Speaking to TNP on behalf of the BTHA, Natasha Crookes, Director of Public Affairs and Communications, reflects on the difficulties faced by businesses of all sizes and credits the creativity and resilience of the toy industry, as well as its commitment to supporting the frontline and families who are battling to keep little ones educated and entertained
Firstly, how are you and the BTHA team?
We are all well here, thank you. We are all working remotely from home following government advice and we have not yet gone stir crazy – there have been no divorces and we’re trying to take our own advice to Make Time 2 Play.
Are you able to offer any advice or support for BTHA members at this time?
We follow the government updates and pick out the information that is of relevance to the BTHA, as well as offering advice from our auditors, lawyers and insurance brokers. This is updated as Business Advice on the BTHA website a number of times during the week and a summary is sent out in our weekly e-newsletter to members. The e-newsletter is for members only, but given this unprecedented time, we have made the business advice on the BTHA website publicly available to support the wider industry during this period. In addition, we have been asking members for any additional help or support they might need from us or the government and we have been passing any feedback we receive back to government contacts.
Protecting and supporting our members is the role of the BTHA. We are here to assist members as best we can in these tricky times.
Have you been keeping in touch with any BTHA members as the situation progressed? And if so, how have they been coping?
Covid-19 is having a huge impact on all sizes of members across the industry, large or small. The government package of support is very welcome, but many members will be concerned about adding levels of borrowing to their business to get through and we would like to see some relief for companies of all sizes, not just the smallest. Although that is welcome for small members, some scale or percentage relief would be welcome for all. The larger the business the more staff and infrastructure they have, and every size of business needs some support to get through this difficult time. Add to that the concern for valued staff, supply chains and the logistics of remote teams suddenly working from home and things are tough for many.
If you’ve spoken with BTHA members over the last couple of weeks, or even if you’ve been following their online activity, have you come across any particularly good ideas for suppliers to continue trading as best they can?
The positive of all this is that is has shown how creative, resilient and positive the toy community is – as if we didn’t know already! There has been an increased demand for toys that parents and children can play at home, with games, puzzles, construction sets and crafts all selling well. Obviously the issue is restocking those items as they sell. We haven’t seen a big upswing of members selling directly to the public as yet, as has been seen in some other sectors.
What we have seen is members committing resources to fight coronavirus, with MGA and Mattel committing resources to supply hospital equipment. The BTHA, led by the Chair Andrew Laughton has called on members to ask if they can help. Most members of the BTHA have been using that industry creativity to create new content and play ideas for families in isolation to keep them entertained through this difficult time.
How important is social media and having an online presence at this time?
There’s a real sense of community right now on social media, with lots of positivity and everyone trying to help each other out. We are currently doing a big push of our not-for-profit campaign, Make Time 2 Play, in an attempt to get our free play resources in front of as many parents and carers as possible. With most children now stuck at home, you can often run out of play ideas for them to do, and we are trying to help alleviate that pressure. Our free Make Time 2 Play app has more than 450 free play ideas, which have been edited to suit the current environment, and our website has an abundance of resources on the benefits of play. For more information, you can visit www.maketime2play.co.uk or follow us on social media. (Links can be found on our website). We are also connecting with our members and the content they are creating to share their play ideas more widely.
Social media and online presence really are a must. It is a time of difficulty for every community but there is real positivity around the brands that are online and offering support. There is some opportunity in the midst of all the difficulties.
Do you see any opportunities in all of this?
While it’s a very unusual and unsettling situation for many to be in, it’s a good opportunity for people to slow down in what’s becoming an increasingly busy way of life. For many, there appears to be an appreciation for spending time with family and friends and many are spending that time on play. A silver lining may be a newfound appreciation for play and spending a balance of play time both on and off screen. NPD has seen growth in games, puzzles, construction sets and crafts to keep households across the country entertained.
How could Toys ‘n’ Playthings assist the toy industry?
A general overview of how the industry is coping both nationally and worldwide would be extremely useful for all. We hope that we can all pull together in the toy community to help people get through this uncertain and scary time.
The BTHA would like to hear from members with any issues they need help with or feedback and support they need or would like to suggest to government. Please contact email@example.com.