Monday 23rd March: Latest toy industry reaction to coronavirus outbreak

Published on: 23rd March 2020

Today, Toy World brings news of B&M, both Onward and Sonic movies, Smyths, Hasbro, Wise Owl Toys and many high-street retailers.

B&M has created an additional 200 jobs specifically for those who have been laid off during the  coronavirus  pandemic. The company has the roles at its depot in Speke, to meet strong demand. The roles include picking, loading, unloading and FLT truck drivers, and priority will be given to people who have been laid off due to Covid19. Warehouses are running 24/7 to cope with mounting demand, while stock is being delivered to stores on a daily basis.

B&M CEO Simon Arora said: “We can imagine the hardship being faced by those who have lost their jobs due to Covid19, especially in the hospitality and travel industry.

Toy World understands that brick and mortar retailers are concerned about the knock-on effects of big-name stores choosing to close. Marks & Spencer is reported be considering temporary closures, having seen “substantial declines” in its non-food departments as shoppers stay at home. The company is also redeploying a “significant” number of staff to support its supermarket business.

“We are preparing for the contingency that some stores may have to close temporarily,” said a spokesperson. The loss of  household names like M&S would seriously impact many high streets, particularly smaller outlets that rely on their proximity to such stores as footfall drivers.

Other high-profile retailers such as Primark, New Look, River Island, Waterstones, Harrods and John Lewis have already confirmed closures, as well as all restaurants, cafes and bars. Echoing the sentiments of many, John Lewis chairman Sharon White said: “I want to give my personal thanks to every single partner for their extraordinary efforts, I am truly grateful. And to the wider community for pulling together with us during such unprecedented times.”

Wise Owl Toys in Worcester has told customers that they will continue to serve families who are having to stay in. Orders will be taken over the phone and delivered locally free of charge. “If we are open, we will help as best we can. Stay safe and stay healthy,” tweeted the owners.

Joining Disney’s Frozen II and Universal’s Trolls World Tour, the online releases of Onward and Sonic the Hedgehog are to be brought forward, due to the closure of many cinemas worldwide. Disney has announced that Pixar’s Onward has been released on video-on-demand, and will be available on Disney+ from April 1st, ahead of its original home premiere date. Paramount has also confirmed that Sonic the Hedgehog will be released early as a digital purchase from 31st March.

Smyths has posted information on its website stating that stores are operating at a maximum capacity of 50 customers at any given time, and instructing customers to keep two metres apart. Customers may only bring a maximum of one child into the store at any one time, and unaccompanied children will not be allowed. Other measures are detailed, such as increased cleaning regimes, revised trading hours and saying that contactless payments are preferred. Free delivery is being offered on online orders over £19, and click-and-collect orders are available within one hour. More detailed information about the new measures are on the website.

Hasbro has announced support for the Save the Children and No Kid Hungry charities as schools close around the world. Helping the millions of children that rely on school for meals as well as learning and development, the initiative will provide meals, educational resources, toys and games to keep children fed and learning.


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