The BTHA and TRA send open letter to Number 10 as re-opening of toy shops becomes ‘crucial for the industry’s surivival’

The British Toy and Hobby Association and the Toy Retailers Association have made fresh calls on the UK government to take swift action in adding toy shops to the essential retailers list or assure the industry that shops will be allowed to re-open from December 2nd, in a move that will be ‘crucial for the industry.’

The pair have sent an open letter to Number 10 urging the Prime Minister Boris Johnson that it is vital he allow the country’s toy sellers to open up their doors in order to save not only Christmas for the thousands of families reliant on them to provide much-needed and essential items as toys and games this year, but rescue the industry from the potentially devastating impact of missing the golden quarter’s key trading period.

The letter has highlighted to the PM that for an industry worth £3.2 billion to the UK economy, 50 per cent of its toys are sold in this last quarter of the year. It goes on to state that the current closures are impacting on the £400 million value in November and that “we simply cannot lose the £820 million December trade.”

“This period is crucial to the survival of toy companies and retailers in the UK and without November and December trade, many companies will not survive.”

The letter, penned by the Chairman of the British Toy and Hobby Association, Andrew Laughton, and the Chairman of the Toy Retailers Association, Alan Simpson, is just the latest in a long list of previous attempts made by both organisations to secure allowances for the country’s toy retailers during its lockdown.

The BTHA has sent two letters to Boris Johnson since May, has written to Alok Sharma and Paul Scully and has also written to the First Ministers of the devolved nations.

“This is the latest letter asking for help and brings toy suppliers and retailers together with one voice,” Natasha Crookes, director of public affairs and communications at the BTHA, told ToyNews. “It is the first to be made public due to the urgency of the timing for both the industry and the many families looking for good toys sold by reputable companies this Christmas.”

The letter goes on to highlight that with toy shops across the country closed for the key Christmas shopping periods, many families will be forced to make their seasonal purchases online, via the ecommerce giants such as Amazon. The group has underscored the current issues surrounding toy safety on such platforms that found that 86 per cent of toys sold by third party sellers were illegal to sell in the UK.

It also highlighted that 60 per cent of those toys found via online marketplaces had safety issues that would make them unsafe for a child to play with.  

While both groups have made it clear that it is understood that the current lockdown has been implemented reluctantly but with the health of the nation at its centre, the potential it lends for ‘panic buying’ late in December by ‘mass crowds of Christmas shoppers,’ could undo the work that has been put in to fight the coronavirus pandemic so far.

The letter written by the BTHA and TRA to the Prime Minister can be read in full below:

Open letter calling for toy retail to be added to essential list ahead of Christmas

Dear Prime Minister, 

We are writing as Chairmen of the British Toy & Hobby Association (BTHA) and the Toy Retailers  Association (TRA), to call for toy retail to be added to the essential retail list. Toys are essential tools  of play that contribute to child development and learning and have been essential to families this  year during lockdown, keeping children entertained, keeping them active, maintaining positive  mental health and underpinning the morale of families around the country. 

Now, we are entering the season when toys are more essential than ever. Christmas is synonymous  with toys under the tree. Toys and games bring joy and entertainment to children and they are  important in creating moments that bond and unify families during the festive period. We all have  fond memories of the excitement of opening presents and getting the toy we asked for on Christmas  morning from Santa. 2020 hasn’t provided many opportunities to make happy memories and you  have the power to make sure children get that chance this Christmas. Please don’t allow Covid to  steal Christmas from children and families across the country. 

We thank you for trying to keep retail open with click and collect opportunities. However, there are  mixed messages around lockdown which are limiting the opportunity of spreading toy purchases  across the festive period. Although the government position is to allow shops to operate click and  collect, the message to consumers is to only go out to shop for food and medicine. That means shopping centres and town centres are simply not getting consumers to leave their homes to pick up  purchases. This is leading to more consumers relying on online purchases.

Retailers are trying to  cope with demand online, but courier slots are limited, and retail will not be able to cope with  demand as we get closer to Christmas. The only platforms with almost unlimited capacity are the  online marketplace platforms and that is concerning given our recent report into toy safety on those  platforms which found that 86% of toys sold by third-party sellers were illegal to sell in the UK and  60% had safety issues that would make them unsafe for a child to play with.  

The toy industry is worth £3.2 billion to the UK economy with 50% of toys sold in the last quarter of  the year. The current closures are impacting on the £400 million value in November and we simply cannot lose the £820 million December trade – this period is crucial to the survival of toy companies and retailers in the UK and without November and December trade, many companies will not  survive.

Limiting toy retail at this crucial time of year will result in damaging the toy industry and will  put child safety at risk. This will be devastating to many toy suppliers and retailers that have spent  the year supporting charities and local communities in lockdown. The toy industry charity, the Toy  Trust, has been making donations throughout the year to struggling children’s charities to help them continue their work during tough conditions and members of the BTHA have been sourcing and  supplying PPE since the Spring. 

We understand the need for some restrictions to keep the country safe but we can assure you that  toy retail is already set up and prepared to operate under safe, Covid-compliant conditions. To do  that we need to help consumers get access to toys as early in the season as possible to spread  demand and prevent last-minute panic buying. We therefore call on the government to add toys to  the list of essential retail as soon as possible, and at a minimum, ensure that toy shops are allowed  to operate from 2nd December when the current lockdown is likely to be lifted. 

We would greatly value your support in adding toys to the list of essential items so we can continue  to support children and families throughout the country, help maintain their play, development and educational needs and contribute to the overall morale of our great nation during these most  difficult times. We need you to ensure that Christmas isn’t cancelled in a year when we all need  some joy to lift the country’s spirits, to assist the UK toy industry and, most importantly, to support  families that need our toys for essential child development and some joy this Christmas. 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us, via the BTHA’s Director of Public  Affairs and Communications Natasha Crookes at natasha@btha.co.uk or 01208 832 827. 

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