ToyNews Retail Survey

In our first ever retail survey we question retailers about their top-selling toys, their biggest challenges and how they will fare in 2013.
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What was your highlight of the year?

Retail opinion was divided over what the most important or stand out moment was for the toy industry last year.

Hasbro’s new Furby was named by just under ten per cent of the retailers we questioned, while seven per cent said the year would be remembered for consistent LEGO sales.

Almost nine per cent of retailers mentioned a new store opening or expansion to their current shop. Five per cent highlighted the good summer, including the Olympics and the Jubilee, while a third recalled other highlights, including more personal things such as being promoted.

How was business in 2012?

Almost half of all toy retailers we spoke to – some 44 per cent – had a prosperous year in 2012.

One Toys R Us store manager said: “Trade has been steady – it’s been a challenge but one that we passed in tough conditions.”

Almost 20 per cent claimed they had a bad year in 2012, while 36 per cent said they experienced a similar trading period to 2011.

Batteries Not Included’s Iain Ashbourne added: “There may well be a recession, but if you have the right product, people will spend money.”

Another indie commented: “It’s been difficult against all the competition out there – the online trading and aggressive cost cutting by supermarkets.”

What impacted your business the most in 2012?

The challenging economic climate maintained its grip on the High Street last year, with around 18 per cent of retailers saying it impacted their business the most.

Another 18 per cent said tough competition with other toy retailers – especially multiples, supermarkets and online sites – continued to affect them. The poor weather took business away from almost nine per cent of the retailers we spoke to.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Over six per cent said store expansions boosted trade, four per cent cited the success of Skylanders Giants and others mentioned Moshi Monsters and kids’ tablets. Three per cent of retailers were so confident they said nothing had negatively affected them throughout 2012.

Store staff from Toy Attic told ToyNews: “The tough climate makes trading very hard – customers have little money to spare.”

Toy Galaxy added: “I think the biggest impact on our business this year has been the increase in the influence of online shopping, which has made already savvy customers even more price conscious.”

Which toy category has performed best for you this year?

No surprises here – most retailers say that the fast growing construction and ever-reliable pre-school categories performed best for them.

Action figures also stood out, getting 11.7 per cent of the votes – perhaps driven by blockbuster movies like The Avengers and the return of Turtles.

Despite collectable lines being among the top selling toys of 2012, only 8.5 per cent of retailers listed them as their best performers. Girls dolls took almost 10 per cent of votes, while board games took 7.45 per cent.

How have your Christmas 2012 takings been compared to 2011’s?

2012 was a Merry Christmas for 40.86 per cent of toy retailers, who said that their festive sales looked to be better than they were in 2011.

However, in a statistic that cannot be ignored, nearly a third of retailers said their Christmas sales were down year-on-year. Another third said sales were roughly the same as they were in 2011.

Staff from Toycastle said: “People seem to be waiting until the last minute to get all their Christmas presents.”

Toys R Us’ Bradford store added: “It’s not down to products as much at Christmas, it’s down to footfall and whether customers have money to spend.”

What’s the biggest challenge you face?

Almost one third of toy stores claimed that competing with other retailers was the toughest challenge in 2012.

27 per cent said online retailers, supermarkets and multiple toy retailers that held special toy promotions and ‘three for two’ offers gave them the most headaches, while 20 per cent mentioned getting customers into stores was a real test.

12 per cent thought dealing with the economic climate was the toughest challenge. Meanwhile, nine per cent had difficulty expanding their business and obtaining enough stock.

Toyology told ToyNews: “There are a number of challenges. Apart from the obvious rents and rates, there is of course the economic climate that hangs like a black cloud over the retail sector. I think one of the largest challenges will be how we cope with that in 2013.”

Hoombletoys and Collectables added: “Dealing with competitors’ promotions like those stupid ‘three for two’ deals is a major problem.”

What new toy or product are you most looking forward to in 2013?

LEGO’s new IP, Legends of Chima, looks to be the toy product which most retailers are looking forward to in 2013.

Some toy shops enjoyed success with the new line of Turtles action figures late in 2012, and were consequently looking forward to further lines in the range.

With the bulk of the toys still to be revealed at toy fairs, most retailers – 27.59 per cent – said they couldn’t yet decide what would work best for them this year. Other answers ranged from new bikes, to R/C copters, Monsters University toys and many more.

Which current toy industry trend is having the most impact on your business?

Opinion was largely divided over what market trends were having the biggest impact on retailers, but most said that the increase in customers shopping online was taking away sales from their stores (12 per cent).

Seven per cent said the decrease in average consumer spend affected their business, but another seven per cent enjoyed a resurgence in sales of more traditional toys.
Over a quarter of toy stores believe certain popular products made the biggest impact on them, including sales of LEGO, Skylanders, Moshi Monsters, Furby, tablets and pocket money toys.

Melton Toys commented: “The success of pocket money toys is having a big impact on us, following the trend set by LEGO Minifigures. This has vastly improved our repeat business.”

Lindsey Bayley from Children’s Choice in Derbyshire said that the rising popularity of internet shopping is hurting her business.

“People come in the shop, look at things, use us a free showroom and then go and use Amazon,” she added.

Do you feel confident about the health of your business moving into 2013?

The overwhelming response from retailers about the prospect of 2013 trading was positive. 76 per cent said they were confident while a mere six per cent said they were not. Many of those who were, said that diversifying – whether it be into new product categories or moving business online – had helped them to extra sales and were therefore assured of performing well in 2013, too.

Others pointed to the strength of toys as a reason to be cheerful heading into 2013. As one representative from Toys R Us in Uxbridge put it: “Toys never go down, kids are born every year, always.”

If you could have any OTHER job in the toy industry, whose would it be?

Most of the people we surveyed – 16.67 per cent – said they were perfectly happy being a toy retailer.

LEGO’s popularity even permeated into this question, where 11.54 per cent said they fancied being a senior exec at the construction company, like Drew Brazer (see Minifigure, left).

Popular answers included being a toy designer, tester, inventor or buyer. Sillier ones included Santa and Spider-Man.

Who we asked and how

Our 2012 survey was conducted by calling up UK retailers and asking them for their thoughts on the state of the toy industry. We spoke to managers at randomly selected independent retailers and national chains. ToyNews did not ask retailers to choose from a list of products – any brands listed above were mentioned by retailers themselves. We questioned 101 stores including the following:

WH Smith (Ashford), James Selby, The Entertainer (Staines), Dalscone Toys, Cuthberts, Fagins Toys, Funtime Toys & Collectables, Classic Collectables, Westgate Department Store, Modelzone (Bromley), Gordons Toys & Stationery, A1 Toys (Braehead), The Entertainer (Gateshead), The Entertainer (Watford), The Entertainer (Horsham), The Entertainer (Haselmere), The Entertainer (Didcot), Toys R Us (Bedford), Toys R Us (Bradford), Toys R Us (Uxbridge), Toys R Us (Doncaster), Toys R Us (Swindon), Toys R Us (Bolton), Sainsbury's (Gosforth), Sainsbury's (South Shields), Smyths (Bristol), Smyths (Llandudno), Smyths (Cardiff), Smyths (Bury), Smyths (Wigan), Gliddons, Jack and Jills, Wise Owl Toys, K&J Toy Shop, Hoombletoys and Collectables, Batteries Not Included, Funwarehouse, Children’s Choice, Orchard Creek Toys, Midco (Derby), Smallworths, William Strachan, Whoopee, Enchanted Forest, Jack Ted and Dolly Toy Shop, Magic Dragon Toys, Halesworth Toys, Magical Emporium, Jarrolds, Trading 4U, Roys Toys, Argosy, Spot On Toymaster, Grovers Toymaster, County Store Toymaster, RA Jones and Son, Toycastle, Ramsey Toymaster, The Ambleside Toy Sho, Jollys Toys & Games, Forget-me-not Toys and Books, The Toy and Book Warehouse, Toys N Tuck, LambsToys,, Born Gifted, The Toy Corner, Toy Galaxy, Treasures of Wetherby, Avon Toys, Melton Toys, Toy Attic, The arcadetoyshop, Ori's Toys, Toyology, CHIPS North East, The Knowledge Magnet, Toy Hub, Neergaard Toys, Emporium of Toys, Marcher Toys and Hobbies, A-Accurate Toys and Hobbies, Toys R Us (Maidenhead), Samaco, Giddy Goat Toys, WOW,, Hamleys, Dreamland, Toys Direct, The Toy Den, David Rogers Toymaster and Toys UK.


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