Bah Humbug! Top 10 Toys For Christmas

Want to know what the top 10 toys for Xmas will be?

Every year we have the same rash of Top 10 Toys For Xmas appearing all over the press and it makes me very grumpy.

They say all publicity is good publicity so I should be pleased that Toys are in the news but to be honest I'm not!
The Top 10 Toys for Xmas (can't they even change that occasionally?) is just a cynical exercise by the multiple retailers and big toy brands to push the toys they have most money invested in, and has nothing to do with play value or creativity.

As an industry we are so much more than this nonsense. We have the potential to be one of the most creative and fun places to work, and every year we have some amazing new toys launched so yet we can't seem to get away from this tired old ritual?

Every year we have the same rash of similar Top 10 Toys for Xmas appearing all over the press and some may question how these toys make the Top 10.  Is it experts in children’s behavior and creativity who predict what is going to be popular?  Or just a cynical exercise by the large retailers and big toy brands to push the toys they have most money invested in?  My money is on the second option.

As a small independent retailer, it is depressing to see this annual ritual of expensive toys being paraded in the press as the ‘must have’ toys.  As parents, many of us have seen our children convinced by television advertising and peer pressure that their lives will be complete if they only have this latest expensive toy.  In my experience, these ‘must have’ and generally expensive toys have usually lost their appeal before the Christmas decorations have been packed back in the loft and the toys have usually hit the back of the cupboard before the batteries have even run out

The whole thing normally starts on 25th July as the PR do love the symmetry of this date, but Hamleys have been known to steal a march on everyone by releasing their list in June.  Then Argos, The Sun and every other multiple retailer, newspaper and toy manufacturer join the party over the next 4 weeks.

So why am I not a great fan of these lists?

Well firstly who cares? Why should it be news what Argos or Tesco's thinks about toys. They are not exactly world experts in the toys are they? Last time I looked their speciality was selling lots of products as quickly and as cheaply as they could which I don't think makes them experts in toys.

Secondly this is just the final part of supermarket and multiple retailers' toy buying plan for Xmas. I have never worked for Argos ( but I have worked in buying for many high street multiples) so this is all speculation but I guess this is how it all happened

In Jan the Argos toy buyers go to the New York toy fair and meet with the major toy manufacturers such as Mattel. They talk through the toys they want to list with Mattel pushing some toys and Argos favouring others. After a brief discussion about toys and play value the conversation will rapidly move on to money. How much advertising will Mattel be doing at Xmas, how much money will Mattel give as marketing support to Argos and what margin will they offer.

Once Argos have the deal they think will make them the most money they will place orders worth £millions.

That is all good business sense and theres no problem with that.

The bit which gets my goat is when the PR department then starts shouting about the toys which Argos have the most money invested in, and journalists from serious papers report the story as if Argos are making serious predictions about which will be the most popular toys at Xmas.

Argos top ten toys represent the toys which large multinational companies have invested most money in and therefore need their profile raising asap if they are to make the maximum profit.

I am too grumpy to have read the predictions but I bet they are all from big brands.

As toy shops and as parents we need to remember that children learn from play and not from toys and to treat these lists with the cynicism they deserve.  We should all be wary of toys that are marketed as educational - many electronic toys have very questionable educational benefits.  Children learn most from hands-on creative and imaginative play and interaction with adults and other children.  We should be asking whether a toy encourages a child to be creative or to develop their imagination.  Does it require the child to do things?  And can it be used in more than one way?  If the child just presses a button and the toy then sings, dances or talks, then the child is not actively participating in play. 

Every year I toy (sorry about the pun, couldn't help myself) with the idea of releasing our own top ten based on the most exciting new toys from small independent toy manufacturers, rather than the most lucrative as there are some fabulous new toys on the market which should be given the attention they deserve.

However this is too King Canute like even for me so instead I have a small request from a small toy wholesaler.
Next time a large organisation releases a prediction of top 10 anything for Xmas can it be correctly labelled under "Want to know which product this large retailer has invested most money in?"
Still as interesting but a much more accurate title!

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