Friday 15th May – Latest toy industry reaction to coronavirus outbreak

Published on: 15th May 2020

Today, Asmodee and Little Tikes offer new online content, while there’s also news from Tesco, Wilko, Barbie and some plush pandas.

As families continue to seek fresh ideas to provide entertainment while they are mainly confined to their homes, Asmodee‘s Print & Play website, offering a wide number of the company’s games available as free play-at-home versions, continues to go from strength to strength. In the last week, a number of additional Asmodee titles have been added including Carcassonne, Sherlock Holmes, Nusfjord, Choose Your Own Adventure, Five Tribes and Deep Blue. These join a host of existing games, all ideal for families to enjoy while staying at home.

Since its launch, the website has seen fantastic success with over 31m views from visitors across the world and has achieved a colossal 2.5m downloads. “We’re delighted with the response to our play at home titles,“ marketing manager Ben Hogg told Toy World. “We hope each and every one is bringing happiness and raising awareness of the wonderful world of board games.” The games can be found here.

Also providing boredom busting online content, Little Tikes has announced the launch of #ALittleHelpFromLittleTikes, a digital-first campaign that provides families with free play inspiration from the comfort of their own home. Throughout May, families will have access to online play resources, from video tutorials to step-by-step guides, all of which will be accessible at Content will be launched in collaboration with a number of popular influencers, with new activities added throughout the month for families to enjoy. Michelle Lilley, head of marketing for Little Tikes UK explained: “We couldn’t be happier to be launching this feel-good campaign at a time when it’s increasingly important to keep spirits up. With the launch of #ALittleHelpFromLittleTikes we hope to bring happiness and quality play time to households nationwide.”

Recognising that customers may not be shopping in the same way as before the lockdown, Tesco has changed its Clubcard rules, extending the time that vouchers are valid, so that any that were due to expire can still be used in future. Zoe Evans of Tesco’s customer engagement centre said: “We appreciate that, for many reasons, most of us aren’t shopping as often as we did before lockdown. As a little help from Clubcard, we want to give you more time to use your vouchers which were due to expire on 31st May 2020. Any vouchers issued in May 2018 will now not expire until 30th November 2020, giving you an extra six months to use them.”

Wilko’s latest set of trading figures has seen its full-year pre-tax profits and sales drop. In the year to February 1st, the retailer’s pre-tax profits dropped by 65%, exacerbated by a 5.6% decline in sales to £1.5b. However, despite the challenging conditions since the UK went into lockdown, the retailer has not drawn on any banking facilities during the year and ended the financial period with net cash in the bank of £94.1m. “We quickly invested in safety and protection measures, we’re providing full pay for all our team members without seeking government assistance to do so, we’re working hard to protect as many jobs as we can and we’ve met all rent and supplier obligations in full to date,” commented Wilko chief executive Jerome Saint-Marc.

In the US, for every eligible career Barbie doll sold at participating retailers over the next few days, Mattel will donate a doll to the First Responders Children’s Foundation, benefiting the children of frontline emergency workers leading the fight against Covid-19. The #ThankYouHeroes programme is part of the company’s broader Play it Forward platform, which focuses on leveraging Mattel brands to give back to communities in times of need. The programme began with the launch of a Fisher-Price heroes collection.

“As Barbie has always highlighted role models to inspire the limitless potential in the next generation, we are proud to launch a programme celebrating the real-life heroes working on the front lines and supporting their families through the First Responders Children’s Foundation,” said Lisa McKnight, SVP and global head of Barbie and Dolls, Mattel. “We want to do our part to give back and inspire today’s kids to take after these heroes one day.”

As the UK government wrestles with plans to enable schools to reopen safely, one of the measures that early learning settings have been recommended to take is to “remove hard to clean toys”, potentially limiting children’s access to a wide range of useful and fun playthings. However, in other situations, toys are being used in a more positive way. A restaurant in Thailand is seating customers with stuffed toy pandas to stop them feeling lonely while eating under social distancing restrictions, and to indicate where they should sit. Diners have welcomed the company: “It’s a lot easier to understand compared to other restaurants where people always get confused about where to sit and end up sitting too close to each other,” explained one. ““The toy makes me feel less lonely eating by myself,” said another. The toy industry knows only too well that we should never forget the ability of toys to make everyone – young and old – feel better.


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