Toying With the Business • The Toy E-book

Toy factories might not look as whimsical as this digital design, however they’ll be booming this 12 months. | Supply:

by STEVE REECE, Managing Director, Toy Staff Asia, Children Model Perception

On a world scale, there is no such thing as a doubt that the toy trade fared higher than most industries amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Total, our trade benefited strongly from the lockdowns, as mother and father determined to occupy and entertain their offspring sought new toys and video games to excite bored children. 

Previous to final 12 months, we noticed sturdy momentum earlier than we hit the headwinds of upper inflation than most of us have skilled inside our working lifetimes. The accelerated fee inevitably squeezes shoppers and shrinks disposable incomes. That’s a transparent risk to our trade as a result of if shoppers have to decide on between feeding, heating, and sheltering their children or shopping for them toys, we all know what is going to occur. Nonetheless, the toy trade tends to outperform others within the face of sturdy financial challenges. Nonetheless, with inflation near a fee of 8%, then “actual” gross sales should improve by 8% in precise {dollars} for the market to stay flat.

At the beginning of 2023, it was troublesome for a non-economist to foretell what is going to occur with inflation — and it nonetheless is. Nevertheless it appears probably that the speed will stay greater than we have now been used to in earlier a long time. This probably signifies that among the identical challenges from final 12 months will stay with us by the subsequent gross sales cycle. That mentioned, the opposite looming problem is a possible recession, however the toy trade is famously “recession resistant.”  In fact, most of us haven’t skilled a recession mixed with excessive inflation, however a recession impacts individuals on a person foundation greater than inflation. Inflation applies to everybody, however not everybody loses their job in a recession. So, in abstract, whereas the macroeconomic image is hard heading deeper into 2023, we all know how resilient our trade is.


As at all times, there’s a lot occurring with loads of shifting and shaking occurring behind the doorways of the main toy and sport firms. The bigger firms have an intensive vary of unique content material due for launch this 12 months, however a robust slate of toyetic movies is on the horizon, together with some from confirmed franchises.

Extra broadly, the contacts that I converse with are discussing extra centered ranges, and established trade creatives appear to be hustling more durable than traditional to search out work. This implies that product improvement budgets might have been trimmed throughout the board. If we glance again to the worldwide monetary disaster of the late aughts/noughties, firms did in the reduction of and concentrate on fewer, much less dangerous product improvement initiatives. The massive change since then is the breadth of product launch platforms and mediums that are actually obtainable. Previously couple of years, my firm has consulted with quite a few upstart firms that developed merchandise and went direct-to-consumer (D2C) through Amazon and different platforms. These firms have offered a whole bunch of 1000’s — if not tens of millions — of models with none conventional gross sales channels and wanted my assist to entry toy distribution. These newcomers arrive in our enterprise with no trade baggage and with all of the tech savvy to use alternatives with out a big, long-standing infrastructure. That is each a risk and a possibility to individuals in our enterprise. Corporations that adapt and pivot can take benefit whereas those that keep on with the identical outdated methods of doing issues will discover it more durable and more durable in powerful instances to even tread water.  Business newcomers can steal the lunch of slow-to-adapt established gamers.

A LEGO manufacturing facility in China | Supply: The LEGO Group


One other space of our enterprise that has skilled a difficult few years is sourcing and provide chain. We live by a interval of inevitable transition when it comes to toy manufacturing, and whereas we could also be centered on the subsequent promoting cycle and the place our stock is coming from for the subsequent spherical of buy orders we have now to fill, we additionally want to pay attention to ongoing modifications in manufacturing. This contains the continued shift away from China for toy manufacturing.

In brief, earlier than China’s rise to prominence, we sourced toys from a mix of locations, together with factories in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Haiti, Japanese Europe, and so on. Then China opened up, and a whole bunch of tens of millions of actually ravenous individuals with very low wage expectations turned accessible to the worldwide toy trade. From that time within the late Seventies, China started a meteoric rise in manufacturing capability and capabilities.

Till round 10 years in the past, China remained each extremely environment friendly (comparatively talking) and comparatively cost-effective for toy manufacturing. A brand new problem emerged as tens of millions of individuals have been lifted out of abject poverty and into aspirational positions the place staff can discover higher work exterior of the factories. The ensuing labor scarcity creates a brand new backside line: The China of right this moment is healthier suited to fabricate actual cars versus toy automobiles. 

China nonetheless manufactures greater than 80% of the world’s toys, however that is an more and more difficult establishment to carry onto. We will fall into the lure of wanting too far into the long run when most firms are simply wanting on the subsequent 12 months. However if you happen to all of the sudden want to maneuver numerous toy manufacturing to a unique geographic area, it takes work, planning, and preparation. We will see this most clearly with publicly traded toy firms – these massive company entities have groups of individuals whose sole job perform is to anticipate threat and cut back the probabilities of them materially affecting monetary outcomes. These firms even have bigger quantities of producing to maneuver versus smaller firms. For instance, I may assist you transfer $1 million in toy manufacturing tomorrow, however $1 billion wants a extra strong and strategic effort. Just lately, a number of main toymakers have reported to shareholders that they’re now sourcing 50% or extra of their merchandise from exterior of China. In the event you haven’t questioned the function of China as your major sourcing geography, shouldn’t this be some meals for thought?

The most important problem in shifting manufacturing is that worthy alternate options are restricted. Vietnam is essentially full and India has huge potential capability and an inexpensive — and large — labor pool, however has not but taken benefit of the alternatives to date. Different nations all through Asia can decide up a little bit of slack, and nearshoring is feasible and due to this fact rising, however stays costly. The fact is that there is no such thing as a single excellent various to China, and in consequence, toy firms will have a tendency to wish a multi-hub sourcing resolution going ahead versus the single-hub mannequin most are used to.

Simply because it took China a long time to develop into the first manufacturing hub for the trade, its standing within the provide chain continues to decrease over time whereas different hubs rise to prominence. Whereas the state of geopolitics is above my pay grade, clearly the connection between the U.S. and China will not be as pleasant because it as soon as was. There may be a lot discuss of decoupling and “friendshoring” ought to pressure really come to a boil between these two nice buying and selling companions. Ought to that occur, then all bets are off and we are able to anticipate a frenzied race to search out manufacturing capability exterior of China.  

As ever, these are fascinating instances within the toy enterprise, so right here’s to hoping that 2023 pans out in addition to could be anticipated, and let’s be pleased about the resilience of demand for nice new toys and video games.

A model of this text was initially revealed within the 2023 version of The BIG Toy E-bookClick here to learn the complete difficulty! Need to obtain The Toy E-book in print? Click here for subscription choices!

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Translate »
Enable registration in settings - general
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Shopping cart