Brexit and the collapse of Toys-R-Us and high street toy shops were blamed for a seven per cent slump in toy sales last year, industry experts said today.
Political uncertainty, the fall in the value of the pound and the crisis on the high street have all taken a toll on Europe’s biggest toy market which was worth £3.3 billion in 2018.
But as toy shops close, online shopping continue to rise and now account for over a third of all sales – 34 per cent.
Opening Toy Fair, the UK’s largest toy fair which showcases the next must-have playthings, chairman of the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) Foye Pascoe said sales shrunk by £246 million last year.
The convention in Olympia London celebrates it’s 66th year of showcasing the fun side of life and Ms Pascoe said: “It was a challenging year in 2018.
“There are political uncertainties, currency uncertainties and retail uncertainties.
“But play is always in fashion and the toy industry is incredibly resilient.”
Federique Tutt of the market researchers NPD Group said: “Last year was challenging not just in the UK.
“Sales were down seven per cent but the industry is still the largest in Europe.
“The closure of toy stores was upsetting and the industry needs to transition.
“One out of four toys sold last year were collectable items which is a rise of 32 per cent.”
But as parents continue to battle against the digitalising of play time, play psychologist, Amanda Gummer said: “It’s important children have a balance play diet that includes active play, digital play, cognitive play.
“Parents shouldn’t demonise technology, they’re often talking about screen time but if that means using creativity, imagination and playing with others, it’s not bad.”
She added parents should give “clear boundaries” to children and explore alternative options to suit the child’s character and interests.
Toy makers claimed 2019 is set to be an “exciting year” as Toy Story 4, the first playmobile movie and Star Wars 4 will soon be hitting the big screens with its commercial spin offs.
Among news toys on offer are a £39.99 Peppa Pig Stage Playset, £44.99 Lego Movie Maker set, a £59.99 Playmobil Tiny Paws Pet Hotel, a £29.99 Everybody’s Best Friend Waffle the Wonder Dog! and a £19.99 NERF Rukkus ICS-8 Nerf N-Strike Elite.
Other highlights include mindfulness children’s games, £3.50 eco glitter sand and mini greenhouses.
By Ben Gelblum and Isabel Dobinson