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August 2021 Volume 10 Issue 12

Tel: +44 (0) 1423 368 888 | Email: orders@kaptoys.com

KAP Toys offers incredible products from World-leading brands while operating with the speed and agility of a family business. They have won multiple awards for the business see www.kaptoys.com for further information


The Team...

CONTENTS August 2021 Volume 10 Issue 12

John Baulch

45 Feature: Wooden Toys

72 Feature: STEM and Educational

Publisher and Managing Editor john@toyworldmag.co.uk 01442 502 408 07932 651 207

Mark Austin

Sales Director mark@toyworldmag.co.uk 01442 502 405 07710 532 952

Anita Baulch

Circulation and Financial Director anita@toyworldmag.co.uk 01442 502 406

News

Regulars

Features

07 From the Publisher 08 News 16 Industry Moves 20 Marketing World 24 Licensing World 134 Allegedly

30 NPD column 33 Talking Shop 38 Fresh

44 45 64 71 72 94 110 114 122 124 126

Contributors The NPD Group | Mark Buschhaus Stephen Barnes | Jonathan Chambers

Rachael Simpson-Jones

94 Feature: Plush

Company Profile: Toynamics Feature: Wooden Toys Brand Profile: SmartLab Company Profile: Sambro Feature: STEM and Educational Feature: Plush Company Profile: Golden Bear Feature: Fidget Special Feature: Colin Fox retires Feature: Autumn Fair Company Profile: Kidicraft

114 Feature: Fidget

Editor rachael@toyworldmag.co.uk 01442 502 406

Sam Giltrow

Assistant Editor sam@toyworldmag.co.uk 01442 502 406

Alakat Published by

Mark Crowford

Design and Production Manager markc@toyworldmag.co.uk 01442 502 405

www.toyworldmag.co.uk @toyworldmag @baulchtweet

toyworldmag

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Toy World Magazine

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T

he ongoing shipping crisis continues to make headlines across the globe, with consumer media finally waking up to the potential implications for the public at large. It is now a foregone conclusion that the shipping industry will post record profits this year – at least $80b and possibly even as high as $100b, more than treble the all-time record. As container prices hit the dizzy heights of $20,000, it turns out that hiking prices when your customers have no alternative but to pay up is a solid strategy. Even if you are one of the lucky ones able to successfully ship product from the Far East to the UK, there is the little matter of getting it from warehouses into shops, with the current shortage of lorry drivers making headline news in recent weeks.

from the publisher

John Baulch - @Baulchtweet

So, where is all this heading? Rumours that Philip Schofield’s ‘How to spend it well at Christmas’ is to be renamed ‘How to find a toy at Christmas’ have not been officially confirmed, but I think we can safely assume that there may well be shortages. Indeed, as I write this column on a glorious warm, sunny day in the middle of July, a segment has just been aired on a high-profile morning TV show, encouraging consumers to shop early for their Christmas toys to avoid disappointment. Last year, a similar communication strategy worked well for the toy community, so let’s hope the message gets across loud and clear once more. The other upshot from the ongoing logistics and production challenges is that prices will surely have to rise? While I appreciate the complexity of the situation, and the concerns over the potential for an increase in prices to impact sales volumes, I don’t believe that toy suppliers and retailers facing legitimate cost pressures should feel guilty about realigning prices. Could we even see some ‘sacred’ price points needing to be reassessed? Even if price rises led to a small drop in sales, retailers would be making more money on each item sold, as the gross margin would be higher. And what if sales don’t actually decline at all? I remember one retail owner admitting he was furious when a well-known toy supplier increased the price of a popular item by £1 a while back, and how annoyed he was when it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference to the rate of sale, having told the supplier the move would see sales drop off. Sometimes, we all fear the worst. There is a strong argument to suggest that toy prices have remained artificially low for a while. Given that many parents have saved money working from home

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and not being able to go abroad on holiday, maybe it’s time to see what happens if we adjust prices to reflect the new cost realities of doing business in a postpandemic, post-Brexit world? Thankfully, all the evidence continues to point to consumer demand for toys remaining robust. This month’s NPD column assesses the sales data from the first half of the year and – spoiler alert – it is reassuring to see that sales have held up remarkably well, both in comparison with last year and also 2019. This month’s issue also includes a series of extensive product category features – STEM Toys, Wooden Toys and Plush, as well as a special look at the Fidget Toy market which has literally exploded this year. There are plenty of exciting new product launches coming over the next few months, and marketing campaigns are already swinging into action to drive interest in the new introductions – and we’ll be keeping you up to date with all the latest developments in our forthcoming print issues and on our website. There is also the tantalizing prospect of the return of trade shows over the coming weeks. This month, we offer a sneak preview of what will be on show from toy companies at the Autumn Fair in Birmingham this September, while the Independent Toy & Gift Show is also due to take place a few weeks later, welcoming members of plaY-room, the toy division of the AIS buying group, as well as other specialist independent toy retail guests from across the UK. Of course, if the last year has taught us anything, it is that with 6-8 weeks to go before both shows are due to open, there is still a lot that can happen between now and then. However, with restrictions officially due to ease any day now, we can only hope that we are about to see some light at the end of the tunnel with regard to trade events being able to return in person. We’ll be back next month with our legendary Games & Puzzles supplement, the most exhaustive guide to the category you’ll see anywhere this autumn, as well as an issue packed with hot new ranges and a round-up of pre-Christmas marketing campaigns. Hopefully, by the time the issue lands on 1st September, the countdown for the festive season will be in full swing. All the key ingredients are in place – we just need to make sure that the general public are aware that leaving it to the last minute to make their festive toy purchases might be a risk they’ll ultimately regret.


News AIS gears up for return of The Independent Toy & Gift Show Independent buying group AIS is preparing to welcome the toy community back to in-person meetings at The Independent Toy & Gift show this September. The event, the only UK based toy trade show to be held in 2021, takes place on the 14th and 15th at Cranmore Park, Solihull. As well as providing exhibitors and visitors with the chance to network, it will give them the opportunity to see and feel products after a long absence caused by the pandemic. The theme for this year’s show is Wooden Toys, with a variety of merchandise displays to inspire and delight. The main show sponsor, Ravensburger, is creating a Brio themed café area, paying homage to the household name. Exhibitor bookings opened last month and, with over 50% of stands booked within 10 days, AIS says it is imperative that those suppliers wishing to attend secure their space with the Playroom team. Cranmore Park hosts a multitude of suppliers, most recently with the success of INDX Fashion and Home shows, and there is free parking onsite, with direct links to the M42 s short drive away. The venue has been set up in accordance with Covid secure measures and the recommended safeguards will be implemented to ensure all attendees feel confident, safe and secure. Government regulations are being monitored and the event will be adjusted in accordance with the regulations applicable at the time. The show is open to the toy and children’s gift community, however prior registration is essential. For more details visit www.independenttoyandgift.co.uk/register-now

MGA Entertainment appoints Julie Taylor as sales director MGA UK & Ireland has announced the appointment of Julie Taylor as sales director, effective from 1st October. Having previously held a similar role at Golden Bear for almost 15 years, Julie is equipped with a wealth of success and experience in the industry. Based out of the UK head office in Milton Keynes, she will oversee the sales portfolio of all of MGA’s leading brands, including L.O.L. Surprise!, Little Tikes and Rainbow High, and manage a sales team of 10. Neil Bandtock, MD of MGA UK & Ireland, said: “I’m very pleased Julie is joining the team. Her excellent sales management background and extensive toy industry experience will help to propel MGA and its customers on to the next stage of our growth and development. We’ve got many exciting and innovative launches planned for this season and into 2022 – both within our current brands and new ones – and I know that having Julie as our sales director will ensure we can maximise all these opportunities.” Julie added: “I’m delighted with the opportunity to join such a fast moving, innovative toy company. I am really looking forward to working with MGA’s UK and Irish customers, and to bringing my wealth of experience to the role to help take the business to the next level.”

distributor of leading brands

sales@toynamics.co.uk | +44 116 478 5230

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News IMC launches OTT platform combining content with eCommerce IMC Toys has unveiled its ground-breaking new Over-The-Top (OTT) platform, which combines content with eCommerce. Setting the Kitoons OTT platform apart from other streaming services, and making it the first of its kind from a toy brand, products will be suggested to consumers based on the video being watched and drive viewers directly to retailers. Launched in late June, the platform will initially feature over 150 high-quality videos from top IMC Toys brands like Cry Babies Magic Tears, VIP Pets and Bloopies, making it the premier destination for new custom content. While watching, viewers have the opportunity to learn about products related to the video and add them to a COPPA compliant wish list, with parents having the ability to place orders through purchase links. “The launch of our own OTT platform is a monumental moment for IMC Toys,” said Raquel Roca, corporate communication manager, IMC Toys. “Our goal is always to provide the best possible experience for our consumers; this platform takes a holistic approach, conveniently providing everything from content to product information to purchasing ability, all in one place.” Kitoons OTT will be available through smart TVs, mobile, tablets and the web. As the platform rolls out, fans can look forward to even more features including interactive activities and content which will serve as the launching pad for new characters from the autumn/winter 2021 line-up. As part of the launch celebration, Cry Babies and Cry Babies Magic Tears will be back on Kitoons and on shelves with a whole new look. The Cry Babies have been reimagined in two new lines, Cry Babies Dressy Collection and Cry Babies Kiss Me Collection, both of which include upgraded features for a more lifelike appearance. The two series will be supported by custom content on the Kitoons OTT platform as well as the YouTube channel, which has billions of global views. Cry Babies Dressy Collection and Cry Babies Magic Tears Storyland Dress Me Up Series launch at the end of July, with all lines rolling out throughout autumn/winter 2021 at major retailers.

Katie Gritt joins Just Play UK Just Play UK continues to build the team ahead of its official opening on 1st January 2022 with the appointment of Katie Gritt as head of Marketing – EMEA. Katie has spent the past five years at The Entertainer, managing retail marketing before leading The Entertainer’s social media, content and PR strategy. She is responsible for the introduction of The Entertainer’s hugely successful Quiet Hour, Big Toy Appeal and Big Toy Rehoming campaigns, as well as the launch and management of The Entertainer Squad, so brings a wealth of retail knowledge to her new role, as well as a strong digital approach, aligning perfectly with Just Play UK’s growth strategy. Katie commented: “After five great years at The Entertainer, I am delighted to be taking on a new challenge with Just Play UK as head of Marketing – EMEA. It’s a hugely exciting time to be joining what is already a great team and I can’t wait to support the company’s exciting growth plans.” Anna Chapman, VP Marketing EMEA, added: “We are delighted to have Katie join the Just Play team, with her wealth of marketing knowledge and retail understanding, she will be a great asset as we deliver smart and relevant marketing campaigns to support our growing business.”

Golden Bear reshuffles team in preparation for further growth As Golden Bear bids a fond farewell to sales director Julie Taylor, who will join MGA Entertainment as its sales director in September, Becky Matthews is preparing to take up the newly created role of UK sales & marketing director. Becky is currently senior national account manager in the business and combines her responsibilities in this role with heading up the internal digital marketing team. She also leads the team that successfully delivered Golden Bear’s Virtual Toy Fair platform and will formally step into her new role from 1st October, after working side-by-side with Julie for the hand-over. Becky will be ably supported by longstanding senior national account manager Michelle Fox, to service the main national accounts. In another change on the sales side, Claire Vernon and her international sales team will report directly into managing director Barry Hughes, reflecting the continued growth of international sales within the business. Becky Matthews Becs Henchey Becs Henchey is being promoted to product and innovation director, after joining the company last year as senior creative development manager and Golden Bear is also currently recruiting for a senior brand manager, marketing manager and an EMEA account manager, among other roles. Barry Hughes said: “Julie has been a very valued member of the Golden Bear team for more than 20 years. I thank her for her unrelenting hard work, and we all wish her the very best in her new role. I’m delighted to see Becky step up to her new position as UK sales & marketing director, after an incredibly impressive career with us so far.”

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News Wicked Uncle accuses Amazon of ‘unfairly’ improving its organic search results Online gift specialist Wicked Uncle says it will request that Amazon stops using ‘Wicked Uncle Toys’ to drive click-throughs to its site – and that it isn’t the only retailer affected. Mike O’Shea, founder of Wicked Uncle, told Toy World: “We had a lot of hassle in May from Amazon bidding on ‘Wicked Uncle’ for PPC (Pay-Per-Clicks, an internet advertising model used to drive traffic to websites, in which an advertiser pays a publisher when the ad is clicked). We complained to Google, explaining that Amazon was using our trademark, and they stopped it. However, now they are using ‘Wicked Uncle’ to improve their organic results in what I would call an unfair way.” Mike pointed out that searching for ‘Wicked Uncle’ or ‘Wicked Uncle Toys’ on Google brings up ads for Amazon, complete with the words “Low Prices on Wicked uncle toys,” as well as ads paid for by Wicked Uncle itself. When clicked, the Amazon ad takes users to a landing page of toys and games, some of which are Wicked Uncle best-sellers. “I have written to our lawyers,” adds Mike. “It’s early days yet, so we will send Amazon a nice letter to ask it to stop. Then we will send a Cease and Desist letter, and go from there. It strikes me as the essence of unfair competition: using market power to steal clicks from your competitors, not because you are better but because you can. I am honoured to be noticed, even if only by their bots…but it is not good for anyone.” Wicked Uncle doesn’t seem to be the only retailer caught up in this tactic. Google searches for ‘Smyths Toys’ and ‘The Entertainer toys’ also bring up Amazon ads within the first page of results.

Kingsley Li launches KCK Agencies Kingsley Li has over 30 years’ sales experience having held roles at Rollplay, Schleich, Epoch, Playmobil, Hasbro, K’Nex and Tomy, giving him a wealth of experience dealing with huge portfolio of customers. He has now taken the step of setting up his own business, KCK Agencies, which will service an area from Buckinghamshire, up to and including all of The North as well as Scotland. Having started off as a sales consultant in the flagship London Hamleys, Kingsley then progressed through his toy industry career, from becoming territory manager to achieving country manager status. Over the years, he has developed a comprehensive understanding of how to become a successful agent, having ended up running the sales team at several of his previous roles. Kingsley is confident his experience and industry knowledge will be an asset in advising and supporting retailers throughout the UK. “I am thrilled and excited to start this new chapter of my career,” Kingsley told Toy World. “I have always enjoyed being ‘on the road’ and cannot wait to get back to visiting stores again and meeting retailers face to face. With KCK Agencies, I now represent Vivid, Yvolution, and Geomag for the North of England, and would love to add a few more companies to complete my portfolio. I am open to discussions with any company that is currently looking for agents.” Kingsley can be contacted via email on kckagencies@outlook.com

All UK Disney Stores except flagship rumoured to be closing Disney has begun a store closure programme in the US and several stores in the UK have also already closed this year, with all but the flagship store in London’s Oxford Street believed to be shutting by 21st September. Disney previously hinted that UK physical store closures were forthcoming. The group announced in March that it planned to close at least 60 Disney retail stores in North America, about 20% of its worldwide total, as it revamped its digital shopping platforms to focus more on online sales. The company also said it was evaluating a significant reduction of stores in Europe, out of its approximately 300 Disney stores around the globe. Reports now indicate that many more stores beyond these original projections are closing worldwide, although this has yet to be publicly confirmed by Disney. Locations in Watford, Warrington and Aberdeen closed earlier this year, while branches in Bromley and Westfield Stratford have closed this month. Staff at other UK outlets have taken to social media to share that they have been given notice and told that their stores will soon be closing. Some local media outlets have also picked up on the news, with YorkMix reporting that the city’s branch will close by September; the shop unit is already being marketed for rent on commercial property sites. The website states that management have known about the York store closure for some weeks. The Daily Echo also confirmed that the Southampton store has closed for good, and the Sunderland Echo reported a further store closing its doors in June after more than a decade in the Bridges Shopping Centre, having moved to bigger premises in 2012. The Disney Store website suggests that the company may be moving towards partnerships with existing and third-party retailers in the future, rather than running standalone stores.

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Peppa’s Wooden Mud Kitchen

Encourages outdoor roleplay

Create th e ultim a mud p ie te

Includes metal pans and utensils

HTI Group1952

htitoys

HTI GroupMedia

Contact our sales office on 01253 775544 Email: sales@htigroup.co.uk PEPPA PIG and all related trademarks and characters TM & © 2003 Astley Baker Davies Ltd and/or Entertainment One UK Limited. HASBRO and all related logos and trademarks TM & © 2021 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

Peppa Pig created by Mark Baker and Neville Astley.


News Obituary – Peter Lockey Toy World is sad to report that director and co-founder of The Puppet Company, Peter Lockey, has passed away just shy of his 64th birthday, following a short battle with a brain tumour. His son Sam, sales director at The Puppet Company, which this month marks its 20th anniversary, told Toy World how his father came to be in the toy trade, working first as a teacher like his mum Sue (co-founder) before going into working for the family luggage business, after which he partnered with his father, Eric, to make pine furniture. While doing so, Peter built on his lifelong passion for design and puppetry, moving on to design puppet theatres. This resulted in The Tabletop Theatre Company which was run from the family home. Sue and Peter travelled the country visiting fairs, craft shows and music festivals. The theatres proved so popular that customers began asking to buy puppets, and ultimately the business moved to designing and selling these as The Puppet Company. A talented man, Peter designed the company’s first ever own-brand puppets, a Crow and a Scarlet Macaw, before heading to China to find a manufacturer (who remains one of the company’s main manufacturers to this day). Sue and Peter re-mortgaged their house to start the business, but the gamble paid off – two decades later, The Puppet Company remains a thriving family business with a portfolio of beautiful toys and puppets, largely designed by Peter himself, which are sold around the world. “Our parents used to put on puppet shows for us at home,” recounted Sam. “They saw the impact puppetry can have on people and wanted to share that joy. Puppets foster imagination and creativity at home and in the classroom, and can give shy children a way to communicate.” Peter’s son Joe also works for the company, heading up the technical and logistics side, while eldest daughter Katy oversees marketing and product. Peter’s youngest daughter Hannah, an Early Years teacher, uses puppets in her teaching, while his brother Tim and cousin Chris also work in the business. Peter was a keen fisherman, birdwatcher and potter, and in recent years had started to take more time to enjoy these hobbies knowing his business was in safe hands. “We’re dedicated to continuing Dad’s work for as long as possible,” added Sam. “We’ve all been given the opportunity to make lifelong careers out of our father’s legacy and lifelong passion, and we want to make him and Mum proud.” Everyone that knew Peter will greatly miss his sense of fun, humour and zest for life. Toy World would like to offer its condolences to Sue, Sam, Joe, Katy and Hannah, as well as all of Peter’s friends and family. Donations in Peter’s memory can be made to Brain Tumour Research, by visiting www.newlingsofroyston.co.uk/donate-in-memory/ Once on the page, enter the surname ‘Lockey’ and hit search.

Obituary: Willi Zapf Former Zapf Creation owner Willi Zapf passed away on 30th June at the age of 83. In a statement, the company said: “Willi will be remembered as a committed and optimistic entrepreneur and a down to earth, approachable man who never lost sight of what he believed in. “The impact Willi had on play and development for young children is immeasurable. Together with his wife Brigitte Zapf, Willi helped to shape Zapf Creation and its much loved, bestselling brands into the company we know today. Thanks to his leadership, generations of children across the world have enjoyed endless hours of fun with their dolls, especially Baby born. His work inspired imagination and adventure amongst very young children, developing their nurturing, social and empathy skills along the way. “In 1958, Willi and Brigitte Zapf took over the management of the Max Zapf doll factory. Under the new name of Zapf Puppen-und Spielwarenfabrik, Willi and Brigitte Zapf launched Baby born in 1991. He sold the company in 1992, but continued to lead it through success, growth and innovation, until his retirement in 1997. With passion and determination, he led the company to become one of the leading manufacturers of play and functional dolls, and Baby born grew into one of the best-selling products the doll sector has ever seen.” Andrew Laughton, who headed up Zapf UK for many years, told Toy World: “Willi was a true gentleman. I would not have even entered the toy industry without his support and belief. A good friend of my father, together they built the Max Zapf business in the UK until he sold it over 20 years ago. I’ll be forever grateful to Willi and the entire Zapf family for their friendship and the opportunity they gave my family. His son Stefan still works at Zapf, heading up IT, so the family connection to the brand still remains. It’s poignant that 2021 is the 30th anniversary of Baby born – the brand transformed the large doll business worldwide, and it was Willi who saw the concept and believed in it from the start.”

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Industry Moves New marketing manager joins Casdon Toys Simone Inskip has joined Casdon Toys as marketing manager to oversee the company’s new brand and marketing strategy. Having spent the past three years working at MGA Entertainment, Simone brings with her a wealth of experience across the toy and entertainment sector. Casdon Toys has just celebrated its 75th anniversary and has a number of exciting campaigns already underway including the Helping out in the Home Corner initiative. The campaign, rolling out this summer, will see 100 primary-schools benefit through an interactive and resourceled programme packed full of fun activity sheets, certificates and stickers for children to take home, as well as receiving child-sized home corner favourites from Casdon’s best-selling range of toys to help enhance role-play areas in schools across the country. Simone will work on this and other campaigns alongside Casdon’s newly appointed retained PR agency, Playtime PR. Phil Cassidy, managing director at Casdon, commented: “We are delighted to welcome Simone to the Casdon family. We have no doubt that she is a perfect fit for the team and the right person to help us harness and enhance the exciting plans we have for the coming year.” Commenting on her new role, Simone added: “I’m thrilled to be joining the amazing team at Casdon – and during such an exciting time for the brand too. With so many great initiatives to get on board with, and plenty more to bring to the table in both a digital and retail capacity, I’m looking forward to playing a part in the business’ future.” Helen Robinson

Lee-Anne Neale

Hauck UK appoints new sales managers to drive growth in UK and Ireland

Hauck is aiming to boosting its sales outreach in the UK and Ireland with the appointment of two experienced sales managers. Helen Robinson, who has 16 years’ experience in sales in the nursery industry working for Mamas & Papas, Cybex/ Goodbaby International and Di-ono, joins as the new head of sales UK. Lee-Anne Neale has been appointed as senior national account manager, UK and Ireland, and brings over 20 years’ experience of business development and management in the gift, toy, consumer goods and outdoor categories, working for brands such as Posh Paws, Worlds Apart and KD Group. With these appointments, the toy and nursery company aims to expand direct relationships between retail and brand. Hauck has ambitious targets for international growth, supported by an excellent brand position in the German home market and current investments in rebranding, brand extensions and expanding the digital edge of the company. Barbara Kreibich, director of sales Europe and sales toys, commented: “We have decided to strengthen our sales power by directly recruiting two industry experts who will allow us to leverage the synergies that arise from integrating the toy and nursery businesses. This investment in distinguished additions to our team is an expression of our investors’ support for our ambitious international expansion plans.” Hauck is currently working on a realignment of its brand and the company says it wants to further expand its strategic partnerships with European multi-channel retail partners, making the most of its experience as a digital pioneer. This includes jointly evaluating data and setting up customer-specific marketing plans.

Craft Buddy introduces Andrew Welch as new head of marketing

Plum Play welcomes Lesley Whitehouse as product manager

Andrew Welch has been appointed to the newly created post of head of marketing at Craft Buddy, bringing 16 years’ experience to the company. His previous roles include looking after the marketing activity for the Power Rangers and Ben 10 brands during his five years at Bandai as senior product manager. He also spent six years with Creative Toys Company marketing the SoccerStarz brand and collectible mini figure range, Team Rudolph. With experience in R&D gained at Vivid, Flair and, most recently, at John Adams, his expertise in developing products and marketing established licensed ranges to consumers lends itself well to his new role. Andrew has also been instrumental in developing TV, digital campaigns and retail launches for high profile brands and working on a host of arts & crafts products. “I am joining Craft Buddy in a period of exponential growth for the company,” commented Andrew. “There is a huge demand out there for our products which is reflected in the range of listings we have secured. With new licences coming on board on the back of the success we have seen across our Disney lines, this is an exciting time for the business. I look forward to working with the Craft Buddy team to launch new ranges to market and further develop our extensive Arts & Crafts offering.” Gary Wadhwani, co-director of Craft Buddy, said of Andrew’s appointment: “His track record of developing impactful marketing campaigns and working directly with both retailers and distribution partners brings an added dimension to our business. We look forward to bringing new ranges and licences to market later this year and beyond.”

Plum Play has announced the appointment of Lesley Whitehouse as product manager. In her new role, Lesley will be responsible for introducing new items to the Plum portfolio, making sure that brand guidelines and ethics are maintained, and she will also be working with other departments on new processes. Lesley brings a wealth of experience to Plum Play, having spent over 16 years working for Toys R Us as lead buyer for Europe. Most recently, she worked for Mothercare and The Entertainer as a senior buyer. Lesley commented: “I am looking forward to working with the Plum family and team, which I have known for many years. It is an exciting time to join the business, with the new global expansion program we have in our sights. My experience and knowledge from the outdoor industry will be extremely valuable for further ventures.” Director of Product Development, Dave Woodman, added: “I am delighted to have Lesley on board as part of the team. With over 20 years of experience in the toy trade she is going to be a great asset to the business as we continue our growth in both the UK and international markets.”

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The Independent

The leading name in toys and children’s gifts

Tuesday 14th & Wednesday 15th September 2021 Register now: independenttoyandgift.co.uk Cranmore Park Exhibition Centre, Cranmore Avenue, Shirley, Solihull, West Midlands B90 4LF


Industry Moves Geomagworld takes on new agents to expand indie coverage Wil Abigail

Kingsley Li

Geomagworld has announced it is extending its reach with the addition of sales agents in two key areas. Will Abigail will take responsibility for East Anglia and the Midlands, whilst Kingsley Li will look after the company’s independent sales in the North and Scotland. Geomagworld’s Clive Wooster commented: “We felt this was a good time to extend our coverage and support our independent retailers in these two key areas. With Will and Kingsley we can provide regular independent support and professional advice as we further build our presence in UK.” The company offers a collection of quality and highly innovative new products for children of all ages and is also furthering its position as a leading manufacturer when it comes to sustainability. In 2020, the company first presented its new green range and made a commitment that, moving forwards, all new products introduced would only be manufactured using recycled plastic. 2021 sees the introduction of 20 new items across Geomagworld’s Magicube, Geomag and Mechanics platforms, each one made using recycled plastic. Contact details for both new Geomagworld agents are as follows: Will Abigail – email at waagencies@outlook.com or phone 07955 283490/Kingsley Li – email at kckagencies@outlook.com or phone 07585 979694.

Katy Greenwood joins Kidicraft as company expands Kidicraft has strengthened its team with the appointment of Katy Greenwood who, as sales administrator, will serve to support the increased demand the company is experiencing and ensure that it maintains its excellent levels of customer service. Katy is joining at a critical and exciting time as the business has recently relocated to new premises – a move the company says is necessary to keep up with the continued expansion of the business and its ever-expanding range of new products. Roy Greenwood, director at Kidicraft, told Toy World he is delighted to have Katy on board. Katy has joined after completing her university degree, and Roy says he is excited to see his experience and knowledge being passed down for the future. Katy added: “I am really excited to have joined the team. Everyone has been very helpful and supportive in introducing me into the toy industry. I cannot wait for restrictions to ease, so that I can get more involved in the trade shows and see the business progress. It has been lovely to start working with my dad – and to learn from him.” The company’s new address is Kidicraft Ltd, 26-28 Churchill Way, Lomeshaye Industrial Estate, Nelson, BB9 6RT. Katy can be reached on 01282 505988 or sales@kidicraft.com.

University Games appoints new national accounts manager Chris Maker brings over two decades of retail expertise as well as national account experience gained during his work with prestigious brands such as Joseph Joseph, Camelot and Lindt Chocolate. Speaking about his new role, Chris said: “As retail begins to get back on track, this is a crucial but exciting time, not only for the sector as a whole but also for the growth and development of the business and I am very much looking forward to playing my part. With Q4 just around the corner and over 700 games, puzzles and gifts in our portfolio there is plenty to be get excited about." Mark Jones, director of sales at University Games, said Chris will be a fantastic addition to the University Games team: “To be able to bring an individual of Chris’ calibre to the team, with his extensive experience and character, will be a huge benefit, not only to his customers but also to the rest of the team. As a business we have seen strong growth in the last couple of years and we believe Chris will be an integral part of continuing that success.” University Games recently moved from its London-based office of 25 years into more modern offices in Royston, Hertfordshire to allow for further expansion as part of the company’s strategic growth plans.

Area Sales Manager – North Toynamics is seeking an Area Sales Manager – North. Situated in the Harborough district of Leicestershire, the company’s dedicated UK office and new showroom have been paramount to its growth and evolution. With new and exciting brands joining the portfolio, this is an excellent opportunity for the right candidate to join Toynamics at a very exciting time. To find out more and apply, contact emma.finch@ toynamics.co.uk sending a CV and covering letter. No agencies.

Toynamics brings in Nick Rushton as area sales manager Toynamics UK & Ireland has appointed Nick Rushton as area sales manager for the North. Nick’s role will focus on driving sales forward with independent accounts as well as growing business opportunities across Toynamics’ toy and nursery brand portfolio, which covers Hape, Skip Hop, Nebulous Stars, DinosArt and Nanoblock. His remit will cover new business development and nurturing existing business. Nick has an excellent track record in sales. Previously at Hornby Hobbies, he covered sales for the North of England and Scotland for Hornby, Scalextric, Corgi, Airfix and Humbrol, with a focus on the independent sector. David Allan, MD at Toynamics UK & Ireland, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Nick as our new area sales manager for the North. His role is vital to the expansion and development of new business and growth within independent accounts across the Northern territory.” Nick can be contacted on nick.rushton@toynamics.co.uk.

Toy World 18


www.clementoni.com

For more information please contact: uk@clementoni.com


Marketing World Moose Toys kicks off campaign for new Akedo – Ultimate Arcade Warriors

PlayMonster UK teams up with Playtime PR to promote family games PlayMonster Games has enlisted the support of specialist toys and games agency, Playtime PR, to strengthen its marketing efforts in the run up to the key Christmas games buying period, as the company’s portfolio of games for all ages continues to expand. With ambitions to continue its stellar growth in the UK and become a top 10 UK games manufacturer PlayMonster Games is investing in accelerated strategic and creative integrated marketing campaigns in 2021. Working with Playtime PR, the top priority will be to deliver brand-building activations for 5 Second Rule, a key brand within PlayMonster’s games portfolio and one which continues to evolve; this year sees a streamlining of SKUs to bring focus to the range, a brand-new edition featuring a quick reaction buzzer, plus a revamped Mini edition perfect for taking, and playing, anywhere. Playtime has devised a variety of campaigns to extend across PlayMonster’s existing popular family games lines – Drone Home, Orangutwang and Silly Sounds – as well as launches for new lines aimed at younger audiences, such as a raft of new pre-school action titles and PlayMonster’s innovative new Pop-A-Tops portable games line. Justin Clasby, senior marketing manager at PlayMonster UK, commented: “We had a phenomenal year of growth within our games portfolio in 2020 and have set ourselves big goals for the future. The time is right for us to invest in this area of our business – both financially and creatively – and adding Playtime to our roster of media and PR agencies makes sense due to its solid understanding of the games world, from both a consumer and media perspective. We’re all agreed that the 5 Second Rule brand has even more potential in the UK, and I’m looking forward to seeing the plans come to life over the coming months.” Lesley Singleton, Playtime’s founder and MD, added: “It’s great to be part of Team PlayMonster, especially this year when games are such a fun part of people re-socialising. PlayMonster’s portfolio has something for everyone, so it gives us plenty to play with in terms of angles, ideas, influencers and that all-important media outreach to drive sales at retail.”

Moose Toys has kicked off a full-scale marketing campaign for its newly launched Akedo – Ultimate Arcade Warriors, the first brand to combine realistic battling action figures at a micro-collectible scale, and the toymaker’s biggest boys’ launch to date. The campaign saw the launch of a brand new animated series, produced in partnership with WildBrain’s premium kids and family AVOD network, WildBrain Spark, which can be viewed on the MooseTube Mania YouTube channel. Moose has also partnered with WildBrain CPLG, to manage a global licensing programme for the Akedo brand across all categories to follow the toys’ launch, and WildBrain will handle global distribution for the new series. Fans will also be able to watch The Akedo Super Ultimate Ultimate Tournament, a branded programming video showcasing an exclusive bracket-style tournament on Nickelodeon’s YouTube Channel, which has over 50m views each month. The event will match up 16 competitors made up of kids and top influencers, with each competitor battling for their warrior to win the title and become the Ultimate Akedo Champion. The event goes live on 15th August on Nickelodeon’s YouTube channel. Derived from the Japanese word for arcade, Akedo has a retro gaming look and combines it with kids battling one-on-one with 39 unique warriors including ninjas, robots, gladiators and Vikings, alongside teddy bears, a dinosaur and clowns. “It’s the most dynamic battling toy ever, and with deep collectability and engaging entertainment, we are delivering a fully-rounded experience that meets kids where they are,” said Ronnie Frankowski, chief marketing officer, Moose Toys. Akedo will launch in major retailers in August, and every product includes battle controllers that feature a number slide to keep score. Suitable for ages 6+.

Squishmallows to benefit from animated YouTube series Jazwares’ hit plush line Squishmallows has welcomed its own animated YouTube series in a move that should see the brand’s meteoric rise continue. The new series, produced by Moonbug (the studio behind CoComelon), launched in June and will roll out a new episode every Saturday until the end of October 2021. Each episode will follow the cute Squishmallow characters, including Fifi, Lola, Cam and Winston, as they embark on adventures around their town. “The launch of Squishville speaks volumes to the growth in popularity Squishmallows has had over the last year,” said Jazwares president Laura Zebersky. “With original animated content, fans can now engage with the Squishmallows squad and experience their adorable, colourful personalities like never before.” There are currently more than 800 Squishmallow characters to collect in a range of sizes, from collectible minis to giant plush. In December, Jazwares further bolstered the appeal of the brand by launching Squishville, the UK’s first all-plush play sets. The brand has been a smash hit at retail with Midco’s Dave Middleton previously telling Toy World that sales were “all about Squishmallows”, while Rick Derr, a regular Toy World columnist, has written of families driving hours to find the latest characters. Jazwares says the Squishmallows hashtag has generated 2.8b views on TikTok to date and the company is expecting the YouTube series to be extremely successful.

Toy World 20


Opinion

Your type of viewer on paper? This month, Jonathan looks at some different options that could be used to target kids and those all-important co-viewing occasions with parents.

P

eppa Pig or Love Island? If you want to reach a five-year-old on TV, which would you choose? Content alone dictates that the correct answer is of course Peppa, quite apart from the huge cost implications of prime time ITV2. However, it may surprise you to learn that, on average, Love Island has a larger audience of 4-6 year olds than everyone’s favourite pig. According to BARB data, this year’s opening episode of Love Island was viewed by 200,000 children aged between 4-15. Of these, almost a quarter (48,000) were aged between 4-6 (shockingly this was higher than the 7-12 year old viewership of 41,000). On the same day (28th June), the top performing episode of Peppa Pig achieved a 4-6 audience of 47,000. This of course doesn’t take into account the frequency at which Peppa is shown – layer this into the equation and Peppa Pig is actually the third most viewed show on UK TV (behind Coronation Street and Emmerdale). What the above example does serve to demonstrate is the fact that children’s linear viewing habits are not limited to traditional children’s channels, especially when aiming for those allimportant co-viewing occasions with parents. And whilst Love Island will be inappropriate for many, for a whole host of reasons, there are many opportunities in market that brands should pay attention to this Q4. Live sport for example can be a powerful vehicle for reaching children’s audiences and their parents, stereotypically and statistically boys and their dads.

Take a look at the impact on search performance following a single spot prior to the England vs. Scotland game during Euro 2020. This is something we activated for a high-profile entertainment brand in the children’s space: Opportunities like this don’t come around very often of course, and the likely six figure price tag for the spot reflects this. However, spots in Premier League football are becoming more affordable as broadcast rights continue to proliferate. Sky Sports and BT Sport games can now be accessed for less than £10k (dependent on the fixture), and don’t forget Amazon’s offering on Prime which is fully commercial. But maybe football isn’t right for your brand and audience. What else is there in market? During the past few years, we have found great success as an agency in deploying linear budgets in family movies and dual viewing content across the ITV and Channel 4 portfolios. Classics such as You’ve Been Framed and Nanny McPhee still draw in relatively high audiences amongst both children and their parents. Reaching this dual audience has a higher potential to stimulate conversation and increase search activity for your brand – so make sure your PPC activity is switched on. For example, one of the top performing episodes of You’ve Been Framed during November 2020 amassed an audience of 43,000 children aged 4-9. At the same time, 38,000 housekeepers with children were watching. With You’ve Been Framed appearing on ITV2 however, it may still preclude some advertisers (although short term deals should make this

Toy World 22

Jonathan Chambers Director of AV Investment, Generation Media. Tel: 0207 307 7906 Jonathan.Chambers@generationmedia.co.uk

affordable for all), so why not turn to another family favourite on Sky? Friends has seen a huge resurgence in interest during 2021 thanks in no small part to the Reunion which was watched by an incredible 741,000 housekeepers with children when first broadcast on Sky1 (over 10% of this demographic). An ever-present on the Channel Five and Comedy Central schedules, strategically placed spots during afternoon episodes can still attract strong dual audiences. One of the top performing episodes during June of this year achieved an audience of 39,000 children aged 4-9 (of which 59% were female), with a further 34,000 housekeepers with children viewing at the same time. Spots like this do still come at a slight premium versus children’s channels (although only just when accessed on a short-term basis), but the value they hold in communicating to both key audiences at the same time (in an environment where both are engaged) arguably justifies this. As children’s viewing habits, and those of their parents, continue to evolve across not only different channels but also across platforms, it’s important to constantly re-evaluate your media mix and be prepared to invest in new areas to maximise reach and engagement. The given examples should not be considered as an alternative to a strong linear campaign on children’s channels or across the increasingly cost effect YouTube. However, at the right budget level they can be very valuable additions which could make the difference in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Our team of experts, backed by proprietary planning optimisation tools The Media Aggregator and Jigsaw, are ready to provide you with the perfect balance for your brief.


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Licensing World KAP Toys launching Among Us toy range this month

Disguise announces global partnership with Funko to create Pop! Masks Costume design and manufacturing company Disguise has announced a global agreement with Funko which will see it market, manufacture and distribute Pop! Masks in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Oceania, South America and Asia from this year. Initial designs for 2021 will feature iconic characters from top licensors such as Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures Entertainment. The oversized masks are designed to be wearable and displayable, with limited runs of each style to drive collectability. In 2022, Disguise will expand the line with fresh styles from additional licensors with more than 30 new styles. “Disguise is thrilled to be partnering with Funko on a truly break-frame product like our wearable Pop! Masks,” said Tara Hefter, president and GM of Disguise. “The iconic Funko Pop! style translates to a really fun wearable product for cosplay and dress up occasions. We know Funko fans and Halloween lovers will jump at the opportunity to wear, collect and display our new Pop! Masks,” Jason Bischoff, director of global licensing at Funko, added: “We’ve spent years building up our business around fan-first collectability, community and affordability. Pop! Masks are born from that same tradition, and, just like our other products, Pop! Masks can be celebrated year-round. It’s another massive opportunity for fans to wear or display their fandom and connect with their fellow pop culture enthusiasts.” Disguise says that with its continued dedication to detail and quality, these new lines are sure to hit the mark with collectors, Halloween customers and retailers alike. Pop! Masks are now available in North America and Europe and will be available later this year on Funko. com. They will also be available in Australia, New Zealand and LATAM this autumn.

The new YuMe Toys Among Us line focuses on three key areas - Plush, Collectibles and Dress-Up - that MD Nat Southworth says will resonate with fans of the hit gaming franchise. Not just a kids’ property, Among Us has proved popular with adults and students as well as the younger generation, making it one of the biggest new properties of 2021. Two scales of plush are available: the collectible 30cm line-up, featuring different skins and accessories from the game, and the 40cm soft plush. Both plush assortments have been previewed to a very receptive audience. The company is also launching Among Us mystery capsules. These offer kids the chance to swap and collect figures while also trying to find the Imposter. The collection is expected to run through 2021 and into 2022, with further waves of product already in the pipeline. To help Among Us fans count down to the end of the year, there’s also a 24-day surprise box which can be used as an advent calendar. Nat comments: “The team at YuMe Toys has outdone itself by also bringing Among Us to life with its new inflatable dress up sets. Available in two sizes, small (kids) and large (adult), these suits allow consumers to become the characters. To raise awareness of the costumes, the KAP Toys team actually donned a few and set off into town, where they caused quite a stir. These costumes will be front and centre of a social media campaign due to commence soon.” KAP Toys continues to represent the YuMe Toys Warner Bros. line of plush, which includes the standout Harry Potter range. The company carries stock of 4” and 8” Chibi styles of the Harry Potter characters and 4”, 7” and 10.5” Fantastic Beasts plush, at a range of attractive retail price points. “Our Harry Potter Interactive Talking Sorting Hat continues to be a staple line across retail, so much so that we have difficulties keeping up with demand,” adds Nat. “This is our fourth year with this award-winning item, so please place your orders early to avoid disappointment.” KAP Toys also successfully launched Harry Potter Magical Capsules in 2020. Series 1 sales were unaffected by the introduction of Series 2; in fact, data shows the introduction of the second wave enhanced sales of Series 1. Series 3, launching in Q4 2021, will take the total number of characters to collect to 30. The magic of this collectible range lies in the character reveal, and Series 3 incorporates impressive new elements that make it the best series yet.

Smiffys adds Gigantosaurus to dress-up portfolio Smiffys has announced the signing of a popular children's property, Gigantosaurus, to its licensed portfolio. The new range will feature costumes inspired by Rocky, Bill, Tiny and Mazu, the characters from the CGI animated series. The 156 x11 adventure and comedy series produced by Cyber Group Studios, now with three seasons under its belt, follows the adventures of four young dinosaur friends as they explore their world, face their fears, work together to solve problems and learn more about the mysterious Gigantosaurus, while having fun all along the way. “This is an exciting opportunity for Smiffys, allowing us to build on our award-winning children’s licensed costume portfolio with these adventurous characters”, said Dominique Peckett, director at Smiffys. Bruno Danzel D’Aumont, International Licensing & Marketing vice president at Cyber Group Studios, added: "Smiffys is a talented company and well recognised in its market. I am proud that Gigantosaurus will be part of its range and I am looking forward to seeing children wearing the costumes of their favourite dinosaur characters around Europe." Trudi Hayward, co-founder of Brand-Ward Services said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Smiffys across Europe in the dress up category. Smiffys is an extremely dynamic company that has established distribution across Europe, and we are all very excited to be working with it on Gigantosaurus costumes, which will launch in time for World Book Day 2022.”

Toy World 24


Licensing World Hexbug partners with Wind Sun Sky Entertainment on multiplatform collaboration Junkbots is converging the best in play, story, entertainment and technology, allowing fans to immerse themselves in a thrilling, multi-platform experience. The CGI web series and Roblox Junk-based universe sees Junkbots' Jack Static receive a cryptic message on his radio, setting in motion an epic journey of adventure, mystery and junk builds alongside a team of inventive, hilarious and butt-kicking Bots. “We are always looking to innovate, and the expansion into Roblox and a larger presence on YouTube is a prime example of our forward thinking,” said Tony Norman, co-founder and CEO of Innovation First International. “We took our cue directly from kids to deliver an expansive new play experience that spans multiple platforms. It promises to truly immerse them into the Junkbots metaverse through a blend of gaming, play and entertainment. Our partnership with multi-platform entertainment company Wind Sun Sky has allowed us to take this to a whole new level.” “I can proudly say that the Junkbots universe roll out is a rich, engaging and boundary pushing cross-platform narrative experience for fans and future fans of this amazing toy,” said CEO and EP Catherine Winder, WSS. “Storytelling and worldbuilding is our expertise, and the Junkbots web series created by our phenomenal team dares to take things a step further cross-platform. Fans will laugh and become inspired as they watch in awe, then continue the story on Roblox and with their toys.” The Junkbots Roblox game offers hours of content, with multiple mini-games within each Mission and dozens of playable set pieces. Players can further immerse themselves with a unique 'playground experience' where they can come together, socialise, customise their worlds and explore between playing story episodes. The announcement comes as season two of Junkbots hits shelves in the form of environment-based Junkbots Factory Collection play sets, which kids can explore to find the Junkbots hidden in the advent-style unboxing experience. Junkbots Season 2 also introduces 16 new Junkbots to collect. Each comes with power modules for light and motion, while an interlocking pipe-building system lets kids pull pipes directly off the wall to deconstruct and reconstruct for alternate builds. The Junkbots Factory Collection will be available later this month.

Amelia Fang bolsters Rubies’ range of licensed literary costumes

United Wheels UK signs new Disney, Marvel and Lucasfilm multi-year deal

The Amelia Fang book series, published by Farshore/HarperCollins UK, has sold over 380,000 copies in the UK, and been translated into 24 languages worldwide. The books follow a little vampire with a big heart through her adventures in the city of Nocturnia. Popular among 7-9-year-olds, the sevenbook series invites readers to enter an imaginative, gothic world brought to life with creative illustrations. Rubies' new costumes will feature Amelia Fang and her signature spooky outfits in a variety of sizes. The company will design, market, manufacture and distribute the range in the UK from next year, and says the highly versatile character works equally as well for World Book Day as she does for Halloween. This fan-favourite book series joins Rubies' impressive list of official licences, which includes everything from the superheroes of Marvel and DC to Dennis the Menace and Horrid Henry. As the world’s largest designer and manufacturer of fancy-dress and costumes, Rubies says that inspiring its audience and kick-starting a life-long love of reading in children is at the heart of everything it does. Tracey Devine-Tyley, head of Licensing & Portfolio EMEA, explained: “We understand how important reading is to children; it helps develop their minds and imaginations and we strive to support this through the licences we hold that celebrate reading. Amelia Fang is a fantastic licence for us to acquire. It's a beloved book series with a strong and growing group of fans consisting of children and parents alike.” Laura Ellen Anderson, creator of Amelia Fang, added: “I'm so excited to see Rubies bring the Amelia Fang costume to life. It's wonderful to know that my fans and readers will be able to easily access this costume, which can be worn for events such as World Book Day and Halloween, or just for fun.”

United Wheels UK, part of privately held Covation Holdings Ltd, has announced a new licence agreement for Disney, Marvel and Lucasfilm film properties for UK, Ireland, France, Iberia, Italy, Germany, Benelux and Africa territories. Disney and United Wheels’ affiliate, Huffy Corporation, have worked together in the US since 1996, and this agreement between United Wheels and Disney expands the existing partnership to include EMEA. As early as July 2021, United Wheels will begin marketing Huffy-designed Disney, Marvel and Lucasfilm licensed wheeled products for order. These products will be available for shipment in early 2022. Covation Holdings announced the expansion of its global footprint into the European market with a new UK sales hub last year. Having opened its new EU office, United Wheels is well placed to help drive continued growth of the Disney licences across these new territories. “Our company has had a long relationship with Disney,” said Jon Tilley, general manager of United Wheels UK. “It was only natural for us to reach out to Disney when we decided to make a concerted effort in Europe, to find mutually beneficial ways to work together. Since then, we have invested in building a strong EU team and infrastructure and will focus on supporting each market with in-country-specific teams and local distribution operations.” The United Wheels team held a two-week virtual trade open event in which potential retailer partners could meet the team and preview some of the new Disney products available for sale in January 2022. The collection will cover all properties and wheel sizes, ranging from balance bikes to 16” wheel sizes. For more information contact salesuk@huffy.com.

Toy World 26


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NPD Insight

Speaking volumes This month, Melissa looks at the still-encouraging sales data for the UK toy market and examines more closely which categories are contributing to its current success.

A

s the schools break up for the summer holidays and Covid restrictions are eased again (at least for now), it’s interesting to look back on the 2021 UK toy market performance so far and see where we are, not just compared to last year, but to 2019 and pre-pandemic. At the half year mark (Year-To-Date June 2021), the UK toy market is flat in value compared to 2020, but up +12% compared to the same period in 2019, meaning that the strong value growth we saw during the first lockdown has remained within the UK toy market. Last year, we saw the UK toy market value increase driven by higher priced toy categories such as Outdoor & Sports Toys and Games & Puzzles, but this year other categories such as Action Figures, Plush and Vehicles have gained value. Only three Supercategories have value sales less than 2019 – Dolls, Youth Electronics and Infant/Toddler & Pre-school Toys. What is more interesting is a deeper dive into the volume sales. YTD June 2021 has the UK volume sales increase +5% - or an addition 4.4m toys purchased in the same period last year. Not only are we selling more toys than last year, but we’re selling more than in 2019 with volume sales up +2% versus two years ago – an additional 1.9m toys purchased. So, what categories and types of toys are driving this volume growth? Overall, seven out of eleven Supercategories have volume sales higher than 2019. Explorative and Other Toys has the largest unit growth, an additional +3.2m, driven by the Panini EuroChampionship stickers this year, but also by an increase in Scientific, Educational Toys & Models. We are selling 2.6m more Outdoor

and Sports Toys than in 2019, with Bubble Toys/ Solutions, Water Blasters and Playground Equipment the categories adding the volume gain. It may be easy to say that in both cases, these Supercategories’ growth was driven by the various lockdowns and Covid related trends in 2020, but even in 2021, Outdoor & Sports toys volume sales has only dropped -1% compared to 2020, while Scientific & Educational Toys and Models has continued to sell more volume this year versus last year. In addition, Vehicles has seen over half a million more units sold this year compared to 2019, driven by Hot Wheels and Monster Jam success, while Plush, Games & Puzzles and Arts & Crafts all have higher volume sales. Games & Puzzles is interesting as the supercategory is down -6% in volume compared to 2020, but still +4% above 2019, with Adult Puzzles in particular up +55% compared to 2019. We also see Card Games, Family Board/Action Games and Children’s Puzzles all selling more this year than two years ago. While Action Figures & Accessories volume is up +6% compared to last year, it is still down -23% on 2019 sales with only Battling Toys’ volume up from two years ago. Dolls has also seen volume decline compared to 2019, but this is heavily driven by the Playset Dolls & Accessories area with Fashion Dolls selling over 1m more units since 2019. Infant/Toddler & Pre-school Toys has sold 765k less toys than two years mostly driven by Infant & Toddler toys such as Rattles/ Teethers, Infant Plush, Playnests & Playgyms and Other Infant Toys; perhaps an early indicator of a slowdown in UK birth rates during the pandemic. However Preschool Toys volume is up slightly with Vehicles & Role

Fastest growing Subclasses by Volume

Units Sold YTD June 21 vs. 2019 s. 2 years ago compared to 47 declining

1

Non-Strategic Trading Cards/Collectible Stickers Bubble Toys/Solution Fashion Dolls Mini Vehicles Traditional Plush Water Blasters Playground Equipment Card Games Adult Puzzles Family Board/Action Games 2

3

4

Millions

Source: The NPD Group | Retail Tracking Service | YTD June 2021 vs. 19

1 Document classification: The NPDClient/Third Group, Party Inc.Confidential | Proprietary and confidential

0

1

2

3

Play increasing in volume. Even Building Sets, which has seen strong value growth over the last two years, has sold less toys than in 2019. Although only down -0.5% in volume, it shows that the strong value growth for the category has been driven by higher priced items being purchased rather than more units. This does seem to imply that, while consumers are returning to more ‘traditional’ toy purchasing behaviour, many will retain the habits and newly discovered toy categories from the last 18 months. It will be interesting to see if the product mix on shelf changes to reflect the new, more popular categories compared to two years ago. At the same time, the average price paid for toys is £8.57, down from £9.02 in 2020, but still ahead of £7.81 in 2019. With prices likely to increase due to the shipping and material increased costs, it will be interesting to see how far each categories price elasticity will stretch and how much the volume sales will be impacted.

Item Description

Manufacturer

May Rank #

June Rank #

Bunch O Balloons Crazy Recycle 3 Pack

Zuru

335

15

After one of the wettest Mays on record, the weather in June started to improve and this saw an increase in several Outdoor & Sports Toys categories. Water/ Sand Toys & Accessories grew +19% on June 2020 and Bubble Toys/Solutions was up +15% in value. For the month, Bubble Toys subclass had the largest volume sales across the total market in the UK. Bunch O Balloons saw sales double verses June 2020 with the 3-pack jumping more than 300 positions to No.15 bestselling toy for the month compared to May 2021. However, other outdoor items also performed well, with Mookie’s All Surface Swingball the top selling Outdoor item, as well as Gazillion Bubbles up +20%.

4

Millions

Source: The NPD Group | Retail Tracking Service | YTD June 2021 vs. 19

Toy World 30

Director UK Toys, EuroToys NPD

Item Progression

Subclasses are selling more units vs. 2 years ago compared to 47 declining asses by59Volume vs. 2019

Melissa Symonds

1


To monitor what’s happening in the ever-changing toy market, NPD collects point-of-sale information from all major toy retailers. This information, combined with our analysts’ industry perspectives, delivers a comprehensive view of what’s selling and where. We also field over 12m consumer surveys annually to help industry leaders understand why consumers shop where they shop and why they buy what they buy. For more information visit www.npd.com. Follow NPD on Twitter @npdgroup.

Fastest growing Licences in UK Toys Fastest Growing Licences in UK Toys There areover over licenses in the UKYTD Toy market YTD There are 150150 licences growinggrowing in the UK Toy market

Licensed Toys continues to be a stand-out success for the UK toy market, currently accounting for 27% of toys purchased, up from 23% two years ago and growing +13% in value and +15% in volume. European Soccer International The biggest categories are Building Sets and Action Figures, where The Mandalorian licences account for 76% and 56% of total sales. Super Mario Brothers So far this year, the best performing licence is European Soccer Minecraft International driven by the EurosChampionship Panini Stickers cences in UK Toys which have been popular with both kids and parents as the England National Geographic owing in the UK Toy market YTD team reached the final for the first time ever. Gained £M Harry Potter The Mandalorian continues to be a popular licence with Building Monster Jam Sets accounting for 65% of sales, Action Figure Collectibles 17% Marvel Other and Plush 10%. Star Wars also grew this year, up +10% with 81% of sales through Building Sets and 13% through Action Figures & Star Wars Accessories. Lamborghini Similarly, Super Mario Brothers also has 76% of sales in Building £2 £4 £6 Sets but sales are growing among other categories especially Games £0 £2 £4 £6 Millions 1 Source: The NPD Group | Retail Tracking Service | YTD June 2021 vs. 20 & Plush. In addition to the growth in Building Sets, Minecraft has Millions seen sales over £1m in Action Figure Collectibles, while the launch of the Panini Sticker packs has seen incremental value added to the licence to the tune of £440k this year. Harry Potter has Document classification: Client/Third Party Confidential The NPD Group, Inc. | Proprietary and confidential 1 seen Building Sets sales increase +30%, plus AF Collectibles sales nearly double, this year, and the licence remains strong in Games & Puzzles. Monster Jam has seen growth of +33% YTD June 21 and is now No.1 licence in Vehicles. Marvel Other is up +53% with Action Figures accounting for 30% of items and the No.1 Marvel Other item is Heroes of Goo Jit Zu Marvel Super Heroes Assortment 5”. PS Figures & Playsets is the second largest subclass and growing +34%. Outside the top 10 fastest growth, there has been strong progress this year from a number of other licences, particularly in pre-school with CoComelon, Peppa Pig, Hey Duggee and Bing all growing. At the same time, cinema reopening has seen The Fast and The Furious licence grow +60% and Loony Tunes items make an impact. Overall, the licensed toy market looks set to continue to outperform the rest of the UK toy market for the rest of the year.

Value Gained £M

Source: The NPD Group | Retail Tracking Service | YTD June 2021 vs. 20

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That’s my department

special This month, Sam Giltrow spoke to members of Play-room, the toy division of AIS, which counts garden centres, department stores and indies among its retail base, to find out how their toy offering is bringing in customers.

Gerald Ingram - director, Planters Garden Centre, Tamworth

P

lanters Garden Centre has been trading for 31 years, but it was only on our 30th anniversary that we opened the toy department. Even though we had always dabbled with a few toy lines, it was the first time we had the big brands. There’s lots to attract families with children to visit the centre; our popular grotto at Christmas brings about 4,000 children through the doors every year. Two years ago, we took over an aquatic franchise and consequently reduced the floor space of the existing aquatic centre by half. This freed up a substantial area, a large proportion of which we used to create a dedicated toys and crafts section, which covers about 100sq m in total. The toy section is not on a main thoroughfare but has been positioned by the aquatics as our perception is that young families are attracted there, so they will share customers. We met with Aimee Hill at plaY-room (the toy section of AIS) who came out to see us and gave lots of guidance on some of the best sellers to stock. We have been a member of AIS for about five years; we originally joined with our housewares to access improved discounts from suppliers, many of whom we were already dealing with. To have the support on the toy side has been very useful. We carry a wide range of Schleich models – farm animals, dinosaurs, fantasy and horses – and the entire range has sold particularly well for us from the start. In

fact, like a lot of stockists before Christmas, we couldn’t physically keep the stands stocked. We put in five metres of gondola units of Playmobil, which is also selling very well, and we have added a display of Epoch’s Sylvanian Families. Winning Moves’ Top Trumps is also a good seller for us as a handy pick-up line, and in terms of larger items, we see strong demand for outdoor play equipment, plus things like sand play and water play. Our thinking was that, because we have an older clientele, we wanted to offer lines that they would recognise and that they would buy to treat their grandchildren, as well becoming a destination to bring their grandchildren to visit. It’s not quite pocket money price points, as most purchases are treats rather than child-led, but a lot of our range wouldn’t break the bank with an average price of around £10-£15. We’re not trying to compete with the toy shop in our local retail park: we try to offer something different, being a destination. With aquatic and pet sections, a big children’s play area plus miniature golf and a sky trail, we can offer a lot for families. When families come to the garden centre, they do make impulse buys. I wouldn’t say they are necessarily coming to buy the latest toys, it’s more about picking up the occasional line, but we have enough of a selection for the children to want to come back. Grandparents can also be confident they will get a quality toy as a gift for their grandchild.

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Overall, the toy department is doing very well, and we are very pleased with the effect it has had on our overall business. Basket spend has definitely gone up at the garden centre since we introduced the toy department. During the Covid lockdowns, we felt very privileged that we were allowed to stay open when other shops were shut. It’s hard to say if our toy sales were better than expected because it’s a fairly new department, so we don’t have any historical data to compare sales with just yet. However, in the local area, we were definitely seen as a place to go - and for those not able to shop online, we were probably the only physical outlet for toys locally. We are looking forward to getting back out there to shows, including the Independent Toy & Gift Fair in September. Nothing beats talking to suppliers and being able to physically see and touch product – it makes a huge difference. We are constantly reviewing what we offer and carry out performance reviews based on square metre footage. Physically, we haven’t any more space to expand, so it’s a case of analysing what return we are getting from each square metre to work out where we need to reduce or add lines. As long as we get that mix right, we are very optimistic that the toy department will continue to perform well for the rest of the year.


Talking Shop Katie Eckley - director of operations, Old Railway Garden Centre, Brecon We have always sold toys at our garden centre, but we expanded the section considerably just over three years ago. It was a section we felt we could improve on; because we are based in a rural location, there aren’t many other options in the area for buying toys. When we joined Play-room, we discovered so many ranges that we hadn’t previously been aware of and also received a lot of useful advice. Our main suppliers include Britains, Bruder, Gibsons, Orchard Toys, Lego and Schleich, plus a wide selection of pre-school for our younger customers. The Schleich range, which we have only been stocking for 18 months, has quickly become one of our best-sellers. It’s good product; solid and built to last, and also collectible, with new additions regularly being made to the range. We have seen our online toys sales growing exponentially, and puzzles in particular have been flying. We already had a transactional website, but when the pandemic hit last March, sales started scaling up and it really took off. This is partly because garden centres in Wales were forced to close, unlike in England where they could continue trading. Customers have come back to the centre now, but they used to spend a long time browsing and are not doing so as much; most visits have become shorter. They are also visiting less frequently, but when they do, they are spending more. Given our rural location and the lack of other retail outlets around, when people have gifts to buy, they come and buy across the different departments, including toys.

what measures it is taking to improve and reduce waste. We have been impressed at the changes Gibsons has made to its puzzles; the company now offers a great eco-friendly range. Also, Keel has a range of ecofriendly plush toys which we’ll be expanding in time for Christmas.

For 2020, we had a big sustainability plan, however with the pandemic, it had to be put on hold. But going forward, when comparing suppliers for next year, our decisions will not be all about price. We will also look at the service and the ethos behind the company, and

In terms of the year ahead, we are feeling positive, and this has been reflected in our buying where we have increased volumes, especially for Christmas ranges. I think everyone will want a big Christmas this year after missing out last year, so toy sales are bound to do well.

Like many retailers, however, we have been worried about the recent shipping problems. We have gone with the mindset that it’s better to be looking at stock rather than looking for it, so have improved our storage facilities to hold more inventory. I am looking forward to getting back out there and seeing what suppliers have to offer in person. Ordering from a website just isn’t the same, as we have found out the hard way; some of the purchases we have made were not what we thought they would be. I can’t wait to get back to trade fairs and actually see product close up.

Zac Chapman - buyer, Oldrids & Downtown, Lincolnshire Oldrids has been with AIS for over 30 years and within Play-room for as long as I have been buying toys, which is the last five years. Being part of Play-room has been really helpful for the insight and knowledge that people have been able to share with me as a newcomer to toys. I have been on the committee for the last two years and it has been fantastic to be able to speak with experienced buyers who are in similar positions in department stores and garden centres. Play-room gives us opportunities with some different products and a bit of an increased margin at times, which is never to be sniffed at. Our toy section tends to stick to the more commercial lines; we make sure we stock the brands that people expect a leading department store to have and try to offer a wide ranging selection. We place an emphasis on established brands like Hasbro, Lego, Playmobil, Gibsons and VTech, to show that we are a comprehensive toy department. Our customer base is dominated by parents and grandparents, so gifting is a big part of our business, and we try to cater for that market as much as we can. We offer toys in our garden centre as well as in store, where they are positioned next to the school uniform and clothing departments. This means we get a lot of impulse buys, as well as people coming in specifically for toys. We have some product on the till areas and little CDUs that have smaller pick-up lines; we find these are very effective as people stand waiting to purchase.

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WALK HER!

PLAY WITH HER!

DANCE WITH HER!

FOR SALES AND ENQUIRIES CALL HASBRO: 0208 569 1234 Toy World 35

© 2021 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved.


Talking Shop

indie viewpoint

Mark Buschhaus and Stephen Barnes

Our biggest seller, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Lego – particularly the Harry Potter, Technic and Speed Champions ranges – and new launches such as Super Mario have been popular. Lego is a reliable go-to brand for many customers, and the range covers a lot of bases with everything from considered, higher-priced purchases to gifting and impulse buys for lower price points. We traditionally sell high volumes of jigsaw puzzles from Gibsons, and it was fantastic to see the range perform so well during the pandemic, when we were only able to trade online. Our online sales on Gibsons were fantastic and those numbers have carried on in store since we re-opened; it has always been a strong brand for us. Our baby and pre-school area has always been popular too, and lines from VTech, in particular the Toot-Toot range, stand out as best sellers. Plush is also a big area for us, as it lends itself so well to gifting, and we carry a wide range. Natural- looking animal plush sells particularly well, especially in our garden centres. With many families taking staycations this year, we are bringing in board games earlier than usual because I think there’s going to be a market for them over the summer. Our best sellers range from the classics such as Hasbro’s Monopoly and Cluedo, to newer titles like Asmodee’s Dixit and Wingspan, which are gaining quite a following. Now that things are getting back to normal, we are hoping that it’s going to be a bumper rest of the year, especially Christmas when people can finally come together again. I have been working with suppliers to get stock in early; I expect there will be shortages later on due to shipping issues. We are confident that as long as we can get the right stock in, we will have a great year.

Footfall’s coming home

Toy Barnhaus

A A

nother month ticked off and somehow, we are already into the second half of the year. As we write this month’s column, the next major milestone coming up falls on the 19th July, with almost all restrictions in England being repealed. This has thrown up many new decisions to take about how we run our business going forward. We are advising our staff to wear masks whilst on the salesfloor, and also advising our customers to do so. With the infection rate still rising, we feel this can only help to try and make staff and customers feel safe. The rising infection rate also brings up issues with staff having to self-isolate if they have come into contact with someone with the virus, a situation we expect to continue and even increase going forward, providing yet another challenge to our business. However, there is the potential for us to visit an actual physical show, Autumn Fair, in early September. This is something we would love to do in principle, but we will have to make a final decision nearer the time. If infections are still rising, then we have to consider whether it is wise to make the long trip, and potentially come into contact with lots of other people. We would dearly like to see some physical product, but currently there are many extra factors to take into account. On a positive note, having now been open again for three months, we really are pleased with how trade has been. The footfall levels are holding, and growing, especially at the weekends. Even with one of our stores, Crawley, being on the doorstep of Gatwick, we have not seen sales there suffer to any extent, which is very encouraging. Since opening, the whole pocket money, and in particular fidget, category has been massive. The pushpopper craze is showing no signs of slowing down at all. There are so many different shapes and sizes arriving from suppliers, helping to extend the range and let children add to their collections. Anything else that you can fiddle with is very popular, including our old favourite the squishy mesh ball, along with stress relief toys such as squishy bananas etc. As we all know, there is enough around for people to worry about, so anything that can help is worthwhile.

September 14th – 15th, 2021 Cranmore Park, Cranmore Avenue, Solihull, UK details at: www.independenttoyandgift.co.uk

The other category linked to stress relief which is has done well is plush toys. This year Squishmallows has been absolutely massive. There is a global shortage of these, so whatever we get sells out in minutes in stores. We expect this demand to continue for the rest of the year, and even the giant ones are popular. Reversible octopus plush also continue to sell very well, and Squish-a-Boos from Ty are enjoying a growing share of the plush business. We have just about got over the Euro 2020 football, and now turn our attention to the Olympics. With several new sports coming in this year, which will get a massive spike in exposure by being featured, this could add to an already fantastic year for outdoor toys over the summer. The kids are about to break up and staycations will be the most likely family holiday choice this year, so we are optimistic that outdoor sales will continue to thrive. Anything football or bubble related seems to be selling ferociously, and with the weather improving, we hope to clear through some more pools before the summer ends.

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THE SN

WAY T APPY HAP O TELL PY TIME

PRE ORDER FOR CHRISTMAS

GLOBAL DISTRIBUTION

www.snapwatch.co.uk


fresh FRESH THIS MONTH:

Each month Fresh sets out to find the latest products that will have toy retailers reaching for the phone. In August we have new releases from: Brainstorm, Bruder, Magic Box, Mookie, Panini, Playmonster, Rubies, Schleich & SnapWatch.

SnapWatch flexible silicone watches SnapWatch www.snapwatch.co.uk snapwatchltd@yahoo.co.uk

UK-based SnapWatch has created an entirely new kind of watch for kids, incorporating a silicone snapband and a truly flexible LED display. Six eye-catching designs are now available - Sharkies, Astronauts, Dragons, Unicorns, Icy Black and Spring Purple - offering something for everyone at an attractive RRP. Simple SnapWatches have no buckles, instead snapping around 5 to 12-year olds' wrists in one easy and fun motion. The clever SnapWatch timepiece has integrated components that allow the whole band to bend and roll, while the bi-stable arrangement enables the SnapWatch display to be viewed when straight or wrapped around the wrist. The LED displays, in white or red, are also easily readable in the daytime and light up with the push of a button. The displays show 12-hour or 24-hour time, as well as the date and year. A replaceable battery which lasts up to two years is included so kids can start using their new watch straight out of the box. SnapWatches are also splashproof and shockproof, so they'll easily cope with outdoor active play, and are CE approved.

Mercedes Benz Sprinter Transfer Bruder 00353 67 63800 www.bruder.de

Bruder has welcomed the Mercedes Benz Sprinter Transfer to its collection of ‘Just like the real thing’ models and play sets. This versatile vehicle, used for a range of applications and industries, has been transformed into a 1:16 scale version perfect for pretend play, complete with two bworld figures – a driver and a passenger. The Sprinter Transfer, sporting a brilliant blue paint job, features clear glass front headlights, shatter-proof cab windows, and doors that open. A particular highlight is the newly developed sliding door on the side. The interior is flexibly designed. The rear seat rows can be installed in different directions or removed completely, allowing kids to decide whether the Sprinter will be used for carrying passengers or transporting goods.

Klikbot Zanimation Studio

Brainstorm 01200 445 113 www.brainstormltd.co.uk The Klikbot Zanimation Studio allows kids to hone their animation skills as they create fun stop-frame animations using the Klikbot characters and the green screen tech featured on the free StikBot app. The Klikbot Zanimation kit has everything a child needs to get started, including an exclusive Klikbot figure in an awesome vehicle that transforms from a cool racer into a rocket glider. The green/blue screen allows kids to upload background images from the app or use their own backgrounds, and the phone tripod holds recording devices steady at the right height. The only limit is a child’s imagination. Both Klikbot and StikBot will be TV advertised with regular bursts from September until the end of the year. Brainstorm will also be running pre-roll video on YouTube, with a combination of standard buys (running on desktop, mobile, & tablet) and connected TV buys extending the reach of the campaigns beyond linear TV.

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h


fresh Happy Hamsters Mookie Toys 01525 722 769

www.mookie.co.uk

Mookie Toys will be launching Happy Hamsters this year, an entirely modular marble track system that allows parents and kids to build unique and crazy designs that will keep little ones entertained day after day. Happy Hamsters will get children’s thinking caps on and inspire imaginative play. The easy to build tracks may require a little help from an adult to construct, but children can provide all the creative direction. Once the track is built, kids can watch in amazement as the cute hamsters included race around, play in their hamster ball, build up energy with speed boosters and much more. Happy Hamsters will be launching with two sets in the range: the 75+ piece Happy Hamsters Deluxe Set and the 45+ piece Happy Hamsters Starter Set. Both sets are compatible with each other and future additions to the range. The range will be supported by a strong TV-led marketing campaign alongside paid activity on YouTube. Happy Hamsters can also be spotted across social media with a fun and extensive influencer campaign featuring both paid and gifted activity.

Fuzzikins Homemakers

PlayMonster 01628 488 944 www.interplayuk.com PlayMonster’s new Homemakers range, due to launch for autumn/winter, will build on Fuzzikins’ appealing ‘family’ theme. The attractively priced range features modular homes for kids to build and decorate, allowing them to expand their collection as they create a fuzzy world of imagination and play. TV promoted for autumn/winter, the range is also supported by PR and social media activity.

Eldrador Creatures

Schleich 01279 870000 www.eldrador.com orders@ schleich-s.co.uk Schleich’s Eldrador Creatures fantasy property continues to be one of the genuine stand outs within the company’s portfolio, with the Stone Monster and Lava Scorpion two of the best-selling Schleich figures of all time. This month, these characters are joined by an exciting new extension to the range. While the new Mini Creatures should be helping the creatures of Eldrador restore their worlds after numerous battles, these little devils have got other things on their minds. Four small creatures are available for each of the four worlds of Eldrador. They can be stacked together to form mighty pyramids or imposing tall towers, only to be brought crashing down again. These limitededition collectible figures come in blind bags: kids can discover if theirs will be a Lava, Ice, Stone or Jungle creature, or even the Golden Mini Hero. The Mini Creatures are also compatible with the four World Robots, allowing them to gain even more power. The World Robots have movable arms and can carry any Mini Creature in their cockpit. Each World Robot comes with its own unique mini creature and can wield every weapon from the land of Eldrador. Eldrador Mini-Creatures is supported by a full programme of TV and digital advertising, as well as influencer and PR activity.

Toy World 40


fresh

Premier League Adrenalyn XLTM Trading Card Game Panini 01604 877 888 www.paninigroup.com

Panini’s Premier League Adrenalyn XLTM Trading Card Game is back for the 2021/22 season with brand-new categories, a revamped look, and more fun than ever before. Benefitting from an eye-catching redesign, and featuring top talent from across the Premier League, Panini’s best-selling trading card game will hit shelves in the UK and Republic of Ireland on 5th August 2021. Premier League Adrenalyn XLTM is the only card collection on the market to offer all 20 teams in their new-season strips, making it a must-have for gamers, collectors, and all football fans. The first wave contains 464 cards as well as 30 Limited Editions, including new 3D-effect lenticular cards and four printed signature variants. Plus, exclusive to this collection, a small number of lucky fans will find ultra-rare cards featuring actual autographs from world-class footballers.

Licensed costumes and accessories Rubies 08453 070 707 www.rubiesuk.com

Rubies is introducing a new Ultimate Princess range, a collection of dresses and accessories based upon Disney’s favourite princesses. Featuring Tiana, Belle, Aurora, Ariel and Rapunzel, the costumes, available in children’s sizes, are the perfect gift for any budding princesses. Accessories include jelly shoes, tiaras, wands and bags themed around the princess in question. Gems, glitter and ribbons add the finishing touches to each product. Young superhero fans, meanwhile, will enjoy the new Captain America Mech Strike kids costume, featuring 3-D mechanical-inspired components in Captain America’s classic colour scheme and design. Space Jam 2: A New Legacy, the sequel to the 1996 cult favourite starring LeBron James, Bugs Bunny and Don Cheadle, will be brought to life this summer with Rubies’ range of official costumes. The basketball kits reflect the updated designs shown on the courts and come in a range of child’s sizes. Other new additions to the licensed portfolio, including the three-time Emmy nominated series Oddbods, join Rubies’ existing line-up, featuring properties such as Ghostbusters, Suicide Squad, Sesame Street and much more.

A range of high-calibre SKUs is available, including Multipacks, Pocket and Classic Tins, plus the ever-popular Countdown Calendar. Starter Packs include a 2-player gameboard and poster, a high-quality collector’s binder and 18 trading cards, plus two guaranteed Limited Edition cards. Packets each contain six cards and a QR leaflet. This collection will be well-supported by a multimedia marketing campaign across TV, social and print media. In addition, covermount promotions are set to put Premier League Adrenalyn XLTM into the hands of more footie fans than ever before, making this Premier League season the most exciting one yet.

Kazoom Kids

Magic Box Toys 01403 251 286 www.magicboxint.com

www.superthings.com

Magic Box’s new collectibles range Kazoom Kids launches this month, passing the power of the Kazoom to the humans of Kazoom City, turning children into Kazoom Kids complete with SuperThings hero and villain powers. The new range lets fans collect 80 new heroes and villains, and gives them the chance to find rare gold and silver characters or the Ultra Rare Sparky. Each 5” Kazoom Kids figure has a secret weapon to match its SuperThings alter ego and can ride around Kazoom City in the eight different collectible Super Jets, which boast pull-back function and interchangeability. Value-added packs are also available including the blister 4-pack and 10-pack, a Starter Pack and Mega Pack. Cactus Team and Balloon Team play sets contain an exclusive Kid Kazoom, three exclusive SuperThings, either a Spike Roller Vehicle or Balloon Boxer vehicle, and two Side Car Blaster Jets. The Training Tower play set trains the Kazoom Kids to fly, shoot, box and fight like SuperThings, and includes lights and sounds for added entertainment. The launch of Kazoom Kids is supported by an extensive marketing and PR campaign, including a 1,000+ TVR TV advertising programme, strong social media presence and in-store theatre and merchandising options to support retail partners. In addition, a specific YouTube advertising campaign will launch on 20th August, with an expected 10m+ impressions. Brand new webisodes for the Kazoom Kids series will launch on the SuperThings YouTube Channel from launch.

Toy World 42


Company Profile

Toynamics

exceeding

expectations January 2021 marked Toynamics UK & Ireland’s first full year of trading, having undergone a significant rebrand at the start of last year. Despite the obvious challenges, the company has enjoyed double digit growth in 2020 and in 2021 has seen the same level of increase. Toynamics - at its core a distributor of brands including Hape, Skip Hop, Nebulous Stars, Dinosart, Nanoblock and Timio - continues to grow its retail distribution, ranges and reputation as a quality onestop-shop for toys. John Baulch and Rachael Simpson-Jones sat down with MD David Allan and head of marketing Emma Damerell to discuss the company’s outlook on what lies ahead.

U

nder its Hape parent company, Toynamics’ portfolio of brands is expanding all the time, Wooden toy brand Hape, craft and creative brand Nebulous Stars, DinosArt, nursery and baby line Skip Hop and construction range Nanoblocks have now been joined by innovative audio brand Timio, while a high-quality metal bike range is also set to join the portfolio soon. Yet more big news is also on the horizon, but – as is so often the case - Toy World has been sworn to secrecy for the time being. Considering the tender age of this company, coming through the pandemic the way it has is deeply impressive. Fortnightly forecast and budget meetings, held throughout the year from March 2020, consistently under-called the company’s performance, as sales surpassed all expectations and brands took off with consumers. This was a pleasant surprise for David, who had expected sales to be challenged and the move to online shopping to impact the business somewhat. And while Toynamics’ brands proved themselves during the pandemic, David’s team did too - the appointment of Emma as head of marketing is highlighted as one of the most important decisions the company made during the disruption caused by Covid-19. “We needed to push our brand marketing; previously, we were mostly reliant on simply getting

Toy World 44

our salespeople ‘out there’, but they didn’t have that marketing support they needed,” explains David. “This year though, we’re a transformed company, with professional marketing in place and the appointment of Playtime PR, a new sales team, new products which have been freshly categorised, and the addition of new brands that will give us a firm foothold in new and expanding categories. We’ve massively improved our structure over the past few months, and our position with it.” The biggest wooden toy supplier in the world, parent company Hape International owns three Chinese factories (and is in the process of building a fourth), as well as a bamboo forest used to create sustainable toys crafted from the fast-growing, renewable natural resource. The company’s size and strength means Hape enjoys preferential deals on containers from China, and while there is inevitably still pressure on logistics, Toynamics is confident of receiving its shipments quicker than most. This is a major plus for retailers hoping to secure stock in a year that is likely to see serious shortages of toys, especially as we get nearer Christmas. David says the company has a great many containers arriving each month, guaranteeing good stock holding into the latter part of the year. However, with containers costing anywhere between $16,000-$22,000 each, and the


increased cost of raw materials - wood has gone up +25% in the past six months, while labour has gone up +18% - prices have had to increase. Readers of the Liam O’Shea Viewpoint in the July issue of Toy World (‘Ducking prise rise communications’) may recall that the Wicked Uncle co-founder named Toynamics as a supplier that was raising prices the right way, explaining clearly what the increase would be, when it would take effect, and why it was necessary. Getting consumers to accept rises is a little trickier, according to David; price points must change, but this is no easy subject to broach in a society that ranks perceived value for money above much else. Luckily for Toynamics, the strength of its ranges is a big help. Until recently, Hape had not been enjoying the visibility this quality wooden toy brand deserves, but thanks to a new approach to marketing and social media that has put the brand front and centre in consumers’ minds, that has all changed. Wooden Toys is a competitive category that historically has been dominated by a handful of players, but Hape’s enormous depth of range is carving it a place on shelves and in toy boxes across the nation. “Anything you want in wood, we’ve got it,” David enthuses. “Hape is a one-stop-shop for wooden toys, across infant, music, railway, role-play, dolls houses, jigsaws and more. These aren’t your basic wooden toys either. The range is peppered with features that bring interactivity and technology to play. The Fun Fat Fryer, for example, sizzles when kids are cooking, and the microwave emits a realistic noise. Retailers know that Hape toys are high quality and offer healthy margins, and they are backed up with incredibly strong marketing support. Emma is driving home the message on social media that Hape also offers longevity and is a sustainable brand. In China, power for the factories is generated using solar panels, while excess FSCcertified wood is turned into biofuels.”

Wooden toys may form the heart and soul of Toynamics, but Hape Holdings owner Peter Handstein is casting his net much wider in his efforts to grow his business. The goal is for Hape International to become one of the biggest toy companies in the world. This explains the company’s spirited approach to acquisitions. Aware that new business brings new life to companies, David and his sales team are actively seeking out new opportunities in the marketplace, recently adding Hobbycraft, Next and Studio to its growing list of retail partners. This is easier said than done, however, with some retailers wary of trying new brands or agreeing to deals with new suppliers in the current climate. The lack toy fairs has compounded this. Getting hands-on with toys forms a large part of the buying decision, and retailers have told Toy World repeatedly over the last few months that they’re feeling the lack of this aspect of trade shows most keenly. To counter this, Emma created Toy Fair in a Box, an assortment of Toynamics’ top 10 newest toys, beautifully presented with ribbons and personalised labels. The boxes were sent out to 90 retailers, so that buyers had the chance to see and touch the toys with their own eyes and hands. It’s a simple concept, but it worked a treat. Retailers were given the knowledge and confidence in the products to place orders, and new business was generated as a result. These initiatives are no replacement for the fairs, though; David has booked his stand for Toy Fair 2022 as soon as he was able to do so, and obvious longing fills his voice when he speaks of the annual trade show’s much-anticipated return. He says: “I miss the fairs, I miss the social evenings, I miss meeting people. I can’t wait for the shows to return.” Toynamics’ new outlook on marketing can’t be understated. The company is totally committed to supporting its retailers on an individual basis, working with them to create a bespoke plan encompassing POS, competitions, digital marketing, and social media that drives people in - and products out. “We’re making sure marketing is personalised to the retailer,” explains Emma. “Every retailer is different. Next will require something completely different from us compared to a small indie toy shop. We want to make all our partners feel loved. With price increases and stock shortages affecting the entire toy industry, the amount of support we offer our retailers goes a very

long way in reassuring them that we really do care. At the same time, our efforts are really helping get our brand out there, especially Hape. Whatever a shop needs, we’ll listen and build a plan that provides it.” Toynamics’ caring approach doesn’t end with getting products into shops either, David tells us. The company’s customer service team will follow up with retailers to find out how its ranges are performing, and if, on the rare occasion, something hasn’t quite worked, they’ll endeavour to either offer solutions or swap it out for something that should perform better. A lot of stores closed for the lockdown with stock, so part of Toynamics’ current focus is on remerchandising this to boost sell-through. Smaller retailers who may have implemented an online presence for the first time during the pandemic are also being supported with assets and imagery for their social media channels, as well as advice on how to present products in the digital space as opposed to the physical. Ever the optimist, David is firm in his belief that the rest of 2021 will be very good indeed. He believes people will soon begin to move on from the past 18 months, enjoying travel within the UK and a measure of normality that we’ve all been craving. “We all want to enjoy a great Christmas, and toys will always be a staple of that,” he adds. “I say to my sales team that all we have to do is make sure the right toys are in the right shop, with the right marketing, in front of the right consumer. If we’ve done that, the rest will follow.”

Toy World 45


Feature

Wooden Toys

All wood things

Demand for wooden toys is soaring thanks to increasingly eco-conscious consumers, while imaginative product development and new licensing deals are resulting in impressive new ranges that will secure strong sales at retail this year. Rachael Simpson-Jones speaks to a selection of wooden toy suppliers to get the lowdown on what their latest offerings bring to the marketplace.

I

t’s fair to say by now that consumer demand for toys made from more sustainable materials appears to be a permanent change. We’re seeing the positive effects of eco-conscious consumption across all toy categories, but as the ‘original’ sustainable toy material, wood is very well placed indeed to serve the burgeoning demand for planet-friendly playthings. “I think we are starting to see a move back towards wooden toys; people are looking for something a little bit eco-friendlier and more responsible,” says Zac Chapman, buyer at Oldrids & Downtown in Lincolnshire. “This trend is not going to go away, so I think we will see wooden ranges grow for us and probably for many other stores too.” Suppliers agree that environmental concerns appear to be behind increasing sales of wooden toys, at least in part. David Lubliner, head of customer

marketing – Europe at Melissa & Doug, told Toy World that parents and children alike now possess more awareness of climate change and sustainability issues than they did before. He adds: “We love wood because it's natural and renewable and we therefore try to use it whenever we can. Helping ensure the world has thriving forests is an important goal of ours.” And while Neil Montgomery, UK commercial director at Juratoys, says a wooden toy’s carbon footprint is ‘25 times lower than that of a plastic toy’, he also tells Toy World there’s another reason sales are on the up parents and grandparents are increasingly conscious that traditional toys, which promote creative play, are being looked to more and more by parents and carers wanting to offset the amount of time their kids spend on digital devices. Toy companies are an imaginative bunch and nowadays, wood no longer means ‘boring’. This year,

Toy World 46

we’ve seen several big wooden brands announce major licensing partnerships that will introduce pre-school properties and classic animated movie licences to the marketplace. Character Options is introducing new Disney additions to its World of Wooden Toys range, including the gorgeous Princess Enchanted Royal Castle Wooden Playset, and train set specialist Brio has also signed a deal with Disney. Katy Fletcher, head of Marketing and Product Development at Ravensburger, says: “Having the Disney licence broadens our audience and will continue to bring more consumers to the Brio brand. With both Mickey Mouse and Disney Princess licences onboard, we have a fantastic opportunity to combine vehicle play with character play, encouraging magical storytelling and adding some extra fantasy that places iconic Disney characters at the centre of Brio play.” Katy also tells me that Brio, which has been


Feature

Wooden Toys

creating quality wooden toys since the end of the 1800s, is ‘very much leading the category’ in terms of wooden toy innovation. Last year saw the launch of Brio World Smart Tech Sound, a highly interactive play environment that offers kids plenty of experimentation and customisation options, while integrated Smart Tech Sound technology increases functionality and play value via cause-and-effect. She adds: “Brio’s products are very much based on a play philosophy and ethos that aims to create happy childhood memories. Brio World Railway is built around an open-ended play system which inspires children’s creativity with endless play possibilities in recognisable real-life scenarios. All Brio World toys are compatible and for added peace of mind are FSC accredited, made from traceable wood from responsibility managed forests. Parents can rest assured that there are no small parts either, making the system sibling safe.” Over at Melissa & Doug, the company has partnered with Viacom in a deal which will bring Paw Patrol and Blue’s Clues & You! licensed ranges to the market in the second half of 2021. Many of these products will draw on the company’s heritage in wooden toys, such as the Paw Patrol Wooden ABC Block Truck. The company offers a wide range of wooden toys covering categories including Pretend Play, Developmental Toys, and Arts & Crafts products; in fact, most of Melissa & Doug’s best-selling products are made wholly or mostly of wood. David tells Toy World this makes the brand synonymous with the material in the eyes of customers, and therefore a ‘natural brand to search for when looking for wooden toys’. He adds: “Retailers who already stock Melissa & Doug toys will know that the toys offer good year-round sales with strong margins. We are also committed to investing in marketing in 2021 to raise our awareness levels and bring new consumers to the brand. It’s a big year for Melissa & Doug, with our first ever consumerfacing brand campaign built around TV and digital advertising. Our TV campaign kicked off in June and will continue in bursts through until December, supported by an ‘always on’ digital advertising campaign. We also have a partnership with Netmums showcasing the Melissa & Doug brand and key products throughout the year.” Janod, which this year has launched over 200 new products including an FSCcertified pocket money range, an extensive bath collection and some beautiful larger pieces perfect for the Q4 period, has partnered with

the global conservation charity World Wildlife Fund to produce a range of toys for children aged 0-7 years old. Made with minimal impact on the climate, the new range also takes kids full circle by not only being better for the environment, but also teaching them the importance of looking after it. Neil Montgomery says: “WWF is known worldwide, and this partnership is one we are very proud of. Consumers appreciate the importance of climate change and recognise the amazing work WWF is doing for our planet.” “Janod is known for its great design as well as great quality,” he continues. “We are very focused on design trends and keeping ahead of the competition, to ensure our products capture the latest colour trends and reflect the colour palettes consumers are looking for. The new look packaging also sets us apart; the product is king and having minimal text on the front of the pack means consumers can see what the product is all about at a glance. We have an increasing number of FSC-certified wooden toys, which means we’re well on track to meeting all our environmental targets.” Of course, licensing isn’t the only thing injecting innovation and inspiration into the wooden category this year. Toynamics offers a comprehensive assortment of toys from leading wooden toy brand Hape, spanning everything from railway and music to role-play and puzzles. Aware that children begin to emulate the behaviour of the adults around them from an early age, Hape has created a wooden Toddler Kitchen suitable for kids aged from 18 months plus, making it one of the only brands to have a kitchen suitable for such young children in its range. Readers can find out more about Hape’s heritage in wood in our exclusive interview with David Allan, MD of Toynamics, on pages 44-45 of this issue. The company is overhauling its marketing efforts to drive brand awareness, bringing on board Emma Damerell as marketing manager and hiring toy and games specialist Playtime PR as its retained agency. Although Hape is a quality wooden toy brand that enjoys shelf space in retailers up and down the nation, the aim now is to give it the exposure it deserves and to support retailers better than ever. To this end, Toynamics is investing in strong digital and social media campaigns, while Emma and the team will be working with

Toy World 48

retailers on an individual basis, providing bespoke plans for their stores that encompass POS, competitions and much more. Taken as a whole, Toynamics’ new outlook on marketing can’t be understated. As evidenced by the overwhelmingly positive reception to Janod’s WWF line-up, animals remains a beloved theme within wood. Beehive Toys is expanding its wooden toy ranges with the introduction of the Wooden Zoo Table, a colourful and creative scene that lets kids role-play a day at the zoo, complete with iconic creatures such as penguins, lions and elephants. Amaroni, meanwhile, is introducing Haba’s new wooden animal stacking game, Animal Upon Animal, which helps kids develop their fine motor skills by balancing colourful wooden creatures atop one another while enjoying a simple game. With sustainability and the environment front of mind among consumers, and the popularity of wooden animal toys showing no signs of waning, the WWF-Janod partnership will give retailers a tangible good-news-story to tell shoppers as well as a proven best-selling theme. It also looks truly beautiful on-shelf. Neil says that Juratoys will be supporting its collection of 30 educational wooden WWF toys at retail with a wide range of display and marketing materials, and will be working closely with its customers to formulate new ways to attract consumers with promotions and in-store activity. The company has also invested heavily on consumerfocused digital marketing to build awareness and create demand for the new range, with the ultimate objective of funnelling footfall into stores. Brio, meanwhile, has its sights firmly set on building on the success of 2020, when the brand enjoyed a +35% increase in growth. Awareness and sales this year are being driven with a high-impact 360-degree marketing programme to include major support in Q4. Activity will include TV, YouTube, social media, programmatic advertising, influencer outreach, print and PR. “In-store support is integral to the success of the brand, supporting retailers with rich, stand out physical and digital toolboxes,” Katie adds. “Brio also offers retailers the opportunity to take advantage of ‘play dates’. Ravensburger will happily provide everything needed to create an in-store Brio event offering kids and families the joy of hands-on play. These kinds of events have been sorely missed over the past year and a half, but we are definitely hoping to introduce these again later this year when it’s appropriate to do so.” Over the next few pages, Toy World takes a look at a selection of the newest wooden toys combining sustainability with play.


Wooden Toys

Beehive Toys 01460 241800 | www.beehivetoyfactory.co.uk The Beehive Toys range of wooden toys continues to grow each year, with a further 20 designs being added this month alone. From traditional puzzles, xylophones and pull-alongs to construction toys and the more innovative magic touch piano, the brand offers a variety of high quality, long lasting toys suitable for babies, toddlers and pre-school children. The new wooden zoo table is a colourful child-sized zoo world featuring animal habitats such as monkey mountain, penguin igloo, lion den and elephant hut. Ideal for encouraging children to play together due to its larger size, the table is perfect for inspiring imaginative play and allowing storytelling skills to flourish. This is a toy that will not only keep little ones entertained for hours on end but will also help develop key skills while engaging creative minds. The deluxe workbench, a more practical toy perfect for budding builders, is designed to challenge young minds and hands. With a selection of tools and accessories including a hammer, saw, spanner, bolts and screws, children will enjoy twisting, sawing and screwing pieces together as they develop their problem solving and fine motor skills while playing. A more traditional toy, the classic wooden abacus is a great addition to any playroom. This educational toy can help kickstart fundamental maths skills while developing fine motor skills and logical thinking. By sliding the colourful wooden beads, children can practise counting, addition and subtraction. The abacus is an ideal toy for developing maths skills as it allows the brain to visualise calculations. It also improves memory skills and concentration. With RRPs varying from pocket money to over £50, Beehive Toys offers retailers a great selection of wooden toys at competitive prices. With a minimum order value of £100, no minimum quantities and free next day delivery, the brand is committed to supporting small businesses unable to hold a large amount of stock.

Toynamics 0116 478 5230 | www.toynamics.co.uk Toynamics UK & Ireland distributes Hape, with a portfolio spanning infant, construction, railway, music, role-play toys and much more targeting a mix of ages and budgets. Hape Railway, a best-seller in the wooden toy category, offers a retailer a comprehensive railway range including entry-level sets, large and detailed themed sets, a 70-piece Playtable with Battery Powered Engine, trains, tracks and a host of accessories. Highlights from the range include the Railway Bucket Builder and Passenger Train Set. The Bucket Builder set contains 50 wooden railway pieces. Lending this product a unique edge, the re-useable storage bucket, when turned upside down, becomes part of the track. The Hape Passenger Train Set is a starter figure-of-8 play set that helps children begin their railway journey and expand their imaginations as they design their own track layouts. Hape Railway includes must-have accessories across the range such as the Battery Powered Engine, a station that allows kids to record and playback their own announcements, lifting bridges, freight trains and more. The Hape wooden music range offers vast choice for parents and caregivers looking to introduce kids to the wonders of music. Best-sellers include the Hape Pound and Tap Bench, which features a built-in xylophone. This is joined by drums, guitars, and the Hape Deluxe White Grand Piano. This real, 30-key electronic piano stands on three legs and comes complete with a stool and music rest. The Hape/Baby Einstein Range goes from strength to strength following the success of the Magic Piano, and now includes an electronic guitar, keyboard and more. Special packaging lends each product strong on-shelf appeal. The Infant category lies at the heart of the Hape Wooden Range, with many items, such as the Rainbow Pounder, Blocks, Stackers and Noah’s Ark, included in the brand’s best-sellers list. Wooden role-play offerings include the Metro Police Department Playset and Four-Stage Rocket Ship. The Police Department is a two-level station complete with a jail cell, an office, a helicopter with its own landing pad, a police car with parking space, one police officer, one prisoner and plenty of police accessories - even a police dog. The rocket, meanwhile, is a highly detailed 20-piece set. The lift-off top doubles as a secret getaway spaceship and the set comes with astronaut, robots and the obligatory alien, as well as other accessories like the moon buggy with trailer. There are several moving parts to play with including a working lift. The above comprise only a handful of the many best-selling and popular Hape items across the category, with more available within Kitchen, Dolls Houses, Puzzles, Nature and Bamboo. Toynamics UK & Ireland supports Hape with marketing campaigns across consumer, social media and full in-store support.

Toy World 50


Wooden Toys

Character Options 01616 339 800 | www.character-online.com sales@charactergroup.plc.uk Character Options is set to take its World of Wooden Toys from strength to strength in the second half, with the launch of several large play sets and creative pieces of activity furniture. Produced with future generations in mind, these eco-conscious items have been carefully crafted from FSC certified wood, like the other toys in the range. The company’s Peppa Pig Wood range welcomes the all-new Peppa’s Wooden Playhouse, which comes with 25 accessories and parts, plus eight rooms across three floors to enjoy. The Peppa Pig Wooden Play Desk, meanwhile, is a brightly decorated and sturdy desk featuring cute illustrations of Peppa Pig and her friends. The flip-top desk can be used in multiple ways; the hard top is a perfect surface to draw on, or the lid can be flipped to reveal a blackboard. Handy storage is also incorporated within the design. Launching for autumn/winter is the Peppa Pig Play & Draw Wooden Easel, which will help to hone creativity and fine motor skills. This dual-purpose Easel has a doublesided drawing and chalk board, and comes with beakers in which to store pens, pencils and paint. There’s a house area in the lower section, creating a play and storage section for children’s toys. Enchanting additions are set to join the Disney Princess Wooden Toy collection. Launching in autumn is the Disney Princess Enchanted Royal Castle Wooden Playset. Home to all the Disney Princesses, this stunning castle features themed rooms for Snow White, Aurora, Cinderella, Jasmine, Merida and Moana. There’s also a Castle Kitchen, Grand Staircase and a spinning dance floor to discover. This set comes with six wooden figures and a selection of accessories for endless Disney Princess adventures.

Amaroni 01205 260 384 | www.amaroni.com From Haba’s My Very First Games range, Amaroni is introducing Haba Animal Upon Animal Junior, three wobbly animal stacking games for one to four children aged two and up. The My Very First Games series opens pathways for a child to explore as they learn through play, encouraging them to hone a range of skills and abilities. Animal Upon Animal Junior’s three stacking games aid the development of fine motor skills, observation, hand-eye coordination and even an early grasp of physics. An open-ended product, kids can choose to stack their own wildly wobbly animal towers in free play or follow the simple rules for each game to discover which animal to stack next. Animal upon Animal Junior offers three new games for young stackers to learn and enjoy, while the two dice versions introduce children to playing by the rules. Patience and dexterity will be required as kids balance the charming wooden creatures on top of one another, including a crab, llama, snake, fox, dog, gorilla, crocodile and tiger. As kids play, parents and caregivers can engage them in conversations about each animal, such as the habitats they live in and what they eat, supporting language skills, listening and creativity. Haba has been designing and manufacturing toys and games for over 80 years. The company’s design department prides itself on producing well thought out, appealing games with simple yet stimulating rules. The wide selection of My Very First Games, which are suitable for even the very youngest of children, is the result of a carefully blended collaboration involving games editors, authors, educationalists and illustrators.

Toy World 52


Wooden Toys

Guidecraft 07725 833 273 | www.guidecraft.com A creator of natural children’s toys for over 50 years, Guidecraft emphasises the importance of openended play, the beauty of organic, loose parts, and the significance of hands-on learning through children’s connections to nature. Through its range of toys, all of which are inherently educational and STEMbased, Guidecraft enriches children’s lives through constructive play and encourages them to use their imaginations in learning environments and beyond. As part of its 2021 launch, Guidecraft introduced the Unit Block Marble Run, a rubberwood block building set that encourages children to explore introductory physics and STEM lessons through architectural design. This 40-piece set includes four colourful, acrylic marbles and 36 block pieces featuring drops, bumps and routed paths. Through construction, deconstruction and reconstruction, children aged three and up can discover endless marble run designs, and whether collaboratively or individually, kids engaging with the Unit Block Marble Run set will develop and strengthen valuable early learning skills. A set of 10 double-sided inspiration cards featuring examples of possible builds, as well as corresponding lessons related to basic physics theories, is included with this building set. These can be used in conjunction with the standard unit blocks to further exploration and increase build possibilities.

Ravensburger 01869 363 830 | www.ravensburger.com Brio enjoyed strong double-digit growth throughout 2020 and expects to see further growth this year, driven by new launches and comprehensive marketing support. Launched in spring, the battery-operated Brio Steaming Train features realistic steam effects that enhance train play. Kids can simply fill the engine with water and push the ‘Forward’ button on the top to see the engine chug along with its impressive steam effect. Spring also saw the launch of an assortment of five new engines from Brio collectibles. Other launches for the first half of 2021 include two additions to the Brio Smart Tech Sound range: Rescue Action Tunnel Kit and the Train Service Station. Both products empower children to take charge of their play experience with the interactive sound layer provided by Brio World. Autumn/winter 2021 will see Brio release a whopping 91-piece Deluxe Railway Set perfect for the ultimate Brio World fan. Launching alongside this, the Smart Tech Sound Waterfall Tunnel is a twolevel action-packed mountain tunnel featuring a see-through waterfall. The waterfall sounds can be customised using the free Brio app. Brio and Disney recently partnered to launch beautiful new Princess themed sets. This range of exclusive licensed items focuses on several popular Disney Princess characters and their surroundings, making it possible for Brio to reach a new target audience in railway toys. The range includes the Disney Princess Castle Set. When kids open the door of the castle, they’ll discover places for creative character play. The glittery castle slide offers a fun way to arrive at the train, ready for an adventure round the castle grounds. The brand will benefit from high-profile marketing support leading up and into Q4. Activities will focus on new Smart Tech Sound lines plus the Brio World Starter Set, Battery-Operated Steaming Train and Disney Princess Castle Set, and will span TV advertising, YouTube, influencer outreach and social media campaigns, as well as programmatic, cinema and print advertising. All this will be complemented with year-round PR activity and POS support.

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Timeless traditional toys

tel: 01603 397 105

email: sales@tobar.co.uk

www.tobar.co.uk


Wooden Toys

HTI 01253 778888 | www.htigroup.co.uk HTI Toys has introduced innovative new wooden toys into its ranges. From licensed role-play items to pocket money puzzles and toys, each made with FSC-certified wood, the company is continuing to invest strongly in this growing category. The Peppa Pig Mud Kitchen is already enjoying success at retail as well as positive feedback from consumers. Joining this item for autumn are the Wooden Family Kitchen and Wooden Market Shop. Based on Peppa’s very own kitchen, the Wooden Family Kitchen features a fridge, oven and washing machine, all with opening doors. Children can learn to tell the time with the clock, which includes moving hands. Peppa’s Wooden Market Shop is a new concept for HTI; a brightly coloured role-play toy, which includes an open/ closed sign, solid wooden food accessories, crates for storage, a cash register, paper shopping bags and cardboard coins. In addition to larger Peppa Pig role-play items, the range also includes a number of smaller wooden sets including a Pizza Set, Party Cake, and a Toaster shaped just like Peppa. The dual-branded Teamsterz JCB range has also welcomed some wooden introductions, ready to hit the shelves this autumn. The Wooden Tool Caddy is perfect for mini construction enthusiasts. This play set features a range of tools and accessories including a hammer, screwdriver, spanner, and nuts and bolts, all of which pack away neatly into the caddy for portable play. The JCB Workbench has been a staple within HTI’s roleplay range season after season. New for this year is a wooden version of the popular best-seller. Standing 70cm tall, the workbench comes complete with a huge range of tools and accessories. Budding young builders can get to work on the interactive surface, which features a vice and storage shelf. The pocket money category has also seen significant investment and a complete refresh of the Woodworks brand. Both affordable and educational, the range comprises multiple chunky puzzles, bead coasters, wooden vehicles, floor puzzles and more. The hero line for this season is the Abacus, perfect for teaching the alphabet, numbers, shapes, animals and objects.

Melissa & Doug 020 3911 7508 / 020 3911 7519 | www.MelissaAndDoug.com With its 30+ year history of creating quality, durable and thoughtfully designed toys, Melissa & Doug offers a strong range of branded wooden toys, with a particular focus on the pretend play and developmental toy categories. Families across the UK have enjoyed many hours of fun with best-selling Melissa & Doug pretend play food items including the Food Groups Set and the Scoop & Serve Ice Cream Counter, currently playing a starring role in the brand’s first ever TV campaign. In the developmental toys category, unique items like the Latches Board and Doorbell House continue to educate and entertain day in, day out. New for 2021 is Melissa & Doug’s wooden Vroom & Zoom Interactive Dashboard, which allows kids aged three years and over to rev up playtime and take their imaginations for a spin. This realistic play steering wheel is mounted on a sturdy wooden dashboard and features lights, sound effects and moving parts including a scrolling GPS. Also new are the two beautiful Deluxe Wooden Stamp Sets, which join the company’s existing range. The sets, themed around Fairy Tales and Vehicles, comprise 30 wooden stamps, two 2-colour washable ink pads and six colourful marker pens, everything kids need for telling stories, creating art projects, cards, decorating notebooks and more. The sets encourage colour recognition, patterning, memory skills and fine motor development, as well as creativity and storytelling. Wooden toys including jigsaw puzzles, pretend play sets, arts & crafts and developmental products are also available in Melissa & Doug’s licensed lines, featuring characters from Paw Patrol and Blue’s Clues & You!. Available from July onwards, these will be supported with marketing from September through to November.

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Wooden Toys

Juratoys 020 8878 2133 | www.janod.com French toy brand Janod has announced a collaboration with one of the biggest environmental organisations in the world, WWF, which reflects the company’s wider commitment to helping protect the planet. As a result of the deal, Janod has unveiled a brand-new toy collection brimming with products to inspire and engage the next generation of animal and nature lovers. The range comprises more than 30 sustainably made, fun-filled products, from animal themed push-alongs to awe inspiring underwater themed 3D jigsaws. Created using 100% eco-responsible materials, the whole collection is designed to help educate children aged 0-7 years and over about the importance of looking after the planet we live on. Janod will also donate a percentage of the proceeds from every WWF product sold to support the actions of the organisation. The collection includes first baby toys for the littlest of explorers. The Forest Stacker wooden game helps babies get to grips with objects specifically designed for their age, while bright colours and appealing nature-themed elements will give them their first taste of mother nature. The Push-Along Rhino and Pull-Along Elephant help kids develop their motor skills and ignite their imaginations, and growing minds aged two and above can enjoy the Balancing Sloths game. Each charming sloth has to sleep on its own colour-coded branch - blue, yellow or orange – while also staying put on the rocking tree without knocking the others down.

8 EASY TO GRIP WOODEN ANIMAL FIGURES

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10 mins

A JUNIOR VERSION OF THE BEST SELLING HABA STACKING CLASSIC

Web: amaroni.com Tel: 01205 260 384

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Wooden Toys

Rainbow Designs 01329 227 300 | www.rainbowdesigns.co.uk New to Rainbow’s popular Guess How Much I Love You collection is a beautiful new Wooden Pull-Along featuring both Large Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare, as well as a delightful new Wooden Shape Puzzle and Wooden Building Blocks Set. A further entertaining addition to the wooden range is the Guess How Much I Love You Balancing Toy. Complete with printed wooden pieces including the Little Nutbrown Hare for kids to stack, this appealing toy, which helps to develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, creates entertainment for everyone when the pieces tumble down. There’s also plenty of fun to be had with the new wooden lines joining the Fun with Spot range this spring. Launching alongside a new Wooden Shape Puzzle and Wooden Building Blocks Set is a Spot Wooden Pull-Along and a colourful Spot Wooden Bowling Set. Rainbow, the ‘Home of Classic Characters’, has also welcomed the We’re Going on a Bear Hunt brand to its portfolio this year. The new range includes a colourful Wooden Shape Puzzle featuring the animals from the much-loved storybook.

Flair 020 8643 0320 | www.flairplc.co.uk sales@flairplc.co.uk Flair has added to its portfolio of heritage ranges in 2021 with Sevi, an internationally renowned wooden toy brand that delivers quality, developmental benefits and endless play possibilities. With a history dating back to the 1800s, Sevi is widely respected and trusted among parents and caregivers. Perfect for both play and display, the Sevi range comprises an increasingly wide range of toys, decorations and accessories, including a charming wooden Doctor’s Set to inspire the doctors of tomorrow. Also available are a cute wooden Tea Set as well as a Salad Set, which kids can use to role-play tea parties or suppers with friends. The Sevi Guitar and Music Centre Dog offer retailers and buyers an imaginative play range that will stand the test of time. Flair will also be introducing two types of Alphabet Letters to help support letter recognition and early development, while Sevi’s beautiful nativity sets, which will launch this autumn/winter, will be ideal for the Christmas gifting period.

A.B.Gee 01773 570 444 | www.abgee.co.uk A.B.Gee’s exclusive wooden Tooky Toy range continues to grow each year and this autumn/winter sees the arrival of a fantastic array of kitchen appliances to encourage creative play and inspire little chefs to explore the world of food. The pastel-coloured range includes a wooden toaster set with a small plate, toast and jam. The toaster features a turning button to adjust the ‘temperature’ on the toaster and a push down button to begin toasting the bread. There’s also a seven-piece coffee set which includes a coffee maker, cup, milk and coffee beans. Kids can remove the lid, pop the beans in the top or straight into the cup, add the milk and give it a stir. For budding bakers, there is also a wooden mixer, which comes complete with bowl, tray, small cakes and moveable arm. These new additions tie in perfectly with the existing 250+ premium quality wooden toys that A.B.Gee boasts in its portfolio. With categories from educational and role play to puzzles and music sets, all levels of play are covered. Visit the website for further information.

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Brand Profile

SmartLab

What’s cooking

at SmartLab

This year, SmartLab Toys is preparing to welcome a raft of new products to its range, covering everything from interactive human anatomy to the science behind tiny baking. Rachael Simpson-Jones spoke to George Scott, senior brand manager, to find out more.

S

martLab is the only toy-centric ‘imprint’ from a portfolio of 33 brands within The Quarto Group, a leading international publisher of books and intellectual property products; the group acquired SmartLab’s parent becker&mayer in 2016, and the STEM toy brand along with it. Created in 2004 to offer fun, fact-filled and fictional novelties for kids aged 8-14 years old, and named for one of the founder’s beloved yellow Labradors, the brand still benefits from the knowledge and experience of its original employees, who designed the first ever SmartLab products. There’s 100 years’ experience shared among just a small handful of people, giving the company a rich history and ensuring every toy has both brains and passion behind it. George, SmartLab’s senior brand manager, has been in the world of design for a long time, making product development his entire career to date. For 15 of those years, he also taught college level undergraduates and graduate students while practising as a professional designer. “Nowadays, we pride ourselves on producing educational science kits and STEM toys,” George explains. “Not only is this our focus, but it’s also what we do best and what we love doing. All of us want to make science fun. We want kids to have such a good time playing with our kits that they completely forget they’re learning real scientific principles. Everything we do is also geared around repeat play, something

Toy World 64

that’s not always common with kits for kids, which can tend to be more of a one-shot deal. SmartLab wants kids to come back to its kits again and again, and one of the ways we achieve this is by crafting all our components from scratch. When kids place their finished build or experiment on their shelf or desk, it resonates and stays with them thanks to the design quality and the thinking behind the activity.” SmartLab’s approach to ideation is egalitarian in nature. George, a big fan of a kitchen analogy, paints a picture of an assortment of like-minded colleagues swapping ideas across morning coffee taken at the kitchen table. Everyone has a say in product ideation, and with between 4-8 new products launching each year there’s plenty of ideas to go round. Development itself, meanwhile, takes the form of a stovetop covered with bubbling, sizzling pans, each containing the possibility of something new. While some pans simmer gently at the back, others are red hot and near the front, ready for plating up. It’s simply a matter of pulling the right pan forward at the right time. Existing products are also regularly updated to keep things fresh, and the company is moving to an updated business model that will allow for around 10 product reformats a year, in addition to its new launches. Arguably best known for its Squishy range, a tactile and highly sensory assortment of kits that includes Squishy Human Body, The Amazing Squishy Brain


Brand Profile

and Totally Squishy from Head-to-Toe, SmartLab introduced its Tiny range three and a half years ago. Currently six titles strong, four more products will join the range in 2022, bringing the brand’s total portfolio to over 30 products spanning chemistry and food to natural phenomena and architecture. Smart Circuits, widely touted by consumer groups as one of the best starter electronics kits for kids, remains a best-seller. Reflecting Quarto Group’s heritage in the publishing space, each and every SmartLab kit comes with a full-colour book containing illustrations, scientific facts, ideas and instructions for experiments and more. Take a look through any one of these offerings and Quarto’s expertise in this field leaps off the page. The publications are so well-received, SmartLab is actually repositioning its products, in some cases, to bring these books to the front and centre of each offering. There’s also talk of selling them on their own, purely on the strength of the engaging educational content within. Full SmartLab kits, meanwhile, retail for between £15-40, hitting a number of sweet spots across gifting. “Balancing fun with education is rolled into everything we do, but I wouldn’t call it a challenge, more a fun area to explore,” says George, when I ask how the company makes what can sometimes be a dry topic into an absorbing, amusing or downright fascinating activity. “For example, Tiny Baking saw us ask the question: ‘What’s the science in cooking?’ In these situations, we try to put ourselves in the position of a child. We’re constantly reminded to do this by our senior editor and it’s also something I was taught, and that I taught my own students. You must go directly to the end user, not the retail buyer, to the kid and find the fun activities and experiments

SmartLab

offered by a particular STEM subject, or even start with the fun activity, and seek out the science later. If kids are immersed in their play – baking tiny cakes, planting tiny plants – and at the end of it they’ve also got something to keep, the product is going to increase interest in that category. This is why we always pepper our books, content and components with incentives to continue exploring that subject.” It’s evident that behind the scenes, a lot of what makes SmartLab’s STEM kits fun comes from the brand’s team. While some companies might choose to outsource product development past the initial stages, SmartLab maintains a tight-knit, communicative approach throughout the entire process. You’d therefore be forgiven for thinking that the pandemic would have disrupted product development, but the team has instead made full use of all the networking technologies available to it. At the same time, taking turns heading to the office meant everyone could take home prototypes, materials and other things left for them by their colleagues. The proof of how well this approach worked can be seen in SmartLab’s 2021/22 launches. Tiny Gardening and Tiny Ice Cream joined the Tiny range in spring, and both have been a sell-out success. Activities that families can enjoy together following Covid are particularly popular at the moment, and Tiny’s new additions are catering to that demand. The pandemic also saw record numbers of families take up gardening for the first time, making Tiny Gardening bang on trend, while Tiny Ice Cream has become something of a social media darling across TikTok and Instagram. Tiny Circuits launches next. The kit takes all the best bits of best-seller Smart Circuits, shrinks it, and puts it into a simple 7-component kit for children who have never played with a robotics or electronics kit before. New launches are also tapping into the current demand among kids for products that are sustainable and kind to the environment. Organic Science Lab lets kids make natural dyes and biodegradable plastics using sustainable materials, all packaged in a recyclable, plastic-free outer and sleeve. George anticipates this product will be big in the UK and EU, where awareness of sustainability and environmental issues is arguably higher than in the US market, and that it will mark the start of another new angle for SmartLab. STEM 101 is also launching this year. Similar to Kitchen Science Lab, this all-in-one kit contains everything young scientists need to tackle STEM head on, and would make a great addition to a party or afterschool science club (these two products are only available in North America). The latest addition to SmartLab’s Squishy range, Ultimate Squishy Human Body Lab with

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SmartScan Technology is this year’s hero launch. The £70 set is the most advanced anatomy kit for kids on the marketplace, and a gamechanger in terms of the SmartLab portfolio and the benchmark against which all other STEM kits will be measured. “There’s nothing else like Ultimate Squishy Human Body Lab at this price point,” enthuses George. “We’re going after IP for the SmartScan technology as well as the Squishy brand. Product development began with solids modelling a real cadaver, working with a team to create organs which were then manipulated into a 16-inch tall, multi-system body with hi-res detail and six different durometers of plastic providing different types of squishiness. Then we’ve built in RFID technology, so when kids remove an organ and place it on the scanner they can hear quiz questions, facts, and sounds. It also comes with possibly the best book we’ve ever created, which is 32-pages long. The level of sophistication essentially makes it four products in one: a detailed anatomy model, a scanner, a book and an audio module crammed with content. We’ll be offering a limited run this year in-stores and online, but the real launch will be at Toy Fair New York 2022.” A personable, approachable and friendly company, marketing that doesn’t take the form of face-to-face meetings is relatively novel to SmartLab. Social media is a major focus this year, while real kids are proving to be the best possible advocates of toys made with them in mind. SmartLab is also exploring its options for smaller, shorter runs of more product, leveraging its 3D prototyping technology to speed up production and utilising more in the way of bioplastics and other cutting-edge materials. For a company with science so firmly at its heart, using the same science that goes into its toys to get to market faster seems like the most natural thing in the world. “We’re a small group of people doing some really fun and amazing things,” George finishes. “Within Quarto, SmartLab is like a little pirate ship floating on this sea of incredible printed content – we can try different things while enjoying the backing of a vast publishing company. Raising the pirate flag lets us take risks and discover unexplored areas within the business, so we can keep finding new ways of getting science into the hands of kids.”


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Sambro

Making

Company Profile

strides at Sambro The purchase of Sambro International by private equity group Elysian in 2016 heralded the start of significant change in the 25-year-old company, known primarily for its arts & craft and novelty ranges. Toy World caught up with new CEO Paul Blackaby to learn how the company is changing and growing. Paul, tell us how you are settling into your new role as CEO at Sambro.

What plans do you have both for this year, and beyond?

I have been with Sambro for 18 months now, initially as chief financial officer and becoming CEO in February this year. While I wasn’t seeking to be CEO, I was delighted to take on the role. The entire 18-month period has, of course, been dominated by the impact of Covid-19, but we are now in a ‘bounce-back’ year with sales and profitability significantly ahead of 2020. Morale always follows financial results, of course, so I am currently enjoying it. We have a lot to do, but I have a terrific leadership team around me, and I feel as if we are making excellent progress.

Our clear focus is our top 30 key accounts across Europe. We want to be in a position to grow each of those accounts every year, without reliance on significant trends. We want to work with our key licensors and achieve all of the objectives we have agreed with them but, in addition, we want to grow our own-branded sales. After several false starts, we are also determined to make a success of our eCommerce business.

What immediate changes have you made and why? We have a clear focus in the business on value product and this has largely been achieved through simplification in certain core areas. We have reduced our stockholding and the business now operates with a ‘sell to buy’ mentality, rather than a ‘buy to sell’ one. Aged stock in the business has been reduced to nil over the past two years. We have also reduced the number of licensing partners from over 100 different licences in 2019 to just a handful of key partners in 2021, with a strategy of focusing on strong evergreen properties such as Disney, Nickelodeon, Mattel and Hasbro to drive sustainable growth. We are also increasing our own brand development: own brand products represented roughly 30% of sales in 2020, compared to 17% in 2019. There is more focus on growing relationships with core existing customers and new customers that have - or will have - a large European footprint. We are also in the process of launching on Amazon and have great hopes for this partnership. Over and above this, we have made some judicious changes to the leadership team, which I am very pleased with.

How important is having the right team to Sambro? Our people are our most important asset. We want to attract, develop, empower and promote the very best talent in our organisation. If we look after our people, then our people will look after our customers, and we’ll do well. I have an ambition that we have so much talent, engaged and empowered to make decisions and progressing our business positively, that it would be difficult for a visitor on site to work out who the boss is. When that happens, I know that we’ll have done a great job.

What are the growth opportunities you have identified for the company? Our growth strategy depends on building relationships and developing our largest accounts. In addition, we wish to expand geographically further into Europe. We have a significant presence in the UK, Benelux, Germany and France, but there is still plenty to go after in other European countries. We continue to categorise our business into grocers, value retailers and specialist toy stores: we have an ambition to work with the biggest retailers in each of these sectors in each country.

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How is 2021 shaping up for Sambro? 2021 is going very well. At the end of May, yearto-date sales were significantly ahead of last year’s figures and our order book is nearly 100% ahead of the previous year, as many of the improvements we have implemented over the last two years have started to bear fruit. More importantly, the cultural change we have been implementing has meant it’s a happier place to work.

Which lines are performing particularly well, and what new launches do you have coming up during Q3 and Q4? We’re really proud of our plush ranges, which are going from strength to strength. As well as our existing agreements with Care Bears Baby and Disney, we also recently signed an agreement with the team behind Teletubbies and Peppa Pig in the Benelux region. The success of our Barbie range has been phenomenal in the UK and throughout Europe, and we look forward to sharing more developments around this franchise soon. Our Felties range has been very well received and I’m excited about the new Paw Patrol Work Bench, which will be launching shortly. Our own new Battle Star Brawlers range will be launching in Q3 and we’re delighted that the range has already received significant retailer uptake.

What particular trends have you identified for this year? ESG and sustainability are trends that are here to stay and we’re seeing these coming through as a key priority for more of our customers. Health and well-being has been a trend that has gained momentum over the last 12 months and we’re seeing subtle shifts in buying priorities as more people decide to holiday at home and family time becomes a priority. We expect online shopping to remain a significant part of everyone’s life in a postpandemic world.


Feature

STEM and educational

Every day’s a

school day

Toys that teach are a popular choice with parents, grandparents and caregivers, offering kids that little something extra while they play and imparting valuable life skills that will stand youngsters in good stead for their future – and inspire the talent of tomorrow. Rachael Simpson-Jones looks at how companies merge learning with play, and what topics and themes are proving most popular.

L

earning and play often go hand in hand, but explicitly STEM and educational toys take what is often an organic process and make it an intrinsic part of the fun, requiring a delicate balancing act that finds a happy middle ground somewhere between ‘this is cool!’ and ‘I never knew water/circuits/prime numbers/the brain could do that’. There’s two ways of doing this; find a STEM subject and then the fun within it, or start with something fun and find the STEM within it. “Galt taps into the natural curiosity of children by taking STEM concepts that might be quite complex, and simplifying them without losing the essence of that concept,” explains John McDonnell, managing director, James Galt & Co. “We start with an interesting subject and then focus on breaking it down into simple and fun steps, leveraging our heritage in this space to create an age-appropriate product. Of course, to gain the most from a STEM or educational toy, kids need to understand the how and why behind the principles they’re investigating. To this end, Galt includes an attractive and colourful lab book with each of its sets, which include Rainbow Lab, Glow Lab and Body Lab, smaller sets such as Kitchen Lab, Bubble Lab and Nature Lab, the impressive Giant Science lab, and the licensed Horrible Science Range. As readers will discover on pages 64 and 66, SmartLab also puts books (or booklets) at the centre

of each of its STEM offerings, drawing on its strength within the publishing space and that of its parent company, Quarto. SmartLab’s major launch for 2021/22, Ultimate Squishy Human Body Lab with SmartScan Technology, comes with what senior brand manager George Scott says is ‘possibly the best book we’ve ever created’, a 32-page-long feast of facts and fascinating illustrations. Year after year, we hear that Space remains a (if not the) best-selling theme in STEM. This is certainly the case for Jade Oliver-Deacon, of The Toy Shop Okehampton. She says: “One of my best-sellers is the Brainstorm My Very Own Solar System, which launched this year. This all-in-one product has been so popular with my customers that it sold out within just a couple of days of stock arriving. It’s a brilliant kit and I’ve immediately placed another order to cater to demand among people who missed out the first time. Children love space because we don’t have a full understanding of it; anything to do with earth, the moon, planets or stars always captures the attention of kids.” Debra Tiffany, marketing manager at Brainstorm Toys, says the company advocates for the creation of toys that teach by stealth, meaning all its products are about entertaining and engaging children first and foremost. Brainstorm also focuses on creating products themed around subjects that children

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are consistently curious about, which is why space, dinosaurs and the outdoors, to name a few, are all top topics within the portfolio. “Our Brainstorm Toys and The Original Glowstars Company collections extend year-on-year,” she replies when asked what the company’s products offer from a retail perspective. “Our high-quality products, coupled with our continued marketing, means the Brainstorm name is synonymous with STEM toys. Retailers can grow their Brainstorm Toys selection thanks to a range of price points and innovative POS, and all products will easily stand on their own or complement other STEM ranges, such as Space. Everyone loves Space, whatever their age. It’s endlessly fascinating and our understanding of it is ever evolving, meaning our product ranges can also evolve over time.” Jade shares how Brainstorm’s STEM and educational toys can sometimes be put to novel educational purchases. See the World Through Others’ Eyes, unique ‘goggles’ that let the wearer observe the world around them in over 17 different ways, are apparently becoming increasingly popular with parents of autistic children keen to offer their friends and classmates an understanding of how and why their autistic child is different. Parent-led purchase means another balancing act is necessary; appealing to adult gifters while not putting off kids that may have a genuine interest in buying


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Feature

STEM and educational

STEM toys for themselves. Jade has seen success among kids with the likes of The Source Wholesale’s Construct and Create Robotic Hedgehog, which she says looks ‘very, very cool’ and appeals massively to older kids, who are more than happy to pick it out for themselves. She adds: “Generally speaking, though, it’s parents and grandparents that are buying STEM and educational toys for their kids and grandkids. The feeling is very much that if they’re going to buy a toy, they’d like it to have an educational element as well as the fun.” Zac Chapman, buyer at Oldrids & Downtown, Lincolnshire, agrees. “When it comes to STEM toys, people are looking for something more, something that develops their children,” he says. “That mindset works well for us because such toys make perfect gifts, and the educational elements can be used as a great selling point. We stock a range from Learning Resources which has been a strong seller; due to its success, I imagine that we will grow that range in the next few years.” Many of the products within Learning Resources’ STEM and educational ranges have a strong tech element to them, such as its coding toys. And while the application of tech is something seen across many a STEM line-up, Simon Tomlinson, head of marketing at Learning Resources, says it is by no means the be all and end all of a top product. “We know that young children learn best by doing, and whilst we expect the market for tech related educational toys will continue to grow, we are equally certain that our products will remain relevant and valuable,” he states. “We know that 66% of parents see themselves as the primary educator of their children. Traditional play is social and involves playing with other children or adults and is critical to our development as people. When we develop products, we ensure that they are easily accessible to children, so they can learn by themselves as well as with others. Although we make some electronic products, like Botley the Coding Robot and the Code & Go Robot Mouse to help kids learn the concept of coding at an early age, most of our products are traditional in nature, and have been and will continue to be, hugely successful.” In researching this piece, two retailers did flag an area they feel could be improved upon by the sector – the inappropriate and unnecessary gendering of STEM products. This is something Alison Quill, owner of Brightminds online toy store, finds particularly irksome, telling me that she finds it disappointing that in 2021, she still sees STEM kits featuring pictures of ‘grey-haired [adult] professors’ and no images of women or girls. “Some manufacturers still think girls' science is bath bombs and bubble bath,” she says. She’s not alone – when I put this issue to Jade Oliver-Deacon, she said: “I wholeheartedly agree with Alison. There is a slow shift away from gendered STEM toys, but slow is the word.” This is hopefully something those manufacturers guilty of such behaviour will soon address, though Toy World is pleased to see very little evidence of excessive gendering among the products featured in this issue. There’s

still a gender imbalance in STEM studies and careers; according the recent UCAS data provided by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), only 35% of STEM students in higher education in the UK are women, with just 19% studying Computer Sciences or Engineering & Technology. And while the percentage of women in the workforce with STEM careers is growing, it still sits at only around 25%. Empowering girls and young women to enjoy STEM toys that don’t push them towards more ‘girly’ topics has to be a solution to addressing this inequality. On a lighter note, sustainability is starting to creep through into STEM. Science4you’s Eco-Science range, available through Vivid, puts the environment, sustainability and learning to the fore, allowing kids to learn about renewable energy, plants, weather, climate change and much more. SmartLab is also tapping into the current demand among kids for products that are sustainable and kind to the environment. Organic Science Lab lets kids make natural dyes and biodegradable plastics using sustainable materials, all packaged in a recyclable, plastic-free outer and sleeve. George explains how SmartLab stands out at retail, saying: “SmartLab products are packaged and designed for optimum retail shelf and POS presence, for small and large planograms, end caps and custom displays. The SmartLab brand identity includes packaging designs, colour and categories for our toys to be displayed together as a complete line, or individually and alongside other toys of the same genre.”

Toy World 74

Galt’s John McDonnell also took the opportunity to share with retailers what the company’s STEM and educational assortment offers, telling me that Galt products offer a good price point designed to achieve quick stock turnaround and giving retailers ‘a good return for shelf or catalogue space’. He adds: “Galt toys are of a proven quality which means trouble-free retailing. On top of that, Galt operates with stock levels that assure a first-class service. There’s a broad range, yearly investment in product development, and our area managers are there to communicate Galt offers directly to our retailers. This year, Galt is concentrating on the basics, overcoming logistics difficulties to get the right stock, at the right time, to the retailer. Trade press helps to inform the buyer as to what is available, and Galt POS and bright packaging helps to reach the consumer. Most importantly, the Galt area managers are on hand every day to communicate Galt’s offers to the retailers.” Over at Learning Resources, the focus is on using the full range of marketing platforms at its disposal to raise general awareness of its STEM and educational products. Targeted activity will also capitalise on consumer behaviour and demographics, underpinned by seasonality and market trends. In-store, the company is working alongside retailers to offer bespoke product packages that create themed educational ends or sections - input from its retail partners in this regard is welcomed. Finally, Brainstorm is supporting its ranges with comprehensive marketing throughout the year that will accelerate during Q4. My Very Own Solar System will be advertised on both TV and YouTube during September, November and December, with a call-out for the popular My Very Own Moon to help drive complementary purchase of this related product. Debra adds: “PR will also continue to underpin our marketing activity, and we will be taking part in a Christmas Virtual Power Pitching to key media representatives in September too.” In this feature, Toy World puts the latest STEM and educational toys under the microscope.


STEM and educational

Character Options 01616 339 800 | www.character-online.com sales@charactergroup.plc.uk Launching for the second half, Character Option’s innovative Smarty range offers kids aged three to five an exciting way to play offline as they learn STEM concepts and develop social skills. Smarty JoJo is a cute and characterful plane that teaches preschoolers on the go as they zoom through the air. This learning toy uses Smart Technology that identifies colours; kids are tasked with finding a colour and landing on it, triggering voice prompts that identify the colour if the child has landed on the correct one. Child-friendly conversation also calls out feelings, helping children to recognise and acknowledge their own emotions. Fun missions teach directions, shapes and opposites, while motion sensors encourage active physical play as kids learn. Smarty JoJo features more than 150 random actions and reactions, meaning every experience different, and is bilingual so kids can toggle between English and Spanish as they play. Also available is a colourful butterfly called Smarty Flutter. Offering the same playpattern, Flutter is ideal for pre-school nature lovers. Smarty Pad, meanwhile, offers children aged three to five an interactive approach to pre-school education by gamifying the standard curriculum. Smarty Pad is an interactive LED tablet, which is lightweight but sturdy. It contains 12 Smart games and an age-appropriate, educator-vetted curriculum. Motion sensors give Smarty Pad an innovative spin, encouraging unique sensory play, and vibrant LED visuals complement learning activities including colours, coding, ABCs and numbers up to 25. With more than 100 different responses, kids rarely play the same way twice. Smarty Pad is also bilingual, empowering kids to play and learn in two languages.

Mattel 01628 500 000 | www.mattel.com Fisher-Price continues to showcase an impressive range of educationally-led toys, including innovative new launches that enable kids to experience hours of fun as they learn everything from music to the alphabet and counting. New to the Fisher-Price Infant range is the 4-in-1 Ultimate Learning Bot, with four toys in one to keep playtime going as kids grow from infant to toddler to preschooler. Each interactive electronic robot buddy comes brimming with fun activities for babies to explore, and features Smart Stages learning levels with 120+ songs, sounds and phrases about numbers and counting, the alphabet, shapes, colours and more. The Fisher-Price Linkimals range continues to enhance child development with innovative technology that enables the products to link up. Each product combines sounds, songs and phrases to teach numbers and colours while enhancing motor skills. This autumn/winter sees more new cute animal friends join the range. Cool Beats Penguin is an interactive penguin featuring multi-coloured lights and music which encourage babies to dance and move as they learn. New to the Infant Laugh & Learn range comes the So Big Puppy and So Big Sis. The extra-large puppy features motion-activated songs, sounds and phrases to encourage toddlers to get moving, as well as two Smart Stages learning levels that teach counting, the alphabet, animal sounds and more. The Laugh & Learn range continues to expand with the new 3-in1 On-the-Go Camper, a push-along walker and activity centre that grows with kids, from sitting up and walking to toddler pretend play. Smart Stages learning levels, complete with over 90 songs, sounds and phrases, teach colours, counting from 1-10, shapes, and the alphabet. Kids can press the ABC or Music buttons to trigger lights, sounds, songs and phrases. New to the Fisher-Price Little People range is the Little People Best Friends Playhouse. Smart Stages levels with songs, sounds and phrases teach kids the alphabet, counting, opposites and greetings as they discover the six activation points and four rooms in the house.

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STEM and educational

Brainstorm Toys 01200 445 113 | www.brainstormltd.co.uk

Brainstorm’s portfolio includes a wide range of STEM products, with high-quality educational elements at the forefront of all toy development. The Brainstorm Toys collection has been added to year after year, resulting in a diverse range of engaging, interactive products that educate via stealth. New from Brainstorm for 2021 is Night Sky – Solar System, Constellations, Starlight and Moonlight Projector. The compact projector transforms a child’s room into an aweinspiring outer space light show. Night Sky features four projection discs that show planets within the solar system, constellations, the moon and an impressive image of 20,000 stars in the night sky. Providing pin-sharp image quality, the images project up to 3.65 metres wide and can rotate on the walls or ceiling. The angle of the images can easily be adjusted, and the product also features a handy 30-minute auto shut-off. The new Light-Up Crystal Lab lets children grow clear, green and blue crystals. As well as learning about how to make them, kids can place the resulting crystals into a pyramid display that lights up thanks to a colour-changing LED base. The crystals can be illuminated with seven different colours - red, green, blue, yellow, light blue, pink and white – making it a unique night-light for added play value. Brainstorm’s Space Toys are hugely popular. This year, Brainstorm has teamed up with the National Space Centre to celebrate its 20th anniversary by giving away products from its range. My Very Own Moon teaches children about the different moon phases. Using a remote control, children can click through 12 illuminated lunar phases. The moon fits easily to walls to make a stunning addition to space-themed rooms, while the 30-minute auto-shut off creates a comforting night-light effect. My Very Own Solar System not only teaches children about the different planets but also makes a great focal point in any bedroom thanks to its easy ceiling attachment. Using a remote control, children can click to rotate the eight detailed, colour planets around the sun and engage in conversations about them and their orbits. At night, the central sun becomes a reassuring night-light complete with a battery saving auto-shut off. My Very Own Solar System, with its My Very Own Moon call out, will be supported by both TV and digital marketing from September.

Geomag 07831 886 997 | www.geomagworld.com Geomag Mechanics is a construction platform that combines the forces of magnetism with a world of mechanical construction to stimulate creativity, inventiveness and ingenuity. In addition to the classic magnetic rods and steel spheres, Geomag Mechanics adds mechanical elements within the constructions, expanding the play possibilities: some parts of the structures are able to rotate, triggering chain reactions from the magnetic attraction and repulsion. For 2021, the company has announced the complete overhaul of its Mechanics Gravity range. The new range, suitable for kids aged 7-14 years, will include four items with piece counts varying from 67 to 207 pieces, at price points suitable for all budgets. The range is further enhanced with the introduction of the Easy Combo System, which allows all Mechanics sets to be fully interchangeable and inter connectible, offering retailers a strong opportunity for cross-sell and repeat purchases. Geomag offers all of this whilst still ensuring the environment is protected; the range will be made using a high percentage of recycled plastics in Geomag’s hydro-powered Swiss factory. Playing with Geomag helps kids understand and master the invisible forces of nature. With the help of Geomag magnets, children can learn to use gravity to turn motors and see the spheres running up and down the track system they’ve built. Once the Mechanics Gravity sets have been built, engaging track play can be enjoyed with features such as magnetic cannons, a 360-degree loop, a gravity motor and an elevator. The lowest-priced set in the new range, Mechanics Gravity Race Track, includes 67 pieces made from 76% recycled plastic, while the 130-piece Loops & Turns set is made from 74% recycled plastic. The largest sets, 183-piece Vertical Motor and 207-piece Elevator Circuit, are made from 90% and 86% recycled plastic respectively, making them top-choices for eco-conscious STEM and construction enthusiasts. To further support the success of this range, Geomag has also overhauled the packaging. A striking black, grey and white colourway, complete with green and orange accents that tie into the colour of the sets, will stand the products out at retail, while the age recommendation, piece counts, percentage of recycled plastics and key features are clearly called out.

Toy World 78


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STEM and educational

Moving into 2021, Science4you continues to deliver inspiring, fun and educational science kits across a variety of classic and innovative new themes, as the focus around STEM and STEAM related products continues to grow. There’s a new emphasis on expanding the product offering to a variety of age groups with the addition of the Science Junior range, aimed at children aged 4+. The collection includes kits enabling kids to understand more about the human body, explore space or learn what it takes to become a vet. My First Science Kit contains 26 mini experiments ready made for scientific beginners. Fun experiments include making a crazy dough, learning all the colours of the rainbow and growing a flower patch. Autumn/winter 21 also sees the introduction of Be a YouTuber, unleashing the creativity of viral experiments that kids can share with their friends. They can start their own channel and create ‘wow’ moments on video with crazy dough, erupting volcanos and magical visual experiments. The Eco-Science range puts the environment, sustainability and learning to the fore, with children able to learn about renewable energy, plants, weather, climate change and much more. Kids can become an eco-astronaut with the 15 experiments in Green Science and grow their own plants, learn about their role in the environment and launch an incredible recycled rocket. They can become an explorer of the natural world and discover the power of the plant and animal kingdom with Nature Explorer. Each Science4you kit has been created to deliver just the right balance between fun and learning, with a range of exciting, creative experiments and the educational context, led by school curriculums, to allow children to really understand the science behind play. The Science4you brand will continue to be supported by a strong TV and digital campaign throughout autumn/winter, targeting both children and parents with engaging content across the product range.

Toynamics 0116 478 5230 | www.toynamics.co.uk Toynamics UK & Ireland has recently been appointed as UK distributor for Timio, the new interactive, educational audio and music player aimed at children aged two to six years. Totally screen and Wi-Fi free, Timio has been designed and developed as a fun learning toy to help children grow their vocabulary, intellect and imagination. Timio uses magnetic discs to unlock a large library of audio content, from stories and lullabies to fairy tales and vocabulary. The product helps children grow and grows with children: each Timio player starter kit includes five magnetic discs filled with stories, music, vocabulary and quizzes to stimulate creativity and playful fun. As Timio uses only sound and LED lights, there are no moving images. Timio is easy to use, creating endless hours of fun; kids just pop on a disc of their choosing to start the education journey. Once attached, a library of curated content will automatically connect. Pressing the beautiful pictures on the discs starts the learning opportunities, as what kids see is repeated back to them. Timio challenges older children by asking questions and quizzing them on what they see to help reinforce the learning process. An added benefit, Timio can easily be switched between eight different languages – English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Dutch, Mandarin and Italian – making it a great educational resource for bilingual families or parents keen to get their children learning a new language from an early age. To extend the starter pack of five discs, extra themed disc packs can be purchased to expand the educational library of content – there are 25 discs to choose from in total. Timio play leads to discovery, which is why the discs promote imagination, speech and cognitive skills in an accessible and fun way for all children. 100% screen free, Timio doesn’t use the internet; just pop batteries in and it’s good to go. Timio is incredibly portable as it doesn’t require charging, making it great for holidays, car, train and plane travel. The handy headphone jack feature makes the product compatible with Timio headphones (sold separately). The hard-wearing discs are easy to swap out on the go, and the interactive audio player is also small and light with a carry handle that makes it very portable for children.

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STEM and educational

Bandai UK 020 8324 6160 | www.bandai.co.uk Bandai’s STEM line-up continues to go from strength to strength, with the expansion of established best-selling ranges creating a solid category within the company’s wider portfolio. The award-winning National Geographic range has firmly established its position as an evergreen, go-to STEM range. As one of the world’s most trusted science brands, National Geographic focuses on exploration, conservation and education, elements that are incorporated into each kit to provide children with the tools they need to learn. With a range of price points, the National Geographic range has something for everyone, supporting individual retail strategy and increasing purchase options for consumers. The collection of themed Dig Kits continues to be a best-seller, offering kids the chance to excavate a genuine piece of the natural world and learn about their findings with a full colour guide. To maintain a fresh and exciting range, Bandai has introduced four large new sets including Explorer Science Sensory Kit, Explorer Science Earth Kit, Glow-In-The-Dark Mega Science Kit, and Ultimate Gemstone Dig Kit. Each of these kits includes multiple genuine specimens alongside equipment for hands-on learning and ideas for scientific activities and experiments to be enjoyed at home. The Original Sea-Monkeys brand continues to grow since joining the Bandai family in 2018 and has firmly established itself as a heritage property with strong retro appeal. With its high quality, great value products and regular new product introduction, Sea-Monkeys has thrilled children for decades, allowing them to learn about nature by growing their own aquatic pets through nurturing play. A newly launched range for housing Sea-Monkeys includes the glow-in-the-dark Magiquarium, Martian-inspired On Mars, and the pink Magic Castle. The Rock Tumbler Starter Kit is a fun way to start a new rock tumbling hobby. The set enables children to transform rough rocks into extraordinary polished gemstones from all around the world, and contains five jewellery settings in order to make beautiful pieces to wear and gift. Marketing plans include a robust programme of digital, social, influencer, and consumer media platforms to directly target children, parents and educator audiences.

James Galt 01614 289 111 | www.galttoys.com Nurturing a child’s inquisitive side is a vital part of their ongoing cognitive development, and Galt’s STEM toys offer the ideal way to spark their interest in how the world works. Parents can transform their homes, with the help of young scientists, into fun-filled laboratories filled with enriching hands-on experiments and activities. Kids can discover chemistry, biology and astronomy with the Explore & Discover range designed for ages five and up. These sets, including Rainbow Lab, Glow Lab and Body Lab, are compatible with the National Curriculum to ensure they support home learning. Several smaller sets, such as Kitchen Lab, Bubble Lab and Nature Lab, are ideal as gifts or party favours. New for 2021, these sets include contents that are 100% plastic-free. The Giant Science Lab is a bumper science set that features 30 fascinating experiments, as well as a lab coat and play goggles. Aspiring scientists can explore chemistry by powering a clock with an apple, investigate biology by examining their fingerprints and discover fantastic physics using mysterious magnets. These experiments are sure to inspire young minds and provide hours of educational and rainy-day fun. The Horrible Science range is science with a horrible twist, guaranteed to turn stomachs and blow minds. Based on the best-selling books written by Nick Arnold and illustrated by Tony De Saulles, these gruesome sets, including Ghastly Glow, Creepy Crystals and Deadly Dino Experiments, offer the ideal progression for older children looking to expand their knowledge. The Bulging Box of Experiments is new for 2021. Overflowing with fiendishly fun activities, this set comes with a 52-page lab notebook, a Horrible Science lab coat and safety goggles so kids can dress like their favourite Horrible experts. Kids can learn how to make chaotic chemical cocktails, dig up some ferocious fossils, investigate how planes fly, blow up a volcano and create a beastly bar of soap with a creepy-crawly surprise. The very first Horrible Science game, Germ Attack! challenges players to beat germs in a ruthless race to the heart. This exciting game for 2-6 players is designed to teach children fun and foul facts about germs and the human body.

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GRAVITY & MAGNETIC MOTION

, S E OX B E T H N T E E FER N I B DIF ! M S O D T C UIL I U C B CIR

BUILD


STEM and educational

PlayMonster 01628 488 944 | www.interplayuk.com The award-winning My Living World range enables kids to study animals, insects and flora in close-up detail, supporting STEM learning and exploration of the natural world. Known for its Ant World and Worm World sets, the range includes a fascinating range of nature study kits at price points perfect for gifting. The nature play sets hold huge appeal among families looking for affordable yet educational ideas to entertain kids at home, in the garden or the park. PlayMonster UK has big things planned for the brand this year. The My Living World range is being relaunched with fresh new-look packaging, while a Bug Photography Kit that enables kids to view creatures up close by attaching it to a smartphone camera will be available from spring. The My Living World brand will be supported with social media campaigns, lifestyle press and educational initiatives throughout the year, all of which will continue to drive awareness of nature and conservation. The marketing will also tie-in to school programmes and forest schools to help teach children about the importance of nature for the future of our planet.

Quarto 020 7284 9300 | www.quartoknows.com/SmartLabToys | salesuk@quarto.com Since 2004, SmartLab Toys has been one of the leading designers of educational toys for children aged 6-14. Firmly believing that children learn best through hands-on exploration and discovery, the company embraces the STEAM approach by producing innovative toys that provide experiences and experiments in chemistry, measurement, engineering, electronics and physics. SmartLab’s toys allow children to develop their individual insights, problem-solving skills, divergent thinking and perseverance as they learn and practise real-world skills and concepts. The Amazing Squishy Brain invites kids to take the journey of a lifetime as they enter the fascinating world of the human brain. This fun kit, perfect for budding biologists, comes complete with eight skull pieces, eight squishy brain parts, four vertebrae, two squishy eyeballs, a spinal cord - and plastic forceps, scalpel and tweezers for use when assembling the model. A display base and a 32-page book filled with instructions and facts complete this brilliantly brainy STEM toy. Aftershock: Earthquake Simulator lets kids construct buildings and put them to the test with earthquakes of different types, magnitudes and durations. The kit includes a clever motorised shake table with variable speed and six interchangeable quake keys, plus a 24-page Seismic Science book with building challenges, earth science and ideas for creating quakeproof structures. Construction materials include 32 building girders, nine floor panels and three interlocking power spines. The That's Gross Science Lab features a motorised toilet mixer with flushing sounds, a toxic waste container, worm spoon and 26 gross experiments for hours of disgusting yet scientific fun. Extreme Science, meanwhile, offers an excellent introduction to basic chemistry. Young scientists will learn how to make 20 concoctions that fizz, ooze, glow and disappear using the lab book and tools in this extreme chemistry kit. The use of common household ingredients means the fun can be repeated again and again. Extreme Science comes with two test tubes with lids and a stand, a beaker, mixing bowl, funnel, eyedropper, mix-andmeasure scoop, glow powder and a 24-page lab journal in which kids can jot their findings. SmartLab Toys are often featured in gift supplements, and the company runs regular Instagram and Facebook advertising targeting parents. It also works with bloggers and influencers when launching new toys. SmartLab Toys' STEAM products have earned more than 50 of the toy industry's most prestigious awards, including multiple Oppenheim Platinum awards, Good Housekeeping Best Toy awards and Family Fun Magazine Toy of the Year awards. The company is happy to provide recommendations and standards for endcaps, as well as custom CDUs, while the brand packaging reflects different ways to present products on-shelf.

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STEM and educational

H. Grossman 01603 397 105 | www.tobar.co.uk | sales@tobar.co.uk H. Grossman’s portfolio includes a variety of Tobar projects that will interest any budding Einstein or Attenborough. The Junior Explorer range has everything young scientists needs to discover more about the natural world, from bug specimen tubes and a bug catcher to magnifying instruments for closer scrutiny. Green fingered kids, meanwhile, can grow a Venus Fly Trap or cultivate the hair of the best-selling Mr. Grasshead. With Magic Growing Crystals, kids simply add a special liquid and watch as the crystals form into magical shapes. New for 2021 are Magic Light Up Crystal Set and the Extreme Crystal Science Set, which offers seven different experiments for kids to enjoy. The new launches join the existing range, which includes a Growing Garden, the best-selling Magic Growing Tree, a Mermaid and a Unicorn. Learning through play is encouraged with the Make your Own Clock kit. Completely mechanical, with no batteries required, this popular offering helps kids develop their tech and mechanical skills as they brush up on their time-telling. Special kits that let kids make their own scented slime and clever putty in a variety of colours are also available. The Tobar range has geography covered with inflatable globes and a compass, plus gyroscopes and a range of magnets for more scientific pursuits. A popular purchase last year, the Solar System Planetarium encourages children to study the stars. This self- assembly planetarium has glow-in-the-dark planets which kids can decorate with the included glow-in-the-dark paints. Young astronomers will also enjoy the Putty Planets Solar System. These planet-themed globes open to reveal a different coloured putty and are available as a full set or as pocket-money priced individual pots in a tabletop display unit.

Clementoni 020 3206 1397 | www.clementoni.com Now in the 10th year of its partnership with the Science Museum, Clementoni has grown its STEM offering significantly. The Mechanics range has become more interactive and sophisticated over time and now offers more than 20 SKUs. Italian-made, the construction range features original models designed to be built and dismantled, giving children a deep understanding of mechanics and engineering acquired via imagination and experimentation. Easy to understand manuals and exclusive digital 3D instructions ensure that learning is fun, and as each kit is unique in its creation, kids learn new skills from each product. Clementoni is expanding its Mechanics offering with the introduction of a range aimed at a slightly younger audience. Suitable for six years and up, the Mechanics Junior portfolio features brighter colours and fun designs including the Moving Dinosaur, a fascinating kit that takes kids back in time to build five motorised dinosaur models. The kit contains over 130 components, including rubber panels, pulleys and cubes kids can use to create replica models that really walk when complete. Within the core Mechanics line, suitable for ages eight and over, 2021 will see a refresh to the Buggy & Quad kit and new introductions including the HyperCar and Crawler Tractor. These new models comprise over 200 parts crafted to the smallest detail. Clementoni has delighted children across the globe with its fun and educational robot collection, allowing children to experiment with STEM principles in a direct and engaging way. The animated robots are easy to assemble and help develop logical thinking and manual dexterity. Game dynamics and wireless interaction have been added to help kids experiment with the basic notions of coding and communicating with robots in a new and exciting way. Each product comes with exclusive digital content, meaning the game can be played in a variety of ways and children can enjoy different learning experiences. Slither Bot is new for 2021. This kit creates a 40cm snake which comes to life once built and moves smoothly across the floor, just like the real thing. Rolling Bot, meanwhile, is an adorable 25cm tall Panda robot which can do somersaults, and Mecha Dragon is the ultimate in STEM discovery. This mechanical dragon features three motors and multiple sensors that help it interact with the child and its surroundings. Children aged eight and over will enjoy the 12 game modes included. Clementoni’s Science Museum Action and Reaction gravity ball track system provides an invigorating game experience that helps kids grasp the basics of physics. Opening a world without boundaries, the never-ending tracks can be personalised using kit contents and household objects. Action & Reaction Speed Race allows kids to challenge the laws of gravity with the loop the loop, duplicate routes and turn offs, as well as create special effects with the spiral.

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The Guidecraft Unit Block Marble Run features drops, curves and smoothly routed paths to create endless track designs; begin early physics experimentation, STEM exploration and architectural design with this dynamic set. Includes 4 acrylic marbles and 36 rubberwood blocks ideally scaled to coordinate with other unit block sets (sold separately); 10 double-sided concept cards connect example marble run designs to realworld situations through relatable imagery and offer key words to naturally expand dialogue through play.

Unit Block Marble Run G2060

- 40 pc. set

Concept Cards 10 double-sided concept cards feature beautiful imagery, educational concepts and related words.

www.guidecraft.com

Sales Rep: Lorna Smith (EMEA) Email: lsmith@guidecraft.com

Phone: +44 (0) 7725833273 Skype: lorna.smith966


STEM and educational

The Source Wholesale 01306 646 885 | www.thesourcewholesale.co.uk The Source Wholesale continues to offer a range of construction toys which are both great fun to build and play with as well as expanding children’s knowledge of robotics, coding and the use of alternative energy sources. The kits are a great way to engage youngsters whilst having fun and are powered by air, water and solar. Each comes with everything you need to create your own working robotic friend, and one of the latest kits is the Cyborg hand, which works on hydraulics and moves just like a real hand. There are multiple build kits for extended play value including the 14 in 1 solar robot kit which allows 14 different working robots from just one kit, while the 12 in 1 combines both solar and hydraulics allowing the user to create and use 12 different working models from this kit. The Solar System kit comes with all pieces and includes a paint set to create a unique and moving solar system. The Source is already working on some new lines in its STEM category for spring/ summer 22 launch. All of its new products can be found on the Source portal through the website.

Dantoy (45) 96 574 100 | www.dantoy.dk | akh@dantoy.dk Dantoy is launching the Green Garden Planting School, a new development within its Green Garden range. This new introduction comprises a planting set featuring flowerpots, toy vegetables, garden stakes and a garden frame. It is also designed to be a simple sorting box, so toddlers can practise their fine-motor skills and learn about colours, shapes and numbers when they try to put the play vegetables into the correct slots. At the same time, the Green Garden Planting School doubles up as a genuine planting set, allowing older children to plant real seeds in the pots and grow the plants in the garden frame, which can fit on a windowsill. The child can look at the garden stake to see how much their plant has grown. This product is an ideal way for kids to gain an early understanding of plant biology, and learn how nurturing and caring for plants enables them grow and develop.

Spin Master 01628 535 000 | www.spinmastertoys.co.uk The Meccano Junior Official Monster Jam Grave Digger Monster Truck will help inspire kids to learn the key principles of science, technology, and engineering, while also providing an impressive and robust toy vehicle to enjoy for years to come. The Meccano Junior Official Monster Jam Grave Digger Monster Truck is an ideal construction toy for young engineers. This set gives children the opportunity to build and customise their own Monster Jam machine. It includes two tools and 127 parts to unleash endless creativity and includes a pull-back motor so the finished model can pull off highflying and gravity defying stunts.

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STEM and educational

Edx Education 020 7097 5173 | www.edxeducation.com Edx toys spark imagination, enhance key early skills, and allow a child to explore and experiment with different learning concepts through play. Edx Education’s extensive home learning ranges aim to support parents and guardians in all aspects of play-based learning and development. From early years active play to maths, the ranges are designed to allow children to be creative, learn and have fun with interactive counters, award-winning Rainbow Pebbles, constructions sets, STEAM sets and outdoor play collections. Four of Edx’s award-winning ranges are Rainbow Pebbles, Geostix, FunPlay and Early Maths 101 To Go. Rainbow Pebbles is an ideal construction STEAM education range for the early years and is also one of Edx Education’s best-selling ranges worldwide. Rainbow Pebbles support classroom and home learning play and is great for teaching essential maths basics. Each set comes with ideas for engaging activities which encourage creative play, critical thinking, problem solving and the development of fine motor skills. Junior Geostix is a STEAM range which invites children to play and learn at the same time. Ideal for learning at home, Geostix offers a hands-on and visual aid perfect for gaining an understanding of the concept of shape and space. The sets include creative and interactive activities to stimulate young minds. The FunPlay range is aimed at children aged 18 months to six years and provides them with activities and games to play whilst learning at home, supporting early mathematical and scientific concepts in a fun and engaging way. FunPlay will help curious minds discover and explore ideas that will challenge logical thinking, creative imagination and problem solving. The Early Math101 range has been tailored to support age-specific learning of mathematical concepts such as number and measurement, geometry and problem solving. Ideal for home learning, the kits include an activity booklet, activity cards and a range of different colourful and tactile objects which make learning maths fun. Many of Edx’s educational toys are supported by a growing number of downloadable resources, videos, play blogs and podcasts hosted on the company’s website. These extend the learning and play opportunities that can be enjoyed with each educational toy and game. Edx Education also runs dedicated global projects to provide ‘education for all’ through its Education Outreach Program. A hugely positive story for retailers to tell, each sale of an Edx Education home learning toy helps offer kids across the globe the opportunity to access education.

Trends UK 01295 768 078 | www.trendsuk.co.uk Trends is expanding its award-winning Science Mad brand to include scientific equipment. Expect to see a strong branded presence at retail, with telescopes, microscopes, digital metal detectors and walkietalkies joining the line-up. The new Science Mad Weather Station launched May. This 5-in-1 kit comes with everything needed to measure wind speed and direction, rainfall and temperatures, making it an ideal set for families to explore the seasons with. For the first time, kids can learn how a hybrid engine really works as Trends UK’s new Machine Works 4-Cylinder Hybrid Engine Kit reveals what really goes on under the bonnet. This kit creates a working model of a 4-cylinder hybrid car engine and provides an accurate representation of how the internal combustion engine and electric motor work together in a hybrid system. With increasing interest in new eco technology in cars, this hybrid introduction is extremely topical. Kids can also create a model of a working engine with realistic sound effects and Haynesstyle instruction booklets with the Machine Works Haynes Build Your Own V8 Engine Kit with AR feature. The best-selling Machine Works V8 Engine also comes with a new AR feature. Builders can download a free app and explore machine functions with animated AR features and 11 engine components described in detail. Trends UK will be supporting its STEM lines this year with marketing, PR support and influencer campaigns.

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STEM and educational

LeapFrog Toys 01235 555 545 | www.leapfrog.com Kids can bring a love of nature into the world of learning with LeapFrog’s Touch & Learn Nature ABC Board. With its touch-sensitive wooden board and an animated light-up LED screen, this toy tablet teaches letters, sounds and counting as kids explore 26 animal/letter buttons, a music button and more. Touching the animals one by one helps young learners count to 10, while interactive activities such as Animal Band, Sound Detective and Weather Report will introduce an appreciation for nature. This product is made with 100% FSC-certified wood from well-managed forests, while the plastic used in its construction is 90% reclaimed. The Interactive Wooden Animal Puzzle offers four interactive play modes and is full of surprises. The aim is to match the six animal puzzle pieces by shape and colour border. Kids will hear different responses when they place or remove each piece in each mode: animal names, sounds, colours and fun facts are played in Animals mode, while Numbers mode counts the objects hidden under the animals, such as the three eggs under the blue parrot. Adding a further educational element to this fun puzzle, play can be enhanced with French mode as learners listen to words in French, then hear them repeated in English. Questions about animals, colours and numbers help reinforce the learning. Music mode lets kids add musical notes and animal sounds to background beats, or hear an animal symphony when they take out all the pieces at once. Like the Touch & Learn Nature ABC Board, this product is made with 100% FSC-certified wood and 90% reclaimed plastic. The Count-Along Basket & Scanner invites kids to scan and learn with the 2-in-1 shopping basket and eight included role-play food pieces. The talking scanner recognises items and introduces them by calling out the food, shape and colour. Three play modes reinforce number learning with two fun counting games, or kids can have fun in the free play mode by picking up items and learning about them. The basket can be changed into a trolley by unlocking the parent locks and pulling up the handle. Put all the food items into the basket or trolley when scanned for easy tidy up and storage.

Learning Resources 01553 762276 | www.learningresources.co.uk sales@learning-resources.co.uk For over 35 years, Learning Resources has created toys and games that support the natural learning process through fun, hands-on traditional play. Children enjoy Learning Resources toys because they’re fun and engaging, and encourage curiosity and a desire to explore the world around them. Parents and teachers trust them because they are developed by learning specialists in collaboration with teachers and other childhood development experts. From maths to science and STEM to coding, there’s a Learning Resources toy for every step of a child’s learning journey. Consumers will find fun, innovative, awardwinning toys for children as young as 18 months through to the end of a child’s primary school years. Each year, the company launches new and innovative products that ensure Learning Resources stays ahead of changing consumer trends. This insight-driven approach results in top-performing products such as the MathLink Cubes Numberblocks 1-10 Activity Set. The first set is a proven best-seller and Learning Resources will be launching the follow-up MathLink Cubes Numberblocks 11-20 Activity Set in Q4. The company is predicting high demand, both from existing owners keen to invest in the second set and from shoppers wanting to buy both sets in one go. To keep up growth in sales for the existing product and create demand for the new launch, Learning Resources will continue to support an always-on awareness campaign across multiple consumer marketing channels. This will include print and digital advertising, social media and influencer collaborations, PR outreach and email. Activity will build to create a buzz in the lead up to the new launch later this year. To support stockists, marketing assets are also available from the Learning Resources Marketing Resource Centre.

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Simba Smoby 01620 674 778 | www.simba-dickie-group.de/en sales@sisotoysuk.com The Smoby School Playset features a reversible slate. One side is a blackboard, while the other is a magnetic whiteboard that can be used with dry wipe pens or the magnetic letters and numbers included. The play set comes with plenty of lesson inspiration too, such as a number wheel, a clock with movable hands for learning how to tell the time, a weather tree, cards that teach body parts, and more.

New Refresh

TRENDS-STEM-half-p-210x138-JUNE2021-outline.indd 1

STEM and educational

John Adams 01480 414361 | www.johnadams.co.uk John Adams Leisure’s primary aim is to encourage kids to explore the world around them whilst making science fun and engaging, by offering a range of experiments that are as easy to set up as they are to achieve great results with. The Roald Dahl George's Marvellous Experiment Kit includes 15 different science projects for kids to safely complete at home, based upon the bestselling story. Young scientists can create bubbly, stretchy, gooey potions, make Grandma fly like a rocket, shrink a chicken and much more. The range will also be strengthened by the introduction of Forensic Science and Space Science later this year, which will sit alongside John Adams’ popular science sets Hot Wires, Kitchen Chemistry and the classic Chemistry kit. All sets within the Action Science range support the National Curriculum and STEM learning, and all key launches will benefit from TV, VOD and digital advertising as well as full PR, influencer and social media plans.

New Refresh

17/06/2021 14:56


Feature

Plush

On the plush side…

With many children needing the reassurance of a ‘best friend’ to comfort them, plush has never been so popular. Sam Giltrow speaks to suppliers and retailers about the soft toy category.

A

fter a year of uncertainty and missing contact with loved ones, the comfort, companionship and cuddle factor that a soft toy can bring has never been more important. “It’s a product that offers consumers more than just a toy, as plush toys often give someone an emotional or sentimental attachment that you don’t necessarily get with some other toy categories,” says Lauren Shipman, group brand & marketing director at Posh Paws. “Children can play with a soft toy by themselves and with other toys, but will also cuddle up and sleep with it, as well as carrying it around with them everywhere they go. Soft toys are very comforting for children, and you’ll often see that they are a child’s first best friend.” However, with the very nature of plush being so tactile, promoting soft toys during periods of lockdown when bricks and mortar stores had to shut their doors presented retailers with a big challenge. “Consumers being able to physically pick up and feel the quality of plush products will always be important and something we rely greatly on,” Lauren explained. “However, we’ve also been seeing strong growth in online sales since stores were forced to close for so long.” Indeed, in some ways, this was a plus for the

category. “During the lockdowns, we have been able to open new retail channels and promote our products to new audiences because of the shift to online sales, although it’s great that physical stores are driving plush sales once again.” One of Posh Paws’ current best-selling lines is its new Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous dinosaur soft toy range. The company expects the popularity of this collection to continue to grow, as the Netflix animated series continues to be a top-rated kids and family series on the streaming platform. For 2022, with the release of big blockbuster movies like Jurassic World: Dominion, Minions 2: Rise of Gru, Sesame Street and Sing 2, Posh Paws will be partnering with licensors on high profile activations to ensure its product is at the heart of their consumer and retail marketing. Zara Grindrod, director of sales and marketing for Rainbow Designs, agrees that despite the past year being challenging for retailers, it has presented opportunities for the plush category. “Plush can sometimes prove difficult to sell online. However, we have worked hard on our online assets and content, and we are definitely seeing this translating into sales. That said, it is important to be able to touch and feel tactile products; now that retail has opened up, it is great to see customers back in stores, experiencing our

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collections as we would want them to.” Rainbow Designs has seen particularly strong sales across its classic characters range, which includes Paddington Bear, Peter Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh, while other strong nostalgic licences include Guess How Much I Love You, Snoopy and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “These characters really have stood the test of time and are as loved today as much as they were when they first arrived,” says Zara. “They bring a sense of familiarity and reassurance, which is very welcome in today’s uncertain world.” Despite the penchant for familiar characters, Rainbow Designs is continuously introducing more contemporary takes on its heritage products, to ensure they remain fresh and appealing to the current marketplace. One of the new additions joining the company’s successful Adventures of Paddington range this autumn is a Talking Paddington Soft Toy, while another launch planned for later this year is the new collection for Disney’s Winnie the Pooh; Always and Forever, which marks Pooh’s 95th year. The collection focuses on sustainable materials – something which Rainbow Designs is extremely passionate about. The company is working towards ensuring the stuffing within all of its soft toys is made from recycled plastic bottles, that packaging is all FSC


Feature

Plush

sourced and, where possible, plush fabric is being upgraded to recycled plush. The company is also working with Babybanks UK, so people can pass on soft toys they no longer want. “There is a lot more that can be done, and we are giving ourselves goals and targets to improve, in the interests of our planet and our consumers,” says Zara. “Sustainability is not just a trend, but definitely something that more and more people are asking about. Zara says Rainbow Designs has worked hard with retailers throughout the lockdowns and since the reopening in April, offering support via the company’s social media channels and lower minimum order levels: “Retailers have to compete with enhanced online and delivery services that have really come to the fore during the pandemic. We are helping them create instore theatre with POS and FSDUs. Our stockists are very adaptable and innovative, and our experienced sales team are in regular contact with them, building and strengthening those relationships and helping them to navigate the remainder of this year and into next.” Phil Hooper, commercial director UK at Spin Master believes plush toys remain popular because they are timeless and loved by both gift givers and receivers. “Plush toys are ageless. They are often the first toy you receive as a baby and stay with you throughout your childhood and into your tweens. Plush toys are the forever friend that bring comfort and companionship no matter your age.” Spin Master’s Gund brand is selling well at the moment and Phil believes one of its key strengths is that the range offers something for everyone, from the new Hello Baby line for newborns, the upcoming Paw Patrol Movie plush selection, which is set to be a big hit with pre-schoolers, through to the new P.Lushes Pets which launch later this year, aimed at the tween market.

To support retailers with their plush purchases, Spin Master will continue to provide strong marketing plans over the next few months. Campaigns will include multiple digital and social media platforms, and Phil says that in the coming months, Spin Master will also be working with both smaller and A-list global influencers in a highly targeted manner. “We have launches in both mass market and speciality markets so there are excellent options for everyone on their way,” says Phil. “We are optimistic that the rest of 2021 will be positive for Spin Master and the toy market as a whole, but with the plush category performing well and with a selection of new launches coming in the autumn, we believe it will be an especially positive year for our plush range.” Jonny Swallow, sales director, Ty UK, says many of its products, including the well-known Beanie Babies line, are often bought on impulse, so the company is pleased toy stores have re-opened to enable customers to touch and see them again. Ty has a strong following of collectors, and Jonny says there is also a personal aspect to the products with poems and birthdays which can be matched to customers. Beanie Boos and generic plush are always solid sellers for Ty UK, which continues to expand its range with new introductions including the new Squish-a-Boos, which come in three different sizes. Jonny revealed that the company will also be launching new licensed Squish-a-Boos, starting with Peppa Pig this August. Katie Eckerley, director of operations at the Old Railway Garden Centre in Brecon, Wales says plush toys have sold extremely well throughout the pandemic: “I think people were buying online to send them as gifts when they weren’t able to see loved ones. Even though we are now back open, grandparents in particular are still buying plush and other toys to treat their grandchildren and make up for not being able to see them. I am sure it will remain a popular category.” Meanwhile, in this month’s column, Toy Barnhaus owners Mark Buschhaus and Stephen Barnes link the recent success of Plush with the surge in popularity of fidget toys, sensory toys and other products which help with stress relief. In particular,

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like many retailers across the globe including Toy World’s American retail columnist Rick Derr from Learning Express, they have been selling huge quantities of the Squishmallows range from Jazwares: “There is a global shortage, so whatever we get sells out in minutes in stores. We expect this demand to continue for the rest of the year, and even the giant ones are popular,” they explained. “Reversible octopus plush also continues to sell very well.” Squishmallows has been one of the major success stories in the plush sector in recent years, with the brand on track to reach the incredible milestone of 100m global sales in the coming months. The brand has also welcomed its own animated YouTube series: a new episode will be released every Saturday until the end of October 2021. There are currently more than 800 Squishmallow characters to collect in a range of sizes, from collectible minis to giant plush. Other brands have also entered the ‘squish’ arena, including Happy Line Toys’ Beamies range which is now being distributed in the UK by Mookie Toys. Elsewhere in the category, licensed plush continues to sell well, with evergreen properties such as Harry Potter, Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol competing with hot licences such as The Child from Disney’s The Mandalorian for shelf space. Feature plush also continues to offer retailers valuable incremental sales opportunities, especially during the festive season; here at Toy World, we were particularly taken by Vivid’s gorilla mother and baby Tiki & Toko, the latest addition to the company’s Animagic range. We also love Moose’s new Scruff-a-Luvs SKU, Cutie Cuts, which gives kids the fun experience of pretending to be a real dog groomer, complete with clippers that make a buzzing sound. Over the following pages, Toy World presents a selection of the latest ranges in the plush category.


Plush

Character Options 01616 339 800 | www.character-online.com sales@charactergroup.plc.uk.

Mattel 01628 500 500 | www.mattel.com In 2021, Mattel presents a new licensed range of plush and soft toys from popular brands Star Wars, Marvel, Jurassic World and Minecraft. For fans of The Mandalorian, Mattel offers a wide range of Grogu inspired plush toys with three different variations to choose from. What looks like Baby Yoda, otherwise known as The Child, is inspired by the adorable Grogu character with green skin, big ears and appealing large eyes. The range includes The Child 11-inch Plush Figure, which has a soft body, plus a sturdy base filled with beans, perfect for cuddling or display as a collectible. The Child Premium Plush Bundle comes with a satchel like the one from Season 2, so fans can take the cute creature on the go. This plush can stand and has poseable legs, arms and even ears, and children can squeeze The Child's hand to hear sounds from the show. There’s also The Child Real Moves Plush, which offers five ways to play. Kids can choose from Follow Me, Curious, Hide & Seek and Sound Only, or use the joystick to move Grogu where they want it to go. Its hand can be activated for ‘Force Action’ and its head will move with the push of a button on the wrist band. Also in the Star Wars plush range, the Star Wars 8-inch Basic Plush Assortment includes Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and other familiar film favourites. There’s also the Star Wars Galaxy's Edge Creatures Assortment: 6-inch scale characters with adorable details and facial expressions, which make sounds when squeezed. Mattel is also moving into the world of superheroes with the Marvel 8-Inch Basic Plush Assortment: embroidered 8-inch characters made from mixed fabrics and textiles, while for Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous fans, there’s the Jurassic World Ankylosaurus Bumpy Plush. Made of soft, easyto-touch fabric, the 15-inch plush toy is perfect for cuddling at bedtime and features special roar sounds and floppy legs. Minecraft fans can also collect their favourite video game characters in plush. The embroidered characters are 8 inches tall and suitable for ages three and over.

Pre-schoolers will be introduced to a host of new ways to play with their favourite character this autumn, with Character Options’ new Peppa Pig Feature Plush range. There’s the Colour Me Peppa Pig Feature Plush, an adorable soft toy that can be both cuddled and drawn on. Children will love doodling and colouring on Peppa’s washable dress with the non-permanent pens. Offering magical, mess-free, artistic fun, the Splash and Reveal Peppa Pig Feature Plush is a must-have for creative kids. Peppa comes dressed in her paint splashed art smock, and children can use the water pen to wet the smock and reveal the colourful hidden pictures. Once all the pictures have been revealed, the toy can be left to dry to conceal the pictures once again, and the play pattern can be repeated over and over. For the youngest Peppa fans, the My First Peppa Pig Plush range is a beautiful collection, which incorporates appealing colours and textures to encourage play and exploration, and includes Clip-Ons, Jigglers and Sensory Soft Toys, as well as a Supersoft Blanket with a plush pal attached. A highlight from collection is the Jiggler Soft Toy assortment, with a built-in rattle and a pull-andreact jiggler action to entertain infants.

H. Grossman 01603 39710 | www.tobar.co.uk | sales@tobar.com The extensive Animigos range covers standard and interactive plush from domestic cats to the wildest lion, and an extension to this is the Animigos World of Nature, which features 26 animals and birds from all over the world. The range includes domestic animals such as a grey tabby cat, goat, pig and a rabbit, but mainly focuses on wildlife including popular animals such as a toucan, rhino and emperor penguin. The premium plush range looks just like the real thing and comes with a miniature booklet packed with facts about the individual chosen animal. There is also the New Born Animigos range: baby animals which come with their own feeding bottle and make sipping noises when fed. Each is packaged in a high-quality carry crate for storage and extra play value, and there is a rabbit, guinea pig, cat or dog to choose from. The original best-selling Animigos range has some cast iron favourites too – the awardwinning Scampering Sausage Dog has been a big winner with consumers, while dog lovers can also pick from a Fancy French Bulldog, Walking Westie or Scurrying Scottie. A Flipping Puppy (Labrador or Dalmatian) runs, barks and performs tricks while cat lovers can choose from Cute Kitten, Ginger Kitten or the best-selling Mischievous Moggy. Other popular animals include a Trotting Pony, Dancing Penguin and Magic Rainbow Bunny and the Rainbow Unicorn has joined the Tobar stable. A piggy bank with a difference encourages young savers and another bestseller is the Playful Piggy, along with Running Hamster and Bouncing Bunny.

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Plush

Spin Master 01628 535 000 | www.spinmastertoys.co.uk Gund from Spin Master offers a selection of quality plush toys for children to snuggle and collect, with something for everyone. New from the Paw Patrol range, a collection of heroic pups come dressed in their uniforms from Paw Patrol: The Movie. Suitable for ages one and up, the 6” plush toys feature wide, shiny eyes and a big, embroidered puppy smile as well as accurate uniforms and hat details from the new movie. New for autumn/winter, P. Lushes Pets are glamorous plush collectibles perfect for young fashionistas. P. Lushes Pets are a stylish stuffed animal squad with a sprinkle of attitude as well as glitter. A luxe, premium fabric and sparkling collar enhance each plush and their fashion-inspired looks. Young collectors can build their collection with a range which includes Limited Edition and Special Edition plush. Little ones will love Gund’s Kissy the penguin and Flappy the Elephant. Packed with features including interactive song and play modes, these animated plush are made from a soft, huggable material that meets the famous Gund quality standards. The loveable creatures have quickly become an influencer favourite due to their beautiful styling and engaging features. With Spin Master’s new mystery plush range, Magic Blanket Babies, each of the adorable plush babies unbundles themselves in an exciting surprise reveal. With one of two possible babies inside each of the pink or purple bundles, children won’t know which soft baby doll they will unbundle. The babies respond and react to touch with over 80 sounds, and outfits include shimmery fabrics and satin accents to match their themes. The babies are easily rebundled into their blanket to repeat the reveal again and again, and can be removed from the blanket to snuggle up with at bedtime.

Golden Bear Toys 01952 608 308 | www.goldenbeartoys.com | customerservices@goldenbeartoys.co.uk With a staged plan to convert its plush range to recycled polyester over the next two years, Golden Bear has kicked off the process with its new Hey Duggee range launching for Q3/4 2021. Hero SKU for the new range launch is the Hey Duggee & Storytime Squirrels Soft Toy. Suitable from 10 months, this 30cm tall, action-packed and super soft cuddly toy features Duggee and the Squirrels together in their iconic Duggee hug pose. When pressed, one footpad plays music and each Squirrel plays part of the Hey Duggee theme tune, while the other footpad can be pressed for silly Squirrel sounds. Children can create their own Duggee hugs or pat his head to hear his ‘Woof’ phrases familiar from the hit CBeebies TV show. Other hit CBeebies TV shows also feature heavily for the season ahead. The Musical Statues Dancing Bing Soft Toy is a bop along Bing which plays music from the hit show for children to dance along - but no one can bop when the music stops. Suitable for children aged 2+. Golden Bear also launches the In the Night Garden Super Squashy Soft Toys. With three characters to collect - Iggle Piggle, Upsy Daisy and Makka Pakka - these soft toys have mallow-like filling and colourful embroidered detailing, all perfectly sized for little ones to carry around with ease. Suitable from birth, Super Soft Sensory Mr Tumble is made from premium mallow fabric to soothe little ones. Standing at 24cm tall, with textured hair, and silky bow tie, the premium soft toy has fine embroidered facial details and is perfect for fans of Mr Tumble and the hit CBeebies show Something Special. Golden Bear reveals two of its own Plush IPs with the launch of Zipstas and Windy Bums. Zipstas are 2-in-1 toys; mini backpacks which transform into cuddly, small-scale toys – available as a sloth, unicorn, panda, or narwhal. Providing cheeky fun for ages 10 months+, Windy Bums plush toys wiggle, jiggle, giggle – and trump. Kids bump them to see the monkey, unicorn, or panda bounce around and make their own signature trumps.

Mookie Toys 01525 722 769 | www.mookie.co.uk Mookie Toys is partnering with Happy Line Toys for the launch of brand-new plush toy range Beamies World. With 10 fun and loveable characters to choose from, these glow in the dark plush toys each have their own energetic personality, perfect for imaginative play by day before beaming magically at night. The plush toy market is currently at an all-time high. Mookie says that soft toys not only appeal to children but also help them to develop sensory skills such as sight and touch, as well as building confidence and helping them to express themselves. Beamies World’s glow in the dark feature also helps to bring children comfort in the dark. Beamies World will be supported by a high profile marketing campaign from July, including TV sponsorship on TinyPop over the summer months, focusing on play time’ during the day and cuddle time at night, as well as video on demand activity broadening the reach of the TV. Beamies World will also receive coverage across social media with a fun and extensive influencer campaign featuring both paid and gifted activity. The range will be displayed in a bold CDU across stores for easy presentation and visibility.

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Plush

Two in 1 Direct 07967 004 585 | www.catsvpickles.com |

Flair 0208 643 0320 | www.flairplc.co.uk | sales@flairplc.co.uk

Paul@allin1products.com

A popular collection in the plush aisle this year is the Cats vs. Pickles collection from Two in 1 Direct. Inspired by the Cepia property in which cats are illogically terrified of pickles, this collection comprises collectible bean-filled Plushies, as well as Jumbo Pillow Plush and Giant Hugging Plush. The volume line within the collection is the Collectible Plushies assortment. The characterbased collectibles can be bought as single packs or as multi-packs, and there are over 100 styles to collect. Irresistibly squishy, these super-soft, bean-filled, plush characters feature a colourful print design with embroidered details that reflect the characters’ personalities. Fans can collect different themes of cats, as well as rare plush pickles, including the popular Paw-Purr-Oni, Skelecat, Mint Chippie and Mew-sical Meow. Each Collectible Plushie comes with a hangtag containing character details, as well as a QR code for a free Cats vs. Pickles app game download. The plush collectibles make for brilliant sensory toys, helping to reduce stress and anxiety, and also have a fidget toy appeal. Meanwhile, there are six Jumbo Plush Character Pillows to collect, as well as a collection of 18” Giant Hugging Plush that will be available from autumn winter 21. Also from autumn, the Cats vs. Pickles toy line will include Kitty Condos – light-up, customisable play sets that stack together to create neighbourhoods for Collectible Plushie characters. The line will benefit from a significant volume of bespoke YouTube content and extensive marketing and PR support.

From a light-up, super-soft sleeping companion to Mickey and Minnie Mouse feature plush, all the way through to premium plush range Trudi, Flair and Just Play offers a beautiful selection of soft toy lines across its collection of brands. Launching this autumn/winter is the Magic Dreamlight, a light-up, plush unicorn. When children turn on the Dreamlight a piece of soothing music will be played, and there are also soft colour-changing lights that illuminate the unicorn’s chest. This routine is designed to help children separate sleeptime from the rest of the day and create a safe, calming environment for bedtime. Feature plush lines in the all-new Mickey & Minnie Master Toy range include the E-I-Oh Mickey Mouse Feature Plush, which sees Mickey wearing a farmer outfit, singing the Old McDonald song and performing his chicken dance. E-I-Oh Mickey also plays a game of What’s that Animal Sound?’. Other lines in the range are the Minnie and Mickey Singing Fun Plush, which allow kids to sing along with Minnie and Mickey. When Mickey's hand is pressed, he sings the Hot Dog Dance Break Song, while Minnie sings The Happy Helper Song. These Mickey and Minnie toys wear cool new outfits, with a light-up shirt graphic. Flair’s premium plush brand, Trudi, is renowned for its quality soft toys, and the backbone of the brand is the collection of first companions which can be treasured for years to come. From plush playmates to puppets, as well as collectible charms, the collection comprises a diverse range of products including the classic range, which features best-loved animals.

Jazwares 020 3598 5119 | www.jazwares.com The global Squishmallows craze continues to dominate the plush aisle and enjoy a uniquely broad multigenerational audience that spans kids, tweens and adult collectors. Firmly on track to reach 100m global sales in the coming months, the plush toys have superfans including Lady Gaga and Charlie D’Amelio, and a huge presence on TikTok, where the brand has racked up 2.8b views. Jazwares continually refreshes the range; two new squads will launch in AW21 and another three are confirmed for SS22. There will be 15 new 20” characters including Luther the Shark and his blue tie dye swirls, along with 15 new 16” Squishmallows including Lizette the Hot Pink Caticorn with her rainbow tummy and matching ears. There will be 30 new 12” newbies including Regina the Corgi pulling out her tongue and 60 new 7.5” characters including Maggie the Stingray and Bliss the Bear, the perfect seasonal stocking filler with her bright red scarf and sparkly tummy. New for 2021, Jazwares continues to expand the world of Squishville, an industry first extension line of plush Squishmallows-inspired collectibles and soft fabric play sets and accessories. Jazwares will add new Squishville lines in AW21, including a range of brand-new Mystery Mini-Squishmallows and a fresh selection of vehicles, including boats and trucks. Consumers can also take their Mini-Squishmallows to the beach, cinema and even the Squishville mall, where characters can squish inside a trolley and a shopping bag. The range will be supported with a fresh TVC that will premiere in September alongside influencer outreach campaigns and digital advertising. Additionally, a brand-new animated YouTube series titled Squishville and produced by Moonbug Entertainment, which made its debut in June, will drive purchase intent as children immerse themselves in the world of Squishville and the adventures of their favourite characters. Looking forward to 2022, fans can expect to take their Mini-Squishmallows glamping, roller skating and to a spa, with accessories sets and play scenes launching alongside camper van style summer vehicles and festival inspired fashion with the new Mystery Mini-Squishmallows.

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Plush

A.B.Gee 01773 570 444 | www.abgee.co.uk A.B.Gee has added to its exclusive Wild Planet range this year with a new selection of animals from the land, sea and sky. There are over 150 characters, all handmade from premium quality fabrics that are super soft to the touch. This range is made up of two collections, All About Nature – a superb array of realistic cuddly animals each with species facts on their tag - and Orbys, which are brightly coloured, fun collectibles with large glittery eyes. Each range comes in a variety of sizes and styles, from a full set of farmyard friends to a selection of sea life creatures and everything in between. Highly collectible with an educational element, young animal lovers will learn facts such as the lifespan of a dolphin, the main prey of an elephant and the conservation status of the emperor penguin. Kids can also clip and go with the Orbys keyring pals, which are perfect for school bags, and matching pens are also available. There are some great display options for the Wild Planet range, and retailers should visit A.B.Gee’s website for more information.

Posh Paws 01268 567317 | www.poshpawsinternational.co.uk Posh Paws recently launched its brand-new Sesame Street licensed soft toys, including the hugely popular Tickle Me Elmo with sound and movement features, as well as small supersquishy beanies, basic soft plush in a variety of sizes and cute plush bag clips. Focusing on the show’s most iconic popular character, Tickle Me Elmo is soft for children to cuddle up to and when they press his hand, they can hear him play 10 fun and amusing sounds and feel him wiggle about in their arms as he giggles. To support the product launch, Posh Paws will be investing in social media advertising and parental influencer campaigns, while working closely with retail partners and the licensor to engage and excite consumers. Following the success of chart-topping Netflix animated adventure Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous, Posh Paws dinosaur soft toys have been a hit with fans since their launch earlier this year. Focusing on the key dinosaurs from the show (and movies), there are chunky T-Rex and Velociraptor 10” toys, and for those looking for pocket-money pick-ups this summer, there’s an assortment of smaller 7” T-Rex and Raptor dinosaurs. The latest confectionery favourites Posh Paws has brought to life as plush gifts are Swizzels Rainbow Drops which are soft and squishy and also smell fruity. There are six brightly coloured characters in the range, each with its own unique personality and fruit-flavoured scent, available in large 12” and small 6” sizes. Posh Paws Swizzles Love Hearts plush gifts will see new additions with the HapPea Birthday! Peas in a Pod, the You’re Roarsome Danny Dinosaur and the Bee Kind Betsy Bumble Bee sure to put smiles on faces, no matter the age. Sunny Bunnies continues to be a hit, particularly the Large Giggle & Hop toys, which are activated when kids press their mouths. Also available are the Small Sound Slammers and Medium Giggle & Wiggle toys. For eco-friendly plush toys, the BBC Earth Babies collection from Posh Paws is made using stuffing from 100% recycled postconsumer waste plastic bottles and hang-tags from recycled cardboard.

Simba Smoby Toys UK 01620 674 778 | www.simba-dickie-group.de/en sales@sisotoysuk.com From big screen classics to small screen favourites, Simba Smoby Toys UK brings to life some of the best loved characters in adorable plush form and is the UK distributor of Disney Plush. The collection includes a host of Disney properties including Frozen II, Toy Story, Disney Princesses, Dumbo, Lion King, Classics, Minnie and Mickey and more. Cuddles of all sizes are part of every collection, including 25cm and 35cm animal core classics together with other such favourites as Grogu, who arrived last autumn direct from Star Wars: The Mandalorian in 25cm plush form. The cute character is now also available in 18cm, 30cm and 67cm plush. No Disney collection would be complete without Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Arriving just in time for the Christmas gifting period, the 25cm Minnie and Mickey Smart and Sparkle Plush assortment present the iconic duo dressed to impress, with Mickey in his red tuxedo and Minnie in her red ball gown, ready for any special occasion. Meanwhile, the Master Toy range for Masha and the Bear, which continues to enjoy regular refreshes and an always-on marketing campaign, includes a beautiful line-up of Bear Plush. Available in a variety of sizes - 25cm, 40cm, 50cm and 70cm – the Bear Plush characters are instantly recognisable, created from super-soft, high-quality plush. Also available in the range are packs that come with both stars of the show; a Masha Doll and a Bear Plush, as well as a selection of Masha dolls, feature-packed play sets and collectibles.

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Sambro International 0845 873 9380 | www.sambro.co.uk Sambro has an established and growing soft lines business working with Disney, Nickelodeon, Hasbro, Care Bears and Teletubbies. The company is home to core franchises of Paw Patrol, Disney Frozen & Princesses, Trolls, Minions, Barbie, Peppa Pig, Fisher Price, Marvel, Care Bears Baby, Teletubbies and Baby Shark. It has its own dedicated in-house design, buying and sales team and offices in Manchester, Amsterdam and Hong Kong. The Sambro Disney Plush range launched to a phenomenal response in 2020 and continues to do well both in the UK and in Europe. Sambro is currently working with Hasbro on a Peppa Pig feature plush range exclusively for the Benelux market and has also been working with Nickelodeon on a number of plush projects across a number of its brands. Sambro’s Care Bears Baby plush range continue to be a mainstay of its product portfolio, as the Care Bears brand celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2022.

Rainbow Designs 01329 227300 | www.rainbowdesigns.co.uk Rainbow Designs celebrates its 50th anniversary with a number of exciting new arrivals this autumn, including fun new additions to The Adventures of Paddington toy range and a beautiful new Disney Classic Pooh Always and Forever Winnie the Pooh Collection. Disney’s Winnie the Pooh celebrates his incredible 95th anniversary this year but is still as treasured today as he was nearly a century ago. Launching this autumn is a stunning new Always and Forever Winnie the Pooh collection, a range of beautiful heirloom gifts for babies. This new range of infant toys includes Soft Toys, a Comforter and a Ring Rattle, all designed to last a lifetime with a focus on sustainable materials, FSC packaging, stuffing made from recycled plastic bottles and recycled plush fabric. Classic licences are proving popular as consumers seek well known character products they know and love and so Rainbow Designs is delighted to have welcomed back the iconic Peanuts brand Snoopy. The Everybody Loves Snoopy range features Charles Schulz’ much-loved iconic characters including a super soft Snoopy Soft Toy, a Cuddly lying down Snoopy and the Cuddly Snoopy and Woodstock Soft Toy. There are a number of new additions joining the successful Adventures of Paddington toy range for pre-schoolers this autumn, including a Talking Paddington Soft Toy and Giant 55cm Soft Toy. There are also two new play sets, the Rescue Set and Figure Set, that will join the existing range of the Play Bus Set, Collectible Figures and Adventures of Paddington Soft Toys. The Home of Classic Character’s extensive soft toy portfolio also features some of the most cherished and best-known children’s characters including Peter Rabbit, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Elmer, Miffy, Guess How Much I Love You, That’s Not My, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Snoopy, Spot and The Snowman and The Snowdog.

Zuru info@zuru.com Award-winning plush collectible brand Rainbocorns features a comprehensive licensed range with new wave introductions including Series 4: Fairycorn Surprise, Jelly Shake Surprise, Epic Golden Egg, and Sparkle Hearts Puppycorn Surprise. Following the 2018 launch of the original Rainbocorns Sequin Surprise range, Fairycorn Surprise is the latest guise, creating an unboxing experience of magical fairy surprises. Children can reveal a host of treats including colour change Rainbocorn poop, a fairy glitter heart and new Fairy Boo-Boocorns to hatch and collect. The Fairycorn edition includes magical fairy wings on the packaging, creating stand-out on shelf and providing children with an additional element which they can remove and wear for added and extended play value. There are seven new Rainbocorn characters to collect including Toof the Bunnycorn, Vacay the Poodlecorn and Honey the Rare Golden Hippocorn. The new Rainbocorns Talkin' Jelly Shake range offers six sweet-scented characters housed in eye-catching sundae-shaped packaging. Including BonBon the Koalacorn and Pudding Pop the Hippocorn, the characters feature a speak and repeat function; kids can press their paw once to hear them giggle and press twice to hear them repeat what they say. Children can swirl, squeeze, and spread their jelly hearts and make their own jelly-based jewellery with Boo-Boocorn charms and beads to collect and create. Expanding the Rainbocorn Christmas offering, Zuru introduces the limited edition Epic Golden Egg as the ultimate gifting solution. Kids can hatch open the giant golden egg to reveal one of three new giant Rainbocorn characters and unbox over 25 layers of glittering and golden surprises, including golden hair accessories, glam glitter and brand new shimmery Boo-boocorns. Characters include Deery Queen the Reindeercorn, Cesealia the Sealcorn and Goldie the Snailcorn. Sparkle Hearts Surprise: Puppycorn Surprise, brings pocket-money and impulse purchase opportunities to the brand portfolio. Puppycorns Surprise offers a collection of seven cute collectible mini plush puppies, including a Dachshund, Pug, Dalmation, Poodle, Labrador, Husky and rare ‘best in show’ Show Bulldog. Puppycorns come in a bright teal reusable egg, with on-theme puppy ears to hint at the puppy-focused unboxing experience. In the now iconic play pattern, children simply hatch open the eggs to reveal seven surprises including all new Puppycorn plush characters, Scratch ‘N’ Reveal Hearts, Scratch ‘N’ Sniff Stickers, Boo-Boocorn Puppies & collectible eggs, Puppycorn Poop and Collectors Guide.

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From the Really Wild...

...to the Cute & Cuddly tel: 01603 397 105

email: sales@tobar.co.uk

www.tobar.co.uk


Plush

Moose Toys 01637 882200 | www.moosetoys.com Moose Toys has launched Cutie Cuts, a new plush within the Scruff-a-Luvs line of interactive toys, which can be transformed from a matted mass into a pampered pet using a range of salon accessories including ‘clippers’. The new Scruff-a-Luvs Cutie Cuts is said to be a first-of-its-kind plush and gives kids the fun experience of pretending to be a real dog groomer. With a buzz of the clippers, kids can “shave” their rescue friends to transform them from scruffy to fluffy and discover which breed lies underneath the matted mess. The clippers feel real but do not cut and so are safe to use. The packaging also turns into a pop-up salon where kids can use the rest of the accessories including hair clips, comb, a collar and nail polish to transform their furry friend. Cutie Cuts will be available at retail from August.

Kidicraft 01282 505988 | www.kidicraft.com | sales@Kidicraft.com A new addition to the Kidicraft line-up is the Plush and 3D Puzzle range which includes four characters: Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Batman and Superman. The Plush & Puzzle products feature a stunning plush character, which stands approximately 18cm tall, with a 300pc puzzle measuring 46 x 31cm that uses the new Prime 3D lenses to give great depth and motion to the images. The range is available now and is aimed at children aged six years and over. Alongside the Plush & Puzzles, Kidicraft offers a full range of 300 and 500pc Harry Potter Prime 3D Puzzles which recapture the magic of the Harry Potter stories, plus new additions in the DC range with six new 500pc Prime 3D Puzzles including Batman, Robin, The Joker and Superman.

Vivid 01483 449 944 | www.vividtoysandgames.co.uk Following the sell-out success in 2020, with stand-out pets including Waggles My Wigglin Walkin Pup and Rainbow My Glowing Unicorn, Animagic will receive a brand refresh moving into AW21. The brand will be modernised with a new logo and bolder packaging, as well as the introduction of new interactive furry friends. Popular lines will carry forward in the new, modernised style guide including Waggles and Rainbow who have also enjoyed a facelift with brighter and cuter eyes and refreshed packaging. For autumn/winter 21, the Heart Warmers range of two cuddly plush families is designed to warm children’s hearts. Cuties and Cuddles are plush animals perfect for cosy cuddles and all they need is a squeeze to activate their glow and warmth features. Their heart-shaped tummy can be clicked to begin a captivating colourchange process which begins to glow and warm up the plush. Perfect for kids to take on adventures or for bedtime snuggles, Cuties are available in three animal options - Dog, Cat or Rabbit - while there is a choice of Dog or Cat for the 20cm Cuddles. Inspired by the animal kingdom, Tiki & Toko are Animagic’s newest little family. The gorilla duo has over 100 different sound and movement sequences to discover and can be played with both together and separately. When Tiki’s head is touched, she will make happy sounds and start a two-way conversation with baby Toko. The baby gorilla, Toko, loves to be tickled and will giggle when his tummy is touched. He can be rocked back and forth to sleep and makes noises as he snoozes. The gorillas also interact as a pair, and sing and laugh together, however if Toko is taken away Tiki will look high and low to search for her baby. When reunited, they make happy sounds and Tiki will rock back and forth happily. The gorillas come with two feeding accessories: a bottle for Toko and a banana for Tiki, however they will both burp loudly if fed too much.

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Brand new soft toys

delivering hugs & laughter to preschoolers this autumn!

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TM and © 2021 Sesame Workshop.

+44 (0) 1268 567317

sales@poshpawsinternational.co.uk

Gloucester House Basildon Essex SS14 3BX UK


Company Profile

Golden Bear

Play today,

protect tomorrow

The last time Toy World and Golden Bear met up, so to speak, it was to take a virtual stroll around the company’s digital garden showroom for its Q1 preview. A few months later, Rachael Simpson-Jones spoke to MD Barry Hughes and commercial manager Gareth Lloyd about the company’s upcoming product launches, and why sustainability and employee well-being are currently taking centre stage. Barry Hughes

I’ve never known a time filled with so many challenges outside our control,” says Barry at the start of our meeting, when asked how the company is faring. “We’ve seen Covid breaking out in Guangdong, shortages of computer chips and rocketing container prices, but we’re in a really good position from which to navigate those choppy waters. We have great brands that are performing very well, and our efforts in recent years stand us in good stead for what we believe will be a very strong year.” With no shows on, Golden Bear supported its retail partners in the first quarter by extending its 2021 show offers until stores reopened and ran a Toymaster window campaign in July highlighting Bing, Hey Duggee and In the Night Garden, some of its most popular pre-school properties. Golden Bear’s portfolio of toys mainly comprises licensed brands, but the company is investing heavily in own-IP offerings too. Zipstas, a range of reversible animal-themed backpacks, and Windy Bums, cuddly plush characters that wiggle across the floor while giggling and making fun farting sounds, are both due to launch this year, joining existing brands such as Funlockets, Smart Ball and Trapped,

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the company’s at-home escape room games range. The Hey Duggee line-up, meanwhile, will welcome Hey Duggee Spin and Groove, a hugely on-brand mixing desk that allows kids to create their own music, while Toothbrush & Handwashing Time with Duggee taps into burgeoning consumer demand for products that encourage kids to practise good oral and hand hygiene in a fun way. As one of the most searched-for Hey Duggee videos is the Toothbrushing Song, in which Duggee and co learn how to brush their teeth correctly, this product is poised to fill a definite gap in the market. Bing, Golden Bear’s top performing pre-school property globally, welcomes the Dancing Bing feature plush, which gets kids up and moving, as well as Bing’s House Playset, a hero line for autumn/winter. Golden Bear’s Something Special range is also helping to cater to a gap in the toy marketplace – Special Educational Needs (SEN) and sensory toys. Crazes like fidget toys, originally developed to aid SEN or neurodivergent kids, have accelerated interest in (and demand for) products that provide additional benefits above and beyond play value, and Golden Bear is this year introducing several


Company Profile

Gareth Lloyd

new items based on the popular kids’ TV character Mr Tumble and his show, Something Special. Barry notes that it’s been an interesting and fun challenge to produce toys under this licence that are equally as appealing to neurodivergent children as they are to neurotypical ones. The company is passionate about the property and has explored numerous avenues in the creation of the new line. Golden Bear has particularly high hopes for the Something Special Calming Companion, a charming, lightly weighted blanket/soft toy in the character of Mr Tumble that can help to relieve anxiety and stress. “Our bread and butter are our pre-school licences and that won’t change; our knowledge and experience lies in getting under the skin of such properties and knowing them inside and out,” explains Barry. “However, we’re somewhat limited internationally with them, being at the mercy of whether licensors can get content onto the right platforms in each of the international markets. I am delighted to say that Bing is the No. 1 pre-school licence in Italy, because Acamar has done a great job on getting on the right platforms and we made a success of the toy range in that region via our distributor network, but sometimes it is out of our control. Own-IP brands mean we can leverage our years of experience - too many years to mention, - in a way that isn’t subjected to international programming restraints in 60+ markets worldwide. We’re having some great discussions with American partners on own-IP lines we believe are very exciting for the back end of this year and 2022.” New launches will be supported by an always-on digital strategy across most Golden Bear’s brands, courtesy of the company’s in-house team. Its own photographic studio allows Golden Bear to create assets quickly in response to emerging trends, while Bing, Hey Duggee, In the Night Garden, Smart Ball and Funlockets will benefit from strong TV advertising support. Barry is confident that Christmas 2021 will be a good one, both for Golden Bear itself (he predicts the company will finish up on last year) and the wider toy trade – though he does note the need to shop early, something he believes consumers will be all too aware of following Christmas 2020. Ongoing coverage regarding container and shipping issues will further amplify this message, bringing the start of the festive season even further forward. Behind the scenes and away from product development and marketing plans, Golden Bear continues to invest heavily in reducing

Golden Bear

its environmental footprint and improving the sustainability of both its products and the business as a whole. The company started focusing on this in earnest two or three years ago, explains Gareth, who also heads up the sustainability side of things at Golden Bear. The approach has been split into four bitesize categories – Product, Packaging, Recycling and Carbon Footprint – to make it easier to see and understand how each step adds up to the bigger picture. Recycled PET bottles have been used as soft toy stuffing for a few years, but Golden Bear has now expanded its use to the outer fabric of its Hey Duggee range, with these sustainable products rolling out from autumn/winter. A staged approach will see the use of recycled PET roll out to the company’s other brands two at a time for spring/summer and autumn/winter 2022; within two years, all Golden Bear’s plush ranges should be made of this material. The company has identified ‘low hanging fruit’ within its Packaging category, such as removing unnecessary plastic and using recyclable plastic where the material is needed. OnPack Recycling Labels (OPRLs) will be introduced to packaging from autumn/winter to help consumers understand how best to recycle their packaging, while a phased approach will see Golden Bear shift to FSC Mixed Content packaging across all ranges. “We operate as a Zero to Landfill site, and we’re currently in discussions with a number of parties about the best routes for end-of-life products as part of our recycling focus,” adds Gareth. “We’re looking at whether we can reduce the mix of plastics in a product, even narrowing it down to just one, so when it’s sent for recycling the plant knows exactly what it’s made of and can deal with it in the best way by returning it to the circular economy.” Golden Bear’s efforts to improve the sustainability of its products have resulted in something of a culture shift for the company. Sustainability tops the list of important considerations when product ideas are being fleshed out, and this has spread throughout the business. As part of its carbon footprint reduction plans, a solar array has been installed at Golden Bear’s offices and warehouse space in Telford. These generate so much electricity, the surplus is sold back to the grid. LED lighting keeps energy consumption down, while electric charging points allow employees to easily charge hybrid or electric vehicles instead of conventional petrol or diesel cars. And it doesn’t stop there; Golden Bear is well on its way to becoming a certified Carbon Neutral company for its UK operation. For Barry, protecting the planet for future generations is at the heart of all Golden Bear’s efforts in this regard. Consumer demand for eco-friendly and sustainable toys has increased exponentially in recent years, and those within the toy industry itself are also finding that it’s becoming a far more important consideration for them personally. Within Golden Bear, Barry tells me, new hires consider the company’s sustainability efforts to be a major benefit of their new role. Retail partners and licensors, too, are enthusiastic about what they are seeing. “There are cost implications to all of this,” admits Gareth, “but you have to be bold, stick your neck out and create the change you want to see, even if it’s uncomfortable to start with. On our recycled plush, for example, I feel

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we’re really pushing for change and yes, there is an on-cost. As demand rises over the next few years, however, the anticipation is that those costs will come down. We have built in allowances for these changes, which we view as an investment in the future; our ethos is ‘Play Today, Protect Tomorrow’, which sums up beautifully what we aim to achieve. Covid has demonstrated how fast change can happen, and while our journey is still in its infancy, we’re challenging all the norms in our efforts to continually take steps towards a more sustainable future.” The coming months should prove to be very positive for Golden Bear. The company expects growth in all its major brands within the UK and is forecasting 25% growth internationally in 2022 too, while its enhanced digital capabilities stand it in good stead to react quickly and decisively to opportunities as and when they arise. To bolster all this, Golden Bear is also investing heavily in its team of 52 employees. The care and attention going on looking after the planet is being mirrored in the company’s attentiveness to its staff. PayCare, an initiative that allows staff to reclaim medical bills such as dentist and ophthalmologist fees, has been introduced, as have well-being days off intended for employees to spend doing something good for their mental health. Golden Bear’s HR manager, Emma Graham, who is also a mental health first-aider, introduced a programme of well-being activities for Mental Health Awareness Week such as yoga, Pilates and fun quizzes. Employees are also given reusable metal water bottles adorned with Golden Bear’s mascot in a further nod to its sustainability credentials. “We’ve always been a caring company, not only to the planet but also to our staff, and this has been reflected back at us by our people,” says Barry. “We couldn’t have a Christmas party last year so our staff decided that we should hold a charity quiz instead and donated the money raised to the Little Rascals Foundation, The Harry Johnson Trust, and Action for Children. So many new starters have told us how proud they are to be joining a company that gives so much back, which is heartening to hear. Working in toys is always fun, but having such pride in what you’re doing puts an extra spring in your step.”


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Feature

Fidget Toys

In praise of

the craze

Earlier this year, several retailers longingly told Toy World that what they really needed was a craze, and now their prayers have well and truly been answered as fidget toys have made a stunning comeback. Rachael SimpsonJones talks to two companies leading the charge in this arena to find out the history behind their fidget toys, and asks retailers what’s driving sales.

C

ast your mind back to 2017, the year of the fidget spinner. Suppliers scrambled to get shipments into the UK fast enough to keep up with demand, as retailers sold thousands of units a day and schoolkids jostled in the aisles of toy shops in a race to blow their pocket money on them the fastest. Fidget spinners were a huge boost to the industry, but for the past few years another craze has been sorely lacking. How apt, then, that in the months when UK retail was just starting to find its feet again following the pandemic and successive lockdowns, that another craze would emerge in the form of poppers, and that fidget toys as a category would rise like Lazarus to reappear on the toy scene in a major way. The popper craze took hold in February and March, with suppliers bringing in huge quantities as demand soared. April saw This Morning presenters Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield

get hands-on with HGL Pushpoppers during a segment on the show, further boosting the appeal of the rubber mats, which let kids (and adults) enjoy the relaxing sensation of popping bubbles back and forth. HGL was one of the first to market in the UK with its poppers range, thanks to parent company Tobar’s decision to fly in shipments by air. New designs are constantly coming though, keeping demand high in the same way new waves of collectibles boost sales. Later this year, HGL will be launching new variants including a keyboard popper, which CEO David Mordecai has high hopes for. “We’re constantly adding new products to our poppers portfolio; that’s one of the main things retailers have been pleased about,” he explains. “It all adds up to a comprehensive range. In terms of best-sellers, rainbow and tie-die have been the most popular colours, while the classic shapes – square, circle, hexagon – continue to top the charts.”

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Although very much in the public eye this year, the origin of these toys goes back much further, having its roots in something quite surprising. David Capon, CEO of Foxmind games, which created the first silicone popper in 2013, takes up the tale. “The original popper was invented by a classmate of Anne Frank, Theo Coster, and his wife Ora,” he tells me. “In 1974, following the untimely death from breast cancer of Ora’s sister, the sculptor and feminist Zvia Mayrose, Ora had a dream featuring, in her words, ‘a field of breasts’. The following morning, she told her husband it could be the basis for a toy and asked him to find a way to do it. Theo went to work and created a triangular-shaped popper.” However, the couple’s attempts to convince major toy companies to license their unique toy were in vain until, 35 years following its creation,


FOXMIND THE ORIGINAL OWNERS & CREATORS OF POP IT!**

*

CONTACT US AT:

sales@foxmind.com www.foxmind.com

Pop It! & Last One Lost are Registered trademarks of FoxMind Group LTD. Go Pop! and the shape of Pop It! Roundo are trademarks of FoxMind Group LTD.


Feature

Fidget Toys Jason Marshall, owner of Marshall’s Hardware in Bristol, this predication was bang on. He’s been selling impressive numbers of fidgets for a few months now, coinciding with the return of schools, saying: “Kids have been buying poppers and other fidgets and taking them to school, where their friends then see them and want one for themselves. It’s chaos around here at half past three, when the schools are let out and the latest bunch of kids comes looking for their own toys.”

David met the family at a tradeshow. While the initial response from the development team was ‘lukewarm’, David insisted the product had a wide appeal and fit the ethos of the company. “Our company motto is ‘Smarter Fun’, so the combination of a simple yet clever logic game and an amusing fidget toy made the Coster’s product a perfect fit for us,” he says. “In 2014, the year after we launched our first popper, we introduced a square version called Go Bong!, and in 2019/20 we decided to consolidate all versions under the Pop It! and Go Pop! brands. In the US, we started by giving Target exclusivity for the Pop It! line, while in the rest of the world we use the trademarks Pop It! and Go Pop! in different territories and for different lines.” The underlying unifying element across all brands is the game ‘Last One Lost’ (a registered TM of FoxMind) which has a different level of complexity depending on the form of the popper. The object of the game is to be the player who, by thinking ahead, forces their opponent to press down the last bubble on the board. This, David says, is what convinced him to start producing poppers: “I believe that the Last One Lost gameplay is what differentiates our line from all other fidget toys. It’s a game that invites interaction between people, rather than being something kids just play with by themselves, as they would with spinners, for example.” Like poppers, Tangles boast a rich history going back four decades. Richard X Zawitz is an artist as well as the founder and CEO of Tangle Toys. He created the first Tangle toy almost 40 years ago and has gone on to sell over 250m units, with tens of millions more orders received around the world this year alone. Tangles have sold globally from New York to New South Wales, and in the UK is now seeing a huge resurgence in demand. But why? “Tangles have helped people during the lockdown,” says Richard. “We receive testimonials from all over the UK, and indeed the world, yearround. Stress relief from fidgeting helps people to calm down and focus. Indeed, Tangle is so good at reducing stress that the US government awarded it a medical device registration for relieving minor stress, and not too long ago the NHS bought 2m units to send out with its smoking cessation quit kits. There is no question that the pandemic has spurred a resurgence in the need for fidgets from a mental health perspective, so we’re working around the clock to fill orders in the UK and around the world.” Anyone familiar with Tangles will know and appreciate their fluid, curving structure and addictive hand-feel; I have one at the office which mysteriously keeps finding its way into my hands when I should in fact be typing, while my husband’s came in very handy during the final of the Euros. I was keen to find out where the Tangle concept came from and what exactly it is that makes it so

appealing. According to Richard, the curve is seen in every culture and has been since the beginning of time. He adds: “In nature, and the science that studies it, you will find curves, waves and spirals right down to quantum particles like DNA. Tangle is based on shapes that are just absolutely essential to humans and our universe. We humans also have a basic need to fidget. After I built my first prototypes as an artist and sculptor over 40 years ago, it was the Tangle shape that friends just couldn't put it down.” Midco Toys owner Dave Middleton prides himself on the vast range of fidget toys on offer in his two stores, which feature prominently in multiple posts on the retailer’s Facebook page. Poppers lead the way, he tells me, the bigger the better – the biggest at Midco is a whopping 60” in diameter. That’s a lot of popping to be done. Second to poppers, interestingly, are the reversible octopus plush. One face looks happy, while turning them inside out reveals a decidedly grouchier expression. While arguably not a true fidget toy, there’s no doubting the popularity of these plush cephalopods. TikTok is awash with videos from creators keen to show theirs off, while #reversibleoctopusplush has 9.1m views associated with it. In Dave’s opinion, social media is definitely what’s driving the current trend for all things fidget, so the creation of a hybrid reversible fidget-popper octopus was only ever a matter of time. George at Foxmind, meanwhile, says social media has been instrumental in creating the ‘nuclear explosion’ the popper phenomenon has become. “Pop It! and Last One Lost!, both FoxMind brands, were initially the only products of this nature to feature on social media such as TikTok and Facebook,” he comments. “Now they’ve reached over 6b views in two years.” Brian McLaughlin, retail manager at Toymaster, told Toy World a number of weeks ago that kids going back to school may result in a craze, and for

Toy World 116

The flipside of the playground craze is that retailers such as Dave Middleton expect sales to slow down slightly when schoolkids break up for the summer holidays. Crazes are notoriously short-lived, but that doesn’t mean poppers and other fidget products won’t sell yearround. A low cost, everyday item, Tangles have a long track record in the market and have stayed on trend by evolving constantly whilst keeping curving shapes and fidgetability at their core. Sold from small independents to mass retailers and everything in between, the Tangle range not only appeals to kids, but to their parents and their grandparents too, spanning generations and cultures. Importantly, Tangles also come in at pocket money price points and are collectible too. “Retailers should stock Tangle for two very important reasons,” explains Richard. “Reason number one is they sell in high volume year in, year out, even after around 40 years of continuous sales. Reason number two is that Tangle has many wellbeing applications, from stress relief to mindfulness and focus, as well as therapeutic applications for those with special needs, from ADHD and Autism right up to patients with Alzheimer’s. The vast number of applications mean that a huge range of shoppers buy Tangles for all kinds of different reasons, year-round.” Like Tangle Toys, Foxmind also believes that the pandemic is, at least in part, behind the current fever-pitch demand for its toys. In David’s opinion, the heightened stress experienced by many has caused a chain reaction in people looking for soothing fidget toys, including the company’s popping items. The effects of the previous 18 months will surely be felt for some time, so it stands to reason sales may well continue for some months yet. There are other good reasons for stocking Foxmind’s products too, which are distributed in the UK by Asmodee. “We offer authenticity – we developed and commercialised the original popper concept,” David outlines. “Secondly, for those who consider morality, we pay royalties to the late inventors’ family. Thirdly, we possess other intellectual property rights such as trademarks in the UK for Pop It! Poppit!, Go Pop!, Last One Lost and others. Last and not least, our products are tested to the highest safety and quality standards, as we need to comply with standards for most countries around the world, not just the UK and EU but also the US, Japan, Australia, and others.” The following pages contain a selection of fidget toys kids will be itching to get their hands on this year.


Fidget Toys

Tomy 01392 281927 | www.tomy.com Fat Brain Toys range is geared towards early learners, incorporating soft but durable silicone which is safe for kids aged 10 months and over. The brand’s Dimpl range includes fidget toys which help stimulate the minds of children, helping them to engage in hands-on learning as they enjoy tactile, satisfying sensory play. Dimpl features five silicone bubbles for kids to push, poke and pop with simple motions. The combination of visually engaging bright colours with the uncomplicated yet stimulating play concept means Dimpl helps kids develop both gross and fine motor skills and is particularly beneficial in the educational and special needs market. Part of the classic Dimpl range, the Dimpl Duo features soft silicone buttons that introduce kids to different textures, colours, shapes and words, offering entertainment as well as education. On one side, Dimpl Duo’s silicone buttons are printed with different shapes and labelled with the matching word in English. On the other side, the buttons are smooth and accompanied by words that match the colour of the button. The addition of Braille for visually impaired kids make this a truly accessible toy perfect for those with additional needs, as well as organisations and establishments in which this writing system is beneficial. Dimpl Duo is a compact size, making it perfect for on-the-go play, and is designed for little hands.

Tangle 07515 653370 | www.tanglecreations.com | pete@tangletoys.com Sold out in the UK with more stock on the way, Tangle has once again become a playground craze for a new generation. Having sold a whopping 250m units since its debut almost 40 years ago, this original fidget toy is now a TikTok sensation. With millions of new units en route to the UK to meet huge demand, Tangle continues to inspire with innovative and fresh new designs. This perfect pocket money toy is more than just fidgety fun. Created by world renowned inventor and sculptor, Richard X Zawitz, Tangle toys inspire creativity and imagination. Aimed primarily for children aged 3-8, Tangles also appeal to older kids and adults as they serve as a desktop toy, brain tool, or anti-stress device. Four collectible Tangle types are in major demand at the moment: Classic, Metallics, Crush and Pets. An original fidget toy, Classic Tangle’s brilliantly bright colours and smooth curves offer visual and sensory stimulation. Ideal for those who like to fidget and fiddle, people love twisting and turning it through their fingers, as well as taking its connecting links apart and putting it back together again. The textured Metallic Tangle is a therapy toy available in a variety of neon colour combinations. Unputdownable, this bright, shiny and tactile toy can be used as a puzzle, a creative game, and, of course, as a fidget toy. Shoppers can collect all six colours and textures. Tangle Pets are twisty puzzles, fidget toys and adorable accessories in one. Kids can create a movable sculpture or a wearable accessory just by twisting the band, shaping and reshaping their colourful Tangle Pet for endless fidget fun, and collect all the Pets for collectible, connectable play. Tangle’s Crush series is the ultimate pocket sized-fidget toy. As with many other Tangles, there are six engaging designs to collect. Featuring a variety of colours and textures, this range is ideal for relieving anxiety and stress.

Zuru info@zuru.com The original Zuru Fidget Cube by Antsy Labs is an unusually addictive, highquality fidget toy designed to help with focus. Users derive satisfaction from pressing/clicking/switching/rolling one of the six faces while still focusing on the task at hand. Backed by over 150,000+ people on Kickstarter, the Zuru Fidget Cube by Antsy Labs is the original and only patent-protected cube on the market. The cube was designed to satisfy the natural urge to fidget throughout the day and to help calm stress or anxiety. The unique design of the Fidget Cube is suited to any environment, from the office and school to home and socialising, or as a boredom buster during travel. Specially designed with six different sides to glide, flip, roll, spin, breathe and click, the features make it easy to concentrate for long periods of time and avoid unwanted distractions. Highly recommended for those who struggle with ADD, ADHD, OCD, Anxiety Disorder, Autism or high levels of stress in life or at work, the Fidget Cube is suitable for both adults and children. The Fidget Cube was one of the largest crowd-funded projects on Kickstarter, generating more than $6m dollars. Since then, millions of fidget cubes have been sold around the world.

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MUDDLEIT is the home of big brands ...

... and all the latest CRAZES!

© EPOCH

© 2021 Pokémon

Unit 14 Imex Spaces

WHOLESALE DISTRIBUTOR

sales@muddleit.com

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www.muddleit.com


Fidget Toys

FoxMind www.foxmind.com | sales@foxmind.com

Muddleit 01282 615710 | www.muddleit.com sales@muddleit.com Muddleit has over 15 years’ experience in supplying an extensive range of products to the toy, gaming and collectible markets. Specialising in the latest trends and crazes, the first half of 2021 has seen the company enjoy success by securing numerous product ranges from the pop craze phenomenon made famous on popular social media sites, such as Instagram and TikTok. Product lines like Pop Mates, Pop Bandz, Pop ‘n’ Spin, Fidget Pops, Sili Pops, Pop Blocks and Dimple Pops complement a fast-moving portfolio of collectible crazes. With low carriage paid, no minimum order, single quantity purchases where possible and next working day delivery, Muddleit aims to offer a one-stop shop facility to the trade allowing both independents and multi-chain retailers looking to take a variety of key product lines in a single convenient shipment. The company’s knowledgeable sales team provides a personalised service with a dedicated account manager to help customers navigate the latest developments and upcoming releases. A new website, featuring an easy-to-use online sales portal, also allows customers the ability to manage their account 24 hours a day at their own convenience. Muddleit only supplies trade accounts and do not sell directly to the public, so is not in competition with its own customers. With its flexible and efficient service, Muddleit can cover a diverse customer base from toy shops and amusement arcades to pharmacy stores and garden centres plus everything in between. As an official distributor for many companies including Winning Moves, Character Options, Tomy, Jakks Pacific, Jazwares, Galt, Jumbo and Colart, the company offers a wide array of product lines - trading cards, toys, plush, games, jigsaw puzzles, arts & crafts without charging an additional premium. Muddleit is also proud to be the exclusive UK wholesale distributor to the independent sector for both Sylvanian Families and Aquabeads on behalf of Epoch making toys.

FoxMind’s new Go Pop! range is a line of original fidget games which has already generated a huge amount of buzz on TikTok. With over 500m views on the popular social media platform, these brightly coloured and attention-grabbing games are a fantastic way to develop visual perception, fine motor skills and logical thinking for players aged five years and up. A remake of the classic Last Mouse Lost, Go Pop! tests players’ ability to think ahead in order to set themselves up for success. On a player’s turn, they select a row and press down any number of bubbles. Their opponent then presses down any unpressed bubbles in the desired row of their choice. The player that is left to press the last bubble on the board loses the round, meaning that players will have to think about the consequences of their actions in order to try to force a winning position. Go Pop! is easy to learn and fast to play, with games lasting for around 10 minutes, and it couldn’t be easier to reset for a new game: the board simply flips over so all of the bubbles will be the right way up and ready to be pressed once again. With no setup time and no stray components that can be lost in between games, Go Pop! is an ideal choice for playing in a car, bus or plane, or taking to a restaurant or school. It’s also water-resistant, so it’s great for camping or at the beach. Go Pop! is also fully washable to ensure it stays hygienic. Asmodee is acting as distributor for Go Pop! products in the UK.

H. Grossman 01416 132 525 | www.ozbozz.com HGL has seen incredibly strong sales of its Pushpoppers, a craze that has taken the nation by storm. The company’s comprehensive product selection and speed to market, making it the first on the scene, has helped guarantee concept ownership and maximise sales. Supported by timely national TV and mainstream media coverage from H. Grossman’s longstanding consultancy, Pittilla PR, Pushpoppers were tipped from the off for huge sales and have proven predications right. Design and line extensions to date have included key rings, unicorns, dinosaurs, pineapples, glitter, glow-in-the-dark and tie dye, while the latest expansions come in the form of pea pod key chains, a lobster, a rainbow, jigsaw puzzle pieces and an octopus. Pushsnappers are new on the scene. These addictive fidget toys create a satisfying snap with every squeeze. Kids simply push the two sides together until the suction cups connect, then release to hear the snap. There are plenty of bright colours to choose from. The Fidget Cube is a fidget with a difference. Origami in cube form, this shape changing cube can flip and fold as it’s made from eight smaller interconnected cubes. Unique in design, this toy is destined to keep even the most fidgety kid occupied. Launching this month is the new Fidget Box, a 24-piece bonanza containing all the fidget toys a kid could ever want. This fun collection brings together all HGL’s fidget toys, each of which is a best-seller, making it ideal for a party or event. Designed to be unputdownable, this cost-effective assortment comprises: four sticky crawlers, a heart Pushpopper, two bendy Fidget Tubes, four woven Boink Bouncers, two Fidget Tracks, four Football Finger Spinners, two stretchy Unicorn Bracelets, a pea pod Pushpopper, two stretchy ropes, a spinning top and a Fidget Cube.

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Classic play with a modern style

Available September 2021 The original popping sensation

Wobble, Tilt, Twirl!

Stacking toy with a twist

Unique shape exploration experience

Sensory Play Perfection! Interested in finding out more? Call 01932 281928 or email ukcustomerservices@tomy.com


Special Feature With Character Options' Joe Kissane & Jerry Healy

Colin Fox retires

Character Options stalwart Colin Fox to retire

Colin has spent over 35 years in the toy market, first as a buyer and latterly within the marketing team at Character Options.

P

opular toy industry figure Colin Fox has announced that he will be retiring at the end of September. Colin’s toy trade career started in the early 1980s, when he joined Fine Fare as a graduate trainee. Initially a non-food manager in-store, he was promoted to the role of toy buyer at head office in 1985, at the age of 27 – in those days, that made him one of the youngest buyers in the trade. Colin stayed with Fine Fare after the retailer was taken over by Gateway and merged with Carrefour, only leaving when the larger stores were sold to Asda. He subsequently spent a brief period at Zodiac Toys before it went into receivership, before joining Makro in March 1990, where he stayed for over a decade. Former Makro colleague Dave Cave told Toy World: “I had been promoted to buying controller, so I needed a toy buyer. Colin came highly recommended. He was a smart guy, extremely well-organised: he had great marketing and organisational skills, and he fitted in with the Makro team perfectly.” Another former Makro colleague was Anita Watson, now of course Anita Baulch of Toy World fame: “I worked with Colin when he was the toy buyer at Makro in the early 90s and remember his meticulous approach to detail, figures and planning. He was the king of the spreadsheet before spreadsheets were really a thing and would blind suppliers and colleagues alike with his data – nothing got past Colin. He instilled in me the need for a buyer to back up an eye for a great product with solid sales statistics. As well, he was a fun and sympathetic boss who turned into a very good friend.” Toy World Publisher John Baulch added: “I remember visiting the Makro office as we approached lunchtime one Christmas Eve, as I planned to spend the festive season with Colin’s assistant, Anita. As I walked into the room, Colin’s boss, the legendary Dave Cave shouted: “Jonny’s here, it’s Christmas – open the champagne.”

The Makro days

always an easy thing to do. He’s a loyal and faithful person, and very adaptable – he’s worked in many different roles at Character over the years. When he was a buyer and we were just starting up as Rainbow Toys, he always believed in us and trusted us – he gave us many great opportunities. He’s just an all-round good guy, we will all miss him.” Over his career, Colin has visited Hong Kong 55 times, Nuremberg 23 times, made a dozen trips to New York, as well as attending 35 London toy fairs – from Earls Court to Olympia to Excel and back to Olympia. He has also made many trips to Harrogate, where he and his partner Alan will be re-locating when he steps down.

Colin looked over and said: “I’m just finishing off these spreadsheets Dave, I’ll only be half an hour.” All those people who marvelled over Colin’s organisation and his attention to detail…it’s all true. As a proud survivor of Colin’s stag do in Prague (no man left behind), it’s been a pleasure to know him and work with him over the years.” After recovering from a bout of ill health which had left his friends very concerned, Colin subsequently left Makro due to restructuring and joined Character Options in January 2003 as maternity leave cover. Character Options’ marketing director Jerry Healey takes up the tale: “When I joined Character, Colin was here on a temporary basis and due to do a handover to me. I quickly realised he was invaluable to the business, so I sat down with Joe Kissane and we agreed that he would stay as part of the team. Colin has been my right hand man for the past 17 years. He’s completely dependable, has great attention to detail and has been a fantastic asset to the company. We’ll all be sad to see him go.” Character’s managing director Joe Kissane has known Colin for 36 years: “Col has always been a good colleague and a very good friend – we socialise with him as a family. Not only has he got a fantastic eye for detail, but he keeps us on the straight and narrow, which as you know is not

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Colin told Toy World: “I’ve had a wonderful career in the toy trade, and an amazing time at Character. I’ve known Joe for 36 years, since he first sold me Tonka trucks and I’ve known Jerry for 32 years, after we first met on a Rainbow Toys Sunday boat trip in Hong Kong. We’ve since had many great times and I feel lucky to have worked with great people at Character, both in the UK and all the Hong Kong team. Working on the international side has allowed me to make many friends in the toy community around the world. I will miss everyone.” Colin added: “When I joined the toy industry, I was told that if you liked it – and the industry liked you – you never left. Never was there a truer statement. I have had the privilege to work with a fantastic group of people in all the companies I have worked for and this includes all the companies, licensors and distributors I have dealt with. The people in the industry were a great strength to me 25 years ago with my cancer battles. It gave me the incentive to recover and continue in the toy world for many years. I thank all the people I have known for all the great times and look forward to carrying many friendships with me into retirement.” The whole Toy World team wishes Colin and his partner Alan all the best for the future.


r i a F n m u t u A at

Come and see all of our amazing brands on one stand, 6F50-G51 tel: 01603 397 105

email: sales@tobar.co.uk

www.tobar.co.uk


Feature

Autumn Fair

Back to business All being well, the Autumn Fair is scheduled to take place between 5th-8th September at its traditional Birmingham NEC home. It has been over 18 months since retailers and suppliers have been able to attend a trade show, so there is a mixture of hope and anticipation that this event will be able to go ahead as planned.

The show is likely to be more focused than in previous years: at the time of going to press the ‘Kids, Toy & Play section’ comprises a little under 50 companies. Nevertheless, many toy retailers have been looking forward to an opportunity to see new ranges in person, and the Autumn Fair is well-timed, especially for specialist independent retailers looking to freshen up their selections for the festive season. Over the following pages, Toy World highlights a selection of the companies which have confirmed their attendance at the show: unfortunately, we didn’t have confirmed stand numbers in time to include them within the round-up, but the majority of the toy exhibitors are likely to be found in Halls 6 and 20. Readers are advised to check with the Autumn Fair website before visiting.

Rainbow Designs

GB Eye

01329 227 300 | www.rainbowdesigns.co.uk

01142 767 454 | www.gbeye.com

Celebrating its 50th year at Autumn Fair, Rainbow Designs will be presenting its collections of much-loved classic brands including the Adventures of Paddington range and the beautiful new Always and Forever Winnie the Pooh collection. New additions to the Adventures of Paddington toy range for preschoolers this autumn are a Talking Paddington Soft Toy, with five much-loved Paddington phrases, and a Giant Paddington which is 55cm tall and wears the famous blue duffle coat and red hat. There are also two new play sets, the Rescue Set and Figure Set, that will join the existing range of the Play Bus Set, Collectible Figures and Adventures of Paddington Soft Toys. In Rainbow’s Golden Anniversary year and Winnie the Pooh’s 95th anniversary, The Home of Classic Characters introduces a beautiful new Disney Classic Pooh Always and Forever Collection of heirloom baby toys featuring soft toys, a comfort blanket and a ring rattle. Rainbow Designs’ Autumn Fair stand will also showcase the ever-popular Peter Rabbit Once Upon a Time range and the new Peter Rabbit Signature Collection which feature a range of ‘Forever’ heirloom toys, based on Peter Rabbit and Flopsy Bunny.

GB Eye will be displaying its range at the Autumn Fair including popular lines such as Pokémon, Friends, Harry Potter, Dragon ball, DC Comics, One Piece and My Hero Academia. The company has been working hard to bring out a fantastic gifting range for the seasonal period including its ever-popular gift boxes, this year with glow in the dark features, breakfast sets, espresso sets and brand-new mirror mug and plate sets using anamorphic techniques. There are also many additions to the range from ABYstyle including t-shirts, figurines and a wide selection of caps, wallets and bags. Bringing such a wide range of products together from the biggest brands in pop culture gives retailers a simple solution to get everything they need in one place. GB Eye’s locally sourced and in-house products including frames, mugs, posters, framed photographic prints and tote bags have also been a focus and provide a secure supply chain when there are so many uncertainties over global sourcing issues. Many are printed on demand so customers can have confidence in the quality of the products and orders arriving on time, to make the most of such a key selling period. GB eye and ABYstyle products will be together on the same stand at Autumn Fair.

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Company Profile

Kidicraft

We’re going to need a

bigger warehouse… A

fter a booming year, in which Kidicraft saw its sales grow by a staggering 62%, the company is aiming to expand on this success by moving to much larger premises and taking some of its jigsaw puzzle production in-house. Like many manufacturers, the Lancashire based company looks to China for its manufacturing, but challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic and port congestion have prompted it to look at ways it can avoid shipping delays and streamline the process of getting product to customers, as and when they need it. Kidicraft’s new offices and warehouse close to the M65, which are 10 times the size of the company’s former premises, will allow the company to bring the full product production of some of its ranges inhouse, Roy tells Toy World: “We were in the previous unit for about three years but after just 18 months, we had outgrown it and were forced to use third party warehousing. The move is a big jump forward – in the last warehouse we could hold just over 100 pallets, but in the new property we can hold about 1,000.” He adds that one of the main challenges facing retailers at the moment, along with shipping price increases, is availability of product. “We are trying to alleviate this by bringing in extra product and over-

Sam Giltrow caught up with Kidicraft owner and director Roy Greenwood to hear about the latest developments at the company.

stocking our warehouse, to try and ensure that we maintain availability.” The situation will also be helped by Kidicraft bringing some of its production in-house from next summer, which will see the company cover everything from laminating, cutting, bagging and retail box manufacturing. The only process it will not handle directly is the printing of the top sheets, which will be carried out by a neighbouring print business. “During the pandemic, one of our customers came to us twice, wanting 30,000 puzzles each time, but we couldn’t supply them,” says Roy. “If we’d had the equipment in-house, we could have put day and night teams on and got them produced in two weeks.” The in-house production investment is just part of the future-proofing strategy of Kidicraft, which has seen exponential growth since it was launched by Roy on his kitchen table just six years ago. The company also has an agreement in place for a distribution centre and salesperson in the Netherlands, which is currently on hold due to the lack of being able to supply product. “We will be opening an office and warehouse distribution in the Netherlands to cover Europe, and for those products made in China we will just double up production,” explains Roy. Kidicraft is also looking to expand its jigsaw puzzle ranges even further and bring in more complementary plush lines. Its Plush & 3D Puzzle range of four characters – Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Batman and Superman – has proved hugely popular since the launch in March this year. In January, the company will launch a new licensed range with Animal Club International for pre-school ages and upwards in traditional puzzle styles, which Roy admits “is a whole new sector for us to move into.” Kidicraft also plans to extend its plush and puzzle offering into its generic animal range, offering plush toys to accompany jigsaws of animals such as koala bears and giraffes. Animals remain a popular theme for puzzles, says Roy, as does nostalgia themed imagery, with 1000-piece puzzles selling particularly strongly: “We

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have the Ye Olde Shoppe range and it’s that type of genre within the imagery that seems to work really well,” he says. Due to the lockdowns, more younger people are reaching for traditional puzzles and the Harry Potter line has been particularly successful. Collaborations with artists come about through years of contacts, going to licensing exhibitions and also seeing what else is out there in the marketplace, and sometimes these can be obscure, young artists that don’t get much exposure. “It’s trying to find those little diamonds,” explains Roy. The company also produces a range of 3D stationery items such as notebooks, posters, postcards and bookmarks and Roy says there are also expansion plans for these lines. Kidicraft is working to make its products more sustainable and will soon convert its puzzles into a new premium range board, which is not only thicker and better quality, but 100% recycled, so the only new material used is the laminate on the top and bottom of the puzzle. The current stock is 85% recycled, and Roy hopes this will be a win-win for both consumers and the environment. “We wanted to improve the quality of the puzzle board and at the same time be more sustainable by aiming for 100% recycled board. The first batch has finished production and five 40ft containers should arrive by the end of August,” he tells Toy World. The Kidicraft team is excited to showcase all the new lines at the Autumn Fair this September, and Roy says he is champing at the bit to get out and meet customers again and introduce his daughter, Katy, who has just joined him at the company. She is currently moving around the business learning all the individual aspects such as sales, marketing and logistics. “It can’t come soon enough,” he says. “I appreciate it is going to be different because, with travel restrictions, international buyers won’t necessarily be there, but we are hoping that UK retailers will come and see the products that they haven’t seen for quite some time. Nothing beats meeting face-to-face and chatting about the products while you have them in your hand.”


Autumn Fair

H. Grossman 01603 39710 | www.tobar.co.uk | sales@tobar.com From the classic to the current craze is the theme of this year’s show for HGL. The classic wooden collection of toys from Tobar incudes the award-winning Wooden Learning Clock, Wooden Interlocking Building Blocks, Wooden Stack and Play Safari Animals and collection of three Wooden Sound and Play vehicles: a fire engine, an ambulance and a police car. There are lots of appealing wooden characters specially designed for pre-schoolers, and the all-new packaging highlights the clean Scandi appeal. Outdoor ranges include new line extensions for the Tobar brand, one of which is a great new pop-up ‘Colour Your Own Tent’, now available in two designs: dinosaur and unicorn. Kids can colour in the pre-printed designs with waterbased pens before playing in the tent, giving added play value. There’s also the Light Up Play Tent, which features a pop-up round tent lit by a circle of LED lights, providing a little oasis for the garden. Craft set ranges also continue to be innovative with the addition of Aqua Jelly, which allows kids to make their own multi-coloured squishy character creations, while the Tobar Squish Ball range will be a winner as the trend for fidget toys continues. The Super Squish Ball range lets kids stretch it, pull it, and pound it, and the range includes neon, glitter and glow in the dark balls. Unicorn mesh balls combine the squishy theme with kids’ favourite magical creature. This year has, of course, been all about Pushpoppers for HGL and the multi-million selling line continues to grow with numerous line extensions and price points to feed the fidget craze, including a 24pc Fidget Box packed with finger fiddling goodies and the new lobster option. New Ozbozz brand scooters include a folding version of the classic best seller Mr First Scooter, plus new scooters in tie dye and rainbow designs. Skateboards are basking in their new Olympic sport status and Ozbozz also has a board for every age and ability. These favourite lines from Tobar and HGL plus many more will be on show at the fair, along with a few new surprises to be revealed on the stand.

SES Creative 01304 746030 | www.ses-creative.com SES Creative is well known for its wide range of arts and craft products with over 300 different products to choose from and over 110 new lines to its range in 2021. For younger children there is an assortment of new products such as the Easy Loop hand puppets with enough to make a lion and hedgehog puppet without the need for a needle and thread. For pre-schoolers, SES Creative has continued to add to its already popular Colouring with Water range with two new products – Colouring with Water Hidden Animals and an Elephant Colouring Mat. These sit alongside the already popular pre-school range which includes the award-winning Crayon Beads, and many other crafting and painting sets all safe for ages 1+. The casting and painting range has a new Glitter Animals addition to go alongside the already hugely popular unicorns, dinosaurs, cats and dogs, wild animals and more. The colouring and painting range also has new lines including a Tie-dye Set, Airbrush Pens, Glitter Glue and Magic Sequins Colouring Book. For outdoors, two ranges are available from the complete bubble line focused on making extra strong bubbles that kids can either stand in or send flying using the custom-made solution. Other fun-filled activities include Animal Yoga with over 30 fun filled poses to try out. SES Creative’s nursery products across its Tiny Talents range focus on high quality, safe, modern and fun products aimed at infants three months plus with products covering plush, bath time, and sensory and stimulation. Finally, new this year is the Petits Pretenders range of role-play products, which allow children to use kits and their imaginations to become doctors, shopkeepers or chefs. The range also includes play suitcases with Shopping District and Hospital sets. All products are CO2 neutral, made by SES Creative at its headquarters and are available for immediate delivery.

Kidicraft 01282 505988 | www.kidicraft.com | sales@kidicraft.com Over the past year Kidicraft has released more than 30 new puzzle designs across various brands such as Harry Potter, DC Batman and Superman, Discovery, Animal Planet and the new Kidicraft ranges by Howard Robinson and Kevin Walsh. Following on from the great success of the Kevin Walsh Nostalgia 1000pc Jigsaw Puzzles, the range has now been extended further. The seven stunning new designs include Busy In The Garden, Classic Car Club, Entering Port, Rail & Canal, Summer In The Garden, Train Spotting and Whitby. These 1000pc jigsaw puzzles measure 70cm x 50cm and take the range to 15 designs in total. They are available now with more designs to be released during 2021. For the first time, Kidicraft will be launching a Christmas themed range of 1000pc Jigsaw puzzles. These again are from the Kevin Walsh Nostalgia range and are 70cm x 50cm in size. Pre orders are now being taken for these, with delivery from 1st September 2021. Limited quantities will be available for those not wishing to pre order. Kidicraft has also announced a new range of puzzles from the artist Steve Crisp. Initially there are six impressive designs from the Ye Olde Shoppe brand, featuring a Toy Shop, Pet Shop, Cake Shop, Book Shop, Greengrocers and a Hardware Shop. These great complex images measure 70cm x 50m puzzles and are available to order now. There are also new designs in Kidicraft’s most successful Harry Potter range. These include Voldemort and Slytherin 500pc Prime 3D puzzles which use the latest 3D lens to give great depth and motion to the image. New 500pc Batman and Robin and Superman puzzles round up the extensions to these ranges.

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Unlock magical moments with Bicycle ®

Visit us at Autumn Fair Stand: 6G70

01268 511 522 www.cartamundi.com purchaseorders@cartamundi.com


Autumn Fair

Craft Buddy

Cartamundi

0203 417 6565 | www.craftbuddyltd.co.uk | sales@craftbuddyltd.co.uk

01268 511 522 | www.cartamundi.com Cartamundi has some exciting launches for Autumn Fair 2021. Following the acquisition of USPC in 2019, Cartamundi is launching the Bicycle range of playing cards, said to be the best-selling playing cards in the world for more than 130 years. The Bicycle feel stems from its Air Cushion Finish embossing technique made with a unique paper stock, which creates pockets of air, allowing the cards to smoothly glide over each other. The Shuffle brand continues to grow, and the portfolio has expanded with the new Shuffle Junior range. Leading the range is the award-winning Into The Wild collection that brings the world of animals and learning for pre-schoolers together. As the growth in the Kidult market shows no signs of abating, the firm has high hopes for a number of UK Inventor games that target the 16+ market. FAQ is a party game that gives answers and players have to come up with the funniest, most awkward or insultaing questions imaginable to win. Unpopular Opinions is a party game where players dare to say what they really think and second guess what the general public will say. Not’chyo Nacho is a frenzied trading and matching card game where players trade nacho chips with others to match the toppings on their nachos, while Grab a Pizza That is a fast-paced game where players hatch plans, match cards and snatch pizza. The company also has distribution rights for the games Twisted History, which takes players on a journey through seven twisted eras of history, answering multiple choice questions about forgotten events, and Live TV quiz show board game Outsmarted, which features up-to-the-minute content and was a Kickstarter smash, selling over 40k games in December. With remote play capabilities and smart game AI, players can play friends and family wherever they are and tailor questions to a player’s age. Finally, with the Disney 2 in 1 Board Game Advent Calendar, each window reveals a puzzle piece to build a board game at the end of Advent. There are also 16 3D figures and dice and additional games to enjoy.

Building on the successful launch of the company’s Disney licensed Crystal Art range, Craft Buddy will be showcasing a new Disney Christmas-themed Crystal Art Collection at this year’s Autumn Fair. The first time the company has produced a Disney Christmas Crystal Art range, Craft Buddy has developed a collection that will appeal to Disney fans of all ages featuring iconic characters delicately re-created in sparkling crystal across a variety of different product. Disney Christmas Crystal Art Cards offer a seasonal twist on classic movie favourites with designs including Festive Bambi, Festive Minnie, Festive The Lion King, Winter Winnie The Pooh and Winter Olaf. The Disney Christmas range also extends to stunning Disney Princess and Bambi Christmas Wreaths, a set of six Disney Pixar Hanging Decorations and a Disney Christmas Friends Sticker Set. Framed Crystal Art Kits in varying sizes and incorporating well-loved scenes from Disney movies include Dumbo, 101 Dalmatians, Jungle Book, Aristocats and this year’s animated release, Raya and the Last Dragon. There is also a new 30x30cm Winter Mickey and Minnie Crystal Art Canvas kit. The company will also be displaying new Crystal Art lines, with stunning new designs and concepts being added to its successful core ranges on show for the first time and covering a range of retail price points. There are also brand-new additions to the Thomas Kinkade Crystal Art range which include two LED Crystal Art Kits and a 90x65cm canvas. The rise in popularity of ‘diamond painting’ doesn’t show any sign of slowing. Enabling all ages to create beautiful pieces of art, everything needed to complete the design is included in each kit. Every design has a numbered, adhesive template and, using the handy pick-up pen included, children simply lift up the coloured crystals and place them on the corresponding numbered dots to create a dazzling masterpiece, ideal as a piece of art to keep at home or give as a handmade gift.

Bachmann 07739 200 153 | www.bachmann.co.uk The Scene-A-Rama range of craft products and project packs provides easy-to-use materials and learning aids for students to create craft and school projects. Scene-A-Rama products are specifically designed to stimulate creativity and help students build dioramas, displays and various arts and crafts. They can be used for any subject, any student and for any project. Students, teachers and parents can use the Project Packs to build great displays for topic work, engaging classroom displays, or just have fun on a rainy day. The Erupting Volcano makes a fantastic interactive showstopper for Geography, the Cell Structure makes an engaging and interesting display for Biology., while the Creative Masks are perfect for developing artistic skills. The included materials and a little creativity are all that is needed, and there is also a wide range of accessories and scenery available to help add finishing touches to projects. The scenery is also suitable for war gamers as they come in small pack sizes. Leonardo Da Vinci was most famous for being a painter, but he was also known as an architect and engineer whose designs were way ahead of his time; his drawing books were full of ideas for inventions such as a flying machine, armoured car, parachute, pulley, plus many more. Academy has developed a range of model kits depicting some of his greatest inventions. Ideal for students with a keen interest in science, these kits are easy to build, require no glue, paint or batteries and are functional once built. The G.E.T Clock is the latest addition to the collection and, inspired by the principles of Leonardo Da Vinci, has incorporated the mechanism of real time pieces. The Flying Machine has wings that move by converting rotary motion to reciprocating motion, while the Leverage Crane uses a reciprocating lever, wheels and gears to lift objects.

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Autumn Fair

Cheatwell Games 02392 524098 | www.cheatwell.com | sales@cheatwell.com One of Cheatwell Games’ top-sellers from the past has been brought bang up to date. Making use of players’ preferred music streaming providers, Spot The Intro challenges players to name tip-of-thetongue tunes from just a snippet of a song. On top of that, there is a tricky trivia question to answer to add to the challenge. Hugely entertaining, Spot The Intro features all the hits from the Sixties to the 2010s plus TV and film themes. The all-new Family Quiz Night is a trivia challenge the whole family can play - questions have been written so that kids can play on a level playing field with the adults, meaning everyone can gather around the table to battle it out and discover who’s the brainiest. There’s also Top Trivia Decades: each pack of cards contains 1,000 questions on the fads, fashions and fun from the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties, Nineties and Noughties. For those who prefer more of a mental workout, the brain baffling MindTrap is jam-packed with 500 puzzles, brainteasers and trick questions, guaranteed to frustrate and delight in equal measure. A Cheatwell best-seller, Family Tension, in which players have to name 10 items in a fun category, was a huge hit last year with over 100,000 units sold. The stand-alone extension editions, Music, Movies and Foodies, are joined this year by TV and Sport versions. The Engenius Contraptions Double-sided Marble Run, winner of the prestigious Gift of the Year award, is joined this year by the 7 Trampette Bounce Edition and the Helix Spiral. These flat-packed, put-it-together-yourself marble runs are a puzzle to assemble but a delight to see in action. Powered by an electric motor, the marbles rise to the top of a lift before descending in an entertaining and mesmerising manner. The Engenius Marble Runs can be seen in action on Cheatwell’s stand at the Autumn Fair, along with a wide range of other games.

Winning Moves 01706 558539 | www.winningmoves.co.uk The team at Winning Moves is excited to be returning to Autumn Fair for the first time in a while and will be armed with lots of new products. The company has increased its 1000 piece and 500 piece jigsaw puzzle selection four fold - from 10 SKUs to over 40, and is planning to roll out even more. Ranging across a whole spectrum of the latest licences, combined with some nostalgic pieces, there are the likes of Only Fools Horses, Dr Who, James Bond, Love Actually, Elf, Batman, The Joker and Lord of the Rings, along with more additions that are yet to be revealed. 2021 will see further investment in the popular Top Trumps Match brand, with an injection of new and much-loved licences such as Elf, Animal Crossing and Spirit, while artwork will be refreshed for the ever popular Star Wars, Marvel and World Football Stars editions. One of Winning Moves’ most hotly anticipated releases of the year is Elf Monopoly, which is scheduled for release this autumn. It features bespoke tokens taken from the beloved movie and is set to be a big hit with families this Christmas. Recognising the increasing affinity for all things Buddy the Elf, Top Trumps Match and 1000 piece puzzle options will also be added. This year has seen the segmentation of Winning Moves’ key brand, Top Trumps. Now split into four - Classics, Juniors, Specials and Limited Editions - the brand encompasses products and licences that cater to every age demographic: from toddlers (Juniors) to teens (Specials) to adults (Limited Editions). The Top Trumps brand has also been backed by social media and blog/vlog campaigns as well as several promotions with McDonald’s where bespoke packs of Top Trumps were featured in Happy Meals, with up to 19m packs distributed in the UK.

Eaglemoss 07534 400 934 | www.HeroCollector.com | GlynnDavies@eaglemoss.co.uk 2021 sees licensed collectibles specialist Eaglemoss Hero Collector entering the Advent Calendars market for the first time with the introduction of three SKUs under three iconic licences. Each of these extensive advent calendars has been created with fans in mind, and they will be on display on the Hero Collector’s stand 20E40 at the Autumn Fair. For Doctor Who fans there is the spectacular Tardis Advent Calendar. Designed in the shape of the Doctor’s iconic blue time machine, the luxury box calendar is crammed with 24 high-quality festive gifts and accessories from across space and time. A Tardis-shaped sandwich cutter, a set of coasters with artwork inspired by famous Doctor Who episodes and a Sontaran egg cup are just a few of the collector quality gifts included for fans to discover. The Star Trek Collector’s Advent Calendar takes the form of the iconic Borg cube and features 24 high-quality, all-new gifts and accessories from beyond the final frontier. A coaster set based on the design of the console screens from The Original Series, Enterprise-D socks and an espresso cup commemorating the first warp flight in human history – in the year 2063 – are just some of the premium collectibles included. The Beatles Advent Calendar is designed to evoke The Beatles’ most iconic album art; the luxury box advent calendar is presented in pop-art style with an eye-catching rainbow Beatles design. A tea infuser shaped like the famous Yellow Submarine, a set of coasters with iconic Beatles album art and a Beatles Bauble are just some of the 24 gifts that fans of the Fab Four can reveal as they count down to Christmas.

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ages

7+

Create an A+ project every time! Scene-A-Rama products are specifically designed to stimulate creativity and help students build dioramas, displays and various arts and crafts. For any subject - maths, science, geography, history,etc!

For any student - primary school to secondary school, college and beyond! For any project - volcanoes, masks, castles, pyramids and more!

Tel: 07739 200153 or Email: pauline.hinkley@bachmann-europe.co.uk

www.bachmann.co.uk SceneARama_AUG2021.indd 1

06/07/2021 11:57


Allegedly

Strong rumours have emerged that staff at Disney Stores across the UK have been handed their notice, with the suggestion that the flagship store in London will be the only branch left standing after the ‘consultation’ has been concluded. While the news hasn’t come out of the blue – an official announcement in March spoke of significant store closures across the globe – the scale of the cutback does appear to have escalated rapidly over the past few months. The Disney Store website hints at “new Disney destinations with various retail partners” – could we be about to see a ‘store-in-store’ approach similar to that which has been established at Target in the US? While that’s entirely possible, it also seems likely that online sales will attempt to fill the gap left by the closure of the stores (although quite how they will be able to replicate the ‘magic’ of a Disney store in the digital realm remains to be seen). I also wonder whether some specialist toy stores will look to take advantage of the disappearance of a direct competitor from the High Street by ramping up their Disney selection…

Meanwhile, a major global etailer (go on, take a wild guess) has told one supplier that he is not “eligible” to increase his cost price to them. I understand that he is not alone in having been told ‘computer says no’, and also not alone in stopping supplying said etailer, which may also end up having availability issues in the coming months if toy companies stick to their guns. It is the use of the word “eligible” which undoubtedly sticks in the craw. Chinese currency has gone against international suppliers, somewhere in the region of 8%; raw material prices are up anywhere between 20-50%; printed material (packaging, shipping cartons) and labour costs have risen around 20% each; shipping and container prices are through the roof. Yet apparently none of this qualifies the supplier as “eligible” to increase prices. Really? One wonders just what would have to happen to make them “eligible.” In an act of unbridled generosity, the supplier has been told he can mark the items as ‘out of stock’ until he can supply them at the 2020 price - which may be around 12th of never based on current projections…

Over the past month, Amazon has yet again been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. First up, ITV News shone a spotlight on Amazon’s questionable approach to dealing with unsold stock, as it uncovered proof that the etailer is still destroying millions of new, unused and perfectly serviceable items each year. A former employee at the Dunfermline fulfilment centre admitted that the “target was to destroy 130,000 items a week.” Amazon attempted to downplay the accusation, claiming that the products filmed were destined for ‘energy recovery’ rather than landfill, but the evidence appeared damning. Given the public’s increasing awareness of sustainability and the regulations which apply to bricks and mortar retailers and suppliers, it does seem surprising that Amazon can avoid responsibility for what happens to these goods. And offering suppliers the option of returning an item at a cost of £17 or destroying it for 13p does seem like a bizarrely unbalanced choice…

In a further blow to anyone hoping to make it out to Hong Kong during October, British travellers have been banned from entering Hong Kong, after the UK was added to the territory’s list of “extremely high risk” countries. Thus, the theory about UK visitors being in a good position due to high vaccination rates has been blown completely out of the water. Of course, we have no idea how long the ban will be in place, but with flights from the UK currently suspended, it would take an eternal optimist to believe a Q4 trip is viable, while it even places a question mark over the January trip…

Sadly, Amazon’s dubious business practices don’t end there. We were recently contacted by Mike O’Shea from online toy retailer Wicked Uncle, who has become increasingly frustrated by Amazon’s attempts to hijack Wicked Uncle’s online listings. It started with Amazon bidding on the trademarked ‘Wicked Uncle’ name for Pay-per-Clicks advertising. After Google was alerted, it temporarily stopped this happening, but Amazon simply adopted its tactics: now when people search ‘Wicked Uncle Toys’ on Google, it brings up ads for Amazon, complete with the words “Low Prices on Wicked uncle toys.” When clicked, the Amazon ad takes users to a landing page of toys and games, some of which are Wicked Uncle best-sellers. Is this practice illegal? That will be for the lawyers to decide, but it undoubtedly will cost big bucks to test (Amazon knows that and has very deep pockets). Speaking to another major toy retailer which Amazon has targeted in the same way, he admitted that while it was deeply annoying, his preference was to reluctantly shrug and turn a blind eye – what he actually said was “We just ignore the ****ers…” A special ‘tone deaf’ award for failing miserably to read the room goes to the global retail chain (who shall remain nameless, but they’re based out of Portugal with stores in South America, parts of Eastern Europe and other countries), which apparently is not only insisting that suppliers hold prices quoted months ago, but more importantly has contractually stipulated a 110% late delivery penalty. Yes, 110% crazy at the best of times, but given the current global shipping situation, completely ridiculous. I think we can comfortably assume that this retailer will end up extremely short of stock, as I can’t see many toy companies desperate enough to sign up to such onerous terms…

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It is now a foregone conclusion that the shipping industry will post record profits this year – at least $80b and possibly even as high as $100b, more than treble the all-time record. It turns out that hiking prices when your customers have no alternative but to pay up is a solid strategy. As shipping companies make hay, other logistics providers are also seeing an opportunity to cash in: air cargo rates are rumoured to be anywhere between 60-120% higher than pre-Covid levels. Meanwhile, a multitude of sneaky charges are creeping in throughout the supply chain; hold-ups have led to D&D charges (that’s detention and demurrage, not Dungeons and Dragons) doubling, while the general manager of the Far East division of a well-known global toy retailer told me that a friend of his went to collect a container, only to be told that there were no 40fts or HQs available…unless he was willing to pay a ‘premium’ of $165. Whether you compare this to Uber’s ‘surge pricing’ or just think it is another grubby example of bribery and corruption (‘slip me a few quid and I’ll make it happen’), the upshot is the same – ‘law of the jungle’ economics are perhaps beginning to spiral out of control. Even if you are one of the lucky ones able to successfully ship product from the Far East to the UK, there is the little matter of getting it from warehouses into shops. Last week saw the German confectionery company behind inexplicably popular brand Haribo admitting it was struggling to get its sweets into stores because of a shortage of lorry drivers. The government has moved swiftly to address the situation, temporarily extending the number of hours a driver can work. Great, just what we need - a bunch of exhausted drivers in charge of 7.5-ton vehicles on the roads. What could possibly go wrong? Mind you, one major toy chain owner was telling me that he still has a licence to drive a 7.5-ton lorry – so he has no excuse, albeit he would surely be the UK’s highest-paid trucker?


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Toy World Magazine August 2021  

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