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UK Toy Market Experiences A Challenging 2018 But Remains Positive For 2019

Press release -

UK Toy Market Experiences A Challenging 2018 But Remains Positive For 2019

A quiet year for licensing, political uncertainty and the demise of Toys ‘R’ Us influence a seven per cent drop, but collectables continue to surge, and the industry looks ahead to a very promising 2019.

22 January 2019, London: The British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) and the NPD Group announced today at Toy Fair in London that UK toy sales declined by seven per cent in 2018 to £3.3bn. The decrease has been attributed to three major factors: the closure of Toys ‘R’ Us; a poor year for licensed products and a generally difficult year for some on the high street- and all surrounded by the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

Despite the downturn, sectors such as collectables and dolls performed well marked by 32% and 2% increases respectively. Collectables, including blind bags or ‘surprise’ products, accounted for one in every four toys sold in the UK. Online sales increased year on year by 8% with online accounting for 34% of all sales.

“Any sector would be disappointed to announce a dip in the market, but there are mitigating reasons behind the decrease, some of which are one off events, so the UK toy industry has a number of reasons to be very positive for 2019,” commented Natasha Crookes, Director of Public Affairs and Communications at the BTHA. “Losing a major retailer like Toys R Us, played a pivotal role in the downturn during the early part of 2018, due to discounting of stock. Add to that a year with no major film licenses, a dip in consumer spending and uncertainty for industry around Brexit, all combining to create a difficult year.”

“However, while all industries go into 2019 with some trepidation around the uncertainty of Brexit, the year ahead looks positive for the toy industry and we expect a return to growth.” The downturn has been replicated globally with the French, Spanish, US and Australian markets also seeing a year on year decline. The UK remains the largest market in Europe and the fourth largest globally.

“2018 was difficult for the toy industries across the world, with several countries seeing a decline,” commented Frederique Tutt, global toy analyst at the NPD Group. “Despite the tough conditions, toy specialist retailers did well in the U.K., which was a positive boost to a struggling high street. This perhaps reflects a return to the theatre created by toy shops that bring the wonder of toys alive.” 

“Looking forward, 2019 has the potential to produce significant growth for the UK market thanks to a stellar line up of movie releases and the comeback of old favourite brands. We would expect this to drive incremental spend in the category.”

Alongside the market announcement, the BTHA also announced its continued commitment to promoting the value of play. In a press conference, held on the opening morning of Toy Fair, play psychologist Amanda Gummer reiterated the importance of a balanced play diet. 

“With so much choice available to children when it comes to entertainment, it is more important than ever for parents to encourage their kids to find time for traditional play,” commented Gummer. “The benefits of traditional play to a child’s development are well documented, and it is beneficial to create a balanced play diet in a child’s life, incorporating a wide range of play activities. It is vital that children have plenty of active, social, free play and they don’t neglect this in favour of solitary, sedentary, passive screen time.”

Toy Fair, which takes place at Olympia, London 22-24 January, is the UK’s largest dedicated toy, game and hobby showcase where more than 250 exhibiting companies 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 22 January and remains open until Thursday 24. 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 22 – Thursday 24 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 2019 takes place from Tuesday 22 – Thursday 24 January. Press day is Tuesday 22 January. To register for press pass, visit

Please note the opening times are 09:00-18:00 Tuesday 22 and Wednesday 23, and 09:00-17:30 Thursday 24 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 150 members ranging from international toy giants to small family-run businesses that together account for more than 80% 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, ecommerce, entertainment, fashion accessories, food consumption, foodservice, footwear, home, mobile, office supplies, retail, sports, technology, toys, video games, and watches / jewelry. For more information, visit and

Press contacts

Dean Barrett

Dean Barrett

Managing Director +44 (0)20 3927 6430
Ravi Vijh

Ravi Vijh

Account Director +44 (0)20 3927 6430

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