Every January, toy vendors, buyers and enthusiasts descend upon London Olympia for Toy Fair, to sell, buy and pour over the various products available over the next 12 months. ToysWorld were there, casting our beady eyes over the offerings, and we were rather excited at what we saw!
All the big brands were there minus one of, arguably, the largest – Hasbro. It was rather surprising to find out that one of the show’s biggest sponsors had withdrawn from the 2016 Toy Fair due to “the complexity of the global toy show calendar in 2016”, but surely London holds enough of a commanding audience to have warranted their presence? Somehow it feels like an opportunity missed, or perhaps the Star Wars brand will continue to do so well for them that they feel they can sit this one out? Either way, it would have been great to see what the toy giant had in store for the year.
Needless to say, LEGO have a VERY exciting line-up for the year; focusing on expanding their cherished lines, whilst introducing a few new ones, too. LEGO City, Star Wars, Minecraft, LEGO Technic and Super Heroes all get some awesome new products, whilst the newcomers of Nexo Knights and Angry Birds look like they’re going to prove very popular indeed. It never fails to surprise us just how well-oiled the LEGO machine is. Everything on the stand was visually stunning, and the on-site team were, as ever, friendly, helpful and insanely knowledgable about the products on offer.
There are two particular product groups in the LEGO City line that we predict will be huge for 2016; we literally cannot say anything about either, but take our word for it when we say one of them is hot!
As for the previously mentioned Nexo Knights; LEGO are once more pushing the boundaries and taking kids to new, exciting plains of play. This latest product line appears to mix the LEGO Castle line with a futuristic, fantasy edge. It’s incredibly eye-catching with bright colours and neons, and figures and sets will unlock content in the related Nexo Knights ‘Morlock’ App. If youre a fan of the previous LEGO Castle range, Ninjago or Chima, you will LOVE Nexo Knights!
July looks to be a particularly exciting month with several of the larger retailers unveiling their key products for the year in the run-up to the Christmas season. Timed carefully to coincide with the release of the new Argos catalogue, there will be some huge developments in tech related toys, whilst also heralding the return of some classics products like Stretch Armstrong, Teksta and…wait for it…Pom Poms!
Star Wars was THE #1 brand at the show; it seemed that everyone had a piece of the franchise on offer, and no doubt the recent movie (The Force Awakens) has rekindled the fire in older fans whilst simultaneously lighting it amongst the new generation. Everything from Action Figures, to inflatable RC toys and disappearing mug designs were available, and after a while it was refreshing to turn the corner and see a Hornby train set or a Tellytubbies jigsaw puzzle, so far removed from that galaxy far, far away.
Whilst Star Wars was literally everywhere – cherished brands like Doctor Who had virtually disappeared. Whilst it is to be expected there will be a lighter year for the brand due to 2016 only having a Christmas Special, we were not prepared for just how little was available. Having spoken directly to a number of the manufacturers, they confirmed that product is indeed planned for 2016, but nothing they could (or were allowed to) display for Toy Fair. Even LEGO, who produced the hugely popular TARDIS set just before Christmas, stated “we have no current plans for more Doctor Who sets”. We still remain optimistic though, as fan reaction has been huge, and in 2017 we will no doubt be no longer able to move for Doctor Who product.
Character Options, who continue to go from strength to strength, were the big surprise as far as Doctor Who goes. In previous years, the brand has been one of the jewels in the crown for Character, and commanded some impressive displays in years gone by. Sadly 2016 had zero products on display, with, perhaps the hope for the new-look Sonic Screwdriver at some point later in the year. Outside of Doctor Who, we were blown away by the other products on offer. Teletubbies are truly back with a bang and the new line of toys are both loyal to the originals, whilst moving forward for the new generations. Electronic pets are hugely popular amongst kids at the moment, and Character are most definitely leading the way in the toy market. We can’t say anything about what’s coming up, but, July will hold another ‘must-have’ for Christmas. Keep your eyes peeled for expansions to both the Peppa Pig and Ben And Holly’s Little Kingdom lines, too!
Shopkins by Moose Toys / Flair was another brand that had literally exploded for 2016. It is now one of the top selling collectible toys for girls, with over 100 million Shopkins sold worldwide, and over 35 licensees, it shows no signs of slowing in interest. With a 4th series of toys now on the shelves, the brand have expanded into Dolls and soft toys, and with all the new licensees, further product development will no doubt usher in more offerings and avenues.
Digital toys are very much a big thing this year, and whilst the addition of a battery into the back of your favourite brand can certainly lift it to a new level, nothing prepared us for what Scalextric had in store with their Arc Air! At first glance it may look like a simply track add-on for your Scalextric set, but Arc Air will revolutionise the future of the brand. Providing a complete upgrade to the power base, Arc Air allows you create weather conditions and race incidents from your smartphone / tablet, whilst also introducing new, vibrating WIRELESS controllers!
Clearly it’s going to be an exciting year for the toy industry, and whilst the first half will give us some great products, the second half is going to be massive! It’s going to be an expensive year for parents and collectors and it may be worth removing some of the lower branches from your Christmas tree, come December!
ToysWorld Top 5 Exhibitors At Toy Fair 2016
2) Character Options
5) H. Grossman Limited
ToysWorld Top 5 Brands At Toy Fair 2016
1) Star Wars
ToysWorld Top 5 Toys At Toy Fair 2016
1) LEGO Nexo Knights: The Fortrex [#70317]
2) Scalextric Arc Air
3) LEGO City: Fire Station [#60110]
4) Teletubbies 8 inch Talking Plush Toys
5) Disney Tsum Tsum Toy Shop