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17.07.2018 // Two major toy safety CEN standards have now been revised

Developed by CEN/TC 52, the revisions are expected to be cited in the Official Journal of the European Union over the summer.

Two major revisions of CEN standards on toy safety have been published.

Developed by CEN/TC 52, the revisions are expected to be cited in the Official Journal of the European Union over the summer.

EN 71-1 sets out requirements and test methods for the mechanical and physical properties of toys in order to reduce, as far as possible, hazards not evident to users.

The published amendment (A1) includes, for example, an expansion of the scope to include certain flying toys as well as toy slings and toy catapults supplied with projectiles. Additionally, the sections addressing projectile toys were revised as well as those for cords and drawstring toys.

Meanwhile, EN 71-3 standard specifies the maximum migration limits for the following categories of toy materials in order to minimise child exposure to certain potentially toxic chemicals.

Category one is dry, brittle, powder like or pliable materials, category two is liquid or sticky materials and category three is scraped-off materials.

The published amendment (A3) aligns the migration limits in line with the revised limits in the Toy Safety Directive 2009/48/EC and new limits apply from November this year.

11.07.2018 // World Chocolate Day

World Chocolate Day, celebrated annually on July 11, which was allegedly the day in 1550 when chocolate was introduced into Europe. Ten things you never knew about... chocolate.
1. The ancient Mayans used cocoa beans as currency. Their cultivation was restricted to prevent inflation.
2. Chocolate melts at just below human blood temperature, which is why it is so mouth-meltingly satisfying.
3. It takes about 400 cacao beans to make one pound of chocolate.
4. The official world record for eating two pounds of chocolate candy bars is six minutes.
5. In 2013, Belgium issued over 500,000 postage stamps with the smell of cocoa and covered in a varnish to look like chocolate.
6. Under US law, 100gm of chocolate must not contain more than 60 insect parts on average.
7. Research has shown that hot chocolate tastes best in orange coloured cups.
8. "To a Coffee-house to drink Jocolatte, very good." (Samuel Pepys diary, November 24, 1664).
9. Last year, the British ate more chocolate per person than any other nation.
10. According to Wikipedia, World Chocolate Day celebrations "include the consumption of chocolate". What a good idea!!!

09.07.2018 // A history of toys and games heads to Coventry's Herbert Art Gallery this summer

An exhibition exploring the history of toys and games from the Roman era right through to modern day is heading to Coventry this summer.

 

A collection of more than 200 objects will head to the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum this June 30 and will run until September 23 and will feature a host of nostalgic and contemporary toys.

 

Titled Play, the collection – which will include products from LEGO, Loom Brands, Meccano and Monopoly – has been chosen to cover a broad range of play based on the curator’s research.

03.07.2018 // Content is king

The changing world of content has revolutionised the toy business. There are many ways how toy manufacturers and retailers can employ content marketing for their business.

We all knew that Amazon would achieve large market share of non-food products a decade or more before they actually began to OWN online retail & have a major impact on the reality of retail today (versus the potential future threat they offered). The same scenario has been playing out in the world of content over the last decade or so, yet in some ways we still see toy companies and retailers overly focused on the old models of content consumption and the potential sales uplift offered by compelling content.

Limited content offering for children in the 80’s

Two kids in front of the TV in the 80’s.The children’s programme lasted only a few hours a day.

Way back in the ‘80s the content offering was restricted to 3 terrestrial TV stations in the UK with no cable or satellite TV. Frankly, the content on offer to a child at that time was quite good, but only available at limited times i.e. straight after school and earlier on Saturday morning, before the adult programs took over. Here’s how limited content distribution was back then – I remember sitting there for a whole hour watching a countdown to the launch of the 4th UK TV station – Channel 4 when I was 7 years of age!

Nowadays children enjoy 24/7 entertainment

Fast forward to today & this generation of toy consumers have a bewildering and effectively unlimited array of entertainment content available to them. What is particularly challenging though for our standard traditional models of licensing content brands for toys is that much of the content on offer is user generated or completely random – anyone today can create YouTube channels or social media followings of millions by being funny, entertaining, gross etc. For the first time we seem to be very close to the tipping point whereby the old licenses based on movies & network TV content struggle to keep up.

Certainly, judging by the poor movie year that was 2017 and conversations we have had following that underwhelming movie year, many toy companies have more than ever been moving away from traditional licenses based on traditional content and more towards the new paradigms.

Brave new world of content

Two girls with mobile devices.There is an endless social media entertainment for kids today.

Just like we knew Amazon would become the juggernaut of non-food online retail, so we knew Netflix and YouTube would revolutionise the world of content, and therefore the world of toy licensing. What has been perhaps less predictable though is the huge potential of embracing these platforms for marketing narrative.

From the huge runaway success of Shopkins (at least partly driven by YouTube webisodes) through to the LOL Surprise phenomenon which utilised the now staple toy marketing method of unboxing to capture the imagination of modern day kids and built huge online noise without the need for the less and less effective TV advertising on which we relied in the past. Marketers need look forward to find their own opportunities to piggy back these unique and unprecedented opportunities.

Toy companies, broadcast everything!

For toy companies one area which has become particularly intriguing is the ability to easily and cheaply ‘broadcast’ everything. Before long we could have toy manufacturers which broadcast their product development process, and behind the scenes content which builds the next generation of toy executives from little known stars into genuine celebrities.

When toy companies have their own celebrities they will be able to launch products with great support via their own channels, before needing to recruit any external support! Fan base communities can also thus become more directly involved in product development selections i.e. if we can ask our community if they want a product, we can effectively pre-sell before we develop, which must surely hugely reduce the chance of wasting money on unsuccessful product launches. This should be a very good thing for toy manufacturers going forward!

Retailers, watch out for social media performance of toys

From a retailers perspective, these moves towards ultra-fragmented content distribution and towards toy companies building ever greater online following offers strong opportunity, but perhaps less straightforward predictability. In the past products from top companies utilising top brands and with heavyweight TV advertising were almost a no brainer in terms of listings decisions even if margins may not have been great.

However, cutting through the bravado of threats not to list top 10 products, we all know retailers have to have these products to bring traffic into stores. The challenge nowadays is that success is slightly harder to predict, and brands can go from no presence to huge presence seemingly overnight, despite our annual selling cycle in toys.

Social media presumers win out

One final observation – people today seem to presume Facebook, YouTube & Netflix are going to be eternal market leaders. These great companies themselves even realise that we have never lived in times where things are more likely to change. Facebook for instance is (reportedly) already perceived to be the ‘oldies’ social media of choice by today’s youth, with many younger social media users more active on Instagram & Snapchat.

But what happens when these youngsters become older? Will their younger siblings need new platforms? Will the children of today’s youth still see Instagram & Snapchat as cool, or will they too become the oldies platform? The reality is we cannot expect to predict whether these platforms will keep their market share & relevance, but what we can be absolutely certain of is that content fragmentation is here to stay and therefore we had better keep our radar pointing forward not backward going forward!


27.06.2018 // Alibaba eyes European expansion

Chinese online marketplace has 552m customers, compared to Amazon’s most recently reported 310m customers. Last quarter, Alibaba generated revenues of $9.8b, up 61% year-on-year.
It’s now been reported by Forbes that Alibaba is growing its teams across Europe, recently relocating to Covent Garden in London with a newly expanded staff of 60.

 

David Lloyd, managing director of Alibaba in the UK and Nordics, spoke to reporters about what this expansion is about and what it means for Alibaba’s strategy in Europe.

Speaking to Forbes during London Tech Week, David commented: “Well, we’re not doing what you’d expect us to do. We’re not going toe-to-toe with local ecommerce players.”

Instead, it seems that Alibaba is focusing on two main objectives.

 

The first priority for Alibaba is to connect more businesses and brands in Europe with consumers in China.

Alibaba’s second mission in Europe is to get more of its services working here - not for locals, but for traveling Chinese tourists. In China, one of the fastest-growing payment methods is mobile payments, which work by scanning a shop’s QR code with a smartphone.

 

Alibaba’s Alipay, which boasts 520m users in China, isn’t recognised across most of Europe, but David and his team are working to change that, with Harrods, Selfridges, the Body Shop all currently accepting the mobile payment platform.

23.06.2018 // - June 23 - International Olympic Day

International Olympic Day Olympic Day was introduced in 1948 to commemorate the birth of the modern Olympic Games on 23 June 1894 at the Sorbonne in Paris. The goal was to promote participation in sport across the globe regardless of age, gender or athletic ability. Olympic Day is celebrated all around the world: hundreds of thousands of people – young and old – participate in sports activities, such as runs, exhibitions, music and educational seminars. Olympic Day is nowadays developing into much more than just a sports event. Based on the three pillars "move", "learn" and "discover", National Olympic Committees are deploying sports, cultural and educational activities. Some countries have incorporated the event into the school curriculum and, in recent years, many NOCs have added concerts and exhibitions to the celebration. Commemorating the birth of the modern Olympic Games, Olympic Day is not only a celebration, but an international effort to promote fitness and well-being in addition to the Olympic ideals of Fair Play, Perseverance, Respect and Sportsmanship.

Olympic Day Runs Olympic Day Run is an international Olympic Movement activity promoting mass participation of sports held in June organized by National Olympic Committees (NOCs). The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was formally established on 23 June 1894 through the efforts of Pierre de Coubertin promoting competitive sport as a revival of the ancient Olympic Games.

In 1987, in an effort to encourage all NOCs to commemorate and celebrate Olympic Day, the IOC Sport for All Commission launched the Olympic Day Run concept with the objective of promoting the practice of participation in sport by men, women and children from all corners of the world and all walks of life, regardless of athletic ability. The first Olympic Day Run was held in 1987, over a distance of 10km, with 45 participating NOCs. In 2006, there were 161 NOCs promoting Olympic Day Run to their countrymen.

The Olympic Day Run is usually held during June 17–24 by NOCs, with 1.5 KM Olympic Day Fun Run, 5 KM, and 10 KM running activities.

Over the last 20 years Olympic Day has been associated with Olympic Day Runs all over the world. From 45 participating National Olympic Committees (NOCs) in the first edition in 1987, the numbers have grown to nearly 200 participating NOCs.

22.06.2018 // Dadvertising is trend: Daddy & me

Mens involvement in childrearing has been increasing in the last years. Specifically, they are spending more time playing with their children than ever. Companies are realizing the interesting opportunity that this means for their marketing strategies. This article will give some facts and present examples of companies creating and advertising their toys successfully to children and dads. Dads are playing with their children As various reports are pointing out, fathers are more present than before in all aspects of their childrens upbringing, but mainly in activities related to play. For example, Procter & Gamble diapers brand Dodot carried out a study in 2017 with Spanish dads, highlighting that the activity most of them do with their children is play (83%). Parents would much rather go for a walk or go to the park with their children (46%), than to do other tasks such as bathing them (15%), putting them to bed (13%), or feeding them (5%). In a survey by the Pew Research Center, American dads reported that parenting is central to their identity. Actually, the report specifies that dads are just as likely as moms to say that parenting is extremely important to their identity. It is a fact, supported by data, the parity among dads and moms is improving, but it is still far from being really egalitarian. Can toys play a relevant role in this process? Well, they can, and they should. It will not only help society, but the toy business as well. Dads will respond very well to companies giving them tools and resources to enjoy all of the activities they do with their children. Some companies are already targeting dads In the last couple of years, there is an increase in communication strategies targeting dads. For instance, the ad showing a father holding and reading to his baby by Suavinex, or the display of Like Father Like Son, a new clothing brand to dress dads and sons the same way. No doubt, these kinds of campaigns have become more common in the childcare and even in the fashion industry, but there are great examples in the toy industry as well. Dads in the focus of attention Toy manufacturers are well-advised to have dads in mind when creating new products and strategies. This is a wonderful opportunity for the industry, as a target group fathers are really eager to find resources that support and improve the moments they share with their little ones. Think about developing toys and products that make daily chores more appealing for both dads and kids. Moments such as bath time, putting children to bed or feeding them can become a fun father-child experience. And be aware, fathers being more involved make mothers happier too!!

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11.06.2018 // Say goodbye to shelf warmers! 4 Tips on how to sell overstock

Certain product categories are particularly susceptible to becoming shelf warmers. They include promotional and seasonal goods as well as licensed merchandise linked to film releases. The latter are particularly common in the toys sector and can be particularly difficult to plan for. Depending on the industry, various ways have evolved to deal with these goods. The fashion industry thrives on sales cycles The fashion industry has long attuned itself to seasonal business. Cyclical sales of fashion collections are now the norm. However, in order to avoid excessive price erosion, higher-quality labels have turned to other strategies, ranging from limiting the number of goods at the end of the season to private shopping. The aim is to keep the value of the goods high, i.e. not to sell off branded goods at a loss.

Peculiarities of the toy industry The toy industry has its own cycle with one major sales period in the year. But surprisingly, the market forces in this sector act contrary to what one might expect: before Christmas, retailers underbid each other to obtain a larger piece of the toy sales cake. Licensed toy articles lead a life of their own. Their success is linked to the success of the film, book or TV series. If, for example, a film becomes a hit in the cinemas, sales of the licensed merchandise are likely to be correspondingly high. Depending on the licence in question and the efforts of the licensor, the merchandise may spread well beyond the film. This means that retailers can, therefore, keep on selling the licensed products. However, the opposite also occurs again and again. Both the film and its merchandise fall short of expectations. And after the film has done the rounds of all the cinemas, the warehouses are still full of its related merchandise. So what methods to deal with overstock and slow-selling products actually exist?

Sales methods for retailers

One thing that is recommended for retailers is that they organize special campaigns in good time, i.e. themed sales and "flash sales" that put the merchandise at their centre. When it comes to licensed products, this may take the form of themed tables and events that are linked to the hype relating to the brand. Retailers would be advised to accept or even plan that they will be "out of stock" rather than miss the main selling period because they organized their sales campaign too late or thought it would last longer. Because there's nothing more annoying than sinking money into re-orders of what will eventually become the shelf warmers of the future.

1) Flexible pricing with promotions When you're running a promotion, you have more of a free hand when it comes to pricing products – without causing any harm to the brand and the product value itself. Customers understand that products will be more expensive after the promotional period. Such campaigns attract customers' attention and offer additional marketing potential.

2) Bundled pricing of slow-sellers Bundled pricing and add-on campaigns also allow slow-selling products to be sold: in the form of a free gift with a certain value of purchase or as part of your customer rewards programme, these articles can act as an added incentive to buy.

3) Exclusivity through private shopping For retailers with an extensive customer list, private shopping or event-related sales of inventory are recommended. The customer focus here is on the exclusivity of the invitation – and the supposed scarcity of the merchandise increases its desirability. Shifting overstock this way means that these "special sales" rarely have any adverse impact on brand value.

4) Special discounts with a large amount of overstock If it's a matter of a large amount of overstock, there's often no way of getting around special discounts. It makes sense to put them into some larger context, so that the individual product isn't seen as mere junk you're trying to sell off cheaply. For example, some topics and product groups can be bundled into "Back to School Sales" or "Easter Gifts" offers or similar seasonal events.

Sales methods for manufacturers

Even manufacturers are familiar with the problem of overstock. They need to manage the difficult balancing act between supply availability and empty warehouses, and need to sense how the sales cycles are evolving. Often, well-functioning networks that can handle slow-moving products without any loss of image are already in place. They consist of retailers who specialize in slow-selling items.

1) Introductory offers in new markets When it comes to selling off stock on a larger scale, markets that have not yet been tapped by the brand are recommended. This will prevent the domestic market from being adversely affected by knock-down prices, which will ultimately harm the brand value. For example, markets that are still being developed can be offered "introductory offers". The manufacturer thus gets to know new customers and establishes initial brand contacts at "test prices". The distribution partners get the chance to enter a new market with attractive prices. Afterwards, they can then start to develop the market properly with a wider distribution than if they had had to start from scratch and establish initial contacts. Of course, this method is difficult to carry out with trendy topics that have generally peaked. This is an area where the bundling of various offers – e.g. DVD or game plus merchandising products – is recommended.

2) Private shopping through online retailers Several online retailers specialize in private shopping. They are a sales channel that can be used to sell slow-selling items "exclusively" – without reducing the brand value. They are, therefore, a welcome partner for branded companies with overstock.

3) Pop-up or concept stores In recent years, both retailers and manufacturers have found another way to sell goods, one which builds brands while at the same time coming across as exclusive and in line with the zeitgeist: vacancies in prime locations are used for pop-up and concept stores. Accompanied by social media campaigns that promote the special sales venue, old goods can be sold off and, at the same time, new goods tested and launched.

4) Write off goods, but maintain brand value In sum, however, the art of selling leftover merchandise is always a fine balance between brand value and stock value. Writing off goods before they flood the market as cheap products and the brand value sustains long-term damage may, therefore, be the most sensible solution in some cases. A balanced product range or portfolio protects retailers and manufacturers alike. Given a solid foundation of year-round revenue generators, trend-driven sales products or seasonal goods will keep the cash registers ringing.

01.06.2018 // International Children's Day 2018!

Celebrated on June 1 each year, International Children's Day 2018 marks the 91st global celebration of the rights and well-being of children residing in different parts of the world. The day is observed not only to celebrate, but also appreciate children's role in shaping the future of different communities across the world.

Like every edition, the International Children's Day 2018 will witness speeches on child rights and well-being. Similar events will be hosted around the world involving children.

Why is International Children's Day observed?
International Children's Day encourages countries to dedicate a day to promote mutual exchange and understanding among children. Additionally, this day also marks the implementation of projects that can promote the overall welfare of children around the world. As civilized adults, we must have a clear understanding of the need to care about children. Whether it's about preserving their health, education or upbringing, every possible measure should be taken to allow kids lead a healthy and happy life.

International Children's Day tries to serve the objective of making the adults understand the fact that medals and success are not as important as the happiness of a child. With the celebration of International Children's Day 2018, parents, teachers and the entire society are being sensitized to focus on intellectual development of children.

International Children's Day in Different Countries
The observance of International Children's Day is influenced by a country's custom and tradition. While Bulgaria celebrates the day with gift-giving to Children, people in Brazil celebrate the International Children's Day annually on the 12th day of October. Also, Chile has assigned the first Wednesday of October annually to be observed as the International Children's Day. Here, the day marks the purchase of toys for children of different age groups. The event, as authorized by the United Nations, honors children in different formats.

International Children's Day Theme 2018
International Children's Day is an opportunity to do something special for the young ones. Every edition of the International Children's Day comes with a particular theme with a common thought 'Children of today, our keepers tomorrow.' For those not in the know, the International Children's Day is celebrated as International Day for Protection of Children in many countries on June 1. Several non-profit organizations put in their best efforts towards making this day a success. It is all about treasuring children; praising and encouraging them to lead a fruitful life that is full of new experiences and adventure!

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30.05.2018 // 5 reasons why trade fairs matter in the marketing mix

Trade fairs remain one of the most important communication tools, especially in B2B environments. So why do some companies still not consider taking part in trade fairs?

Reasons for not participating include costs, lack of time and staff and the amount of organisation involved. But how does participating in trade fairs benefit companies? Why should they still consider this tried-and-tested marketing tool, even now in the digital age?

1. Trade fairs as an innovation platform
Competition based on quality has dramatically intensified in recent years, along with the pressure to innovate, grow and succeed in the global economy. Trade fairs provide an ideal platform for demonstrating innovation and tackling competition head on:

They create high market transparency due to the many competitors represented at industry trade fairs.
Participants get a comprehensive picture of the range of products and services on offer as well as price/performance ratios and market trends, helping to steer them towards future business success.
Cooperative arrangements can be formed with other companies.

2. Product presentations with a personal touch and hands-on experiences
For most companies, showcasing new products and services is the main benefit of taking part in trade fairs. Presenting products in person can boost sales success in many respects:

All the senses can be appealed to, so that visitors enjoy an immersive event experience.
By actively testing products at the trade fair, visitors can see for themselves their functionality and quality.
Exhibitors can respond directly to customer queries and requests and impress with their expertise and passion.
Offering both professional product presentation and hands-on product testing demonstrates a focus on the customer.

3. Retaining existing customers and acquiring new ones
The high numbers of visitors make trade fairs one of the most effective means of com-munication. With so many existing and potential customers clustered in one location, exhibitors benefit in a number of ways:

This presents an opportunity to build on existing customer relationships and boost customer loyalty.
Customer requests often crystallise from dialogue with visitors. This feedback is extremely helpful for improving products and services.
The high number of potential customers makes trade fairs an efficient means of promoting your business with the aim of acquiring new customers.
Face-to-face contact makes it easier for exhibitors to convince interested parties of their products and services and win new customers.

4. Attractive trade fair offers
One of the reasons companies most frequently give for not participating in trade fairs is the presumed expense involved. But few know that organisers have many attractive of-fers aimed especially at new exhibitors:

Many organisers offer special packages for new exhibitors, such as lower stand prices.
Apart from the discounts available, first-time exhibitors are usually offered a great deal of support as well. The organiser’s experience, especially in respect of organi-sational aspects, can be beneficial to a new exhibitor.
If eligible, take advantage of state-funded programmes for trade fairs at home and abroad.
According to an AUMA study, 22% of exhibitors manage to keep their budget under €10,000 and 7% under €5,000.

5. Increased exports
Participation in international trade fairs is important for export sales. This opens up a multitude of opportunities for exhibitors:

Participation in overseas trade fairs cranks up exports. Companies need to spend more for the travel costs, but the benefits of an international presence are enormous.
Trade fairs are an affordable way for small and medium-sized companies in particular to access international markets.

Trade fairs are a unique communication tool that will remain a key element in the marketing mix in the future.

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