Toys: as essential as ever for children and families this Christmas

A word from Sanjay Luthra, TIE Chairman

Toys have a long and joyful association with Christmas. It is unsurprisingly the sector’s busiest sales period. In some countries, up to 60% of purchases are made in the final three months of the year. That’s why, as measures to fight Covid 19 tighten up again across Europe, it’s fair to say that the holiday season will be quite different this year.

Toys are essential in children’s lives

Across Europe, governments have chosen a range of different measures in the fight against the virus. We can all understand how important it is to take effective action, however it’s disappointing that toys continue to be considered non-essential goods.

For children, toys are most definitely essential. Toys feed children’s imagination and creativity, help them learn and practice new skills and keep them playing for hours on end. Anyone who spent time with kids during the first lockdown period will testify to this.

A recent study from the University of Cardiff, in collaboration with Mattel, shows that playing with dolls activates the part of the brain responsible for empathy and social processing information in girls and boys. The researchers found this happens even when a child is playing alone with a doll. The study highlights just one way in which toys are even more crucial than ever for children’s development in these socially distanced times.

Digital innovation will help keep the spirit of Christmas alive

Innovation will be key to keeping the spirit of Christmas alive in the face of widespread social distancing measures.

With physical toy retail spaces closed in many EU countries, and consumers understandably preferring to spend as little time as possible in-store, digital will provide a vital lifeline for the sector. It will also be a key channel for families to stay informed about the exciting range of toys on offer for kids this year.

The online space is likely to be the sector’s primary sales outlet. Toy shops have done a great job in moving their business online, with some small stores even offering call and collect services. In this respect, it’s vital that we get the message out there that parents need to plan ahead. This means buying now to make sure presents are under the tree in time for Christmas.

Digital will also be important in making sure some of our favourite Christmas traditions continue this year. There are some great ideas around – from visits to Santa moving online to virtual carol concerts. It is good to see that a number of governments have also taken steps to reassure children that Santa is an essential worker, and is still gearing up to pay them a visit.

The sector must stick together to counter reduced shop-floor footfall

Across the sector, fantastic efforts have been taken to counter the closure of stores and connect with consumers hesitant to spend time on the high-street, in ways that prioritise safety. However, the loss of physical footfall means that it is likely to be a tough year for Santa’s helpers in the toy world.

At Toys Industries of Europe, we remain convinced that to withstand this difficult period we must all pull together.  A sentiment that has been constant across the discussions I have led with my fellow industry experts on the sector’s response to Covid 19. Through collaboration and cooperation, we will make it to the other side, stronger than ever, because toys are essential.