Following a tough 2019 the UK toy industry assembled this week at the soon to be revamped Olympia Exhibition Centre to show their 2020 product lines.
While 2019 was a difficult year for many, and the market was down overall, as per any year there were many winners and many losers. We all look at how good a year was on the basis of our own business performance – market size is more or less an abstract thing. I spoke to companies who had it really tough and to companies who had an incredible 2019. As per every other year, selling effectively, having compelling products combined with compelling marketing is the key, along with spreading risk across a few product categories and prudently trying to expand product offerings.
The outlook for the UK toy market in 2020 is ok but with some challenges and threats on the horizon. Kids still want toys and parents are ever more desperate to leverage kids off screens which makes toys as attractive as they have ever been for parents.
The challenge for the industry overall this year is the weakest movie slate for a few years, which normally dictates growth or regression in terms of total market size. The major risk right now appears to be consumer plastic backlash. It’s hard to know to what degree this contributed to a tough year in 2019, but it is clearly a major topic of conversation and with several retailers aggressively clamping down on needless plastic in packaging this is likely to be a theme for the next few years if not forever more.
Looking forward to the next few UK toy fairs, we can expect some disruption due to the pending renovation of Olympia exhibition centre – this though seems like a discomfort worth accepting due to the great location and accessibility of Olympia versus past venues.
Finally, on a personal note, as ever the UK toy fair seems like the cosiest of toy trade shows, with so many old friends and colleagues attending. While there were the usual reports or claims of traffic being down, I saw pretty much all the usual suspects so from my perspective, and from the perspective of most of the people I spoke to this was a successful show – which once again reinforces the importance of the UK’s own trade show. Even better than that, this was the first UK show for a while where nobody mentioned the dreaded ‘B’ word (that’s Brexit for those in the rest of the world who may not have noticed the UK’s paralysis over this issue for the last few years)!
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