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June 2020 Volume 9 Issue 10

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The Team...

CONTENTS June 2020 Volume 9 Issue 10

John Baulch

30 Retail Profile: The Entertainer

38 Feature: Arts & Crafts

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

Anita Baulch

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

News

Regulars

Features

05 06 14 16 20 74

24 27 58 60 62

30 34 38 64 70

From the Publisher News Industry Moves Marketing World Licensing World Allegedly

NPD column Talking Shop Touching Base Viewpoint Fresh

Retail Profile: The Entertainer Retail Profile: Wicked Uncle Feature: Arts & Crafts Feature: Wheeled/Outdoor Toys Special Feature: Sustainability

Contributors The NPD Group | Mark Buschhaus | Stephen Barnes | Lesley Singleton | Jonathan Chambers Ruth Clement | Rebecca Deeming

Rachael Simpson-Jones Editor rachael@toyworldmag.co.uk 01442 502 406

70 Special Feature: Sustainability

64 Feature: Wheeled/Outdoor Toys

Lisa Currie

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

Mark Crowford

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

toyworld toy world The business magazine with a passion for toys

Alakat Published by

www.toyworldmag.co.uk @toyworldmag @baulchtweet

toyworldmag

Toy World 3

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ockdown has certainly been interesting– nine weeks that at times has felt like nine months. However, for the UK toy community, as the end of lockdown finally beckons, light is beginning to appear at the end of the tunnel. Despite fears to the contrary, sales have held surprisingly well, as NPD explains in this month’s exclusive article on page 24. While it may seem counter-intuitive, the simple fact is that the UK’s online ordering and delivery capacity has outweighed the fact that most physical stores have been temporarily closed. Clearly, the timing of the pandemic has helped hugely in this regard: as an industry, we could never have hoped to replicate the level of Christmas sales we traditionally enjoy without the invaluable contribution of bricks and mortar outlets. However, when it comes to March, April and May, it seems that parents have been able to find a viable workaround to ensure their children are kept happy, entertained and occupied. Art & Craft is just one of the categories which has excelled in recent weeks, and you can read all about the latest lines which will be driving the sector during the second half of the year in our extensive feature which starts on page 38. By the time this issue arrives through your door, UK toy shops will be entering the next phase of the pandemic: re-opening their stores to the general public. For many weeks, beyond the day-to-day transactional activity, every business has been planning for what comes next, which has been no small task - literally, we are all entering ‘best guess’ territory. So, on the balance of probability, what might the new (ab)normal hold in store for us all? By now, I think we have all come to realise that emerging from lockdown will be gradual – the grand re-opening of the UK will take place in phases, rather than en masse. The in-store experience itself is going to be very different. Out will go experiential retailing, for now at least– there will be precious little browsing or hands-on activity, most people will be aiming to get in and out of stores as quickly as possible. This month, we have spoken to a selection of independent retailers about their plans for reopening, while we also have two exclusive, indepth interviews with retail operations which have tackled very different challenges in recent months: The Entertainer and Wicked Uncle. The latter has definitely faced a better class of problem; pure

online retailers have seen business booming during lockdown, and Wicked Uncle has had to cope with a huge increase in demand, while at the same time introducing new working protocols to keep staff safe. The Entertainer has faced these challenges and more – specifically, how to realign the business from a bricks and mortar driven operation to maximise on online orders, while simultaneously revamping the existing store estate to reflect the new shopping environment. Gary Grant was as open and honest as ever about the monumental task he and his team have faced, and both interviews offer a fascinating insight into what it takes to succeed in the toy retail arena in 2020. Ultimately, for retailers, getting it right over the coming months will mean yet more adaptation and flexibility – qualities the retail community has shown in abundance over the past few months. I have been impressed with the way so many retailers have pivoted their businesses to react to prevailing conditions - their spirit and resourcefulness is admirable. To be fair, I guess we are all going to have to think outside the box for a while yet. For me personally, it feels like pressing the rewind button and going back to when we first started Toy World, just under nine years ago. In some respects, it’s like starting from scratch and building the business up all over again – although we’re grateful that we still have a healthy and viable business which can be rebuilt. Not everyone will be that fortunate. One thing I can reassure you of – Toy World will continue to bring you all the latest news and developments as they happen. None of our staff were ever furloughed during lockdown; we have worked tirelessly throughout and will continue to do so, in order to bring you the most interesting and relevant content for however long this thing takes to run its course. We’re right here with you, working through it, supporting the industry in the best way we can. I’d like to thank all those fantastic toy and media companies which have continued to support us during these challenging times by maintaining advertising commitments, which allows us to carry on doing what we do. So please keep us up to date with what you are doing to navigate through the choppy waters of 2020: we want to share your news and initiatives with the toy community as we all try to find a way through to the other side….together.

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News Andrew Laughton to leave role at MGA Andrew Laughton, MGA’s senior vice president UK, has resigned from his role. Andrew has headed up MGA’s UK operation for the past 12 years and also managed Zapf Creation’s UK division for 28 years. Andrew is also currently the chairman of the BTHA. Andrew resigned prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and is due to remain in place at MGA until March 2021.

Argos autumn/winter catalogue cancelled Toy World understands that a letter has been mailed to suppliers confirming that the Argos Autumn Winter catalogue will not be printed this year. A shortened version of the message sent to suppliers reads as follows: "As you know, we have had to make significant changes to our processes and ways of working to ensure we do everything we can to keep our colleagues and customers safe in the current environment. Due to the lead times on the summer edition of the Argos catalogue and standalone stores being closed currently, we’ve had to take a decision now on whether we should issue paper copies of the catalogue to customers. After reviewing this in detail, we have taken the decision not to provide a take-home version of the summer Argos catalogue this year. We are aware that the catalogue is an important and well-loved part of our Argos heritage, and this is not a decision we’ve taken lightly. Safety is a top priority, and by not issuing take-home catalogues, we will reduce customer touchpoints and time spent in store. In stores with digital capability, customers can browse the range and shop via the digital screens available. In our stores that do not have this capability, some physical laminated versions of the catalogue will be available for customers to browse the range, although not to take home. Timings around the launch of the new range will remain the same. Finally, I’d like to assure you that in the absence of the catalogue this summer, there will be a number of other opportunities available for you to grow your business with us. The buying team will be in touch to discuss this, and any other questions you might have on the impact of this decision shortly. Kind regards Paul Mills-Hicks Commercial Director"

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News Maxi Toys reportedly facing bankruptcy The toy store chain Maxi Toys has demanded protection from its creditors from the Mons court. The chain has stated that the coronavirus crisis has put the company’s future in danger, and it expects to lose 30m euros in turnover between 14th March and 11th May - a drop of 93%. Maxi Toys has more than 200 stores in Belgium, France, Switzerland and Luxembourg and 1,200 employees. The French arm of the company also plans to seek protection from its creditors. The Portuguese investment fund Green Swan acquired all of Maxi Toys’ activities, shops and logistics operations for an undisclosed sum from its former owner Blokker Holding in January 2019. In February 2019, Maxi Toys also acquired 39 stores of the Belgian toy chain Bart Smit. Alain Hellebaut, CEO Maxi Toys, commented: "The sale procedure and the frequent change of shareholding naturally put additional pressure on the operation of the company and the results for the 2019 financial year. Under Green Swan, Maxi Toys acquired the toy store chain Bart Smit (also a former part of the Blokker operation), a company that was already heavily loss-making. We have not been able to sufficiently adjust the business operations and processes in those few months, and that is why Bart Smit’s results for 2019 have further declined." Because sales and profits are falling, the company can no longer pay its bills. “We also note that, despite the support measures announced, it is extremely difficult to obtain the necessary working capital financing in the current climate,” Alain added.

Geomag launches drop-ship campaign to support indie retailers PanelHouse offers perspex POS screen solution to retailers Readers may already be familiar with the perspex POS screens and hanging plastic curtains that have been installed in supermarkets across the nation, as consumers and retailers alike adjust to vitally important social distancing measures needed to keep people from transmitting Covid-19. Alastair Grant - son of The Entertainer's Gary Grant - is heading up the business PanelHouse, which aims to meet the growing need for this kind of equipment. Already, the company has supplied 600 POS protective screens for Entertainer stores across the UK, as well as various office and warehousing solutions. The company has worked hard to put together a range of solutions, from off-the-shelf to bespoke designs, suitable for public spaces such as shops and communal workspaces. PanelHouse says its mission is to help businesses keep their staff and customers safe, whilst maintaining operational capacity. Alastair told Toy World: "To get customers back into our shops and public spaces it will be essential for businesses to create environments that look and feel safe. If customers don’t feel safe, they aren’t going to use your shop. The other critical part of this is protecting the staff that are being asked to work on the front line in face-to-face customer and office roles." The PanelHouse website (www.panelhouse.co.uk) lays out the company's current off-the-shelf range, as well as outlining its design and build bespoke offering. For a personal consultation, contact Alastair Grant on a.grant@ panelhouse.co.uk.

The impact of Covid-19 has hit the country hard and is hitting small businesses even harder. The team at Geomagworld is responding proactively to its independent retailers, providing support during this challenging and uncertain time to assist in driving sales. The company has put together four promotional drop-ship Geomag bundles, featuring best-selling products from across its popular magnetic construction range, that it will ship directly to customers for free. In a release, the company said: "Our drop-ship programme is designed to help support your remote business, as well as parents who are looking for toys that can help entertain their children at this very difficult time." Here's how it works: • R  etailers simply add drop-ship orders to their Facebook page and/or website • E  mail victoria.caridi@geomagworld.com to send Geomag the customer’s order • Geomag will ship it for free, direct to the customers door. • T  he retailer will receive tracking information and an invoice. Payment will be via usual terms. The drop-ship bundle offer is also open to new customers - simply email Victoria to set up an account.

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News Zuru acquires Glove-A-Bubbles Zuru has announced that the company has acquired Glove-A-Bubbles, winner of The Toy Association’s 2019 US Outdoor Toy of the Year. Created by Ogosport and sold to market by Zing, Glove-A-Bubbles is a glove with holes that make bubbles when the glove is dipped in bubble soap and waved through the air. Currently available in different animal and monster themes, the Glove-A-Bubbles brand also includes Wave-A-Bubbles, which creates even more bubbles, and Big-A-Bubbles, a glove that creates giant bubbles. “Glove-A-Bubbles inherently fun play value, combined with its remarkable quality and design at affordable prices, fits perfectly into our portfolio,” said Anna Mowbray, chief operating officer, Zuru. “It’s a natural extension to our award-winning outdoor toy portfolio, which includes Bunch O Balloons and X-Shot.” Zuru has product development plans and on-trend marketing initiatives to grow and elevate the Glove-A-Bubbles brand as it further expands its footprint in the outdoor toy aisle. Since its introduction in 2016, Zuru’s Bunch O Balloons has consistently been a top selling outdoor brand, and the company’s X-Shot blaster range is one of the fastest growing brands in the outdoor category, with over 60m blasters shipped last year alone.

Organiser of British Pavilions at HK Toy Fair and Spielwarenmesse issues update Stuart Whitehill, account director at Overseas Fairs, has issued an update for exhibitors in the British Pavilions at the Hong Kong Toy Fair and Spielwarenmesse, as uncertainty surrounding the lifting of social distancing measures continues. As it stands, both shows are slated to go ahead, and booking forms will be sent out shortly. The HKTDC and Spielwarenmesse are both following the advice of government and health authorities, viewing the safety of exhibitors and visitors as 'very much their main priority'. The Department for International Trade is again offering grants for both exhibitions, with £2,500 for Hong Kong and £1,500 for Spielwarenmesse on offer. The Overseas Fair Division, along with other trade associations, has formally requested that the usual eligibility rules and six-grant limit be removed for the next 12-18 months, to help businesses with what will be essential international trade fair marketing activities. "We have not heard yet if this has been successful, but we shall keep you posted," the update reads. Bookings for the Hong Kong show are likely to run into June and July, although the official deadline is 31st May. Stuart adds: "We are not planning to make any major changes to either of the Pavilions this year and in both cases, we are holding the usual locations and will continue to operate the same procedures and guidelines as before. If any of you wish to discuss anything with me regarding your location and space, then please don’t hesitate to contact me on 07811 402017."

Kind + Jugend announces optimised new hall plan Applications are rolling in for the upcoming Kind + Jugend trade show, due to run from 17th - 20th September. Some 70% of the 1,200 companies expected to attend have already announced their participation, including many leading companies and brands. To mark its 60th anniversary, Kind + Jugend has made some changes to the show's floorplan; instead of the previous hall 4.1, the trade fair will take place in halls 3 and 2 on the Cologne fair grounds. The previously used hall 11.3 will also be incorporated into the new layout, offering exhibitors optimised guidance and more attractive presentation possibilities. The new hall allocation for 2020 aims to provide a better overview, clearer attribution, shorter routes and an optimised quality of stay. The event programme for the trade fair is already taking shape. Invitations to participate in the Innovation Award have been sent, as have invites for the Kids Design Award. Applications for the Innovation Award can be submitted until the end of June, while applications for the Kids Design Award should reach Koelnmesse by the beginning of June. Koelnmesse is of course keeping a close eye on global developments. Should the show be delayed or cancelled due to coronavirus, Koelnmesse will refund visitor tickets already purchased while exhibitors who don't wish to take part on a revised date will also be reimbursed.

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News

O

ver what has been an unprecedented few months, the BTHA has been running as usual, acting as a support network for our members. With schools closed and children stuck at home all day, we’ve been trying to reach as many parents and carers as possible through our Make Time 2 Play campaign, to provide them with various play resources and ideas to help keep their children occupied. We have updated the free Make Time 2 Play website and app with more than 450 play activities which can all be done in the home or in the garden. We are sharing daily play ideas on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and would be very grateful for support from the industry in helping to spread awareness of the campaign. Many of our members have also created their own free play resources such as activity sheets on their websites, which The BTHA’s Rebecca Deeming we have been sharing on our social media. If you are a brings Toy World readers up to date on the current news from member of the BTHA and would like us to help share your the association. content, please e-mail me on Rebecca@btha.co.uk. We are still working hard towards the planning of Toy Fair 2021 and are supporting our exhibitors through this difficult time. If you haven’t yet applied and would like to, you can do so by filling in an online application form on our website www.toyfair.co.uk. If anyone has any questions regarding their booking, given the current climate, please do get in touch with myself or Majen (Majen@btha.co.uk) and we will be happy to help answer any queries. Elsewhere, the BTHA’s Public Affairs team is in regular communications on BTHA member issues relating to Covid-19 and if members have issues and concerns, please do get in touch. We are also still working on other ongoing work with government on free trade agreements, particularly the EU and US negotiations and ongoing consultations that will impact the industry such as online advertising and the Age Appropriate Design Code of Practice that is likely to have an impact on every toy company. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at this uncertain time, we are working as normal and are here to support our members with anything we can. Finally, on behalf of everyone at the BTHA, we hope our colleagues in the industry are all keeping safe and well, and we’re looking forward until we can all reunite once again.

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Spielwarenmesse board appoints new members The management of Spielwarenmesse eG has revealed significant changes to the Executive Board which will take effect next year. Executives Ernst Kick (CEO) and Dr. Hans-Juergen Richter will be leaving on 30th June 2021 when their term comes to an end. The new Executive Board will be expanded to three members; Christian Ulrich, Florian Hess and Jens Pflüger, all experienced industry experts, who will take over the helm of the Nuremberg exhibition organiser and marketing services provider on 1st July 2021. The future management team will be taking over a solid company which Ernst Kick and Dr. Hans-Juergen Richter have adapted to the changing market in recent years, shaping it in decisive ways. The three future members of the Executive Board have been recruited from the cooperative’s own ranks. Christian Ulrich, Florian Hess and Jens Pflüger have many years’ experience in the exhibition industry and, as members of the management, have all played an important role in shaping company strategy and building international exhibition projects. Christian Ulrich will assume the role of Executive Board spokesman and will be responsible for marketing, press relations and communication, as well as new business areas. Florian Hess will oversee event organisation, sales and legal matters. Jens Pflüger will look after finance, IT, HR, digitalisation and member services.

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Industry Moves Andrea Gornall joins 8th Wonder Former toy category manager at the Very Group, owner of Shop Direct, Andrea Gornall has joined Wigan-based 8th Wonder as senior product & business development manager. The company specialises in the design and manufacture of character plush, wooden toys, nursery and gift products for the global toy market. The company works with leading retailers across the globe, and holds licences for properties such as Hey Duggee, Mr Tumble and Little Men & Little Miss. Speaking to Toy World about the move, Andrea commented: “I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Very Group, but I’m excited about this move, which gives me the opportunity to do something different. 8th Wonder is an exciting, growing business and I can see loads of opportunities here.”

Wow! Stuff welcomes new recruits Leanne Royce joins as senior national account manager and Matt Eckersley as head of eCommerce. Both were hired before the pandemic and ahead of the lockdown and are yet to meet the rest of their workmates in person. However, they have been welcomed to the team and begun working for the company remotely. Leanne's history in toys started 18 years ago at Tomy, where she worked whilst completing her law degree in London. Contracted originally as short-term maternity cover in the holidays, Leanne stayed at Tomy for 10 years. This was followed by a lengthy career at Flair, where Leanne started out as a key account manager and rose to senior national account manager, looking after premier retailers such as Smyths Toys, Tesco and The Entertainer. Matt is new to the toy industry but well versed with online retail, having worked at a number of big brand consumer products manufacturers growing their online business. In his previous roles, Matt successfully championed online opportunities and strategy, significantly growing sales for premium brands including Samsung, Tech21, Pure Radio and B&O. Dawn Lavalette, commercial director, commented, “As we‘ve grown our categories to now include pre-school, and collectibles with new exciting innovation, we need to ensure channel strategies are complementary and disciplined. Leanne and Matt bolster our team and I think their personalities and attitude will make them perfect Wow! Stuff’ers."

Sabine Dix joins Siso Toys UK Siso Toys has welcomed Sabine Dix to its growing sales force. Sabine joins the team as senior national account manager this week. Sabine’s appointment will be instrumental to Siso’s planned growth in the online and grocery channels, whilst also being vital to the support of the business’s national accounts. She brings with her a wealth of experience, with almost two decades in toy industry sales. This includes positions with Spin Master, Tomy, MGA, Trends and most recently with German toy manufacturer Theo Klein. Speaking of her appointment, Sabine said: “I was very excited when I saw the opportunity arise to join Siso Toys UK. I have long admired the company and its impressive product portfolio that includes a fantastic mix of traditional and on trend toys, both within its own IP and licensed brands. I am thrilled to finally be able to work with such a great team of professionals and can’t wait to get stuck in and help achieve the company’s growth plans.” Mandy Victory, UK general sales manager at Siso Toys UK added: “Sabine is the perfect addition to the team. We have strong ambitions for the years ahead and her experience will be a great asset in achieving these. I am looking forward to us working together and taking Siso Toys to the next level in the UK.”

Toynamics appoints Sharon Gaskin as national accounts manager Toynamics UK has announced the appointment of Sharon Gaskin as national accounts manager. The company has seen strong growth so far this year and is looking to continue this positive pattern into the rest of 2020. Sharon has many years of experience in sales management to large key accounts. She will be managing all Toynamics Brands including Hape, Nanoblock and Nebulous Stars as well as new brands being brought on for distribution to all key accounts. She will further manage all Toynamics key customers, as well as look for new retailers and new business. David Allan, Toynamics MD said: “I am so pleased to welcome Sharon to our team, as her wealth of experience and knowledge will be a great asset in the growth of our business.” Sharon can be contacted at sharon.gaskin@toynamics.co.uk or on 07711 559250

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Marketing World Opinion

Media darling Playtime PR specialises in toys and games, and MD Lesley has over 20 years’ PR experience including in the entertainment and travel sectors. Here, she looks at how agencies can adapt to provide a service tailored to the current situation for their clients.

E

arlier this week, I saw a tweet poking fun at the way media advertising has so listlessly reacted to Covid-19. It noted that many companies have simply switched from saying, “Buy our product” to saying, “These are uncertain times. Buy our product.” In truth though, many have done well to change their messaging at all while Covid-19 continues to rob them of their usual resources. Similarly, some areas of the toy industry have been able to respond more swiftly than others. When I mentioned to Toy World’s publisher, John Baulch, that I felt PR agencies needed to quickly change attitudes and processes in order to better serve toy companies, he was interested to hear more. Specifically, with regards to media relations – which is just one of many comms strands we handle – I went on to suggest that Covid-19 might forever change the way some PR companies work, as journalists indefinitely adopt their current work patterns. Of course, that raises the question as to how such changes would alter the media landscape. Right now, however, there is no question about what companies need their PR people to do. Their goal has to be one thing: make journalists’ lives easier. I say that because many journalists are facing tremendous upheaval: from their friends and colleagues being sick or furloughed, to the suspension of magazine production, and – in some cases – switching medium entirely to become digital only. To an extent, the severity of the media’s main focus might’ve given toy and game companies the idea that all PR bets are off. This is simply not the case. In fact, some stories are easier to place than they were before, providing agencies understand which keys turn which locks, and, of course, providing they are able to respond at all. At Playtime PR, the team was well-positioned to avoid a great many of the logistical upheavals that have cut a swathe through other companies. As a virtual agency, our workforce was already set up with flexible hours, remote-collaboration and adaptable-communication tools. That means the changes we made at Playtime

were to focus, not logistics, so our work would remain ready, reliable and relevant. For the most part, they are simple changes that make journalists’ workloads lighter and their lives easier. For toy and game companies that do their own PR, here are some areas in which journalists might appreciate your help… Provide page-ready content Now more than ever, journalists are struggling for time. Whether they’re just keeping up with fastmoving news or covering staff absence, journalists currently have a higher turnaround of stories. This is especially true for digital media where many outlets are seeing massive spikes in website visits. One national newspaper reports a YOY traffic increase of 250%. This raises demand for fresh content tremendously. For this reason, Playtime PR is giving journalists completely ‘ready-to-go’ pieces; our contacts may not have time for followup questions or anything that needs heavy editing. Follow the news cycle It’s always vital to understand your target media’s editorial agenda. Right now, though, these change like quicksilver. Some targets are closely following the Covid-19 news itself, while others are looking at the many smaller stories springing up in its wake. By keeping your finger on the pulse, you can support contacts with more relevant angles, products and expertise. Find clear angles After running similar-looking headlines for several weeks, journalists are now increasingly after new angles. PRs can help prevent reader fatigue by thinking of ways to provide fresh perspectives via client brands. Of course, we must all be mindful: anything that looks or feels even vaguely like it’s cashing in on Covid-19 will at best annoy the journalist and at worst, will negatively impact the brand. Ask: is it business as usual? Some media outlets are noticeably less focused on Covid-19. As a result, they still need to fill their usual features. As one national journalist said: “People are still buying things; they still want information about other events in the

Toy World 16

Lesley Singleton MD of Playtime PR and co-founder of Board Game Club. Tel: 01908 032 700

world.” This is why we’re still executing some planned campaigns with very few changes, especially seasonal work. Those things are going ahead, albeit with a careful tone check to make sure nothing jars in the current climate. Watch comms trends The way people are consuming media has now become a challenge for some outlets. For instance, one national newspaper reports a 55% uplift in podcast listeners. Being aware of this lets us better tailor campaigns, suggesting guests and stories as journalists scramble to accommodate the trend. Of course, PR doesn't all boil down to media relations: it’s about developing stories that sit well with the audience as well as the brands, and finding the most appropriate channels to communicate them. That might be with trusted partners, ownbrand newsletters, social posts, etc. Establishing or growing an audience through own-channel platforms should also be given added focus now so that brands can communicate directly with customers as well as through third parties. Look at what’s working While the media industry is undoubtedly suffering, there is some good news; many outlets have seen huge rises in subscriptions. One kids’ magazine has seen annual subscriptions rise 350% YOY and is benefiting tremendously from this strange renaissance. Since Covid-19 hit, it’s been said endlessly: we’re living in unprecedented times. Nevertheless, many of our contacts still have pages and pages to fill. For that reason, PR agencies can better support journalists by adopting an approach that’s verymuch precedented: think less about what was planned – and more about what contacts need.


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Playtime PR wins Golden Bear and IMC business Golden Bear Toys is enlisting the support of specialist toy and game communications agency, Playtime PR, to support three major brand campaigns in 2020: Trapped games, feature plush Sassimals and the Smart Ball Speed Ball. Designed to complement the wider marketing plans for the brands, each tailor-made campaign explores new and interesting ways of reaching the distinct target consumers for each product across a variety of platforms. The agency will also run a robust media relations campaign to secure Christmas gift guide placements for the toys and games during Q4. “To describe 2020 as an interesting year so far is something of an understatement,” said Golden Bear’s managing director, Barry Hughes. “However, we know that toy companies really do need to adapt and evolve their activity to fit the ‘new normal’ for autumn/winter 2020 and beyond, if they are to see commercial success with new lines. We see this partnership with Playtime as a big step in the right direction, strengthening and complementing our wider marketing activities with our other partner agencies and bringing a new dimension to our communications with all key target audiences." Following a competitive pitch process, IMC Toys has also hired the agency on a retained basis to devise and implement creative launch campaigns for new extensions to the popular Cry Babies Magic Tears brand, as well as launches for new brands joining IMC’s growing portfolio. Playtime will also handle all UK corporate communications and provide a full press office facility. Sue Barratt, UK country manager, commented: “The UK is a hugely important market for IMC Toys, and we want to enhance our PR and marketing to both the toy trade and consumers. We presented a fairly complex brief which Playtime responded to with absolute confidence, ticking all our boxes and more, and it’s clear the agency is an expert in its field. We are now working together to evolve the original plans to fit the post-Covid world.”

Opinion

Let’s get digital This month, Jonathan looks at the 2020s: the decade when kids’ digital advertisers lead the way.

T

he 2010s marked the explosion of programmatic solutions in the advertising industry. Tech driven buying offered agencies and advertisers new ways to exploit data and drive more efficient ROI - in the short term at least, long term is another debate altogether. However, the biggest benefit to these solutions was, and still is (for the time being), the use of first and third party data. This is something that the kids’ advertising market has found harder to adopt because of both legal and moral restrictions in place when it comes to the collection of children’s data. In many senses, kids’ advertising has too often been looked down on as a less sophisticated digital marketplace as a result. However, this is all set to change in the 2020s. By now, you will be aware that Google has announced that it will not be supporting the use of thirdparty cookies on its Chrome browser from 2022. Given that an estimated 62% of all web traffic runs through Chrome, this will render advertising strategies currently employed by many non-kids’ advertisers impractical moving forward. They now face a period of potentially rebuilding solutions which comply with the technical and legal specifications put in place. The good news for our market is that advertisers are, or legally should, already be ahead of the curve. COPPA and GDPR-K restrictions mean that, as an industry, we have never had the luxury of using data to target kids. We have had to work harder to build targeting models based on anonymised research and contextual intelligence. Not only that, but we are proving to be flexible

and adaptable given the rate of change YouTube applies to its policies on “made for kids” content. We are also seeing the impact of the last round of changes implemented in January 2020, which were a reaction to the $170m fine handed out by the US Federal Trade Commission. It is making it much harder for channels to generate revenue from advertising, with many channels reporting losses in monthly income of up to 50%. The pandemic will only serve to make this drop in revenue more severe, which could lead to some channels ceasing to create content. However, with an estimated 36,000 kids-focused YouTube channels producing over 280b views per month globally, there is still plenty of scale in the market to allow advertisers to maintain low costs when using the platform. With such a buoyant supply of inventory on YouTube, we need to develop tools capable of making the best planning and buying decisions. And these tools will act as the blueprint from which non-kids advertisers learn when the “datapocalypse” occurs in 2022. At Generation Media, not only have our YouTube campaigns been guided by GDPR-K compliant insight since 2018, but as of this autumn/winter season,they will be powered by our new contextual DMP (Data Management Platform). Powered by Giraffe Insight’s Kids and the Screen research, and over 3b cookie-less and ID-less data points produced by over 2,000 campaigns to date, this methodology allows us to build a unique pool of campaign intelligence. Applying this will ensure that your campaign is maximising on your core KPIs for YouTube.

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

In addition to the DMP, the development in tech-based solutions on YouTube provided by the likes of Precise.TV and SuperAwesome means that YouTube is arguably now one of the safest places on the internet to advertise. Especially when you consider the rise of TikTok, undoubtedly one of the most relevant places to be right now for brands. Its mainstream growth has catapulted it right to the top of many marketer’s considerations, however there are pitfalls to be aware of. Following the $5.7m fine it was ordered to pay by the FTC in 2019 for collecting data on children, doubts still remain over its COPPA and GDPR-K credentials. This is potentially dangerous for advertisers who may be tempted to make use of the burgeoning self-serve ad platform. One wrong move on this could end up costing businesses millions, which is why we put extra care in place to ensure we only work with the platform in a kid-safe manner, using our inhouse contextual data, via trusted vendors such as SuperAwesome and Fanbytes, or with talent direct. When it comes to digital advertising, change has created huge opportunity for toy brands to be pioneers and take a step ahead of the wider ad market, rather than being one step behind.


Place mini characters on the PlayZone™ location to hear phrases, music and sound effects

F O R M O R E D E TA I L S C O N TA C T 0 1 2 3 5 5 5 5 5 4 5 O R E M A I L T R A D E _ S A L E S @ V T E C H . C O M


Licensing World New MD at Creative Product Solutions & Lisle Licensing Francesca Lisle has been promoted to the position of managing director of Creative Product Solutions Ltd and its Lisle Licensing Division. Announcing the promotion, current MD Colin Lisle said: “Francesca has, for all intents and purposes, been managing the business on a day to day basis for about the last 18 months. Not only is this a well-deserved promotion, it also gives a clear direction for our business, its stakeholders, employees and partners going forward. I will continue to stay active in the business and will support Francesca, taking on the role of chairman. We very much look forward to growing the business together, along with all of our partners.”

UK launch announced for Back to the Future: Dice Through Time Ravensburger has confirmed a June launch in the UK for Back to the Future: Dice Through Time. In the co-operative dice game, Biff has stolen the DeLorean and taken a joyride through time, disrupting events, and scattering items through space and time. Players are challenged to work together to help Doc and Marty repair the spacetime continuum by resolving events and returning items to their rightful place in time. “The Back to the Future trilogy has a special place in many movie fans’ hearts," said Benn Bramwell, games product manager, Ravensburger UK. "The game’s designers have captured the personality of the films in a truly unique way, creating a game that we believe will appeal to both casual games fans and more experienced players alike. We’re delighted to be launching during the 35th anniversary year of the franchise.” Back to the Future: Dice Through Time was designed by Chris Leder, Kevin Rodgers and Ken Franklin and is suitable for 2-4 players aged 10 years and up.

Licensing Expo Las Vegas postponed till 2021, its 40th anniversary year

The Lego Group unveils new Harry Potter Wizarding World sets

Due to the everevolving nature of the Covid-19 situation, and after numerous conversations with exhibitors, attendees and partners, Informa Markets’ Global Licensing Group has announced that Licensing Expo - which had been rescheduled to take place in August in Las Vegas - will not take place this year. The 40th edition of the world’s largest licensing trade show will be celebrated next year from 25th-27th May, 2021, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Nonetheless, the need to connect with partners, colleagues and the community is greater than ever, so, in partnership with Licensing International, the GLG will deliver a series of multi-platform events through the remainder of 2020. The first such event is Licensing Week – five days of virtual keynotes, educational seminars, matchmaking, networking and a digital exhibition - taking place 15th-19th June. The online-only event has drawn much interest from the worldwide licensing community, with sponsorship opportunities nearly sold out. Registration to attend for free is open now. Brand Licensing Europe is set to take place 6th -8th October at London’s Excel, and organisers are currently mapping multiple scenarios to ensure the event provides exhibitors and visitors with the best possible experience and return on investment. For more information, visit www.brandlicensing.eu. In November, Licensing Leadership Summit, the Global Licensing Group’s executive level conference and networking event, will return to New York’s Hilton Midtown from 5th-6th November. To learn more, visit www.licensingleadershipsummit.com. For more information about Licensing Expo, visit www.licensingexpo.com.

The Lego Group and Warner Bros. Consumer Products have revealed a new range of play sets for fans of Harry Potter, which will help bring the Wizarding World to life. Featuring well-known characters, creatures and locations, the new Lego sets will provide opportunities for endless fun as fans help Harry, Ron, Hermione and their friends re-enact iconic moments from the films. The full list of new additions to the Wizarding World range is as follows: • Lego Harry Potter Hogwarts Room of Requirement • Lego Harry Potter Hogwarts Astronomy Tower • Lego Harry Potter Forbidden Forest: Umbridge’s Encounter • Lego Harry Potter 4 Privet Drive • Lego Harry Potter Hedwig • Lego Harry Potter Attack on The Burrow Spanning adventures from across the eight Harry Potter films, the new sets will go on sale from 1st June.

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FOR LICENSING OPPORTUNITIES CONTACT: EUROPE, MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA: Jason Rice Email: jason.rice@sega.co.uk Tel: +44 (0) 208 996 4568 www.sonicthehedgehog.com/uk

@Sonic

US, CANADA & LATIN AMERICA: Alex Gomez Email: alex.gomez@segaamerica.com Tel: +1 (747) 400 2410, ext.203 @sonic_hedgehog

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Licensing World newsanalysis

Eaglemoss – committing to knitting With strong ongoing sales of Harry Potter and Wizarding World products, Toy World spoke to Eaglemoss Hero Collector’s head of sales, Glynn Davies, and head of product development, Stella Bradley, to find out how the company’s latest Harry Potter product line came about, and to get an insight into the team’s current sales strategy. Can you tell us more about your plans for the Harry Potter and Wizarding World brands? Glynn – We started working on the brand a few years ago with the aim to create a collectible range of 14+ targeted figurines. At last count, we have over 40 variations ranging from Harry and Hagrid through to Luna and Snape. We’ve also expanded into the Fantastic Beasts franchise, which includes a 1:2 scale Niffler which was very well received by fans. Having run a test launch last year to gauge our best-sellers, we’ve started to roll out the line to retail. We showcased the line at this year’s Spring Fair, before the lockdowns started, with fantastic results. Stella – At the show we also unveiled our exciting new line of Harry Potter creative knitting kits, which will be available for fans from autumn.

That’s an interesting diversification from your usual figurine business. How did that come about? Stella – Based on discussions with Warner Bros. and our own research, we knew there was a strong desire from fans to totally immerse themselves in the brand, whether that be dressing up, owning a wand, visiting themed attractions or even playing Quidditch. Building on this concept, we wanted to give consumers another opportunity to invest themselves and get involved. Warner Bros. had shared some great insights into how large the female consumer base was, and how it particularly loved authenticity and the quintessentially British Harry Potter related merchandise for the home. That got me thinking and, as Eaglemoss has a heritage of creating high-performing craft products, we were well-placed to work on a creative knit kit range.

So, what makes the line authentic and “quintessentially British”? Stella – We’ve designed it so that customers can create their own house scarfs for Hogwarts. Although each scarf comes with a house badge, in the films the scarves don’t have badges, so knitters can leave the badges off their finished version for a more authentic experience. We have all four houses available to cater to budding Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws, as well as Gryffindors and Slytherins. We’ve also created a Hogwarts Express Draught Excluder and a Weasley-ish Teapot and Egg Cosies set to capture that quintessentially British feel. The range is completed with the four different house versions of a Reversible Backpack and a House Slouch Socks and Mittens set. Glynn – We’re really excited by the interest shown from retailers across the UK and Europe after seeing the products and meeting at Birmingham Spring Fair and New York Toy Fair. With the growing interest in gifting (and self-gifting) we are looking forward to great sales in the key fourth quarter and well into next year. We are also releasing a special Dobby figurine that will surely be a must for all Harry Potter fans. The Harry Potter Knitting Kits will be available to stock from September 2020. Any reader interested in becoming a stockist, or who wants to find out more, is invited to contact GlynnDavies@Eaglemoss.co.uk.

Obituary - Anne Miles The sad passing of Anne Miles has been announced. Anne was born in Morecambe, Lancashire, in 1939, and started her career at the Morecambe Visitor before going to work as head of PR for Mecca on The Miss World Championships. It was here, in 1972, that Anne met Ian - who was arranging a promotion for Miss World - and together they went on to become a tour de force in the entertainment industry. After successfully running a company selling excess stock for music labels such as EMI and Decca, Anne and Ian set up their own company called Multiple Sounds Distribution. They subsequently started one of Britain’s most successful music labels, Warwick Records, in the early 70s. In 1989 Anne and Ian changed direction to children's home entertainment, founding Abbey Home Entertainment (AHE). Abbey became producers of top-quality children’s programmes with Tempo Video and later moved into both production and distribution with Abbey Home Media. Abbey was the first company to take children’s classic books from authors such as Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and Michael Bond and produce them on video. Abbey was also the first to sell book and cassette gift packs for children. It had huge success with the Ninja Turtles, My Little Pony, Transformers, Paddington Bear, Peter Rabbit and many more. Anne and Ian have also supported many charitable initiatives including BBC Children in Need, Dogs Trust, Cancer Research and many more. Anne leaves behind her daughter Francesca, son in law Patrick and grandchildren Sam and Livvie, along with her extended work family at Abbey, who will all miss her dearly. A thanksgiving memorial service will be planned when time allows in London.

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NPD Insight Changing consumer habits during Covid-19 lockdown Moneeba reveals the latest toy retail trends and how respondents to the NPD’s Consumer Panel are feeling about toy purchasing at the current time.

T

he coronavirus and resultant lockdown will continue to purchase toys before the end of have had a huge impact on daily life in lockdown. 56% of those who plan to buy toys will be the UK over the last quarter, impacting purchasing with pure players – retailers with no brick health, the economy and shopping and mortar stores - and nearly a third will purchase habits. It has also had a big impact on UK toys via grocers. With brick and mortar stores closing, toy sales. Unlike our European neighbours (with the toy specialist websites and toy manufacturer’s exception of Germany), the UK toy market is bucking websites account for 46% of respondent’s choice of the pandemic lockdown trend and the market has where to purchase. grown +3 % since January (YTD Wk18 in value). This So, what are consumers buying? The fastest isn’t the case across Europe, where toy value sales as growing supercategories YTD have been Games a whole are down -5% YTD Wk18. Southern Europe & Puzzles, up +43% and Outdoor Sports, up +31%. has seen the biggest decline, with France (-13%), Italy Games & Puzzles has been a key category in driving (-22%) and Spain (-22%) all heavily down. Germany, the toy market growth. Our survey found that almost try to keep children occupied, with Craft Kits up +6% like the UK, is showing growth of +4% YTD. At the half of consumers have increased the amount of time and Reusable Compounds +21%. Hasbro’s Playdoh is time of writing this article, it has been eight weeks spent playing with games/toys with family or alone. the No.1 property, growing since the school closures +29% YTD, but is seeing and it is important to note strong competition from that whilst consumers Spin Master’s Kinetic +79% are buying less toys, with and Epoch’s Aquabeads volume sales down -16%, UK Toy market is growing in value both vs. last year and previous week for +45% YOY. Crayola and nd they are spending more w/e 2 May, driven by Specialist & Mixed online sales Tomy’s Aquadoodle with value up +15% YOY. have also enjoyed strong What is being purchased is Sales % Change versus year ago growth. Consumers are a different mix of categories 100% also purchasing more with higher prices. The 80% construction items during 60% growth in the UK is due 40% Specialists & Mixed the lockdown, with Total Sales Trend Week 18: to six supercategories 20% Value +3% Building Sets accounting Total Market including Infant/Toddler & 0% Units +3% for 14% of the total market Pre-school (+10%) and Dolls -20% Avg. Price +37% Grocery - the No.1 item in Standard -40% (+17%), with continued -60% Building Sets being Lego’s double-digit growth from w/e 4-Jan 18-Jan 1-Feb 15-Feb 29-Feb 14-Mar 28-Mar 11-Apr 25-Apr 9-May 22-May Half-term Minifigures DC Comics Arts & Crafts +60%, Games First U.K. case School closures 3/23 (31-Jan) Super Heroes. & Puzzles +56%, Outdoor Lock-down & non-essential stores closed 3/24

Moneeba Baloch

Account Manager, UK Toys, Euro Toys

UK – weekly £ sales trend

+13% and Building Sets +39% YTD. Each of these categories has a high time investment and play value for the items within them.

At the time of writing, it has just been announced that lockdown rules have been eased slightly and there is a possibility of reopening stores early in June. Post-lockdown life is something that consumers are starting to think about. Of the people we surveyed, nearly a quarter said that going on holiday would be the first thing they would like to do with their children, while a further 10% said they would like to take their children to theme parks. When it comes to toy consumers specifically, over a quarter are looking for new products which create excitement postlockdown. This is second only to consumers who are looking for promotions and special offers when purchasing toys. Whatever the outcome in terms of how long we stay in lockdown, the toy market is growing and keeping children entertained and engaged during this crazy time.

Source: The NPD Group | Retail Tracking Service FIRST ALERT | U.K. 2020 vs 2019

DocumentThe classification: Client/Third Party Confidential NPD Group, Inc. | Proprietary and confidential

In 2019, NPD’s Consumer Panel showed that, 38% of all toy sales were online. In the past few weeks, this proportion has inevitably been far higher, with the Specialist & Mixed channel evolving into mostly online sales, as the majority of brick and mortar stores in this channel are closed. Since lockdown, this channel has accounted for 75% of total toy sales and has grown by +11% YTD. In a recent study conducted by The NPD Group, results showed that 43% of UK consumers have either shopped for toys online more frequently, or at least the same, as pre-lockdown. We also found that over half of the consumers who planned to purchase toys or games at this time

1

Items such as Monopoly Classic (up +94%), Dobble (up +30%) and Karty Uno (up +59%) have been the key winners during the lockdown. Overall, Games & Puzzles represent 13% of the total market value. As we head into the summer months, it is no surprise that the Outdoor & Sports Toys supercategory has been driving the value of the total market. As a result, we are seeing mid-sized outdoor manufacturers climbing the ranks with Pools up triple figures, Water Blasters +65% and Playground Equipment +42%. With more time spent at home by families and adults, other supercategories which have shown growth include Arts & Crafts and Building Sets. Arts & Crafts has enjoyed growth of +15%% YTD as parents

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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.

Item Progression:

Item Description

March 2020

April 2020

8ft Fast Set Pool And Cover

1103

2

As we head into great weather during the lockdown, the Outdoor & Sports Toys category has been performing exceptionally well. In particular, swimming pools are up triple figures YTD. The Bestway 8ft Fast Set Pool and Cover has climbed the ranks from No.1103 last month to No.2 for April 2020. This item alone has generated £462k for the month of April, up from £13k in March. With the uncertainty of whether families will be able to go on holiday this year, we can expect to see outdoor toys continue to grow, especially if good weather continues.

Top gaining categories pre & post lockdown

Top gaining categories pre & post lockdown

Top 10 Gaining After

Top 10 Gaining Before Fas hion Dolls Skate/Skateboards/… Non-Strat Trade… Large Dolls & Acc

£4.1 £2.2 £2.2 £2.0

Playground Equipment Family Board/Action Games

£8.2 £3.0

Pools

£2.7

Standard Building Sets

£2.7

Card Games Adult Puzzles £1.6 £2.6 The biggest subclass to gain value post-lockdown has been Playground Adult Puzzles Sport Activities & Games £1.0 £2.3 Equipment followed by Family Board/Action Games. Fashion Dolls which Standard Building… Fas hion Dolls £0.9 £1.6 was the No.1 gaining subclass pre-lockdown drops down to a No.7 rank, due to the success of not only the Outdoor and Games categories but Strategic Trade Card… Craft Kits £0.9 £1.3 also Standard Building Sets. Playground Equipment saw an increase to its Family Strategy… Children's Games £0.9 £1.3 average price point post-lockdown by +25% to £41, driving the overall value Battling Toys &… Family Strategy Games £0.9 £1.2 gain of the subclass to £8.2m. YTD March14th 5 weeks to Apr 18th Source: The NPD Group | Retail Tracking Service | UK | YTD Wk16 Hasbro claims the top four items in the Family Board/Action Games DocumentThe classification: Client/Third Party Confidential NPD Group, Inc. | Proprietary and confidential 2 post-lockdown with Classic Monopoly, Cluedo, Jenga and Games of Life, all of which are growing triple digits YOY. The hot weather has driven Pools growth which ranks as the third biggest subclass to gain value post-lockdown. Adult Puzzles has also proved popular post-lockdown, gaining £2.6m. Vivid’s The Wubble Bubble Ball is the No.1 item in the Sports Activities & Games subclass and accounts for 4% of subclass sales, followed closely by Mookie’s Swingball All Surface as the No.2 item. As consumers have been restricted in how much they can go outside, subclasses such as Skates/Skateboards & Scooters have dropped out of the top 10. With Covid-19 impacting sporting events, subclasses such as Non-Strategic Trading cards has suffered and as a result has fallen out of the top 10 gaining subclasses


Talking Shop

Keep smiling through Lisa Currie caught up with a selection of independent retailers to hear about their experiences during the UK lockdown, and how they plan to re-open their retail premises safely as restrictions are lifted. Pauline Connelly - Connelly’s Toyshop, Barnard Castle We already had social distancing measures in place before the lockdown was announced and the shop closed. Since then we have been using our Facebook page and taking calls for local contactfree deliveries and safe collection. We tried creating a website years ago and found it very difficult to manage, but the Facebook page we have been running for the last eight years works well for us. I primarily use it to post regular updates and new stock. I posted a video on the very first morning of lockdown to inform our customers that we had closed the shop but were still open for business, and I immediately started getting phone calls, which was great. I have been able to place a few orders with suppliers, so my stock volume remains steady. I go to the shop for two or three hours each morning to take calls and sort out any deliveries. Some days are busier than others, but we continue to see strong demand for paddling pools and Orchard Toys sets such as Timetable Heroes. Creative products, especially colouring books, plus games like Scrabble, Top Trumps, Uno and Uno Flip have been selling well. Pocket money items were particularly sought after around Easter time; I had customers request I make up goodie bags for £5 or £10, and we put individual notes in the gift parcels. To keep spirits up I have been running competitions with prizes to be won and have been drawing a hopscotch outside the shop every morning, which has been a hit with both adults and children passing by. It’s fantastic how many people get joy from this, as well as from our toy deliveries. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a child smile – it raises spirits and its why I do things like this. Toys and games are essential, especially during a time like this. When we do eventually re-open, I am sure there will have to be careful measures in place, like one person in the shop at a time, but I’m not sure when that will be. It has been very hard not being able to see loved ones or have the shop open, but I would rather stay closed if there is any risk - we must be sensible moving forward. When we can re-open, it is quite easy for us to control who comes in and out as this is not a massive town.

Ian Melville Bright Star Toys, Linlithgow

Nigel Kemp - Halesworth Toy Shop, Suffolk I closed the shop at the end of business on Saturday 21st March and furloughed all my staff the following week. I do not trade online and haven’t got a website and decided against deliveries early on as I felt it would go against the spirit of ‘essential travel’. I applied and received the Covid-19 Business Support Grant which was paid swiftly from the local council and that has enabled me to cover this month’s outgoings. The cancellation of this year’s business rates has been a big help too. Effectively, I’m in a neutral position – no income, but expenses covered (for now). Since then, signage, plastic counter screens and floor markers have been ordered for when we re-open. The exact way I’m going to operate in the shop is subject to change but the number of customers allowed in at any one time will be limited and I will stipulate that only a single adult or adult with one child will be allowed in, with no unaccompanied children. I may be able to work out a one-way system but as the shop is not very large, and the aisles are narrow, there may have to be a waiting area for customers. I will also consider changing my opening hours, extending them if necessary, so that customer numbers can be spread over a longer time period to lessen any potential contact.

We only opened our doors in Linlithgow last October and we were looking forward to our first Easter and summer trading in the town. Being a bit of a ‘one man band’ and rather than furlough myself, I made the decision early on to try and keep going for as long as possible by selling on eBay and offering a weekly free doorstep delivery service around Linlithgow. This has worked really well; our customers have embraced the service so much so that I will be increasing the service to two or three days a week going forward. I have also been trying to keep connected with our customers on social media, sharing posts from suppliers such as Orchard Toys, who have supplied some fantastic worksheets, and posting the free downloadable games from Big Potato. We didn’t have a website so building one has been a priority for us. This will allow our local customers to see what we have to offer to help with our remote selling service. Regarding the recently proposed guidelines for reopening when the lockdown eases, they are all generally in line with our thinking anyway. Although small, our shop layout should allow us to manage the social distancing aspects of the guidelines without too much disruption. Initially we think a fair percentage of customers will still be wary of leaving their homes too often or might avoid browsing in shops, so we intend to set out slightly reduced opening hours that will allow us to continue to offer free home delivery to those who want it. With the new website, we can now also offer a click and collect option as an alternative to coming in the shop. One thing that has become clear over the last several weeks is that as a business we need to adapt, embrace change and be ready for anything the future throws at us.

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Talking Shop Dave Tree - All the Cool Stuff, Fordingbridge The last few months have been a challenge, as it has been for everyone. After Christmas, January and February are always very slow - as an independent shop in a small town we are used to the quiet periods and scaling back. So that side of things isn’t as much of shock to the system as it might be for others. However, just as we were hoping to emerge from that hibernation stage and start picking up again, the pandemic came along. We’ve adapted to offer local delivery, even though we haven’t done much business online previously. This was well received to begin with, though people’s discretionary spending has got noticeably less and less the longer we have been on lockdown. It was a setback to miss out on Easter this year, which is our third biggest retail period. August is the busiest, followed by December and Easter. As a tourist area, we see lots of sales over the holidays. We also had to cancel four of our events, which meant a further loss of turnover and revenue. I’m not in a position to temporarily shut up shop since I am classed as self-employed and have the shop’s overheads to cover. We continue to adapt, and I have been very fortunate that the green grocers opposite has offered to give a us a small concession inside their shop, which is classed as essential and remains open. It’s not enough to live off by itself, but it means I don’t completely lose out to supermarkets and online alternatives. Between that and doing local deliveries, plus help from other businesses, we are keeping afloat. I’m very lucky to be part of a small town where businesses look out for each other. Prior to this happening, business was teetering due to the election and Brexit, but nothing too drastic happened. Without question, the pandemic and lockdown has smashed the system. For independents it is a case of configuring a new business plan, staying relevant and trying to remain upbeat and optimistic. But it is tricky, and I’m sure we will see a ripple effect for the next few months. To keep spirits up, I have been organising a daily Lego challenge on our Facebook page, which has received very positive feedback. On Sunday 3rd May we also held a nine-anda-half-hour Star Wars livestream event, comprising interviews, panels, two quizzes and more. We had to break into three streams on Facebook to run this, but the first one had over 7000 people watching which was fantastic. Myself and my friend produced it remotely and viewers were very impressed with the quality. Moving forward, I have two ideas for reopening. Most likely, I will be limiting the number of people in the shop at one time. Most shops in the area that are still open have done this, with a queuing system outside. Local people are conditioned to such precautions now, so it shouldn’t be difficult for them to adapt. Another option is to set up a counter service, meaning customers wouldn’t be able to handle the goods pre-purchase, as an additional safety measure. Obviously, without customers being able to browse, I will need to rely on my sales and customer service expertise. I don’t see new procedures as any real problem. Before the lockdown, we were sanitising door handles and being extra cautious, so this is just a step up from that. It’s tough currently but we will open eventually, and things will pick up again.

Richard Harding - Puffs Toy Shop, Wymondham I don’t have a website, but I do have a Facebook page which is very active at the moment. I post on there almost every day with pictures of stock and suggestions of fun games and creative activities for kids to do whilst in lockdown. I am also offering free local delivery which has been going well so far. Of course, it is nowhere near the turnover when the shop is open, but it is certainly keeping me ticking over. Thankfully, the council was quick to agree the small business grant, which has been very helpful. The biggest challenge has been restocking. I am running out of many products, and I can’t always be sure when I will be able to get those items back in, especially things like jigsaws, arts & crafts and boardgames. It’s not necessarily that the suppliers aren’t open, it’s that they themselves are struggling to get hold of the items that are particularly in demand. Though I do miss having customers coming into the store, I am enjoying going out into the local area and making deliveries. I am still able to safely catch up with a lot of my regular customers that have been coming into the shop for years, which offers a break to the normal routine. When I can re-open, I will certainly be limiting the number of customers in the shop at one time and encouraging them to abide by the two-metre rule. As I have quite small premises, I don’t think it will be too difficult to do. I plan to put a big poster on the door highlighting the new restrictions and I am only three or four strides away from the front door, which means it will be easy for me to speak to customers as they are approaching and monitor the situation. In terms of a small shop like mine, which is a one-man operation with occasional help, I don’t think it will be a problem. The government is not just going to let us open with no social distancing measures in place; we must be sensible going forward. No one can say for certain how long measures like this will be in place. However, being open in any sort of circumstances is better than being closed.

Mark Davenport - Kaleidoscope Toys, Tavistock We’re currently offering local delivery and collection; customers can call to place orders and pay over the phone, and we will then deliver. They can also collect orders; to adhere to social distancing measures, I ask that customers park outside the shop and open their car boot so I can safely place any items in there without physical contact. For customers further afield, we have a website that uses DPD, which delivers all over the UK. They pick up deliveries from us in the safest way possible. Valerie puts posts on our social media pages too, to keep customers informed of what we have in stock. Jigsaw puzzles have been huge sellers since lockdown started, particularly puzzles from Ravensburger, however we have encountered some difficulties re-stocking because of availability. We’re also doing well with balloon sales. Valerie has undertaken training with Qualatex and is one of the very few qualified balloon artists in Devon; this has gives us something different to offer and has proved really popular. We are still down massively on takings, but areas like this are producing some turnover - the important thing right now is that we can keep paying the bills and stay afloat. Even when we come out of lockdown, I’m not entirely sure how things are going to work. In all honestly, I think adhering to guidelines within stores and keeping up with social distancing measures is going to be tough. It will be difficult for kids who will of course want to touch all the toys – social distancing will be hard for them. I will most certainly have to implement a queuing system outside, and a one-way system inside the shop that leads customers to the till and out of the shop safely. We can’t necessarily put measures in place that big supermarkets can. They have the right flooring to be able to put signs on the ground and enough staff to monitor the situation. For smaller independents, that won’t be as easy. We have a lot of elderly, regular customers who appreciate having a physical toy shop because they don’t want to bother with online sites. But they are understandably going be reluctant to come out even when some measures are lifted. I don’t think we should push things too quickly as it could all spiral out of control again and cause even more damage to the economy. It is difficult to know what will happen moving forward. In this trade, we are generally six months ahead of ourselves on ordering, so I’ve already had all my spring/summer orders arrive, but I can’t open the door and sell. It’s a difficult time for everyone and we just have to adapt as best we can.

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indie viewpoint Jack Strachan - William Strachan, Inverurie Although the backbone of our business is our news department, which is classed as essential under government guidelines, we also have a large toy department for which we are offering either local delivery or collection from the shop. Customers can simply call us, pay over the phone and we can deliver or hand over the order outside the front of our shop to avoid any face-to-face contact. We have a Facebook page, where we post details of stock as soon as it arrives so customers can see what’s available. The pandemic has shown us the strongest sellers in our range and as a consequence we have streamlined our business, the core of which is now puzzles from Ravensburger, Gibsons and Jumbo, as well as Lego and a selection of arts & craft items. The biggest challenge has been keeping up with demand. Although we stock a wide range, we are trying our best to make sure the most popular items are available. We can easily see what is in demand – for example, we may only have a couple of a specific item, which 20 or so people enquire about as soon as we post it online, which enables us to adjust our ordering accordingly. Keeping up with demand and fulfilling orders has been vital throughout this time, and our customers have been so supportive. To keep interests going for our business, every Thursday myself and my fiancé run a Facebook live quarantine quiz, focusing on toys and games. We have had about 400-500 people taking part; as most of these are local people, this is fantastic way of reaching customers in the town. We notice a huge difference in the amount of toy orders being placed on a Friday after we have run the quiz, which shows it has had an impact on the business - as well as being entertaining for local people. When we can reopen, we should have no issues enforcing social distancing guidelines because the shop is very open plan. We’ve got multiple till points and different departments, so customers tend to be quite spread out anyway. We have already ordered floor stickers, window stickers and screens. We wanted to be prepared, since the date for reopening remains uncertain. The store is situated in the centre of Inverurie on the High Street, so there are wide pavements if we need to create a queuing system, plus we have the staff and management in place to monitor that. Hopefully we won’t have to use these measures for too long, but thankfully we are in a position to do so if we need to.

Steve Kerrison - Kerrison Toys, Norwich Since lockdown began, we have kept business going and have been able to provide service to our customers throughout. They are able to order online or over the phone for delivery and click and collect, or local delivery that very often happens that same day. To keep customers informed and make sure our voice is still heard whilst the shop remains temporarily closed, we have been very active on our social media pages and we also hope that word of mouth has helped gain more business. Our social media mascot Construction Colin has been posting on our Instagram and Facebook throughout lockdown, telling customers about new items, restocks and more. Puzzles have seen an amazing upsurge along with craft and activities. With the consistently good weather during lockdown, outdoor games and pools have also sold very well. In terms of new guidelines upon reopening, both stores were marked out before the lockdown and we have made further provisions to help maintain social distancing. This has resulted in moving some of the shop around, but hopefully customers and staff will feel more comfortable. At the end of the day, we have to do what we can to make sure we can open as safely as possible once we are allowed to. What we hope is that customers remember those that have "gone the extra mile" through this difficult time and that they continue to support us once the high street reopens, in whatever guise that will be.

Mark Buschhaus and Stephen Barnes Toy Barnhaus

Just the two of us…

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s we write this, just after the bank holiday weekend, we had got all excited waiting for the big announcement from Boris, hoping for a bit of clarity. I am sure we are not alone in thinking we didn’t get much of that, although further details have started to come out. By the time you read this, the potential opening of non-essential shops may already have happened, although we are not quite what the situation will be in shopping malls, where most of our shops are based. Currently, we have 80 of our staff on furlough, and we made the decision to top up their salaries to full pay for as long as the business can sustain it. Ironically, the only two who are not furloughed are both of us. Our complete online operation has been run very safely from the back of our Crawley store with just the two of us. This is now our seventh week trading online, and the knowledge we have had to pick up quickly in this short space of time, from listing, to packing, to collection can only be seen as a positive during what has been a very challenging situation. It’s a huge plus to have benefited from this intensive learning experience, while at the same time protecting our staff and the future of our business. We started processing 20 parcels a day and are now handling over 200. After the recent bank holiday weekend, it took four Royal Mail vans to collect all 840 parcels! Other things we are learning very quickly are that you have to be selective in what you sell online, and there are certain categories that are absolutely massive. At the moment, we have not tried to put our entire range online but have focused on a few key areas. Our best sellers have included Ravensburger puzzles and games, Lego, ride-ons and scooters, and paddling pools. Even in these uncertain times, if you want to take advantage of opportunities, you have to be bold - as we are learning. If you can secure supply of a hot line, you can sell it in significant quantities. Although we are delighted with our online business, we are missing the buzz of talking with our staff and customers daily and running a shop. Our online communication with customers is all done via email – and you certainly do get some very unusual messages! It can be rather lonely packing up parcels on your own, in a stockroom with no natural light, but in these circumstances, you do whatever you have to do to earn a buck. In preparation for whenever we do re-open, we have moved ahead with getting all our stores ready. This week, we have installed plastic screens at our till points, put marking tape on the floors and have had banners made to advise customers how to shop in our stores. We realised that all these items are going to be in high demand, so we started early to ensure we’d have everything ready, and also to reassure staff that we are doing everything we can to keep them safe at Toy Barnhaus when they return to work. It may seem odd to hear, but we only want to open when it is completely safe to do so, and if that’s later rather than sooner, then we are relaxed about it. Our position has been helped by the extension of the government’s furlough scheme, which gives us more certainty on how to pay our staff until we can open the stores once again. We are under no illusions that when we do reopen, the level of business is likely to be nothing like what we have been used to, so initially at least, we will have reduced opening hours and will only be bringing back the minimum staff to help run the store; this will help us all to maintain proper social distancing as well. This is a time where sharing best practices and good ideas is beneficial to us all, supporting both suppliers and retailers. We are all in this together and we can all bounce back stronger. Stay safe everyone – all the best from Mark & Stephen.

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Retail Profile

Light at the end of the tunnel? John Baulch spoke to Gary Grant, founder and chairman of The Entertainer about what Gary describes as his “biggest challenge ever” and how he and his team have been forced to rethink the company’s entire business model as we move into the next phase of retail during the Covid-19 pandemic.

leaving retailers faced with a prolonged period of closure. For a retailer like The Entertainer, it was a daunting prospect, as Gary explained: “I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster. It’s a frightening position to be in for a retailer, facing an undefined period of closure. The Entertainer is a bricks and mortar retailer which sells online: the internet supports our shops and vice versa - each channel generates sales for the other. But as a retailer which generates most of its turnover in-store and relies on delivering an experience to customers, when you close that side of the business, you’re looking at a very deep hole with no light at the end of the tunnel.” Faced with the biggest challenge The Entertainer had ever been presented with, this was the time to be brave and take bold decisions: “The team I have around me has been quite remarkable,” admitted Gary, “ led by my son Duncan and our CEO Mark Campbell, we have completely realigned the business. It has been amazing to see Duncan’s approach to a problem - how he put new processes in place and pulled everything together in such a short space of time. We came up with a new plan which meant completely re-budgeting and reviewing all inflowing stock: did we need what we had on order? What would we do about FOB commitments? In rebuilding our business model, we had to make some difficult decisions; we went through all of our business expenses quite ruthlessly and removed any which weren’t deemed essential.”

Gary Grant

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was originally due to interview Gary Grant on 18th March, ahead of the grand opening of the newly refurbished Birmingham Bull Ring store on 1st April. The original plan was for Gary to outline the new features of the store, which was to include the first ELC ‘store within a store’ concept, for an article which was scheduled to appear in the April issue of Toy World. In the light of the rapidly escalating pandemic situation, plans changed; by the time Gary called at 8.00 pm that evening, he suggested that now wasn’t the right time to be running an article extolling the virtues of a new store layout, and I agreed

with him completely. So we just chatted for 45 minutes – all completely off the record - about the impending crisis: what we thought might happen, how it would affect not only our respective businesses, but the whole of the UK, and how we might navigate the choppy waters which lay ahead. By the time I caught up with Gary to conduct this official on the record interview six weeks later, the whole world had changed. Much of what we had discussed during that initial conversation had come to pass: as we both thought, non-food stores had been instructed to close by the government,

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This reappraisal of everything the chain had been doing up to that point saw The Entertainer do something it had never previously done in its history: it launched a BOGOF sale in stores. The sale started on 17th March, at which point no-one knew for certain how much longer stores would be able to remain open. In the end, the sale ran for six days before lockdown officially started: “It was purely a cash-raising exercise” admits Gary, “to tide us over the undefined period of closure. We lost money that week, but the one thing I remember from the financial crisis of 2008 is that ‘cash is king’. When you have cash, you can make your own decisions. When you haven’t, you need to go begging. In the end, we raised a substantial sum of money which enabled us to pay our staff in full for the whole of April and May.” Thankfully, additional help was at hand, with the government stepping in to support businesses through a range of initiatives, which Gary admits were


hugely welcome: “We took advantage of everything – if there was an olive branch, we grabbed it. We furloughed 100% of our store staff, 95% of our area teams and 75% of head office staff, although we kept the entire logistics team working. We took full advantage of the 12-month rate holiday on stores, as well as all the crown debt deferrals on VAT, PAYE, Import Duty and Corporation Tax. We haven’t been given rent holidays by our landlords – yet! However, we are in discussion with each one about what is reasonable to pay while stores are closed and what is reasonable to pay when they re-open – because what does re-opening look like? What will normal look like after this? It will be a new normal, and all we know for certain is that it won’t be as good as the old normal.” So, will landlords ‘play ball’? Who knows, given that it has been widely reported that many shopping centre owners are at risk of failing themselves, with many tenants withholding rent. Ultimately, it does seem that the key to the conundrum lies in working together: as Gary points out, “It’s in the best interest of us as a nation to keep businesses afloat. We are all connected: failures will have a ripple effect and cause other failures. Every stakeholder needs to play a part in our survival – this can’t just be me; suppliers and landlords have to play their part too. And the government needs to recognise that the business rates model is broken. We can no longer afford the level of business rates we are being asked for – life is very different now, if they bring it back in its current format next April, all the effort they have made keeping businesses afloat this year will go down the drain. The business rates scheme as we know it is history.” Those discussions will no doubt be ongoing (and lively), but for now, many retailers are relying on online sales to keep a revenue stream flowing. But what are the realities of replacing bricks and mortar sales with online transactions? Gary’s response will no doubt resonate with many other retailers in a similar position: “Our online turnover has been much higher than we had anticipated – it normally represents around 10% of our sales at this time of

year, but it has grown almost five-fold. That said, we still haven’t in any way maximised our potential – we just don’t have the warehouse capability, especially with the modifications we have had to make to ensure our workers’ safety.” Those measures include implementing strict social distancing throughout the entire warehouse, introducing a one-way system, closing down every other packing bench and staggering breaks. Even with the introduction of 24 hour working – akin to Christmas shifts – there are limits as to the volume of product which can be processed. And the challenges don’t stop in the warehouse: carriers are also working at, and beyond, volumes associated with Black Friday and Christmas. However, if anything goes wrong, the buck stops with the retailer, as Gary sanguinely admits: “From ordering to delivery, there are numerous stages to the online buying process and they all have to flow. If any of them break, the consumer thinks that the retailer is at fault. We’ve done our very best under the circumstances, but it hasn’t always been the seamless experience we would have liked our new customers to have. There has also been quite a lot of extra cost just to maintain the turnover we are doing.” So, what has been selling during lockdown? Gary detailed some of the notable successes: “We’ve been selling completely different things to our usual mix. I cursed the 2000 slides I bought from Mothercare as part of the ELC deal, but in hindsight, I wish they had been even more over-stocked. I would have sold every single one I could have laid my hands on; we’ve been selling garden toys like never before. I sold 92 tons of sand last week – I don’t normally sell that in a year! Educational toys have also sold well – basically anything featuring the word ‘number’ or ‘letter’ in its name, or toys with experiments. Games and Puzzles have been great – I just can’t get enough puzzles to supply demand. It’s the same with Arts & Craft sets. There are many lines where we have sold a whole season’s worth of stock in two weeks, which has been an eye-opener; some can be replaced, but some we won’t get any more of this year. In general, market

prices are nearer to full retail price and haven’t been subject to deep discounting; supply and demand has been prevailing for the past month.” How has all this activity affected stock levels at The Entertainer – is it running short of product? Overall, it seems not: “Our stock position is largely as it was a month ago,” admits Gary.” The supply chain hasn’t turned itself off. There are pockets of stock where we have had to go back and re-order when we run out. We have taken in containers which were already in transit, but we have pushed quite a few orders back. I feel for the factories: initially they were affected by the closure, then just as they start to get back up to speed, many companies no longer need what they’re making – some of them must have taken a pounding. This is where all parts of the industry need to link together: there shouldn’t be one winner, we should all be trying to support each other so that we can all win – it should be fair across the board. We’re trying to be as fair as possible to our vendors: where things were made, we shipped them. Where they haven’t been made, we asked them to defer – but where does that leave shipments for Q3?” Indeed, now that we are heading towards the next phase, where the lockdown will be gradually lifted, how is The Entertainer planning to approach reopening? As with everything else that has happened over the past few months, this scenario has been thoroughly planned for: “We have a full re-opening plan ready to go, whenever the restrictions are lifted. We’ve changed our business model more in one month than we traditionally would in a year! We will need to re-format our stores: we’ll be putting screens on the counters, tape on the floor, signage around each store – we need to do to our stores what supermarkets have done to theirs. We’ve also rethought the whole click and collect process. The front of the store will

Duncan, Gary and Stuart Grant

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Retail Profile stock would be foolish. No-one will be in the business of risk. I know we won’t. I’d rather be 10 short than have 10 too many. This could even lead to shortages for the first time in several years. I don’t think there will be a problem buying stock; it will be a case of how much we choose to buy. If volumes don’t match previous levels, I wonder where this will leave promotional plans? The concept of having lead lines selling at cost price might become a thing of the past. Many will need to rethink their business models: what is turnover, what is profit and how do we balance the two? Most importantly, retailers will need closer working relationships with suppliers to ensure forecasts are as accurate as possible. Retail forecasts will have to be commitments, not just some ‘pie in the sky’ number which gets cancelled – because we need every supplier to be strong and healthy as well. “

look very different: the first few bays will be occupied by bagged up toys for people to just pop in to collect. We’ll also be launching a new initiative, which we’ve called ‘Readyin 10.’ Essentially, customers can stand outside the store, order through click and collect on their mobile and as long as we have the items in stock, we’ll bag it up and bring it out to them in 10 minutes. This whole situation has given us an amazing opportunity to be creative and look at the business differently. One thing is for sure: we won’t be able to ram our shops full of people, as supermarkets have shown us. We want to make it as easy as possible for parents and make the whole shopping experience as worthwhile as possible. Children will still want toys and we want to service the High Street: we are coming up with creative ways to keep people shopping locally. If communities value their local businesses, they have got to support them” Indeed, one of the positive effects of the coronavirus crisis has been the new sense of community spirit which has sprung up across the country, and Gary believes this feelgood factor can be harnessed as recovery progresses: “We need to respect and support our local businesses like never before. People have been relying on their local shops: I hope this is not short-lived and that people have learned to truly value their community stores. I believe that something in society has changed: we see it every Thursday night when we clap for carers and at many other times. And we also need to be generous – there are many charities where the call on their services has been increased, but their income has declined.” In practical terms, the plan is to re-open The Entertainer’s store estate in waves: smaller community shops first, then bigger High Street stores and finally the major shopping centre locations

like Westfield and Bluewater, where the logistical challenges will arguably be at their greatest – think for a moment about the potential confusion arising from four major neighbouring shops trying to co-ordinate which way queues outside the each should run. All in all, the shopping experience will look very different to what we are accustomed to, at least in the short term. Indeed, The Entertainer’s business plan anticipates a relatively dramatic reduction in shopper numbers in the early months: “Yes, there will be shoppers, but do we need all the staff back on day one? I’m not sure. I think we need to continue to manage our expenses very carefully. Just because we have reopened, it doesn’t mean we have solved the problem – it just means we’ve moved into the next phase of having to contend with the problem.” Shopper numbers won’t be the only challenge: Gary cites a study which Hasbro undertook many years ago, which suggested that as much as 50% of sales were impulse purchases. Even if that number has declined over the years, impulse buys have hitherto still represented a key component of toy store turnover – but will consumers want to hang around in stores long enough to browse and make snap decisions, or will they be on a mission to buy their planned items and move on? Selling is going to be very different: add-ons and extras will be far harder to actively sell (although it could be worse – think what will happen to assistants at notoriously pushy Lush…). Given the likely modifications to consumer buying habits, how will this impact The Entertainer’s ordering strategy in the short term? Inevitably, it seems there will be changes: “Retailers and manufacturers will have to take a more prudent approach to their buying. Cash will continue to be king. To be over-optimistic and come out of Christmas with large quantities of

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It is not just sales volumes where it will be important to manage expectations on both sides; could there also be some major changes in what sells? Gary believes so: “I think we’ll see some big changes in supercategories – some major winners and losers. Will we do as well with lower priced items – will people go to all the trouble of queueing up for small purchases? “ Of course, to some degree we are all in speculation territory when it comes to predicting what will happen in the second half of the year – Gary admits that The Entertainer’s revamped budget and re-opening plan were both “stacked with assumptions,” although he sees the waters clearing now: “When we entered lockdown, the simple fact is that we had no idea what the next three months would look like. Now, we can start to make more balanced estimates of how the rest of the year might pan out. We’ll be wrong, but at least we have a better plan now than we had in the middle of March when everything was about to implode. From a toy trade perspective, if ever there was a time for this to happen, this was about as good as it gets. It has at least given us time to plan for the second half of the year.” Some major headaches lie ahead, not least the burning issue of how toy stores are going to get the volume of customers through the doors in the final week of pre-Christmas trading – seven days which have become increasingly critical to the toy market’s success in recent years. But, for now, that is very much a future problem; there are more pressing hurdles to overcome in the short term, as stores take their tentative first steps towards re-opening. By the time you read this article, toy stores should finally be opening their doors to the public after the biggest challenge any of their owners have ever had to face. We can almost see light at the end of the tunnel: as Gary says, “If everything goes to plan in the coming weeks, we’ll all start to become more adventurous. But even the most bullish amongst us will naturally be a bit cautious until we know.” Let’s hope our next article about The Entertainer can focus on that new Bull Ring store – I’m really looking forward to seeing how it turned out in the end.


Retail Profile

Family matters Covid-19 has changed many things, from the way we shop to how we celebrate special occasions. One thing that remains the same, though, is the demand for toys,2016 games and gifts. One retailer meeting the NOVEMBER need is Wicked Uncle, the online present specialist; Rachael Simpson-Jones spoke to founding brothers Mike and Liam O’Shea, to find out how the company has adjusted to pandemic life. on fun and entertainment, so products like U-Kick (think of a shuttlecock for practising keepie-uppies), Horrible Histories The Board Game and the World Map Pillowcase have been selling well.

Liam O’Shea

In the warehouse, the company was quick to reorganise the space to protect its staff and ensure strict social distancing was observed. As Wicked Uncle deals primarily in toys, and is therefore at its busiest and most crowded during November and December, the timing of the pandemic has meant that staff levels are lower and space more readily available, making it easier to put safety measures in place. One of the challenges, however, has been balancing the number of staff needed to cope with the level of sales with keeping the body count low enough that everyone has the optimum amount of workspace. Two employees made the decision to step back, due to underlying health conditions, which the company has fully supported, and to plug the gap Wicked Uncle has brought back some dependable, hard-working staff that usually cover the Christmas period, that the rest of the team could rely on to stick to social distancing.

Mike O’Shea

We’re trading at around two to two-and-a-half times the volume we’d ordinarily expect at this time of year,” says Mike O’Shea, talking to me from his home. “Easter isn't usually a busy time for us; usually, grandparents buy an Easter egg and pop around to visit their family in person. But this Easter, because grandparents couldn't go and visit their grandchildren, we saw a lot choosing to send them a little gift in the post, just to remind them that they are loved and in their thoughts. Far from dying down, this sales surge has continued. With toy stores and department stores shut, there has been a reduction in supply, but we can still get the items we have in stock to the recipient very quickly.” Sales surged from the moment the UK lockdown came into effect on the 23rd March; Wicked Uncle immediately updated its website to assure customers that sales and deliveries would continue, and continue they have. Home learning products have been popular, but for Wicked Uncle the focus is very much

“We’ve got plenty of room, and everything falls naturally into teams,” explains Mike. “The office team takes the orders and sends them downstairs, the warehouse team does the picking, the boxing team boxes the item and then pushes it through to the sealing team. There’s a one-way system in place now for picking, and or setup means that the trolleys move while the team member stays in its area, and this means we can adhere to all social distancing guidelines.” The trolleys are disinfected every day, Mike adds, and there’s hand sanitiser available at every workstation. Employees are provided with their own gloves, crockery and cutlery. Wicked Uncle has always made sure that each station has its own tools and equipment – everything an employee needs is right by them – so there’s very little transfer between areas, and each bench is now a minimum of 2.5 meters apart. In many ways, the company was pandemic-ready before the pandemic occurred, in terms of working practices. Rather than bringing in coats and hanging them up, staff are asked to leave them in their car, and the tearoom is limited to one person at a time. Employees arrival and leaving times are now staggered, as are lunch breaks. It’s a good, well-thought-out system, and it appears to be paying off. Noting that the initial feeling among staff was one of “terror”, Liam, who is currently frontline at the warehouse, tells me that the team is now far more relaxed and reassured by the stringent measures in their working environment. Outside of the office, Liam

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is adhering to all social distancing measures. “Initially, I think the staff expected us to shut down,” Liam says. “Wicked Uncle employees always work hard, and that is certainly the case during the lockdown, but, unlike Christmas, there is uncertainty about when things might calm down again. That said, we seem to have struck the correct balance between staffing levels and individual safety and everyone seems pretty happy. Employee wellbeing is very important to us, and so we’re continuing to monitor the situation as time goes by as well.” The Wicked Uncle warehouse is situated in an industrial estate where many businesses have laid off staff rather than opting for furlough, which Liam has found concerning, noting the impact this will have on the local area and businesses. He’s also faced questions about the ethical dilemmas of continuing to work in order to profit from a global catastrophe such as Covid-19 – though how many, especially those with kids, would be tearing their hair out at the thought of


different generations of families are often separated and unable to see each other in person. The messages the company is writing in the cards indicate that the majority of sales are coming from grandparents. “Back when we started,” says Mike, “grandparents were just about getting to grips with mobile phones. Now they’re far more used to using the Internet and online shopping. And if you are an older person, online is a great way to keep in touch with people as well as a great way to shop. You don't have to go to the stores if you don't want to, hang around doing your shopping, join a queue to pay. Having said that, I think it’s time the toy shops were allowed to reopen, especially smaller independents which won’t have to manage with high levels of customers in the shop all at once. Consumers are now being quite sensible, and sometimes all it takes is a sign on the door asking shoppers to wait until the customer has left the store before they make their way in. I wouldn't have thought that a couple of people browsing in a toy shop would cause that much of a problem.” Wicked Uncle, Mike explains, is not in the business off competing with the local toy shop that we all remember from our childhood. Instead, the company aims to help shoppers, especially grandparents, find a fun and engaging gift for their loved one – which comes in especially handy when said relative can’t quite remember what the recipient is interested in. “Toy stores are for children to go in and spend their pocket money, to look at toys and have a fun time,” adds Mike. “I don't think the fun of the toy store will ever fade away.”

a lockdown without ready access to toys and games? Factor in the spending necessary to keep the economy barely limping along, and I’m sure many of you will agree that’s an interesting and very hardline position to take. “It’s interesting when you have a group of people that all see, hear and read the same things, but develop such different opinions on it,” Liam adds. “As business owners, Mike and I know the realities of what it would cost to keep renting this space and paying overheads, even if we had furloughed our staff. Luckily, we weren’t in that position. But there was a noticeable divide in the manner of thinking, in many ways, between employers and employees. Trying to explain overheads to staff can sometimes be tricky, and we were very careful to make the necessary changes to the warehouse and working practices in a transparent way that wasn’t alarming, and that everyone could understand and get behind. Obviously, we’re pleased we’re doing well, but on the flip side you have the poor people who own independent toy shops. Goodness knows the situation they are facing. It must be dreadful to find yourself in that position through no fault of your own. Personally, I think the government should waive all retail rent from now until the end of the year. No rates, no rent. Quite honestly, I feel like anyone who owns property like that can do without the rent. Something dramatic is needed to help smaller retailers. Loading up with debt to save a shop that isn’t getting any income can’t be the solution. Before this, I was getting the feeling from sales people that a lot of indie retailers were finding it tough anyway; in early February I spoke to one guy who reckoned he’d lose just under half his shops this year, and that was before the pandemic struck. For many, this might be the straw that broke

the camel’s back.” It’s clear from talking to Liam and Mike that they truly value their staff and their contributions to the business. Both reiterated throughout our conversation how hardworking they are, how trustworthy and dependable. Staff are openly invited to raise concerns and address issues they may have. Many businesses will have discovered over the past few weeks the major strengths of their team members, and who will step up to the plate; in some respects, Covid-19 has been like a strange sort of teambuilding activity. Mike is full of praise for the Royal Mail, which arrives to pick up each day's orders at 4pm and is delivering packages with minimal delays, despite staff shortages at mail depots. Every order that arrives before 4pm is shipped the same day and usually arrives within two days, unless the customer lives in a remote location such as Orkney. Wicked Uncle has had to temporarily tweak its gift-wrapping service, taking it from 14 wrapping stations offering 12 types of paper to six stations offering half a dozen paper designs. The company is continuing to offer handwritten cards, which Mike feels adds a personal touch that will be hugely appreciated in a time when

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Mike notes how fortunate Wicked Uncle is to be able to stay in business, especially when so many others are facing disaster. Having always enjoyed a strong organic search function, the company was hit last year, quite out of the blue and almost exactly a year before the UK lockdown started,


Retail Profile by the Florida 2 update to the Google search engine algorithms which severely affected it's on-page rankings. “Basically, they had hordes of writers creating content on 10 best toys for this, 12 best toys for that, and as a result we ended up with piles of Amazon affiliate results appearing above us. This really affected how findable we were. If we're being beaten by the likes of The Entertainer or Hamley's then fair enough, we can accept that, but being pushed so far down the page by shill sites that simply shouldn’t have been ranked above us was pretty galling.” To combat this, Wicked Uncle has invested substantial amounts of money and time in its website, increasing its presence on social media and the readership of its blog and social content, and has also updated the website to make it faster, smoother and more user friendly. Speed-wise, the website is now apparently in the top 5%. Fortuitously, these efforts have left Wicked Uncle much better placed to ride out the pandemic. Strong supplier relationships are also more important than ever explains Liam, who’s been ‘getting hot and sweaty’ packing boxes at the warehouse. “The best suppliers of ours at the moment have always been good, while some of the less dependable ones, unfortunately, have become worse,” he says. I ask who the best suppliers are. “Thames + Kosmos, Brainstorm and Cheatwell,” Liam replies without hesitation. “Those are ones we can really rely on come Christmas, and they’ve turned out to be brilliant during this pandemic too.

NOVEMBER 2016

They’re just so efficient, even in the face of furloughs and working from home. With Brainstorm, for example; we get responses straight back to emails, telling us all the information we need to know, and we are always confident that shipments will arrive when they’re supposed to.” As we’ve heard from other industry sources, transparency and communication are key to the success of the supply chain; while Liam’s select suppliers have been exemplary in their response time and level of detail regarding stock, shipping dates and lead times, at the other end of the spectrum there are apparently three or four companies which Wicked Uncle won’t be working with in future. “Some suppliers have gone from poor to dreadful, and you have to ask yourself what’s the point,” says Liam. “I would take that view in times of normality, but with everything that’s going on, some of the time delays are very poor. Everything we aim to do here boils down to our customers, who won’t hesitate to let

Toy World 36

us know if they are unhappy or if they think we should be doing things better. We don’t think we provide an exceptional service; we just think the service we provide is what should be expected. And in turn, we would expect the same from our suppliers. Our level of attention to detail is very high, as it is at the three companies I’ve mentioned. Unfortunately, as with most things, the same cannot be said of everybody.” One of Liam’s biggest criticisms is lead times; some suppliers, despite having UK-based warehouses or third-party fulfilment centres, are working on a 14-day processing and delivery timeline. These, he says, will be avoided come Christmas, meaning their sluggish service will cost them valuable sales during the busiest time of the year. And during an unprecedented event like the one we’re living through, attempting to maintain relationships with these business can result in running out stock, for weeks at a time, that are in high demand and so would have proved a success for both the supplier and the retailer. “I’ve received shipments from Italy quicker than I have from some UK-based suppliers,” Liam laughs. “That’s insane!”


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Feature

Arts & Crafts

Home is where the art is The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have caused millions of households to rediscover (or simply discover) a love of arts & crafts, with retailers reporting soaring sales of kids’ arts & crafts products. Toy World spoke to a selection of category leaders, to find out what new activities are on offer for 2020 and how the lockdowns have affected marketing and communications.

We have seen demand for our products soar to levels that we have never seen outside of late Q4,” explains Isaac Wolman, CEO of Make It Real, when asked how the pandemic has affected sales. A similar picture has been painted by a number of advertisers within this feature; Flair reports a ‘really positive upturn’ in the demand for its creative, activity, and building products, Galt has seen ‘very high’ demand for its home entertainment products, and Epoch making toys says sales of its arts & crafts brand Aquabeads have ‘soared’. At Vivid, Crayola was already enjoying a stellar year, according to Crayola EMEA commercial director Leon Jarmolowicz, but the lockdown period has fuelled the demand for arts & crafts even further, as children, families and adults look for more creative ways to spend time indoors and stay connected. Connectivity with family members certainly appears to be playing a part in the current popularity of arts & crafts products. More than merely a means of entertainment, or an activity to simply while away a rainy afternoon,

creativity is helping kids maintain bonds with their loved ones while in-person visits are out of the equation. A hand-painted card, a woven bracelet or a decorated photo frame can easily be showed off on video calls, with the promise of gifting when lockdown is lifted properly, giving different generations something to discuss, and kids something to be praised for. With the sector booming, families and kids have more choice than ever before, with traditional products such as crayons and paint sets vying for shelf space (or webpage space) alongside modern, often craze-driven activities like slime making. “Balancing innovation with tradition in the craft category is one of the existential challenges facing every manufacturer,” notes Isaac at Make It Real. “There are some play patterns that are essential to the category which will never change, and it’s truly tempting to try and play solely in that ‘safe’ space. On the other hand, companies that innovate in this category can see exponential success, almost unlike any other category. Examples of this include KumiKreator and

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Go Glam Nail Stamper from Spinmaster, and Rainbow Loom from Choon Designs. What we’ve done at Make It Real is take a hybrid approach. In the core part of the range, we’ve created product with beautiful packaging in collaboration with the likes of like Swarovski, Disney and Juicy Couture in an effort to stand out. At the same time, we are working with a cadre of inventors to create products that are truly innovative and offer that ‘wow moment’ that can win big in the category.” Reflecting this approach is Make It Real’s new collectible arts & crafts line, Crystal Secrets, a DIY jewellery product range combining surprise animals with Swarovski crystals. This, the company notes, makes Crystal Secrets one of the only products currently in the toy space to incorporates a meaningful collectible element with real value as part of a DIY, creative play experience. Crayola, which has strong heritage in the arts & crafts category, is also actively working to strike a balance between tradition and innovation, as Leon explains. “Tradition can often be a huge


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Arts & Crafts

barrier to progress but, to us, it’s our foundation,” he tells Toy World. “The traditional knife and fork are in no danger of losing relevancy, and neither are the basic crayon or pencil. That said, we must continue to innovate; even in our core product line, we’re continuously working with our R&D teams to ensure we have the best colour variety, vibrancy, washability and sustainability in the marketplace, so we can deliver the best experience to our consumers.” Leon adds: “Outside of stationery, we’re always looking to fulfil the need for classic creative play patterns with a modern and relevant twist. This year’s new launch Glitter Dots line is no exception, allowing all the fun of creating with glitter but without the nightmare of mess and clean up. Strong licences also help parts of our line to stay relevant. Although our core message does not change, the way it is consumed in the modern digital age does, and we must constantly adapt our social media strategy to make sure we reach our consumers in the right way.” Flair’s portfolio boasts retro best-sellers such as Plasticine, Spirograph & Mr Frosty, which Nicola Bergot, commercial director, says remain relevant and appealing, especially while families are at home. The company also offers on-trend items that tap into what children are exposed to via TV programmes and social media; Mini Delice, for example, allows kids to create their own ‘Bake off’ style chocolate treats. Flair is also readying itself for the re-launch of a previous best-seller - Shaky Pop Nails returns for summer with a 2020 upgrade – alongside new innovation in the form of jewellery- and accessory-making brand Jelli Rez, which hits retail in August. “We think this will be a great new addition to the craft category and there will be plenty of marketing activity to come, with TV, YouTube content and influencers,” adds Nicola. At Bandai, preparations are underway for a major relaunch of its own. First launched a decade ago, each updated Harumika kit contains an assortment of fabrics and accessories, as well as a special mannequin with slits in it; creative young designers can then fold and insert the fabrics any way they choose to create beautiful outfits, without the need for cutting, gluing or sewing. We asked Magali Clouzet, senior brand manager, Bandai UK, if she thinks there’s still demand for a product like Harumika, amongst all the compounds and crayons. “Yes, of course,” she replies. “This is a proven concept that did incredibly well when it first launched back in 2010. The notion of playing fashion designer is a popular one and even more relevant today with the growth in celebrity culture and

the role that fashion plays across social media. The designs have been created in collaboration with French fashion agency NellyRodi, ensuring that designs are current and remain up to date. The product itself is safe and easy to use with no scissors, sewing or cutting, and the materials can be re-used to create endless designs; this is a key selling point, given that more consumers are looking for sustainable and reusable products.” Noting the current uncertainty surrounding the full lifting of Covid-19 lockdowns, and the subsequent impact this is having both on retail and on consumer shopping habits, Bandai has created a range of content for the brand which can be used online, including photography, ‘How To’ videos, two different TVCs and plenty of additional branded assets to help retailers create stand-out online product pages which

Toy World 40

resonate with the target consumer audience. Magali adds: “We’ll be launching Harumika with TV support but also investing in a large digital spend. We are creating our own YouTube channel to house our content, and which will also include user generated content, plus we will also be developing our own communities for ideas sharing and inspiration. We will be working with influencers, tying up with fashion events and advertising across social media platforms.” Bandai is by no means the only company producing compelling online content to support its ranges. In an effort to engage with consumers, Make It Real produces video instructions for each of its products, and Galt has been working hard to maintain lines of communication with its customers and end-users, despite the disruption caused by Covid-19. “We talk to our customers on a regular basis,” says John McDonnell, managing director, James Galt & Co. “Many of them have not been able to open, but those with online businesses have benefitted from frequent contact with us and have kept our operations team extremely busy. We have also continued to talk to our consumers despite our sales and customer service teams having to work from home. In times like these it helps to have your own sales force, with established relationships with the retailers. We’re looking forward to the day hopefully very soon -when all our retailers are fully up and running.” Crayola, meanwhile, says it’s continuing to post relevant content across all digital platforms. Additionally, the brand is keeping its consumer careline open and fully functional to assist consumers directly, answering everything from hints and tips on where to buy Crayola while on lockdown. Leon explains: “From a retailer perspective, we are both fortunate (and unfortunate) that we all face the same opportunities and challenges, just from different ends. Our customer relationships are very strong at Crayola, and we’re in constant contact on opportunities, scheduling and most importantly working with retailers and our Crayola manufacturing partners around the world to ensure we have the best supply possible in this new climate. In addition, we continue to work with healthcare professionals as well as education and community groups to deliver Crayola supplies to those without the means to access it. What continues to amaze me is that it it’s not just our core audience of children that benefit from creativity with Crayola but all people - from those with autism to those in geriatric care.” In this bumper section, Toy World takes a look at the huge range of arts & crafts products keeping us creative and entertained this year.


Arts & Crafts

Craft Buddy 0203 417 6565 | www.craftbuddyltd.co.uk The Brand New Frameables collection from Craft Buddy offers an ideal arts & craft activity for children, thanks to its easy to follow guidelines and developmental benefits. Great for improving motor skills and handeye coordination, the Frameables collection is part of Craft Buddy’s wider Crystal Art range, which makes use of the on-trend ‘diamond painting’ technique. Children complete their Frameables by using the included magic pen to pick up crystals and place them onto their assigned place on the sticky canvas fabric, where they stick instantly. The Frameables collection includes a series of child-friendly designs that come premounted in colourful picture frames, allowing children to easily display their creativity on a desk or shelf. Designed specifically for children aged 6+, this craft is perfect for improving concentration and focus while developing manual dexterity and co-ordination, and has seen a swift rise in global popularity. Newly launched for 2020, Craft Buddy’s range of Crystal Art notebooks continues to impress crafters and shoppers alike with its vivid designs. Containing 50 lined pages of A5 paper, each notebook is perfect for jotting down creative ideas. There are four designs to choose from including unicorns, owls, kittens and colourful skulls, so the range offers something for every consumer. With all the contents needed to make the notebooks included in each set, and at a budget-friendly £9.99 RRP, these are sure to be popular with crafters and stationery fans alike. Craft Buddy’s extended Crystal Art range offers plenty of opportunities for older children to express their creativity, from smaller kits including Crystal Art cards and medium sized kits including Crystal Art clocks, all the way up to the massive 90cm x 65cm XXL canvas-mounted Crystal Art kits. With designs including landscapes, dragons, dolphins and more, the Crystal Art collection has something for everyone, young and old. Readers are invited to contact Craft Buddy today at trade@craftbuddyltd.co.uk to discuss their options, and to take advantage of a special 10% off the first order offer. Quote code TWCB10.

Character Options 01616 339 800 | www.character-online.com Stuff-A-Loons is a new and innovative way to create stuffed balloons. Kids simply choose the fillings, inflate their balloon using the Stuff-A-Loon Station Maker and stuff it to create a gift or decoration suitable for any occasion. Each set includes large reusable balloons, mini balloons and reusable clips, plus an assortment of fun party fillings and display accessories. Kids can choose their own gifts to put in if they wish, while display stands can be used to show off creations. A Party Refill pack is also available, which offers more designs. New Ravel Tales lets kids discover what’s hiding in a chunky ball of wool, as they carefully unwrap it to reveal the surprise cute pet within. Combining adorable accessories and an easy sewing project, each Ravel Tales is not just a fun collectible but offers hours of creative play too. Stuff-A-Loons and Ravel Tales will join other creative collections from Character Options such as Shimmer and Sparkle and Foam Alive. The inventive new brands will be available from mid-summer and will launch with TV advertising, influencer activity and more.

Hasbro 0208 569 1234 | www.hasbro.co.uk Developed to provide hours of creative role-play fun, the Play-Doh Cash Register features a built-in toy scanner that beeps, a handheld barcode stamper and a cash drawer that opens at the push of a button with a satisfying ‘chaching’ sound. Kids can use the five play food cutters and moulds to make their own Play-Doh foods before putting it all in the basket or shopping bag for the ultimate grocery pretend play experience. The wallet lets kids create coins and cash to put in the drawer, and there's also a credit card mould. This grocery store playset makes a great gifting option for kids three years and up and can also help pre-schoolers practise their counting outside the classroom. The Play-Doh Cash Register even offers a receipt. New from the Play-Doh Kitchen Creations range, and also suitable for kids from age three and above, is the Play-Doh Kitchen Creations Candy Delight Playset. This Play-Doh Candy factory will spark imagination as kids create their own Play-Doh gummy bears, pretend candy bars and play candy cups. They can fill the top with Play-Doh compound, then turn the crank on the candy machine to see colourful Play-Doh candies pour out. The creations can then be scooped into pretend candy buckets to be shown off to friends. Five cans of non-toxic Play-Doh compound are included.

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Arts & Crafts

Trends UK 01295 768 078 | www.trendsuk.co.uk Paint Sticks Paint-A-Puzzle is a new way for kids to get creative with the award-winning Little Brian Paint Sticks. Featuring different themes, each Paint-a-Puzzle set comes with 12 giant sturdy floor puzzle pieces and six Paint Sticks. Perfect for little hands, the puzzle pieces are easy to assemble and are fun to colour in with a range of vibrant shades. An innovative storage solution, the new Giant Stick contains 30 assorted Paint Sticks in all available colours: 12 Classic, 12 Metallic and six Day Glow. Shaped like a 30cm tall yellow Paint Stick, the Giant Stick looks stylish in any home or playroom and is ideal for children wanting to store their Paint Sticks, unleash their creativity and quickly tidy up again. Young artists can also paint masterpieces anywhere with the double-sided Paint Sticks Mini Art Station, which comes complete with six chalk sticks, six mini paint sticks, one Duster and 10 sheets of paper stored inside.

Canal Toys 01904 379 123 | www.so-diy.com

Bandai UK 020 8324 6160 | www.bandai.co.uk

Kids can create a selection of DIY bath bombs featuring colourful geode crystals in minutes with the new So Bomb Crystal Geode Factory kit. The kit includes everything needed to make up to 10 bath bombs including two moulds and a choice of six crystal-coloured powders; simply mix the powder with water, add a hidden surprise and decorate with crystals. So Bomb Crystal Geode designs dry quickly and can be dropped straight into the bath when ready for a fun colour explosion. So Sand DIY makes it possible for kids to create magic sand from scratch while enjoying ASMR satisfaction. Aimed at children aged 6+, the new line offers retailers the chance to move magic sand away from pre-school and into its own sector under the arts & crafts umbrella. Kids can create, craft and store their very own DIY magic sand with the all-in-one So Sand DIY Sensory Case. Three bags of coloured sand, seven tools and decoration bags are included, along with storage containers to keep the magic sand secure. The So Slime Tie & Dye Machine marks Canal Toys’ first venture into the readymade slime market. Slime fans can mix up their slime in the mini washing machine, add in the scented colourants, shut the door and watch as the Tie & Dye Washing Machine makes the ready-made slime change in front of their eyes. The washing machine lights up and makes noises just like the real thing for an immersive experience. When the time is up, the slime can be poured into the basket and hung out to dry on the rack. Kids will be amazed by the new tie dye patterns throughout the slime.

Bandai UK continues to evolve its arts and crafts portfolio with the unveiling of award-winning fashion toy Harumika. Popular with noughties children, Harumika gets a fresh new-look for 2020. The fashion design arts & craft kits include mannequin torsos, fabric and accessories to inspire creativity and appeal to budding fashionistas. Safe and easy to use, no sewing, scissors or glue are required. All materials and accessories are reusable, making possibilities endless and sustainability a key feature. Benefitting from Harumika’s historical success, the brand re-launches with an even stronger offering and a comprehensive marketing campaign to raise awareness amongst target girls aged 6+, as well as create a community of creative talent. Dedicated YouTube and Instagram channels are currently in production to provide an even wider breadth of content and fashion inspiration. With updated designs and fabrics, each of the kits include styles inspired by French fashion agency NelliRodi, with which Bandai has collaborated for brand relevancy. The Single Torso Set Assortment offers an entry point with a choice of four styles, each with fabric and accessories to customise individual creations. A Double Torso Set Assortment also includes four different options, all taking inspiration from current and classic trends and themes. The ultimate set in the collection is the Bridal Gown Set, which inspires children to design their own signature creations from a selection of satin and lace fabrics.

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Arts & Crafts

DKL-Beysal 01604 678 780 | www.dkl.co.uk In recent years, Plus-Plus has proven to be a big hit with children and a popular choice when choosing Arts & Crafts and Construction toys. Children and their parents find joy in using their imagination to create colourful 2D mosaics or build 3D creations together with Plus-Plus, an educational toy that stimulates fine motor skills, creativity, focus and patience. Best-sellers include the growing range of Tubes; featuring 100 pieces and instructions, there are over 30 themes to choose from. The clear tubing makes this product ideally suited to building on the go and offers a handy storage solution for the bricks. At a low price point, Plus-Plus Tubes make an ideal gift or a boredom buster toy and will keep children entertained for hours. New to the Plus-Plus spring/summer range, Mystery Builders are available in two themes, Pets and Robots, and with an RRP of just £3.99, these items are a perfect introduction to the Plus-Plus brand. Mystery Builders are available in a CDU of 36 and each individual box includes 50 pieces. Kids scan the QR code inside or use the included instructions to build their mystery character; with six different characters to create, children will want to collect them all. The Plus-Plus autumn/winter range will see the introduction of Plus-Plus Go!, a new concept featuring wheels that will take children on a journey of imagination. Plus-Plus Go! wheels are compatible with existing Plus-Plus components. These open-ended, reversible wheels are one shape, but offer a raft of combinations when used with other Plus-Plus bricks. Plus-Plus Big, designed for ages 12 months and up, has been designed for smaller hands. The brand-new Big Picture Puzzle sets contain 60 large pieces and seven puzzle cards. The original bead brand, Hama Beads, is available in a range of options, from blister packs to complete kits at a variety of price points. With a few Hama pegboards and a variety of colourful Hama beads, the play possibilities are endless. DKL supports all its ranges with a full marketing campaign, including everything from bespoke planograms to extensive social media and PR activity.

SES Creative 01304 746030 | www.ses-creative.com SES Creative manufactures a wide range of creative and educational products from its headquarters in Holland. The company’s portfolio includes eco-friendly, recycled products, gluten-free paint and playdough, and PVC-free iron-on beads. This year, SES Creative is launching over 100 new products. Highlights include the T-Rex with Skeleton, a plaster dinosaur set which allows kids to build their own unique T-Rex. One side of the figure shows the detailed dinosaur itself, while the other reveals its skeleton. Plaster and paint, including special glow-in-the-dark paint, are provided; the finished model ideal will make the perfect addition to any dinosaur-lover’s bedroom, especially at night. With Casting Candles, kids melt the scented candle wax in a microwave before pouring a variety of coloured waxes into a selection of six fun animal moulds. Wicks are included, along with paint and glitter for added personalisation. Dreamcatcher String Art lets young crafters create a colourful dream catcher for their bedroom. Simply paint the wooden pieces with the different colour paints provided, wind the neon yarn around the frame and add stickers and glow-in-the-dark paint as a finishing touch. Crayon Beads are simple to use. With six brightly coloured chalk beads to choose from, toddlers can enjoy creating their first piece of art without losing the other crayons. Alternatively, animal fans can create a wide range of jungle animals with Beedz Jungle Animals, including a toucan, sloth, parrot, tiger, koala and panda. Bubble lovers are also catered for; the Multi Mega Bubbles tool makes dozens of bubbles in one go. For more information, email sales@ses-creative.co.uk.

Epoch making toys 08435 574 062 | www.aquabeadsart.com An ideal craft activity for children aged 4+, Aquabeads has recently added to its core range with the introduction of new star beads. These multi-faceted beads add real-life texture to creations such as food, clothing and animals, thereby expanding the brand’s play value. The new Star Bead Studio comes in eye-catching star-shaped packaging and includes the latest template designs, a bead tray, bead pen, sprayer and over 1,000 star beads in 24 different colours. The Star Friends Set contains template designs, a bead tray and over 600 star beads in 21 colours, making it an ideal set for new and advanced ‘Aquabeaders’ alike. These new beads are fully compatible with the current solid and jewel beads, meaning crafters can add to their existing bead collections without starting from scratch.

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NEW DIY KITS FOR 2020! Make it Real is pleased to announce a multi-year collection of exciting products made exclusively with Crystals from Swarovski™.

For Sales Queries in the UK, please contact Peter Thomson: pthomson@makeitrealplay.com For Global Sales Queries, please contact Dave Williams: dwilliams@makeitrealplay.com

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Arts & Crafts

Eaglemoss GlynnDavies@eaglemoss.co.uk | www.herocollector.com Hero Collector, a designer, manufacturer and publisher of highquality collectibles from across the many worlds of pop culture, is joining the crafting community with its latest Wizarding Worldinspired collection; a set of knitting kits that will let fans create their very own Wizarding World accessories. The knitting kits will be the first in Hero Collector’s new handicrafts range. Each comes fully stocked with all the materials, patterns and instructions crafters need to weave a bit of magic into their life. The collection is scheduled to launch Q3 2020 and starts with five kits. The Hogwarts Express Door Insulator contains everything needed to make a Hogwarts Express inspired door insulator, with the finished item measuring approximately 61cm long. House Scarf kits let fans of the Wizarding World show their house pride. Available in Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin, the completed scarves will measure at least 160 cm. House Slouch Socks and Mittens will keep witches and wizards warm this winter, and also make an ideal gift for loved ones. House Reversible Backpacks complete the look; these ‘magical’ reversible backpacks are perfect for carrying items to school. Finally, aspiring Mrs. Weasleys can demonstrate their love of the Wizarding World by knitting the Teapot and Egg Cosies. Further details about the collection will be revealed in due course, including news of upcoming Wizarding World-inspired Knitting Kits.

Tobar 01603 397105 | www.tobar.co.uk As we head into summer, Tobar has the perfect outdoor craft project; Colour Your Own Cardboard Playhouse. Kids just slot together the house, with no fixings or glue needed, and use crayons and pencils to decorate the pre-printed design. Scentos Scented Art on the move set is a 26-piece travel stationery set from Scentos, designed to be fitted on the back of a car seat. The case opens out into an activity table, revealing a drawing area as well as a fully stocked selection of scented stationery in the upper half. The set folds down and can be worn as a backpack for easy transportation; it includes eight markers, eight jumbo crayons, one rainbow pen and eight sheets of paper, which are all lightly scented. Tobar has a range of kits for kids to make their own slime, with different types and textures available. Young crafters can also choose to opt for a kit to create their own candles or design and decorate glass bottles, which make the perfect gift. The Solar System Planetarium combines craft, art and science as kids build and paint their own solar system. The full arts and crafts range can be viewed on the Tobar website.

Brainstorm 01200 445 113 | www.brainstormltd.co.uk When it first launched at Toy Fair a year ago, Eugy was an immediate hit with buyers thanks to its sustainability credentials and allimportant collectability factor. After a year in the market, the range has acquired an impressive fan base, with new lines added at the beginning of the year and additional characters slated for autumn/winter. With increasing awareness of human impacts on the environment, parents are on the lookout for products that are eco-friendly and sustainable. Eugy ticks these boxes, while allowing children to get creative by building their own miniature 3D models of different animals. Using a simple number sequence, kids piece together the card shapes and secure them with non-toxic glue. New additions for 2020 include Mermaid, Humpback Whale, Sloth, Tiger, Zebra, Turtle and Triceratops. During the Covid-19 lockdowns, online sales have spiked, and Brainstorm - which exclusively distributes the brand on behalf of New Zealand manufacturer Dodoland - has asked families to share images of their creations on social media. Parents and children alike love Eugy not only for the absorbing creativity it inspires but also for the satisfaction and pride offered by the finished results. Brainstorm has innovative POS solutions to offer retailers, including a Eugy FDU which is available for free when ordering 30 cases of Eugy. Each FDU also comes with 16 free display models. A stylish wooden CDU with three display models is available free when ordering 10 cases of Eugy, while a standard Eugy CDU with a single display model comes with all orders of three cases.

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Catalogue available on Google Play and Apple App Store. Contact sales@ses-creative.co.uk or call 01304 746 030 for more information.

Iron on beads - Unicorns and princesses

My first - Crayon beads

My first - Fingerpaint

I learn to use scissors XXL

Casting and painting - Unicorns

Casting and painting - Dinosaurs

Buckle and button crocodile

Mega multi bubbles

Glowing fossils

www.ses-creative.co.uk

Thermo colour changing play dough

Trashcan Pets surprise


Arts & Crafts

Vivid 01483 449944 | www.vividtoysandgames.co.uk Crayola Washimals can be customised and cared for again and again, offering hours of creative play. Kids colour the pets with the washable pens included. When it's time for a new look, the pets are popped in the tub, scrubbed with water, and then the pets can be coloured again. The range offers lots of creative play potential thanks to the number of figurines and themes to collect. Kids can take their pets on an adventure with the new Washimals Mobile Spa. The real working vehicle with a kid-powered spray pump doubles as a storage solution that's easy to pack up and put away for later use. Further expanding the Washimals line-up, adorable new pets in the Peculiar Pets Playset include a Dragon, Unicorn, Narwhal and Yeti. Glitter Dots offers glitter activities with less mess, as the glittery sparkle stays on the dots. Offering creativity with added sensory appeal, Glitter Dots can be squished into different shapes and moulds, enabling artists in the making to bring to life a variety of sparkly creations. The sparkly, squishy dots create 3D effects on all kinds of surfaces and are easy to use. Kids can create glittery keychains and stickers with kits such as the Glitter Dots Sticker Stencil Set, Glitter Dots Keychains and Glitter Dots Sparkle Fills, all at a sub-£10 price point. The Glitter Dots Sparkle Station Super Set includes tools to roll, cut and decorate, plus 84 glitter dots in an assortment of colours. Both Washimals and Glitter Dots will be advertised on TV and digital for autumn/winter 2020.

Guidecraft 07725 833 273 | www.guidecraft.com A creator of children’s toys for over 50 years, Guidecraft emphasises the importance of open-ended play, the beauty of organic, loose parts and the significance of hands-on learning through children’s connections to nature. Through a range of toys that is inherently educational and STEM-based, Guidecraft aims to enrich kids’ lives through creative play and encourage them to use their imaginations in the classroom and beyond. The Jumbo Weaving Frames set includes three oversized, geometric wooden frames with inset strings where children can weave assorted colorful, textured ribbons. Children aged three and up can use the 15 large, double-sided Creativity Cards as inspiration while recreating abstract, artistic versions of the nature-inspired examples. Using their imaginations and natural inspiration, children can begin with simple concepts and advance to more complex pictures while experimenting with layering, patterning and creative, emotional expression. Set includes a square, circular and triangular frame, each large enough for individual or small group activities.

Interplay UK 01628 488 944 | www.interplayuk.com Interplay’s evergreen My Fairy Garden brand will deliver engaging new Grow & Play products. Introducing new price points that appeal to the collectible pocket money and impulse purchase market, Flower Bed Babies is a new and innovative way of growing plants. The product offers flower petals made from plantable seed papers as well as cute baby fairies enclosed in a flower petal bed. Interplay is also launching the new, licensed Grow & Play Peppa Pots. Each of the four plant pot homes featuring either Peppa Pig, George Pig, Rebecca Rabbit or Suzy Sheep - comes with themed accessories which will let children plant seeds, learn how to look after their plants and watch them grow, all while playing with the Peppa Pig characters. Bringing a new play concept to the Fuzzikins range, the TV-advertised Fuzzikins Ice-Cream Van can be coloured in with the pens provided and doubles as a handbag. The set comes with a Fuzzikins Cow character, flocked ice creams and many accessories. The Fuzzikins range will also welcome a new Fuzzikins Dress-Up Mega Pack for autumn/winter. This craft and play set it includes six Fuzzikins characters, six washable colouring pens and dress-up accessories. A new creative games range will also be available from summer. Colour & Play offers classic games that children can colour-in with the included pens before play commences; Memory, Families, Misfits, Lotto and Snap can each be given a unique look. Interplay’s CraftBox Unicorn Charm Jewellery set is a continuous best-seller. Complete with more than 10 pieces of high-quality metal and enamel charms and colourful beads, the set creates a pretty bracelet with a unicorn theme. Interplay is supporting its new launches with marketing campaigns including TV, digital, PR and social media activity, plus much more.

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Arts & Crafts

The Lego Group 01753 495 000 | www.lego.com This year, The Lego Group has entered the arts & crafts market, launching a new 2D tile-based play concept - Lego Dots. The first range of products for Lego Dots was launched in March and is set to hit shelves on 1st June. As children grow, they develop their own sense of style. Lego Dots helps them progress with this, by giving them confidence to find the joy in selfexpression and the opportunity to create their own unique designs made from different colours, shapes, and patterns on an engaging range of products. The possibilities for customisation are endless, as children can swap and create a variety of different designs. Three new wearable Lego Dots bracelets will be joining the existing portfolio to bring the number on offer to eight, with the latest bracelets themed on Sport, Magic Garden and Empowerment. Also new for summer is the Bracelet Mega Pack; containing five bracelets and 245 tiles, this kit is perfect for the whole family, or for friends to share and swap. The packaging doubles up as storage, providing a stylish but secure solution for storing the Dots. New to the room décor portfolio are a photo frame, a jewellery box and desk organiser, giving children more opportunities to show off their unique designs. The Lego Dots range also includes over 30 colourful mood tiles, from facial expressions to music notes; with easily interchangeable pieces, the design can change daily depending on how kids feel. The new range is available across a range of price points, with RRPs ranging from £3.99 to £19.99.

Flair 020 8643 0320 | www.flairplc.co.uk Jelli Rez offers the perfect way for kids to create high end resin-like accessories with a unique jelly texture in only 15 minutes. Crafters can simply mix, mould and pop to create customisable necklace pendants, keychains, rings and more. There are four themed Style Me Packs to collect, each of which yields up to eight designs. For the ultimate Jelli Rez experience, the Jelli Rez Super Glitter Set makes up to 20 designs with special glitter finishes. Born from the social media ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) craze, I Dig Monsters comprises a collection of vinyl monsters that are revealed by carving, slicing and digging them out of the cold-to-touch compound. Series 1 offers 28 Monji Monsters to collect, including ultra-rare and limited-edition designs. Each Monji also has a temperature activated colour change feature, adding to the play potential of this sensory experience. Heritage brand Spirograph continues to demonstrate its enduring popularity year after year. The Original Spirograph Super Design Set is a jumbo 75+ piece set with interchangeable Spiro-Tracks that let kids create their own unique patterned shapes. New for summer, the Spirograph Scratch and Shimmer Set introduces a new element to the creativity with Scratch and Shimmer sheets and glitter wheels. Plasticine is the modelling material that never dries out. The compound is ideal for children to make fun shapes, as well as for expert crafters who want to create intricate models with fine details. Available at pocket money prices, a colourful array of packs is available, from the simple pick-me-up BaSix packs to the awardwinning Movie Maker Studio.

Tomy 01392 281927 | www.tomy.com Launching in early July, Doodle Bear is back for a new generation. Tomy’s Limited Edition 25th Anniversary Bear takes the classic and colourful details that grown-ups will remember and updates them with an exclusive anniversary design. The silvery base print and metallic touches celebrate the years of creative fun Doodle Bear has inspired, while Limited Edition accents include an embroidered ‘25’ heart and a special logo on the bear’s paw. There’s also a pocket for storing the three included washable markers, just like the original. Kids can download the free Doodle Bear Studio App and take a picture to bring their Limited Edition Doodle Bear to life. Just like the original toys, parents can safely wash the Limited Edition Doodle Bear so the doodling fun can start all over again. Tomy will also be adding two new mats to its Aquadoodle range in autumn/winter – Disney Princess Aquadoodle and Baby Aquadoodle. The Disney Princess Aquadoodle brings kids hours of mess-free creative colouring fun. Kids simply fill the Aquadoodle Disney Princess pen with water, run the nib over the mat and see lines and colours appear. Once the water has dried the drawings fade away, ready to start from scratch. The Disney Princess mat is suitable for ages 18 months and over. Developed for infants aged nine months and over, Baby Aquadoodle is perfect for creativity at home or on the go. The chunky Grab and Mark pen allows babies to get creative in a messfree way, as they reveal different shapes and designs while developing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

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Inspired by the magic of Hogwarts, these kits contain everything you need to make

BACKPACKS • SCARVES • SOCKS • AND MORE Complete kits that include yarn, needles and pattern booklet

available in:

Gryffindor

Hufflepuff

Ravenclaw

SLYTHERIN

HARRY POTTER, FANTASTIC BEASTS, characters names and related indica are © & TM Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (s20)

Benefit from the growing collectibles market

OPEN A HERO COLLECTOR TRADE ACCOUNT TODAY For more details please contact:

GlynnDavies@Eaglemoss.co.uk and NeelamSamplay@Eaglemoss.co.uk


Arts & Crafts

John Adams 01480 414 361 | www.johnadams.co.uk Gemex sets to create gems from gel in minutes. Kids pour the liquid into the mould, add the decorations and shine the light to harden the gel. Shake ‘n’ Shimmer lets kids design glitter charms. Crafters simply open the pot, choose a charm, apply glue, select the glitter colour by twisting the tube, then shake. The charm can be decorated once it has hardened. The Blopens range is being expanded with a new Fashion Designer Set. Fashionistas can choose from over 1,000 different combinations of hairstyles, tops, bottoms, shoes and purses, then customise the colours of their outfits with the Magic Colour Change Blopens. Also available are the new Sparkling Unicorns Activity Set, Blopens Stencil Magic and the Blopens Fantasy Set. Rainbow Brush is the world’s first patented rainbow maker, while Pixelo creates artwork with incredible dotted effects, thanks to a simple-to-use electronic pen. When kids make notes on the Magical Star Tokens and post them in the Star Jarz slot, the jar will glow with colour changing lights. The jar has its own decorative sleeve and comes with a 24-page activity booklet. Frozen II fans are catered for with the My Light-Up Glitter Globe, Frozen II Secret Diary, My Light-Up Jewellery kit, and Frozen II Blopens Activity set. All the key new launches will benefit from TV, VOD and digital advertising, plus a full PR and social media plan.

Toynamics 0116 478 5230 | www.toynamics.co.uk The Nebulous Stars range comprises a variety of engaging arts & craft activities. Designed for children aged seven years and up, the range encourages children to get hands-on, creating something of their own, while promoting self-esteem, positive values and wellbeing. The line-up includes Origami Lanterns, Galaxy Wish Jars and a Cosmic Zen Garden, presented in differently sized, colourful boxes for eye-catching displays and shelf appeal. With plenty of play value, each craft box comes with a leaflet that offers stories and activities to kids help achieve personal development. Nebulous Stars continues to develop and release new craft box lines each year. New lines for 2020 include the Precious Time Hourglass, the Winged Mobile and Fantasy Critters. Nebulous Stars arts & craft activity boxes are distributed by Toynamics, the exclusive distributor for the brand in the UK & Ireland. For more information, email sales@toynamics.co.uk

Casdon 01253 608 428 | www.casdon.com

A.B.Gee 01773 570 444 | www.abgee.co.uk

Bringing traditional arts & craft into the home is Casdon’s Wooden Easel. Not only does it encourage children to create and show off their artistic masterpieces, it also helps with the development of fine motor skills. The traditional Wooden Easel houses a chalkboard surface on one side and a wipe-clean magnetic surface on the other, for mess-free drawing. Children can use the chalk included to create their masterpieces, or hang paper on which to create colourful drawings using the included clips. For more information email roger@casdon.com.

With the UK on lockdown and parents struggling to find ways to occupy their little ones, A.B.Gee is believes it is important to keep young brains active and offer screen free options, particularly during stressful times. The company’s arts and crafts collection includes the Jar Melo range, which offers over 90 premium quality art supplies, craft kits and activity packs. The brand is designed for little hands and creative minds, and a firm favourite is the rock painting set. There are 10 rocks included in the kit along with paints, brushes and stickers. Kids can write messages, create rock families or critters and display their painted rock art in the home or garden. Another popular line is the 3-in-1 Baby Roo silky crayon tubs. Suitable from 12 months, the crayons are versatile, non-toxic and washable. They can be used as a crayon, watercolour or even as body paint to keep the creativity flowing. This range is exclusive to A.B.Gee. Visit the website to see the full range.

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Arts & Crafts

Galt 01614 289 111 | www.galttoys.com Galt’s comprehensive selection of arts & craft kits will engage and inspire young artists. Every activity encourages self-expression and creativity as well as the development of fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and problem-solving abilities, no matter the artistic outlet kids choose. The Activity Pack range features quick and easy tasks that offer a strong introduction to the world of crafting. In 2020, Galt Toys launched the Ribbon Bands, Flower Rings and 3D Sticker Kit, which are ideal pocket money items. Creative Cases let budding crafters broaden their skills further; these larger sets require more time and focus but offer rewarding results that can be displayed, shared with family and friends or used for imaginative play. The range includes the Paint a Tea Set and Animal Pottery, and will be expanded in 2020 with the First Modelling Set, Baking Set, Hair Design Case and Nail Design Case. Galt’s Young Art range features a selection of art materials, enabling children to put their imaginations to the test. In addition to traditional favourites such as poster paints, giant chalks, modelling clay and colouring pencils, there are also several no-mess options for activities that are both convenient and fuss-free. Squeeze ‘n Brush paints and the quick-drying Paintastics fine-tip washable paintbrushes, as well as the waterproof Play Apron, help ensure quick and easy post-playtime clean-up.

Make It Real 01613 024 100 | www.makeitrealplay.com Now in its fourth year of trading, Make It Real is looking to capitalise on the global successes it has achieved in the company’s branded arts & craft, cosmetic and stationery categories. This autumn, the company will be launching multiple new DIY girls ranges featuring authentic Swarovski Crystals. From Crystal Secrets - fashion collectible DIY bracelets - to Disney and Juicy Couture crystal-studded collaborations, there will be something unique and creative for girls of every age. Autumn will also see Make It Real launch its best-selling Disney DIY range in the EMEA and Asian marketplaces through its distribution partners. For information regarding UK market opportunities, please contact Peter Thomson (pthomson@makeitrealplay.com), and for information regarding global market opportunities, please contact Dave Williams (dwilliams@ makeitrealplay.com).

Wilton Bradley 01626 835 400 | www.wiltonbradley.com Wilton Bradley’s arts & craft offering is expanding with the introduction of Marble Art to the Made It range, joining the already popular Yarn Animals kits. The award-winning Made It range encourages kids to express their imaginative and creative side in a variety of ways. The Yarn Animals kits are a unique concept which allows children to use any colour combination they wish to create the wildest design possible, on a variety of animal templates including a unicorn and llama. New for this year is a range of marbling kits. The three new Marble Art kits include a photo frame, a canvas and a painting kit, giving young crafters complete control over their designs. A great gift idea, this collection encourages kids to explore their creative side. Wilton Bradley has also developed two sewing machines as part of its new Sew Amazing range, as well as two sizes of knitting machines in its Knitting Circle subbrand. All the kits come with everything kids need to get started.

Sambro 08458 739 380 | www.sambro.co.uk Sambro has launched its new collection of Barbie Arts & Crafts lines, which is designed to appeal to Barbie fashionistas. The hero of the collection is a fully functional sewing machine complete with a Barbie doll, dress making patterns, fabric sheets and more The Barbie print studio allows kids to create their very own customised fashion range. It includes design stampers, stencils, fabric paints and many more Barbie accessories for hours of creative fun. The Barbie bead creation case is a beautiful rainbow case filled with brightly coloured Barbie beads that allow fans to create Barbie-themed masterpieces. The case includes various Barbie charms, coloured beads and coloured strings.

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Jumbo Weaving Frames

Authentic and nature-inspired children’s toys by Guidecraft, such as Jumbo Weaving Frames and PowerClix Solids Natural sets, encourage hands-on, creative experimentation with unique materials and loose parts. Each set includes double-sided activity cards that feature real-world reference, intended to inspire endless outcomes. Children’s innate curiosity and the availability of openended materials invites them to explore emotional and abstract expression, whether lacing colorful designs, creating environments around geometric shapes, or weaving translucent, textured patterns.

Jumbo Geo Lacing

PowerClix® Solids Natural

www.guidecraft.com

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

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


touchingbase

Times like these

Toy World spoke to a number of manufacturers to find out how companies have been coping during the lockdown, and what they’ve been doing to support retailers.

Ben Hogg Marketing manager, Asmodee UK Though most staff are working from home, and our warehouse is operating at 50 % capacity in order to maintain social distancing, Asmodee continues to operate as closely to normal as possible, with demand for games high during lockdown. The situation has had different levels of impact on our customers, from nationals to independents, so the key is to be flexible according to each retailer’s circumstances. No orders are being processed without explicit clearance from customers, and existing pre-orders have been freed up for change or cancellation if a store’s priorities have changed. We are in constant communication with our retailers on how to best serve them in the present circumstances and have also conducted surveys asking their thoughts on the strategy we should adopt as emergency measures begin to ease. To support both customers and consumers, we are focusing on offering downloadable resources across our social-media channels. The most prominent of these is the launch of a new website, Print & Play (print-and-play.asmodee.fun), featuring free versions of many of Asmodee’s most popular games, including Dobble, Dixit and Catan, for anyone to download and enjoy at home. With over 2m downloads so far, we’re pleased that we’ve been able to offer families some fun and distraction at a difficult time. We’ve also created a variety of downloadable activity sheets for kids based on popular properties like the Pokémon Trading Card Game and Rory’s Story Cubes, as well as video content offering people the chance to play along with us remotely.

Gareth Jones UK sales manager, Hexbug Hexbug is managing during the lockdown, but we’re having to make decisions regarding all aspects of the business, not just based on what we know today but what we think may happen in the days and weeks to come. As a company, we made the decision to furlough some colleagues, which means that the remaining workload has to be spread out among the remaining team members, by delegating and sharing certain aspects of the day-to-day business. We are continuing with our plans to launch three new ranges under the Hexbug brand this autumn, and we’ll be driving awareness and consumer demand by heavily promoting the new JunkBots range, as well as nano Flash, with TV and digital marketing. As Christmas will still occur in December, all retailers and consumers will want to get back on track as soon as possible; Hexbug will be doing what it can to make that happen.

Nicola Bergot Commercial director, Flair As a business, we’re coping far better than we could have hoped. Staff have been superb in their understanding, support, enthusiasm and flexibility. Who would have thought that an entire team could adjust to working from home so well (many of whom have done so for the first time in their working lives) – there’s no template for handling this situation. Like many businesses, we’ve had to take advantage of government help; the short-term issue is balancing our costs vs. income during this lockdown period. Sales have come in, but we’ve not seen anything like the levels we’d usually expect. Our warehouse is open, and we have plenty of stock. With so many retail partners closed completely, and those who can stay open facing challenges of their own, such as managing social distancing constraints in stores and warehouses, consumer demand is there but potentially cannot be fulfilled. Post-lockdown, we know that both businesses and the wider toy industry may be different. We’ll all have to help each other.

Phil Ratcliffe Sales & marketing director, MV Sports & Leisure With most office staff at home, everyone has had to adapt to a different way of working. Home working isn’t for me but, so far, we’ve coped reasonably well and have managed to keep shipping through a period of heightened demand for wheeled and outdoor products, thanks to our brilliant warehouse and essential HQ staff. Parents and kids have been spending more time outdoors, with pleasant April weather exacerbating the increase in demand. On the flip side, with many bricks & mortar retailers closed, we initially saw credit limits being cut; a more cautious approach towards bulk forward orders followed. However, that seems to be easing now as we’re moving towards an easing of the lockdown. Most customers and licensors have been very collaborative and understanding throughout this difficult period, and I hope that it signposts a new more open and flexible approach going forward. Christmas will still happen - Santa is the best social distancer there’s ever been.

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Marius Lang

Ross Bradley

Head of marketing UK & Ireland, The Lego Group

Sales director, Wilton Bradley

We’re continuing to work hard to minimise the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. We’re facing challenging and unprecedented times but, as always, we’re working closely with our retail partners to help support their needs. Lego continues to be in strong demand, but we’re agile enough to respond to changing consumer shopping habits, such as the shift to online shopping, and we remain committed to supporting new product launches with marketing investment. In addition, caring for children’s wellbeing and development remains at the heart of everything we do, which is why we have launched several initiatives to support families during this difficult time. Recently, the Lego Foundation donated $50m to charity partners around the world who are helping with Covid-19 relief efforts. This included Fairy Bricks here in the UK, which we worked with to provide more than 30,000 Lego sets to the children of NHS workers. Inspired by the magnitude of the impact of the crisis on children’s education, we have launched an initiative to help keep kids at home learning through play. We’ve created www.LEGO.com/letsbuildtogether and launched #letsbuildtogether across our social channels as a way to share building ideas, daily challenges set by Lego designers, retro builds, and live build-a-longs with fans everywhere. It’s incredibly inspiring to see so many families and people of all ages enjoying building with Lego, and the amazing creations being shared on social media.

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We think that the current situation has created a time for families to come together, and we’ve got some great products for ‘staycationing’ and creative entertainment in arts & crafts such as Marble Art, Yarn Animals, Knitting Circle and Sew Amazing. We also provide a wide range of outdoor sports products and toys including Mud Kitchens and Garden Games, which are proving popular with families on lockdown. As you would expect, there’s been a big shift towards online retail; we’re trying our best to support our partners, many of whom are having to adapt their business during such an uncertain time. Ensuring that our retailers are receiving stock in a timely manner, to try and help meet the uplift in consumer demand, is key to our ongoing relationships. We’d like to take this opportunity to send our well wishes to the industry.


Viewpoint Lessons of Lockdown

T Ruth Clement Ruth is director of Insight at Consumer Fluent, a UK based company with global reach, its own panel of family shoppers, industry experts and access to kids for qualitative and quantitative research in 15 markets worldwide.

hree months ago, I wrote the following sentence in a Toy World article, based on a study conducted in 2019: ‘Only 65% of millennial parents think playtime is important, compared to 85% of baby boomers.’ Several months on, and a lifetime of lockdown away, I predict that this statistic will have changed significantly, with many more millennial parents now realising the importance of playtime. “Normal” has never been a fixed position. Normal has evolved imperceptibly unless, like me, you are continuously tracking changes in consumer behaviours and attitudes. What was inconceivable once, is normal now. Ten years ago, it was normal for most households with kids to have an Argos catalogue, and for said catalogue to be instrumental in creating wish lists at Christmas. In 2019, a minority of households had the Argos catalogue and only 23% of kids use them. Five years ago, streaming content was still in the “early adopters” phase. Two months ago, most people who worked in an office went to the office to work. Nowadays, the new commute for many is from bedroom to kitchen table. Most families who shopped online for home delivery rarely stepped into a large format grocery store, and so had less exposure to the toys and licensed goods on shelf therein. Now, the single weekly shop in a large format store is de rigueur, with the added feature of queuing at a 2m distance outside, come rain or shine. Two months ago, online deliveries were the domain of retail chains with large warehouse capacity and a fleet of delivery vans. Now local farm shops, butchers, bakers, chemists, grocery stores – and even toyshops - are delivering to their local community, and many are finding a new lease of retail life as a result. In 2019, Consumer Fluent reported that 90% of millennial parents expected companies to take responsibility for their environmental impact and were already seeking climate friendly, plastic free alternatives. Now, 84% of ALL shoppers will judge retailers

by how they respond to the current Covid-19 crisis, eclipsing all other crises or concerns. Barring major PR catastrophes, the brand equity of many retailers may well end up being stronger than ever before as a result of lockdown. Retailers have provided an essential service to households. Scarcity and Covid-19 security measures have raised the cost of switching retailers in the minds of many shoppers. That strengthened retail brand equity is both an opportunity for own label suppliers and a challenge for big brands, be it in toys or other packaged goods. The longer the inevitable economic depression lasts, the more profound and lasting changes in consumer and shopper behaviour will be. There are some trends which, for toys, are worth tracking over the coming months, and in some cases, even encouraging. As companies roll out plans in 2020, they should continue to evaluate what their brand’s role will be in family life in three, six and nine months’ time, all circumstances considered. Along with the decline in spend on out-of-home leisure and recreation, hospitality, and travel comes greater demand for entertainment and activities in the home. In three months’ time, this summer may see the highest level of staycations for generations, and a brand’s role within this is not that different from what it is now; providing developmental support, an occupation, a pleasure, a distraction, a solace, a reward or a treat. In seeking to occupy children during lockdown, we see some of the fastest growth in toys coming from puzzles and arts and crafts, which are quieter, more reflective activities which parents confined at home tolerate better in a confined space. The number one factor in toy purchase decisions is “longevity of play”, which for a parent means: how much play will my child get out of this toy, how long will it occupy their attention (but crucially, without requiring any of mine)? Toy brands which hold the promise of longevity either base it on the making process or on storytelling (in licensed entertainment), but toys can also demonstrate longevity in how readily a child can extend play

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beyond the toy itself, including, in these frugal times, how they can repurpose other objects around them to add to the main strand of play. In product development, if you are not addressing longevity in your toy line, it is time to start doing so now. The good news is that brand owners do not need to wait until a new line comes to market to promote the brand’s longevity credentials. It is tempting to pull advertising at times like these, even though your share of voice (SOV) is likely to increase beyond expectations as competitors cut back on their media spend. Instead of cutting back, consider how to re-purpose your message to make it more resonant with current circumstances. With all that extra SOV making your brand more salient, how do you want kids to perceive it whilst they are stuck at home and parents are frantically seeking ways to keep them purposefully occupied? Your ‘official’ brand purpose may consist of loftier goals to become carbon neutral and plastic free by 2030, but your immediate purpose needs to be more rudimentary, reflecting the here and now, preparing the groundwork for Christmas with equity strengthened and affinity formed, for a frugal parent and bored, frustrated child. Lockdown. What felt like an existential crisis is retreating back to a new normal which is as proximal as we humans can possibly make it in the current circumstances, because that’s what humans like to do: stick with the familiar, making small increments of change over long periods of time. Many marketers I speak to tell me that even strategic decisions they made only two weeks ago are already under review in the midst of the shifting sands of a pandemic. Containing the impact of uncertainty is essential for any business but we can set boundaries around elements which we cannot control and free up our strategic levers to respond to the ones we can manage. It is ‘serendipity for business’, best served with consumer data and insights, delivering change in manageable increments. Otherwise known as progress.


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fresh FRESH THIS MONTH:

Each month Fresh sets out to find the latest products that will have toy retailers reaching for the phone. In June we have new releases from: Asmodee, Geomag, Hape, Green Bear, Moose, PMI, Hexbug & Zuru.

Gruffalo Dobble

Asmodee UK 01420 593 593 | www.asmodee.co.uk

Set for imminent release, Gruffalo Dobble brings the UK’s best-selling game into the world of the beloved children’s book by Julia Donaldson. The game follows last year’s highly successful Harry Potter Dobble, as the addictive and quickto-play card game makes its mark with new audiences.

There’s always one single matching symbol between any two cards, whether it’s a mouse or a snake, or the fearsome Gruffalo’s knobbly knees and terrible teeth. Players can enjoy a race to spot the match as they tackle one of several different mini-games that Dobble offers.

Licensed kids face masks PMI (+) 972 52 4614444

PMI is set to release a range of licensed kids’ face masks in partnership with ViacomCBS, making PMI one of the few companies worldwide with the ability to offer fully printed, licensed three-layer masks. All ViacomCBS proceeds from each face mask sold will go towards Save the Children’s Covid-19 global response efforts. Suitable for kids aged between 4-12 years, the threelayer masks conform to US standard ASTM F2100-2019and European standard EN 14683: 2009. The MTV, Paw Patrol and SpongeBob SquarePants designs are available in a 5-pack, 10-pack and a handy 50-piece CDU containing two different designs for the feature property. Shimmer and Shine, The Loud House, Blaze and the Monster Machines, and the Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles designs are available in a 10-pack and a 50-piece CDU. For more information, contact Omer Dekel, VP international sales at PMI, on omer@pmi.co.il.

Mobots

Rainbocorns Series 3

Zuru 01604 401 719 | sales@geemac.biz Celebrating a hat-trick of industry awards for its second wave of the Rainbocorns Sequin Surprise plush line, Zuru has announced the launch of Rainbocorns Series 3. In store from July, the new Wild Surprise range introduces six new characters housed in surprise eggs. Looking to replicate the success of its preceding ranges, Series 3 Wild Surprise comprises a Toucan, Elephant, Tiger, Zebra, Giraffe and Peacock, all complete with the Rainbocorn horn. A rare Silver Starred Sloth has also been added to the range, further increasing collectability and repeat purchase opportunities. Each Rainbocorn Wild Surprise Egg hatches to reveal 10 surprises including wild-themed Boo-Boocorns, nail decals, stickers and a sequin heart. An additional wave of new and innovative Rainbocorns lines is set to launch throughout 2020, offering retailers a comprehensive licensed range and even more magical and engaging surprise experiences for children to discover. Rainbocorns Series 3 will be supported by a robust PR, influencer, and advertising campaign across TV and digital platforms. New Rainbocorn webisodes will also be available to view from July onwards. For FOB sales enquiries, please contact info@zuru.com.

Hexbug 01925 454 093 | www.hexbug.com Hexbug aims to make robotics approachable so children can form a lifelong appreciation of tech New from the company for 2020 are Mobots, interactive robotic sidekicks. Kids can talk to their Mobot to record their voice, which the robot will play back and even modify with special effects. The Mobots can speed up or slow down playback to change the pitch to high or low, meaning kids can use the effects to make themselves sound like a booming giant, a robot and more. There are three versions of Mobots to choose from, with SRPs ranging from £8.99 to £24.99. All come with voice recording and playback technology, plus other special features. Mimix is posable, while Ramblez can scoot around and communicate with beeps and boops to other Ramblez robots nearby. When kids clap their hands, he will enter dance mode and drive around in fun patterns. Rounding out the range is Fetch, a remote controlled Mobot capable of grabbing and lifting objects.

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Green Range construction toys Geomagworld 07831 886 997 | www.geomagworld.com

Geomagworld SA has announced further innovations for its Green Range. For 2020, a number of eco-friendly products, manufactured almost entirely from recycled materials, will hit the market, including 10 Geomag Classic and Panel sets and four Magicube items. Each item has a different piece count, from 24 to 200 components. The Green Classic and Panel sets incorporate the highest standards environmental sustainability, with magnetic rods, panels and bases made of 100% recycled plastic. The new storage boxes included in each set are practical and durable, plus pocket-sized for convenience. In addition, the retail boxes are now re-sealable, so there is zero waste for the consumer. Magciube sets feature powerful magnets and bright colours, with each containing between eight and 64 cubes. The transparent packaging is 80% regenerated PET. To support the Green Range, a new TV spot has been developed for 2020 which will highlight the ‘Playing together for a Healthy Planet’ message. The range will be supported with strong TV and digital marketing campaigns beginning in October half term. The June launch will be supported with a blogger and influencer campaign.

Children’s Disposable Masks Hape 0116 478 5230 | www.toynamics.co.uk

In order to prevent spread of illness across schools when they can reopen, Hape has decided to have respiratory masks manufactured for children. With a strong presence in the educational sector, the company encourages its partners to take advantage of this exclusive offer in order to plan a safer process for getting back to normality. The masks are designed to protect little ones and prevent them from spreading the virus to teachers or members of their families, and toy stores could play an important role at local level in keeping people safe. The respiratory masks offered by Hape are suitable for children aged 3-12 years and are supplied in packs of five units. They are available to all Toynamics UK & Ireland customers that have an open account (conditions and MOQ apply). The Toynamics UK & Ireland team continues to serve its customers and respond to orders; the warehouse is open, the factory has been running since mid-February, supplies are assured and any orders are able to be delivered. The masks will be delivered separately from toy orders from mid-May. Please contact sales@toynamics.co.uk for full details and a special order form, or call on 0116 478 5230.

Wood Trick model kits

Boom City Racers

Green Bear Distribution 07786271474 | greenbearuk@gmail.com

Moose Toys 01637 882200 | www.moosetoys.com

Green Bear Distribution is pleased to be the official distribution partner for the Wood Trick range of model kits. With purchasers increasingly looking for sustainable, eco-friendly toys and gifts, Wood Trick offers a product range perfect for retailers who want to meet this demand.

Moose Toys will be returning to the vehicle aisle this summer with the launch of its new collectible car range, Boom City Racers. Combining a smash & crash play pattern, along with the magic of a Moose unboxing experience, the range represents the company’s expertise in offering innovation and excitement in the collectibles category.

These 3D mechanical wooden kits are crafted using 100% eco-friendly plywood and have moving mechanical features thanks to the power of simple elastic bands. There are various levels of expertise available across the range, all suited for teenagers through to adults and at a variety of RRPs from £3.99 to £39.99. The Wood Trick range is a strong retail option for the toy trade, as well as museums, galleries, arts & craft stores and garden centres. To date, sales and feedback from all these channels have been excellent. Current best-sellers include the Quad Bike, which features elastic band-powered wheels plus a park and drive gear system. The Mill has moving sails powered by five integrated cogs and the Grand Piano plays a tune using a music box, while the Guitar is attractively priced at the pocket money, impulse purchase point of £3.99. The entire range can be viewed at www.greenbearuk.com. Several new products will join the range this year, including the Hot Rod, Pick Up Truck, Catapult, Gondola, Mini Plane and Classic Clock.

Aimed at kids aged 5-8, the brand will launch with a focus on Single Packs. The packs are selected blind, with the cars concealed in a vibrant red, fireworkshaped pack. The eye-catching packaging is part of the play; only when the child pulls the release cord, and bursts through the collector’s card, is the identity of the car revealed. These vehicles have a super-fast flywheel inside and are designed to explode on impact. To repeat the fun from the start, collectors simply click the parts back into place, so the car is ready to race again. With 24 cars to collect across Season 1, there are hours of action-packed fun to be had. In following months, the range will expand to include a Two-Car Pack and a Starter Pack playset which comes complete with a ramp, boom barrels and target, so kids can refine their tricks and skills. Later in the year, a Fireworks Factory playset will provide the ultimate play destination for mini petrol heads. Offering three ways to play, kids can blow up the factory doors on their own or challenge a friend with the two player modes for engaging car collision action.

Recent statistics have shown that model kits are selling well across the UK during lockdown. Green Bear understands the difficulties that independent retailers are facing during this time, so the company has decided to drop its minimum order until the end of 2020, and cover the delivery cost to help support both existing and new customers.

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Feature

Wheeled/Outdoor Toys

Park and ride Children have become increasingly dependent on utilising outdoor space to combat cabin fever and keep themselves entertained as lockdown measures persist. Lisa Currie finds out more about what challenges and opportunities have arisen for the wheeled and outdoor toys category.

S

ummer 2020 is officially upon us, however holidays, festivals and most social events remain on hold as the UK continues to live with the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak. Despite this, toy retailers across the country have reported strong sales in outdoor toys throughout the lockdown period. As the government starts to ease restrictions on travel, exercise and the playing of sports, this strong demand looks set to continue. The category has arguably become more vital than ever, for play value, mental health and as an alternative to public transport. MV Sports has a new range of lithium scooters in the pipeline, under new brand Li-Fe, as well as a new range of its popular uMove scooters, which include sparkle, sequin and camo print models. Sales and marketing director Phil Ratcliffe told Toy World: “Hedstrom swings and slides, Kickmaster goals, kids and adult bikes, tepees and in fact anything outdoor-related is selling very well. We have expanded all our ranges this year, to offer something for everyone.” H.Grossman (HGL) has put additional focus on the company’s selection of wheeled toys. The collection is suitable for a wide age range and offers varied price points. This year, the company has launched two balance bikes with adjustable handles to suit pre-schoolers. The Lightning Strike scooter has also had a revamp, offering a new and colourful option. David Mordecai, CEO of HGL, explained: “Wheeled toys and all outdoor toys are holding up really well. The allowance of unlimited exercise during lockdown is encouraging families to exercise together and wheeled toys allow everyone to join in.” During the lockdown, companies have looked to online platforms to showcase products. Phil points out that having more customers shopping

online offers increased opportunity for the sector: “The category is ideally suited to online sales, as they are considered and planned purchases with a high degree of reliability. In the current climate, consumers have easily been able to source the products they are looking for. However, stocks been in short supply at times, so we expect the increased demand to continue for the rest of the year. My advice to stockists is to place forward bulk orders now to avoid disappointment.” Berg Toys UK is also focusing on its online presence to ensure customers are catered for during this period. “Retailers need to have a strong online presence,” explains Peter Shaw, sales manager UK. “Of course, this takes investment and resources, but also assistance and cooperation with suppliers. Berg implemented a simple but effective online strategy several years ago; account managers work with our customers to support and enhance dealer profiles, website content and the customer journey.” Peter added that the content Berg provides via its trade portal is “second to none” and advises that the first steps for any retailer should be to utilise this content to improve its website listings. It was reported in early May that trials to allow e-scooters on the roads are being fast-tracked in a bid to help the public commute to work safely. Allowing a widespread use of e-scooters is positive news for toy manufacturers who supply them. “Covid-19 has actually helped boost sales of both scooters and hoverboards, with many people using the latter in their back gardens,” enthuses Pritesh Dave, EMEA sales manager, DGL Group. “But we expect to see huge growth in e-mobility with our electric scooters, after learning that the government has decided to fast-track the trialling of e-scooters

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to June 2020, with a roll-out to follow imminently. Consumers will turn to electric scooters as a vehicle to get to work, university or college and the e-scooter market will explode overnight. This is something DGL is well prepared for, with our comprehensive range.” Indeed, the government has said it will invest £250m in new cycle lanes and has indicated it believes that, along with bikes and traditional scooters, the battery-powered vehicles could offer an alternative to public transport after lockdown easements, allowing commuters to maintain the two metre social distancing rule and avoid contact far more easily than on public transport. So, with healthy online sales and some welcome news for the future of e-scooters, what does the remainder of 2020 look like for wheeled and outdoor suppliers? “2020 really has been a unique year,” comments Pritesh, “however our products continue to perform very well online and we have invested heavily to ensure our images and video content are the best they can be to effectively market our products to end-users. We are enjoying phenomenal growth and expect this to continue into AW20, when we will be unveiling Hover-1, our biggest seasonal launch ever outside of the US. We will bring new products to market across hoverboards, scooters and buggies, both in-store and online.” “At the moment, it is a different way of working, but we are coping well,” adds Phil, “We have got a great, committed team of people; in particular our warehouse and sales admin staff have been brilliant in keeping the doors open and all our deliveries moving.” Over the next few pages, Toy World looks at some of the latest offerings in the category.


DreamWorks Trolls © 2020 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All Rights Reserved.

SIZE ADJUSTER DIAL

PRINTED WHEEL DISCS

safety helmet

BESPOKE SHAPED PLAQUE

deluxe tri-scooter 14” BIke

INCLUDES 10 PIECE FAIRY LIGHTS

My dream den

2-IN-1 SLEEP POD AND PLAY DEN ©2019 Marvel

A Troll lot of love...


Wheeled/Outdoor Toys

MV Sports

01217 488 000 | www.mvsports.co.uk MV Sports has an array of wheeled toys across both its own brand and licensed categories. Its licensed properties include L.O.L. Surprise!, Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, Disney Princess, Batman, Spiderman and Frozen II, and new licences Bing and Ricky Zoom will strengthen the portfolio for 2020. The MV bikes range starts from 2-in-1 10” bikes, which easily convert from a pedal bike to a balance bike, and then increase in size to 12”, 14” and 16” options. All come with adjustable handlebar and seat heights. The 10”- 14” bikes also come with removable stabilisers to help children build their confidence. Trolls 2 was released on-demand in April and MV Sports offers a range of brightly coloured scooters, skates and bikes. The company has a special Trolls Funky hair range, featuring elements of Trolls inspired hair and glitter elements on a range of scooters, skates and bikes. For 2020, MV has a new range of lithium scooters under the new brand Li-Fe. The lithium scooters have a lightweight and compact battery, increased charge cycles and are an eco-friendly form of transport which is also road friendly. The range starts with the 200 model with multiple speed settings, LED display and kickstand, going up in spec to the 350-air which has a much bigger range and larger, air-filled tyres for a smoother ride. There are five models to choose from to suit everyone’s needs. Following a successful first year for its premium scooter range uMoVe, MV will be expanding the range this year to include sparkle, sequin and camo print models. uMoVe Sparkle is a highly decorated scooter with a glitter finish on the anodised stem, glitter grip tape and glitter LED wheels. The new uMoVe Camo range is emblazoned with on trend camouflage prints in a range of colours, while uMoVe Sequin scooters are bedecked with reversible sequin stem wraps and glitter finishes on the grip tape and wheels. MV Sports is also introducing an entry level premium lithium scooter into the range. With integrated flashing lights in the deck and wheels, the scooter has three modes for beginners, learner and advanced riders. Last but not least is the brand new Trike2Bike concept; a sturdy trike which converts to a mini balance bike in seconds.

HGL 0141 613 2525 | www.hgltoys.com HGL offers a wide selection of wheeled toys, from sophisticated stunt style scooters to brand new balance bikes for younger children. My First Scooter’s unique design makes it the perfect starter scooter at an affordable price. Starting off on a sturdy four wheels, young children can get to grips with the speed and feel of the scooter. Once they grow in confidence, parents can reduce the scooter to three-wheels and as their ability develops, they can progress to two wheels. This adaptable product has an affordable retail price, making it a top choice for parents. The Light Up Unicorn Scooter is still a best seller, along with the Dino scooter. Unicorns and dinosaurs remain a popular trend, and the Unicorn scooter has received praise for its design and versatility. The scooter has light up wheels and an adjustable steering column to take into account children’s growth. The unicorn theme is also available as skateboards and pogo sticks, plus many items in the HGL collection. 2020 saw the addition of two brand new balance bikes with adjustable handles. Perfect for preschoolers, these colourful, sturdy and safe bikes come in the same popular themes of dinosaur and unicorn.

Siso Toys UK 01620 674 778 | www.simba-dickie-group.de Simba Smoby’s reversible 2-in-1 Scooter is ideal for kids aged 18-36 months. Designed with mobile development in mind, this 3-wheeled piece switches easily from a learning trike that hones steering and balance skills to a first scooter for a more daring ride. The ergonomic functionality is particularly suited for the age range with a robust, chunky, plastic covered frame and adjustable metal handlebars with large handles and silent wheels. Whatever the choice of ride, the transformation from trike to scooter is effortless with no tools required. The Vespa inspired Pink and Blue Scooters offer a stylish ride. At a height of 47.5cm, each scooter is suitable for children from 18 months and offers a truly authentic experience. A realistic front light and a mechanical key provide realistic detail, and kids can store things away in the toy box placed under the seat. For more information about these and other wheeled toys in the Smoby collection including push along trikes, ride-on cars and tractors and even electric powered quad bikes, please email sales@sisotoysuk.com or call 07831 100108

The revamped Lightning Strike scooter has a light up deck in flashing multi-colours and is available in a number of colourways. The Nebulus scooter is available in a choice of colours and comes with spoked wheels. This cost-effective scooter will make an ideal gift for scooter fans.

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Wheeled/Outdoor Toys

Little Tikes

0845 0533 333 | www.mgae.com Little Tikes is continuing to innovate, create and entertain with the My First Mighty Blasters toy line which launched earlier this year. The range, which aims to inspire role play and spark imagination is the first blaster toys to target the under-fives market. The range features three different blasters - the Boom Blaster, Dual Blaster, Mighty Bow and the Power Packs Assortment. With a 12-foot blasting range the Boom Blaster is easy to load and launch and comes complete with three bright and colourful power pods – Red Fireball, Missile Launch and a mystery pod to surprise. The Dual Blaster launches two power pods at once. With a similar trigger mechanism and a total of six pods including Magma, Dino Smash and Shock Wave, the blaster is designed to keep children entertained for hours. The Mighty Bow is the ultimate blaster, with power pods Sharkbite and Wind. With a quick rotation it can be transformed into a cross bow in seconds. The Power Pack Assortment comprises five collectible pods and a utility belt to ensure the blasters are always ready to power up for launch. New to the Little Tikes family is the Little Baby Bum range, which brings to life characters from the hit musical show available on Netflix, YouTube, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video and more. The Little Baby Bum Wheels on the Bus Scoot is a 2-in-1 ride-on and push-along that helps little ones explore safely, keeping them steady on their feet whilst in the early stages of walking and also allowing them to sit and ride. Complete with an interactive panel with four songs, sounds and phrases from the popular show along with real working horn, ignition and wiper sound effects, the Wheels on the Bus Scoot will keep little ones entertained whilst aiding learning in a fun, interactive way.


Wheeled/Outdoor Toys

Wilton Bradley 01626 835 400 | www.wiltonbradley.com

Rollplay 07986 971902 | www.rollplay.com Rollplay kicks off the summer with the launch of its Flex Kart, the first ever folding children’s e-car on the market. Suitable for pre-schoolers aged 3-5 years, it will offer a compact and lightweight solution for urban dwellers with limited storage space, as well as families who like to take their ride-ons out and about. Made with a durable metal frame, the Flex Kart will travel at speeds of up to 2mph and folds quickly and easily for convenience. It will be priced affordably for accessibility. September will see Rollplay further add to its extensive licensed offering, in time for the Christmas season, with the launch of a new BMW X5M. Suitable for children aged three plus, the all-terrain SUV will be packed with a host of premium, authentic features including a replica multi-coloured grill, opening door, light-up dashboard, working headlights, Bluetooth, FM radio and folding mirrors. Travelling at up to 3mph, the car will feature motor sounds and come complete with a parental remote control. For an older audience, the Wave Catcher is a key SKU for Rollplay in 2020 and is available now. The first electric scooter for the brand, it perfectly complements its ever-growing high-performance segment. Inspired by the art of windsurfing, the innovative combination of scooter and skateboard offers riders the added challenge and unique sensation of mastering surf-like moves to turn and steer. There are two speed options: training mode, which runs at 6mph and advance mode, which runs at 10mph. Featuring a skateboard style truck, easy-to-use rear footbrake and heightadjustable handlebar, the scooter offers greater control as well as one-handed steering and is foldable for easy transportation.

New from Wilton Bradley is the officially licensed Fiat 500 push ride-on car. Available in pink, the Fiat 500 model has opening doors, a removable “twist-turn” handle for steering, a horn and functional headlights. For pre-schoolers, the Xootz bubble scooter is a unique concept that has seen success this season after winning gold in the scooter category at this year’s Made for Mum’s awards. The scooter leaves a trail of bubbles wherever it goes; simply add bubble solution to the rear mounted bubble machine and watch as hundreds of bubbles blow away in the wind. The scooter is available in both blue/green and pink/ blue options. Launched last year, the Xootz Viper Go Kart and Elements Electric Scooters have been a success, with strong sales not only in the UK but also in over 20 countries worldwide. This year sees more new and innovative lines added into the range, including the Typhoon Power Drift Trike and Electro and Evader Scooters, suitable for teens and adults. The Typhoon Power Drift Trike was created using in-house tooling and 3D design, evolving the Viper design and colourway. With an impressive run time of 60 minutes and max speed of 16km/h, the ride-on provides endless outdoor fun. The Vroom licensed electric ride-on range has also been experiencing growth. This brand offers a range of sizes and battery options across well-known car brands and models. The Range Rover Ride On & Suitcase is an officially licensed product that is perfect for kids aged 2-6 years and is exclusively available from Wilton Bradley.

DGL Group +44 1162744046 | www.hover-1.eu DGL Group started as a hoverboard brand and is now a full 360-degree e-mobility brand. US NPD data shows it now has 65% market share of hoverboards and 45% of scooters and skateboards. The company is continually investing in its R&D and Design teams to produce beautiful, feature-rich, products that are competitive in the market, an endeavour which would not be possible without the support of its retail and distribution partners across UK & Europe. The company continues to work closely with them all in creating bespoke solutions for its customer base. 2020 will see DGL enter into trading relationships with more partners than ever before, offering a comprehensive range of e-mobility lines packed with a host of new features. An increased focus and commitment on e-scooters has been prompted by the imminent law change, which will see sales grow exponentially. The Hover-1 range continues to show growth YoY and offers a complete collection of e-scooters which will help the company achieve its best in category goal, with a carefully designed feature mix and attractive price points. DGL’s kids scooter, for ages eight and above, will be packaged in a new, vibrant child-centric giftbox and is available in a variety of colours; black, blue and pink. The adult range is packed with features like shock absorption, Bluetooth speakers and 10” air-filled wheels in a variety of colours, including black, white and the bestselling iridescent finish. The company’s hoverboards will have never-seen-before features this year, such as multi-coloured LED wheel lights, LED light-up footpads and LED infinity wheels, while the company’s 2-in-1 hoverboard and buggy combos offer great value for customers.

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Special Feature

Sustainability

A brighter future April 22nd marked the 50th anniversary of World Earth Day, an annual event dedicated to raising awareness of the various environmental challenges that face our planet. Toy World spoke to the toy companies addressing the challenges head-on, to find out how materials, packaging and play itself can pave the way to a greener future.

A A

lways something of a pathfinder, MGA Entertainment recently outlined the next steps it was taking on its sustainability journey, which has been spearheaded by the phenomenally successful L.O.L. Surprise! collectibles brand. The company’s partnership with the waste recycling specialist Terracycle, which kicked off in 2019, has been further extended to include Ireland as well as Britain and the USA, while a new bio-degradable L.O.L. Surprise! ball, plus a new patent-pending compound that facilitates the degradation of plastic in landfill conditions, will reduce single-use plastic waste even more. However, the company plans to go much further; in an announcement made in April, MGA outlined plans to make the entire L.O.L Surprise! packaging line completely degradable by 2021, while, by 2025, MGAE says it will only manufacture products that will break down safely when disposed of properly. “Our ongoing commitment to creating products that push our brands towards a more sustainable future is a firm priority both personally for our CEO Isaac Larian, and for the entire MGAE portfolio,” explains MGA’s senior vice president UK, Andrew

Laughton. “Sustainability is becoming more and more important and is on everyone’s agenda – our consumers are increasingly demanding it, and rightly so. As a global company, we feel it’s our commercial responsibility to help preserve our planet for the generations to come. We have a responsibility, as the biggest privately-owned toy company in the world, to lead the way towards more environmentally-friendly toy production, without compromising the play value of our products.” To coincide with World Earth Day 2020, Zuru also outlined a new programme which it hopes will prevent some 800 tonnes of single-use plastic entering the supply chain each year, by making the plastic stems and caps for its best-selling Bunch O Balloons from 100% fully certified and traceable postconsumer-recycled plastic. “It is important as a toy company to take necessary steps to make a change for the better and protect the future for our kids,” comments Renee Lee, VP of Global Marketing, Zuru. “Making these changes ensures we stay at the forefront of consumer trends; customers are increasingly interested in buying more sustainable goods. We are also future proofing our brands from regulations that may come into place,

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that restrict or tax certain materials.” Renee went on to outline Zuru’s 10-year sustainability plan; the company plans to rethink how it designs and manufactures high quality, sustainable goods, to reduce its use of unsustainable business practices and materials, and to drive the use of recycled materials as well as educating and aiding consumers on how to recycle responsibly. Mattel, meanwhile, is set to debut its first product aligned with its goal to achieve 100% recycled, recyclable or bio-based plastics materials in both its products and packaging by 2030. The iconic FisherPrice Rock-a-Stack will be made from sugarcanebased plastics and packaged in 100% recycled or sustainably sourced material. Fisher-Price will celebrate its 90th anniversary in 2020, and by the end of the year, all Rock-a-Stack toys sold worldwide are on track to be made with plant-based plastics and packaged in 100% recycled or sustainably sourced material. The Rock-a-Stack toy, which was first launched by Fisher-Price in 1960 to introduce babies to relative size and stacking, will be made from a sugarcane-based polyethylene, a renewable raw material. Streamlining the toy’s materials means it can also be fully recycled, which will eliminate waste


42096 LEGO® Technic Porsche 911 RSR

DON’T FORGET FATHER’S DAY 21st June

42108 LEGO® Technic Mobile Crane

©2020 The LEGO Group


Special Feature and more easily enable the material to be recovered and repurposed at the end of the toy’s service life. A new advertiser to Toy World, Green Bear has partnered with Wood Trick to distribute its range of wooden toys. The 3D mechanical wooden kits are crafted using 100% eco-friendly plywood, and are offered at a wide range of price points to suit all budgets. Wood Trick’s website states that only natural wood is utilised in the production of its construction kits, sourced from ecologically responsible regions of the world. Green Bear director Neil Butler adds: “Shoppers looking for eco-friendly products love the eco-packaging of the Wood Trick range, which has a fresh and contemporary design and fully explains the environmental credentials of the range. Wood Trick is a young and dynamic company, qualities which are reflected in its modern and fun designs. We have a great relationship, and we’re constantly discussing new ideas specifically for the UK market.” To support retailers, Green Bear will be running competitions such as Best Guitar Design and Best Cabriolet Design (the models can be painted to add to the fun). POS material, national advertisement and winners’ prizes will be supplied. Given the ongoing disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the company has also decided to drop its minimum orders and cover all delivery costs until the end of the year, to help retailers get back on their feet. As well as the material the toy itself is made from, companies are overhauling packaging to reduce the footprint of some products. From summer, L.O.L. fans can expect to find paper accessory bags become part of the play pattern, replacing plastic ones, while Zuru’s Sparkle Girlz brand is attempting to integrate more plastic blister-free packaging across the range. Some are also trying to make the packaging a toy arrives in an integral part of the play pattern itself, as demonstrated by Tomy’s Britains Farm in a Box. Every element of the packaging is designed and illustrated to transform it into a farmyard, opening up to reveal a cardboard tractor fitment that transforms into a pair of hay bales, a trailer fitment that turns into a grain silo, and other cardboard elements that double as a cattle feeder, weaning pens, stables, a milking parlour, or a farmhouse with doors that open. Mary Wood, general manager UK & Ireland at Tomy, tells Toy World how Britains Farm in a Box came about.

Sustainability

“This product was initially developed based on a request from an online retailer, which wanted fuss-free packaging,” she says. “When we started to explore this further, we identified a consumer benefit in making the packaging an integral part of the product, so it’s not thrown away once the product is opened. We’ve all heard the adage that you buy a child a lovely toy and then they play more with the box it came in - so this does exactly that. Britains works well for this type of product as farming and role-play go hand-in-hand, but if this is successful, we do have ideas which will see this concept extend to other play patterns.” Mary adds: “We have good support for this new item, particularly across the independent channel, which has always been the strongest supporter of the Britains range in the UK. Interestingly, some of the national retailers have not selected the product this year as they feel the RSP needs to be lower - and herein lies the challenge. Whilst we save money on the cost of plastic blisters, there’s an increased, hidden cost in the labour required to form the quite complex packaging. Our next focus will be on how we can offer this experience across more of our portfolio where it makes sense, but, importantly, also looking at ways of reducing cost to make it more acceptable to a broader spectrum of our retail partners.” Here, Mary raises an interesting point. Ecofriendly materials, recyclable packaging and other sustainability credentials can mean higher prices for both trade and end-users. We asked our contributors if they think retailers and consumers are willing to get behind these products from a financial point of view. “This is the big question and one to which we have no definitive answer at this point,” says Mary. “Currently, more sustainable materials cost more than the current plastic ones. Tomy is working on a number of options, but in the meantime, we’re doing what we can to reduce the amount of plastic in our packaging without an increase in cost. For example, some of our new autumn/winter Toomies products see an 80-85% reduction in the use of plastic, and for Ricky Zoom we’re developing a solution that reduces the plastic by around 95% on the entry price point vehicles for spring/summer 2021. This is clearly just the start, but it’s an active and on-going project for us at Tomy.”

Eco Friendly products can be more expensive as they cost more to produce and package correctly, notes Neil at Green Bear, but Wood Trick has responded by producing kits for every price range. “Starting at £1.72, you can retail Wood Trick kits at very affordable price points, making the toys appealing as an impulse purchase or as an alternative gift for friends and family,” he adds. Andrew at MGA is similarly confident in consumer support for eco-friendly, sustainable toys, noting that most people recognise the importance of changes to materials and packaging designs. “There may be a minimal impact on costs but we’re confident that retailers and consumers understand – and value - the reasons behind this,” he says. “These developments towards being more sustainable and eco-friendly are not just important, they’re essential for the future of our environment and something our consumers and retailers, like us, want to invest in.” It’s also worth noting the impact of Covid-19 on sustainability and consumer behaviour. Global lockdowns have led to decreases in air pollution levels, cleaner rivers and canals, and the return of wildlife to areas usually heaving with humans; global leaders are now being pressured to create greener economies and societies, to the benefit of everything and everyone, once the pandemic has died down. On an individual level, it’s fair to assume that these pressures will be reflected in more sustainable shopping choices across all sectors, including toys. Both Mary and Andrew speak of the lessons to be learned from the coronavirus, spanning everything from the amount of time we spend in cars commuting to work, the use of video conferencing instead of physical travel (especially overseas), and increased home working flexibility, to the need for more proactive measures taken to protect the planet. Notes Andrew: “There seems to be more awareness around the impact of our behaviour on the environment. It’s hard to predict how consumer behaviour will change in the long-term, but if it encourages us all to work and produce in a more sustainable and environmentally-aware way, that’s a definite positive.”

• Made from Eco-Friendly Plywood • All Models assemble without glue • Each kit has it’s own mechanical function

07786 271474 greenbearuk@gmail.com neil@greenbearuk.com www.greenbearuk.com

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Allegedly

The news that Argos will not be publishing an autumn winter catalogue this year certainly came as a surprise to many, although much of the feedback we received from insiders to the news suggests that those in the know realised this was going to happen sooner or later. Maybe the pandemic brought the decision forward by a couple of years, but it seems it was always on the cards. So, what now for the Argos brand under Sainsbury’s? Some believe the Argos name itself has a finite shelf life – former Argos mainstay Ian Chaplin has maintained for some while that it will disappear within the next few years. In the meantime, what impact will the loss of the catalogue have on consumers (especially kids, who have always loved going through the ‘laminated book of dreams’ to make their Christmas wish-lists) and also on Sainsbury’s marketing revenue stream – the cost to suppliers to have a strong presence in the catalogue never came cheap. I understand that Argos will still publish its popular pre-Christmas Gift Guide, but what will happen to the timing of its top 10 toys list (Argos is traditionally first out of the gate, to coincide with the catalogue launch)? It will be fascinating to see how it all pans out… The announcement of the cancellation of the Vegas Licensing Expo came as little surprise to most people: August was always an optimistic date to hold an event, given the ongoing virus situation, and organiser Informa has surely done the right thing in taking decisive action. All eyes now turn to domestic UK events scheduled for September and October – Autumn Fair, the rescheduled Toymaster and PlayRoom shows and BLE – as well as international trips to LA in September and Hong Kong in October. There are a few encouraging signs emerging around the world: Hong Kong certainly appears to have the situation under a far greater degree of control than many countries, although on arrival, visitors must wait in a hall (which resembles a school exam room, with desks and chairs suitably spaced apart) for eight hours to receive the results of a covid-19 test administered as soon as they touch down. That’s an eight hour wait on top of a 12-13-hour flight (and not even a movie or drink and complimentary pretzels to sustain you) …. does that sound terribly appealing to you? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens over the coming weeks: hopefully some of these events can take place, even though they may bear little resemblance to the way we are used to experiencing them… Amazon recently described its workers as ‘heroes’, but apparently they are not quite heroic enough to justify being paid an extra $2 an hour ‘danger money’ after the end of May. Nice to see Amazon ‘reading the room’ so well – all that extra turnover generated in recent weeks is obviously going to be put to far better use swelling Jeff Bezos’ coffers rather than rewarding its staff for putting their lives on the line to deliver hair clippers and other ‘essential’ items. The phrase ‘Wuhan-kers’ has been coined to describe people or companies whose behaviour during the pandemic could be called into question. I’ll leave you to decide whether that description suits Amazon – or indeed those retailers asking for 30% discount to settle outstanding invoices…

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For context, it is also worth bearing in mind that Amazon reported profits of over £7500 a SECOND in Q1. Pause for a minute to take in the enormity of that performance. Then pause again when you realise that despite this, Amazon’s results came with the warning that it would make its first quarterly loss in five years because of a spike in virus-related costs. As Amazon was given large tax credits by European governments last year as a result of trading ‘losses’, presumably this means even larger tax credits for the coming year... We all thought that grocers were going to be among the major winners through the crisis – yet Sainsbury’s recently warned of a potential £500m hit to its profits this year, with general merchandise sales down by 22%. It turns out that grocers don’t make their huge profits from tins of chopped tomatoes, value rice and flour - who knew… Disney furloughed 100,000 of its employees in the US, making them reliant on state benefits (bear in mind that the US furlough arrangements are nowhere near as generous as the UK’s system). At the same time, Disney has confirmed that it will be going ahead with eye-watering executive bonus schemes (Bob Iger took $47m last year, while his successor Bob Chapek could potentially earn an annual bonus “of not less than 300%” of salary, in addition to a long-term incentive award of “not less than $15m”). That’s not all – there is also the small matter of $1.5b dividend payments due in July, while Disney has $20b resources to draw on. So, is it fair and reasonable to ask ordinary US taxpayers to bail them out – one wonders what the $20b reserve is there for if it’s not situations like this… When the pandemic is over, it will be remembered that toy companies, retailers and - in the wider world – NHS staff, key workers and so many other people did such amazing, inspirational things to help us get through it. Artist Banksy summed it up exquisitely in his latest work of art – a whole new breed of hero is emerging:


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Toy World Magazine June 2020  

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