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Toy Tracker 2018 (Part 1): The best destination for Christmas shopping this year

By Irene Bodega

Christmas may still be a long way off for many, but it is not for 4.7 million people in the UK who have already started ticking off their gift lists (Retail Times).

On 26 September Hamleys revealed its predictions for the top toys this Christmas; over two weeks earlier than it did in 2017. Argos had already revealed its own Christmas top toys list back in June, a strong sign that it’s never too early to start securing the best presents for all the family.

Hamleys’ list for 2018 was longer than in previous years, comprising of 12 toys instead of 10. Of the 12 toys in the list, however, three were exclusive to Hamleys – another novelty of this year’s list. Not everything has changed; Lego and Nerf have continued to be on the list for the third consecutive year. This year Lego lead with a Harry Potter themed creation – The Hogwarts Express.


Are retailers taking advantage of new sales opportunities?

Toys R Us and Tesco Direct have ceased trading in the last 12 months, generating greater sales opportunities for the remaining retailers operating in the toy market. Edge has investigated the performance in terms of pricing, assortment, availability and positioning of Argos, Amazon, John Lewis, Smyths Toys, Tesco, The Entertainer and Very with respect to Hamleys Top Toys.


Who is the cheapest retailer?

We have reviewed the prices of Hamleys Top Toys, excluding exclusives, on 4 October across the seven retailers.

Contrary to last year, no retailer stood out for being the sole cheapest seller on a significant number of toys. The Toy Shop and Smyths Toys were the only retailers to be the sole cheapest sellers on at least one of the toys. The Toy Shop was the cheapest for the ‘Crate Creatures Surprise Pudge’, on promotion at £31.99, and Smyths Toys on the ‘Nerf Laser Ops Pro Alphapoint 2-Pack’, sold at £34.99. Very matched The Toy Shop’s price of the Crate Creatures Surprise (£31.99), but only on the Blizz variation.

Although there was no retailer standing out for being the single cheapest seller, Smyths Toys was, overall, the retailer with the cheapest price on the majority of the toys it stocked (six out of eight). Last year, Smyths Toys was also the retailer with the highest number of products with the lowest price, together with Amazon.

Argos was the sole most expensive retailer on four of the toys, with a maximum price difference of 22 percent in the case of the Nerf listing. Argos and Amazon were the only retailers to stock all of the Hamleys Top Toys, excluding exclusive listings.

Prices were relatively aligned across retailers. Amazon and The Toy Shop had the sole highest price on one toy each. The Toy Shop priced the ‘Green Elasti Plasti Slime’ at £13.00, 1p more than its rivals, while Amazon sold the Pink variant of Elasti Plasti at £14.80. The price, however, reduced the day after the analysis to £12.99.



Has Tesco replaced Tesco Direct?

After Tesco Direct ceased trading on 9 July 2018, a number of non-food listings have become available under the groceries section of Tesco.com. On 4 October, Tesco only stocked two of the Hamleys Top Toys, the ‘L.O.L Surprise! Under Wraps’ and the ‘Hairdorables Doll’. This is a significant reduction compared to last year when Tesco Direct stocked 80 percent of the Hamleys Top Toys. Tesco, however, has announced it will ramp up the GM offer currently available, which may result in an expansion of the toy range.


Easy to find, easier to buy…

In addition to a smaller range compared to its competitors, the product name of the ‘L.O.L Surprise! Under Wraps’ on Tesco showed an incomplete brand name (‘Lol Under Wraps’). When searching for the correct brand name ‘L.O.L Surprise!’, ‘L.O.L’. or the simplified ‘lol surprise’, the toy would not return. It, however, returned when looking for ‘lol’ alone.

The manufacturer and the retailer should work together to ensure product descriptions are accurate, making it easier for shoppers to find, and ultimately purchase, the products they are looking for.



…as long as it’s available

Making sure a product is easy to find is of key importance. Once a product has been found, however, it needs to be in stock for shoppers to complete the purchase. We have investigated the availability of Hamleys Top Toys between 26 September, the day the list was announced, and 4 October*.

All toys available from Argos, Tesco, and The Toy Shop were in stock for the entire period analysed. Three of the five toys sold in John Lewis, instead, were out of stock for between one to three days in the period, with the L.O.L. Surprise! being the most affected listing. This was also the only toy to be out of stock on Very (two days).

The ‘LEGO Hogwarts Express’ was out of stock on Smyths for four consecutive days after the announcement of the Hamleys’ list. This was the longest period a toy had been out of stock for in our analysis. The ‘Gravitrax’ was also out of stock on Smyths, as well as on John Lewis, but for one day only.


* The analysis excludes Amazon


Surprise, Surprise

Surprise seems to be a recurring theme in Hamleys Top Toys for 2018. The Crate Creatures Surprise! and L.O.L. Surprise! – both manufactured by MGA Entertainment – suggest kids will enjoy an element of surprise when receiving the toys. In the case of ‘Crate Creatures Surprise!’, the character trapped in the crate is indicated on the box, whereas it is a total surprise for the ‘L.O.L. Surprise Under Wraps’.

On Argos, contrarily to all other retailers analysed, an additional element of surprise is added to the purchase of the ‘Crate Creatures Surprise!’. When purchasing online, there appears to be no option to select and purchase the preferred creature; this also applied to the ‘Elasti Plasti Slime’. However, shoppers are able to select the variation they prefer when purchasing in store.



Over the course of the next two months, Edge will keep track of toy prices and their availability especially over Black Friday and the Christmas period.

Following the release, taking place on 14 November, of the Toy Retailers Association (TRA) DreamToys for Christmas 2018, Edge will run a similar analysis looking at price competitiveness, assortment and availability. Stay tuned for our next insight!

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