The British Toy Industry

The toy industry in Britain has a proud history of development and manufacturing over the last 100 years and we are still one of the largest toy markets in Europe.

As with many manufactured goods however, the actual production process is largely now done elsewhere. The design and marketing of the products is an international business, but Britain and Ireland are major players with several international companies based or operating strongly here.

The Toy Retailers Association is well connected and our members are in every responsible channel.  We represent retailers to government and at the UK Toy Fair and industry days.

The UK retail structure is unique and reflects the importance of children in our families and society as well as the high rate of change in retailing generally. Every retail channel has toy specialists or major departments devoted to toys.

Specialist Retailers

Toy Shops in Britain remain special places and for most that is exemplified by the specialist retailer, selling only, or largely toys, games, models and puzzles.

These are in three main categories. Chain stores include Smyths, The Entertainer and GAME and these dominate our retail parks and shopping centres. Independents both in, or out of, Buying Groups are more familiar on traditional high streets and include the Toymaster Stores. Not all of these are branded but they benefit from buying together as do members of Associated Independent Stores (AIS) including several privately owned department stores such as John Sanders, Boswells and Jarrolds, some increasingly significant garden centres and the Toy Town chain of stores and concessions. Finally solo independent stores provide some amazing examples of survival and success on our high streets including, for example, Stockton Models and Happy Returns. These are all complimented by the large multichannel stores that retail toys such as Sainsbury’s/Argos.

The ability to survive in what is probably the most seasonal specialism in retailing (50% of sales occur in the 8 weeks before Christmas) is testament to the skill, customer focus, ingenuity and commercial sense of retailers in the industry.

In addition to coping with seasonality, retailers abide by the most demanding set of regulations which underpin international toy safety. Also, the toys we sell change and develop more rapidly than any other consumer product with most top selling lines changing every year to reflect the latest technology, the current hit television series and films and the demands of a new generation of children who all want to stamp their own choices on our world.