ToyShop UK's Michael Hawkins on the importance of independent awards

ToyShop UK editor, Michael Hawkins discusses the number of awards in the industry, and looks at the benefit of those voted for by the independent retailer.
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We here at ToyShop UK have never really been huge fans of the kind of awards voted for by ‘panels of experts’ or ‘child testers’.

They've just always seemed so subjective and open to abuse. Instead, we wanted to capitalise on having a network of over 900 independent toy retailers that list themselves on our website for free, so we figured getting them to vote for their favourites was a great way to create an awards process that’s as transparent and unique as possible.

That's why, seven years ago now - and when there weren't so many awards in existence - we decided to launch the ToyShop UK Independent Toy Awards.

The process is really simple. Suppliers submit products to any of our 25 categories, and indies pick their favourites from the entries. The process tends to result in a pretty eclectic list of winners and we rather like that. There’s none of the usual “this is the year where traditional meets tech” type soundbites.

By being the most affordable of every major toy award, marketing clout or budget just doesn’t come into it. Yes, there’s always a few high-profile winners, but there’s also always plenty of winners from fledgling and largely unknown suppliers. These awards are a great leveller.

The number of awards has increased dramatically in the last few years. Everyone seems to be getting in on the act, even PR agencies. We do fear that as more awards are launched, the credibility of all awards could start to be eroded, but at the same time we take solace in the fact that ours have a unique angle that simply can’t be replicated.

No-one apart from trade publications has instant access to the views of a huge number of the nation’s independent retailers. We think that’s pretty special, as winning an Independent Toy Award shows that no only do you have a great product, but that your company has been given an endorsement by the independent toy trade.

This year, suppliers have until August 18th to enter their hero products into any of the 25 categories, which range from wooden to SEN to electronic and character toys. It’s £100 per entry per category and winners are awarded a gold, silver and bronze medal logo for use on packaging, adverts and websites. There’s also a ‘commended’ award for products that miss out on a medal but receive at least 10% of the votes in their respective categories.

Winners are able to purchase a trophy as a permanent reminder of their success. You’ve probably seen a few of them whilst wandering around trade shows and visiting showrooms.

Entry forms can be downloaded from http://www.toyshopuk.co.uk/ita/

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