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Ten years of


elcome to this special plaY-room 10th anniversary supplement. From humble beginnings back in 2008, plaY-room, the toy division of the AIS buying group, has risen from strength to strength and now has members retailing toys in over 216 outlets. In this celebratory supplement, we have a bumper interview with Miles Penhallow, head of Toys & Children’s Gifts, about the group’s history and the importance of its Independent Toy and Gift Show (p. 4-5); a retail interview with Alan Simpson, MD of SMF Toytown, about his role in the group’s history and how plaY-room membership has aided his business (p. 8-9), plus a preview of this year’s show (p. 12-18). Running over Tuesday 1st May and Wednesday 2nd May 2018, The Independent Toy and Gift Show brings a selection of the leading toy and children’s gift suppliers together under one roof. Located at Cranmore Park in the heart of the Midlands, the show has become an important part of the toy and gift buying calendar. Offering a unique buying experience, with new products spanning traditional toys to the latest gadgets, buyers can meet with a diverse range of exhibitors from across the world of toys and children’s gifts across the two show days. Over 80 key suppliers from the toy and children’s gift trades will occupy two adjoining ground floor exhibition halls, and many will be offering show deals on orders placed during the show. Exhibitors this year include Tactic Games, Interplay, Inside Out Toys, The Puppet Company, and Alpha Toys, among many others. Having established its credentials over the course of several years, the show dates have become an important entry in the diaries of independent buyers who are serious about toy retail. Visitors, including buyers from department stores, garden centres, high street specialist toy shops and visitor attractions, are welcome to attend the show. Registration is free and attendees will be issued with a visitor’s badge which will allow them free parking, entrance to the show, refreshments and a complimentary hot lunch. Visit register-now to register for a ticket. With on-site car parking for up to 400 cars and excellent transport links, Cranmore Park is based in the heart of the UK, just minutes from junction 4 of the M42 and a short distance from Birmingham City Centre, the NEC and Birmingham Airport. The venue offers exhibitors and visitors alike welcoming, comfortable and airy surroundings, Wi-Fi throughout the entire facility, and first-class dining options in both the Dining Room and Eating House, plus a separate coffee lounge with an outdoor terrace for those wanting to take a break from proceedings. We hope you enjoy this special supplement, and look forward to meeting exhibitors and visitors at the Independent Toy and Gift Show next month.

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Miles Penhallow

That's our department Toy World spoke to Miles Penhallow, h ead of Toys & Children’s Gifts at plaY-room, the toy division of the AIS buying group, about the group’s early beginnings, its 10th anniversary and why he thinks multi-category retail is the future of the toy market. months, credit insurance was very difficult to obtain. Youngsters had ceased trading and we had to persuade major toy suppliers to offer us a line required for central invoicing. With the help of Joyce, Alan Simpson at SMF, who came in and helped with negotiations, and Val Stedham, who used to own Moons Toymaster, we secured terms with the major 50 suppliers and the rest followed after.

Miles Penhallow

Can you tell us about the history of AIS’ involvement with the toy market? AIS was born back in the seventies, resulting from the amalgamation of two department store buying groups. The founders of the group soon realised that they would need to add further specialist stores in furniture and other product categories to maximise the benefits of their critical mass. With the passage of time, and the retirement of Norman Upton, who headed up the toy department, the decision was made to speak to Toymaster about taking on the AIS members, as part of a deal, and Toymaster looked after those members for a number of years. Then members joined the Youngsters buying group for a brief period of time. Unfortunately, Youngsters got into difficulty quite soon afterwards and ended up leaving some AIS members without a home. At that point, those with various reasons for not wanting to join Toymaster began to put pressure on AIS to create a toy division. Hence, plaY-room was born 10 years ago in June 2008 with an initial 14 members, and I was brought on board from Youngsters to oversee things.

We now have 82 members which trade toys in 216 outlets, and those are just the members who actively stock some element of toys. We have other members of AIS that don’t currently trade toys, but there is always the opportunity for them to start. When I go to shows, I’m there to persuade these retailers to put some of their budget towards toys. There are always opportunities with existing members, but AIS is growing all the time and new members often want help with toys. Thus, plaY-room gains new members too.

When you joined forces with AIS, what were your aspirations? Primarily, I wanted to take a different look at how we went about providing a toy buying service. I had no desire to simply replicate what was already out there or what had gone before – what would have been the point? Instead, I sat down with a blank piece of paper and set about figuring out our point of difference. From day one we had three premises. Firstly, we could always be pleasant. We strive to be polite and efficient at all times, and to always attend appointments. Everyone I have worked with at plaY-room has fitted that mould; I want to work with ‘people people’, as ultimately people buy from people; that’s just how it works. The second premise was that we had to be about more than just toys; we wanted to look after other products that are being bought for

My colleague Joyce Daly, who looked after childrenswear, was such an inspiration during those first few months. There is no way to describe her in a way that does her passion, drive and enthusiasm justice. During those first few

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children. That’s actually what lead us to the name plaY-room - as it doesn’t have the word toy in it, we aren’t tied down. At a later stage, we created a small sub-division called Giftbox, under which we still communicate about the type of higher-margin, non-toy product you would see at Spring Fair. These are sent to a wide range of members; not only those who would definitely be interested, but also to members who might think that books, for example, would fit well in their children’s gift department. Finally, as a natural progression from that, we decided that if we weren’t going to be just about toys, then we couldn’t be just about toy shops. As most of our membership are multi-category retailers we instead focus on good retailers than can sell toys, rather than dedicated toy shops.

What were the key attributes which persuaded you to join up with the AIS operation? AIS is a very well respected and financially sound organisation, and I knew that I wasn’t going from Youngsters into exactly the same flawed model. For example, there is a difference in the way we centrally invoice. AIS CENPAC (Central Payment of Accounts) acts as a paying agent. We give a legally binding guarantee that we will pay debts on behalf of our members, even if that member doesn’t pay us. The CENPAC system gave me a huge amount of confidence that we wouldn’t end up having the rug pulled from under our feet by a credit insurer. We’re not reliant on a credit insurer because we self-insure, so we don’t have that particular cloud hanging over us. I was an independent retailer for 13 years, and my passion is to try to help independent retail last for as long as it can in a difficult trading environment. I still remember what it’s like to be standing behind a counter trying to put money in the till. My old boss, Keith Elmer, used to say: “Never forget whose business it is.” This still applies – we don’t tell retailers how to run their businesses. What we do is suggest products that would fit well in their range, or share information on something that other members are seeing success with. We are here in an advisory capacity. Our members don’t have to do anything but agree to process all invoices through us if they are signed up to our central payment system. That’s our only real rule. They are however, expected to support our promotions and attend relevant

shows. We focus on making them want to participate by ensuring that they feel a part of proceedings. Furthermore, AIS is the biggest multicategory buying group of its type in the country. We are only a small team - just three of us - but we have a marketing team, we have an IT department that oversees our website, we have a finance department to process all our payments, and a logistics department to

prior to the show, detailing all the available offers and associated terms. The use of the green door logo indicates that something from that particular company has appeared in our range planner, and can be viewed on the stand. When we walk the floor at London Toy Fair, Nuremberg and Spring Fair we are on the lookout for 50% margin opportunities for this booklet. Working with a number of garden centres means we also keep our eyes peeled for

the chance that the next show will focus on their strongest product category. Refreshments are complimentary, our parking is easy and accessible, and we are known for our great quality food. We also run a quirky evening event each year; last year was a cocktail masterclass in a huge teepee, and this year we are having a Big Kids evening, with double shot basketball, table football, Scalextric racing, a live band – and grown-up drinks, of course! People still talk about the medieval banquet we held one year at Coombe Abbey. It was just phenomenal. It does get harder of course, because the trade is changing. Our buyers are employed buyers rather than owner-buyers, and as such they don’t tend to come with their husband or wife to stay over; it’s usually a professional just travelling solo to the show each day. Nonetheless, these events provide a great opportunity for us, suppliers and members to relax together, and have a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

You’ve changed the date of the show this year – what is the thinking behind that?

oversee all our importing and retail systems for EPOS; everything is under one roof.

The Independent Toy and Gift show, hosted by plaY-room, has always played an important role in the group’s history – how has it evolved over the past decade? The first year we pushed the floor space of the show ‘plaY-room at the Park’ a little too far because we were trying to show off the space available to us; in hindsight, we shouldn’t have used so much of it. We’ve since been able to adjust the space to the growth of the suppliers we want and to our visitor numbers. A lot of work has gone into improving the methods we use to get people to visit the show, and to make sure that they really benefit from coming. Whoever walks through the door is welcome to be here; we work hard to make sure they feel that way. Over the years we have introduced ways to incentivise show attendance. Firstly, we run a sponsored reward card, which lets each of our members earn a £1 Marks & Spencer voucher for every stand they visit, as long as they get their cards initialled. They’ll therefore go home with a £25 voucher for Marks & Spencer, which rewards our members for working hard while they are at the show. We prepare members by sending a comprehensive show bulletin out two weeks

anything with its own POS solution, as many have floor space rather than shelf space. Last year our offers booklet had a fantastic POS offer from Keycraft which was really popular with our members; great products combined with a great display. Each year we also change the focus of this booklet, so it provides a variety of range ideas. At some point we realised that the members were getting a number of special deals - but what about the visitors? To solve this we came up with One Hit Wonders, which used to be called Show Stoppers. Each stand brings an item – a One Hit Wonder - and offers a special price on it, while stocks last, as long as its part of a carriage paid order. We promote this scheme with One Hit Wonder vinyl record callouts, and visitors receive a booklet detailing all the available offers and a show map of where they can be found, thereby driving business to those stands. We know this works – a non-member I spoke to at Toy Fair said that his trip was made worth it by the excellent deals he got at the show last year. Three years ago we made the decision to start theming the shows. Last year was STEM, this year we’ve gone with Plush. There will be some amazing themed displays at the show – prehistoric, fantasy, jungle – and we have found that doing this not only focuses our display department but also the suppliers. As the theme changes each year, there is always

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Essentially we inherited awkward dates within April which kept moving because of Easter. This wasn’t doing us any favours, so we had a strategy committee with our key members and asked them if they would prefer the dates to be earlier or later. Every single one said they would prefer them to be later. We’re aware that there is already another independent show in May, and we didn’t want to end up clashing with that, but as it happens there is a two-week gap and the decision has gone down very well among our members and suppliers.

As it is the 10th anniversary of plaY-room, do you have anything special planned for the show to mark the occasion? We’ll be offering everybody a delicious slice of cake, of course, as well as a goody bag when they leave, but this show is for people to carry out business, and that’s what is most important. The focus of the show is not on our anniversary celebrations, but we will be quietly reflecting on them nonetheless. We’ve also refreshed the logo for this year, taking elements from the original show logo but giving it a much more flowing appearance whilst carrying through the recognisable purple too.

Who is the show open to? The show is open to all independent retailers, including those that are online.

How many members are currently in the AIS group and what kind of retail stores does that cover? We have over 350 members trading in over 1,300 outlets. Those cover furniture, flooring, sports, linens, housewares, menswear, womenswear, childrenswear, lingerie, schoolwear, and accessories. In addition to that we have other departments, such as plaY-room,


Miles Penhallow

The plaY-room team: Aimee Hill, Miles Penhallow and Charlotte Roberts

which don’t come under the AIS membership banner. In other words, we have members who aren’t part of AIS, but simply members of plaY-room.

What services does AIS provide for its members? AIS offers a variety of buying services such as merchandise, merchandising, ranging, and a procurement department which looks at making savings on everything from shipping, waste management to low-cost lighting. We only charge members an element of what we ultimately save them. Procurement is open to all our suppliers as well, so that they also have the opportunity to save.

What support have you offered AIS members who don’t currently stock toys to give the category a try? We are always looking at ways to get people into toys. Generally speaking, we offer opportunities in the higher-margin gift end of what we do, and we also consider bespoke ranges. For example, with furniture retailers we would offer them something like large pieces of plush - rocking horses are a prime example. We communicate these opportunities through quarterly Giftbox bulletins and an annual range planner booklet. When I talk to a non-toy retailer, one of the main criticisms of toys is the low margins. We can challenge this assumption and show that there is margin opportunity when you select product carefully.

Who have been some of the

group’s key suppliers over the past decade? The support we have had from suppliers has been incredible; we have been very lucky indeed. We are a relatively new division, and it’s taken a little while to reach our current size, but the likes of Character Options, Hasbro, Mattel, Lego and many, many others have always offered us first class support. In fact, I struggle to think of one key supplier that we haven’t had a good relationship with. We are nothing without the support of our suppliers, and that’s why we do everything we can to support them in return, and to give them opportunities to put promotions in front of our members. We are an extension of their sales team, and those that realise that and work with us really benefit.

Where do you see your members fitting into the toy retail channel – what are their strengths? Their main strength is that they are multicategory; they are attracting footfall. As a lot of toy purchases are impulse, this is incredibly important. If you have footfall, you sell toys. Our members also tend to be looking after the higher socioeconomic groups; those people that still have money to spend. Garden centres attract people who tend to have money too. These types of stores are in the sector of retail that has been least affected by the economic turndown, and usually have owners who are investing in them. Martell’s Department Store, for example, is creating a new four-storey department store in East Grinstead high street. As part of these works, a new roof has been added, and the old flat one is now a toy

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department with a rooftop café which will be opening this month. That is an immense investment to come from one family. The Morley group recently bought one of the old BHS stores, increasing its store count yet again. SMF, having won Toy Retailer of the Year for 2017, also continues to expand, and is planning another five stores this year alone. Having SMF on board since, day one, along with the support of Alan and Brian Simpson, has been a key part of getting our message out there. SMF also offers concession opportunities for our members. If a member has a space in store, but no desire to do their own buying, SMF will do the toy buying for them, put the POS solutions in and create a toy department with the latest and most popular products. At the moment, SMF is running eight concessions within AIS stores. A lot of members are realising that without toys they will struggle to attract young families. Attracting the next generation is vital, and a concern for many of our retailers is that their customers are getting older. That consumer base must be regenerated and toys help them to do that. If they’ve got space, toys next to a café is a winning formula.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the toy market in the past decade? I think the biggest change has been a reduction in the number of buyers that there are to actually approach. Agents are finding it increasingly difficult to cover a patch because they have less calls to make in an area, which makes it economically unviable for them. Fewer buyers are therefore doing more work. The ones that have survived are now buying for

several outlets, and the nature of this makes it difficult for them to respond to every approach they receive from everyone who wants to sell to them. Email has replaced the phone. Ten years ago people would pick up the phone to each other, but no more. Even now, social media contact is gradually starting to replace email, yet we still have traditionalists working within the toy industry who don’t fully understand tools like email and social media, or how to use them effectively. It’s challenging for them, and they don’t understand why people won’t return their calls. I also think it has become more difficult to bring product in from both the Far East and Europe, and to supply product with a good margin. This is partly due to the weakness of the pound against the dollar, the cost of freight, and the fact that factories only want to be doing large production runs which you need to ride on the back of. They aren’t interested in small production runs. There is also less money in the industry overall now. The suppliers have less money to spend, stores are looking at margin all the time – how to cut their cost base, trying to operate with a lower staff headcount – and of course the fact that most business happens in Q4; somehow you’ve got to survive for the rest of the year. Add to that the increasing demand for longer opening hours, with so much pressure

on retailers to be open and available the whole time. It’s expensive to be the only one not open on a Sunday. Retailers are increasingly having to compete with online retail and with click & collect services, which has become a large part of retail now, especially with toys.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the toy market and your members in the coming years? The continual reduction in the number of high-street toy shops. We have got to start opening dialogue channels and forming relationships with other forms of retailers that are still bringing in customers. Retail is so often about impulse, and toys are a part of that, so as I mentioned earlier, footfall is key. I do feel that there will always be toy shops as they are very exciting places to go and parents are full of such nostalgia about them, but it’s a difficult time for toy retailers. I think we also need to ask ourselves whether we have made toy retail attractive enough to the next generation – when the current retailers retire, will there be anyone there who’s ready and willing to take up that role? From my own experience, when you own a property and realise you could rent it for more than your operational profit, you do wonder why you are still working. Everything that’s happened with Toys R Us

doesn’t reflect well on the toy trade either. It’ll also make it even harder to get product from the Far East, because I am sure a lot of what we get is off the back of massive production runs that Toys R Us pushes the green button on. On a positive note, AIS, from its position of strength, will continue to attract key retailers who see the benefit to be part of a buying group, in order to give them a commercial advantage. It’s going to become more and more difficult to operate successfully outside of a buying group and as other groups close, AIS will only get stronger. From that, each division will see further opportunity, and I feel that although there are significant challenges on the high-street, department stores which offer a multi-category range will continue to be places customers visit. These stores offer a place to physically assess thousands of products in one go – you simply cannot do that on the internet. You go to buy a scarf for a friend at a department store, and you could also end up buying a pot to cook mussels in for your kitchen. Department stores offer that diversity. On the internet you can’t look at a page for a scarf, and be tempted away by something for cooking; it doesn’t work like that. You can look at colour, price, texture and quality, right across a department store, and a retailer that offers such a huge range of product will always have a customer. Here’s to the next 10 years!

Over 70 new styles added! See the entire range at AIS E: T: +44 (0) 1462 446040 Toy World - Vertical Half Page - AIS Supplement.indd 1

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Alan Simpson

Man about Toytown As part of the focus on plaY-room’s 10th anniversary, Toy World spoke to Alan Simpson, MD of SMF Toytown, the buying group’s biggest and most influential member, to find out how 2017 was for the retailer, how the business has changed over the years, and what it’s like to be a part of the plaY-room success story. my sons are of equal importance to everyone else. There can be moments where we’ll disagree about something, but the buck stops with me.

Alan Simpson


n what was an extremely difficult 2017, SMF Toytown showed an increase year on year. I think most retailers started off well thanks to the spinners craze, but as we moved towards the back end of the year business seemed to fall off a cliff for a lot of people. We’re fortunate in that we are a large independent retailer, yet we are also small enough to stay under the radar, keeping on top of what is working and what isn’t. Overall, 2017 turned out to be an OK year for us; nothing to write home about, but not a disaster either. In January this year we won Overall Toy Retailer of the Year at the Toy Industry Awards, which we are absolutely delighted about – just totally over the moon. We started in 1979 with just one store, and we’ve had steady growth since then, ducking and diving our way through a lot of different economic circumstances. We don’t have a fixed model whereby we are a toy shop and that’s it; we have concessions in department stores, clearance outlets, high street standalone stores, shopping centre stores, and our own standalone nursery store too. We are flexible and reactive to market conditions - if you’re on your game you can adjust to cope with just about anything. Over the last decade our business has changed quite dramatically. Ten years ago, I had just the one son working with me; now I’ve got all three of my sons in the business. I count this as my greatest professional achievement. The successes that you notch up are one thing, but to actually be working with your three children is right up there at the top. Working with family isn’t without its challenges, but in the office I’m the boss, not the dad. They call me Alan, which is nice as it shows a degree a professionalism and equality. We work as a team, as all the other team members do, and

We’ve worked with plaY-room since the beginning. When the demise of Youngsters came about, it was clear from suppliers that we had the support we needed to get the plaYroom group off the ground. We are definitely different to Toymaster, with a different modus operandi and agenda. Our members are stores with toy departments, rather than dedicated toy shops. SMF is by far the largest member of plaY-room, and I think our size and our contacts within the industry have really helped the group not only establish itself, but also be considered a force to be reckoned with in its own right. Our biggest influence on plaY-room is probably our experience in FOB. AIS is the largest buying group in Europe, with massive potential within the Associated Independent Stores group and huge experience in a lot of fields. A lot of people don’t realise that AIS is Intersport in the UK. It has flooring, fashion – you name it, they cover it. AIS covers all of a department store’s needs, but the one category they weren’t covering was toys, simply because they lacked the experience. The demise of Youngsters brought about the formation of plaY-room, and SMF coming on board gave the group the experience it needed to start an import programme, providing members with higher margin product than they were used to getting domestically. Again, our size helped that happen – we fill containers in the Far East, we don’t do LCL (Less than Container Loads). The stock comes into our warehouse here in Northern Ireland, and then we redistribute it to members. We work as partners with AIS on the FOB programme to deliver that very necessary part of the mix in any toy department. Anyone who has been to AIS’ Solihull premises will know that the location is superb. The service and professionalism provided by the plaY-room team – Miles, Charlotte and Aimee – is second to none. They really have the group members at heart, and anyone attending the Independent Toy & Gift Show, regardless of whether they are an AIS member or an independent retailer, has the opportunity to view ranges, companies and suppliers that perhaps they’re not currently dealing with. It’s an ideal time of year to review those first key months, and to plan ahead for the back end. Suppliers are encouraged to have offers to entice people to place orders, and for us it’s a major order-writing show where we can capitalise on deals and add those few extra points that are vital in what is a very competitive marketplace. On top of this, the facilities and showroom are absolutely superb.

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I can’t speak highly enough about what plaYroom and AIS can do for anyone’s business. Ask anyone what products are performing well for them and I think you’ll get the same response – L.O.L Surprise! is still doing incredibly well. Squishies from Character Options, Bandai and Jakks have really kicked off well this year too; this year, squishies appear to be what spinners were last year. We will probably see much more longevity with these products though, I don’t think they will drop off like spinners did. Slime is still selling well too. When it comes to selling collectibles, you need to look at bringing people back through your store. They aren’t high priced, usually sitting around that week in/week out pocket money spend, so it’s important to have people coming through the store on a regular basis. In a nutshell, that’s the collectibles market. Collectibles and crazes mean it’s necessary for buyers to be totally focused on what is working, and what is starting to dry up. It’s very easy to be caught in the frenzy and excitement of a product, but getting out of something at the right time is almost as important as getting into it at the right time. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing whatever you make in losses and tidying up leftover stock. It’s very important to monitor, as my son Brian does on a daily basis, how various on-trend ranges are performing. Keep an eye on sales so that you are aware of when they are slowing up a bit, and bring your stocks back in line. Easter is not Christmas by any stretch, but we generally see a lift in sales. We’ve just come off the back of half term which showed a very good increase week on week – a useful blip. Easter takes us over the bridge towards summer; the weather starts getting better, and so the spirits of the consumers tend to improve too. When people feel good they’ll part with their money much more easily. We look forward to Easter setting that benchmark as we move on to a good experience over the summer. Anyone who thinks 2018 will be a good year needs to consider what planet they are living on; I see this year being extremely challenging, not just in toy retail. There are several large retail chains that are currently under the spotlight and the fact that toys are in the news because of that is unsettling for consumers. Other retailers are also under the cosh at the minute because of rising costs; if sales margins aren’t increasing proportionately then net profit drops, and this causes financial supporters to start scrutinising business quite closely. Banks are aware that retailers are having a hard time and are focusing on them to see what’s what. If there are cases of specific

interest in the sector, like Toys R Us, that increases their focus even more. We are fortunate in that we have a very strong balance sheet, and as we continually reinvest in the business we are seen as a very strong operator. It has always been our policy to maintain a healthy balance sheet and to give our suppliers, and our landlords, the confidence that we know what we are doing. I think Brexit will bring added uncertainty – in fact, we are already seeing this to a certain extent. There is less disposable income in people’s pockets, and we have seen inflation hit grocery prices. People have to eat; they don’t have to buy luxury items, and so basic essentials such as food will always come

first. Whatever is left to spend will be spent at retailers who are able to supply competitively. Living wage increases, courtesy of the government, aren’t helping retail either. There are very few retailers who are seeing net profit increase at the same percentage that we are seeing the living wage increase. Wages are by far our largest overhead and this impacts on our bottom line, which in turn impacts on how much we can reinvest in growing our business.. The majority of employees in retail are on the living wage - it’s a fact of life we have to live with - and it’s also a part of the business that we have no control over. We are told what we have got to pay our staff, and that’s that. This does make life difficult; as a business you want to be able to control your costs as much

Alan Simpson and Miles Penhallow at a previous show

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as possible to maximise your profits. When a major costs like wages is out of your control it doesn’t make life easy. Having said that, we are still looking at new stores, and I anticipate opening more stores this year than we have done in any other year throughout our 40 years of existence. We are good at what we do, and this was recognised by our peers when we were awarded Overall Toy Retailer of the Year. It’s also being recognised by landlords; we put on a good show and we are a strong, signed tenant. Furthermore, we are in demand, which is a lovely position to be in, and we look forward to seeing what the rest of 2018 brings.

Show Preview

Juratoys 020 8878 2133 |

Interplay 01628 488 944 | Interplay’s best-selling My Fairy Garden range will be supported by an enhanced marketing programme designed to build awareness, loyalty and depth of purchase, TV advertising, year-long PR activity and strong retail presence. The new Fairy Light Garden features lights and sound effects as well as secret spaces and animal play pieces, while the new Fairy Picnic Basket enables kids to host a magical tea party. My Fairy Garden will also be refreshed with a new look and accessories for autumn/winter, and a new range of collectible fairies will be available to complement the sets too. The new Fab Lab Festival Face Tattoo set lets kids get festival-ready. Easy to apply, each pack comes with over 10 intricate designs that can be customised for an individual look. Supported with influencer activity, a YouTube channel, TV sponsorships, PR and brand ambassador campaigns and social media activity, Fab Lab is looking forward to a busy year as it secures new followers and sell-through for the brand. Mermaids continue to be a popular trend and play pattern. Launched with TV, PR and social media promotions, Interplay’s new collectible Mermaid Charm Shells are home to a pretty mermaid and charm bracelet. Interplay will also be introducing a new Window Bird Feeder into the My Living World range for 2018. Featuring a one-way mirror design, the mirror lets kids and their parents observe birds up close without disturbing them. My Living World will be promoted with PR, digital activities and a YouTube Channel.

Juratoys has a raft of new products to present for 2018, with over 200 new additions across the Janod, Kaloo and Alex brands. The company will be presenting its new Baby Pop range from Janod, as well as new games and puzzles including the Flamingo Balancing game and Ostrich stacker game. Within Kaloo, visitors can see the new Tendresse Dolls display stand, three new doll sizes and three new characters too. Juratoys now also offers licensed figurines from Comansi, with a range of characters available, and Alex Brands has introduced over 25 new products including bath lines, a pottery wheel, unicorn key rings and Knot-A-Mermaid DIY craft kits.

Siku 00353 676 3800 | Siku, the German die cast model brand, is known for its range of die cast models at pocket money prices. Suitable for year round sales and impulse purchases, the models cover farm and construction vehicles as well as trucks. Gift sets including three and five model packs are also available, along with point of sale solutions for retailers. Siku Blister is a range of pocket money models of well-known brands. The range of model cars includes names such as Lamborghini, Ferrari, Bugatti, Porsche, Mercedes, VW, Audi, and BMW, while the tractor options include John Deere, Massey Ferguson, New Holland, and Claas. In construction, collectors can choose from Manitou or JCB. New releases are introduced every March, May, July and September, ensuring yearround interest from collectors. On the bigger side, Siku World offers a range of play sets designed to bring Siku products together in a large play area. With the Siku Farmer and Siku Super play sets from Siku World, kids can build an agricultural landscape complete with tractors and dense forests, or a metropolis with fire station and construction trucks.

Galt Toys 0161 428 9111 | Galt introduces two new puzzles. Town, a new Giant Floor Puzzle, has 30 puzzle pieces along with eight template pieces in the shape of vehicles and buildings. When the puzzle is complete, children can move their own toy cars around the roads. Galt’s best-selling Snakes and Ladders Game is complemented this year with a Giant Snakes and Ladders Puzzle. The giant 36 piece puzzle makes an 80 x 80cm game, and includes a large foam dice and four chunky counters. The puzzle game board has 48 squares rather than the usual 100 squares, allowing a shorter game for younger players.

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Learning Resources


01553 819 386 |

020 8324 6160 | Bandai will present a number of its newest lines at the show. Hyper Cluster is a line of precisionengineered, high-performance yo-yos with interchangeable skateboard-style skins. Kids can customise their yo-yos with high-performance ballbearings to adjust spin, stamina or looping abilities. Following the success of Smooshy Mushy, Bandai introduces Smashy Mashy. The collectible range will appeal to lovers of all things gross, whilst also giving boys the chance to get in on the slow-rise foam action. Also new are Pomsies, collectible pom-pom pets with soft fur faces and wraparound tails, plus a number of interactive features. Crayola Dough will be on show too, as the company presents its new range of brightly coloured, high quality doughs and plays sets.

Botley is Learning Resources’ new, hands-on, coding robot activity set, teaching kids coding and STEM skills. Botley is entirely screen-free, and the inclusion of more complex coding concepts means it can grow with the child. Playfoam Pals features 12 collectible pods that open up to reveal an animal character encased in Playfoam. The sculpting material won’t dry out and doesn’t stick to clothes or carpet, and the heads and bodies can be mixed and matched. Beaker Creatures is a new line of science-themed collectibles, combining collectibility with hands-on science experiments and building skills. Children use the liquid reactor to dissolve the Beaker Creatures’ reactor pods, revealing the identity of the creature hidden inside.

Alpha Animation and Toys 01293 804 599 | Screechers Wild launched in February, and brand development steps up a level for autumn with DX Screechers and the Fossil Fire Playset. Screechers Wild will be supported with digital shorts, TV, sponsorship and digital partnerships throughout this year. Super Wings sees new products for autumn, such as Jett’s Super Robot Suit, the Jett’s Take Off Tower 2-in-1 airport play set, and Robot Ready Jett which features lights and sounds. The Miximals collectible range will expand with new characters, mobile mix up vehicles, and play sets, while the RC category welcomes Terra-Sect, the rolling attack reptile, and new Wave Racers – motion activated racing cars.

Character Options 01616 339 800 | At this year’s show, Character Options will be introducing its summer launch for Pokémon, and the new collectible range Poopeez can also be viewed, with a small gift for retailers to pick up. New collections from Little Live Pets will introduce Lil’ Cutie Pups, Chicks, Hedgehogs, Butterflies and Songbirds. New for 2018, the Surprise Baby Dragons will follow the play pattern of the Surprise Chicks, and there’s a Dancing Unicorn for autumn too. For the craft aisle, Character will also be offering Oober, Oonies, Orbeez Wowzer surprise and, a collection of Slime Kits.

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Rainbow Designs 01329 227 300 | Rainbow’s new Peter Rabbit Movie range features a series of plush toys styled on characters from the film, and the Talking Peter Rabbit feature plush. The Peter Rabbit TV collection includes a soft toy assortment of the characters from the animated TV show, as well as the Hopping and Talking Peter Rabbit and Lily Bobtail feature plush toys. The Peter Rabbit Nursery Collection stars Peter Rabbit and Flopsy Bunny as portrayed in the original storybooks. The Paddington Bear Classic and Movie collections will also be on display alongside the Classic Winnie-the-Pooh Hundred Acre Wood and Disney Baby ranges, as well as products for The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Snowman.

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Inside Out Toys 01908 969 969 | Inside Out Toys is joining 130+ AIS approved suppliers of toys and gifts as it showcases its range of Jumini wooden toys at the May show. The company’s range of innovative Jumini wooden toys are sensibly priced, with competitive trade discounts and packaging with a modern and fresh look which appeals to consumers in store. All new stockists will receive a POS pack which includes Jumini shelf wobblers, a window sticker and Jumini paper carriers to encourage repeat purchases. The recently launched My First Mr Men Little Miss range of toys is ideally positioned for AIS members, particularly in garden centres where they offer impulse purchase options for grandparents and parents. Mr Men is a classic brand, loved by generations, and the basic shapes and bright colours of the characters are carried through in the selection of wooden toys. The range includes a Mr Tickle Bead Maze and a Mr Men Little Miss Shape Sorter, with varied retail prices to suit every occasion and budget. The company’s foldaway toy range also offers strong gifting opportunities, with a farm, zoo, unicorn castle, fire station, police station, and nativity set available. The boxes are cardboard with a magnetic flap fastening over the handle for easy transport, and the 12 pieces contained inside are wooden.

The Irish Fairy Door Company 00353 676 3800 | The Irish Fairy Door company provides a range of innovative products designed to bring fairy magic into children’s homes. Distributed in the UK by Alpha Toys, the focus for the show will be on the new product lines. The Magic Dust Mixing Set lets kids spend hours creating magical dust mixtures from the recipe book or from their own imagination. The Tooth Fairy Kit encourages good oral hygiene and includes a toothbrush and holder for the bathroom along with a brushing timer and tooth vial for when the wobbly tooth falls out. Parents can also download an app to listen to Fairy Clodagh’s tooth brushing song. The company’s star of the show will be the launch of the No More Worries Kit, which allows believers to access fairy magic to help take their worries away, wherever they are. Visit the Alpha Toys stand at the show to find out more. This year the company has unveiled a strong marketing plan encompassing online and social media. The Irish Fairy Door YouTube channel goes from strength to strength, with 250,000 organic video views to date. The company has put major investment behind online marketing for 2018 Q1 to further expand its reach, create demand and drive sales in retail stores and online. The ongoing targeted social media campaign across all its platforms will increase brand awareness among the company’s 300,000+ online followers. In addition, The Irish Fairy Door Company is looking forward to a PR collaboration with Paramount Pictures for the theatrical release of Gnomio & Juliet 2: Sherlock Gnomes, and Q4 will see the launch of a new theatrical production for the stage – The Fairy Who Saved Christmas.


Posh Paws

01253 608 428 |

01268 567 317 |

At this year’s Independent Toy and Gift Show, Casdon will be presenting its pre-school role-play toys. This year sees refreshed packaging; bright colours, bold designs and numerous languages have been added to the company’s big name replica offerings. The Little Helpers, Little Cooks and Little Shopper ranges offer something for all role-play fans, from household names such as Dyson, Hetty and Henry Vacuums, and Morphy Richards kitchen appliances. For retailers, Casdon comes with the assurance of quality and affordable collections, and 2018 welcomes a solid social media strategy that will increase awareness of the brand’s values with the parental audience.

August will see the release of a new Winnie the Pooh movie, and the company is introducing the My Teddy Bear Pooh collection in advance of the release. The Posh Paws Winnie the Pooh offering is a major focus for the firm for 2018, and TV advertising is planned for Q4 featuring the range. The official movie range includes Pooh in his classic red jumper, Eeyore, Piglet and Tigger. Available as 7”, 10”and XL sizes, each toy is styled just like the characters in the film.

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The Puppet Company Ltd. The

Pup Co pet mp any Ltd ÂŽ .

We are a UK based Design & Wholesale company supplying over 1000 high quality puppets and soft toys of all shapes and sizes! Have a puppet - Have fun! Tel: +44 (0) 1462 446040

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The Puppet Company 01462 446 040 | The Puppet Company is showing over 40 new puppets, including a new collection of animal glove puppets - Puppet Buddies. Made with a different material to the company’s classic ranges (Long Sleeve Puppets and CarPets), Puppet Buddies are competitively priced. The new puppets have not been designed to replace The Puppet Company’s current ranges, but instead to offer retailers a good basic puppet option that can achieve a x2.4 margin. Catering to the current trend for all things dinosaur, the company has also developed large Dinosaur Head hand puppets. Available in a range of different colours, these dinosaur puppets are a strong addition to the Large Creatures collection. There are four main designs to choose from, including T-Rex, Triceratops, Diplodocus and Stegosaurus. The puppets reach down to the puppeteer’s elbow and have fully working mouths. Finished in a range of colours, the Dinosaur Head hand puppets are lifelike and feature high levels of attention to detail. The company will also be exhibiting its Wilberry soft toy collection, with over 80 new styles including Wilberry Dancers, Wilberry Woollies, and Wilbury Knitted. This collection of soft toys has been well received at the major toy fairs this year, with some items already sold out and re-ordered. The full Wilberry range will be on show at this year’s event, and retailers are urged to see for themselves what the soft toys have to offer.

Tactic Games 01483 332 070 | Tactic will be unveiling new gifts and games at the show. Lumo Stars is a range of collectible plush toys covering various key price points. The first range, Northern Brights, will be supported in the market with a free Lumo Stars app. The plush creatures have colourful eyes complemented by striking patterns and colour combinations, and new designs and themes will be released every three months. Tactic has partnered with Finnish interior designer Eero Aarni to create Mini Home, a 2-in-1 toy and puzzle. The Mini Home is available in two sizes, the Mini Home and the Big Mini Home. Mini Home includes a dining set with 12 chairs, two benches, a table and wall pieces, and Big Mini Home includes furniture for rooms such as the bedroom and living room. All the pieces combine in a certain way to fit back into the clear display box. In the game Story Chest, players take turns to tell a continuous story inspired by one of the cards dealt. The other player has to predict which card they will choose. If they predict correctly, their keys fall into the fairy forest for safe keeping. If they were incorrect, they fall into the Dragon’s fiery furnace. The player with the most keys at the end wins. iKnow is a twist on traditional trivia, as players guess what other players know. Suitable for all the family, players place bets on whether their opponents will answer correctly to receive points; the first to 20 points wins.

Schleich 01279 870 000 | Central to Schleich’s 2018 Horse Club range will be four posable new riders. The Caravan For Secret Club Meetings, the Large Horse Stable with House & Stable and the Riding Café play sets also join the range. The Yorkshire Terrier and French Bulldog join Farm World this spring, while new boxed sets include the Miniature Pig Mother and Piglets and the Pony Mare and Foal. For autumn, the Large Farm House and Adventure Tree House will be unveiled. New Q1 Wild Life arrivals include the Ranger and Indian Rhinoceros Starter Set, the Panda Enclosure set, and the Trap with Ranger. The 4x4 Vehicle with Winch set launches in September.

GP Flair 020 8643 0320 | Pikmi Pops, scented mini plushies range packaged inside lollipop vessels, is the latest property from Moose. The Season 2 launch coincides with this year’s show, Season 3 launches in summer with all new scents and surprises, and April sees the launch of Pikmi Pops PushMi Ups which feature a confetti surprise. Vampirina and Puppy Dog Pals have also joined Just Plays’ preschool portfolio. On show alongside other products will be the fully articulated 15cm Vee Doll, the 30cm Bat-tastic Talking Vee & Friends and the Scare B & B Playset for Vampirina, plus the Puppy Dog Pals hero Doghouse Playset and plush toy range.

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Bestselling Fa iry Gar den n o w n e i jo d by new Picnic Bask et!



NEfoW r 2018

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AIS supplement April 2018  
AIS supplement April 2018