NEWS

Tuesday 16th June – Latest toy industry reaction to coronavirus outbreak

Published on: 16th June 2020

As we move slowly towards recovery from the pandemic, this column has become less frequent. But here is news from Games Workshop, Harrods, Chinese factories, Orchard Toys, Hamleys, Little Tikes…and some goats.

Although Games Workshop took advantage of government subsidies at the beginning of lockdown, the company has now said that it will repay the financial support received, following an unexpected surge in sales. Games Workshop has predicted that annual profits to the end of May 2020 will outstrip those of 2019 and expects to make at least £85m of pre-tax profits on £270m of sales, compared to £256m sales and £81m pre-tax profit the previous year.

The company has not confirmed how many staff were furloughed or which support scheme it received funds under but has now reopened 306 of its 532 global shops. “In light of these results, we aim to repay any amounts that have already been received, where possible,” said a company spokesperson.

As Harrods reopened this week, the managing director called on the government to ensure London can welcome international visitors, which make up a high percentage of the store’s customers. With social distancing, heightened health and safety measures and footfall monitoring technology to limit capacity in-store, the company is striving to ensure that these measures will safeguard shoppers “without any compromise on experience, product or service.” MD Michael Ward said: “Retail businesses have adapted quickly and introduced vast new measures to protect people, but our economy thrives on the support of those who travel here to live, work and invest. The government must ensure that the capital remains accessible and attractive to international visitors.”

Manufacturing in China increased in May for a second month, as the country endeavours to bounce back from the effects of coronavirus. However, recovery is proving gradual and the economy remains fragile. Analysts have warned it could take many months for economic activity to return to pre-crisis levels, and other nations are closely watching China to see how long recovery will take, as they begin to relax their own anti-virus measures and reboot their economies.

“Industrial production is on the whole getting better, but there are still quite a few difficulties and uncertainties,” said Jiang Yuan, an official at the National Bureau of Statistics. A collapse in export orders amid global lockdowns has left factories more reliant on domestic demand, but job losses and fears of a second wave of infections mean that consumers are still cautious. However, some analysts believe May’s factory data indicates a more optimistic outlook than previously feared; experts at the Bank of Communications expect China’s GDP to return to modest growth in the second quarter.

After footage of goats wandering freely around Llandudno during lockdown went viral, St David’s Hospice in the town has launched a limited-edition Great Orme goat soft toy, to raise funds. With only 1000 of the plush goats to be produced, demand is expected to be high. Margaret Hollings, head of fundraising, marketing and communications at the hospice, explained: “We thought it would be an ideal memento of 2020 and the Llandudno Great Orme goats, whose antics have brought a smile to us all in these very challenging times.”

The plush will join t-shirts and tote bags which have been sold on behalf of St David’s, featuring the now-famous goats. So far, £90,000 has been raised towards the hospice’s Recovery Fund. The fund has been put in place to help mitigate the shortfall that has resulted from cancelled fundraising events and the closure of the hospice’s cafes and charity shops. A competition to name the goat soft toy will also be launched.

As well as showcasing all the company’s latest products, Orchard Toys continues to provide fresh content on its website, with downloadable and printable activities for children to enjoy, useful information for parents and tips for home-schooling. One of the latest activities is a selection of printable Father’s Day Cards that can be coloured in for a personal touch, featuring fun illustrations. A range of Birthday Card designs is also available, providing a useful alternative to traditional greetings cards.

Also continuing its mission to provide online fun, Little Tikes is bringing the fun of summer camp home. From June 15th, Little Tikes Camp Play@Home will share daily fun and exciting activities on the brand’s YouTube and social media channels to keep kids entertained and busy over the next seven weeks. Affordable, easy-to-do projects will include activities and challenges, and there will be support for families too.

Hamleys on Regents Street, London, has reopened in style. As usual, a child was selected to lead the crowd outside in a countdown and to ring the traditional bell as the store was declared open for business. Waiting shoppers were told: “We have missed you SO much. We have missed your smiles and are ready to share our smiles with you!” Staff sported bright red face masks, even the costumed greeters. The store will be open every day, from 11am-7pm, and from 12-6pm on Sundays.

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