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European toy industry set to be the real winner in the 2014 World Cup

Increased sales have been the goal of every European toy manufacturer in the run-up to the World Cup, with trading cards and sticker albums proving this tournament's star players, according to John Baulch, Publisher of Toy World.

Photo: World Cup winner 2014: Panini’s sticker album.
World Cup winner 2014: Panini's sticker album.

For those countries where football is the national sport (and that would include the majority of the larger European nations), the 12th of June was a very special day. The arrival of the World Cup, though, was not just hugely important for sports fans – it was also widely anticipated by the toy industry.

The impact of the World Cup on the European market is considerable, in both a direct and indirect way. Some organisations minimise – or even avoid – significant activity altogether, fearing it will be lost amid the public fixation on all things football.

Certain movie companies, for instance, prefer to wait until the event is over before scheduling any major releases. On the other hand, prime-time advertising slots are booked up months in advance, predominantly by male-oriented brands. Depending on the time of day of the big matches – particularly in the latter stages of the tournament – high streets and shopping centres are deserted, much to the understandable chagrin of retailers.

On the positive side, the toy trade has long realised the potential offered by the World Cup and by football in general. Sales of World Cup-themed toys have been growing steadily since the start of the year. Indeed, one toy out of every nine sold in the UK so far this year – over 9.1 million toys – can be linked to the competition.

Weekly figures for May show that World Cup mania really kicked in last month. More than a quarter (27%) of all toys sold in the week commencing 11th May were related to the tournament. The best-selling toy that week was Panini's World Cup Brazil official sticker album. Two other items in the top 15 were also directly linked to the competition and were also collectibles – Panini's World Cup Blister pack of 50 stickers and Match Attax England trading cards.

Stickers and cards epitomise World Cup mania in Europe, representing over 90% of all toy merchandise linked to the event. Although ostensibly aimed at 6-10 year olds, they actually appeal to a much wider age range, with young adults and dads far from immune to the craze.

World Cup sticker mania is a real opportunity for the toy trade – and the grocery channel in particular, through which some 75% of all stickers are sold. In normal – non-World Cup times – these shops account for only 29% of traditional toy sales.

With their attractive pocket money pricing, sticker packs are the perfect item for parents to add to their trolley as part of the weekly shop. Without World Cup-related purchases, UK grocers' 2014 toy sales to date would actually be 3% down on last year, rather than holding steady.

More generally speaking, the World Cup has provided a real sales boost across the toy industry. To date, it has been responsible for a third of its annual market growth (4.6%).

Photo: Baulch: “compelling.”
Baulch: "compelling."

Regardless of the disappointing events on the pitch, the UK topped the World Cup toy sales table during the 2010 tournament, selling more toys linked to the World Cup than in any of the other major European markets. NPD Group figures showed, for example, that World Cup toy sales in the UK reached £18.5 million in 2010, compared to £8 million in Germany.

The value added by the World Cup can be clearly seen from a comparison with sales in 2009. In the period 2009-2010, the UK sales of licensed football toys increased by £15 million – from £3.7 million in 2009 to £18.5 million in 2010.

Although perhaps not quite so dramatic, a similar pattern was followed in the other key European territories. With Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Russia and a number of others having qualified for the opening stages of the 2014 event, a recurrence seems inevitable.

So, for the next two weeks, all eyes will remain on Brazil. Although a number of key European teams – notably Italy, Spain and England – are already on the flight home, toy suppliers and retailers can still count on a surge in business thanks to football's most compelling spectacle. And, when that's finished, it won't be long before the Christmas countdown commences.

John Baulch is the Publisher of Toy World,
the leading trade title for the UK and European toy trade

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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