Thursday 26th March: Latest toy industry reaction to coronavirus outbreak

Published on: 26th March 2020

Today, we bring news from Character, Crazy Aaron’s, MGAE, indies who are adapting to a new normal and more.

Following requests from both exhibitors and members, the plaY-room Team, which organises The Independent Toy and Gift Show, has decided to re-schedule the cancelled event. The show will now take place on Monday 28th and Tuesday 29th September, at Cranmore Park, Solihull.

In a trading update this week, Character Group said it has restored temporary disruption to Far East supply operations caused by the coronavirus crisis and that orders for direct shipments from the Far East to international distributors and customers in the UK are being processed. The company noted that demand was “deeply impacted by closures of non-essential stores, shops and warehousing and distribution centres, albeit that some online retailer customers continue to place a modest level of orders.”

The company stressed that, without knowing for how long closures will last or how soon usual retail footfall levels will return, it is too early to assess the quantum of this impact. However, it reported a strong balance sheet and a debt-free status with a substantial cash balance and considerable unutilised working capital facilities.

Although forced to close its toyshop, Treasures Toys in Wetherby is offering to deliver locally, on orders over £15. The owners have posted a message on the store’s website: “We really appreciate your continued support through this very difficult time. Stay safe & look after each other.”

Similarly, Irish retailer Toy Corner, which only opened in Galway in November, has now been forced to create an entirely new business model in the space of a week. The business has gone online to provide customers with a range of games, jigsaws and gift vouchers and is working to add other items as quickly as possible. The store will create a Boredom Busting Box to a value of €50. Customers answer a few simple questions about the recipient(s ) which allow the contents of each box to be individually tailored. Items are available for contactless collection or home delivery.

The Toy Corner team has told customers: “We hope you and your family stay safe and well in our new normal, and thank you for supporting your local, independent toy shop.”

Spring and Autumn Fair venue the NEC has declared itself “ready and willing” to become a temporary field hospital if required, following this week’s announcement that the ExCel Centre in London will become a field hospital with 4,000 beds.

NEC group chief executive Paul Thandi said they were “committed to playing our part” should it be required: “The NEC is well equipped to be used as a support base if such need arises so please be assured, that if we are requested to do so, we can action this with immediate effect.”

Crazy Aaron’s, which manufactures and supplies Thinking Putty, has moved swiftly from putty to hand sanitizer production, in order to help benefit the company’s local community. The company has already donated the first 100 gallons produced to local first responders and is seeking additional organizations in need of hand sanitizer. The team will continue to increase daily production quantities.

“Chemistry and formulas are what we do at Crazy Aaron’s. We have the ability to hop on science projects quickly here at Crazy Aaron’s, and we’re looking at this effort to create an FDA-approved hand sanitizer formula as the ultimate science project,” said Aaron Muderick, founder and executive chairman of Crazy Aaron’s. “It’s an honour to help in any way we can during this uncertain time.”

Isaac Larian, CEO at MGA Entertainment has also ensured that his company is doing its bit to help during the crisis. MGA is sourcing medical supplies for hospitals that it can purchase and then donate, and has joined forces with shipping company Flexport, which has offered to transport the supplies, as well as help source them. This week, MGA is poised to take delivery of 200,000 surgical masks which will be immediately distributed to hospitals and doctors. Future shipments are also planned, in what has been named Operation Pacman.

Isaac thanked Flexport publicly on LinkedIn: “A HUGE thanks to Susy Schöneberg of #Flexport to reach out and offer to move the #MGA procuring for hospitals for free and also find new sources for more goods. This is what I call #Humankindness. Please join me to thank her and better yet JOIN her and #MGA to defeat this human tragedy.”

As he believes that waiting for politicians to take action “will take years,” Isaac also issued a rallying cry for more toy companies to do what they can to assist: “Get off your ass at home and be like Susy Schöneberg at #Flexport,” and “Put your #FEAR (an F word) AWAY, and do something. Anything to help. Not just #USA. Worldwide,” were among his impassioned pleas.





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