Wearable tech to run away with it this Christmas

Our Retail Advisory Board is confident the sector will take off this Q4, but some retailers remain wary.
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Wearable tech is destined for a phenomenal Christmas this year, but won’t be overshadowing tablets just yet, according to the ToyNews Retail Advisory Board.

While it’s not a trend to have taken the adult world by storm thus far, LeapFrog and VTech are leading the children’s wearable tech sector, with smartwatches featuring in retailers’ top toy lists for Christmas across the country.

“I think the products ?from LeapFrog and VTech will sell well on the back of being really great toys,” The Entertainer’s Stuart Grant told ToyNews.

“At between £30 and £40, the price points are really strong, and with their level of play value, we expect them to be phenomenal sellers this year.”

But despite the early praises for the sector, retailers won’t be clearing their shelves of tablets just yet.

“Tablets have certainly had their peak and life has moved on slightly,” added Grant. “But I don’t think tablets are going away.”

Argos’ trading manager of toys and nursery, Linzi Walker, echoes Grant, believing tablets still have an important role to play this coming festive season.

“We haven’t got a tablet on the range this year, but I think they will still be very important for this Christmas,” she explained.

“The big brands are still bringing out the latest technology, and there are some new tablets coming out from them this Christmas.”

Argos is also certainly championing the children’s wearable tech movement this year, with both LeapFrog’s LeapBand and VTech’s KidiZoom Smart Watch making its Christmas predictions list.

However, not all are convinced about the longevity of the wearable tech sector, as some retailers believe it will eventually succumb to? the price slashing that the tablet market has suffered in recent years.

“I am a big fan of the VTech and LeapFrog offerings. I believe their toys help kids learn and progress,” said Brian Simpson, manager of ToyTown.

“However, when I got my first glimpse of the watches and bands, I did think it had been taken a step too far. I do believe these items will sell well, but I can directly relate them to tablets.

“Tablets were a great piece of innovation that our trade managed to ruin with price wars. My fear is that this would be the case for these bands and watches, too.”

And Simpson isn’t? alone in his fears, as indie retailer, Helen Gourley, owner of Scottish toy store ToyHub, believes the larger companies will always dominate the market.

“In our personal experience we leave these kind of items to the larger companies,” she explained. “Inevitably they will be marked down in price or discounted in some way.

So while early signs suggest that the sector is in for a successful Christmas, opinions are mixed as to whether wearable tech has the staying power to really last the distance.

“I can’t help but have?a gut feeling that says wearable tech is a passing fad,” continued Simpson.

“We sell the same quantities of Monopoly, Action Figures, etc each year. These are the staples of the toy industry.

“Items billed as ‘the next big thing’ are often wiped out by the next one that comes along.”

That said, retailers looking towards Q4 are cheered by the prospects of a successful Christmas, spurred by an exciting line- up of tech.

“The industry has got?a phenomenal line-up of products this Christmas, with some really innovative and clever toys,” added The Entertainer’s Grant.

“I think most people will have a pretty good end to the year, thanks to the product coming out.”


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Traditional or tech toys?

This month, Robert Hutchins asks our panel of toy retail buyers how they strike the balance between stocking tech-focused and more traditional toys, and if higher-priced tech toys are taking more shelf space

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