Toy Fair: Are these the toys you'll be buying this Christmas?

By Zoe Kleinman
Technology reporter, BBC News

  • Published
Media caption,

WATCH: The BBC goes to London Toy Fair to see what will be hitting shelves this year

Quadcopters, drones and sonic boomerangs hovered, looped and whizzed around the heads of trade buyers at the British Toy Fair on the hunt for the must-have toys of 2015.

At ground level, tiny motorcycles, bubble-blowing trains and Minecraft figurines weaved their way among the 260 exhibitors displaying endless toys.

And then there were the Minions. A seemingly endless array of Minion-related merchandise - the yellow squeaky little chaps from the Despicable Me franchise could practically host their own fair.

Playing cards, headphones, skateboards, pens, baseball caps - you name it, someone has probably stuck a Minion on it.

Image caption,
There was no getting away from the Minions.

It felt a bit like being a child in a sweet shop - except there were no children. The fair, now in its 62nd year, is strictly business, a forum for buyers and sellers to network and do exclusive deals.

Last year more than 70,000 new toys came to the UK market alone, according to research by the NPD Group.

Football fun

"2014 was the strongest year for the British toy industry since 2010," said NPD analyst Frederique Tutt,

Despite all the innovation, the biggest selling toy of last year, according to the analysts, could equally top a nostalgia list of old favourites - Panini album stickers created for the Brazil World Cup.

"In 2015 we won't be able to rely on looms [bands] nor the World Cup, but thanks to product innovation and a strong line-up of movies including the next instalment of Jurassic World and the latest Star Wars... we expect the market to increase by 3%," said Mr Tutt.

Tech toys

Tech toys also look set to provide a boost.

"We've got quite a lot of technology that's built into toys," said Natasha Crookes, from the British Toy and Hobby Association, which runs the annual trade fair.

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The Sonic Car replica was built by blind veterans from Royal British Legion Industries out of 388,000 pieces of K'Nex building blocks

"Ever has it been thus, but as we become more technical as parents and adults you find that is also incorporated into toys."

Ms Crookes cited a toy robot that can reply to questions by looking up answers on the internet, and children's drawings brought to life in glorious 4D via an app, as two personal tech highlights of the show.

"It's about taking adult tablet technology and putting it into traditional play," said Ms Crookes.

Building blocks

A life-sized replica of the Bloodhound sonic car - the world's fastest vehicle- made entirely out of K'Nex building blocks - was on display at the entrance to the fair.

K'Nex also used the show to unveiled a new range of shooters - launched after the firm discovered that 400,000 web searches a month were seeking instructions for building K'Nex guns.

Some products were trading less successfully. Toy supplier Draco had bought along a range of Call of Duty branded Megabloks building sets which it admitted were not selling as well as anticipated - and they were keen to find out why.

Image caption,
Minecraft gets cuddly.

Cuddly Minecraft toys, on the other hand, were proving to be a surprise hit for supplier Character Options, said spokeswoman Emma Walker.

More than a million units of Minecraft merchandise were shifted by this firm alone in 2014.

"It seems to be either six year olds who love Minecraft or older people who collect the figurines for their mantlepiece," said Ms Walker.

Robot pets

Robotic pets with seemingly varied degrees of responsiveness were also proudly displayed.

Plastic cats with sensors in their whiskers, circus-trick performing electronic mice with an alarming tendency to throw themselves off their display table, and a small dinosaur which wiggled its tale and interacted intermittently with a sensor-enabled football and scooted about on a pair of wheels based on the technology which powers the Segway stroller.

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The Miposaur's wheeled feet are based on the technology which powers Segway strollers

"You can control it with your hand - it's gesture based, and has sensors all over its head," said Michael Yanofsky of WowWee.

Wowwee is a veteran in the robot toy industry - it began marketing the original Robosapien toy, designed by a NASA scientist, eleven years ago.

The strongest markets are in North America, the UK and Japan, Mr Yanofsky added.

"Kids are growing older, younger," he said.

"Robots, we've proved time and time again, can sell over and over. "

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