At the time of writing this piece, there were 146 shopping days remaining until Christmas. By the time you read this, you can subtract at least another 28 from that number, maybe more if your post is a bit slow. sorry ... please don’t shoot the messenger.
Retailers began releasing their Christmas must-have lists as early as June, but as we move into the all important final quarter of the year the pressure to have the right products at the right prices on shelves is really mounting.
We wanted an expert to talk us through the key trends for this season, and who better than The Entertainer’s buying director – and the former guest editor of ToyNews – Stuart Grant.
The Entertainer released its Top 20 Christmas picks at the mi-Christmas Open House in early July, and it was a strong mix of tech, traditional, role-play and construction.
“We think that our Top ?20 toys will absolutely dominate our overall Top 40 best sellers this Christmas,” states Grant. “What quickly became apparent was ?that the products that? we believed would make a difference to our Christmas trading were all high priced - £50, £60, £70. Now, consumer perspective in the past may have seen this as negative, but we believe it is a true reflection of what is going to happen.
“NPD noted from 2013 that it was actually the mid-priced volumes that were lower – consumers were still buying the big present, but not necessarily supplementing this with lots of smaller ones,” he explains.
The one exception to this rule, however, is Loom Bands. It may have taken everyone else by surprise with its surge in popularity, but The Entertainer backed them as early as last December and they will be a sizeable percentage of its turnover this year.
“Loom Bands have significantly expanded the age of a child coming into our stores – up to?15 years old, those who wouldn’t necessarily want to be seen in a toy store any more,” says Grant.?“Of course, everyone is asking how long the craze is going to last, but if you look at what happened in the US market, it picked up in January 2013 for a good 12-month period.?
"We believe we will have a comfortably strong year up to Christmas with Looms – they will evolve as a craze, but we are innovating in the market to keep up.”
The Entertainer has ?a variety of bands and accessories, with over 50 skus currently in stock and Grant readily admits that he “immersed” himself in looms when he first heard of the craze. the first bit of innovation is the use of licences – Hello Kitty and WWE are both on the way, while Frozen is also imminent.
“We had to think of what we could do that meant we weren’t just selling the same as other stores,” Grant says. this thinking has led to the introduction of scented bands, which are sold in solid colour packs thanks to customer feedback, as well as the arrival of double packs, accessories and limited edition charms.
“We’re introducing ?two charms a week and there will be 40 to collect for £1 each, or free when customers spend £5. We want to be the place that kids continually come to for their bands.”
In addition, The Entertainer is also hoping to raise half a million pounds for charity with a range of special bands for organisations including Together For short Lives, Reach, Kidscape, Stop the Traffik, Children with Cancer UK, Chasing Zero, the Durrell Wildlife Trust, New Hope Trust and The Crisis Centre Ministries.
The Entertainer has also invested in new storage options, plus a new three- in-one loom, a pocket ?loom and finger loom – all due in time for Christmas. A super Loom, allowing children to make even bigger structures, plus a new H-shape grid which will enable looming from both sides, are also set to be big sellers in the run up to the festive season.
“We’re giving children? and parents a reason to continually buy new looms,” continues Grant. “I feel like we’re going to get a really, really good Christmas out of looms.”
CONSTRUCTION & TECH?VS TRADITIONAL?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Grant says that LEGO has been one of the shining stars for The Entertainer, with the LEGO Movie helping to get 2014 off to a flying start and the launch of Disney Princess sets growing the category even further.
“We expect to have a phenomenal 12 months with LEGO; they are absolutely owning their space and are positioned to appeal to both children and adults.”
The technology category, too, has been enjoying a robust period.
“The launch of all the new products this year stems from the success others have already seen?– with Furby, for example,” says Grant. “Kids love tech, and there is a good split across the price ranges. there are cats, dogs, dinosaurs, wearable tech and items which appeal to the older age groups, such as MiP; the tech list has really good appeal.”
Tech innovation has also been infiltrating the blaster category. Nerf fans are now able to mount their mobile device onto their blaster to turn it into a battle camera, bringing further innovation into the sector.
Staying with Hasbro, and the Transformers brand has been re-energised with the introduction of dinosaurs for the latest incarnation, in particular Grimlock.
“The toys are really innovative; Hasbro has ripped up the rulebook with traditional Transformers.”
However, it’s not just those products with tech elements getting all of? the shelf space in-store. The games sector was really strong last year, with Monopoly empire standing out in particular.
“My Monopoly, which allows users to customise the game, is really fantastic and will be a number one game for us,” Grant states. “Bop It Beats is also one to watch, while simon swipe has that heritage that will appeal to parents and kids.”
Frozen, of course, is “obscenely” big and will definitely have a place on four to seven year olds Christmas lists due to the wide range of product categories covered," says Grant. “Will I have enough? Probably not. Will it be big? Yes. Stock dependent, it will probably be our number one brand this year.”
Another highlight is Minecraft, which Grant says has been one of the biggest boys brands this year: “It has wide appeal with kids and adults, which is why we’ve seen such success from launch.” He is also keeping a close eye on teenage Mutant ninja turtles – currently driven by the action figures, if the upcoming movie performs well on launch in October this will be perfect timing for a sales spike after Bonfire night.
And in pre-school, Doc Mcstuffins is “on fire” and the doctor Bag set will definitely be in the top sellers of the year.