European Toy Market Heading Into The Most Disrupted December Trading Ever

European Toy Market Heading Into The Most Disrupted December Trading Ever

If we believe in Nietzsche’s famous quote “That which does not kill me makes me stronger”, then the toy business in Europe would be as strong as granite right now. Never before in recent history has the toy and game business in Europe headed into December trading with so many different disruptions and heavy challenges.

Much of Europe is in some kind of lockdown as Phase 2 of the Covid-19 pandemic rolls across the continent. While restrictions vary across countries, there are a number of lockdowns which are supposed to ease around the start of December. One of the most frustrating features of lockdowns throughout this region is the need for ‘non-essential’ retail to remain closed. This means that toy specialist retailers largely deemed as not essential remain closed while other retailers with a more mixed product range including food, medicines and other items are allowed to capture the toy market. These generalist retailers are exactly the same type of retailers whose large marketing budgets and online traffic mean that viably selling online is often difficult for specialists, especially independents. On the positive side, at least there are some retailers open and selling toys, while this may be to the detriment of toy specialists the toy business as a whole can at least find distribution somewhere.

There are of course additional pressures around other issues. The UK for example is heading towards Brexit finally happening after a tumultuous few years of argument, referendum and exit deal negotiations. Which in the grand scheme of things right now seems a bit like stubbing your toe before being shot – it feels like a far smaller pain now than it was before the impact of Covid-19! The difficulty for the UK toy trade though is that due to ongoing shipments of PPE and of stockpiling various items due to impending Brexit means that the UK’s ports are overloaded with shipments being sent back, being forced to hang around or being diverted to mainland European ports. This means that some toy stock which was planned for late resupply may not get on shelves after all and risks unhealthy inventory levels in the trade heading into 2021.

When toy specialist stores re-open in some markets at the start of December, they face an absolute frenzy in the run up to Christmas with panicked consumers seeking out hot toys to gift to their beloved children to try to create a happy Christmas in a very negative climate. Resupply will inevitably be difficult and chaotic.

All of which makes December 2020 by far the most difficult and disrupted December since WW2. On the positive side though, demand is very strong and we may even see unseasonably large toy and game sales in January and February 2021 as lockdowns continue and parents continue to use toys as comfort to stressed out locked down kids, as well gifting toys as an antidote to screen time addiction.

December 2020 is going to be chaotic and difficult for the European toy trade. In December 2021, this will all (hopefully) seem like a distant memory. For now, we can only hope that we come out of this with a more flexible and stronger toy trade.


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