Never has the phrase ‘yesterday has gone’ been more appropriate. Forget about the September and October Circana data (for now at least, there will be plenty of time for post-mortems later) – it’s all about what happens in the next six weeks. The stakes are sky high: around a third of the toy market’s annual turnover is likely to be concentrated in this narrow time frame. Between now and Christmas, a weeks’ sales will often be the equivalent of a normal month’s sales. And we have a bit of ground to make up…
Which is why the annual DreamToys media event remains vitally important – in many respects, it fires the starting pistol on the race to the finishing line. Some have wondered whether the event should take place earlier, but in a year like this – when sales across September and October have been on the soft side – it seems perfectly timed, allowing the toy community to get the message out when it can have maximum impact on consumer behaviour.
There will always be minor gripes about DreamToys (which toys make the list, the focus on the larger toy companies, the venue etc.), but in the end, only two things really matter: does the event drive media coverage and is there a spike in toy sales as a result? We won’t realistically be able to assess the impact on sales for a few days at least, but we already know that coverage was decent: over 250 print and online articles, including most of the key nationals, plus almost 100 radio mentions. TV coverage is a bit thinner on the ground than it used to be, but times have changed – albeit the loss of support from This Morning in particular is a shame for DreamToys (toy companies who featured in the show’s own toy segment last week say they saw an immediate uplift in sales).
Crucially, when you compare coverage levels to media interest in the individual retailer’s top toy lists which have been announced over the past couple of months, DreamToys wins hands down. Intriguing sidebar: consumer media indifference to the individual retailers’ lists led to Toy World having our best-ever online traffic month in October. Because we rank high on Google, consumers searching for those lists tended to come across our story, boosting our numbers significantly.
But I digress: the key point is that DreamToys still delivers consumer eyeballs in a way that the individual lists don’t. Sure, there may have been a couple of key omissions from the list: personally, I would have gone for something like Eolo’s Biggies, which would have looked great in photos. And like others, I was perhaps a little surprised by Furby’s absence, reputedly as a result of the timing of the selection vote, literally just as Furby stock was hitting stores – I wonder if there is an argument for a ‘wild card’ entry to be decided a bit later, to allow a few more weeks for brand new launches to take off? But when you have to whittle hundreds of fantastic toys down to a final list of 20, there will always be some great lines which miss the cut by a whisker.
However, as I have said before, while toy companies love to make the DreamToys list (and others are understandably disappointed when they don’t), the most important message is about getting consumers off the couch and into stores to buy toys – not just those on the list, but every other toy on shelf. If DreamToys is a success, everyone wins.
What we arguably don’t need are rogue voices adding a note of negativity into the coverage – which is why I was a little disappointed to see the BBC quoting someone on the DreamToys list who a) has little to do with the toy market and b) wasn’t even at the event. Instead of giving a nice positive quote about toys in general, Gary Pope (a man who is never shy in letting everyone know his opinion on pretty much everything – I fully expect him to pop up on Match of the Day this weekend giving his two pennorth on the latest VAR controversy) decided to come out with the rather naïve opinion that the DreamToys list should be decided by kids. I mean, seriously, where to start…?! Here we are as an industry, carefully curating a list of toys to create a narrative for media and give valuable support to retailers and suppliers by kickstarting literally hundreds of millions of pounds of sales, and Gary wants a room full of 5-year-olds to make those vital business decisions, rather than the UK’s most knowledgeable and experienced toy retail professionals. I guess he thinks that the Children’s BAFTAs should do likewise? And every other award ceremony too (I look forward to him telling Max Publishing to scrap the judging panel for the Licensing Awards). Does he appreciate the way in which the event is structured and ultimately funded? Or the painstaking democratic process by which the list is arrived at?
Anyway, let’s dwell on the positives and look forward, not back. The toy community has spread the word far and wide this week: let’s hope that results in an upswing in sales. I know that many will be disappointed with the October Circana numbers, even if we did all have a rough idea of what was coming. But I am siding with the ever-optimistic Isaac Larian on this point – his LinkedIn post from this week sums it up rather succinctly:
“I have been doing toys for 44 years.
Every late October and early November I am asked by retailers “what’s going on? Toys are soft”.
This is what I call “October/ November jitters “.
Christmas is on DECEMBER 25 this year (again) and TRUST ME, IT IS COMING.
Toys will be soft till Black Friday (This year, more than ever before, consumers are looking for deals).
Families, friends, grandparents will ALWAYS buy toys for their loved ones. children. They will cut from other areas to do this.
Christmas will come and then we are back to the same cycle for next year.
NEW ORIGINAL innovations will win. Again.
Hold your nerve. Keep the faith. Holidays are coming. Venceremos! (we will prevail). #PutABowOnIt (catch phrase of the year!)