Traditional toys still top bestsellers lists

MARTINA BORG has the low-down on Christmas 2015’s top toys

Whether you’re a child or an adult, it’s hard to think of the festive season without toys and toy stores – the adults grappling with what to buy their children, the children anticipating the gifts.

And come Christmas morning, millions of children around the world will be unwrapping pretty boxes to find their most desired toys. 

One thing people might not be mindful of is that a veritable toy war unfolds to establish which toy will have pride of place around the Christmas tree. Malta Today asked some of the top toy retailers on the island what the biggest sellers for the 2015 Christmas season will be. 

“Different age groups naturally have different tastes but some of our best sellers this year are the Paw Patrol range and Minions and Disney Princesses have kept quite a stable position from last year,” Handkrafts owner and manager Michael Aquilina said. 

The managing director of the Model Shop, Karl Camilleri also listed the Paw Patrol line as one of the best sellers among pre-school children. “The biggest things for girls this year however, is the Shopkins toys,” Camilleri said. 

“Other very popular products include Kinetic Sand and Minecraft toys for both boys and girls,” he added.

Nichol Chetcuti, one of the directors of Mecca toy store in St Paul’s Bay, lists toy prams and pushchairs and the Nenuco lines of interactive dolls among its most popular products for girls.

“Boys on the other hand seem to be opting for things like slides, bicycles and scooters,” Chetcuti added. 

Many of the toys mentioned by local retailers also feature prominently on international bestseller lists, which naturally begs the question, how toy store owners can safely anticipate which toys are going to be the most popular.

“Well, stores normally have to get all the groundwork done by visiting trade fairs all over the world, to see where the general trends are pointing,” Camilleri said, adding however that nothing is ever set in stone.

“In the end it all comes down to a gut feeling,” he said. 

Another indicator of a toy’s success is also tied to movie franchises, according to retailers.

“Some of the highlights last year for instance, were toy dragons from Dreamworks ‘How to Train your Dragon’ franchise, and of course toys inspired by Disney’s Frozen for girls,” Camilleri said. 

However, as retailers confirmed, there are some toys that retain a very special place in our hearts, regardless of the trends that come up year after year.

“Toys like Barbie dolls, remote controlled cars and Hot Wheels as well as Lego and Playmobil, have kept top spots in the bestseller lists over the years,” Aquilina said. 

He further added that board games like Scrabble, Cluedo and Monopoly have also retained their popularity with older generations. 

Similarly, Camilleri said that toys like Lego, Playmobil and Zapf dolls like Baby Born and Baby Annabell can be classified as ‘evergreens’ as they continue to top lists no matter how old they get. 

“The fact that these toys have been so popular over the years, shows that play patterns haven’t changed much,” Camilleri said.

“Thankfully free play will always continue to exist, and it is essential to develop imagination and creativity… it allows them to learn through play.”

Asked about the impact of technology on toy stores, both Chetcuti and Aquilina said that the popularity of things like tablets and mobile phones as means for entertainment has ultimately meant that people stop relying on traditional toys at an early age. 

“We’ve noticed that children stop buying toys, sometimes when they’re as young as six or seven years,” Chetcuti said.

Both added that their stores had seen significant drops in sales since the advent of online shopping. Camilleri however said that online shopping hadn’t affected their store as much as they had initially thought.

“I think people want to re-live the shopping for toys experience together with their children,” he said.

“This has motivated us to double the size and fully refurbish our outlet in Iklin to offer an even better shopping experience,” he said adding that the store had even opened a further outlet in Paola. “In many cases when one adds postage charge prices, toys bought online are actually more expensive,” he said.

“Very often people are also after a good after sales service and this can get a little complicated in online shopping,” he added.