Wednesday 25th March: Latest toy industry reaction to coronavirus outbreak

Published on: 25th March 2020

As the UK adjusts to new government measures,Toy World brings the latest news of interest to the toy trade community.

Toy World readers who have visited ExCel (which hosts BLE) and Javits Center (Toy Fair New York) may be interested to learn that both venues will look rather different over the coming weeks, as each has been repurposed to house overflow hospital beds.

ExCel is set to be converted into a 500-bed field hospital ‘within days’, with its capacity expected to quickly rise. The first of several crisis centres around the UK set up to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, military planners and personnel are said to be involved in the operation to convert the 100,000 square metre site in east London’s Docklands.

Construction will also begin this week to turn the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan into a 1,000-bed hospital, a first step toward eventually doubling that number. The main showroom will be broken up into four 250-bed hospitals and 320 Federal Emergency Management Agency workers will be assigned to man the site.

In the US, Amazon is now showing 30-day delivery times on most non-essential goods, including toys, as the company struggles to fulfil orders due to staffing issues. This has naturally had a knock-on effect for suppliers.

Illumination’s Minions: The Rise of Gru (Universal) is the latest movie to be pushed back from its original July launch, with a new release date to be confirmed.

Amazon Prime Video has made a selection of its family friendly content free to stream after schools were closed to help combat the coronavirus outbreak. Peppa Pig and In the Night Garden are among the shows on offer and Prime membership is not required, just an Amazon account.

Audible has also made hundreds of audiobooks free to stream, including dozens of children’s titles.

Disney+ has now launched in the UK. The new streaming service will bring viewers 500 films, more than 350 TV series – including the much-anticipated Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian – and 26 exclusive Disney+ originals, from documentaries to new movies. Many observers think that the current environment will have a positive effect on take up in the UK, with the population staying at home and seeking entertainment. However, as job uncertainty affects many, experts are unsure just how many will be willing to commit financially to a paid service.

Following the Prime Minister’s order that “non-essential” retailers must close to slow the spread of coronavirus, B&M, Home Bargains, Poundland and Poundstretcher continue to trade thanks to their food ranges. A Poundland spokesman said about 70% of its range qualified as essential items under the government’s order, adding: “People should heed government advice and stay home but if they need essentials, we’ll be there for them.”

B&M has said it would prioritise food and toiletries over general merchandise in order to keep shelves stocked with the most essential products. All retailers that remain open are implementing measures to remind customers to keep apart and Home Bargains will install screens at checkouts to help protect shoppers and staff.

Netflix has launched a $100m coronavirus relief fund for creatives who are out of work due to production cancellations. The company has already agreed to pay workers two weeks’ worth of wages and will also offer $15m to not-for-profits that offer emergency relief to out-of-work cast and crew members in countries where Netflix has major productions.

Ted Sarandos, chief content officer, said in a statement. “Almost all television and film production has now ceased globally – leaving hundreds of thousands of crew and cast without jobs. These include electricians, carpenters and drivers, many of whom are paid hourly wages and work on a project-to-project basis. This community has supported Netflix through the good times, and we want to help them through these hard times, especially while governments are still figuring out what economic support they will provide.”

Mattel has announced enhanced collaboration with its non-profit partners, both  domestically and around the world to provide toys, art supplies and more via The Mattel Children’s Foundation. The foundation was created with a vision of making a meaningful difference in the lives of children in need around the world. Chairman and CEO Ynon Kreiz said: “During these unprecedented times, we are proud to be collaborating with our partners. Our shared mission has never been more important than it is today, as we all work together support local communities.”

Although attractions have shut down across the US and Europe, theme parks and museums are reopening across China. Shanghai Haichang Ocean Park reopened on March 20th, with new safety regulations, including limiting visitor numbers, checking temperatures and only taking cashless payments. Visitor numbers will be kept to under half the daily capacity, and indoor areas under 30%. The restaurant will remain closed, and visitors must keep at least 1.5 metres apart.

More than 180 museums in China are no longer closed, and Shanghai Disney Resort has partially reopened with a limited number of shopping, dining, and recreational facilities, as part of “the first step of a phased reopening” in China, although the Shanghai Disneyland theme park remains closed.

The lockdown in Wuhan, where the global outbreak began, is expected to be partially lifted on 8th April. Travel restrictions in the rest of Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, have been lifted as long as residents can prove they are healthy with a green code on a smartphone health app.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government has imposed a mandatory two weeks of self-isolation for anybody from overseas entering the city.



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