Toy World expands editorial team

Two new assistant editors, Caroline Tonks and Gabriela Jimenez Garcia, will be working alongside Toy World editor Rachael Simpson-Jones and Marianna Casal.

Caroline Tonks

A graduate of Indiana University, Caroline is a trained ballerina who has also completed a master’s degree with Merit in the MA Magazine Journalism programme at City, University of London. While at City, she honed her journalistic skills as the deputy editor of student-run digital magazine, Spark, and also wrote for the course’s journalism alumni magazine, XCity. Prior to joining Toy World, she has undertaken roles at News UK (Fabulous magazine) where she wrote content for ‘Fabulist’ and attended the cover shoot.

Caroline said: “I am very excited to be joining the team and starting my journalistic career with Toy World and, as well as meeting everyone who works in the industry.”

Gabriela brings with her a background in journalism and copywriting. She is a graduate in Journalism from the University of Westminster, where she particularly enjoyed working on a social issues magazine project. Since then she has held various journalist and copywriter roles at a range of publications, and is now looking forward to working with the Toy World team and using her skills.

Gabriela said: “I’m thrilled to become part of the team and immerse myself in the world of toys, and perhaps interview some of the companies that made my childhood such an enjoyable time.”

Gabriela Jimenez Garcia

Publisher John Baulch commented: “We are delighted to welcome Caroline and Gabriela to the team. Their writing skills, positive attitude and enthusiasm for the toy trade are sure to be huge assets to the company. We look forward to introducing both of them to the toy industry over the coming months.”

Many readers will be hearing from Caroline and Gabriela over the next few weeks as we work on the bumper January edition of Toy World, which we expect to be a baptism of fire for them! There is more information on this issue here.

Last minute advertising enquiries for January (or ahead) should be directed to Mark Austin by phoning 01442 502405 or emailing, or John Baulch on 01442 502408  or – but don’t delay as space is running out.

Of course, the usual editorial contacts are also happy to help with any enquiries:

Rachael Simpson-Jones –
Marianna Casal –

To contact Caroline, email, and Gabriela can be reached on

The editorial team can also be reached on 01442 502 406.

Both new assistant editors look forward to meeting everyone at Toy Fair in January.

Hasbro enhances licensed products offerings with Icecat

Hasbro and Icecat have collaborated on creating product content for licensed brands Peppa Pig, My Little Pony and Transformers.

HasbroHasbro licensed has been working together with content service provider Icecat since 2021 to syndicate its product content in multiple countries. Product content for Hasbro’s brands is available for its channel partners on the Icecat platform, free of charge.

Hasbro has now enhanced its licensed product offerings with Icecat Enhanced Product Stories. An Enhanced Product Story is a below-the-fold content page with a custom layout of multimedia and messaging assets that give the best product experience to an online shopper. These dynamic Product Stories contain a wide selection of multimedia assets, for example, a Product Story can include videos, feature logos, explanations, 3D objects, hot spots and an image gallery.

The enhancement of licensed products Peppa Pig, My Little Pony and Transformers helps brand owners create a better online experience, resulting in increased revenue. Integrating an Enhanced Product Story for channel partners is easy – by just adding a few lines of JavaScript to a product page. A recent case study by Icecat and Disney with licensed Marvel products, where Hasbro was involved, showcased that when Product Stories are integrated on a product page, conversion can grow by 11% and revenue by 34%.

“I am excited about how Icecat is assisting us in strategically positioning Hasbro character branding online, thereby enhancing the online visibility of our licensees. The valuable insights that Icecat provides leave a positive impression on our online presence,” said Simone Hulst, Licensing manager EMEA Agents – Benelux & Israel at Hasbro Consumer Products EMEA.

“I have observed a growing inclination among brand owners to empower their licensees by enriching online product pages through Icecat Enhanced Product Stories,” added René Rozendal, director Toys and Entertainment at Icecat. “As a result, our user network is steadily expanding. More importantly, we have the capability to establish a comprehensive database for brand owners, allowing them to monitor the online presence of its products effectively.”

Retailers and brands wanting to find out more about Icecat and what it offers can click here.

Panama Canal crisis impacting December deliveries

Escalating costs and delays caused by the Panama Canal’s worst drought for 70 years are affecting the world’s supply chains in the run up to Christmas.

Delivery company ParcelHero reports that the ongoing drought crisis will inevitably lead to increased costs and ongoing delays this Christmas. The amount of goods carried by vessels using the canal has been massively reduced and there are now severe cuts to the daily number of ships permitted to use the vital trade link.

David Jinks M.I.L.T., ParcelHero’s head of Consumer Research and former editor of Lloyds Shipping Index, commented: “Generally, around 36 ships are allowed to transit the canal a day. However, in recent months there has been a sharp reduction in the number of ships permitted to use the canal and, by 1st December, a limit of 22 sailings will be in force. Even stricter limits are planned, although a few extra slots are being made available for those willing to enter an auction to win an early transit.”

ParcelHero explained that this has resulted in some operators, who haven’t booked their transit of the canal months in advance, paying up to $4m at auction. According to bidding documents, Japan’s Eneos Group paid US$3.975m earlier this month.

David added: “Capacity has also been slashed. That means some massive Neo Panamax vessels are sailing at considerably less than full capacity.”

Shipping companies are being forced to either continue to use the 48-mile long canal, at higher costs and reduced loading, or re-route. Alternative routes are slower and costly, however, forcing shippers to impose new surcharges onto customers, and that will have a knock-on effect on consumers.

French carrier CMA CGM (the third-largest shipping line in the world) has already announced a forthcoming surcharge on all shipments transiting the Panama Canal, saying that, from January, as the booking windows for transiting the Neopanamax locks will be reduced by -30%, a $150 per TEU container Panama Adjustment Factor could mean increased costs of up to $750,000 per transit for standard Panamax vessels. Larger vessels are looking at an even greater increase in costs.

40% of container traffic to the US uses the canal, often carrying US brands made in China or components made in Asia for US assembly, such as microchips. Supply chains are being stretched which could lead to shortages of goods and increased prices as retailers fight over available stocks.

“More immediately, British businesses will be affected by delays and rising costs on goods sent from the US West Coast,” explained David. “The delays are also bad news for UK manufacturers and retailers exporting their products to destinations such as California via the canal.”

The Panama Canal is used to move petroleum, grains and petro-chemicals, so everything from energy to food to manufacturing prices could also be impacted in the run-up to Christmas.

“As peak season approaches, the consequences of the Panama Canal’s restrictions will become more apparent,” said David.

The Late Late Toy Show showcases this year’s top toys

One of the most-watched programmes of the year on Irish television, being featured on the Late Late Toy Show can lead to a major boost in sales, as KAP Toys discovered.

The Late Late Toy Show is an annual, special edition of the Irish chat show The Late Late Show. Airing annually on RTÉ One to coincide with the holiday shopping season, the Toy Show showcases the popular toys of the year, presented by the host and demonstrated by various children on-stage, along with appearances by celebrity guests.

This year, the show took place on Friday 24th November, when Patrick Kielty made his debut as host. Since its first presentation in 1975, the Toy Show has become a cultural institution in Ireland, and being featured on the Toy Show can have a major boost to sales heading into the Christmas season.

As usual, children were invited into the studio to test the year’s hottest toys, and an impressive amount of toys received exposure, including everything from Little Tikes Cosy Coupe, Eolo’s Biggies and Wow! Stuff’s Jurassic World Real FX T-Rex, to Moose Toys’ Beast Lab: Shark Beast Creation, HoloToyz’ Tattoos – Pet Party & Creative Sea Creatures and Huffy’s Disney Princess 16″ Girls Bike.

According to data from RTÉ, 1.7m tuned in to watch. On social media, #LateLateToyShow generated 26.2m video views and 2.2m interactions

One company which has been in touch with Toy World to share its delight at a sudden increase in sales – prompted by the show – was KAP Toys, which was pleased to see its Hello Kitty Cappuccino Cup sparking excitement.

In a segment dedicated to manga/Japanese “cool toys”, the Hello Kitty Cappuccino toys were demonstrated with the pouring of water into the cups, revealing the magic of the squishy collectible. Host Patrick Kielty couldn’t believe his eyes before holding up the toy and saying “Hello Kitty!” The unprompted audience reaction as the magic of the toy was demonstrated added to the experience – a reaction which KAP Toys’ MD, Nat Southworth, says reinforces the product’s strength.

“Whenever our team achieves these PR moments, it is absolute testament to the hard work, dedication and commitment we put in to finding great toys that sell every day,” explained Nat. “For our products to secure this amount of air time and focus, versus all of the fantastic toys in the market this year, is terrific.”

He added: “We’ve got more Hello Kitty products coming for 2024, and we’re currently allocating the remaining Hello Kitty Cappuccino items in stock. For more on our Hello Kitty products, readers can contact, visit or come and see us at London Toy Fair (Stand UN66). We’re booking appointments now.”

The Late Late Toy Show receives regular copies of Toy World, in order to keep up to date with all the latest trends and hottest toys. Money is raised for multiple children’s charities during the broadcast, and this year, the event achieved donations in excess of €3m before the show had even ended.

A complete list of the toys featured can be found here.

Did Black Friday boost retail footfall?

Data shows that footfall rose the most in shopping centres nationally, and some retailers have welcomed a marked increase in toy sales.

According to data from MRI Software, formerly Springboard, at midday last Friday, footfall across all retail destinations was up 7.1% on the previous week, as shoppers turned out to hunt for Black Friday deals.

According to Retail Week, Argos reported a surge in toy sales ahead of Christmas, with substantial discounts on Lego and Duplo products proving particularly popular with customers. John Lewis also noted an increase in transactions in its toy departments.

The biggest increase was seen across shopping centres where footfall jumped 11.2%. In terms of regions, central London saw the most significant rise, with footfall traffic jumping 13.1% from last week and 1.5% ahead of Black Friday last year.

MRI Software Marketing and Insights director, Jenni Matthews, commented: “The largest rise in activity witnessed so far today came from shopping centres, which is likely to be attributed to their attraction factor with free parking in many cases alongside a variety of large brands, stores and hospitality options, allowing consumers to truly make a day of it with everything under one roof.

“Regionally, central London has seen the most significant rise in footfall today at 13.1% and is also 1.5% higher than last year, which indicates that the recent decision by Jeremy Hunt to not reintroduce a tax-free shopping policy for tourists has not dampened shoppers spirits this Black Friday.”

While online transactional data for Black Friday has yet to be published, Barclaycard figures show that the volume of transactions leading up to the event was higher this year than last (transactions were up by 1.42% year on year for the week between Thursday, November 16th and Wednesday, November 22nd). This refelcts how much earlier retailers launched offers this year.

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen Black Friday Sales arrive earlier and earlier, with shoppers spreading their spending over a longer period of time,” commented Marc Pettican, head of Barclaycard Payments. “Although the cost of living may be impacting some shoppers’ spending on non-essential items, many are still taking the opportunity to bag a Black Friday bargain. No doubt this will be welcome news to retailers, who may have anticipated a slower November as shoppers’ budgets continue to be squeezed.”

Marc added: “It’s also encouraging to see that transaction volumes this week reflect a much busier shopping period than a regular week within the year, too.”

Argos toy sales saw a marked increase; as well as a host of attractive offer prices on popular brands, the retailer offered customers an increase on Nectar points on purchases, and is offering price-promise deals across Black Friday.

Profits rise at Smyths Toys in Ireland

Revenues of €266.66m represent 19% of Smyths Toys €1.38b revenues across the UK, Northern Ireland and the Republic last year.

Pre-tax profits at the Irish division of Smyths increased by 22.5% to €5.33m last year. Recently filed accounts for Smyths Toys Ltd show revenues for its Irish operation increased by €49m or 22.5%, from €217.56m to €266.66m.

The retailer operates 21 stores, and revenues last year equate to an average of €12.7m per store. The revenues of €266.66m represent 19% of the group’s €1.38bn revenues across the UK, Northern Ireland and the Republic last year.

The directors state that the increase in revenues was primarily driven by an increase in footfall as customers returned to stores post Covid-19 restrictions.The directors added that they were pleased with the results “particularly given the current economic climate and the competitive marketplace”. The Irish unit of Smyths paid out dividends of €12m last December.

Numbers employed increased by 157 from 546 to 703, and staff costs increased from €14.29m to €17.45m.

The profits for last year take account of non-cash depreciation costs of €1.29m and operating lease costs of €3.3m. At the end of December last year, the firm’s shareholder funds totalled €6.58m including accumulated profits of €5.94m.

The firm’s cash funds increased from €6.09m to €8.9m. The firm recorded a post tax profit of €854,000 after incurring a €270,000 corporation tax charge.

Smyths Toys’ business now extends across the UK, France, Holland, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Across England, Scotland and Wales, a record sales year saw revenues surge by 16% or £122.78m from £788m to £910.78m. Here, pre-tax profits increased by 8% from £18.1m to £19.49m (€22.42m).

The size of the overall business across the UK, Ireland and Europe has increased sharply since last year with the expansion into France following the acquisition of PicWic Toys in France in July 2022.

Smyths Toys now operates 283 stores across Ireland, the UK, France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Canada’s Mastermind Toys under creditor protection

Although stores currently remain open for business, Mastermind Toys intends to close a number of them, while it explores the future of its retail estate.

Mastermind Toys has announced that it has sought and obtained an initial order for creditor protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (the CCAA) from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (Commercial List) in Toronto.

At the moment, all 66 Mastermind Toys stores across Canada remain open for business and all current sales and holiday promotions are expected to continue in stores and online.

The decision to seek creditor protection under the CCAA was described by the company as “difficult but necessary” and made following careful evaluation of available alternatives and in consultation with legal and financial advisors.

Over the past few years, Mastermind Toys has faced a range of challenges including increasing competition, disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic and more recently a deteriorating macro-economic environment. Despite implementing a series of operational improvements and cost reductions, and undertaking an extensive strategic review and conducting a robust sale process, Mastermind Toys now says the challenges facing the business have become too significant to overcome.

The company intends to seek the Court’s authorization to commence a store closure process for an initial group of stores, while it explores certain strategic alternatives for the remainder of them. Mastermind Toys expects to seek additional relief from the Court at further hearing on 30th November.

Alvarez & Marsal Canada Inc. was appointed as the CCAA Monitor. Additional information related to the CCAA proceedings will be available at

Mastermind Toys is Canada’s largest specialty toy and children’s book retailer, with 66 stores and a website. It has a 39-year heritage and a stated purpose to inspire generations of lifelong learners through the power of play.

Master Replicas brings back Doctor Who statue line

The collection will include 1:21 and 1:6 scale statues, TARDIS consoles and vehicles based on 60 years of Doctor Who, through a licence deal with BBC Studios.

Master Replicas has announced that it has acquired the rights to continue the Doctor Who Figurine Collection, one of the longest-running and most successful Doctor Who collections ever released.

To date, the collection has featured statues from every era of Doctor Who, allowing fans to bring 370 unique characters into their homes. It was left unfinished when the previous rights holder, Eaglemoss, went into administration in 2022. Master Replicas’ new production will fit seamlessly with the original statues and will include new releases of some of the most popular characters from the Whoniverse, including Daleks and Cybermen.

As before, the statues will be carefully researched by combing through the BBC archives and studying the episodes. They are then digitally sculpted before being cast in polyresin and painted by hand. The collection also includes a line of Mega statues that stand between 20 cm and 34 cm tall and a series of TARDIS consoles. Additionally, work had begun on a series of vehicles.

Darren Epstein from Heathside Trading, which owns Master Replicas, commented: “This is a very exciting time for Doctor Who and we’re very happy that we’re able to bring this collection back. The range of statues is incredible. We couldn’t be happier to continue the work and will be bringing the same level of research and attention to detail to the series. We’re particularly excited to bring the vehicles to life, starting with the Dalek Saucer from The Parting of the Ways.”

Work is underway and the collection will return in 2024. More information will be made available at

Master Replicas is a division of Heathside Trading  a leading manufacturer and wholesaler of pop culture consumer products based in the UK. The division gives the companythe ability to target a direct-to-consumer customer. Heathside and its QMx and Khadou brands work and acquire IP for development of product across TV, manga, anime, film, gaming and associated entertainment platforms.


The price isn’t right… it’s the Friday Blog!

Much as it pains me, I feel I have no choice but to start this week’s Blog off with some thoughts on the topic that is on everyone’s lips at the moment – price reductions in the toy aisles. One retailer sent me a message with a fairly blunt summary: “I’ve never seen anything like it in all my time in toys… it’s like a real-life Amazon marketplace out in the stores.”

I homed in on one particularly egregious example of selling below cost a few weeks ago in the Blog, but to be fair it’s now reached the point where it is pretty much going on across the board. I suspect much of this activity is ad hoc, rather than being meticulously planned: the nature of the in-store promotional material rather gives it away – not glossy and pre-printed, but hastily knocked up on the store photocopier using coral draw or some other ancient computer art program.

And the promotions aren’t limited to higher priced items, as you might think; there’s plenty of activity even at sub-£10 price points, sometimes featuring brands that are consistent sellers all year round. I saw one sign proudly proclaiming “10% off everything” – literally, nothing was off limits, so presumably that isn’t being funded by targeted supplier contributions.

I am secretly hoping that some of those people responsible for these price cuts find their way into the travel & tourism industry (have you seen the price of hotels recently?!), or perhaps flower/prosecco suppliers in time Valentines Day. We do seem to be something of an anomaly, in that the toy market cuts prices ahead of our peak period. I doubt we will ever see travel prices slashed in July and August. I worry that it sends a message out to consumers that toys are over-priced and don’t have intrinsic value, which I really don’t think is the case.

Of course, I am not sitting where buyers and store owners are sitting; I don’t know how much stock they are sitting on, or how the rate of sale compares to previous years. I’m not at the sharp end, speaking to customers every day, assessing what is going to make the difference between a sale and a walkout.

Our editorial team has been speaking to a wide selection of indie retailers in preparation for our bumper January issue this week, and the overwhelming consensus is that customers are being more careful and thoughtful with their purchases than ever. They’re looking for value, for toys that will be played with again and again – and in many cases, where they might have been considering £50+ items in previous years, it’s more the £30 price point that is the sweet spot this time round.

I guess that consumer finances are driving this behaviour. Despite newspaper headlines celebrating so-called tax giveaways by the Chancellor in this week’s autumn budget statement, most people aren’t stupid. They know that the freezing of tax allowances exceeds what they are being given back by the reduction of national insurance levels, and the increase in the fuel cap in January – announced the day after the budget statement – won’t have helped either. Yes, there are encouraging measures – including an increase in the living wage – but I think we have to accept that this year, some consumers will be adopting a more frugal approach to festive spending.

Next year will almost certainly be different, if only for the fact that the only way the incumbent government is likely to win the coming election is by offering even larger financial bribes to the electorate– we’ve seen this week that normal economic consensus goes out of the window when an election is looming.

There have been some bright spots amongst the price wars: queues built up outside many specialist retailers at dawn last Friday for the launch of Ravensburger’s Lorcana Series 2. I bet there weren’t any retailers cutting the price on that! This also neatly illustrates the importance of Kidults to the toy market: I know we all talk about it all the time now, but it’s times like this when you really see the power of the Kidult demographic in full swing. They’re passionate fans, they want what they want, and they have the money to buy it. I am sure those toy retailers that are fully embracing this group are reaping the rewards, and perhaps those that have yet to dip their toe in the water might be tempted to give it a go in the New Year.

So, let’s see what Black Friday brings – I haven’t noticed a huge amount of toy activity on Amazon so far, but maybe that will change this weekend. Another strong footfall weekend in physical stores would also be most welcome, as the window for placing final Christmas re-orders is getting very short indeed.

And for those (few) companies that haven’t yet booked their spot in our bumper January issue, now is the time to get in touch – we genuinely are getting down to our last remaining slots now. It’s going to be another belter, and the one magazine that everyone is going to be eager to get stuck into early in the New Year. Whatever happens between now and the end of the year, we all go back to zero on 1st January and start the process all over again. Everyone assembles at the same starting line, aiming to secure listings from buyers who also all have blank pages at the start of the year.

As we head into Thanksgiving weekend, I’d like to wish a happy holiday to all of our American readers. Entering into the spirit of the occasion, I am thankful to be working in the rather wonderful toy community and thankful that we play our part in it. We may not make or sell toys, but we do help to keep everyone in touch with what’s going on, with everything you need to know all in one place….and I think that’s no bad thing.

Deadlines for Toy World’s January issue are looming

Don’t miss your chance to be involved in the bumper January issue of Toy World – work is well underway so don’t delay your editorial submissions or ad enquiries.

The January issue of Toy World is expected to arrive with readers by 8th January. This is the issue toy and games companies can’t afford to miss. With everything visitors and exhibitors need to know about London Toy Fair, what will be on display and where, we’ll also be chatting with the team from the BTHA about what’s been going on behind the scenes in preparation for the event’s 70th anniversary year.

Advertisers in this issue are guaranteed generous editorial coverage and the chance to get involved in additional content opportunities. As the UK’s leading toy trade magazine, with 90% market share and growing, this means your company will be able to place its brands in front of all the major buyers and decision makers that turn to Toy World at the start of each and every month for the latest industry news and product information. Regular online coverage in the run-up to the event, and during the show itself, will help bolster advertising initiatives further.

We’ll also be presenting Part 2 of our Spielwarenmesse 2024 preview, ahead of the upcoming Nuremberg Toy Fair. This year, for the first time ever, this will be a special pull-out supplement and will be mailed along with the January issue of Toy World.

A digital version of the main issue and the supplement will be put online on the same day the print issue arrives on desks, featured on the website, across all our social media platforms and also as a story on the daily newsflash, bringing it to the attention of thousands of buyers from across the globe, not just the UK.

Our early publication date means that visitors to the London Toy Fair and the Spielwarenmesse will have plenty of time to use the supplement to prepare themselves for their visits to the shows.

On top of all that, we’ll have the usual exclusive articles and interviews to get stuck into, plus all the most relevant toy trade going-ons, news, views and opinion.

A reminder that the editorial deadline for this issue is December 1st while the deadline for advertising artwork is December 12th.

If you would like any further information or details of what we can offer for you to have a presence in these important preview issues, get in touch with the Toy World team, who will be happy to outline the available options.

Last minute advertising enquiries should be directed to Mark Austin by phoning 01442 502405 or emailing, or John Baulch on 01442 502408  or – but don’t delay as space is running out.

Your editorial contacts are:

Rachael Simpson-Jones –
Marianna Casal –
Caroline Tonks –

The editorial team can also be reached on 01442 502 406.

Then look out for the issue in all its glossy glory early in the new year, in good time to make sure everyone is well prepared for the 2024 toy fair season.