The December issue of Toy World is out now

The December issue of Toy World is now available to read online. 

Packed with industry-leading content, news, views, articles and info, the final 2020 issue of Toy World magazine has started landing with a bang on desks and doormats across the country.

Boasting a decidedly international flavour, this issue contains articles on a number of international companies. The CEO of Canadian retailer Mastermind Toys, Sarah Jordan, spoke to Toy World about how the company goes the extra mile for Canadian shoppers at Christmas, while Mark Weiner, CEO of Omni Alliance, details how the company can help UK toy suppliers expand into the lucrative and burgeoning US marketplace. This issue also features a special year-end review from the ICTI Ethical Toy Program, in which Carmel Giblin, president & CEO, details how the not-for-profit’s vital work overseas is enriching the lives of toy factory workers and their children. Rick Derr of Learning Express is also back with his Letter from America column, and our Show Off feature has given companies the chance to highlight the toys and games that would have been on display at Spielwarenmesse and the Hong Kong Toy Fair – both of which have been cancelled due to Covid. Finally, Show Cloud – the online showroom service provider – details the new features the platform has added to support suppliers and buyers.

Back on British soil, the Toy World team has been catching up with a number of retailers over recent weeks. Gary and Duncan Grant lift the lid on the partnerships The Entertainer has been signing with Asda, Marks & Spencer and Debenhams, while Lisa Currie spoke to a selection of indie toy retailers including Thornton’s Toymaster and Youings of Barnstaple about how they’ve been coping with the latest lockdown disruption.

We’ve also been talking to suppliers. It’s all change at IMC, as Sue Barratt explains, with new offices, a new team and new product development heralding a very exciting 2021, while 8th Wonder‘s Andrea Gornall and Louise Tyrer discuss how the company’s growing licensed portfolio is fuelling expansion plans for next year. Kelly Philp, Mattel‘s UK marketing manager, also gives readers an insight into the latest development from the Barbie brand – Barbie Extra.

If that wasn’t enough, the December issue also contains a brilliant Viewpoint from new contributor Sam Muxworthy on setting up an online business, plus opinion and articles from regular contributors including the NPD Group, KidsKnowBest, Generation Media and Toy Barnhaus, our Fresh feature on the newest toys to hit the market, all the news, marketing and licensing info, as well as the latest Industry Moves.

To read the December issue of Toy World, click here.

Don’t forget, the Toy World team is now hard at work on the January 2021 issue – AKA The Big One. Don’t miss your chance to get involved with this bumper edition; to find out more about advertising opportunities, contact Mark Austin: mark@toyworldmag.co.uk or John Baulch: john@toyworldmag.co.uk.

Golden Bear invests in growth with new digital facilities and team members

The investment has been part funded with help from the Marches Building Investment Grant Programme (MBIG).

Emily Swinnerton

Golden Bear has completed a further expansion and investment programme which has brought new digital facilities to its Telford head office, as well as the recruitment of a team of digital marketing executives.

The company has invested over £150,000 in the creation of purpose-built office space encompassing a video and photographic studio and editing suite, plus state-of-the art meeting and video conferencing facilities. The investment has been part funded with help from a grant programme supported by the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership through their Marches Building Investment Grant Programme (MBIG).

“With the help of this vital support we have been able to move forward with our growth ambitions and enhance our facilities for the future,” said Barry Hughes, managing director. “The new digital suite means that we can now produce top class photo imagery and online assets in-house to support our products at retail.”

Rachel Longstone

Two new specialists have also been recruited to strengthen the Golden Bear digital team. Emily Swinnerton is the firm’s new digital assets coordinator, while Rachel Longstone joins as digital marketing executive.

“With the acceleration of online retail we have seen post-Covid, we are delighted to have appointed Rachel and Emily, allowing even more resources to be concentrated on this burgeoning sector,” added Barry. “Their experience and skills will allow us to service our retailers’ needs better with even more innovation, agility and efficiency. I am convinced that both Rachel and Emily will make an immediate impact in driving more sales for the business.”

Hasbro teams up with World Taekwondo Federation for PJ Masks Campaign

‘Get Active with PJ Masks’ initiative will bring kids fun taekwondo routines inspired by the animated TV Heroes. 

Hasbro has announced a multi-territory partnership that will see PJ Masks join forces with the World Taekwondo Federation for a new partnership designed to engage children around the world in taekwondo via an engaging collaborative campaign. ‘Get Active with the PJ Masks’ will span multiple markets and feature 12 top World Taekwondo athletes.

The campaign aims to combine the global appeal of the popular animated series with the fun and accessibility of taekwondo to encourage children to take part in the sport. A unique digital tutorial series and interactive website have been created to help young fans of World Taekwondo and PJ Masks get active, have fun and master their own taekwondo-inspired superpowers.

“There couldn’t be a better time to get kids active and excited about sport and movement,” said eOne’s Rebecca Harvey, EVP Global Marketing, Family & Brands. “Action, heroism and integrity are central to the PJ Masks brand and these values are perfectly aligned with the World Taekwondo Federation’s mission to teach taekwondo to kids around the world and channel their youthful energy into skills that will build strength and resilience.”

Taekwondo heroes from 12 countries have been selected as hero ‘Get Active’ hero ambassadors to create 12 Let’s Get Active taekwondo movements that will  encourage children to try and recreate them at home. They are Bianca Walkden (Great Britain), Dae-hoon Lee (Korea), Hatice Kubra Ilgun (Turkey), Jingyu Wu (China), Joel Gonzalez (Spain), Magda Wiet Henin (France), Maria Espinoza (Mexico), Milena Titoneli (Brazil), Panipak Wongpattanakit (Thailand), Pauline Lopez (Philippines), Tahir Guelec (Germany) and Vito Dell’Aquilla (Italy).

The partnership aims to amplify the reach of both brands and increase participation of the sport in the 3-8 year age group through a reward focussed syllabus that teaches co-ordination and discipline skills.

World Taekwondo president Dr. Chungwon Choue commented: “We are delighted to partner with Hasbro to bring together our shared values and the skills of our world and Olympic stars. World Taekwondo is committed to connecting with young people around the world and getting them to practice taekwondo and live healthy lifestyles. Partnering with the most loved and internationally recognised children’s shows in the world, is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how fun and rewarding taekwondo can be. I want to thank each of these World Taekwondo Heroes for bringing smiles to the faces of children and families everywhere”.

BTHA joins forces with OPSS for Christmas toy safety campaign

The campaign highlights the role of the UK’s reputable toy retailers in keeping kids safe this festive season.

A Christmas online toy safety campaign has been launched by the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), working in partnership with the British Toy & Hobby Association, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, and the Child Accident Prevention Trust.

Groups, businesses, and individuals are encouraged to support the consumer awareness messages on how to shop safely when purchasing Christmas toys online, by retweeting and posting them on social media, using the hashtag #shopsafely, or using the shared campaign materials.

Natasha Crookes, director of Public Affairs, British Toy & Hobby Association, says; “The British Toy and Hobby Association is pleased to support the OPSS advice to help parents to shop from reputable sellers online, to ensure children get to enjoy safe playtime this Christmas”.

The OPSS, in collaboration with the BTHA, has produced safety tips on how to buy Christmas toys safely online. These are:

Buy toys from a reputable retailer
Check that there is a name and address for the manufacturer on the site; if this information is not available, do not buy the toy. Read ratings and reviews to make sure the retailer has a good reputation for safe and reliable toys.

Always read the warnings and instructions
Heed the age restrictions: toys must be marked with age restrictions based on risks such as choking hazards.

Check that the toy is suitable for the intended recipient
Festive novelties can look like toys when they should be kept away from children. If a child has special needs, they may be more vulnerable to certain toys.

Ensure the toy has not been recalled
Check if the toy you are buying has been recalled at Product Recall.

Check for button batteries
If a toy has button batteries make sure they are safely behind a screwed-down flap.

Beware of potential toy hazards
Avoid buying toys with small parts as they can be a choking hazard. Think before buying toys and costumes with loose ribbons as they can pose strangulation risks to young children.

Buy genuine toys
Compare the toy’s price with other retailers and sellers. If it is a fraction of the cost, it is likely to be counterfeit.

The campaign materials can be downloaded from the Consumer safety awareness campaigns materials GOV.UK page

Shops to be allowed to open 24/7 in December and January

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick says he plans to remove the usual lengthy application process for extended hours in order to boost trade. 

Retailers could soon find themselves allowed to open their doors to customers 24/7 throughout December and January, as ministers look at ways to aid economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick will remove the bureaucracy surrounding extended-hour trading applications, he announced in the Daily Telegraph. Retailers usually have to submit themselves to a lengthy and time-consuming application process under the Town and Country Planning Act if they wish to extend hours outside the window of 9am to 7pm. However, Robert wants to ensure that retailers, if they so wish, can be fast-tracked through the process so they can open their doors as much as possible between now and the end of January, which for many may allow them to claw back some of the shortfall caused by October and November lockdowns.

He wrote: “With these changes, local shops can open longer, ensuring more pleasant and safer shopping with less pressure on public transport. How long will be a matter of choice for the shopkeepers and at the discretion of the council, but I suggest we offer these hard pressed entrepreneurs and businesses the greatest possible flexibility this festive season. As Local Government Secretary I am relaxing planning restrictions and issuing an unambiguous request to councils to allow businesses to welcome us into their glowing stores late into the evening and beyond.”

While not all retailers will be in a position to take advantage of these special relaxations, the news will undoubtedly be welcomed by toy and game retailers who have found themselves at the mercy of lockdown closures during what would usually be some of the busiest weeks of the year for the industry.

Good Retail Awards open for entries

The Good Retail awards will take place during 2021’s Spring Fair @ Home on Monday 8th February. 

Organised and hosted by Modern Retail and Spring Fair, the Good Retail Awards celebrate retailers making a positive impact in the retail industry. These awards will shine a light on those who have achieved success in spite of all the challenges faced this year.

This year’s awards will take place during Spring Fair’s virtual forum, Spring Fair @ Home. Dates for this have yet to be confirmed.

Julie Driscoll, managing director – UK Retail said “While it is regrettable that we won’t be able to meet in person at Spring Fair due to the new UK government rules, we are incredibly excited to host Spring Fair @Home. Following the success of this year’s virtual forums, we’re looking forward to providing our clients and customers another touchpoint to be inspired and stay connected with the retail industry.”

Award Categories

Throughout the six categories, judges will be on the lookout for positive innovations in retail. This this could be through strategy, creativity, the use of technology or otherwise.

  • Sustainability Initiative Award
  • Instore Creativity Award
  • The Community Award (in association with Spring Fair’s #InspiredByKindness initiative)
  • Bricks ‘n’ Clicks Award
  • Digital Impact Award
  • Retail District Award

To enter

Entries for the Good Retail Awards close in early January. Readers can enter via the Spring Fair website or via the Modern Retail website.

JouéClub’s 2020 Christmas catalogue calls on shoppers to ‘Rebuild Beirut’

The retailer’s catalogue carries a strong message of hope and resilience following what has been a particularly challenging year for the people of Beirut. 

‘Together, Let’s Rebuild Beirut!’ has been announced as the theme of JouéClub’s 2020 Christmas catalogue.

Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, has suffered a particularly challenging and traumatic year. Not only have its citizens battled the global Covid-19 pandemic, but on 4th August it was devastated by a huge explosion that left 200 dead, 5,000 injured, and 300,000 people homeless. The enormous blast, which was caused by ammonium nitrate stored at the city’s port, caused US$10-15b of damage and led to anti-government protests which lasted weeks.

Aiming to inject hope and positivity into the lives of kids and their families living in and around Beirut, the JouéClub Christmas catalogue contains competitions, activities and messages of optimism, all sandwiched by page after page of the very best toys and games on offer this festive season.

The Let’s Rebuild theme has been split into 10 distinct areas, each one highlighting something special that needs to be rebuilt, and how kids can get involved: Family Moments, Festivity, Smiles, Power, Gatherings, Education, Creativity, Careers, Hope and Stability.

From decorating a picture of a traditional Lebanese home and taking photos of themselves at famous Beirut landmarks, to answering trivia questions about the city and using toys to form words and pictures, kids will be inspired to take pride in their city as it heads into 2021. Prizes on offer for Let’s Rebuild submissions include Sylvanian Families play sets, Lego sets, VTech toys, goodie bags and board games. To make Christmas a little easier on the pocket this year, a 10% discount voucher, redeemable at any JouéClub store, is also contained within the catalogue.

Further driving home the positive message, the catalogue also features a mockup of a Beirut November 2021 newsletter, in which Lebanon welcomes its first Disneyland and wins the basketball world cup, as well as a special Letter to Santa page and prayer memorial dedicated to those lost on 4th August 2020.

The back cover of the catalogue reads: “No more tears, only hope! Beirut, you will shine again!”

Time to make the magic happen …it’s the Friday Blog!

By the time you read this, if you’re based in the UK, you will know which of the infamous tiers you are now located in. Ahead of the announcement, I imagined a process somewhat akin to the televised draw for the next round of the FA Cup: “So it’s Ian Wright to draw the location ball, and Roy Keane to draw the Tier ball. Right, so first up we have Manchester…and that’s in Tier Three!” (Full disclosure: this may not be the actual process the government used…but arguably it might as well have been).

The good news is that regardless of which tier you fall into, ‘non-essential’ (their description, certainly not mine) retailers will be able to open once more. Thank goodness for that – let the countdown to Christmas truly begin. There are still a few festive foibles to work out, not least the complex issue of family bubbles (‘Fubbles’? Coincidentally, the brand name of a new range of bubbles which will be making its debut in the December issue of Toy World, which will be landing on your doormat early next week). And, of course, whether or not you can watch your football team play on Boxing Day (Watford fans were secretly hoping we’d get placed in tier 3)?

However, the most important thing as far as this column is concerned is that specialist toy retailers can throw open their doors once more and welcome shoppers as they frantically finalise their festive purchases. I received a message several weeks ago from an independent retailer, asking if I thought stores would be able to open again after 2nd December – and you could tell the trepidation which accompanied his request. Being closed for November has unquestionably been a pain; but it wouldn’t have come close to the pain of being closed for December. So, thank goodness we don’t have to face that prospect. Onwards and upwards – time to make the magic happen. Let’s just hope that shoppers feel confident enough to hit the high street in their droves (socially distanced droves, of course).

It isn’t just retailers who will be relieved: after a strong year of sales for many toy companies, suppliers had stocked up in anticipation of a bumper Christmas period. Many online retailers have inevitably had a field day during lockdown, but there are limits to what even they could have achieved in December, the peak month for deliveries. And for those who may have assumed that the grocers have been cleaning up as a result of being allowed to stay open, I am told that hasn’t necessarily been the case. That may not be as counter intuitive as it sounds: if a visit to the supermarket has ever been a relaxing, enjoyable event (questionable), I doubt many would feel that is still the case at the moment. You get in, you get your shopping, you get out – all the while avoiding the sort of people who don’t seem to be fully embracing the concept of social distancing and the courtesy of wearing a mask (if I see one more numpty wandering the aisles with his mask hanging off his chin, or with his nose poking out…). I am not sure that loitering down the toy aisle, gently perusing the myriad options for what to buy little Derek or Delilah, has the appeal it perhaps once did.

France went a step further, ‘encouraging’ (and by encouraging, I assume that meant applying serious pressure to) Amazon to postpone its Black Friday event until ‘non-essential’ stores could re-open. That is brave governance – it’s just a shame that our government talks a good game about level playing fields, but so often fails to follow it through. The Northern Ireland government should also be applauded for promising to give each household a £200 voucher to spend on the high street, to help stimulate post-Christmas demand. I have seen some store owners expressing disappointment that the voucher won’t be available before Christmas, but perhaps it will turn out to be even more helpful to drive customers into stores in the New Year? Either way, it is still a bold initiative and arguably better targeted than showering multi-billionaire business owners with government subsidies that just get passed on to shareholders (mentioning no names, but if you google the AO CEO, he does a great job of naming and shaming some of the guilty parties…).

Speaking of stimulating demand, I am reliably informed that last week’s ‘How to Spend it Well at Christmas’ was as effective as ever in driving sales, as several people whose brands were featured in the show were delighted to confirm this week. And as one happy camper pointed out: “And it cost me nothing! Now that’s what I call the best PR…. ever.” Catalogues are also said to be making a big comeback – with families stuck at home, prospective shoppers have far more time to browse catalogues, and are probably looking for a good excuse to tear themselves away from the screen for a while (maybe it’s not just kids who should have their screen time regulated…?). Great for those retailers who persisted with a printed catalogue – and further proof (if proof were needed) that print is a long, long way from being defunct.

Finally, as the festive season swings into gear, one toy shop owner in Cork was surprised to find that he had been banned from selling certain items from his Facebook shop, as they ‘violated’ the platform’s trading policy. What toy horrors could possibly have fallen foul of the Facebook algorithm (given the some of the material it deems acceptable to publish)? It turns out that one offending item was a kid’s wooden sword and shield, which does seem rather draconian – but not as funny as the Brio Train Station being on the naughty list, because it apparently violates the policy of “ticket selling” on the site. Great to see the Facebook algorithm is working so well – if only they could get it to recognise and root out hate speech rather than obsessing over kid’s toys, eh? Tech giants – gotta love their sense of priority.

Silvergate to launch season two of Hilda

New licensing deals with Hot Topic and Forbidden Planet will support the autumn launch of the award-winning animation’s second season.

Silvergate Media is gearing up for the launch of new episodes of Hilda, as the highly anticipated second season is poised to debut globally on Netflix from 14th December. Alongside the launch of season two, Silvergate is announcing exclusive retail partnerships with Hot Topic and Forbidden Planet in addition to new toys that will bring the brand to life with a range of new merchandise for Hilda’s growing fanbase.

Co-produced by Silvergate Media and Mercury Films, the 13 x 22-minute episodes comprising season two of Hilda bring fresh adventures for the fearless blue-haired heroine as she delves deeper into the vast magical wilderness of Trolberg. Through her entertaining and inspiring adventures, Hilda learns that not everyone shares her open-minded view of the ‘hidden world’, while her Mum worries that her growing rebelliousness will lead to more trouble than Hilda can handle.

Based on Luke Pearson’s acclaimed graphic novels, the new series follows on the heels of the multi award-winning first season, which debuted on Netflix in September 2018 and went on to scoop multiple awards including a BAFTA, Kidscreen, an International Emmy award and three Annie awards. Filled with bold adventures, stunning animation, quirky characters and the aspirational spirit that made the first series such an international hit, Silvergate says second season is ‘sure to delight fans of both the original comic and its animated series counterpart’.

“The first season of Hilda set the bar high in terms of what a children’s animated series could achieve and it was so rewarding for our creative team that it received the widespread recognition that it did,” said Waheed Alli, CEO at Silvergate Media. “It’s now a genuine pleasure to bring audiences new adventures in season two that will expand the universe of Trolberg in unexpected ways.”

The new series will be anchored at retail by new licensing partnerships that tap into the brand’s growing fanbase with both niche and mainstream expressions. US-based pop culture retailer Hot Topic is launching an exclusive line of Hilda inspired T-shirts for the North American market. Here in the UK, science fiction and fantasy retail specialist Forbidden Planet has an exclusive DTR with Silvergate that will see the retailer launch its own line of apparel in 2020 before expanding into homewares and gifting from 2021.

The growth of the apparel category will be boosted by additional product lines launching to co-incide with season two. This includes global toy partner Gund, which is adding further plush accessory lines targeting girls and teen fans to the main lines which launched earlier this year. Spin Master is readying the first-ever Hilda board game, scheduled to hit retail from next summer, and lead publisher Flying Eye Books has released three new novelisations tying in with season two.

UK previews now being booked for Interplay’s hit range Snap Ships

Launching in the UK from autumn/winter 2021, Snap Ships is a collectible, durable and versatile modular spaceship building system. 

Snap Ships, an innovative new building system that lets constructors create awesome spaceships, combined with a 360-degree play experience, has been a big hit since the range first launched in the US this summer. With millions of YouTube views of the Snap Ships: Dawn of Battle Web Series, an impressive and growing fanbase comprising adults as well as young enthusiasts, and outstanding reviews, Snap Ships is becoming one of the hottest new building systems to play with. Coming to UK retail from autumn/winter2021, Interplay UK (owned by Playmonster) is now inviting customers to book an exclusive preview of this exciting new range.

A collectible, durable and versatile modular building system that stands up to action play, and with multiple build options in each set, Players can build, battle and display an exciting array of cool spacecrafts. The property merges three of the biggest play patterns — building, action, and vehicle play. Its strong appeal with building enthusiasts of all ages enables strong engagement with the brand in family homes, helping to create special and memorable moments between parents and their children.

Snap Ships is bolstered by outstanding credentials and long-lasting play value. Research conducted in the US reveals 91.5% of children continue to play with Snap Ships after the initial build. Amongst parents and adults, an impressive 95.5% report being interested in making a purchase (either a new set or additional sets), while parents and grandparents say they see the lineas a ‘great holiday gift opportunity’.

Designed for kids aged eight and up, the new fleet launches across a range of price points to meet all budgets. Each build option comes with a mysterious UJU tech piece, which holds special value, hidden inside the box.

Snap Ships creates a 360-degree play experience by inviting kids into the Snap Ships universe through an immersive animated series from acclaimed content studio Wind Sun Sky Entertainment. Available to watch now on the Snap Ships YouTube channel; the Welcome video can be viewed below. A free interactive app, designed to complement the toy line, brings the ships to life with detailed Augmented Reality features, and includes digital building instructions for the kits as well as custom ship ideas.

Justin Clasby, senior marketing manager, Interplay UK, commented: “Previews are now live for this amazing new range. The Snap Ships universe has a huge amount of extended play value, from its unique modular building system, which creates stunning spaceships that last for durable play, to engaging web episodes with epic galactic story lines and an immersive app featuring AR technology that brings Snap Ships stories into real life. We are delighted to showcase this amazing new range, and we’re urging everyone to secure their exclusive opportunity for a sneak peek into this exciting new play universe.”

Readers are advised to contact the Interplay UK sales team to discover more about the range by calling 01628 488944 or emailing trade@interplayuk.com.