Toy Industries Europe on how toy retailers will survive the pandemic

Published on: 12th June 2020

A range of senior industry figures discussed what we can learn from this recent experience in order to face the future.

Traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers have suffered during lockdown, and the toy industry has been no exception. Sanjay Luthra, chairman of Toy Industries Europe and MD EMEA Mattel, spoke to experts across Europe, including Ryan Blane, Florenci Verbon, Frédérique Tutt, Alpana Virani, Gary Grant, Philippe Gueydon and Toy World’s very own John Baulch, about how the toy industry might emerge from the pandemic in time for the traditional Christmas peak.

The panel highlighted that children have needed entertaining at home more than ever during the crisis, and while families have turned to internet shopping, this hasn’t completely addressed the shortfall in overall sales. As lockdowns across Europe start to ease, they believe that it won’t be a case of either physical or online shopping, but rather working out how the digital offering enhances the store offering and vice versa.

That means there are new opportunities – if retailers are prepared to adapt and respond to customer needs. The toy industry has proved resilient in previous recessions, but this is the biggest challenge it’s faced, so it has to adapt quickly, Ryan Blane, VP of Regional Commerce, Hasbro (UK) commented: “We’ve got to understand what the shopper is asking for, and respond to that. As an industry, we’ve been guilty over the past few years of doing things in a very formulaic way. This is a really big wake-up call for everybody to realise we’ve got to put more thought into our product development, but also our reach to market moving forward, to make the toy business sustainable.”

With social distancing in place, consumer patterns of behaviour will change. There will be fewer ancillary purchases, and retailers have had to rethink the whole business model. Gary Grant, founder of The Entertainer, told the T.I.E. “I think shops have got to embrace the concept of being experimental in a much different way than before. And I think we can win customers back.”

Sanjay shared how, once lockdown began easing in Italy, Mattel teamed up with delivery app Glovo Italia for a dedicated Mattel page in the shopping section: meaning customers can now order Barbie, Hot Wheels and Fisher Price items, at the touch of a button.

In France, the lockdown has given King Jouet shops the opportunity to implement a contactless drive-thru, according to the company’s director General, Philippe Gueydon, who believes a combination of online and physical shopping is key.

The panel all agreed that the toy industry needs to embrace a certain amount of change but recognised that it has always been both resilient and flexible. John Baulch, MD and Publisher of Toy World, is confident that the industry is more than able to adapt to the new business environment, and highlighted the need to adapt marketing strategies to ensure all available channels are optimised.

To hear more of the discussion, see the video here.


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