WWE collectibles range proves a sell-out success for PMI

The new line of licensed WWE collectibles sold out within days of appearing on the shelves of UK retailers.

WWE collectiblesPMI’s new licensed WWE collectibles range landed in UK retailers recently, and promptly sold out within a matter of days as fans of the property clamoured to get their hands on the products. One major retailer has placed a reorder for some 40,000 pieces, according to the company, having sold out of its initial 5,000 in record time.

The initial launch range – the WWE Superstar Keychains assortment – comprises 18 blind-bagged figures showcasing the Superstars of WWE including John Cena, The Rock, Roman Reigns and Becky Lynch (A.K.A The Man),  each of which can be attached to keys, bags or other accessories. The full range, which distributor Singleton Trading is currently rolling out across the UK, comprises a variety of blind-bagged and blister pack collectibles from Stamper figures to pencil toppers, all attractively priced for impulse purchase; the Superstar Keychains retail at £2-3 RRP.

Omer Dekel, VP international sales, told Toy World why the range has performed so well since launching. ” Our WWE line is huge in the UK at the moment. The property moved to BT Sport and went free-to-air on Channel 5 recently, which has seen brand awareness and popularity skyrocket. We’re helping to cater to the huge demand that’s out there for product of this nature. The attention to detail is incredible; we’ve taken all PMI’s expertise in the collectibles market and used it to create a toy line bursting with the high quality and value for money consumers have come to expect from our portfolio. Our ranges are a real demand-driver at retail, helping to drive footfall and repeat purchases, and this new line looks set to be a big success.”

This year also witnessed the crowning of the first ever British Royal Rumble winner and first ever British WWE Champion, Drew McIntyre, whose achievements made headline news in the UK. As a result, brand awareness within the UK is at an all-time high.

“As key partners we’ve collaborated very successfully with PMI on several collectible ranges including Fortnite, TMNT and Harry Potter,” added Marc Sivner at Singleton Trading. “When presented with the WWE range, we therefore knew, based on previous sales, that this winning formula was sure to be a success. The launch has surpassed all expectations by selling out within days of hitting retail stores, but retailers needn’t worry – we’ve got more stock on the way.”

To place an order for stock or to find out more, readers are advised to contact daniel@singletontrading.com.

Exclusive: To KAP it all – KAP Toys MD Nat Southworth talks to Toy World

The August front cover holder KAP Toys faced a particular set of lockdown challenges; Toy World finds out more, and what the rest of 2020 holds.

KAP ToysLockdown continues to offer up novel experiences; my interview with KAP Toys started with my first ever Zoom tour of a warehouse. Nat was understandably keen to show off the company’s new site, having consolidated two locations in Wales to move to a single new one in North Yorkshire. Timing wise, it wasn’t ideal, at Nat explained.

“We’d already decided to relocate the business before the pandemic started, and the plan was simple enough,” he said. “I would spend two weeks at each Welsh site before it closed to oversee the handover. The office was due to close on 31st March, but the lockdown started on the 23rd.  At that point, all our plans went out the window. We had to move the office to the warehouse on 18th March, and the next challenge we faced was moving out of the warehouse. We’d been given a date of 27th April for that, but with the lockdown in full swing, and the paperwork for our new warehouse not yet finalised, I couldn’t spend any time sorting through our inventory to ensure we only moved what we wanted. We had to pay for the entire contents of the warehouse to be moved here; returns, broken pallets, things that really should have gone in a skip. All of it went in multiple lorries.”

Nat also had to furlough his own brother, who oversees indie sales (though he is now back at work), and, to make matters worse had a serious issue with import tax, as detailed in the article. However, with the assistance of Far Logistics, which Nat says went above and beyond to help, KAP Toys was able to sort it out.

With its various hurdles now overcome, the company is looking forward to the rest of 2020. A major launch, the Harry Potter Magical Capsules, is now shipping and performing well; a video of the range has surpassed 2,200,000 views on TikTok, while a coordinated campaign by BlogOn founder Laura Seaton achieved over 3,500,000 views within days. Nat is keen to catch up with customers regarding what else the company has to offer. KAP Toys recently became the UK & Ireland distributor for Lego Lites from IQHK and has high hopes for the brand; so much so, Nat says he’s having to temper the team’s enthusiasm to get stuck in immediately.

“The past few months have been about survival for most people,” he adds. “This will have been the most challenging time anyone in the toy industry will ever have faced, and none of us are going to forget it in a hurry. There’s optimism now, which the toy industry has always had in spades, so we all need to work together – manufacturers, suppliers and retailers alike – to support each other’s success.”

To read the full article, which was published in the August issue of Toy World, click here.

NPD Group reveals global first half toy sales

Increase in sales, particularly in the USA, related to strong online sales and ease of restrictions after Covid-19 lockdown.

Toy industry sales increased by 9% in the first half of 2020 (January – June) across the 12 global markets (G12) tracked by The NPD Group. The United States experienced the highest percentage growth at 16%, followed by Canada (9%), Germany (9%), UK (8%), and Netherlands (6%).

All other European countries experienced declines in the first half, though combined sales in Europe were positive, up 1%. Europe was the first region hit by Covid-19 and was strongly impacted by store closures as close to one-third of the retail business in Europe relies on the toy speciality channel. And as the epicentre of the pandemic moved across the globe, the LATAM market continued to record negative performance.

Easing of lockdown measures in Europe started in early May, and, as a result, May and June experienced respective sales increases of 9% and 11%. In the US, first half toy sales were more resilient thanks in large part to the strength of the online channel in the country. The US toy industry experienced double-digit monthly growth from March through June, despite lockdown restrictions.

“The past few months have been totally unique for our industry. Even though sales growth looks strong globally, it should not hide some radically different situations from one country to the other,” said Frédérique Tutt, global toys industry analyst at The NPD Group. “Those differences are the result of several factors, but two stand out: the shape of the retail landscape, including the maturity of the online channel in each country were paramount to be in a position to sell toys to consumers; and a combination of cultural and economic strength of each country.”

Similar to what was experienced in the first quarter of the year, consumers continued to turn to Games and Puzzles more than any other supercategory, making it the best performing supercategory in the G12 for the first half (37%). Four other supercategories recorded growth: Outdoor & Sports Toys (27%), Building Sets (14%), Arts & Crafts (11%), and Explorative & Other Toys (1%).

Looking at the top gaining toy properties across the G12 in the first half, Disney Frozen was the largest, followed by Star Wars, Little Tikes, Barbie and Lego Star Wars.

Exclusive: Studio Retail – a value proposition

Toy World spoke to toy buyer Neil Mitchell about the retailer’s success during lockdown, and what sets it apart in the marketplace.

Studio RetailPreviously known as the catalogue retailer Express Gifts, Studio provides a shopping service to more than 2m customers per year, offering a wide range of products predominantly through online and mobile. Toys is a strongly performing category for Studio, and the company’s own brand range has received numerous awards including for its Outdoor Mud Kitchen and wooden toy range.

Toy buyer Neil Mitchell told Toy World that the retailer had performed ‘exceptionally well’ during lockdown. “Back in January and February, sales were in line with budget, although good weather in February 2019 made it difficult for Garden & Outdoor Toys to annualise strong numbers,” he said. “However, since lockdown the business has seen both record online sales (+55% versus the same period last year) and a strong increase in new customers. Our multi-year transformation to become a digital value retailer means we have been well-placed to adapt to the current environment.”

Toy sales are up +20% YTD for Studio Retail, with the retailer seeing its biggest ever spring/summer trading week back in March as the UK entered lockdown. Outdoor toys dominated the period, driven by good weather and British kids staying home while the schools were shuttered.

“Our most popular lines included trampolines, slides, paddling pools and playhouses, which were available across a range of price points,” explains Neil. “Another trend we observed was home learning, as the country adapted to a new way of life and teaching kids from home. We already offered a wide range of relevant products, but we added new lines to the category, including brands we had not partnered with before, which all performed extremely well. Lego and wooden toys, including our own-brand role-play range, were standout sellers.”

Neil tells Toy World that one of Studio Retail’s biggest USPs is its personalisation service. The company has invested heavily in state-of-the art machinery to create the largest personalisation plant in Europe, which allows it to place a child’s name on products, free of charge. This instantly gives Studio and the product a point of difference to others in the market.

He adds: “We work with all types of suppliers to curate a range that Studio customers will love. Our online platform allows us to offer a wide range, making us an ideal choice when launching new ranges, as well as selling tried and trusted products. Our aim is to build long term strategic relationships with suppliers as we continue our transformation, with the goal of becoming the leading digital value retailer.”

To read the full interview, which was published in the August issue of Toy World, click here.

Trade Credit Reinsurance scheme backed by the government

The scheme provides essential cover to hundreds of thousands of business-to-business transactions. 

The government has announced up to £10b of backing for Trade Credit Insurers.

The Trade Credit Reinsurance scheme, which has been agreed following extensive discussions with the insurance sector, will see the vast majority of Trade Credit Insurance coverage maintained across the UK.

The BTHA has been asking government to support a trade credit insurance guarantee since early in the lockdown. Natasha Crookes, director of public affairs & communications at the BTHA, said: “It is news we have been awaiting for some time and I hope it can support the toy industry to trade more effectively over the coming months.”

The guarantees will support supply chains and help businesses during the coronavirus pandemic to trade with confidence, safe in the knowledge that they will be protected if a customer defaults or delays on payment.

Business Secretary of State Alok Sharma said: “Trade Credit Insurance is a daily necessity for hundreds of thousands of businesses across the UK – particularly those in non-service sectors such as the manufacturing and construction sectors. Our £10b guarantee gives peace of mind to businesses, allowing them to continue to trade and maintaining liquidity in supply chains.This reinsurance scheme is an important step as we carefully set about firing up our economy as we emerge from the pandemic.”

The economic secretary to the Treasury, John Glen, added: “Billions of pounds of business turnover is supported by Trade Credit Insurance each year. This reinsurance scheme will see the government and insurers working closely together to ensure that the vast majority of this cover remains in place. This means that businesses and supply chains can continue to be protected at this pivotal time as we begin to kick start the economy.”
The scheme is available on a temporary basis for nine months, backdated to 1st April 2020, and running until 31st December 2020, with the potential for extension if required.

The scheme will be followed by a joint BEIS/HMT-led review of the Trade Credit Insurance market to ensure it can continue to support businesses in future.

Eligible insurers can now apply for the Trade Credit Reinsurance scheme.

Something to look forward to…it’s the Friday Blog!

There are certain fixed points in the calendar around which my year traditionally revolves, with the summer months being no exception. Kids break up from school in the third week of July – while mine are long past that stage, it does mean that my journey into the office becomes infinitely easier for six blissful weeks. Then, in a normal year, there are family holidays, trade shows and business trips to juggle over the summer months: each a tentpole in its own way, something to look forward to and to plan around.

Sadly, 2020 has seen the natural order of things thrown into disarray: kids haven’t been in school for months; one by one, trade shows and business trips have fallen by the wayside, while the family holiday bit the dust months ago. Even the good old Argos catalogue, a summer staple for the past 48 years, is no more: several months after we exclusively revealed that the catalogue would be cancelled this year, Argos has finally gone public with the news. While it represents the disappearance of an industry icon, it’s hard to argue with the rationale described by Sainsbury’s chief executive Simon Roberts: “Removing the printed catalogue helps us to flex our range and offers and to be more competitive on price.” In an age where flexibility and reactiveness are key to retail success, perhaps the catalogue tied their hands just that little bit too much?

Those who had planned to go ahead with their summer holiday to Spain were dealt a blow this week with the implementation of a 14-day quarantine period for returning travellers. Whether by accident or design, this move is likely to deter many from travelling abroad this summer – not just to Spain, as there is now a risk that any country could be added to the list at a moment’s notice. I know we’ve all enjoyed a good game during lockdown (our family favourite has been Big Potato’s Which Came First?), but I’m not sure whether I fancy a game of quarantine roulette. On the plus side, this may increase the number of staycations or UK-based holidays, which in turn could offer a welcome boost to domestic toy retailers.

We’ve been speaking to a host of indie toy retailers recently, and it’s encouraging to hear how many of them have been pleasantly surprised by the level of business that they have been enjoying since they re-opened. More people staying in the UK over the summer can only help that trend continue. Of course, there is a corollary to that: some retailers which depend heavily on international tourists are finding the going tough. An indie retailer on a day trip to the big smoke last weekend sent me some pictures from Hamleys – it looked like he had managed to sneak in through the back door before the store had opened, as the aisles were literally deserted. The West End in general is, I understand, still incredibly quiet, but pictures of a totally empty toy store are always a sad sight.

Thankfully, this doesn’t appear to be the picture across the whole of the UK: smaller towns in particular seem to have benefitted from the number of people working from home and shopping local. Official ONS data suggests that footfall is currently around 60% of the level it was a year ago, but almost all the retailers we have spoken to have suggested that there are fewer people just browsing and that customers are spending well, so footfall numbers are not the only arbiter. It’s also good to hear from indies that there has been no problem with the introduction of the mandatory face covering rule: it appears that most consumers are happy and willing to comply. No sign of a maskless Anne Widdecombe roaming toy stores terrifying small children thus far, which can only be a good thing whichever way you look at it.

Larger towns and cities may see some improvement soon: while working from home arrangements are still in place for many people, other companies will be returning to their offices in the coming weeks. This week saw the team return to Toy World Towers for the first time since the end of March – it’s great to have the gang back together. I even had my first client meeting / lunch since lockdown this week.

What hasn’t changed in recent months is our uninterrupted publication schedule: the August edition of Toy World has been landing on desks in recent days. Another belter of an issue, including some compelling exclusive interviews and features, and a host of exciting new products launching this autumn. With trade shows cancelled and international buying trips temporarily off the table, we’re delighted to keep toy retailers abreast of all the latest developments, as we have all the way through lockdown. No need for us to announce a comeback – we never went away. You can read the digital version of the August issue here.

The August issue also features the first in our new Show Off features – just like retailers, magazines need to be reactive and flexible to stay one step ahead of the competition. As the feature strapline says, ‘Even though the shows are off, you can still show off your product’. There will be further Show Off features over the coming months: in September, we’ll be aiming to fill the gap left by the cancellation of the Toymaster show with our Show Off Indie Special, while October will see our Show Off Licensing Special helping to keep licensees and retailers up to speed with everything happening in the licensing arena, in the absence of a physical BLE.

I would love to say that we’d be able to retire the Show Off format after that edition, but the realist in me wonders whether it may yet become a fixture beyond the next few months. Events in Hong Kong this week have raised further cause for concern: stricter lockdown measures have been introduced, including the closure of bars and restaurants and a maximum of two people able to meet up, according to our ‘man on the ground’. Add to that the fact that one major global retailer has been sending round an invitation to a webinar instructing suppliers how to prepare for its Virtual Buying Tour, while there are rumours that a couple of major UK accounts may not be planning to go, and a question mark is beginning to hover ominously over the January trip. The fact that tech show CES, which is held in Vegas in January, has already announced that it will be virtual-only next year raises another red flag. My guess is that we should get an idea of how things are looking for all the January shows by September or early October at latest.

I am crossing everything that I can cross in the hope that the measures being taken by governments across the globe will get the situation under control and allow trade shows and international trips to take place in the New Year. It has been hard enough losing those fixed points in the summer calendar: how reassuring it would be if my January schedule could be the same as it always is. I will never moan about Hong Kong jetlag, the car parking situation in London or the snow in Nuremberg ever again. I even booked our hotel for London Toy Fair this week (cancellable of course): it really is important to have something to look forward to.

L.O.L. Surprise! comes to the Nintendo Switch

The partnership between the collectible brand and video game publisher Nighthawk Interactive will bring the first-ever Nintendo Switch gaming experience to fans. 

L.O.L SurpriseMGA Entertainment and video game publisher Nighthawk Interactive have partnered on a new L.O.L. Surprise! game, which will launch globally, exclusively for Nintendo Switch, as part of the new autumn toy release.

“The world of L.O.L. Surprise! continues to grow around the world,” said Isaac Larian, CEO and founder of MGA Entertainment. “We are working closely with the team at Nighthawk to ensure key attributes of the L.O.L. Surprise! fall toy line – fashion, collectability and outrageousness – are brought to life in game play in ways that are fun and meaningful to our fans.”

The game will complement the release of the toy line’s autumn series, and will feature new characters, fashions and surprises while celebrating the enormous world of the L.O.L. Surprise!. Top-secret surprises will be added to the line and revealed along the way.

“We are looking forward to delivering an engaging, entertaining, and joyful experience to the many L.O.L. Surprise! fans around the world,” said Joseph Sutton, president of Nighthawk Interactive. “Our close collaboration with MGA Entertainment is sure to result in the perfect complementary extension to the new dolls coming this fall.”

More retailers to benefit from government-backed Covid-19 loans

Some retailers that were denied support under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) can now borrow up to £5m from their bank.

Retailers coronavirus loans

Retailers and other businesses that originally did not qualify for government-backed loans due to high levels of debt will now be able to benefit from the Treasury’s coronavirus scheme, ministers have said.

Some retailers that were denied support under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) can now borrow up to £5m from their bank.

Those businesses were classed as “undertakings in difficulty” last year, meaning that they had high levels of debt and accumulated losses. The restriction was put on the CBILS scheme due to EU state aid rules, which determine the support that the government can provide to private companies.

Ministers and industry groups have been pushing for changes to the rules to allow small and independent retailers that are not insolvent to access the scheme.

“We have stood by business throughout this crisis, and this announcement will mean that even more small firms will be able to access much-needed financial support,” small business minister Paul Scully commented. “Small businesses will play a vital role as we seek to recover our way of life and get the economy moving again, and it is essential we continue to support them through this difficult period.”

More than 57,000 businesses from all sectors have so far utilised the government-backed CBILS, claiming £12.6b in total. The loans are provided by high street banks and are supported by an 80% government guarantee, meaning the Treasury shoulders most of the risk, should the business not be able to pay back what it borrowed. Companies are eligible if they have fewer than 50 employees and turn over below £9m a year.

“Any help in breaking down the obstacles to loans is welcome but this has all taken far too long with too many businesses left out in the cold. Time will tell whether this sorts out the growing backlog of CBILS loans,” commented shadow business secretary Ed Miliband. “There also remain serious, unaddressed problems of loans for larger firms, and growing evidence of firms being shut out of bounce-back loans unless they are an existing customer of a major high street bank. Every week that passes with these problems being allowed to continue puts at risk the future of businesses, the livelihoods of workers and the strength of our economy.”

The government has also announced £20m of funding to help small businesses recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Small and medium-sized businesses will have access to grants of between £1000 to £5000, which should help them purchase new equipment and access professional, legal and financial advice as they recover. The government said it would fully fund the support and there would be no obligation for businesses to contribute financially.

The August issue of Toy World is out now

The August 2020 issue of Toy World is available to read online now. 

August issue of Toy World The 108-page August issue of Toy World is now out and available to read online. This issue features in-depth looks at the Plush, STEM and Wooden Toy categories, bringing readers the latest product and marketing information decision makers need to know.

This issue also contains a special Show Off feature; with a number of key physical trade shows now cancelled for 2020, or pivoted to an online-only format, Toy World is committed to keeping the trade informed and connected over the coming months by furnishing readers with all the information they need on Q3/4 ranges, as well as the service providers working to bridge the gap between supply and retail while the shows are off.

In addition, the August issue contains company profiles with KAP Toys and Simba Smoby Toys UK, the former discussing the challenges of a mid-pandemic warehouse move, and the latter the intricacies of a mid-pandemic merger. Contributors including the NPD Group, Toy Barnhaus, Generation Media and Etopia Consultancy also offer their news and views.

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

The team is now back in the office and working on the September main issue as well as the annual bumper Games & Puzzles supplement. Companies wanting to get involved should get in touch ASAP. The editorial deadline is 3rd August and the ad deadline is the 14th August.

For advertising enquiries, contact Mark Austin by phoning 07710 532952 or emailing mark@toyworldmag.co.uk.

For editorial enquiries, contact Rachael Simpson-Jones rachael@toyworldmag.co.uk or Lisa Currie lisa@toyworldmag.co.uk.

Argos confirms that it will cease printing its catalogue

While the printed catalogue is no more, Argos says its Christmas gift guide will remain.

Argos catalogue cancelledFollowing Toy World’s exclusive report earlier this year that the autumn/winter Argos catalogue had been cancelled, the retailer has publicly announced that it is to stop printing its iconic twice-yearly catalogue as shoppers increasingly transition to the online space.

In an email to staff, Simon Roberts, chief executive of Argos’ parent company Sainsbury’s, said: “As most customers are now browsing and ordering online, we have decided that the time is right to stop printing the Argos catalogue. Removing the printed catalogue helps us to flex our range and offers and to be more competitive on price.”

The catalogue has been produced for 48 years, having been launched in 1972, with some 93 editions and 1b copies making their way off the printing press to be browsed at home or in-store.

Argos says customers shopping on smartphones and tablets now account for more than 70% of all online sales; the majority of branches have also now gone digital, with customers using digital tablets to browse items in stock. Reports suggest that a small selection of stores that aren’t yet digital will continue to offer laminated catalogues, but the retailer says all UK stores will have digital screens by January.

Argos adds that its separate Christmas gift guide will continue to be printed.

Mark Given, chief marketing officer at Sainsbury’s, commented: “Just as our customers’ tastes have changed over the years, so have their shopping habits. We’re seeing an increasing shift towards digital shopping, using our mobile app, website and in-store browsers. Closing the book on the catalogue will help us focus on delivering exciting and inspiring digital shopping experiences to meet the changing needs of our customers, both in-store and online.”

When news broke of the autumn/winter catalogue cancellation in May, the toy industry reacted with dismay, with many recalling fondly the excitement of flicking through it at Christmas, looking for gifts to add to the list. The decision to cancel it altogether will likely be met with a similar reaction.