plastic wrap their products but wrap in cardboard, fabrics or have as little packaging as possible,” she continues. “We face the headache of overly plastic and
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packaged collectable toys with frustration; on the one hand as a business we need to supply what our customers want, on the other, we hate that this stuff is produced in the first place. “The only solution is for us to stock the minimum lines of these ranges that we can get away with and focus our business on the more durable, longer lasting toys.” Yet, while the majority of last year’s sales was made up by the likes of collectables, are we on the cusp of seeing a shift in the consumer mind set? One spokesperson from Green Toys certainly seems to think so, reporting continued growth for the US toy firm that promotes sustainability through the US production of toys and play-sets made from recycled plastic milk bottles. “We have seen growth over the last three years, which is really encouraging, not just for us but for what this means for the general trend among consumers,” she tells ToyNews. “We really feel that families are starting to see the importance of sustainable toys, and they are beginning to want to spend a bit more on a product that boasts not only real quality and longevity, but ethical and environmental messaging, too.” Testament to this is that Green Toys – distributed in the UK through Jumbo Games – has recently signed with Sesame Workshop to bring the first fully licensed Sesame Street products into the Green
"We try to select suppliers who do not plastic wrap their products but wrap in cardboard, fabrics or have as little packaging as possible." Dr Wendy Hamilton, Owner of Grasshopper Toys
Toys fold. In a US market that places a lot of emphasis on its licenses, this is a major coup for the toy firm. “It’s amazing to have Sesame on board with us and have them behind the ethos of Green Toys and sustainability. They love what we are doing in the industry and we are hoping that this is the first of many major children’s entertainment licensors.”
With this in mind, are we likely to see Green Toys begin to line the shelves of retailers such as Target in the US, or Plan Toys products accommodated among the aisles of B&M? Probably not any time soon, is the consensus from both. Thankfully, until the day consumer demand makes that ultimate shift towards sustainability in the toys they demand, we have bodies such as the BTHA. “The BTHA takes the impact of plastic on the environment very seriously,” says Natasha Crookes, director of public affairs and communications. “When coming into membership, companies must sign a Code of Practice which requires members to use their best endeavours to minimise any negative environmental impact of conducting business, including all aspects of product and packaging design, production and distribution. “Safety of children is our top priority. Not all recycled materials can be used for toy packaging as they don’t meet the toy safety legislation, however efforts have been made to adopt other solutions. “Here at the BTHA, our members endeavour to limit the use of plastic in packaging and will continue to do so.” While the discussion is still in its infancy, the march towards environmental sustainability is destined to be a global effort in the advance of a cleaner future for the generations to come. March 2018 | toy news |25
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ENGLISHMAN IN NEW YORK Despite drinking coffee over tea and not knowing what toast ‘done on one side’ really means, Robert Hutchins brought that quintessentially British repression to the New York Toy Fair, and here’s what he discovered
t was on the fourth floor of a five-storey night club crammed with toy industry folk from all corners of the globe that the magnitude of the New York International Toy Fair really hit home. Hired out as the venue for the now famed annual Spin Master party, Stage 48 on 605 West 48th Street could quite possibly stake a claim as one of the kookiest, whackiest and ultimately busiest venues in New York, particularly for a Sunday night. When the US throws an international toy fair, they really do go all out, and if it isn’t a flash mob of Tyrannosaurus Rex performing a well-rehearsed, yet equally amateur dance routine in the lobby of New York’s Javits Centre, it’s jugglers, jazz bands…jalepenos in omelettes; it’s razzle, dazzle and exchanging anecdotes with the inventor of the Furby in a penthouse bar at 2am. But it’s all this and more, because ultimately New York’s International Toy Fair is all about an unending passion for the business of toys. Then again, what more can you come to expect from an industry tipped by The NPD Group to be worth in excess of $26bn. The US is the number one toy market in the world, and boy, is it proud of it. But while the typical American enthusiasm for almost anything rages
through the halls of the 440,000 square ft exhibition space that is the Javits Centre, scratch away at the surface and you will soon discover that the US toy market has carried its fair share of strife, too. Like the UK, the US market was faced with a number of headwinds that while at the start of the year 2017, the NPD Group predicted 4.5 per cent growth for toys, reality fell short. “It was a good year for the US toy industry, given the headwinds we saw through the year,” says Steve Pasierb, president of the Toy Association.
"As an industry, we are focused on how do we make sure Toys R Us can continue, it's our eco-system." Steve Pasierb, Toy Association “NPD predicted that the US toy industry would grow about 4.5 per cent this year, but we also knew that this was just an estimate and no one could have predicted some of the changes going on in the retail sector.” The elephant in the room is the continued strife that Toys R Us finds itself in, and while far from being the only contributing factor to a slower year in March 2018 | toy news | 27
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the US toy market, its effect on an industry that saw just one per cent growth over 2017 is the root of frustration for many within it. It was a daring yet provoking discussion board situated near the front entrance of the toy fair that asked visitors the question: ‘Toys R Us: what happens next?’ The responses were far from complimentary, some unprintable. But it did its job in highlighting the thoughts of an industry faced with some turbulent waters. “The Toys R Us struggle is on everyone’s radar,” says Pasierb. “As an industry we are focused on how do we make sure Toys R Us can continue? A lot of the folks at the show are mid-sized companies and TRU was their chance to make the next big leap in growing their company, so it is a really important part of our eco-system. “We know from the work we do that they are doing everything they can do to get out of the debt load. Between now and the beginning of the fourth quarter will be the critical period for our members to support Toys R Us by shipping product.” In the US, the biggest issue for Toys R Us isn’t Toys R Us itself, but the baby business, Babies R Us. With increased competition in the space from the likes of Bye Bye Baby and Amazon, the infant arm of the retailer has suffered slower sales, supplemented each year by the pick up of Toys R Us around the holiday period.
“Without that, and as we saw this last year, the company slows down,” says Pasierb. But it isn’t all doom and gloom, far from it. Retailer FAO Schwartz has recently detailed its plans for expansion across Asia as the Chinese market continues to pick up pace as the next growth market for the toy industry, and let’s not forget that the US toy market still saw year on year growth, despite its hardships. “It’s another successive year of growth here in the US and we think we are heading in the right direction. Some of the lessons we have learnt is that licensing is not as easy as getting the license in and knowing it's going to sell,” continues Pasierb. “Weakness in the US movie industry over the summer box office season obviously affects the licensing industry more broadly, and given the shifts that happen in any given year, we think that we soldiered through 2017 in really good shape and we are really well poised for 2018.” Where licenses may fail, other trends begin to emerge, and one in particular that appears to be on the rise as you stroll the aisles of the New York showcase it simply poo. No really, they love it. Bent over a table sniffing a plastic dog’s behind, I have never felt quite so vulnerable. The dog in question was the protagonist of a new launch in the growing ‘gross
gaming’ sector, called Pass Gas. The idea being that a capsule is placed in the dog’s backside, its tail pushed a number of times and in a game play more akin to Russian Roulette, the gas is released on the player unlucky enough to be sniffing when it clicks. And of course, it just so happened to be my turn. If it isn’t dogs farting, its manufacturers encouraging you to pick up poo in a game aptly named ‘Pick up Poo’, that seemed to have no other end result than observing players sheepishly handle plastic, yet extremely life like mounds of faeces. However, by all reports from the show, ‘gross gaming,’ is certainly in demand among US consumers right now, and, as the industry continues to battle outside pressures, such as rising manufacturing costs in China and a dip in interest in recent licenses, it certainly makes sense that this is a market driven by what seems to be selling. “For the show, once again, we are sold out,” continues Pasierb. “We are using every square inch of the 440,000 square foot space and have sold to over 1000 exhibitors. Last year, this was a $27billion toy market. That will very soon be eclipsed by China as growth over there continues, but this is a very innovative market with breakthrough products in spaces such as AR, and we are looking at a wonderful future here in the US toy market,” he concludes.
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COLLECT ABILITY Sangita Sivanesan As collectables continue to dominate the charts, Generation Media’s Sangita Sivanesan examines how pocket money brands are utilising TV Source London 2018 Toy Fair NPD Group update/ BARB February 2018
n the ever-changing landscape that is the toy industry, a trend that has continued to see growth over the past few years is the domination of collectables. The NPD Group update at the London 2018 Toy Fair revealed that 2017 saw a 17 per cent uplift in sales from within the category – whereas total toy sales in the UK were down for the year by 2.8 per cent. Another good year for collectables, even more impressive considering that the category recorded a 44 per cent increase in the previous year. From a TV advertising perspective, the space only continues to be more saturated. In 2017, there were a total of 844 toy campaigns that were commercially advertised across 17 commercial kids' channels; a 3 per cent YoY increase. These channels, however, recorded an average YoY decline in CH four to 15 Eq. impacts of 17 per cent in 2017. This decline in viewing combined with the increased number of TV advertised brands within toys and games makes for a very dense arena. Collectables, however, benefit from the flexibility of not having to compete as aggressively with other toy brands through key periods. The pre-Christmas shopping months of October and November are pivotal for most advertisers resulting in a competitive time of year. 2017 saw 511 toy brands fighting for share of voice through this period to optimise sales through the season – a time that collectables can avoid.
The flexibility that the collectables category enjoys stems from its non-seasonal nature. The average pricepoint of brands within the category is comparatively low, promoting a year-round appeal - collectables aren’t the usual ‘main gifts’ to children for birthdays or Christmas. This offers an opportunity for the category to avoid the cluttered times of the year, allowing them to achieve greater reach and SOV when airtime is more cost effective. In 2017, there were 81 collectable campaigns commercially advertised – leading the category was Pokémon Trading Cards recording an impressive 3,207 Eq. TVRS for boys aged four to nine. Looking to the new year, we believe that there will be an increase in the number of collectable brands in the market. Comparing the first two weeks of January 2017 versus 2018 alone, the number of collectables campaigns on air has already increased by 27 per cent. Despite market pressures and the lack of clarity on the effects that Brexit will have on the industry, we predict that sales of collectables will continue to grow in 2018 – mainly due to the relatively low retail price point within the category. Not forgetting of course, that with it being a World Cup year, we can be sure to expect Panini to release their Road to World Cup trading cards that have track record of selling like hot cakes as football frenzy takes hold.
ToyNews PlayTime is provided by Generation Media 0207 307 7900 | www.generationmedia.co.uk
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Campaign of the month
FORMULA 1 STAR SPEEDS INTO HOT WHEELS
Hot Wheels has partnered with Formula 1 champ, Nico Rosberg for their Challenge Accepted program that promises to bring the challenger spirit to youngsters everywhere
t some point many youngsters will dream of hurtling down a race track, feeling the adrenaline of the acceleration and the glory of lifting the championship trophy. Now, Mattel’s evergreen brand Hot Wheels is ramping up its ‘Challenge Accepted’ campaign, enlisting the help of Formula 1's Nico Rosberg, with the goal of igniting and nurturing the challenger spirit. Rosberg will act as a Hot Wheels global brand ambassador in 2018/19 and will bring to life the challenger spirit through a combination of video that will demonstrate competition, experimentation and creativity, inspiring and igniting endless
possibilities with Hot Wheels. Nico will demonstrate his own challenger spirit and encourage boys to share theirs too. Rosberg will hit the road in May with a series of programme launches which will feature challenges brought to life through a content series that invites advocates to join in along with a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the racing star. The campaign will continue building up momentum throughout the year, supported by extensive marketing and PR. Hot Wheels' latest campaign encourages boys to experiment with the exhilarating world of Hot Wheels, where each track piece connects to unlock a new way to play.
The 2018 product ranges offer enhanced track play experiences including expansion of the Track Builder range with Stunt Boxes that allow for lots of stunt opportunities and is the ideal kit to start your collection. 2018 also sees the re-launch of Hot Wheels City which extends imaginative play for younger fans with animal themes and diecast colour-changing elements. In addition, Hot Wheels will launch special edition Zamac Flames and Black and Gold 50th Anniversary cars to commemorate this historic year. With the weight of Mattel’s marketing power behind it, Hot Wheels looks set to heat up the vehicle toy space in 2018. March 2018 | toy news | 31
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THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Increased screen time is having a knock-on affect across the globe and increasingly, parents are becoming concerned about the lack of physical activity among their children. Euromonitorâ€™s Matthew Hudak explains why theses parents are turning to toys to get kids moving more.
any parents around the world have become very concerned with how little physical activity their children are getting nowadays. In many developing countries, those like China and Mexico, this has in part been a result of a shift from rural to urban lifestyles, while in developed countries, a decline in sports participation has been a key driver of parental concern over how much exercise their children are getting. Most importantly, in most countries, there has been alarming growth in the number of obese or overweight children, causing many parents to fear for the longterm health of their children. Parents have turned to toys to get their children to exercise more.
Letâ€™s get physical Sales of physical development toys have been a growth category in most developed markets, although there were some declines following the onset of the global recession. Much of this growth has been due to outdoor and sports toys, as sales of ride-on vehicles have been flat or declining ever so slightly in most developed markets. Outdoor and sports toys managed to record strong retail sales growth in 2014, increasing by four per cent globally in US dollar fixed exchange rates. This high growth rate made it one of the faster-growing categories in traditional toy and games, and came after three years of mostly low or even negative sales growth for outdoor and sports toy products. Positive sales came from nearly all regions although the driving forces
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behind outdoor and sports toy sales were markedly different between emerging and developed markets. The vast majority of developed markets see much higher spending on outdoor and sports toys than on ride-on vehicles for physical development. Notable exceptions are Japan and South Korea. In many of these markets, the strong performance of outdoor and sports toys products is closely tied to concerns about declining sports participation and rising obesity levels. Higher incomes in these markets allow for sales of high priced toys, such as trampolines. In addition, Nerf has a sizeable presence in many of these markets, which has helped to grow overall outdoor and sports toys aisles. Compared with developed nations, developing countries are much more oriented to ride-on vehicle sales. This is due to lower spending on outdoor and sports toys, as outdoor and sports toys have a much bigger gap in spending between developed markets than other traditional toys and games. Heading outdoors Emerging markets are seeing strong growth in outdoor sports and toys for a variety of different reasons. Emerging markets that experienced large growth in their urban population, like China, which saw outdoor and sports toys grow by 22 per cent in US dollar fixed exchange rates in 2014, have seen a rise in parents who want to keep their children active. In other markets that have high import costs, like Argentina, where outdoor sports and toys grew by 29 per cent in US dollar fixed exchange rates, growth stems from the fact that most outdoor and sports toys are cheap enough to be made locally and thus avoid import duties. Finally, licensing has played a key role in emerging markets like India, which had strong growth in outdoor and sports toys due to licensing with Chhota Bheem, a popular license in the country. Physical toys are expected to see very different areas of growth in the forecast period between developed and emerging markets. Developed markets will see value growth derive from outdoor and sports toys, as these products have become essential to parents in developed markets for keeping their children active, especially with declining sports participation. Adults affect developed markets Developed markets also witnessed strong growth in outdoor and sports toys products, and the reason be-
hind the growth was largely the result of young adults and parents. Within the US, research studies announced by the Centers for Disease Control have shown that the percentage of children and adolescents who are obese more than doubled between 1980 and 2012, rising from seven per cent to 18 per cent. This has had a major effect on parents, who now wish for their children to be more physically active, something that outdoor and sports toys help to facilitate and which was a key driving force behind the category’s nine per cent growth in 2014 in the US. In addition, Nerf has been a major factor in numerous developed markets, like the US, UK, and France, in the sales of outdoor and sports toy sales, and the brand’s success has helped to guide sales within the category. The recent decline in sports participation in many
"Parents around the globe have become very concerned about the lack of physical activity their children are getting. They are now turning to toys."
Matt Hudak, Euromonitor
developed countries, has led some parents to purchase outdoor and sports toys, contributing to a gradual increase in sales. The category has been helped by the growth of Nerf products, with the brand seeing a significant increase in new product development by Hasbro. These developments include Nerf Rebelle, a new product aimed at girls, who have traditionally not been a significant target group for outdoor and sports toys. A positive outlook Outdoor and sports toys are expected to perform well globally from 2014 to 2019, growing by 15 per cent overall in US dollar constant value terms. Again, the growth will come from numerous regions, most notably Asia Pacific, North America and Western Europe, as both emerging and developed markets are expected to make significant gains in the category.
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 http://www.euromonitor.com/
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Toy Shop UK
THE BIG DEBATE
ALL'S FAIR IN TOYS AND GAMES
With Toy Fair season over for another year, Jack Ridsdale reaches out to the UKâ€™s indie retailers to find out how 2018â€™s offering measured up to previous years
oymakers around the world will be breathing a sigh of relief, as with the International Toy Fair in New York wrapped up, toy fair season is done and dusted for another year. No doubt 2017 was a big year for the industry, with innovations and unpredict-
able trends springing up in every corner of the space. New innovations in connected tech and collectable crazes defined the year, with the runaway successes of lines like Fingerlings and LOL Surprise. While it may seem like a lifetime ago, the spinner craze was also a defining moment, spinning
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Toy Shop UK
the nation’s youngsters into an undeniably lucrative fidget frenzy. Walking the halls of this year’s fairs revealed a world of creative ideas springing from the potential of 2017’s stellar year, but what stood out the most? We reached out to ToyShop UK’s listing of independent retailers to find out how this year’s oﬀering measured up to its predecessors. “2018 was absolutely the strongest toy fair season yet,” enthuses Whirligig Toys’ Peter Allinson, “Lots of creativity and innovation and some really interesting products. As we don’t do any licensed products in our shops, the latest film franchise is never interesting to us. However,
"At Little Citizens we are super impressed with innovations in material and storytelling." Alicia Peyrano, Little Citizens the smaller suppliers are really going out of their way and the make and do market has never been more interesting. Very excited for this year.” Certainly 2018’s toy fairs showed an unprecedented level of diversity with every company competing to top the next. In fact, there were so many exciting products that the year’s show saw a surge in bootleggers, forcing exhibitors to be extra vigilant in protecting their original work. “At Little Citizens we are super impressed with innovations in material and storytelling,” added Alicia Peyrano of County Downs toy shop Little Citizens. “We predict we’re entering a golden age of toys, so excited to be in this space at this moment in time.” At London Toy Fair, the BTHA honoured the most innovative and exciting products with Toy Fair Heroes awards.
Among the recipients were Hasbro’s Nerf N-strike Elite range, Character’s Soft ‘n Slow Squishies and meditation bear Max Mindpower. All of these products take existing concepts and introduce new twists, bringing something unique to the table. Stateside at NY Toy Fair, the Toy Association cast their eyes to the top trends of 2018, predicting that the excitement of the ‘big reveal’ of products will continue to a major driving force behind the year’s top products. With many new collectable lines looking to capitalise on this craze, there’s never been a better time for retailers to get in on the action. Millennial nostalgia and educational products are also predicted to be big sellers this year. “The toy industry continues to do an incredible job of keeping pace with innovation and trends seen beyond the toy aisle in order to bring kids and families exactly what they are looking for: play that is engaging, enriching, addictive, and fun,” said Adrienne Appell, leading trend specialist at The Toy Association. "The top trends announced today reﬂect a continued demand for collectibles, family games, creative toys, and tech-infused products that allow kids to create and explore new worlds and build lifelong skills through play.” However, the focus of toy fair can’t please all and certain retailers continue to feel the absence of some major players. “With Hasbro and LEGO leaving UKTF I noticed a lot of bootleg merch (bootlego) on show at Toy Fair and spring fair,” comments Matt Booker of Automattic Comics and Toys. “Both shows seemed a little lacklustre and nothing overly new just a lot of companies making similar products. Slime, putty, squishies. Nothing really grabbed me as innovative or a stand out creation.” Whatever your take, it promises to be an exciting year of evolution in the toy space, with audience demand driving innovation across the board.
PETER ALLINSON Whirligig Toys
"2018 was the strongest Toy Fair season yet. Lots of creativity and innovation and some really interesting products."
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 that Toy Shop UK can help you increase your online presence and complement your other marketing activities this year. Contact: Michael Hawkins email@example.com 07786 295756 for more information. www.toyshopuk.co.uk follow us @toyshopuk
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transforms from tank to boat!
#1 RC Property in 2017 +29%YOY*
*NPD YTD December 2017
All terrain performance
will even drive across snow Untitled-1 1
#1 RC Item in 2017*
TV supported in 2018 Available NOW 2/20/2018 11:37:40 AM
RC TOYS | OUTDOOR | COLLECTABLES |
RADIO WAVES Since they first hit the market in the 1960s, RC cars have caught the imagination of kids everywhere who dream of the glory of the race track. Today, a host of firms offer a variety of radio-controlled vehicles, each with their own unique features and selling points. Jack Ridsdale takes a look at some of the new RC products speeding into the market in 2018
VTech 01235 546838
Suzie Mills Senior brand manager
VTech is taking the RC space back to prehistoric times with their Switch & Go Dinos range stomping onto the scene in 2018. Dash the T-Rex, a fierce remote controlled dinosaur that automatically switches from a T-Rex to a racer, is continuing to be a popular seller and to capitalise on this success, VTech has introduced another remote control dino. Sandstorm the Stegosaurus switches between a mighty Stegosaurus and a cool beach buggy. Simply pull the dinoâ€™s tail up to switch modes, and then use the slick remote control to see cool moves, play sound effects and listen to Sandstorm speak. Sandstorm has over 80 catchphrases. Look for this fearsome dino in Autumn/Winter. Featured product
Switch & Go Dinos Manufacturer: VTech Cost: ÂŁ49.99
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Alpha Animation 01293 804599
Alpha Animation & Toys adds to its expanding RC and Drone Collection with Terra-Sect. From the makers of Drone Force, this Relentless Rolling Reptile, launching this autumn/ winter, rolls, flips, and attacks at the touch of a button. The unstoppable Terra-Sect, aimed at kids aged eight and upwards, features an easyto-use controller with intuitive buttons and levers. Built with tough materials for maximum protection when in use, this RC reptile is perfect for indoor and outdoor use. Terra-Sect can flip, roll into a ball, and extend into crawl mode, ready to attack in any direction the user desires. Terra-Sect also features luminescent LED lights for eyes, creating a menacing appearance which makes it the perfect toy for young tech heads. Featured product
Terra-sect Location: Gatwick
Revell 01293 804599 If racing is in your blood, Revell Control’s new Race Drone will let you display your need for speed. With a choice of three speed/ skill levels to choose from, you can mark out a racecourse using the included gates and markers to record the fastest laps. Additionally, Race Drone features bright LEDs, flip function and ‘headless’ steering assist. Race Drone includes a 3.7V 450mAh LiPo battery that gives flight times of around six minutes per charge, a USB charger, an alternate coloured canopy and a spare set of rotor blades. This drone is certainly one for the tech heads and possibly a good entry way into the drone space for youngsters. Featured product
Revell Race Drone Location: Germany
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Character 0161 633 9800 Character is shrinking down the RC sector this year with the launch of RC Pocket Racers. These are smaller-sized, portable RC cars that offer unrivalled steering control at some impressively high speeds. Available from mid spring, each RC Pocket Racer comes with a 4-way remote conrol which doubles as a pocket sized carry case plus four cones to test your skills and create your own obstacle course. The furiously fast cars come in four colourways and have super bright headlights to illuminate their way as they reach speeds up to 3.6 km an hour. What’s more up to 10 cars can be raced simultaneously for multi-player, action-packed challenges. The line will be supported by TV advertising from April 2018 across leading boys’ channels. Featured product
RC Pocket Racers Location: Oldham
Trends 01295 768078
Trends UK is introducing the new Guardian Bot into the Xtrem Bots range in the UK. With up to 20 different functions, spy function and 50 programmable actions, the new Guardian Bot also has an ultrasonic detector that will alert the presence of intruders in a room, giving youngsters a leg up in games of hide and seek. Launched in the UK in 2017, the Xtrem Bots have proved very successful with their traditional robot play features. The Xtrem Bots are operated with a remote control or hand gestures. Cool animated/LED facial expressions show the personality and moods of the robots. Easy to have fun with straight out of the box, they also have more advanced programmable features ensuring there is longevity of play. The Xtrem Bots offer good value for money at affordable price points, ranging from around £30 to £60 at retail. Featured product
Guardian Bot Location: Essex Cost: £36-£60
March 2018 | toy news | 39
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LAUNCHING THIS SUMMER
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RC TOYS | OUTDOOR | COLLECTABLES |
THE GREAT OUTDOORS Spring has (almost) sprung and its time for the youngsters to get out and enjoy the great British outdoors. This year is seeing some exciting new innovations in the outdoor space as well as some already popular trends making their way to the space. Here,Jack Ridsdale highlights some of the top brands and products to watch out for this spring.
Suzie Mills Senior brand manager
Youngsters can explore the outdoors like never before with a new innovation from VTech in the form of the Kidizoom Smart Watch DX2. Launched at London Toy Fair, the watch is the successor of the incredibly popular original Smart Watch DX. Featuring a new sleek and stylish design, the DX2 has a new second camera located on the face of the watch. This, paired with the existing side camera, allows the wearer to capture everything from action videos to selfies, which can then be customised with cool frames and effects. In addition to teaching kids how to tell the time, the watch includes innovative games such as Monster Detector, an augmented reality adaventure that allows kids to discover hidden monsters in the real world, bringing a fun twist to outdoor play time. Children can also use the watch’s motion sensor for active play challenges, or to track their activities and movements, which keeps them on the go.
TKC Sales will swoop into summer with an array of outdoor toys across its popular brands EOLO and Wham-O. TKC Sales has over 20 years of expertise in the outdoor toy field, and is the go-to for summer garden fun. The range includes the new Disc Jock-e and Pop-up Kites from EOLO, as well as Wham-O’s original Frisbee and Slip ‘N’ Slide, all of which are exclusively offered from the toy distributor. Disc Jock-E is a flying disc with a Bluetooth speaker and a water-resistant design. It allows music lovers to play their favourite tunes, by pairing with any compatible mobile device and streams music up to 50 metres away. Popularity of the disc has reached new heights with its nomination in the USA for Outdoor Toy of the Year. Featured product
Disk jock-E Location: Wiltshire Cost: £29.99
VTech Kidizoom Smart Watch DX2 Location: Abingdon
March 2018 | toy news | 41
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Spin Master 01628 535000 Spin Master is blasting off with new product Air Hogs Sonic Rocket. The rocket took off big time at Toy Fair with a starring role on BBC Breakfast, as well as creating a first for Toy Fair TV, when presenter Gavin and the crew filmed the first Rocket Launch outside at Olympia. With Sonic Rocket kids can break boundaries and defy gravity along with learning that what goes up must come down. Plus it offers the perfect opportunity for parents to get their kids into the great outdoors this spring. Launching up to 200 feet in the air, the Air Hogs Sonic Rocket is ready to go right out of the box. With 50 launches per charge, the rocket can be sent into the atmosphere again and again before being quickly recharged via USB. Designed to last, the Sonic Rocket is made with crash-resistant EPP foam. Also on the way from Spin Master is the Swimways range, helping the whole family enjoy the Summer with pool loungers, floats and more. Featured product
Air Hogs Sonic Rocket
01633 278 770
Location: Bourne End Cost: ÂŁ19.99
NERF will continue to get the kids out and about this spring with the N-Strike Elite Surgefire Blaster. The NERF blaster has a rotating drum that holds up to 15 darts, perfect for slam-firing the competition in a sea of foam darts. Kids can choose a target and blast one dart at a time, or slam-fire all 15 darts to pour on the firepower. The Mega Tri-Break blaster features a break-open barrel that holds up to three Mega Whistler darts. Flip open the barrel, load your darts, prime and unleash mega power. The NERF Modulus Mediator blaster has numerous attachment points for accessories within the Modulus system which features over 1,000 different combinations. The blaster offers pump-action and slam-fire blasting so battlers can be ready for anything that comes their way. The Mediator barrel and Mediator stock (each sold separately) can be attached to create the Mediator XL blaster for ultimate NERFing fun. Featured product
NERF Modulus Mediator Blaster Cost: ÂŁ20
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AK UN A
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F O R M O R E D E TA I L S P L E A S E CO N TA C T 0 1 2 3 5 5 5 5 5 4 5 O R E M A I L T R A D E _ S A L E S @ V T E C H . CO M Untitled-1 1
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Re:creation 0118 973 6222
Re:creation is offering plenty of reasons to get outside in 2018 with the relaunch of the much-loved Splash Out game and high tech innovations from trailblazers, Razor. Selected by hit day time show, This Morning, as one of only two top toy trends for 2018, these easy-to-clip-on heel wheels give any trainers a turbo boost like no other. Reaching speeds of up to 10mph, and offering 30 minutes of continuous ride time, Turbo Jetts were stars of the show at London Toy Fair and a major marketing programme will keep them in the spotlight through the year. Drifting fun turns a corner in 2018, quite literally with the launch of the Razor Drift Rider. Fans of the Crazy Cart will be keen to try this new ride-on which combines motorcycle cornering with serious drift-ability. Lithium-powered, Drift Rider features a torsion bar meaning riders can lean into a corner in a similar way to motorcycle cornering. Electric scooters continue to drive interest and Razor have injected its innovative thinking to develop exciting new high tech rides. Among them the Razor Power A is a sleek take on electric scooters with Razor’s exclusive anti-rattle folding technology. Powered by a 22V lithium battery, Power A can reach speeds of up to 10mph and offers a run time of around 45 minutes on a single charge. Ever present in the top ten for scooters, the Razor S Sport range welcomes a new colourway. Joining pink and blue editions, a red S Sport completes the line-up for summer. Hovertrax 1.5 will join Razor’s hoverboard line-up this spring, while ever popular rides such as Crazy Cart Shift and electric skateboard the RazorX Cruiser will continue to benefit from heavyweight marketing support throughout the year. . Featured product
Razor Power A Location: Camberley Cost: £159.99
Flair 0208 643 0320 In a World Cup year nothing can be more important in the outdoor section than a great football inspired collection, so make sure to invest in the already successful Messi Training System from GP Flair. With one of the world’s most famous footballers behind it, the Messi Training System has all that is needed for kids to train like their hero and become an elite finisher; practicing their skills, improving their speed and honing their reflexes and shooting ability. New for spring is the Championship Edition Messi Training Pro Warm-Up Ball, and the 2-in-1 Soft Touch Training Ball Assortment. To really sharpen those shooting skills, the Messi Training 2-in-1 Footvolley comes complete with ball and pump. Aim the ball at the holes in the net as a solo training regime or play with friends and see who can score most points. Featured product
Championship Edition Messi Training Pro Warm-Up Ball Location: Sutton Cost: £16.99
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ÂŠ 2018 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved.
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STACKERS The collectables sector grew by a significant 7.5 per cent last year, playing its part in bouying a market place faced with its fair share of woes. Jack Ridsdale takes a look at some of the biggest products in the space for 2018.
s you will have no doubt read on the pages of this very magazine, the recent explosion in popularity of pocket-money priced collectables has buoyed toy retail over 2017. There are myriad factors that have no doubt led to collectables becoming the biggest driver in toy sales- the state of the current economy and the cheapness of these products to be manufactured no doubt plays a role. However, one look at the sheer volume of products on offer in this space, and it's not hard to see why youngsters find themselves returning to the pocket-money shelves time and time again. The colourful characters of collectable lines offer a form of escapism for youngsters, a world of fun and adventure that they can become immersed in and share with their friends as they trade, mix and match. One need only look at the top selling toys of last year to get an idea for how important this sector is to the industry at large. MGA’s L.O.L. Surprise and Moose’s Shopkins both went from strength to strength in 2017, with the former even winning industry recognition by scooping the Toy of the Year award at the BTHA’s
Toy Industry Awards. MGA’s Isaac Larian was even honoured to receive the 2018 TOTY Awards at New York Toy Fair. Larian was more than willing to comment on the different types of collectables boosting the current market. “Collectables toys have been around forever,” enthuses Larian. “There are two
kinds : novelty Collectables- Pet Rocks of decades ago was the most famous- other recent ones are Rainbow Loom, Zuzu Pets, fidget toys. These type of novelty Collectables go up fast and crash a lot faster. “Then there are collectables that have a play pattern. LOL is a fashion doll play pattern (in boys , good example is Transformers that are action figure play pattern). The collectables with play pattern succeed and flourish for decades as long as they are original, bring newness and have detail.” In addition to play-focussed collectables, those with an affinity to more geeky pursuits may also find a lot to love in the collectable space from pop-culture collectables to trading cards. “I sell a lot of vinyl figures and they are essentially the backbone of my business and continue to be very popular as they appeal to everyone, from the serious collector to young children and it’s surprising that the product price can vary depending where you shop,” adds Mitch Brown of Darth’s Hutt. “There is a vast array of pocket money priced collectables/ trading toys available but it’s picking the right thing at the right time as things fall out of favour so quickly.” March 2018 | toy news | 47
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Magic Box Toys 01403 251286 The creator of Star Monsters and Zomlings is back for 2018 with a new collectable range which is set to dominate the pocket money space this year. There are 80 characters to collect in Kaboom City, each with a matching rival character for them to do battle against. Discover an ice cube and you’ll need to find a hairdryer to melt him away. All living together in their colourful metropolis, there are 36 regular characters available in two different colour-themes, plus six Silver and two Gold ‘Rare’ and One Enigma ‘Super Rare’ SuperZing. The figures all have their own superpower and profile, use colourful collectible pocket-money-friendly Supercars to get around (eight to collect) and live in cool Hideouts (eight to collect) which can also be used to launch characters into the air. Blind bags, hideouts and Supercars are all available to collect at different price points, backed by an extensive marketing campaign. Featured product
SuperZings Blind Bag Location: UK Cost: 80p
Character Options 0161 633 9800 2018 is looking to be a bumper year for Character with a plethora of new and updated collectable and pocket money ranges hitting the market. Super soft, slow rising and ultra-collectable, Soft ‘n Slo Squishies is the latest collectable craze to hit shelves. Already a huge hit in the US, Soft n’ Slo lets kids squish, squeeze and watch them slowly rise and transform. As one of the greatest video game franchises in the world, Character is delighted to be unveiling its debut Pokémon master toy line from summer 2018 which also houses a vast array of collectable figures at pocket money prices. Kids will find themselves immersed in a world of Keplopolis and discover it’s cool to be number two. Embracing the trend of all things poop, Poopeez are the collectable characters that come with more than a little toilet trouble. Mash’ems and Fash’ems are also expected to go from strength to strength in 2018, with attractive POS displays coming to the front of stores all over. Finally, Character’s offering is rounded our Cake Pop Cuties, Mine It and Cheeki Mees. Featured product
Soft ‘n Slo Squishies Location: UK
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Alpha 01293 804599
This year, Alpha is imagining a world in which kids can mix and match everything they love – including adorable animals. In the Miximals world, anything is possible. The new and exciting collectable range from Alpha Animation and Toys encourages children to imagine, create and share. The Miximals collectable range includes over 30 characters to collect, ultimate collector packs and mobile mix up vehicles. There will be three series of Miximals staggered throughout 2018, with additional playsets launching in autumn, allowing kids to create their very own Miximals world. Each Miximals Surprise Pack features one Miximal character, a mixed-up accessory, and collector file. Also available is the Surprise Triple Pack (RRP £9.99) enabling kids to grow their collection of Miximals even faster. For Spring, there are two vehicles to collect; Whalekey’s Banana Submarine and Kittony’s Cattractor. Each vehicle comes with an exclusive character and accessories (RRP £12.99). A must have for any Miximals fan is the Collector Pack with eight Miximals to grow your collection (RRP £24.99). With a 360-marketing plan centred around the #Whatcanyouimagine campaign, Miximal fans will have the chance to hunt for the coveted golden Glitzy Mixie hidden throughout the Surprise Packs. If the Glitzy Mixie is found kids can submit their own Miximal creation online, with the chance for their character to be made and delivered in a display case, complete with certificate. The brand launch has been supported with a dynamic campaign, featuring TV, digital and social. Featured product
Mixmals Surprise Pack Cost: £3.99 Location: Gatwick
Flair 0208 643 0320 GP Flair and Just Play are readying a whole host of collectables for girls and boys to enjoy in 2018. The recently launched Pikmi Pops collectable range is a proven success and retailers are already looking forward to the launch of Season 2 in mid spring. This sweet scented mini plushies range packaged inside iconic lollipop vessels is the super exciting new Moose property which appeals to girls in so many ways. Season 9 of the number one playset themed doll, Shopkins, has just launched with the wildest theme yet and in autumn, the Shopkins megabrand will transform itself once again with a brand new theme to surprise and excite fans. New vehicles for the Cuties Cars range are also on the way. Another new addition to the girls’ portfolio is the collectable Kekilou range, a line of mini bags which transform into mini dolls with a secret make up compartment hidden inside. Glimmies Aquaria adds an element of underwater magic before the Glimmies take to a snowy landscape with the Glimmies Polaris range. For the boys, The Exoginis introduce an alien twist to the collectables space and the Grossery Gang is also back this spring with a Bug Army invasion to contend with. Featured product
Pikmi Pops Surprise Pack Cost: £11.99 Location: Sutton
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• COLLECTOR’S ALBUM • GAME BOARD • 18 TRADING CARDS • MAGAZINE GAME GUIDE • PLUS! LIMITED EDITION CARD
OUT NOW! COLLECT - PLAY - TRADE
TOYNEWS_FULL PAGE ADVERT_FWC2018.indd 1
© FIFA, FIFA’s Official Licensed Product Logos, and the Emblems, Mascots, Posters and Trophies of the FIFA World Cup™ tournaments are copyrights and/or trademarks of FIFA.
Spin Master 01628 535000 Spin Master’s blockbuster collectable Hatchimals continues to expand in 2018, with low price points and positive momentum already behind season two, as the ﬁrm gears up for the launch of season three in May. For 2018, CollEGGtibles are joined by Flush Force - another highly innovative collectable range from Spin Master which has already been hailed a hit in the making following its UK Toy Fair launch in January. Flush Force creatures come from deep inside the bowels of Flushville and have been mutated by toxic sludge. With 150 to collect, kids can now start their own gross gang of Flushies. To reveal whether they have a common, rare or ultra-rare ﬁgure under the toilet seat, all they must do is ﬁll the toilet’s tank with water, shake it up and peel away the toilet cover. They may get a little wet while shaking, but that’s half the fun! To extend the entertainment value beyond the reveal, episodes are available on YouTube for Hatchimals CollEGGtibles and Flush Force. Kids can hang with ‘Team Hatch’ and further explore Hatchtopia while learning more about the common, rare and ultra-rare characters within CollEGGtibles season two. Kids can also enjoy wild, ﬂushing action as the Flush Force characters burst out of the toilet in search of hilarious adventures. Featured product
Hatchimals Season 2 Location: Buckinghamshire
Funrise 01908 555640
James R Dixon
With its newly-extended license with Hasbro, Funrise will be bringing new collectable Tonka vehicles to market in the form of Tonka Tinys. With each Tonka Tinys blind box costing just £2.49, these tiny vehicles make the perfect impulse purchase and kids can keep collecting until they have all the vehicles ticked. The Tonka Tinys are also available to collect in three packs, containing two on-display vehicles and one hidden blind garage vehicle to retain an element of surprise. The Tinys world will expand even further with the new Tonka Tinys Carrying Case Playset which is not only a great place for kids to store their Tinys garages but also opens to a construction site playset to keep kids entertained on the go. Also in the Tonka collection and at perfect collectable prices, the Tonka Diecast Assortment is full of 1:64 scale vehicles including a Tow Truck, Steam Roller, SWAT Car, Dozer and Vintage Bike, bringing realistic vehicles to the playground. Created from traditional Tonka Metal to make them ultra-tough and priced at just £3.99, kids can collect the entire range and play out their TONKA adventures. Featured product
Tonka Tinys Location: Milton Keynes Cost: £2.49
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Bandai 0208 324 6160 Bandai’s exciting 2018 portfolio is led by its squishy collectables range, Smooshy Mushy, perfect for that slow-rise feeling that promises swift sales at retail. After a highly successful launch of series one in December 2017, fans are already keen to see what’s in store for series two when the new selection of the scented and squishy collectables will take on the delicious Do-Dat Donuts theme with eight new characters and their besties for girls to meet. Following that, the amazing Smooshy Mushy YOLO Froyo with a whole new colour-change element will add to the delight and fascination of the range. Also from the creators of Smooshy Mushy will come a new breed of creatures called Smashy Mashy! This collectable range will appeal to lovers of all things gross whilst also giving boys the chance to get in on the slowrise squishy foam action! Smashy Mashy Pets come in yucky, slime reveal canisters with lots of surprises packed inside. Featured product
Smooshy Mushys Location: UK
Interplay 01638 488944 Interplay is capitalising on the mermaid trend with its imaginative Mermaid Charm Shells line in the My Mermaid Lagood range. There are three magical mermaids to collect, and each come complete with their own beads, sea creature metal charm and a key to create a bracelet. Youngster can keep the mermaid and special treasures safe by locking the oyster shell with the key on the bracelet. The launch will be supported with TV, PR and social media activity, building awareness from the start of the year. Featured product
Mermaid Charm Shells Location: Marlow Cost: £9.99
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Click Distribution 01604 438 147
Meegos are the new handmade collectables IP from Click Distribution. Inspired by the Japanese art of Amigurumi, these crochet plush toys encourage collectors to match their Meegos with their Mini Meegos to complete the family tree and uncover their personalities and habitats. The beauty of this product is not only bringing the collectability factor to a range of extremely cute, handmade, crochet toys but who Click and every Meegos customer is helping in the process: Every purchase of Clickâ€™s Meegos and Mini Meegos really will make difference in helping over 200+ villages in Bangladesh bring sustainable, regular and flexible employment and an opportunity for these people to give their own children a better life. Series one is the highly anticipated range of Dogs and Pups which hit shelves in March followed by a series two in AW18 featuring Wild Animals and a Series three in SS19 to be confirmed. The Meegos range will be supported by a heavy-weight marketing campaign including TV advertising, social media advertising, PR, and in-store activity with selected retailers to ensure Meegos is the must-have plush collectable Featured product
Meegos Location: Northampton
Trends UK 01295 768078 Trends has a whole host of new collectables to bring to market this year, starting with the adorable Sweet Pups line. Kids can find cute puppies hidden inside scented croissants, macaroons and sticky buns. Transform the pasties to a cute puppy in seconds with the 12 collectable Sweet Pups launching in late Spring. An instant hit with UK fans when introduced autumn 2017, the cool and adorable Slither.io toys are based on the huge gaming phenomenon and YouTuber hit. 60 per cent of British 0-14 year olds have downloaded Slither.io and 124 million games are played a month in the UK. The Slither.io gaming phenomenon translates perfectly to the toy line with many different skins which mimic the game. For 2018 Trends UK is expanding the range with the exciting new products. The Build-aSlither lets collectors construct their own Slither.io creature with connectable colourway pieces, creating unique skins, just like the game. Available as a Blind Bag Assortment with pieces to make one Slither and a Multi-Pack Assortments with has four buildable Slithers including a mystery one, the Build-a- Slither comes with rare and ultra-rare colourways in the collection to make ultra-desirable Slither. io creatures. Featured product
Sweet Pups Location: Didcot Cost: ÂŁ7.99
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Toy News Full Page template.indd 1 Advert Placement.indd 1
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Industry moves 2018’s first months have seen a slew of changes in the industry with firms across the space bolstering their teams for the year ahead, including a familiar face heading up Kids@Play, a new starter at John Adams and an industry stalwart at Interplay John Adams
Kids@Play Kids@Play has confirmed the appointment of NEIL LEAH as the firm’s new head of sales. A well-known character in the UK and Ireland toy industry, Leah has held senior roles at Tomy, Playmobil, Vivid Imagination and most recently Imperial Toy. “I am absolutely delighted that Neil has agreed to join us as we develop our business,” said NATHANIEL SOUTHWORTH, Kids@Play managing director. “We have a tremendous opportunity through consolidation of Ecoiffier, and Falk ranges at source in France. We recognised the need to increase our sales support. I have worked with Neil as a customer of his at Asda, and as a colleague at Vivid. Leah added: “Having seen the plans that Nat and Malcolm have underway it took me about five seconds to say yes, and join their passionate team.
John Adams is growing its UK sales team with three new starters joining in February. RICHARD PICKFORD has joined the firm in the newly created role of international sales manager. Pickford previously held the role of international sales executive at Igloo Books. LUKE DUGGAN, also previously of Igloo Books has joined the firm as national account manager. Finally, RONNIE WALTERS (pictured) has joined the company from Mammas and Papas where she was a business development manager and will take up the role of territorial manager for the southwest. Wilton Bradley MIKE GASCOIGNE has been promoted to the role of key account manager, after holding the position of area of sales manager at Wilton Bradley for four years. This role will now be fulfilled by new hire, SHAUN BOWDEN. He will be working alongside DAVE ELLIS, the firm's national accounts manager. Jumbo The games firm Jumbo has bolstered its sales and marketing team with the recruitment of two new key staff memebers. MARK HOLLAND joins the Jumbo sales team as national account
manager. Holland brings over 15 years of toy industry expertise to his Jumbo role, having held sales positions with toy companies such as Jaques of London, Carte Blanche Greetings and Wicked Vision. Also joining Jumbo is BRYCE VERNON, who will be responsible for be managing Jumbo’s growing digital platforms, including websites and social media, whilst assisting in both trade and consumer marketing strategies. Wicked Vision Former Plum Products and Golden Bear exec IAN RICE has joined Wicked Vision heading up their UK sales operation. Rice brings over a decade of experience to the role as he pushes further sales growth and product development through 2018. “I am truly delighted to be joining such a fun and vibrant company. I am looking forward to helping develop the award-winning Wicked brand even further as one of the key players within the outdoor activity toy category,” commented Rice. Interplay Former Leap Frog MD, SALLY WALKER has been named the new general manager for Interplay as the firm celebrates ‘another year of growth through 2017. Having held senior leadership roles at the likes of Leap Frog and Tomy, Walker brings new business experience to the team now looking to expand its operations in the UK.
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Team of the month
CLICK DISTRIBUTION As one of the industry leaders in the collectables distribution space, Click is ready for an incredible year, as they get ready to embrace World Cup fever. Here, we caught up with marketing manager Max Rodman, to get to know the team a little better Who’s in the team?
Mark Hillier CEO, Luke Hillier COO, Lewi Hillier UK sales & operations director, Gemma Waddington sales account manager, Sophie Hogg sales account manager, and Matt Lee graphic designer.
What are you most looking forward to in 2018?
Selling millions of packets of World Cup stickers and hundreds of thousands of Meegos. We’re also looking forward to the release of Worlds Aparts’ Scruff-A-Luvs, as we’re expecting this to be a massive hit. This is a really adorable line of fluffy animal collectables that we think will go down really well with young girls especially.
What have been your biggest successes of 2017?
Match Attax Cards had a stellar year, once again living up to the high expectations we’ve come to expect from this brand. Our singing game Spin to Sing got off to a great start, launching in the Summer to some great feedback. Finally, the hilarious Woofy Whoops has been delighting youngsters and enjoyed a really strong performance over the course of the year.
Whats the best part of working in the toys/games industry? It’s fast-moving, fun and we get to collect World Cup stickers and play with a lot of awesome toys.
What’s the biggest challenge?
We’ve had a great year so just maintaining our current level of growth is our main focus at the moment.
"Match Attax Cards had a stellar year once again, living up to the high expectations we’ve come to expect from this brand." Max Rodman, Click Distribution
If the team was stuck on a desert island (ala LOST) who would be the first to perish?
That's a truly chilling scenario for us as I don't think any of us would last so much as a day with our survival skills. Possibly Luke would drop dead first as I think his back might give way.
On the island, who would be the first to couple off?
It would have to be Lewi and Gemma seeing as they are already together and the only couple in the office. Not sure how long they would survive though...
Who would be the lone survivor? Lewi, he’d be like Bear Grylls!
Anything to add?
We have a really strong line-up of collectable products coming this year, building on our already successful portfolio that we're super proud of. We’re particularly excited with the release of two of our own original IP’s Meegos and Bijou Bracelet, which we have big expectations for. It's going to be a big one for us.
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GO GO LABO! There's a new form of play coming to town, melding arts & crafts with the pleasures of augmented reality, and Nintendo let Jack Ridsdale get his grubby little hands on it all
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s a lifelong fan of Nintendo’s uniquely quirky video gaming paraphernalia, I feel privileged to count myself among the lucky few who were able to go hands-on with the firm’s latest toy/game hybrid product ahead of its official launch in April. What I experienced in a fully-Nintendo-ified room in London’s Science Museum was typical of the company and atypical of anything else in the games industry. While the Labo is undoubtedly impressive, its creators were clearly not concerned with adjectives like ‘innovative’ or ‘cutting edge’, but one simple word that is oft-forgotten in the games space- ‘fun’. It’s an incredibly timely idea that plays on the booming trends for creating-based products in both games and toys, leveraging Nintendo’s well-established reputation for fascinating game concepts to create an experience that is quite unlike any other. For the uninitiated, Nintendo Labo allows the young (and as Nintendo is not shy at pointing out, the young at heart) to create their own
playthings with cardboard cut-outs that can be fashioned into RC cars, robots, pianos, fishing rods and more. The controllers of the Nintendo Switch are then inserted into the creation, allowing for unexpected gameplay results. For many, the true fun will lie in the construction process, with certain gameplay functions feeling a little thin. The fishing and robot games felt particularly shallow, despite having arguably the most elaborate controllers and in fact, some of the simplest concepts yielded the most magical results. The Labo Piano is a genuinely impressive piece of musical technology that could be many a youngsters entryway into learning music and the Labo House offers a seamlessly interactive experience that kids could easily believe is real magic. And that’s what Nintendo does best- magic. Sure, its cheesy to say but in this and many other instances (the Wii, DS and Switch itself) it rings true. While I doubt Nintendo Labo will be the ‘next big thing’, it’s a truly original idea that is sure to have a passionate and dedicated fanbase and is the innovation that toymakers can admire.
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58 | toy news | March 2018
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This month, ToyNews talks exclusively to Nickelodeon’s Mark Kingston about the plethora of franchises making their way to the toy shelves th...
Published on Mar 5, 2018
This month, ToyNews talks exclusively to Nickelodeon’s Mark Kingston about the plethora of franchises making their way to the toy shelves th...