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UK Toy Market Decreases in 2017 Amid Concerns About Counterfeit Toys

Press Release   •   Jan 23, 2018 09:00 GMT

New research highlights the pressure parents face to balance screen time and unstructured play

23 January 2018, London: UK toy sales decreased by 2.8% in 2017 to £3.4bn. There are a number of factors that have contributed to this dip in the market, including under-performing licenses, the impact of Brexit (particularly last year’s impact on Sterling), plus the ever-growing concern of counterfeit toys, according to the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) and the NPD Group. The announcement, made at the 65th Toy Fair in London, follows three consecutive years of growth and a particularly strong year in 2016 and, despite the small decline, still positions the UK as the largest market in Europe.

“We are disappointed but not surprised by the contraction of the market from 2016’s exceptional performance.The increasing breadth and depth of counterfeit toys is a real concern, with over £400m worth of sales being lost to the industry, as well as the cost to companies from the theft of innovative design. 2017 was also a mixed year, with disappointments in some sectors but real success stories in others. Collectables, for example, seem to be an unstoppable force within the industry” commented Natasha Crookes, Director of Public Affairs and Communications for the BTHA.

Collectables grew by 17 per cent in 2017 with brands such as Fingerlings dominating the must-have lists. The category was responsible for 9 per cent of the overall value of the market and 19 per cent of all units sold. Other strong sectors in 2017 were Doll playsets, Pre-School Figures and Action Figures.

“After three good years of growth for the UK toy industry, 2017 saw a decline as did other territories such as France and Australia" commented Frederique Tutt, global toy analyst for the NPD Group. “While licensed products are an integral part of the industry, across Europe it has been a sector that has under-performed - with the exception of PJ Masks, Cars 3 and Lego Batman.”

“Collectables, however, have seen significant year on year growth. This continued growth highlights the year-round appeal of toys and less reliance for the industry on seasonal sales.”

During the Toy Fair the BTHA also released details of a new survey considering current patterns of children’s play and the use of screen time. Whilst 75 per cent of the 1500 parents surveyed believed that excessive screen time would make their children less sociable in later life, and 65 per cent thought it would make their child less active, many parents admitted to struggling to find the right balance between screen time and unstructured play. 37 per cent of parents said their child was spending less time playing with traditional toys than last year, but 63 per cent felt strongly that traditional unstructured play with toys is important to a child’s development.

“Finding a balance between screen time and play is vital to the cognitive development of a child to develop creative and social skills vital for later life,” commented Dr Aric Sigman, child health education lecturer. “Parenting is no easy task and giving a screen to a bored child is generally the easiest way to placate them, and it creates a lot less mess than some other forms of play. However, many parents recognise the risks of too much screen time, with nearly 84 per cent of the parents surveyed said they limit their child’s screen time. But it’s not enough to just limit the time. I would recommend that parents actively replace that screen time with traditional play, ideally with occasional participation,in order to develop the artists, teachers, doctors and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.”

The London Toy Fair, which takes place at Olympia, London 23-25 January, is the UK’s largest dedicated toy, game and hobby showcase where more than 250 exhibitors and thousands of new toys are on display to toy trade buyers.


Follow the latest Toy Fair news on Twitter at @toyfairuk. Toy Fair is the UK’s largest trade exhibition dedicated to the toy, game and hobby market. The event opened at the Olympia in London on 23 January and remains open until Thursday 25. PLEASE NOTE: TOY FAIR IS A TRADE ONLY EXHIBITION AND IS NOT OPEN TO MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC.

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact


Toy Fair Press Office (Tuesday 23 – Thursday 25 January): 020 7598 6514

Bastion Office: 020 3841 7660 

About Toy Fair

Toy Fair is the UK’s largest dedicated toy, game and hobby trade exhibition taking place at Olympia London. The event takes place over three days at the end of January each year and plays host to hundreds of exhibitors, from startups to some of the biggest toy companies, launching thousands of new toy lines.

Toy Fair 2018 takes place from Tuesday 23 – Thursday 25 January. Press day is Tuesday 23 January. To register for a press pass, visit

Please note the opening times are 09:00-18:00 Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24, and 09:00-17:30 Thursday 25 January.

About the BTHA 

The British Toy & Hobby Association was established in 1944 to represent the interests of British toy manufacturers and to raise standards of practice in the industry. Today it has around 125 members ranging from international toy giants to small family-run businesses that together account for more than 85% of the UK toy market. Membership of the British Toy & Hobby Association shows the member’s commitment to adhere to the BTHA Code of Practice under the umbrella of the Lion Mark which includes rules covering ethical and safe manufacture of toys, toy safety, a ban on counterfeit goods, an assurance to market responsibly, a commitment to improving sustainability and a desire to promote the value of all play through support of the Make Time 2 Play campaign. Our members are manufacturers committed to making good quality toys in a responsible way. The BTHA also administers the Toy Trust - the industry’s charity.

About The NPD Group, Inc.

The NPD Group provides market information and business solutions that drive better decision-making and better results. The world’s leading brands rely on us to help them get the right products in the right places for the right people. Practice areas include apparel, appliances, automotive, beauty, consumer electronics, diamonds, e-commerce, entertainment, fashion accessories, food consumption, foodservice, footwear, home, mobile, office supplies, retail, sports, technology, toys, video games, and watches / jewelry. For more information, visit npd.comand

The Top 10 Toys in 2017 were:


Source: The NPD Group Retail Tracking Service