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UK Toyfair 2023 Review

2023 UK Toyfair Review

Having missed 2022’s comeback UK Toyfair due to contracting Covid 2 days before the show, I took extra pleasure in strolling along the aisles of the 2023 show. Glowing - almost euphoric - LinkedIn comments suggest that I was not alone among the UK & visiting international Toy & Games fraternity to experience a real high at this year’s show.

When you have been around a while at these shows, you do tend to have to remind yourself that you aren’t just there to catch up with friends and colleagues you have known for decades! I constantly had to remind myself to focus on current business when speaking to people I have known a long time and missed speaking with due to Covid-19!

Overwhelmingly the feedback on the UK Toy & Games market was that 2022 was a tough year & that 2023 is looking equally tough. There may have been some companies who had a great year, but I didn’t meet any of them…In fact one of my longest standing connections in the business suggested that ‘While everyone had a crap year in 2022, we had an even crapper year than everyone else.’ The reality is that while many people were delighted to be back doing what we do and reconnecting with people, the business environment for the UK Toy business is really tough.

Those of us who were around during the global financial crisis remember tough times - but the difference back then was that some people were out of work, but many people weren’t. Retail had a bad time, but mostly on other categories, which of course affected their overall trading strategies and how much pressure they put on suppliers, but Toys still performed ok comparatively speaking. This time round inflation is squeezing everyone…inflation is like a stealth tax whereby the UK government in this case can devalue the massive debts they racked up funding the economy and preventing widespread destitution through the Covid-19 pandemic. The challenge with this approach to getting out of trouble is that it significantly reduces disposable spending for consumers as wage rises generally lag behind price rises.

For the first time in my career of more than 25 years, inflation threatens to do that which we thought couldn’t be done – to tangibly reduce demand and overall spending for Toys & Games. The reality is that when a market stays static or reduces slightly in market size as the UK market has done, it is hardly a disaster, but if the market is down a bit in £value AND inflation is 10%+ in the economy, then in ‘real’ value as opposed to ‘actual’ value the market has decreased significantly.

Still though, parents still bought Toys & Games for Christmas 2022, they just seem to have bought a few less and perhaps spent less on the ‘big’ presents for their children. This is hardly as big an issue as many travel and entertainment businesses faced during lockdowns with the complete closure of their industries. Nevertheless though it does look like we are working our way through some of the toughest of times in living memory for our industry.

On a brighter note - the good news is that alongside the prevailing Sustainability theme, the other major theme and opportunity which was very prominent at UK Toyfair 2023 was companies working out how they can adapt their approach and product offerings to embrace the massively under exploited ‘Kiddult’ market. I expect that pivot to be a major feature of the Toy business for at least the next 5 years. And so every cloud has a silver lining, and regardless of how tough business is for a lot of people and companies right now, it certainly was great to reconnect at the 2023 UK show. Many thanks and congratulations to the organisers at the British Toy & Hobby Association…and now the show rolls onto Nuremberg…

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