2012 Review of the Year

We take a look back at all the key news stories from the last 12 months.
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Surprise acquisitions, top level exec changes, retail casualties and the London 2012 effect, the continued dominance of LEGO and Moshi Monsters in-store – not to mention some eye-watering charity challenges… the toy business has certainly packed a lot into 2012. Samantha Loveday takes a look back at the year


Hawkin’s Bazaar becomes the first retail casualty of the year, with parent company Tobar Group blaming exceptionally challenging trading conditions for the collapse.

Mookie Toys acquires TP Activity Toys for an undisclosed sum. TP Toys had fallen into administration in December 2011 due to increasing overheads and an inability to carry out refinancing.

Julian Boyers reveals he is to step down as MD at Bandai UK, having been at the company for over 24 years. Following Boyers’ departure, Tatsuya Moromugi joins the UK arm of the company as president.

Flair’s Andrew Brown breaks the world record for the fastest ever solo crossing of the Atlantic, raising money for the Toy Trust and Help a Capital Child.


Mattel completes the acquisition of Hit Entertainment from a consortium of funds led by Apax Partners for $680 million in cash. The new brands fall under the direction of Fisher-Price executive VP David Allmark.

Mothercare appoints Simon Calver as its new chief executive officer, who joins from Lovefilm International.

The Superbrands 2012 list names LEGO as the 31st most powerful consumer brand operating in the UK. Hornby is the highest-flying British company, with three of its brands – Hornby, Scalextric and Airfix – present in the top 500. Fisher-Price, Disney, Monopoly, Crayola, Barbie, Play-Doh and MB Games are also listed.


Wow Stuff secures investment of £4.8 million from the Business Growth Fund, with the firm planning to use the money to triple its in-house product development over the next 36 months. The aim is to take its sales past the £100 million mark.

Mega Brands reveals a multi-year global licensing deal to produce Mega Bloks construction sets based on Mattel’s Barbie and Hot Wheels brands.


Mothercare confirms it is to close 111 stores – 36 Mothercare and 75 Early Learning Centres – over the next three years to March 2015. The news follows a total UK sales drop of 6.3 per cent for the full year 2011. The group will be left with a ‘profitable core’ of 200 stores, with 105 on the High Street and 95 in out-of-town retail parks and shopping centres.

Chairman of Golden Bear, John Hales, celebrates victory for his horse Neptune Collonges at the Grand National.

Moshi Monsters: Moshling Zoo becomes the longest ever number one in Nintendo DS chart history. The Mind Candy title – distributed by Activision in the UK – topped the listing for a record breaking 15 consecutive weeks, since November 2011.


Dress up specialist Smiffy’s makes a move into the toy sector with the launch of its new Time 4 Fun range. The collection includes a wide range of light-up and novelty accessories, plus pocket money items, jokes, magic tricks, outdoor, girls and boys-themed toys.

Wham-o Europe and Grant & Bowman reveal new venture Goldfish & Bison. As well as the Wham-o range, the firm will offer Laser Pegs, Canadian creative play brand Bojeux, French games from Megableu and equestrian property JJ.

Hasbro confirms that classic ‘90s plush Furby will be returning later on in the year.

Marvel’s Avengers Assemble smashes the $1 billion threshold at the global box office, becoming the first Marvel Studios film to do so.

Vivid announces plans to launch Little Mix dolls in time for Christmas 2012.


EDF Energy says there are ‘no immediate plans’ to turn its Zingy mascot into a toy line. This is despite huge demand from consumers after the character became an internet star. The popular little character featured in the company’s TV advertising campaign.

Vivid Imaginations founders Nick Austin and Alan Bennie pick up Lifetime Achievement Awards at the BTHA Industry Day. In addition, the event also saw former Tomy CEO Robert Mann receive the Toy Trust Outstanding Achievement Award.

Spanish toy firm Famosa is to open a new subsidiary in the UK. Industry veteran Paul Fogarty assists with the start up, before being confirmed as UK country manager. Alison Hubbard becomes head of marketing, Simon McCrickard, UK sales manager and Justin Richardson, UK
operations manager.

Hamleys gives its world-famous Regent Street store a makeover.


AIS Play-room reveals a new look and name for its Play-room at the Park event for 2013. The show will now be known as Independent Toy & Gift.

Pocket money distributor The In Thing says that it has enjoyed 12 months of consecutive growth, thanks to strong performances from Moshi Monsters and Skylanders toys.

Robert Mann re-emerges in the business as the new president of Toystate Europe. The company is looking to significantly expand its presence across key territories.

135 walkers successfully complete the Toy Trust Three Peaks Challenge – scaling Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis – raising over £130,000 for the industry charity. The funds are used to help build an orphanage in Malawi. Also, nine riders covered 240 miles on a bike ride from London to Paris. This raised over £30,000 for The Fence Club.

Argos pledges to become the UK’s leading toy retailer.


The London 2012 Olympics gives the toy business a summer lift, with LEGO Team GB Minifigures and Golden Bear’s plush mascots proving particularly popular.

Peter Andre helps LeapFrog launch the LeapPad2 and Leapster GS at Oxford Street’s John Lewis.

Harrods refurbishes its toy area for the first time in over 20 years, investing millions of pounds in the refit. The new Toy Kingdom consists of six different worlds across 26,000 square feet.

Toy firms urge the Government to help them spot and cull counterfeit products. Firms including Wow Stuff and Innovation First argue that it currently takes too long to hold knock-off manufacturers, distributors and retailers accountable.

The Entertainer sees sales rise 12.3 per cent in the second quarter of 2012, and confirms it will open 15 stores this year – three more than it had originally planned.

MGA Entertainment withdraws a $10 million lawsuit it had filed against pop star Lady Gaga. MGA had taken the quirky star to court seeking damages, after her team allegedly stalled production of a Lady Gaga licensed doll during the approvals process.

LEGO delivers “exceptional” financial results during the first half of 2012 thanks to stellar sales of its new LEGO Friends girls’ line. Sales in European markets rose, net sales grew 24 per cent year on year to £974 million and operating profit leapt 41.7 per cent to £306.8 million.


The Good Toy Guide teams up with ToyNews for the launch of its new website. ToyNews becomes the official trade media partner for the site, which aims to highlight different types of play and products, providing in-depth insight into the links between play and healthy child development. Other partners include The Entertainer and Toy Shop UK.

VTech reveals it is to return to the showfloor at Toy Fair 2013.

Groupe Ludendo’s acquisition of Hamleys is officially confirmed, with the London toy retailer being snapped up for what is thought to be around £60 million.

Autumn Fair reports a 28 per cent increase in attendance from big budget retailers. Over 30,000 visitors from 78 countries headed to the show in 2012.


NPD data shows that Mind Candy’s Moshi Monsters is the number one property overall in the toy market for the fifth month running.

Hasbro teams with Rovio Entertainment and Lucas Licensing to launch a new range of Angry Birds Star Wars toys.

Busy Golden Bear signs master toy deals for pre-school shows In The Night Garden and Woolly and Tig, while it will also create a range of older boys’ toys based on Dennis the Menace from The Beano comic book.

Re:creation looks to take on Nerf’s market dominance with the launch of Air Storm, a new line of crossbows, slingshots and bow and arrow toys from US toy firm Zing Toys. These will arrive in spring 2013.

Character Options is named the master toy partner for Looney Tunes in a new three-year deal with Warner Bros. Consumer Products.

Little Tikes’ European manager Gerry Tekerian is to retire having worked with the brand for over 15 years.

Argos reveals it will close or relocate at least 75 stores as part of a plan to reinvent itself as a ‘digitally-led business’. The move will also see the catalogue refocused “to support a digital offer”.

Brand Licensing Europe smashes all records, as 6,875 execs visit the three-day show at London’s Olympia – 1,265 more than in 2011. Combined visitor and exhibitor attendance reached 9,108.

The winners of the Slow Toy Movement are revealed at a special event at London’s Selfridges…

…while the following day, the Toy Retailers Association names the 2012 Dream Toys listing.


Disney makes a surprise announcement to acquire Lucasfilm for $4 billion. The surprise didn’t end there, however, with Disney confirming the launch of new movie sequel Star Wars VII in 2015 “with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future”. Disney will acquire the Star Wars IP, Lucasfilm’s operating live film businesses, consumer products divisions, animation and FX studios and audio post production facilities.

Toys R Us’ 79 UK stores report a pre-tax loss of £2.6 million in its latest set of accounts. The loss – in the year to January 28th 2012 – was reported on a turnover of £476 million, down from a profit of £9.9 million the previous year.

LEGO teases its hotly tipped 2013 toy property, Legends of Chima, with a website going live and the first posters revealed.

LeapFrog raises its net sales expectations for 2012 by between $80 million and $95 million, following strong results from Q3. The LeapPad2 manufacturer now expects full year net sales to be between $535 million and $550 million in 2012, a rise of around 20 per cent compared to 2011.


The first ever Gadget Show Live Christmas at London's ExCeL is hailed a success, with a dedicated area attracting a number of toy companies. Firms including Kiddimoto, Flying Gadgets, Inspirationworks, LEGO Technic, Bladez Toyz and Apptoyz all exhibited.

The Toy Trust Money Can't Buy Auction raised £4,300 to support children's charities at home and overseas. Prizes up for grabs included a day with Moshi Monsters creator Michael Acton Smith, a limited edition Furby set, limited edition Doctor Who figure sets and a LEGO mosaic of your family.

LeapFrog becomes the ninth biggest toy manufacturer in the UK, by value of goods sold, according to new data from NPD.

Hamleys sees its operating profit rise 70 per cent to £3.9 million for the 53 weeks ending March 31st, 2012. Profit before tax leapt 250 per cent to £2.3 million, compared to £0.6 million generated the year prior.


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