Analysts predict further supply chain pricing challenges for ‘22

Hopes of a return to normality across global supply chains after Chinese New Year in February have been brought into question, with the suggestion that it may be Q4 before the situation eases.

According to a report in The Loadstar, two major analysts – Drewry and MSI – have stated that they don’t expect the supply chain crisis and elevated freight rates to change significantly before the end of next year.

In its latest Container Forecaster report, Drewry suggested that supply chain turmoil will last longer than anticipated, with a senior researcher claiming: “We had expected more progress at this stage. The deteriorating situation makes us think the problem is much deeper-seated than feared, with the pandemic bringing forward latent crises within certain sectors.”

The report concluded that the consensus view from conversations with a selection of industry professionals is that the end of 2022 is “a more likely timeframe” for recovery. This aligns with what Toy World was told by several key people within the shipping community several months ago.

Elsewhere, Maritime Strategies International analyst Daniel Richards is quoted as saying that “freight rates are more likely to move sideways rather than dramatically downward next year, since the task of reducing the level of congestion and backlogs across the system will take time, and the prevailing level of container demand will remain healthy.”

Drewry has upgraded its outlook for average global freight rates for this year. Continued high spot rates, together with what it perceives as a catch-up in long-term contract rates, has led Drewry to upgrade its forecast for combined spot and contract rates for 2021 to a year-on-year increase of 126%.

The impact of this is likely to see record profitability for ocean carriers yet again in the third quarter. Drewry says it now expects the liner industry to clock up an eye-watering ebitda of $150bn this year, up from its previous forecast of $100bn. “With regulators breathing down their necks looking for evidence of unethical activity, shipping lines are on the defensive, and recent moves by some to cease further spot rate increases need to be viewed through the prism of a PR war,” suggests Drewry.

Simba Dickie Group acquires stake in Minimax

Simba Dickie Group says that the merger will offer great synergy potential for the Schuco and Spark brands.

Oliver Naumann (Managing Director of Dickie), Hugues Ripert (Managing Director of Spark), Florian Sieber (CEO of the Simba Dickie Group)

The Simba Dickie Group has acquired a stake in the successful model car manufacturer Minimax. The acquisition took effect from July 1st 2021, and both companies say they see high potential in this cooperation for the development, production and marketing of their product ranges.

Founded by French car enthusiast Hugues Ripert in 2000, Minimax has been present in all major markets for years. Its models are mainly produced under the brand Spark and are focused on the racing sector. The Schuco brand will be integrated into the joint model car group in order to benefit from important synergies in the coming years. In particular, the potential for Schuco models to be produced again in the company’s own factories will ensure the quality and future of the brand. The management will be taken over by Hugues Ripert, who also holds a majority stake in the joint venture. M&A advisor Bernard Farkas accompanied the transaction.

Florian Sieber, CEO of the Simba Dickie Group, said: “We are joining forces with Minimax and plan to concentrate our model car business there in the long term. At the same time, we are bringing the Schuco brand into the newly created model car group and will do everything to give the brand new shine thanks to the great synergy potential.”

Oliver Naumann, managing director of Dickie, welcomed the new partnership and added: “The new structure will give us the opportunity to manage the development and production of Schuco models in the future, independent of suppliers. It will be easier to ensure the production and quality of our model cars.”

Hugues Ripert, who was inspired as a boy by the 24 Hour Le Mans race, is both a manufacturer and a collector. As managing partner of Spark, he foresees new opportunities for expanding the range: “We have been very successful with model racing cars for years. Thanks to Schuco, we can now complement the Spark range with classic road cars, agricultural vehicles and more. We are gradually combining our production and sales activities to allow both companies to focus development on their core segments. We look forward to delighting both old and new customers with the variety and quality of our product range.”

 

Schleich teams up with National Geographic Kids for new play sets

The multi-year partnership will produce play sets to encourage children to be enthusiastic about nature conservation through play.

With nature and environmental matters high on the agenda for many families, German toy manufacturer Schleich and National Geographic Kids have collaborated to launch a series of new play sets designed to get children excited about conservation through play.

The tie-up which is initially set to run until the end of 2023, covers all markets in Europe, North, Central and South Africa, Russia, Asia Pacific and Latin America, and features Schleich’s authentically detailed, hand-painted characters from the brand’s Wild Life range, including animals such as meerkats, racoons, panthers, crocodiles and gorillas. The partnership kicks off with the release of three sets – Nutty Mischief, Meerkat Hangout and the Wild Life Ranger Adventure Station.

As well as product, entertaining and educational content linked to the wild animals and their habitats will be published across a variety of channels.The aim is for the sets to inspire children to create stories based around the animals, while having fun learning about the natural world and sparking their curiosity.

“You only protect what you know and love,” said Dirk Engehausen, CEO of Schleich. “We are delighted to have found the perfect collaborator in National Geographic Kids – the only kids’ brand that has a scientific research organisation at its core – for our popular Wild Life range. Together we can use storytelling and role play to get children excited about animals and their natural habitats.”

He added: “The topics of environmental protection, preservation of biodiversity and sustainability are more important than ever before. And we at Schleich – as a traditional brand found in millions of kids’ rooms worldwide – want to do our part to introduce even the youngest to these topics through play.”

Amscan International expands with acquisition of Ginger Ray

The party product manufacturer has taken over the celebrations brand which is said to have a £20m turnover.

Amscan International has acquired party brand Ginger Ray as part of its ambitious strategic growth plans.

It marks the second acquisition in two months for the Milton Keynes based company, which has a turnover of £200m and employs 2,500 people worldwide, following the purchase of Germany-based foil balloon printing technology business Luftballon-Markt in August.

Both deals have happened since the management buy-out of Amscan International in January this year which was supported by private equity fund Endless. The value of all transactions is undisclosed.

Commenting on the latest deal, Amscan International chief executive officer, Gary Panons, said: “We are delighted to complete the Ginger Ray acquisition. Ginger Ray managing director, Ben Spence, and his team have developed an industry-leading brand and we believe that with a combination of our mutual strengths we can help the brand develop further.”

Ginger Ray has 30 employees and is based in Surrey. The company has been in business for eight years, with a party product range that is stocked by 600 retailers worldwide, from high street department stores to independent retailers. Partnering with Amscan International will enable Ginger Ray to benefit from an extensive global network and access to the company’s capabilities in eCommerce and supply chain.

Joe Hennigan, Amscan International’s chief financial officer and chief operating officer, added: “Developing our brand proposition is the cornerstone of our strategic plan and we are delighted to be partnering with the market leading brand in our category. We have known Ben and the team for a number of years and believe that combining our efforts will accelerate the growth of Ginger Ray.”

Ginger Ray will continue to operate under its own trading name and the existing Ginger Ray team, including managing director Ben Spence, will all remain in their current roles. Ben commented: “We are thrilled to be partnering with Amscan International. We believe that access to the global network and capabilities of Amscan International will enable us to fully focus on what we do best: creating beautiful products for our customers.”

Endless partner Matthew Jubb said: “We are very pleased to provide further support to the Amscan International management team and we warmly welcome Ben and his colleagues to the group. We believe that their new partnership will allow both Amscan International and Ginger Ray to each accelerate their already ambitious growth plans.”

 

Lift off for Barbie STEM careers for women campaign

The Barbie doll of ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will promote STEM careers for women during World Space Week.

Barbie will be encouraging girls to become the next generation of astronauts, engineers and space scientists with a new doll campaign launched to mark World Space Week this week (4th-10th October).

Mattel has partnered with the European Space Agency for a collaboration which sees ESA’s only active European female astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti, sent on a zero-gravity flight in doll form. The aim is to celebrate ‘Women in Space’ and inspire girls everywhere to see the STEM field as a viable career option.

Part of the proceeds from sales of the Samantha Cristoforetti Barbie doll, previously a one-of-a-kind Barbie but now available across Europe, will be donated to Women In Aerospace to inspire the next generation by creating a Barbie bursary for a PHD student.

To celebrate World Space Week, the Samantha lookalike doll departed from the ESA base in Germany and travelled on a Zero-gravity flight, modelling the preparation and experience of a real-life astronaut.

Samantha, a 44-year-old from Italy, is an aviator, engineer, and astronaut and is currently in training ahead of her next mission to the International Space Station in April 2022, where she will take command during her six-month tour of duty. She plans to take her doll on the mission with her to continue inspiring girls.

Samantha said: “Sometimes little things can plant the seeds of great dreams, Who knows – maybe the fun images of my doll floating in weightlessness will spark children’s imagination and lead them to consider a career in STEM.”

Research shows women are still underrepresented in STEM careers and even at a young age, girls say they are least confident in their maths skills in school. This means that they are missing out on potentially fulfilling and highly paid careers in the industry, where employment growth rate is three times faster than for non-STEM jobs.

Educational resources will also be available to spotlight different space careers, and to teach primary school aged children more about space.

Isabel Ferrer, Barbie marketing director EMEA, said: “With STEM careers still underrepresented by women, Barbie is using its platform this World Space Week to show girls exciting and diverse roles and activity in space for them to explore their limitless potential.”

Barbie has spent over 55 years inspiring girls through space careers, since the first Barbie Astronaut doll ‘walked on the moon’ before man ever did, in 1965. Barbie has been an Astrophysicist, Space Scientist and an Astronaut, and has created dolls in the likeness of real-life role models; Astronauts Sally Ride from the US and Anna Kikina from Russia, along with ESA’s Samantha Cristoforetti.

Barbie launched the Dream Gap Project in 2018, an ongoing global initiative that gives girls the resources and support they need to continue believing in themselves, and the Barbie/ESA partnership was forged in 2019.

For details on how to apply for the Women in Aerospace Europe Outreach Award: The ESA x Barbie Bursary, click here

Rubies welcomes officially licensed Shang-Chi and WandaVision costumes

The new additions extend Rubies’ partnership with Marvel which has seen the company produce costumes for all the major Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

Rubies has announced the latest additions to its ongoing partnership with Marvel, in the form of costumes based on the new movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and the acclaimed Disney+ series WandaVision.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the world’s largest and most successful superhero franchise. Overseen by Kevin Feige, it has grossed more than $26b worldwide in less than 15 years. Rubies and Marvel enjoy a continued strong relationship, with Rubies designing, manufacturing and distributing costumes for every major MCU film in recent history, both in the UK and across the globe.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings launched on the big screen on 3rd September. An explosive superhero film, martial arts and immersive legends have been combined to create a cohesive and gripping story. The costumes are available in the style worn by the protagonist, Shang-Chi: a striking red jersey tunic top with foam padding and shiny black trousers.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the first Marvel film to feature an American Asian lead and the first to feature a predominantly Asian cast, making it an important addition to the Rubies line-up, as Tracey Devine-Tyley, head of Portfolio and Licensing EMEA, explains.

“As our strong partnership with Marvel continues to grow, we are delighted to be bringing the character of Shang-Chi to life with our costumes,” she commented. “As we are an industry leader, we understand how important Marvel’s first Asian-led superhero film is, especially to younger viewers. It is imperative children can look at the characters they see in the media and see themselves in them, thereby growing and exploring their budding personalities using these positive roles as inspiration.”

Starring Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen, WandaVision kicked off Phase 4 of the MCU, captivating not only devoted fans but also casual viewers with its mixture of sitcom nostalgia, action sequences and exploration of themes such as grief. In the ‘All-New Halloween Spook-tacular’ episode, the two superheroes don their own outlandish costumes from the original comic books, a stark comparison to the modernised costumes seen in the MCU.

Tracey commented: “By bringing the characters of Wanda and Vision to life in their latest, rather kooky incarnation, we hope we can help create a spooktacular Halloween for fans of the series as they celebrate with family and friends.”

Play for Change Awards finalists announced

Eight toy companies and one initiative are in the running to scoop the top awards at the online ceremony next week.

The finalists for the 2021 Play for Change Awards have been announced by Toy Industries of Europe (TIE) with entries from Adventerra Games, BioBuddi, Dantoy, The Lego Group, Franckh-Kosmos Verlags, Mattel and Miniland selected as contenders for the top spots in the second year of the awards.

Winners have been chosen by three juries made up of independent experts in the categories of sustainability, empowerment and future skills, and chaired by Toy World’s publisher and industry stalwart, John Baulch. A special commendation will also be awarded to celebrate some of the efforts toy companies made to help with the Covid-19 crisis.

TIE recognises that toy companies today are innovating beyond product and increasingly considering the impact their company has on kids’ futures and the planet. The Play for Change Awards celebrate toy makers developing toys and company practices that help kids confidently navigate the world around them, in ways that show respect for themselves, for others and for the planet. They are not based on sales, press coverage or profitability, but judged on ideas, initiatives and products that contribute to society in three clearly defined categories. In this way, they differ from the multiple national and international awards for toys that already exist.

TIE’s director general, Catherine Van Reeth, said: “For the second year running, companies from across the toy sector have risen to the Play for Change Awards challenge. Despite the challenges of the last year, the number of entries grew by 50% on the competition’s first year, and once again the quality of submissions was outstanding. It is inspiring to see so many companies going the extra mile to positively impact children’s lives, their futures and the planet. Deciding on the winners was no easy feat for the judges, who have once again done a stellar job”.

The final results will be announced during a virtual ceremony next week on Wednesday, 6th October via www.playforchangeawards.eu. Updates will also be posted on TIE’s LinkedIn page.

 

Smyths Toys launches Barbie Dreamhouse campaign with Mattel

The Barbie Dreamhouse campaign is supported by an integrated marketing push attracting around 3m YouTube views and coverage on social media.

Smyths Toys Superstores has unveiled a new Barbie Dreamhouse campaign in collaboration with Mattel.

This animation opens the door on the dolls house, as seen through the eyes of a child – Smyths Toys’ beloved brand character, Oscar – and follows Barbie and Oscar on a tour of the Barbie Dreamhouse, brought to life by McCann Manchester Animation House. The ad sees Oscar asking questions along the way, such as where does Barbie like to relax, which is her favourite room and when can he try out the pool slide.

The launch of the Barbie Dreamhouse ad is supported with an integrated marketing campaign including an estimated 3m YouTube views and support on Facebook and Instagram.

Barbie Dreamhouse, which stands at 43 inches, offers 360-degree play with three floors and 10 indoor and outdoor living areas including a pool, party room and elevator. It also comes complete with three songs, two soundscapes and customisable light settings and transforming furniture, such an entertainment centre which reverses to reveal a pet play area.

Sinead Byrne, joint head of marketing at Smyths Toys, said: “This collaboration has been a truly creative process with the talented teams at Mattel and McCann Animation House. We loved seeing the Barbie Dreamhouse through the eyes of Oscar and Barbie, and we hope our customers will too.”

Eirian Jones, head of customer marketing, added: “There’s nothing I love more than executing retail marketing campaigns and I’m so proud of our latest collaboration with Smyths Toys. The custom ad takes product centric storytelling to new heights, immersing the audience into the world of Barbie and amplifying the play experience. The new Dreamhouse is the most customisable yet, with great new features and more dream-worthy touches than ever before and Oscar has been invited round for the full tour.”

You can watch the animation here:

Lego builds on lockdown appeal as profits more than double

The Lego Group says it does not expect to encounter Christmas stock problems despite the supply crisis caused by higher transport costs and labour shortages.

The Lego Super Mario tie-up is said to have helped push up sales.

The Lego Group saw its profits more than double in the first half of 2021 as demand for Lego continued past the ending of lockdown.

Children and adults alike turned to brick building in a bid to banish boredom during Covid restrictions, and the success of the brand has continued.

Sales jumped 43% to DKr23b (£2.6b) in the first six months of this year while net profits surged 140% to DKr6.3b.

Despite much-publicised concern about a shortage of stock and higher prices for the festive season, chief executive Niels Christiansen said he did not foresee any problems.

“We don’t expect any particular issues but we are of course dependent on transportation and customs into the UK,” he explained. “But as it looks right now, we don’t have any particular concerns.”

Niels added that the company did not plan to make any ‘extraordinary’ price rises to mitigate the impact of higher freight and raw material costs, and said the group’s strong financial performance would lead it to speed up investment in environmental initiatives. The company says there has been very strong progress on its sustainability agenda; Lego recently unveiled its first bricks made from recycled plastic bottles and announced paper bags would replace single-use plastic in boxes in 2022.

One of the highlights in the sales increase was the tie-up with the games company Nintendo and Super Mario, which Lego said had helped it combine physical and digital play. Lego Star Wars and Harry Potter were also popular choices, as were the more expensive Creator models.

Sales were up by more than 10% in all markets and web sales increased by 50%, with Niels saying figures were helped by the ability of Lego’s factories to operate normally again, plus the reopening of stores.

He anticipates a strong second half of the year but believes growth will slow down to “more sustainable levels” as consumers return to pre-pandemic spending patterns.

“This trend, combined with our plans to accelerate reinvestments into the future of the business, is expected to result in more normalised profit levels moving forward,” he added.

Lego donates 25% of its profit to The Lego Foundation, and at the recent Global Citizen event made a $150m donation.

“We are especially grateful for our amazing team,” added Niels. “Despite all the challenges and uncertainties of the past six months, they worked extraordinarily hard to bring play to more families around the world.”

“The single biggest motivating force for everyone at the Lego Group is knowing we can have a positive impact on future generations,” he concluded. “Whether it’s in times of acute need or helping a child develop new skills that will last a lifetime, Lego play and the Lego brand can, and will, make a difference.”

 

Hexbug launches new additions to STEM toy range

The new releases include expansions to the Hexbug Mobots, Junkbots, Nano Real Bugs and Circuit Smash Robots ranges.

This month sees Hexbug launch new additions to its Mobots and Micro Robotics Creates ranges, as well as upgrades to the collectible Junkbots range.

Hexbug first launched in 2007 and quickly developed in popularity with kids of all ages. The company expects the new releases will prove just as popular this Christmas.

Mobot Speed Shot is the newest addition to the Mobots range. Mobots are interactive robotic sidekicks which can record and play back children’s voices at different speeds. Children can use the voice effects to make themselves sound like a robot and change the pitch from low to high. With Mobot Speed Shot, each shot on target moves the Mobot towards the finish line and closer to victory.

Wasp is the newest addition to Hexbug’s growing legion of robotic creepy crawlers. Children can race friends and watch as Wasp drifts around corners and towards the finish line. The Wasp is powered by a remote control and comes with adjustable wings and a flexible tail moving from side to side. The Hexbug range also includes Dragon, Spider, Beetle, Ant, Scorpion, Scarab and Fire Ant, available in an assortment of colours.

Junkbots is another growing range and with the Junkbots Trash Bin, children can use trash to build and collect Junkbots. With a modular design, they can follow the instructions or create their own collectible character.

The Junkbots Dumpster contains a pair of special bots hiding inside. Kids can attach and reattach, add light and motion modules, and see how many different bots they can discover. There is also the Junkbots Large Dumpster containing four unique bots, simulated junk and motion and light modules.

The Junkbots Research Lab is a play set with which kids can build a pair of robots, then deconstruct them to make even more bots or rearrange the set however they want, while the new Junkbots Sewer System Playset contains 280 plus pieces and four all-new Junkbots to uncover. Kids can adapt the playset to create what they want or add power modules to give their bots a boost.

Other new releases include Nano Real Bugs 3 Pack and 5 Pack, which contain lookalike insects which scurry over hard surfaces and Circuit Smash Robots – little warriors which can fight in the portable ring.

For further information visit www.hexbug.com or call 01925 854 282.