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How the pandemic has seen toy companies transition into support networks for families


Demand for toy brands to act beyond their products and offer supporting services to parents and families is tipped to continue into 2021 and beyond, as companies across the industry continue to transition into resources and networks for their audiences.

The evolution of the traditional toy company has become part and parcel of the sweeping changes that have played out across the 2020 landscape, driven by a pandemic and its subsequent restrictions that have seen parents turn to toy brands for guidance.

It’s according to the dolls market specialist, Zapf, that more parents than ever before are looking towards the toy brands that their children engage with for ‘support and help at home,’ whether that is in the resources that they offer to assist with activities like home-schooling, or in expert-led advice to help with a child’s development away from the classrooms.

The current phenomenon, suggests Zapf, is just one of the knock-on effects of parents spending more time playing and engaging in activities with their children over the course of the year, owing largely to the school closures that occurred earlier in 2020.

The transition of toy companies from product manufacturers and distributors to household platforms of support and resources is one that has certainly been expedited by the cultural impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The board game giant Asmodee was among the first wave of toy companies to make its resources available to the families and gamers adhering to the #StayHome messaging of the lockdown over the spring, and among the many to have risen to the occasion once again at the commence of lockdown part two at the start of November.

Part of the brand’s efforts was with the launch of its Connect & Play platform, an initiative developed to help people learn to virtually play board games with friends and families during quarantine. An expansion on its Print & Play campaign, Connect & Play provided players with step-by-step instructions on how they can play games like Catan, Pandemic, Ticket to Ride, and Spot It! Remotely over video platforms like Zoom.

More so than ever, the traditional toy market has come to the fore as a route not only for escapism or even the immersion into deep storytelling found in the board gaming sector, but also as a means of enabling child development amid a year of social distancing.

And with increased time being spent at home, and fewer hours spent engaging with brands on the shelves of the nation’s retailer’s, the compulsion of toy companies to find new means of placing themselves within the family space is a reasonable one.

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