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Friday Thoughts | Fun, Games, and Future Aims at London Toy Fair

Fri 28 Jan 2022 | 12:05 pm GMT
Helena Mansell-Stopher and Rob Hutchins | Products of Change Writer

Golden Bear and Rainbow showcased their sustainable journey at London Toy Fair this week

Friday. The superhero of the workweek. The welcome wagon to the weekend, and boy, do we need the weekend after the events of the past four days. For anyone new to the scene, that was Toy Fair – and wow, what an experience. Welcome back Toy Fair. Ears are still ringing from the buzz, and throats remain hoarse from talking – things certainly seem back on track, and that goes for the toy industry too, one that felt alive with excitement and opportunity for what lies ahead, while cherishing the delight of just being able to see people at a trade show again. There’s an energy in doing business face to face that is at a totally different level. It’s one we all miss – it’s a whole lot more fun than back-to-back zoom meetings. So here’s looking forward to Spring Fair in just a few weeks’ time, the Bologna Book Fair, the Sustainability in Licensing Conference in June, and of course, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single one person not looking forward to Licensing Expo in May – it’s going to be a good year. It wasn’t just fantastic to reconnect with all of those industry friends, but also to see the strides in innovation being taken within the industry – perhaps made all the more prominent by the two year hiatus and the shift in mind-set brought on by the pandemic – that it seems that sustainability has become a part of the industry conversation. For all of us here at Products of Change – a team and platform created to drive real sustainable change – it blew us away with pride to witness. Change is actually beginning to happen; the moves are being made. Just take a look at what Golden Bear is doing. This is a team that has woven sustainability and purpose into the DNA of the business, showcasing leadership in recycled materials to a determination to reduce single use plastics within the business. The team has removed plastic from the window boxes, closed boxes where possible, and has recently joined the Recycle to Read initiative to fund the building of a closed loop infrastructure to bring pre-loved and old toys back in to use in the UK. This is a company that has built the foundations to transform its business both purposefully and financially. Fundamentally, sustainability requires you to change key elements within your business that by default saves you money, and also increases the sell-through of products – it’s a win-win for business and the planet. It’s a tip of the hat to Barry Hughes and his magnificent team around him at Golden Bear for every stride the company has taken so far. We can’t wait to see how this all progresses for them. Knocked off our feet, blown away, and left grinning from ear to ear – the good news from the toy industry didn’t end there. Wow! Stuff is certainly going to be changing the game with its innovative and revolutionary approach to its Gruffalo range and a new way of packaging goods. Although we have been working closely with them to achieve the end result, to see the range physically was just magical. To see a company 100 per cent dedicated to finding solutions to reduce their impact and lead the toy space into a new future of industry is just amazing. I can’t wait for Kenny, Graham, Richard and our own Products of Change advisor Mike Swain (our packaging expert) showcase this all over the next few weeks. But that’s not all. Rainbow Designs has been on a journey over the last two years to reduce their impact, and all of their new commitments were brilliantly showcased at the Fair, while Gibsons has done brilliant things on its mission towards removing all single use plastic from its products, reduce their box sizes (so they are not simply shipping air), building more local production (to reduce their impact), and using FSC across all of their ranges. We are very proud that to have each of them onboard as Products of Change members, and even more so to see the leaps forwards they are taking in delivering the future of the toy industry today.
Smart Toys and Games showcased their involvement with Recycle to Read, while Build Your Own had plenty to shout about
Smart Toys and Games, of course, proudly showcased its founding partnership with the Recycle to Read programme, placing itself firmly among the leaders in finding closed loop solutions for keeping old and used toys in the value stream, rather than the waste stream – and working to inspire the industry as whole to do the same. Outside of our immediate membership, and there are some shining lights of innovation across toy design that simply need a mention here. The Build Your Own range from Paper Engine is a feat of engineering. Whether it was the fully-cardboard moving gorilla or the scaled up working pinball machine that caught your attention at the show, this is the prime example of the result of smart design and development to produce high quality, award-winning, and most importantly – endlessly fun and engaging product, without a single whiff of PET plastic. There’s been a stark increase in the number of toys designed to better educate children on topics such as recycling and sustainability, too. Headstart International’s Recyclings – distributed in the UK by Vivid Goliath – has become the first mainstream collectable brand to introduce recycled plastic into its manufacture, and aims to have content and digital games that continue that conversation around the benefits of recycling among children as the brand expands. Meanwhile, Brainstorm Ltd proudly showcased its EUGY collection of buildable collectable toys, the proceeds of which go towards conservation efforts and animal charities in the brand’s homeland of New Zealand. We have to give Micro Scooters a shout out too for the messaging they arrived at London Toy Fair with this week, too. Not only has the team introduced its first carbon neutral scooter line, but the team went to lengths to highlight its ongoing environmental efforts, including its One Per Cent for the Planet initiative, and its Built to Last commitment. The team’s commitment to replace and reuse parts was front and centre, a key piece of the wider sustainability puzzle in keeping products within the value stream for longer, and reducing the need for over production and continued depletion of our finite resources. In fact, there is so much to feel buoyed about within the toy space right now, and so it is that we end this week happy. Not only because we’ve reached the weekend just at the exhaustion delirium begins to kick in, but because of the innovation that has been on display this past week, too. These are the businesses that are building the foundations of the future of the toy industry, and how exciting is that! So, have a restful weekend, and if you’re heading to Spring Fair – we’ll see you there. Helena and Rob – team Products of Change.
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