The launch of a new toy is always an exciting prospect for manufacturers and retailers alike, however cheap knock-offs now seem to be part and parcel of the industry.
Quite often, as the likes of Hasbro or LEGO debut a new toy or game, bootleggers see the opportunity to make a quick buck by creating their own fake version.
And with the BTHA revealing in 2015 that counterfeit toys could account for up to 10 to 15 per cent of toys on the UK market, costing the industry around £183 million, it seems these counterfeit goods are still making a huge impact.
“Bootlegging is bootlegging if people can knock it off they will. If there’s money to be made people will knock it off,” Matt Booker, owner of Automattic Comics & Toys, told ToyNews.
“It’s prolific and it’s everywhere. You can go on eBay and buy stuff from the Far East and similar places where people go to shop on a regular basis and it is all fake products on offer.”
But it isn’t just the retailers that the fake toys affect, as most have not been put through official safety procedures and can cause serious harm to the children who use them.
For example, in 2014 safety officials warned parents of a cancer scare after rogue consignments of Loom Bands from the Far East were found to contain deadly chemicals.
Caroline Hubbard, owner of Hubbard’s Toy Cupboard, continued: “I think it’s despicable as these toys could kill a child, these toys have not been through the rigmarole that other companies go to ensure that toys are safe.
“I think trading standards should get involved more to tackle it, as most people are quick enough to complain but without the right funds, things won’t change.” It’s something the BTHA believes needs to be addressed, reinforcing the legislation in place.
Natasha Crookes, director of public affairs and communications at the BTHA, cited: “Trading standards has always done a fantastic job but it needs better funding. We need better enforcement to take these people out of the market and bigger fines to make it not worth their while.”
Looking out for the CE mark is a good indication to tell a fake and legitimate toy apart. However, counterfeiters are becoming more sophisticated, copying not only the toy but the packaging as well, often hoodwinking the majority of the industry.This, then, puts more pressure on consumers to become more vigilant when shopping.
“As counterfeits get more sophisticated it’s not off the back of a lorry as it might have been in the previous day and age,” explained Crookes.
Reporting fake goods and sellers is not always clear for retailers or even consumers to report, which more funding could certainly help to build. However, Becky Ottery, owner of Eclectic Games, feels Trading Standards needs to take reporting more seriously.
“Having a reliable, easy way of reporting sellers to Trading Standards, and not having to be the license holder to be taken seriously by them might help,”
In order to clamp down on these counterfeit goods and the sellers behind them, Crookes is hopeful that customers will be more wary when they are on the look out for the next hot toy.
“It cheats consumers but it really does cheat the toy companies, both the manufacturers and retailers,” concludes Crookes.