Character Options unveils details for Kidz Big Weekend

The Character Kidz Big Weekend is the revised edition of last year’s highly successful London based event and will now take place virtually.

Kidz Big Weekend

Character Options has announced details of its exclusive 2020 influencer event, which will take place over three days from the 24th-26th July.

The Character Kidz Big Weekend is the revised edition of last year’s highly successful London based event and will now take place virtually, promising a summer festival of videos, stories and TikTok coverage announcing all that’s new in the Character Options portfolio.

50 Kidfluencer channels are involved with the weekend, each receiving props and product to host their own Character Kidz celebration over the three days. Every channel will be tasked with highlighting specific products ensuring focused activity across the entire collection.

Social media and YouTube will be flooded with coverage over the weekend and timed activities will be organised from the www.characterkidz.co.uk hub and Character Toys Instagram page. These focus hours include learning to create iconic balloon dogs in celebration of the launch of Squeakee, and a Pokémon trivia quiz using Character’s latest Pokémon Trainer Trivia game. To create even more reach, mums and celebrity names will also be invited to join in.

Channels taking part include Splat Kids TV, Toy Bazaar, Little Lady C, Patience’s Magical Toy Emporium and Summer Joy’s Toy Joy.

Mark Hunt, Character Options marketing manager, said: “At the start of the year, we set ourselves a challenge to create something bigger, better and even more interactive than last year’s event and our retail partners were all on board to get involved. Then the lockdown happened – but we were determined to still succeed. The event has since evolved and we are extremely excited about our new Big Weekend. It’s going to be an explosive start to the season.”

Readers can follow the Character Kidz Big weekend on Instagram and view a live countdown to the event, plus updates once the fun starts, here.

Alpha Group partners with Keith Chapman for Camp Furly series

Alpha Group is global master toy partner for new pre-school property Camp Furly.

Camp Furly Alpha Group

Keith Chapman, creator of Paw Patrol, has partnered with Studio Liddell and Alpha Group, on Camp Furly, a vibrant CGI animated pre-school TV series, which inspires children to venture outdoors and connect with the environment and nature.

Raydar Media is managing all broadcast and consumer products rights and strategy outside of China and Asia, while Alpha Group is a co-producer and global master toy partner handling distribution and consumer products in China and Asia

The TV seriesis now in pre-production, and viewers can join the funny, friendly and eco-focused Furlies on wild adventures in the great outdoors; centred around an inspiring, eco-powered activity camp through the seasons.

The friends face challenges set by Camp Skippers who watch over the Furlies’ fun. There’s zip-wiring, rock-climbing, treetop-trekking and solar-biking along with sing-song campfire moments and life-skill lessons to learn in nature. Camp Furly aims to raise more confident, considerate and environmentally conscious kids. Furlies encourage children to play the ‘natural way’ to discover the true value of teamwork and friendship.

Executive producer, Isaac Lin, head of global content and brands, Alpha Group comments, “Our aim is to engage pre-school kids worldwide through vivid animation; to spark their curiosity and imagination around nature; to nurture a playful connection to the amazing, natural world from a young age which may have a more serious, positive change-making impact for this generation’s future.”

Head writer and development consultant, Angela Salt at Salt Content, adds: “Writing episodes is like creating a bucket list of the most fun a kid can have outdoors, especially right now, when children around the world have been confined due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Exclusive: What to expect from the second half of 2020 according to NPD

Rory Partis, director UK Toys & EuroToys NPD, looks at the potential outlook for the rest of the year, following a surprisingly positive selling period so far. 

NPD

At the time of writing, the UK toy market is currently +7% in value YTD vs. the same period in 2019. That is the best performance we have seen at this stage of the year since 2016, when the market was also growing at +7% at this stage and finished with a full year performance of +6% in value. This year has been unprecedented; with the UK going into lockdown in March and only just easing out of some of those measures, the last few months have been turbulent to say the least. But the toy market has performed well in a tough time.

Outdoor Toys has been one of the big winners during the lockdown period, with £30m more being spent on this category from mid-March to early June versus 2019. This has undeniably been helped by some good weather, but also by parents keen to get kids out into the garden and active.

A realistic scenario figure for 2020 is -4%, and this figure has generally been well received across the NPD client base.

With life starting to creep back towards normality, the UK toy market trends may not be as strong as they have been over the last 12 weeks. Consumers embraced particular toy categories during this period, and the toy market met that demand admirably – even with the majority of stores being closed. There are so many unknowns still to come this year; in all of our potential scenario planning outcomes, the second half the year will have a declining trend. But one thing is for sure, the sales increase which the UK market has posted over the lockdown period have put it in a fantastic position moving into this period. Remember, for our realistic scenario of -4% to happen, the market would be -8% for the second half of the year. A market that was flat for the rest of the year would lead to a final year trend of +2%. I’m not sure anyone at the start of April would have considered that could even have be a possibility, so we can but dream.

Read the full in-depth article in the July issue of Toy World, here.

The latest Toy World recruitment roundup

Toy World brings you a round-up of all the new roles recently added to our recruitment page.

recruitment

Keel Toys Ltd is passionate about soft toys with an extensive blue-chip customer base covering multiple sales channels in over 80 countries. Keel Toys is a fourth-generation family company founded in 1947, still growing through its product led and progressive way of doing business.

The company is currently seeking a suitable candidate to take on the role of area sales manager, based in the South West and South Wales. The principal duties for the role are to develop an existing account base and to investigate and open new customer and market opportunities in line with company objectives.

For more information on the role, click here.

recruitment

Bargainmax.co.uk is a fast growing online toys and games specialist. Posting high growth results year on year for the past six years, the company is now looking to expand its buying team to enhance and support the existing team. 2020 has been a hugely exciting year for BargainMax.co.uk amid difficult global circumstances and it hopes the addition of a new buyer will help the company continue this exciting growth into 2021 and beyond.

The ideal candidate will be dynamic and creative and come with experience in the toys and games market, preferably within retail. BargainMax.co.uk would also like the candidate to have experience in developing product ranges and extensive knowledge of import and manufacturing processes.

For more information, including how to apply, click here.

recruitment

Wilton Bradley specialises in the design, development, sourcing and supply of quality consumer leisure goods, supplying its own branded products to specialist retailers and sourcing a broad range of products for many of the world’s leading retailers and third-party brand owners. The company is looking to recruit a new national accounts manager and the chosen candidate will play a key role in the successful implementation of its national account business growth strategy.

This is a fantastic opportunity to join a highly motivated team representing some of the UK’s fastest growing brands, such as Lay-Z-Spa, Bestway Inflatables, Xootz, Play House, Mi-Mic and Clearwater.

Click here for more details on the role.

Further roles are advertised on the Toy World website and daily newsflash, which job seekers are advised to check regularly.

Looking for staff?

Toy World’s Recruitment section is the place to advertise your latest vacancies. Ads tailored to your individual specifications can be placed online within 24 hours and enjoy daily exposure on our popular email newsflash, plus front-page visibility on our website for the duration of the ad placement. Print ads are also available.

To discuss your requirements, get in touch with Mark Austin, mark@toyworldmag.co.uk.

Exclusive: Making an impact – Toy World spoke to Diaframma’s Alice Morrison

Toy World spoke to Alice Morrison to get a sense of what the marketing landscape will look like for toy companies going forward. 

Alice Morrison Diaframma

With Christmas looming and three months of challenging trading conditions behind us, Alice Morrison, international sales director at the kids and family marketing agency Diaframma, tells us how toy companies are approaching the second half of 2020.

“Now more than ever, companies are really thinking about where best to place their marketing budget, and which types of platforms will provide the maximum ROI,” comments Alice. “We have seen a variety of responses; some budgets have been tightened or reassigned and some launches have been delayed, while some of our partners haven’t altered their plans at all. The situation is stabilising daily, and the levels of certainty and positivity are growing. Diaframma always strives to produce campaigns that are strong and impactful, and I believe our track record demonstrates that this is always achieved. Given the times we are in, this definitely contributes to selling products even more than before.”

During lockdown, television viewership inevitably increased, as well as children’s exposure to a variety of devices. As such, Alice touches upon the lessons learned about kids and family advertising during this unprecedented period.

“The production of a variety of content that caters for this change has been a turning point for us. That said, lockdown has also shown that many families have been looking for more activity-based projects to keep kids active not only physically, but also mentally.”

Evidently demand for accessible content has not halted over recent months. As such, Diaframma re-opened its studios in the thick of lockdown on 4th May, adapting the shoots to suit government regulations.

“We are very happy with the way things have been going.” adds Alice, “Currently, we’re working with family members only on set, but as regulations loosen, we are adapting and widening the casting possibilities. Each week we hit new levels, which leads us to believe we’ll be back to normal sooner rather than later.”

As uncertainty regarding toy fairs and trade events cointinues, advertising may have to cover more ground this year as a result. Alice tells us more: “Regardless of what happens with future trade shows, there will always be a need for advertising. Products are sold through consumer awareness, for which advertising is key. As we’ve seen throughout this lockdown period, it is more important than ever to be able to convey a product’s story and uniqueness as budgets throughout households worldwide are tightened, and parents are more conscious of spend.”

Read the full interview with Alice in the July issue of Toy World, here.

Hong Kong coronavirus cases rise, prompting tightening of social distancing

With the October buying trip only months away, the latest news from Hong Kong will add to concerns for travellers.

Hong Kong coronavirus cases

Commencing this weekend, the Hong Kong government will be tightening social-distancing rules and has asked groups deemed at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus to seek out testing. The news comes after 34 new local coronavirus cases were recorded on Thursday.

From this Saturday (11th July) restaurants can operate at only 60% of normal capacity, with just eight people per table. Meanwhile the maximum limit for tables at bars will be four, and groups visiting gyms, party rooms and karaoke lounges must limit their size to eight.

The government has appealed for workers in public transport, elderly care and catering industries to undergo testing as most of the new local cases were linked to either the catering or taxi sectors, according to secretary for food and health professor, Sophia Chan Siu-chee.

Some of the latest infections were linked to people not wearing masks at work or in public spaces, Sophia said. Consequently, to ensure the preventive measure is better followed, eating will be banned in cinemas and during theatre performances and restaurant diners must also wear a mask when not eating.

“The focus on suppression this time is on mask-off activities, as we understand that recent clusters are from catering businesses,” she said. “We appeal to the public not to share tables in restaurants and to take away [food] instead.”

These new restrictions come as the city battles a third wave of coronavirus infections. A total of 42 cases, eight of which were imported, were recorded on Thursday, taking the total to 1,365.

Among the imported cases, three involved pilots and one crew member returning from Kazakhstan.

What’s going on with toy trade shows and events?

Your guide to what is happening with all the toy and licensing trade shows and events in 2020 and early 2021.

trade show

The past few months have seen the majority of physical toy, licensing and nursery trade shows and events cancelled, both here in the UK and across the globe. Many shows which were initially postponed to later dates have subsequently been cancelled for a second time, leading to some confusion across the toy community. Having received a succession of calls and emails enquiring about the current status of certain shows in recent weeks, we thought it would be helpful to pull together a handy round-up of what has happened to the key events and what may happen over the coming months.

We don’t profess to have a crystal ball, but we hope that the following guide will help to summarise the current state of play, and offer a few pointers as to what may lie ahead.

AUTUMN FAIR

The show, due to take place in September, has been cancelled and replaced with a virtual event.

TOYMASTER SHOW

The original May show was postponed to September, and now the September show has been cancelled. Next year’s event will revert to the traditional May timeline.

PLAY-ROOM INDEPENDENT TOY & GIFT SHOW

A streamlined buying event is still scheduled to take place at the end of September, replacing the full-blown show, which had been postponed from April. However, government guidelines on trade shows would need to change in order for the show to be able to go ahead – the belief is that we would need to reach level two on the ‘Nando’s scale’, which would mean a further virus outbreak would be deemed unlikely.

BLE

An announcement is expected imminently as to whether the show will go ahead as planned in the first week of October, whether it will be replaced by an ambitious ‘online festival’ – or whether a combination of virtual and physical shows would be on offer.

KIND & JUGEND

German government edicts are different to the UK: there, trade shows have been placed in a separate category to other mass gatherings, and are legally allowed to go ahead with strict safety measures in place. Despite this, the September show has been cancelled, indicating that exhibitor and visitor sentiment plays a huge part in the decision to hold a show: whether or not it is legally able to take place is clearly not the only arbiter.

HONG KONG OCTOBER TRIP

Based on extensive feedback, few Hong Kong based companies are expecting international visitors to travel this year. There is still an international travel ban in place until at least the end of September, and that may well be extended, so it may not even by physically possible. Even if the ban is lifted, there could potentially still be quarantine regulations – in theory, you may have to isolate for two weeks when you land, turning it into a potential three or four week trip.

LOS ANGELES OCTOBER TRIP

Similar to Hong Kong, the general consensus is that the event is looking increasingly unlikely to take place this year, especially given the scale of new cases being declared in those US states which most enthusiastically embraced relaxing lockdown measures while virus transmission was still increasing. A US travel ban currently remains in force for UK visitors, as well as anyone from the Schengen zone and China, although this could of course be lifted in time. There is are also travel restrictions between certain US states, a situation which is changing all the time, although California is not currently affected.

JANUARY TRADE SHOWS

As suggested at the head of this article, we don’t have a crystal ball, and if the past few months has taught us anything, it is the unpredictable nature of the pandemic. When the virus initially took hold, few would have believed it would still be a problem by this autumn, yet alone 2021 – and yet, here we are. Like everyone else, we hope the situation improves across the globe in the coming months, allowing all of the traditional January and February toy trade shows to go ahead as planned.

As previously indicated, the fact that trade shows are currently permitted in Germany, along with the organiser of the Nuremberg Toy Fair owning the showground where the show takes place, puts it in a very strong position. Hong Kong seems to have been able to control the virus better than many other countries, so that offers hope too. Here in the UK and over in the US , the lifting of lockdown measures indicates gradual progress towards an eventual return to normality.

Undoubtedly, all toy fair organisers are working on plans and measures that would allow them to deliver a safe and successful show in the current climate. Toy World will keep you posted on how those plans are progressing over the coming months, and what these developments will mean for exhibitors and visitors alike.

For a full list of 2021 trade show dates, venues and show organiser contact details, you can visit the Toy Fairs page on this website.

Exclusive: suppliers discuss post-lockdown plans

As retail gets back on track, Toy World spoke to leading suppliers to find out how their companies are re-booting plans and ranges for the remainder of 2020.

toy suppliers

Throughout the lockdown period, the toy industry as a whole has faced numerous challenges, but suppliers have remained resilient throughout. Senior industry executives spoke to Toy World to reflect over the last few months and share the lessons that lockdown has taught them.

General manager at Vivid UK, Nick Thomas, told Toy World: “Vivid took early precautions to protect the business, focusing in on what were to become essential product categories to ensure we could meet consumer demand. Arts & Crafts, Outdoor and Games all performed well for us. We were blessed with good weather to help kick start the outdoor selling season, while games sales were strong as families engaged in a way normally only seen at Christmas.”

With opportunities surfacing among the challenges, companies are now focusing on building on these positive outcomes for the latter part of 2020, and how they can support retailers who have now reopened their doors.

“Like most of the industry, we’re breathing a sigh of relief that our independent stockists are opening for business again – it’s been an unbelievably tough time for them,” comments Clive Wooster, managing director, Geomag. “Now, with doors physically opening, we’ll be offering our independent partners a replenishment offer to get them back in stock. This should enable them to fill in any gaps over the next four weeks, and get the Geomagworld momentum running again.”

“We appreciate that, even with stores re-opening, it will still be a very difficult time for retailers, having to cope with social distancing while picking brands and products that provide limited risk,” adds Mary Wood, UK & Ireland general manager, Tomy. “We’ve pulled back on in-store demo units and FSDUs as space will be at a premium, but strong marketing support is nevertheless in place with more online assets for social or digital use.”

With retail getting back on track, we asked suppliers what they have in store for Q3 and Q4.

James Mountfield, sales director, Wild + Wolf, told Toy World, “We’ve got some incredible new product launching for the second half including Star Wars The Child’s Cute Loot Card Game. This is set to be the biggest selling product in our 15-year history. With lockdown lifting, we can really focus on building this distribution and preparing for our seasonal peak trade in Q3 and Q4.”

“We have numerous new launches for this month, all of which will be supported with robust marketing campaigns,” revealed Mark Hunt, marketing manager, Character Options. We are particularly excited about our Shimmer N Sparkle InstaGlam Dolls, a range of fashion dolls with real makeup inside, as well as the Peppa’s World of Wooden Toys range. There’s a lot of excitement in the Character camp going forward.”

Read the full Touching Base feature, with further comment from senior industry figures at Amscan, Cobi, Guidecraft, Hasbro, Hornby, IMC,  Mattel, Moose, Spin Master and Zuru in the July issue of Toy World.

Posh Paws launches NHS Charities Together bear collection

Posh Paws will be donating a percentage of the profits from each toy sale to the NHS Charites Together.

Posh Paws Bears

To show support for the fantastic work and ongoing commitment shown by the NHS throughout these difficult times, Posh Paws International has partnered with NHS Charities Together to launch a new range of colourful and high quality teddy bears with sound: the Thank You Bears.

The new collection will be landing this September and Posh Paws will be donating a percentage of the profits of each toy sale to NHS Charites Together.

The Thank You Bear range includes white, brown and multicoloured 6.5” and 11” bears, each featuring the signature NHS rainbow coloured emblem and a sound chip that claps and cheers when the bear’s tummy is pressed.

The NHS Charities Together logo will feature on the packaging, plus the Bear’s hang-tag is printed with a ‘To and From’ message so that customers can personalise the gift to show thanks to friends, family and loved ones.

Lauren Shipman, Posh Paws’ brand and marketing director, commented: “We are extremely proud to partner with the NHS Charities Together to create this lovely collection of Thank You Bears. For every bear that is sold, a donation of the profits will be made to help fund critical care, medical equipment and pioneering research.”

For more information about these and other collections, Posh Paws International can be contacted on 01268 567317.

Dennis & Gnasher: Unleashed! returns for season two

The animated show from Beano Studios returns to CBBC on 13th July 2020.

Beano Dennis and Gnasher

The second series of the Beano Studios hit animated TV show Dennis & Gnasher: Unleashed! is set to premiere on CBBC on Monday 13th July 2020. The series will air weekdays at 7.10am, and be repeated at 3.25pm, with each episode available on iPlayer directly after broadcast.

Dennis & Gnasher: Unleashed! season two is comprised of 52 x 11 minute episodes following the unpredictable and exciting adventures of Dennis and his friends in Beanotown.

Episode one, titled Beat the Bus, sees new teacher Miss Mistry taking Class Three on an outing to the Flumes ‘o’ Doom water theme park, and Walter pulls out all the stops to make Dennis late for the bus.

Dennis, voiced by Freddie Fox, and his group of mates Rubi, JJ, Pieface and his pet potato Paul, will be joined by new characters for season two, including Miss Mistry.

Last year, Dennis & Gnasher: Unleashed! season one received nominations at Kidscreen, the British Animation awards and was nominated for an International Emmy. At launch it was the highest-rated animated show on CBBC for 6-12 year olds and one of the top 10 shows for kids across all channels.

Tim Searle, head of animation at Beano Studios, commented: “Dennis and friends burst back onto our screens this summer, with loads more mayhem and mischief to look forward to in Beanotown. We’ve had a blast making the shows and hope that this new series will bring tons of laughs, inspire imaginations and encourage the everyday rebellion that’s been at the heart of Beano for over 80 years.”

Fans can find brand-new Dennis and Gnasher: Unleased! games and quizzes at beano.com/dennisandgnasher. To celebrate the series return, Beano has launched a ‘family and friends’ discount forsubscribers to the Beano comic.

Dennis & Gnasher: Unleashed! season two, episode one ‘Beat the Bus’ will air on Monday 13th July 2020 at 7.10am on CBBC.