Thursday 21st May – Latest toy industry reaction to coronavirus outbreak

Published on: 21st May 2020

Today, retail prepares for re-opening, an update from Children’s BAFTAs, Mattel expands fundraising ranges and Sesame Workshop celebrates local communities.

Shopping centre owners Westfield and Landsec have unveiled that preparations are underway, in readiness for more retailers opening as lockdown restrictions are relaxed. It is anticipated that ‘non-essential’ retail stores will begin to reopen from the beginning of June and strong demand from consumers is anticipated after two months of lockdown. At Westfield’s Stratford and White City centres, cleaning regimes have been heightened; one-way systems have been put in place for shoppers; live footfall cameras will be monitored to manage capacity, and floor stickers will clearly mark social distancing spaces. Staff will check that visitors are adhering to social distancing guidelines, and car parks will only use every second space.

Landsec’s One New Change and Bluewater centres promise “a robust approach to cleanliness and hygiene” and will also be using floor stickers and signs to remind shoppers of social distancing. New hand sanitiser points will be introduced, and security and concierge teams will help manage queuing.

A statement from Westfield’s parent company Unibail said: “Our centres will be ready to open as soon as we get confirmation from the government that we are able to do so, and we look forward to welcoming our retailers, local communities and employees back.”

Some furniture retailers, including DFS, Furniture Village, ScS and Ikea, are set to reopen in time for the bank holiday weekend, after the government subtly clarified its definition of “essential” retailers to include homeware stores, rather than its earlier definition of “home and hardware” stores. The retailers have been reviewing how to safely operate deliveries of large items, such as sofas, which require two people. Increased safety precautions have been put in place at all premises that will open to the public.

As a homeware retailer, Matalan has also confirmed that some of its branches will open once again. The company has carried out rigorous testing ahead of the stores opening, consulting with its staff and customers to put new measures in place: “We will initially be re-opening our spacious stores with large homeware departments and a click and collect service. These stores are all located on out of town retail parks, with parking outside, enabling us to effectively adhere to social distancing guidelines. We are very confident that our safety measures go above and beyond the guidance provided by the government and Public Health England,” reads a statement. The company said it looks forward to welcoming back its colleagues returning from furlough at the 15 stores that will open at first. However, high street locations and clearance stores will remain closed for now.

In the US, Mattel has expanded its collection of #ThankYouHeroes, toys designed to honour those leading the fight against Covid-19 as well as everyday heroes working in the community. The expanded collection, which is part of the broader Play it Forward platform, includes a Frontline Heroes Vehicles Gift Set from Matchbox, two Mega Construx Building Sets and new Uno cards featuring Mattel brands and characters as frontline and everyday heroes, including He-Man as a grocery delivery worker and Barbie as a scientist.  All net proceeds will go to #FirstRespondersFirst, which supports frontline healthcare workers.

Richard Dickson, president and COO at Mattel, commented: “Our #ThankYouHeroes line has already received tremendous consumer response. These new items from Matchbox, Mega and Uno will enable us to further recognize and thank today’s heroes while also driving additional donations to support first responders.”

BAFTA has announced that the British Academy Children’s Awards 2020 has been put on hold. The existing BAFTA Children’s committee will instead focus on a review of its activity and look in depth at new ways to support and celebrate the industry. In consultation with industry figures, the review will include ensuring the awards remain relevant to both the industry and its audiences, reviewing all categories, and ensuring content from both 2019 and 2020 is recognised in 2021.

Amanda Berry, chief executive at BAFTA, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for BAFTA and the industry to re-imagine BAFTA’s work in this sector and come out of the review with a renewed commitment and clear strategic objectives for our children’s activity. We conducted a similar review for the BAFTA Games Awards in 2008 and have seen this ceremony go from strength-to-strength.”

Sesame Workshop has expanded its Caring for Each Other initiative to help children and their caregivers stay healthy, build resilience and adjust to a “for-now normal.” The company’s website includes  resources to help families face current challenges, while also giving children ways to celebrate the helpers in their neighbourhoods. The initiative was created in collaboration with AT&T and Walgreens.

The new campaign celebrates the families of essential workers: pharmacists, doctors, nurses, grocers, childcare providers, mail carriers and others. Content will include a special Sesame Street Muppet video thanking these “Super Families,” ideas for ways to show love while keeping a safe distance, strategies for parents to help little ones cope and more. The “Sesame Street” “People in Your Neighborhood” song has been updated with lyrics that celebrate local community heroes.



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