Thursday 30th April – Latest toy industry reaction to coronavirus outbreak

Published on: 30th April 2020

Today, news from Mattel, Smiffys and Tesco, as well as the lifting of restrictions in Hong Kong and some parts of the US.

Mattel has announced the launch of #ThankYouHeroes, special edition collectible action figures and Little People Community Champions. Available initially in the US, the collection honours those leading the fight against Covid-19 as well as everyday heroes working to keep communities up and running. The Fisher-Price launch is the first of several being unveiled in the coming weeks as part of the company’s new Play it Forward platform. All net proceeds from the line will go to #FirstRespondersFirst.

The Fisher-Price assortment includes 16 different figures including doctors, nurses, EMTs and delivery drivers. The brand is also introducing a special five-character Little People set comprised of a doctor, nurse, EMT, delivery driver and grocery store worker.

Chuck Scothon, senior VP of Fisher-Price and global head of Infant and Pre-school, commented: “Whether these toys are given as a gift to recognize someone working on the front lines, or used as a tool to help children have conversations about how they are feeling, it is our hope that Fisher-Price toys, and play in general, can ultimately make these difficult times easier for both kids and adults.”

Smiffy’s has pledged to donate 20% of revenue generated from the sale of its range of rainbow products to NHS Charities Together. As the rainbow trend has gone viral, with children creating hand-painted rainbow creations for their windows, the company’s collection can be used to extend the theme with colour and fun for families in isolation. A selection of brightly coloured items includes wigs, costumes, hats, boas and other accessories in rainbow patterns and colours.

Parts of the US are starting to lift closures, and one of the first states to do so has been Montana. This column could not ignore reports from the state’s tiny town of Roundup, which has seen all of its stores now reopen, although bars and restaurants still remain closed.

In the Montana state capital Helena, the Lasso the Moon toy store has also reopened. Owner Amy Barrett has made the decision to keep the doors locked for now, with customers having to knock to be let in. Only up to four customers at a time are being admitted, and they must be wearing masks. Amy explained that this is to enable staff to control the flow of customers and give employees a chance to put on masks themselves. “We’re still unsure quite how open to be,” she said. “I don’t know how many people are going to want to come in.”

In Texas, some businesses are set to reopen on May 1st as Phase 1 of the state’s Open Texas plan. Restaurants, malls, retail stores and movie theatres will be allowed to open their doors but will be limited to 25% capacity. Within malls, all food courts, play areas and interactive displays must remain closed.

“This strategic approach to opening the state of Texas prioritizes the health and safety of our communities and follows the guidelines laid out by our team of medical experts,” said Governor Greg Abbott. “If we remain focused on protecting the lives of our fellow Texans, we can continue to open the Lone Star State.” As each state adopts its own reopening policy, these early participants give a flavour of what is to come for other areas.

Yesterday (29th April), there were no new confirmed coronavirus case for the fourth consecutive day in Hong Kong, with only single-digit cases reported over the past two weeks. On Monday, several public facilities will re-open, civil servants will return to offices and services such as driving tests are set to resume. Strict social distancing and infection control measures will remain in force to prevent a new wave of the outbreak.

Factory owners and professionals including accountants and engineers are likely to be among the first batch of travellers allowed to skip mandatory quarantine when they enter Hong Kong from mainland China, although the number of approved exemptions will be limited. Deputy secretary for Food and Health, Howard Chan Wai-kee, said: “All of the applicants have to prove their need to travel, their duration of stay and when will they return.” Applications from factories will be approved by the Trade and Industry Department upon proof of production lines on the mainland, with a two-person quota for each factory expected. Travellers from Hong Kong would also be able to apply to go to the mainland without facing quarantine when they return.

As food sales at supermarkets begin to stabilise, Tesco has reportedly begun laying off the first wave of the 45,000 temporary workers it had drafted in at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. The extra staff had been taken on to cope with increased demand once a lockdown was announced, both in store and at warehouses. Now, social distancing measures mean that the volume of shoppers visiting stores is more controlled, putting less pressure on the supply chain. The Telegraph reports that in one store, 80% per cent of the new staff were given seven days’ notice over the week while thousands of other newly created roles also face redundancies.


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