Toys n Playthings February 2021

As the nation works through the third national lockdown, toy suppliers and toy retailers are successfully finding ways to pivot their businesses through the pandemic. 

I continue to be impressed by how independent toy retailers across the country are picking up the gauntlet to keep their businesses running – many of them taking their wares online for the first time.

It’s a trend that Nuremberg’s Spielwarenmesse is following. As I write this, the show’s organiser has announced that the digital service Spielwarenmesse BrandNew, which provides information about this year’s innovations and trends in the global toy sector, has been well received by the industry. 

In the first days of going live, from 25 to 29 January, 55,442 visitors viewed more than 400,000 actions on its website. Companies also used Spielwarenmesse’s social media channels to present their products to the international audience, unveiling their innovations in live video sessions.

Spielwarenmesse BrandNew can be accessed free of charge until the end of April. 

The summer edition of the show is now scheduled to open its doors at the Exhibition Centre in Nuremberg from 20 to 24 July. Let’s hope that we may all be able to meet there at last!

Meanwhile, closer to home, the British Toy & Hobby Association (BTHA) and the Toy Retailers Association (TRA) have demonstrated their resilience during lockdown by locking into our new online habits. Last month they announced the winners of their annual awards virtually.

Both organisations adopted a different approach to the selection process for their awards this year, giving recognition to retailers who showed great altruism and innovation in 2020, and products that played a part in keeping the UK’s children smiling, entertained and educated through the Covid-19 crisis.  

Turn to our Awards Special on pages 32-33 to find out who made the cut. Several of the retailer winners – including the recipient of the Ultimate Superhero award Lisa Clay of Armadillo Toys in Leeds (pictured, left) – have kindly shared their stories with us on pages 34-39.     

Although quite different in terms of size, product offer and geographical spread, each has one key challenge in common: as we face another period of restrictions, they have acknowledged that it’s time to double-down on digital.

One winner admits she would never have gone online without this situation, while another is in the process of creating a new ecommerce platform, and a third is improving her existing website. But all were keen to point out that, in the words of Julia Wingate of The Trading Post in Kingsbridge, Devon: “Even though our doors are closed, we’re still open for business. Behind every door there is a website or phone – and we’re still able to trade our wares.” 

Covid-19 has undoubtedly been a catalyst for change and retailers willing to adopt a flexible approach can not only survive the impact but can thrive. It’s not that people aren’t making toy purchases; they are just making them in different ways. 

If you would like to share your story with our readers too, I’d love for you to get in touch. You can link up with me via LinkedIn or email me at I look forward to hearing from you!

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