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17.01.2019 // 2019 toy trend: Toys 4 Kidults

Toys are just for children! Adults don’t have time to play! You’re not bringing that into my house! But is this really true? Just sit back and think about it for a moment. Do you perhaps have a stylish model car or plane on your desk? Or what about the slot car racing track you bring down from the attic every Christmas – is it really just for the kids even though they left home years ago? Have you never had a discussion with your partner about a limited-edition teddy and whether it should be given pride of place in your living room?

As you can see, it’s impossible to make sweeping generalisations. And we shouldn’t forget there’s still a child in all of us. No matter how young or old we are. Added to which, you now have the money to afford the things you would never have received from your parents. And the self-confidence to show off a limited-edition collectible on the shelf next to your illustrated books.

The "Toys 4 Kidults" trend targets anyone and everyone who wishes to keep their childhood memories alive, to "play away" the stresses of working life or to collect play-driven, design-led products. Many people will have very personal reasons for having a specific toy in their lives. What is just a toy for some may be a decorative or design feature for others, a collector’s piece or a dream come true.

 A splash of colour to brighten up a grey office and a welcome opportunity to switch off for a minute or two. The Cubicus from Naef Spiele by designer Peer Clahsen can be pieced together in any number of different ways. The various wooden parts precisely slot into and onto each other. Even seemingly weightless, delicate compositions can be created, catching the eye both in the office and in the home.

The Carrera DIGITAL 132 Set "DRM Retro Race" is loved both by men and women and always gets the heart racing. The set is a homage to legendary race cars of motor-sporting history. Three racing Bolides pull up to the start line of the eight-metre track and speed off into the distance.

Everyone should own a Funko POP!, whichever licence rocks their boat. Be it Spiderman, Batgirl, the heroes from Game of Thrones or a retro Mickey Mouse – there’s the right product for every taste, no matter how obscure. And wherever the Funko POPs! stand, they are always a decorative eye-catcher!

 

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14.01.2019 // Kids India 2019 – accessing the Indian toy market

The demand for toys in India is huge and is kindling interest among international companies keen to tap into this market. Kids India, which opens its doors in Mumbai from 26 to 28 September 2019, is an important industry platform that paves the way for new opportunities. Besides many business and networking features, the fair provides several special areas, focusing on industry-specific topics and toy trends. The Creative Arena represents a new addition to the offering. With registration for exhibitors now open, companies from outside India can also choose to appear at the international pavilion.

Targeted trade fair

Kids India is India’s biggest B2B fair for toys, children’s products and sports goods. It is organised by Spielwarenmesse India Pvt. Ltd., a subsidiary wholly owned by Spielwarenmesse eG. Since 2013, the trade fair has reflected the expansion of the toy sector in India, creating opportunities for both the domestic and international toy industry.

Major factors fuelling growth include the country’s spreading middle class and the greater appreciation of the role toys play in child development. International companies are very much aware of these aspects, as Katharina Janotta, Managing Director of Spielwarenmesse India Pvt. Ltd., explains: “The increasing demand for quality products among Indian parents and new government regulations on toy standards are bringing a boost to the quality of Indian manufacturing. The availability of a varied number of options in supply and quantity has made this market attractive worldwide. Kids India 2018 drew exhibitors and visitors from 31 countries. We expect the numbers to only go up for the 7th edition.”

Various ways to exhibit

The organisers of Kids India are constantly enhancing the concept behind the trade fair. From 2019 and as part of Spielwarenmesse eG’s World of Toys Programme, Spielwarenmesse India Pvt. Ltd. is offering customised options for foreign companies wanting to exhibit at the fair. The World of Toys Pavilion helps companies break into the Indian toy market.

The various special areas at the fair enable exhibitors to show their products according to their target groups. The established special areas TrendingNow, Back to School and the Sports Arena are being joined this year by the new Creative Arena. This activity area is dedicated to products that are in high demand in India and focus on play-related activities that tap into a child’s creativity and imagination. The TrendingNow Pavilion not only features India’s on-trend products of the year but also the international Spielwarenmesse trends for 2019.

04.01.2019 // Toy manufacturing trends

These are interesting times for the toy manufacturing sector. For most people in the toy industry, toy manufacturing for most or all their careers can be summed up in one word – CHINA.

CHINA STILL REIGNS – BUT THE SITUATION IS CHANGING

China is still the primary source of toy manufacturing globally, and has a vast array of manufacturing capacity, supply chain, experience and knowledge combine with generally reliable delivery to acceptable standards.

Things are changing in terms of toy manufacturing though. China itself (as a state) is less interested in low end manufacturing versus the past, with the future looking more like technology driven manufacturing and easily automated toy production versus the original low labour cost driving toy production.

China has taken huge steps to reduce pollution following dreadful air quality issues in major settlements in China. China as a centrally planned/controlled state can do things other countries can’t. Huge forests have been planted to swallow up fumes and add clean oxygen back into the atmosphere – in fact in 2018 China is set to plant enough new forest area to cover the entire island of Ireland, with 60,000 soldiers assigned to the task. Toy companies sourcing from China have also seen cost increases in cardboard packaging over the past few years as China has cleaned up paper mills and sourcing.

According to the research on the topic of toy manufacturing, it looks like China currently manufactures in the region of $35billion of toys each year. Our estimates are that China will lose around half of that manufacturing over the next 10 years. Which has two clear implications – firstly, China is not disappearing from toy production, they will continue to be a strong element of toy manufacturing for the next decade or two at least. The other clear implication though is that half of current production will need to find another home.

The push towards manufacturing more toys outside of China has accelerated somewhat during 2018 due to ongoing cost inflation pressures, the need to drive cost savings following the implosion of Toys R Us and fears that Donald Trump would apply tariffs to Chinese manufactured toys.

ALTERNATIVE TOY MANUFACTURING HUBS

Among the options outside of China, there are some obvious long-term winners. Over the course of the last 12 months, India’s toy manufacturing has grown further as Hasbro and others have increased their number of vendors in India. Clearly like with any new thing, Indian toy manufacturing is in a learning curve and toy companies need to be able to deal with a different culture and a different style of communication.

Vietnam is another credible and growing toy manufacturing hub. Most capacity in Thailand comes via Thai subsidiaries of Chinese manufacturing groups, and clearly as the pressure grows on the business in China we can expect expansion further into Vietnam. Conversations with people in the know do though suggest that Vietnam will have somewhat limited scope due to infrastructure restrictions and other local issues.

‘Other Asia’ will also be a growing opportunity, with Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines each having some very good factories.

The other major trend is ‘near shoring’. As the cost advantage of China disappears into the past, and as the political climate in major markets such as the USA turns inwards versus outwards, there is a definite trend for near shoring. Manufacturing is brought back to the home market or nearer manufacturing hubs. Eastern Europe is a growing hub for European toy companies. The labour rates are now often significantly below China, while being much closer to home reduces shipping times and demand responsiveness during critical peak periods.

In summary – the long-established status quo in toy manufacturing is changing rapidly. China remains the primary source of toy manufacturing, but that is ebbing away to alternative hubs to some degree. The ‘easy’ option remains China, but manufacturing and shipping cost savings combined with quicker re-supply times are rapidly changing things.

28.12.2018 // Happy New Year 2019!!!

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21.12.2018 // Invitation to Spielwarenmesse 2019

Сompany "Ranok-Creative" is announcing that upcoming Spielwarenmesse 2019 will take place in Nurnberg from January, 30 till February, 3.

We are pleased to inform you that we are among the exhibitors and would like to invite you to visit our stand E-24 in Hall 10.0.

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14.12.2018 // UK: Consumers rallying behind small businesses for final stretch before Christmas

Over half of shoppers will support SMEs as festive period approaches

 Figures released show over half of consumers are planning to support small businesses in the final run up to Christmas. The study from Paymentsense shows that more than 28% plan to shop in small businesses regardless of location, and over 23% will do so locally.

Over a third (35%) of consumers said they are supporting local retailers, coffee shops, restaurants and other businesses over the Christmas period because they’re concerned about the decline of the high street – showing that national and regional campaigns promoting local businesses are starting to have an influence.

Others believe that small businesses are an important part of the community (31%), while over a quarter said they support their local businesses all year round – not just at Christmas. Nearly a fifth of respondents said they knew many of their local business owners and wanted to support them during important trading times.

From a regional perspective, 58% of those in Bristol and 56% of Londoners indicated they will supporting small businesses over Christmas, locally or otherwise. Almost half (49%) of respondents from Manchester fell into this category, while slightly fewer people from Birmingham said they would shop at SMEs over the festive period (31%).

The research also found that those with higher incomes are more likely to support small businesses in the run up to Christmas. Over seven in 10 respondents earning over £75K annually said they would, compared with 5 in 10 for those earning £35-49K, and four in 10 for those with incomes of under £15K.

Consumers are less concerned by slower service or higher prices when they shop locally. The study found that one in four (38%) overlook these issues if the business is near their home.

 

10.12.2018 // Toy Retailer of the Year Awards 2018 finalists revealed

The winners of the Toy Retailer Awards will be announced at the annual Toy Industry Awards held at Olympia, London on Tuesday, January 22nd 2019. 

The British Toy and Hobby Association has revealed the finalists for the Toy Retailer of the Year Awards 2018.

The list of finalists was decided upon by a panel of judges from across the industry at a roundtable session held at the BTHA offices this week.

Nominations were invited from BTHA members’ sales directors, toy agents and national account directors as well as toy retailers. Shortlisting was conducted by a panel of 15 people from across the industry, members of the BTHA Council, toy agents, sales and national account directors from around the UK and representatives from the toy trade magazines.

The winners of the Toy Retailer Awards will be announced at the annual Toy Industry Awards held at Olympia, London on Tuesday, January 22nd 2019. The gala event is organised by the BTHA with the Toy Retailers Association who will also present the Toy and Supplier Awards 2018 on the same evening.

 

06.12.2018 // Saint Nicholas Day

Before there was Santa Claus, there was Saint Nicholas, known traditionally as the "bearer of gifts". On December 6th many Europeans still celebrate Saint Nicholas Day, and many Christmas traditions were originally a part of this holiday. To find out more about Saint Nicholas Day, read on!

Who is Saint Nicholas?

We may think of Saint Nick, Father Christmas or Santa Claus as being a mythical person, but Saint Nicholas was a real 4th Century Greek Saint who was admired for being kind and helping those in need. He was renowned for secretly giving gifts and placing coins in the shoes of the needy. In one story Saint Nicholas helped a man who had three daughters who couldn’t marry by throwing bags of money in their house when they came of age, but being very modest he did it in the night so the man would thank God instead. He is the patron saint of children, unmarried girls, and sailors.

Where in the World?

The tradition of Saint Nicholas Day is still observed all across Europe, from France to Bulgaria. Each country has its own legends of the saint, and some have different ways of celebrating. Europeans aren’t the only ones who get to have a big feast for the "bearer of gifts"; even in North America cities that have large populations of German descent celebrate the day.

Traditions

Many traditions from Saint Nicholas Day may seem familiar to Christmas celebrations. Here are a few!

- Children receive gifts in their shoes, like coins and apples (this is where the Christmas stocking comes from!)

- There is a large meal with family and friends to celebrate

- In some families dad will dress up as Saint Nick on the eve before the special day (in the folklore Saint Nicholas would arrive with his companion Black Peter, who dealt with bad children while St. Nick rewarded the good!)

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30.11.2018 // Speech recognition: potential impact on toy retail

Our generation has seen far more technological advancement than any before in human history. Technologies which were the stuff of science fiction movies only 40 or 50 years ago are now everyday commonplace! Among all these technologies though, one area which is likely to cause huge disruptive change has been comparatively under reported within toy circles. That area is speech recognition.

Speech recognition technology has improved

From the earliest incarnations speech recognition technology has shown huge promise conceptually for sure, but at the same time the experience was typically very frustrating in the past, with the user having to repeat themselves several times even to get the most basic of words recognised. In fact, there are several banks who insist on having you shout at the phone with simple words like yes or no several times just to make progress and check your account balance or make a simple query!

The good news in terms of user experience is that technology has advanced considerably in the last five years or so, largely due to investment from global tech behemoths like Amazon & Google. We’re now in a situation where speech activated assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, heard through their Echo & Dot smart speakers, are consistently delivering to consumer expectations without the same frustration factor. This means we are heading into a new explosive growth era for this technology.

Speech technology will disrupt retail

The implications of these advancements are huge, in fact, they are bigger than huge! Voice commerce sales already accounts for $1.8bn sales in the USA and ca. $200m in the UK. This includes retail sales triggered by voice ordering via various software, services and hardware. These figures in themselves are already impressive, especially for the USA, but the projections are even more impressive: In March 2018 the OC&C Strategy Consultants published a survey for 2022.

By then the USA is forecast to hit $40bn retail sales via voice commerce, with the UK tipped to top $5bn by the same date.

This is a huge tsunami wave about to hit consumer products industries, and there doesn’t seem to be sufficient anticipation of this massive wave which is in the midst of arriving. So, let’s take a look at some of the implications of this change for the toy industry, especially toy retailers:

Toy retailers need to embrace this change – many retailers took too long (as much as 5-10 years in some cases) to get serious about e-commerce. In this case Amazon and others have taken the lunch of other retailers who buried their heads. Practically speaking the voice commerce revolution is going to further grow market share for Amazon above all, as they have the market leading and dominant software and hardware. So, if you thought Amazon in e-commerce form was a threat, there will be a significant part of the consumer products market which will be primarily purchased via them due to the captive audience inherent in their devices capturing the market.

Human beings are primarily creatures of habit – creating a particular shopping habit in the first instance is the challenge, when it is 2nd nature, human beings will tend to automatically repeat the same purchase path. This habit is currently being formed in ever increasing scale, so if any retailers out there are going to respond aggressively now is the time before hundreds of millions of habits form!

To avoid panic mongering, we must be clear though that in many cases voice will not be as effective or as popular as a visual search when it comes to entertainment products like toys, and as such voice commerce may not be as big a threat to toy retailers as e-commerce has been. Voice commerce will lend itself most to repeat purchase of functional low value items where price comparisons are less important and the same item is needed continuously e.g. paper, printer cartridges. There is though some potential for toy consumables and toy related consumables like batteries, compound refills e.g. Play-Doh tubs.

Highly aspirational hot selling toys could also be a likely purchase from Amazon, where the parent is motivated to buy the toy without need for price comparison, because these can be described by voice and purchased with express delivery.

Clearly lower cost or less head count heavy customer service is going to result eventually, although we’re not quite there yet.

As ever, those physical ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers who are not able to capitalise directly on voice commerce will usually benefit from their fundamental competitive advantages versus ‘virtual’ retail: Product knowledge combined with customer service and in store experience.

One good example of experience in toy retail is Hamleys of London in England. If you haven’t been to Hamleys, let me briefly describe what happens when you visit. Firstly, when you arrive at the store you are met with real ‘WOW’ in terms of the amazing window displays. Then a greeter in uniform welcomes you, and their colleague is there to bring on the fun with some kind of (perhaps intrusive!) play like spraying bubbles, throwing toy planes etc. As you move through the store, demonstration is a key factor, in fact over the years Hamleys demonstrations have been the launch pad for various successful toy brands and companies.

The point is this – at some point in time over the last generation as we have been hit with wave after wave of technological innovations we have not always maximised the effect of the advantages physical retail can have. Retail is a hard business, so the importance of finding a counter advantage is critical.

Speech recognition in toys

The other major area where speech recognition is affecting the toy industry is in the product itself. We’ve had voice recognition toys for quite a long time, but again the software or hardware has often not been good enough to deliver true magic experiences. Children are not likely to continually repeat themselves to a toy with poor speech recognition capabilities.

Today though we are increasingly heading to the point where the toys can get so slick that we can expect children to have a degree of meaningful interaction with toys. Clearly this comes with great responsibility for toy companies, but also heralds fantastic opportunities for high end tech driven toys better than ever before. What exhilarating times we continue to live in!

27.11.2018 // Toy manufacturing trends

These are interesting times for the toy manufacturing sector. For most people in the toy industry, toy manufacturing for most or all their careers can be summed up in one word – CHINA.

China still reigns - but the situation is changing

China is still the primary source of toy manufacturing globally, and has a vast array of manufacturing capacity, supply chain, experience and knowledge combine with generally reliable delivery to acceptable standards.

Things are changing in terms of toy manufacturing though. China itself (as a state) is less interested in low end manufacturing versus the past, with the future looking more like technology driven manufacturing and easily automated toy production versus the original low labour cost driving toy production.

China has taken huge steps to reduce pollution following dreadful air quality issues in major settlements in China. China as a centrally planned/controlled state can do things other countries can’t. Huge forests have been planted to swallow up fumes and add clean oxygen back into the atmosphere – in fact in 2018 China is set to plant enough new forest area to cover the entire island of Ireland, with 60,000 soldiers assigned to the task. Toy companies sourcing from China have also seen cost increases in cardboard packaging over the past few years as China has cleaned up paper mills and sourcing.

According to the research on the topic of toy manufacturing, it looks like China currently manufactures in the region of $35billion of toys each year. Our estimates are that China will lose around half of that manufacturing over the next 10 years. Which has two clear implications – firstly, China is not disappearing from toy production, they will continue to be a strong element of toy manufacturing for the next decade or two at least. The other clear implication though is that half of current production will need to find another home.

The push towards manufacturing more toys outside of China has accelerated somewhat during 2018 due to ongoing cost inflation pressures, the need to drive cost savings following the implosion of Toys R Us and fears that Donald Trump would apply tariffs to Chinese manufactured toys.

Alternative toy manufacturing hubs

Among the options outside of China, there are some obvious long-term winners. Over the course of the last 12 months, India’s toy manufacturing has grown further as Hasbro and others have increased their number of vendors in India. Clearly like with any new thing, Indian toy manufacturing is in a learning curve and toy companies need to be able to deal with a different culture and a different style of communication.

Vietnam is another credible and growing toy manufacturing hub. Most capacity in Thailand comes via Thai subsidiaries of Chinese manufacturing groups, and clearly as the pressure grows on the business in China we can expect expansion further into Vietnam. Conversations with people in the know do though suggest that Vietnam will have somewhat limited scope due to infrastructure restrictions and other local issues.

‘Other Asia’ will also be a growing opportunity, with Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines each having some very good factories.

The other major trend is ‘near shoring’. As the cost advantage of China disappears into the past, and as the political climate in major markets such as the USA turns inwards versus outwards, there is a definite trend for near shoring. Manufacturing is brought back to the home market or nearer manufacturing hubs. Eastern Europe is a growing hub for European toy companies. The labour rates are now often significantly below China, while being much closer to home reduces shipping times and demand responsiveness during critical peak periods.

In summary – the long-established status quo in toy manufacturing is changing rapidly. China remains the primary source of toy manufacturing, but that is ebbing away to alternative hubs to some degree. The ‘easy’ option remains China, but manufacturing and shipping cost savings combined with quicker re-supply times are rapidly changing things.

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