NEWS

Tuesday 24th March: Latest toy industry reaction to coronavirus outbreak

Published on: 24th March 2020

Today, Toy World has the latest, as the UK implements a severe “lockdown” and most retail stores are forced to close. Meanwhile there’s other news from B&M, Toy & Edu China and retailers trying to claim “essential retailer” status.

The UK has brought in stringent new measures in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, with all “non-essential” shops and businesses to close, and the public instructed to work from home where possible.  Although one message was definitive – that the majority of the population should stay at home – specific further detail was somewhat less clear. Today, businesses will be once again reassessing the situation and deciding how, and in some cases if, they can continue to function or whether they will be forced to “hibernate” for a period of time.

Prior to the announcement of these new measures, The Entertainer had already announced the temporary shutting of all stores. The company has said TheToyShop.com website will continue to operate and “some incredible promotions over the next few weeks” have been promised. The company said: “Take care of yourselves, please support your communities and neighbours as we are very much ‘in it together’. We look forward to welcoming you back into our stores soon.”

The Works had also already closed all stores. Having enjoyed strong sales sales, up 2.9% as parents have stocked up to combat boredom and start home schooling, the retailer said that it needs to protect staff and shoppers, and confirmed that staff will be paid while stores are closed.

Many independent toy shops took to social media yesterday to announce closures, although most detailed continuing customer support and ongoing ordering and delivery options.

From Armadillo Toys in Chapel Allerton in Leeds, owner Lisa Clay tweeted: ”OK decision made; I will be closing our doors today until we are advised we can open again. Stay safe everyone.” The shop hopes to continue to offer free local delivery, as well as FaceTime calls, payment over the phone and posting to friends and family further away.

Messages on Twitter and Facebook alerted customers to the shuttering of Silly Billy’s Toyshop in Hebden Bridge: “Due to the obvious health risks at the moment I have taken the decision to close Silly Billy’s until further notice. Many thanks for all your support good luck and may you your family and friends stay in good health, Bill, Robert and Nicola.”

A1 Toys, which has several shops in the Glasgow area, has said that mail order services will continue for as long as couriers continue working, and customer service will be available via email. Staff wished customers well, saying “Stay safe and we will see you all soon!”

Calling it “such a difficult decision for an independent business,” Midco Toys and Toy Planet owner Dave Middleton commented: “It’s the right thing to do for everyone’s safety. I personally thank all of you for you custom and we look forward to seeing you all again hopefully very soon.” Midco plans to process internet orders and home deliveries from the Burton store premises, as well as supply Mystery Bags to a value chosen by the customer (plus 10% added value), and trade via its eBay store.

Pandemonium in South West London has encouraged customers to contact the shop to place orders that will then be delivered to the local area, with staff offering to talk through what is in stock or do a facetime call. A selection of Surprise Boredom Buster Boxes and gift packages made to order were planned for delivery to customers.

The government has said that businesses will still be able to take online orders and deliver items to people’s homes, and the retail sector now awaits clarification on how delivery services will be affected and exactly what facilities it will be able to offer to customers. Toy World wishes all toy retailers, large and small, the very best and fervently hopes that their businesses are able to weather the storm.

Dixons Carphone and Halfords are among retailers which have mounted campaigns to be granted “essential retailer” status, seeking permission to keep stores open despite government plans to introduce new restrictions on economic activity. The lobbying retailers contend that they provide essential infrastructure services and should be allowed to keep trading alongside the major supermarkets.

Sports Direct initially said it would keep stores open “where possible” as it was “uniquely well placed to help keep the UK as fit and healthy as possible”. The retailer argued that it provided an essential service, selling sports equipment to be used at home while gyms are closed. However, Paddy Lillis of trade union Usdaw, which represents shop workers in the UK,  told the BBC, “I can’t see how it [Sports Direct] is an essential service. It’s a sports clothing company.” Labour MP Ian Lavery has said that Mike Ashley should “take some responsibility”. After facing a backlash on social media and widespread criticism, Sports Direct now says it will not open “until we are given the go-ahead by the government”.

Meanwhile, B&M has pledged to donate £1m to support UK food banks struggling to cope during the coronavirus crisis, with each of the retailer’s 670 stores supporting a local food bank with £1,500 worth of food, cleaning and personal hygiene products. “B&M is immensely proud of the part it has played this last week in helping families buy food, cleaning goods and essential toiletries,” said CEO Simon Arora. “We realise, however, that many of the communities we serve have households in them that are really struggling to buy their groceries due to recent lay-offs. We hope that this donation at grassroots local level across the whole of the UK will allow some essential groceries to get to those who need them as quickly as possible.”

Trade shows Toy & Edu China, Baby & Stroller China and Licensing China, originally scheduled for March, have been rescheduled to May 2020. The fairs will take place as originally planned at the brand-new Shenzhen World Exhibition & Convention Center, from 25th – 27th May 2020, with extra onsite precautions taken by the organisers.

 

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