Toy firms aim to get children hooked on brand loyalty

Robo Fish Robo Fish come in a range of different colours that can be collected separately

One of the newcomers on the toy scene last year was the Robo Fish - a colourful, battery-operated plastic animal that automatically swims around the moment you drop it into a bowl of water. "Even the cat can't tell the difference", the sales patter suggests.

The initial set of a fish, a bowl, and a spare set of batteries will cost parents about £20, but that's not the end of it.

The back of the box displays all eight fish in the range and encourages enthusiasts to "collect them all".

If youngsters are hooked, and parents are reeled in by their children, each extra fish will cost them about £10.

Of course, the Robo Fish is just one toy among thousands that encourage young consumers to be loyal to a brand.

'Healthy' for business

At the British Toy and Hobby Association's Toy Fair, open in London this week, toy companies are displaying their hopes for hits during 2014, including key Christmas sales.

Moshi Monsters Collections can be "healthy for business", says one analyst

Stroll around the stalls and visitors will see scores of collectables at pocket-money prices, but also toy collections which - with a variation on a theme - target repeat sales.

Start Quote

Companies have realised how powerful children and young people are as consumers”

End Quote Jeremy Todd Chief executive, Family Lives

That can be anything from fluffy Moshi Monsters to Bollywood stars dolls.

The price range can be vast - the Barbie dolls range, for example, can cost anything from £7 to £200.

These collections can be healthy for business, according to Frederique Tutt, global toy industry analyst with the NPD Group.

"It is about penetration into the brand," she says. "If kids are collecting something, then they will go back."

'Pester power'

That can mean pressure on parents to buy more, which can hit the finances fairly hard.

They will tell you that they already feel the pinch when faced with sticker books that feature all the other albums in the set on the back cover, or buying new games for electronic consoles that rarely come cheap.

Jeremy Todd, chief executive of parenting charity Family Lives, says mother and fathers need to learn how to resist these demands.

Toy industry facts

  • The UK toy industry was worth £2.9bn in 2013
  • A total of 364 million toys were sold
  • This was a 5% drop on 2012
  • The cost of the average toy in 2013 was £7.92

Source: NPD Group

"Pester power is just a fancy description of when children and young people are desperate for the new fad," he says.

"Companies have realised how powerful children and young people are as consumers. Many marketing and advertising campaigns aggressively target children and young people."

He says spending time with - rather than money on - children can be more productive.

"Although it doesn't feel like it at times, as the parent or carer, you are the most valuable resource for your child and any creative time you spend together is worth more than anything you buy," he says.

The charity's tips to counter pester power include being firm when saying no, rather than haggling with a child, but understanding the pressure children feel in keeping up with the latest fashions.

The BBC's Steph McGovern tries out the Crazy Cart

Sales of "pocket-money toys", which cost less than £5, dropped by 12% in 2013, according to the NPD Group.

It suggests that less impulse buying is one reason for this fall, showing that many parents were able to resist this pester power.

Fewer but bigger

That said, industry figures show that friends and family still said yes to youngsters on a regular basis.

There were 38 toys sold per child, on average, in the UK last year - and 364 million toys sold in total over the course of the year.

The toy market in 2013 was worth about £2.9bn, with about a third of sales coming at Christmas.

The NPD figures show that while the number of toys sold was down 5%, the average price of a toy rose from £7.52 in 2012 to £7.92 in 2013.

In other words, parents were spending their money on fewer, larger items.

All of this makes the pursuit of brand loyalty even more important for toy companies.

This tactic goes back decades, according to Robert Opie, founder of the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising. He says that character merchandise can be traced back to the cartoons of the 1920s, such as Felix the Cat.

Pester power was in full flow when children wanted to build up their collection of cigarette cards, he adds. And this accelerated as parents' disposable income grew over the years.

Subbuteo Lovers of Subbuteo can buy players painted in the kit of their favourite team

More recently, successful brands such as Lego, motor-racing game Scalextric, and finger-football favourite Subbuteo were all based on a concept that more parts or teams could be bought over time to improve playability.

Many exhibitors at the toy fair stress that younger age groups are easier to attract to toys and games, before technology and fashion compete for their attention.

So it may become more important to establish that brand loyalty even earlier, perhaps linking to a film or television series.

And yet the toy industry knows that a good idea - even if it is a one-off purchase - can be the driving force behind a successful Christmas.

One toy tipped to do well this year is a doll, expected to sell for a relatively expensive £60, that can answer children's questions by looking them up on the internet.

"The toy sector is fast-moving and innovative, launching thousands of new products to market every year," says Natasha Crookes, director of the British Toy and Hobby Association.

"The trade remains confident that the toy market has a good growth potential over the coming years and is really keen to start afresh in 2014."

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

Business Live

  1.  
    07:44: Greggs results

    Greggs has been freshening its stores over the past year. It refitted 213 shops. opened 50 new ones and closed 71. It has a total of 1,650 shops trading at 3 January.

     
  2.  
    Via Twitter Kamal Ahmed BBC Business editor

    Forget the IFS, the Pasty Index is in - Greggs sales up 4.5%, always a good barometer of consumer confidence. @bbckamal

     
  3.  
    Via Twitter Robert Peston Economics editor

    tweets: "Living standards back to where they were in 2007-8, but mainly for those over 60. & are rising strongly now, says IFS "

     
  4.  
    07:17: ITV results
    ITV

    ITV plans to return £250m to shareholders with a special dividend of 6.25p a share after a bumper 2014, with adjusted pre-tax profits up 23% to £712m and 39% higher at £605m on the pure pre-tax measure. Revenue rose 7% to a shade under £3bn. "ITV is now a high-growth business," says chief executive Adam Crozier.

     
  5.  
    07:06: Eurostar sale BBC Radio 4
    Eurostar

    Gemma Godfrey, head of investment strategy at Brooks Macdonald Asset Management, tells Today that the £757m the Government got for the Eurostar stake was higher than expected, but questions what the proceeds be used to fund. She believes the cash should be used to fund the next generation of infrastructure that will in turn create profits for the public purse.

     
  6.  
    07:00: Greggs results
    Greggs shop

    Greggs results hit the desk. Total sales rose 5.5% to £804m, while like-for-like sales up 4.5% - much better than the 0.8% fall in 2013.

     
  7.  
    06:49: ITV results BBC Radio 4
    Downton cast

    ITV reports annual results very soon. Toby Syfret of Enders Analysis has told Today that while channel brands have become less important than they were in the past, the decline is gradual. Programming - such as Downton Abbey - remains the crucial factor. "Good content is going to be the core of whoever is successful in the future," he says.

     
  8.  
    Via Twitter Sally Bundock Presenter, World Business Report

    tweets: "Morning. #Ukraine hikes interest rates to 30%. Plus GDP slows in #Australia and an i/v with the boss of #Blackberry. See you soon." That's on World Business Report.

     
  9.  
    06:26: Household incomes

    Big discussion about the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report on household incomes. Whether the average household income is back to levels they were at before the financial downturn struck. One measure, for the over 60s, it is. But for most of the rest of us, it hasn't got there yet. Our story here.

     
  10.  
    06:15: India rates

    India has cut its main lending rate by a quarter of a point to 7.5% in a bid to boost economic growth. It is the second time this year that the Reserve Bank of India has cut rates as inflation is running at 5.1% - well under the 8% target - on the back of cheaper oil.

     
  11.  
    06:12: Sandwiches Radio 5 live
    UK map of bread names

    Greggs figures are out in an hour or so. The market is looking for 4% growth, earnings are expected to be up 9%. The UK is estimated to spend £9bn a year on sandwiches. Wake Up to Money has been discussing what these are variously called around the country. There's a map illustrating this.

     
  12.  
    06:07: Eurostar sale

    The stake is being bought by a Canadian pension fund and a UK asset manager will buy shares for £585m and Eurostar will also hand over £170m to redeem shares which guarantee a dividend. The stake was officially valued last year at £325m.

     
  13.  
    06:02: Eurostar sale Radio 5 live

    The sale by the Government of its shares in Eurostar for £750m is under discussion on Wake Up to Money. Gemma Godfrey head of investment strategy at wealth manager Brooks MacDonald tells the programme: "After the debacle we saw when they were selling Royal Mail they had to get it right and the value has come in above expectations."

     
  14.  
    06:00: Rebecca Marston Business reporter, BBC News

    Good morning. Strap in and sit back. Today's Business Live page will have all the news, all day. Greggs and ITV results are expected to be early highlights.

     

Features

From BBC Capital

Programmes

  • Former al-Qaeda double agent Aimen DeanHARDtalk Watch

    Islamic State is about revenge says former al-Qaeda member turned spy Aimen Dean

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.