Beauty, Beasts and sexy hamsters: the week's toy industry news in review

Robert Hutchins

By Robert Hutchins

January 5th 2017 at 7:03PM
UPDATED January 6th 2017 at 11:47AM
Beauty, Beasts and sexy hamsters: the week's toy industry news in review

We take a look at this week's headline grabbing happening by rounding up ToyNews' most read stories for the week ending Friday, January 6th.

One week into the New Year and already the toy industry has shaken off that post-Christmas jet lag and arrived charging into 2017 with resolute determination.

While many of us are still making our way through the last morsels of festive fare, downing tubes of Milky Bar Buttons and snaffling the Stilton to purge the cupboards of our sins, the week in news has been a lot less lethargic.

Already, we have seen (or heard) Emma Watson’s rendition of Something There from the upcoming Disney live action remake of Beauty and the Beast sweep the social media circuits in a calamitous – albeit accidental – leak from none other than Toys R Us in the US.

Somehow, many of us knew we could rely on the toy retail giant to set the (pitch-perfect) tone of the year, and it didn’t disappoint.

And when it comes to retailer antics, the UK’s not short of them either, as we turn to Milton Keynes and a former manager of Smyths Toys Superstores outlet, in particular, who certainly took the concept of staff discount too far.

The 32 year old was caught red-handed making off with almost £10,000 worth of toys, including nearly £3,000 of LEGO, which, before you say anything, comes in at 15 complete sets.

Speaking of LEGO, the firm has forecast a record year for 2016, outpacing the success of 2015 and making its twelfth year of double digit growth. Having opened its flagship LEGO store in London’s Leicester Square in late 2016 and seen sales boosted by the release of Rogue One, the firm saw out the year in high spirits.

With the release of the first LEGO Movie spin-off title – The LEGO Batman Movie - hitting screens in February, the good news is sure to continue.

Never short of innovation, this week has seen the Consumer Electronics Show kick off to its usual fan fare of headline grabbing stories, from robotic toys designed to aid children with autism, to a Fisher-Price exercise bike developed to help in the fight against child obesity.

But it falls to Mattel to take a top ten spot in this week’s most read stories on ToyNews with the big reveal of its Aristotle by Nabi – a baby monitor that – billed as the child-friendly version of the Amaxon Alexa – can engage and even hold conversations with children and babies through AI technology. If it wasn’t for the $299 price tag, we’d seriously consider getting one for the office.

We’re unsure yet if it makes a decent cuppa.

News that Mattel will focus on influencer campaigns heading in to the New Year has also found its way into the top ten most read – we can assume then that with this news ringing in the ears, many a parent blogger will be champing at the bit to get their hands on the Aristotle by Nabi too.

Never short of an idea or two to continue to propel its collectables brand Shopkins into the realm of phenomenon, Moose Toys has meanwhile detailed its plans to launch a line of children’s electronics, which happily includes a karaoke machine, meaning I no longer have to be the only singing (fruit) tart at home.

I have no idea about his own singing abilities, so struggle for a suitable link into news that toy industry veteran Adrian Roche has launched a new consulting business called Black Horse Consulting with the remit of helping international firms gain access to the North American toy market.

Roche is no stranger to launching new concepts to the industry, having found great success with the launch of Alpha/Audley’s operations to the US, way back when.

Sticking with the States, American Girl is kicking off the New Year with the release of its 2017 Girl of the Year, Gabriela McBride. The doll has been designed to help young girls find their creative voices and speak out to make a difference. 

It’s with a heavy heart that we return to the UK’s shores to wave the independent retailer The Cambridge Toy Shop off on its final journey. A staple of the Cambridge High Street and its shopping experience, the store has decided to close its doors for the final time, citing rent increases among the reasons for the departure.

ToyNews would like to wish the shop’s former owner Vivienne Watson all the best for the future and thank her for her contributions to the magazine over the years.

Topping this week’s most read story list is the immoveable news of MGA’s LOL Surprise Dolls, boasting seven layers of surprises for kids to uncover. That’s almost as many layers as weeks it has been atop the list.

Clearly, there are some very devout fans of MGA out there. Or some avid readers hoping for a confirmed UK launch date. Well, we can tell you there is only one month left to wait – but do keep checking in with us for updates.

Finally, and surprisingly not on the top ten most read stories of this week, but worth a mention all the same is the amorous toy hamster discovered by shoppers visiting Debenhams over Christmas.

The electronic rodent has made headlines of late – and left one or two shoppers feeling a little flustered – after comparisons were made between its squeaking and an individual experiencing the height of pleasure.

Obviously no one here at ToyNews would be able to confirm the sounds of a hamster reaching orgasm, and we dare say you would either.

But just in case, here’s a quick clip of the toy in action and we’ll leave you to cast the deciding vote: