Show Report: London Toy Fair 2014by Catherine O'Dolan on 27/03/2014
As toymakers and enthusiasts gathered at Kensington, Olympia, the mood was buoyant and fittingly playful with a mix of big-hitting names – the “toy giants” including Lego, Hasbro and Playmobil (who are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year) – alongside small, innovative companies.
Among the thousands of products on show, licensed characters ruled the roost. There were blasts from the past like Dennis the Menace and Postman Pat alongside relative newcomers Moshi Monsters, Peppa Pig (celebrating her 10th birthday this year), Pokemon and Q Pootle 5 (a new animation from the picture book by Nick Butterworth).
Retro toys always score high on nostalgia and heritage, and this year these included a fabulous range of tin collectibles and kitsch novelty items, like Schylling’s Wild Wild West moustaches a la Ron Burgundy, and old-school Fisher-Price revivals (and Toy Story favourites) like the Chatter Telephone. Digital natives might also wonder what to make of the
D-Jay old-style record player by Make2Play – time to dig out your favourite vinyl and spin some discs on this fun make-it-yourself project that helps explain what music was like before iTunes!
Popular brands building on their success included MicroScooters with a range of zingy new colours and accessories; KidiMoto with a collection of early rider bikes inspired by daredevil, Evel Knievel; and travel specialists Trunki, with a bright pink Hello Kitty roll-on suitcase. Another veteran favourite, the delightful Sophie la Girafe is also branching out with her own spots-and-all autobiography Sophie The Real Story and a lovely range of organic and natural baby toiletries.
If there was a dominant colour, it was yellow – to match not only the optimistic sunny mood, but also the signature yellow bricks of Lego, the brand that won three of the fair’s top awards. Lego remain untouchable as leaders in the category, with exciting news of a Minecraft collaboration that will have boys wild with excitement, as well as The Simpsons range (a natural coming together of yellowness, for sure), lots more Lego City and (so exclusive that journalists weren’t even allowed a sneak peek) the Guardians Of The Galaxy sets that tie in with the big Marvel film release this summer.
Construction in its many guises is always a strong theme in children’s play. Other noteworthy construction sets came from the innovative pick ‘n’ mix style at Plus-Plus (like Lego, also hailing from Denmark) and Triqo, winner of the Best New Toy category.
When it comes to beautifully designed stand-out wooden products, downright covetable offerings were seen at Vulli, Janod, Asobi and Holztiger, all helping to make playful exploration a very stylish affair.
Finally, just to prove that there’s always room for cool and quirky, the winner of the Editor’s Choice went to SorgenFresser Worry Eaters (main picture), a band of cute little critters designed to keep children stress-free and primed for happy days!
♦ The big movies of the year (and their merchandise tie-ins) are predicted to be the stars for 2014, with Postman Pat making his debut on the big screen, along with Peter Rabbit, Spider-Man, Transformers 4, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the already phenomenally successful The Lego Movie.
♦ The Fifa World Cup 2014 in Brazil is also expected to have a positive impact on UK sales.
♦ The spotlight was also on consumers’ toy buying trends from high ticket tag techno products that use augmented reality technology to pocket-money toys (which accounts for around 45% of the UK’s toy sales by volume). The latter is flagged to make a comeback after a tough 2013 with the hopeful sign of an improved economy equating to an increase of pennies in the average toddler’s pocket!