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6 FEATURE London Chat By Roger Mills


Steady as she goes at Toy Fair


‘There’s nothing new under the sun’. ‘Always hold on tight to nurse for fear of finding something worse’. ‘We get older but the audience stays the same age’. All three of those sayings repeatedly ran through my mind like one of those cheap LED banner ad displays. Where was I? Toy Fair as


it happens. Now I don’t want you to


run away with the notion that this show was a waste of time – indeed with the demise of Toys R Us there’s probably not been a better time for independent toy workers of all kinds to look for product that would give them an edge. But an edge how? There’s


the rub – and this is the seed of all that ruminating. I saw little – I mean very nearly nothing – that wasn’t


available, in all the same essentials, when I was ten. OK the pedal cars are


plastic and have working headlights, the dolls houses are rather more unrealistic in appearance – but hey, they are still dolls houses. I had both a toy butchers shop and post office and indeed a trike. Even what, at least where


I live, seems to have been the toy of Christmas – the Scooter – only differs from my Triang model in terms of materials and the fact that they have a rear brake and wheels that light up as you go along. All the big names were


on show showing of f the brands that everyone knows. Steady. Reliable. Yes both of those. But edgy? Not really. Now I don’t know if this


lack of a wow factor is what has fed though to the rather gloomy trading situation revealed in the show market report but certainly it didn’t


make brilliant and indeed encouraging reading Under the heading UK


Toy Market Experiences a Challenging 2018 But Remains Positive For 2019 it revealed that according to industry figures UK toy sales declined by seven per cent in 2018 – to £3.3bn. The decrease has been


at tributed to three major factors: the closure of Toys ‘R Us; a poor year for licensed products and a generally difficult year for some on the high street – and all surrounded by the uncertainty surrounding our departure from you know where. (They used the word that has not and will not appear in this column!) However, there was some


good news, sectors such as collectables and dolls performed wel l marked by 32% and 2% increases respectively. Collectables, in c luding bl ind bags or ‘surprise’ products,


accounted for one in every four toys sold in the UK. On the subject of T R U it


may be relevant that online increased by 8% to a third of all toy sales. And to be fair things aren’t that bad – overall the UK toy market is the biggest in Europe and the fourth largest in the world N a t a s h a C r o o k e s ,


Director of Public Affairs and Communications at the BTHA commented: “Any sector would be disappointed to announce a dip in the market, but there are mitigating


reasons behind the decrease, some of which are one off events, so the UK toy industry has a number of reasons to be very positive for 2019. “As well as the loss of Toys


R Us there was a god deal of discounting, no major film licenses and a dip in consumer spending al l combining to create a difficult year. “However, whi le al l


industries go into 2019 with some trepidation around the uncertainty of leaving the EU, the year ahead looks positive


for the toy industry and we expect a return to growth.” Interestingly the sales


downturn seems to be a global phenomenon with the French, Spanish, US and Australian markets also seeing a year on year decline as Frederique Tutt, global toy analyst at the NPD Group commented. He said: “2018 was difficult


for the toy industries across the wor ld, with several countries seeing a decline. Despite the tough conditions, toy specialist retailers did


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