2018 continues to be a unique and challenging year for those in the business of play. While sales are up and there’s no shortage of places to buy and sell toys, the rapid collapse of Toys “R” Us in the United States and other countries continues to cause collateral damage. While major players like Mattel have taken a beating, it was always expected that some smaller toymakers would suffer catastrophic damage. Today’s casualty is Toy State, a Hong Kong-based company with a long history of making some fantastic toy vehicles, including their Road Rippers brand and the iconic Nikko RC line, but also toys with a ton of top licenses and strategic partners like CAT, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Barbie & Hot Wheels, DC Comics, MARVEL, WWE, Thomas and Friends and more. In fact, they just announced a partnership with 20th Century Fox to become the master toy licensee for the animated film Spies in Disguise, which hits theaters next April.
Right now, details are light and I know very little on what the circumstances or environment within the company has been in recent months – so it’s not clear yet if this was expected or if it was a complete shock. From the few folks I have spoken to this morning, including Toy State’s PR agency of record, I’m leaning toward shock. John Baulch of Toy World UK published a letter this morning that was sent out to UK partners via Toy State owner Simon Cheng:
“I am writing to inform you that due to unavoidable financial circumstances, Toy State has been left with no choice but to cease all trading. We profusely apologize for this terrible turn of events, and will work with customers, licensors and service providers in the coming weeks to finalize specific details.
Over the last thirty-four years Toy State has endeavoured to provide the highest quality toys to children around the world. Unfortunately, changing manufacturing and retail environments have combined devastatingly, which has ultimately had a terminal effect on our business and operations.
The owners of Toy State have left no stone unturned in the search for a workable solution. We are in no doubt that this news will cause much frustration and disappointment, we will continue to do everything possible within our available means to assist and answer all questions.
Again, we profusely apologize for the disruption to your business.
Sincerely, Simon Cheng.”
In recent years, Toy State had really been ramping-up their licensing efforts, and the acquisition of Nikko (celebrating it’s 60th anniversary this year) was seen as another feather in the Toy State cap. They’d also secured placement in the NASCAR realm, and I’d come across the real-life Toy State #7 on a few occasions (pictured top). It goes without saying that this abrupt shutdown will no doubt cause some problems for folks. That said, there’s value in some of the Toy State brands, so I’d expect to see those sold off to live on elsewhere down the line.
On a personal note, Toy State was one of the first companies in the toy industry that I was proud to have as a client back in 2013-2014, having worked with them as a Brand Ambassador and partner during that time. Fingers-crossed that all involved can rebound from this loss quickly!