Safe play at home jeopardised during lockdown

Parents across Europe have been buying books, games and toys in volume over the last 10 weeks in a bid to keep children entertained while at home during the pandemic.

Just last week (10 June) the BBC reported that retro tennis game Swingball has bounced into the top 10 toy bestseller list, with some psychologists hailing the surge in play as “the one good outcome from the national crisis”.

Before the pandemic some toy retailers confessed that they were struggling to keep their head above water. Looking at the UK in isolation, the value of UK toy sales rose by 17% in the two months from the beginning of lockdown compared with the same period last year.

The pandemic hasn’t completely addressed the shortfall in overall sales in the toy industry, however retailers who have a strong ecommerce offering have benefitted somewhat. Digital optimisation is going to be key for them to assure a sustainable future for the remainder of 2020.

The supply chain will be crucial to how these companies pivot to meet consumer demand in order to share risk between manufacturers, suppliers and retailers.

Sanjay Luthra, chair of Toy Industries Europe, held a meeting with a variety of senior industry figures representing companies including Mattel, The Entertainer, King Joet, Educa Borras, Hasbro, Universal Pictures and publisher Toy World Magazine – with the resounding message being that collaboration would be key to achieving margins in a post-COVID world.

Shopping habits have changed, and the industry is responding. However, during the pandemic countries across Europe have continued to face issues with toys entering their market which pose a serious risk to consumers. It is important to note here that none of these products came from any of the companies we have namechecked in this article.

In the last 10 weeks, there have been 66 consignments of toys which have featured on the European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for dangerous non-food products (Safety Gate). All of these were deemed to pose a serious risk to consumers. These alerts were submitted by countries including Germany, Finland, Lithuania, Czechia, Cyprus, Hungary, Italy, France, Norway, United Kingdom, Iceland and Sweden. The risk types were a combination of choking, injuries and chemical contamination.

Only one of these items was reported as counterfeit, 39 unknown and 26 authentic. What do these have to with the industry?

As the customer journey changes, so does the competition. With more and more consumers being forced to buy online, they are at greater risk of purchasing products from a retailer or manufacturer who doesn’t comply with European standards. This can result in products being stopped at customs, or worse, faulty products making it into homes.

Recalls happen all the time and no supply chain is immune, however companies who do play by the rules are quick to respond to ensure the safety of their customers. It is the ones who don’t which are the cause for concern. Here at Sedgwick we monitor the recall tables to analyse recall trends across Europe and make educated predictions on what lies ahead for industry and consumers.

The current pandemic has resulted in fluctuations across a variety of industries, and the toy category is one that is expected to weather the situation better than others. However, its anticipated success story relies a lot on how big operators work with their supply chains and indeed the role they go on to play in educating consumers about buying safely online.

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