Epoch announces first ever Aquabeads loyalty scheme

The scheme will drive sales to indie retailers and reward consumers for their brand loyalty. 

Epoch making toys has launched its first ever loyalty scheme for the popular arts & crafts brand, Aquabeads. The new Bonus Beads loyalty scheme aims to demonstrate the importance of shopping locally and supporting independent retailers, and will also recognise the brand’s dedicated customers, rewarding them for their love of Aquabeads.

Suzie Howes, marketing manager at Epoch making toys, commented: “We’re really excited to launch our first ever loyalty programme for Aquabeads and reward customers for their enthusiasm for the brand. Arts & crafts has seen a huge rise in popularity over the past year, offering children hours of fun, a sense of accomplishment and the chance to be creative. With lockdown restrictions starting to ease, we hope this scheme will maintain this momentum by encouraging further creativity and ensuring customers get more for their money.”

Customers can collect a sticker for each £10 spent on Aquabeads products instore. Once the customer has collected three stickers, they can redeem the loyalty card for a free Aquabeads Fantastic Starter Set (RRP £9.99) from their chosen store.

Aquabeads offers a variety of new ranges and products for 2021. The new Day On The Farm Box launches autumn/winter, bringing favourite farm animals to life including horses, sheepdogs, sheep, cows and pigs.

The loyalty scheme launched this week, and has no end date. For details on how retailers can opt-in and for further information, please contact sales@epochmakingtoys.com, or call 0208 049 1377.


School pupils use Plus-Plus to remember those lost to Covid-19

Each individual block represented one life lost, forming a striking and thought-provoking scene that encouraged visitors to reflect upon the events of the past year.

Kids at St John’s Highbury Vale Church of England School have used colourful Plus-Plus blocks to memorialise the 84,000 people from Islington, Hackney and the City of London who have lost their lives to Covid-19 since the pandemic began.

The colourful blocks were generously donated by the Danish toy company Plus-Plus after its CEO spotted a story about the project in the Tribune.

Once the shipment of blocks arrived, pupils at the school then spent their Easter holiday finishing the installation at St Augustine’s church. Each individual block represented one life lost, forming a striking and thought-provoking scene that encouraged visitors to reflect upon the events of the past year.

An educational STEM toy that stimulates fine motor skills, creativity, focus and patience, Plus-Plus is a creative construction toy that provides hours of play as kids and their parents use their imaginations to create colourful 2D puzzles and mosaics, or build 3D creations together. The Plus-Plus factory and headquarters uses 100% green energy from wind power and have a No Waste production policy.

Throughout 2021, DKL-Beysal will be supporting Plus-Plus with high-profile marketing campaigns to include influencer campaigns, extensive social media and PR activity, in-store support, retail sampling, features in leading consumer magazines and much more.

Creatto Series 2 range arrives at Thames & Kosmos

The kits lets kids and adults alike build impressive 3D models illuminated by LED lights.

Creatto Series 2

The Luminous Lion Creatto kit

Thames & Kosmos UK has announced the arrival of its popular Creatto Series 2 range, a simple yet versatile building system for children aged six and above.

The range lets children and adults design and construct illuminated 3D creations. The kit includes flexible and durable interlocking plastic tiles and a string of LED lights that creators can piece together to make animals, decorations, or their own custom creations, without the need for additional materials or hardware.

The new arrivals come in Mini, Midi and Maxi and are available at price points from £10-£30 RRP, making them ideal for a range of occasions and budgets. Luminous Lion, Shining Sweetheart and Soaring Dragon will be joined in time for Christmas by a Northern Lights Polar Bear. The popular kits from the first 2020 range, Moonlight Elephant Safari, Magical Moose and best-selling Starlight Kitty, are also continuing for this year.

Creatto Series 2“Creatto first landed on UK shores in late September 2020 after creating a huge buzz during Toy Fair earlier that year,” said Jo Drage, sales director. “The range instantly excited consumers as well as the trade, and our entire stock sold out in the run up to Christmas. Since announcing the arrival date of Creatto Series 2 to our trade customers, pre-orders have been coming in thick and fast. Creatto is so unique and different to our usual STEM offering; it’s really hit a chord with end users looking for that special something which sparks creativity and lets knowledge grow.”

For more information, contact sales@thamesandkosmos.co.uk.

Exclusive: Anna Knight on the cancellation of Licensing Expo

The organiser announced yesterday that August’s Las Vegas Licensing Expo will be now be a fully virtual experience. 

Licensing Expo

Anna Knight

Following the news that the August Las Vegas Licensing Expo will be replaced by a digital event this year, Toy World caught up with Anna Knight, vice president, Licensing, Informa Markets, to find out the reasons behind the decision, and what it means for BLE.

What ultimately drove the decision to cancel this year’s event?

Whilst there are definitely some positive signs of recovery, including Las Vegas re-opening for events and tourism, the summer dates for Expo ’21 have proved to be too early for the licensing community, particularly with continued international and corporate travel restrictions in place. Current indications suggest the end of Q3 is the point in time when most companies see that beginning to ease.

Licensing Expo is a showcase of the widest range of licences globally – that’s representation from every property type and every category of manufacturing. Without that range and diversity guaranteed to be on display, it’s also very hard to ensure that we would deliver a return on investment or a return on time for all of our customers.

How will you be replacing the physical show?

Licensing Expo will convert to a fully virtual experience taking place 24th-26th August. Exhibitors and visitors can schedule and host meetings, enjoy on-demand and live content and thought leadership, and search and discover the widest range of properties available for license from anywhere in the world. The core focus of the event will be curated matchmaking and new business opportunities. There will be:

  • Curated matchmaking, enabling brands, manufacturers and retailers to connect – meetings can take place from 7am ET to 6pm PT each day
  • Digital Brand Roadshows, which will bring brand discovery to the forefront, highlighting new, innovative and compelling IP by category
  • The Licensing University programme, which offers education on the foundations of licensing, the most up-to-date issues facing the business of licensing and much more
  • World renowned keynotes
  • Licensing International’s highly anticipated Licensing Excellence Awards, which honour the best licensing programs, retailers and licensees in the business, set to stream live on day one of licensing’s biggest week, 24th August
  • The largest directory of brands available to license in the world

Why do you feel that a virtual event will be able to support the global licensing industry better than a physical one this time round?

Our mission is to ensure that the broadest and most robust cross-section of attendees from retail, manufacturers and brands around the world can come together to do business, and in August, a virtual event is most certainly the most appropriate platform for us to achieve that. We want to ensure we deliver return on investment as well as return on time for all of our customers; ensuring access to the entire licensing community is the only way we can guarantee that. We also believe that the event is not just for people to meet those they already know, it’s also a fantastic platform for new business opportunities and that’s something that has been sorely missed by the industry. Zoom calls and showcases have been happening year-round but they have largely been for existing partners, and we therefore need to create these broader new business opportunities.

Are you still confident that BLE will take place in-person this November?

We are definitely planning for that to be the case, yes. We’ve had wonderful support from exhibitors and attendees alike and we’ll shortly be releasing our 2021 theme and related activations. Mid-November is firmly into the very back-end of 2021 and there is most certainly far more positive sentiment towards the restrictions currently in place being lifted in early Q4.

HGL Pushpoppers appear on This Morning

Considered by many to be the latest must-have toy, This Morning presenters Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield got hands-on with Pushpoppers during a segment on the show. 

PushpoppersPushpoppers are officially the latest toy craze, according to the popular weekday breakfast show This Morning. Presenters Holly and Phil enjoyed the tactile fidget toys as part of a segment during the show, with Holly admitting that Pushpoppers, which launched from HGL in March, are currently ‘huge’ in her house, and Phil seemingly taken with the colourful unicorn version he’d been given. A clip can be viewed below.

The coverage reflects the rising demand for the toys reported by retailers across the country. As reported in the May issue of Toy World, Pushpoppers have been best-sellers for Toy Barnhaus, as well as Imagine Toy Shop in Holmfirth and Midco Toys. The rubber ‘mats’, which let kids (and adults) enjoy the relaxing sensation of popping bubbles back and forth, have been a viral sensation on social media platforms such as TikTok, and are a great pocket-money purchase for kids now many toy retailers are back open again. The team at HGL describes playing with Pushpoppers as “strangely satisfying and unputdownable – perfect for stress relief and anxiety in all ages.”

David Mordecai, CEO of HGL, said: “Appearing on This Morning was great PR and we saw an immediate surge in calls as a result. We have ordered around 3m Pushpoppers already, with lots of variations and line extensions arriving throughout the summer. With masses of social media activity going on, and with lots of main stream media too, this particular craze looks set to run for a while.”

In an exclusive interview with Toy World, Toymaster’s retail manager Brian McLaughlin said it’ll be interesting to see what happens next with Pushpoppers now the kids are back at school.

“Pushpoppers from HGL are seeing excellent numbers and are probably the item being mentioned the most when we’re talking to retailers,” he told us. “It’s too early to tell if Pushpoppers will turn into a true craze, but the potential is certainly there. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when the schools go back; the playground is where crazes come to life. All you need is for one or two kids to turn up with them and show them to their friends on the first day back.”

Tonies adds Bob the Builder, Paw Patrol and more to range

The new Tonies will spark children’s imagination with immersive content, songs and stories – all totally screen-free.

This spring, Tonies is adding five new Tonies to its extensive range of stories, songs and audio as it welcomes Paw Patrol, Bob the Builder, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Famous Five, and Mia and Me to the Tonies family.

In a statement, the company said: “Now, more than ever before, parents are searching for alternative ways to entertain, educate and inspire their children. The new Tonies will spark children’s imagination with immersive content, songs and stories – all totally screen-free. Whether parents are introducing their child to their own nostalgic stories, such as The Famous Five, or listening together to the latest blockbuster story that their child loves, like Paw Patrol, Tonies keeps little ones entertained in a way that is meaningful, enriching and, most importantly, fun.”

With a run time of approximately an hour, the popular pre-school character Bob the Builder takes kids on adventures with Bob and his team, Wendy, Scoop and Lofty, and teaches them about teamwork and collaboration. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid Tonie, meanwhile, follows relatable teenager Greg Heffley, who writes about his daily life in middle school in a secret journal filled with his feelings.

The new Paw Patrol Tonie welcomes kids to the town of Adventure Bay, where they can meet the six heroic pups: Marshall, Rubble, Chase, Rocky, Zuma and Skye. In this engaging new story, Adventure Bay has to win a football match against the neighbouring city, but the Chaos Kittens and Mayor Humdinger are not playing fair.

Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy the dog find new discoveries and adventure wherever they go in Enid Blyton’s most popular series, The Famous Five. From solving mysteries to enjoying half term escapades, these kids are often found caught up in exciting adventures. Finally, Mia and Me: Centopia and Unicorns follows Mia as she is transformed into a beautiful elf, makes friends with royalty from the idyllic world of Centopia, and discovers she possesses a unique skill.

The Tonies and Tonieboxes operate through a wireless digital system which connects to an NFC chip within each Tonie using Wi-Fi. Each Tonie is also beautifully hand painted, making them desirable and collectable for kids.

Mattel supports indie retailers with dynamic digital marketing campaign

Running over a couple of months, the Mattel campaign will increase awareness and drive footfall to over 300 independent toy retailers.

Mattel indie retailersWith lockdown now easing in key areas of the UK, Mattel is supporting the independent sector with an innovative digital marketing campaign that the company says will increase awareness of its strong brand portfolio, and help drive footfall into newly reopened local independent toy retailers. The dynamic campaign will launch on 4th May and run for a couple of months.

Activated through mobile display and Spotify, the innovative campaign will geo-target adults based on their live locations and proximity to their local toy store using a mix of dynamic audio and visual creatives. The campaign is forecast to generate over 10m impressions, supporting retailers at a critical time as consumers start to return to the high street following the latest national lockdowns.

Michael Hick, VP and country manager for Mattel UK, explained: “We’ll continue to support all our retailers as we have done since the start of the pandemic, but with the opening up of retail we wanted to support the independent sector in particular with an innovative digital campaign. This will talk to consumers in a very targeted way, helping drive awareness and footfall to local toy stores which have been heavily impacted by store closures during the pandemic. We know how important it is to encourage consumers back out to the high streets and precincts as footfall is still a long way off what it was pre-pandemic. This innovative marketing initiative will support our partners at this critical time”.

Stephen Hartfield from Kids Stuff in Uckfield added: “This is such a great innovative campaign. I have eight Kid Stuff stores, so to be able to target each individual store with a bespoke campaign is amazing. Helping to get people back onto the high street and feeling comfortable in store to see and feel the magic of a toy store again is really important to us, so having a campaign like this from Mattel is very welcome indeed.”

Sainsbury’s pre-tax profits fall 39% from impact of £485m Covid-related costs

The retailer has posted a pre-tax loss of £261m for the year, despite a 120% rise in online shopping and higher Argos sales.

Sainsbury’s has taken a £485m hit over the past 12 months trading, with pre-tax profits down 39% for the year. A steep decline in sales was partially offset by a massive 120% uplift in online food orders, as well as increased sales from new Argos concessions, which largely remained open inside stores throughout the pandemic.

However, increased costs arising from the pandemic, coupled with a major restructuring which included 1,200 job cuts, saw Sainsbury’s post a pre-tax loss of £261m for the year to 6th March. Fuel sales fell by 45% as workers stayed at home, while clothing dropped 8.5%. The retailer also confirmed it would be moving ahead with its integration of Habitat and Argos, which it hopes will save the business £150m over the next three years. It is believed that Habitat will be introduced to stores in a similar integration to Argos.

In positive news for toy suppliers, Sainsbury’s general merchandise sales increased by 8.3% and Argos digital sales increased by 68%, while also improving profitability.

The results stand in marked contrast to Tesco, which announced profits of £825m for the year a few weeks ago. This figure represented a 20% fall from the previous year, despite the fact that sales were described as  “exceptional.”

Simon Roberts, chief executive of J Sainsbury plc, commented: “Above all else, I want to recognise the extraordinary job that my colleagues have done over the last 12 months. Their efforts have been nothing short of heroic, as our entire team went above and beyond every day for our customers and communities. I am enormously grateful to the whole team for the way they have risen to the huge challenges this year and so selflessly looked after our customers and each other. This year’s financial results have been heavily influenced by the pandemic. Food and Argos sales are significantly higher, but the cost of keeping colleagues and customers safe during the pandemic has been high. Our full-year direct Covid-19 costs were £485m, leading to a 39% decrease in full-year underlying profit. Like our customers, we are all looking forward to things feeling more normal over the coming months and getting excited about a summer of celebration, but we are also cautious about the economic outlook. While there is much that we cannot predict in the year ahead, we are absolutely focused on delivering for our customers and shareholders.”

Mattel UK joins IAB UK’s Gold Standard advertiser supporters

The company is the latest to join an alliance of brands with a vested interest in improving digital advertising. 

Mattel IABThe IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau), the industry body for digital advertising, actively raises standards within digital media buying with its Gold Standard. The initiative certifies companies selling digital media if they meet set criteria around improving the digital advertising experience, helping compliance with the GDPR and ePrivacy laws, tackling ad fraud and upholding brand safety. A cohort of advertisers, including Mattel UK, has pledged to only use Gold Standard certified companies wherever possible, and has therefore committed to driving change around key issues that concern brands.

The IAB says the key to a healthy and successful digital ad industry is raising the accountability bar by providing additional assurances that appropriate measures are taken to fight fraud and maintain suitable brand-safe environments.

Kelly Philp, marketing director Mattel UK, commented: “As a leader in the toy category, we have a critical role to play in upholding the core values of the IAB Gold Standard and driving change within the digital advertising industry to make it safer and more transparent, especially for children and families. Digital advertising is and will continue to be a focus area for Mattel, and our aim is to lead from the front and by example.”

Sophia Haynes, director of campaigns for IAB UK, added: “It’s brilliant to have Mattel UK on board as our latest Gold Standard advertiser supporter, joining a 15-strong alliance of brands. By proactively choosing to work with Gold Standard certified suppliers, these advertisers are playing a uniquely powerful role in bringing about real and lasting change within the digital ad supply chain.”

Moose Toys brings new Imagination Tree to Melbourne’s Monash Children’s Hospital

The world-class Imagination Tree interactive space has been designed to bring play and imagination to patients and their families. 

Imagination Tree

The Imagination Tree spans four floors of the hospital

Moose Toys has taken its commitment to the ‘superhappy’ to the next level with
the opening of the Moose Imagination Tree at Melbourne’s Monash Children’s Hospital.

This first of its kind, the 16-metre-tall tree is the result of a unique collaboration between The Walt Disney Company and Moose. It spans over four levels of the hospital and provides patients and their families with areas to play and relax, making hospital visits and stays a magical, even enjoyable experience for kids requiring medical treatment. At the base of the tree on level 2, guests can enjoy activities such as climbing grassy hills, following animal tracks in the mud, playing floor games and listening to the sounds of the wild. Level 3 is an inviting space filled with a collection of hanging artefacts. Here, guests can bang away on drums or dig through an African basket filled with smaller instruments to create lively beats and harmonious melodies. On level 4, there is a relaxing space for friends to congregate, connect and unwind, while the very top level lets guests lie back on large beanbags that blend in with the surrounding canopy to read favourite books or watch the sky change from day to night.

“At Moose Toys, we are deeply entwined with the Monash Children’s Hospital. With over a decade of partnering together, it has become part of the Moose family,’’ said Paul Solomon, co-owner of Moose Toys. “After a long journey and much collaboration, we are incredibly excited to finally reveal The Moose Imagination Tree, a structure that will help cement Monash Children’s Hospital as a world class paediatric hospital.”

“The Moose Imagination Tree is the physical embodiment of everything our foundation stands for,” Paul added. “It allows kids to be kids no matter what their circumstances, to have access to the pure power of play and to use their imaginations. The fact that it helps them forget they are in hospital makes it so meaningful. We exist to make children superhappy and we believe this spectacular structure will most definitely do this.”

“Monash Children’s Hospital cares for over 100,000 children every year,” commented Andrew Stripp, Monash Health chief executive. “Children might be with us for an hour and then go home, but others are with us for many months at a time due to chronic illness. The Moose Imagination Tree is remarkable because it caters to all of those patients and their families.”

Moose has a long-standing relationship with Monash Children’s Hospital, with its Australian HQ located only a few kilometres down the road.

As well as the tree, Moose has contributed to many play environments around the hospital including a jungle themed welcome statue at the entrance, safari animals on each level and interactive bedside units to ensure patients remain connected to their loved ones.