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The toy market in Europe: Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and Poland

The high seasonality is a common feature


The editors of four professional journals of the toy industry bring us closer to the toy market situation in their countries. Jeroen Coteur, editor-in chief of Toys and Games , analyzes the situation in Belgium, while Jan Sinke, director of Speelgoed en Hobby , goes through the Dutch market. Germany, the European toy market that recorded the highest growth in 2011, is analyzed by Scarlett Wisotzki, editor-in-chief of Das Spielzeug , and Anna Wakulak, of Świat Zabawek , presents the situation of the toy industry in Poland. All of them are members of ITMA (International Toy Magazines Association).
Belgium: Independent stores try to differentiate by offering alternative products and focusing on quality.
Jeroen Coteur, editor of Toys and Games, explains that the Belgian toy sector is a very small world in which people know each other very well, a little bit like a family. In this environment, it is common to see people switching companies, but players stay within the toy industry. Most major manufacturers are based in Belgium, and the organization of the distribution sector allows all brands, both big and small, to reach the market. However, there is a trend towards the disappearance of independent toy stores, while large groups are getting bigger. Given this, independent shops try to make a difference by offering alternative products, such as wooden toys, and focusing on quality instead of price.
Last year, the most sold products in the country were the Beyblade spinners and Cars cars. However, in general, the best performing products are construction toys, action figures, dolls, games, crafts and vehicles.
Licensed toys represent 23% of the toy market in Belgium, and most important licenses are Cars, Beyblade, Star Wars, Hello Kitty and Disney Princess.
The Netherlands: A market that focuses on small specialized stores.
The Dutch toy sector is characterized by a large presence of small sized toy stores, with between 150 and 400 square meters. Although the country hasn’t large areas for the sale of toys, the large number of small shops make citizens always able to reach a toy shop. Regarding seasonality, most sales are concentrated in November and December. In the Netherlands, a large number of toys are sold during the celebration of Saint Nicholas, in the 5 th of December, than in Christmas.
The most sold category products are building games, and board games are also very successful. Licensed toys represent about 30% of the toy market. The most important licenses and Disney PrincessCars, Dora, SpongeBob and Hello Kitty, closely followed by Minnie. More locally, but famous in the Netherlands, are characters from Studio 100 like K3, Mega Mindy and Maya the Bee.

Germany: iToys will be the major trend for this 2012.
In Germany the products of large groups such as Lego, Playmobil and Mattel, the major players in the German toy industry, coexist with alternative toys. Actually, wooden toys are very popular and more and more, parents have an ecological thinking and appreciate sustainable toys. This year, one of the trends that has given a convincing boost to the German toy market has been licensed toys: Star Wars has been the most important property in the country, followed by Cars, Filly and Monster High. Despite the economic situation that has engulfed Europe, last year Germany recorded a sales increase of 7.1%. To Scarlett Wisotzki, editor of Das Spielzeug is important to note that, although German consumers bought less, sales of products with a price above 40 euros have had a very good performance, a trend that points to a commitment of parents for quality toys that can be used repeatedly. Along with these higher price bracket items, collectibles -especially those of Beyblade- are also obtaining good results.
Regarding main trends for 2012, Wisotzki bet for iToys, which work together with tablets and smartphones.
Poland: The criteria for toy selection changes according to the age of the child
The Polish toy market is characterized by high seasonality, with most sales concentrated during the holidays. The celebration of Saint Nicholas, in the 5 th of December, and Children's Day are also regular occasions to purchase toys.
According to a survey made by the magazine Świat Zabawek and the market research company GfK Poland, Polish citizens buy toys an average of nine times a year. The most common areas for these purchases are hypermarkets, followed by traditional toy stores. The main criteria for choosing toys vary according to the age of the child: if the toy is for a child under 3 years, safety and quality are the main criteria, whereas if the product is for children between 4 and 6 years, appearance and the child's preferences are more important. For older children, product recommendations and television advertising are the most important factors.
The products aimed at babies and preschool children were the best selling toy category in 2010, followed by dolls, construction sets, vehicles, outdoor products and puzzles.
In 2010, licensed toy sales in Poland represented 15% of total toy industry sales, a percentage lower than in other markets like the Netherlands or Belgium. The most important licenses have been Star Wars, Cars, Toy Story, Winnie the Pooh and Ben 10.


Full text of this information, based in a series of interviews with ITMA members, will be available in the April issue of Express and in the June issue of Juguetes B2B.
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