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Middle East children’s toy sector on upward track as UAE leads consumer spending on toys and games

Jan 25, 2018

Playworld Village presents international toy brands to booming regional market at Paperworld Middle East 2018

Dubai, UAE: The Middle East toys and games market, valued at US$3.5 billion in 2017, will be on an upward track in 2018, with the UAE at the forefront of consumer spending on items such as action figures, arts and crafts, plush toys, puzzles, sport equipment, and pre-school products.

According to analysts Euromonitor International (EMI), a growing population coupled with a strong performing tourism sector will put the retail value of toys and games in the Middle East at US$4 billion this year, with the UAE accounting for a quarter of the market (US$1 billion). 

The Gulf country is also among the world’s biggest spenders per capita; EMI estimates the 2017 UAE per household spend on toys and games was US$590, with this growing to US$625 in 2018, placing it well ahead of more developed countries such as Japan (US$344 expected per household spend in 2018), USA (US$441), Germany (US$174) Italy (US$138) Spain (US$188), and the UK (US$399).

With a retail value of US$983 million in 2017, the UAE children’s toy sector is ripe for the picking, and international manufacturers are eagerly expanding their presence in the country and further afield into surrounding regional countries.

Melissa & Doug (M&D) is one of more than 300 exhibitors from 42 countries at the upcoming Paperworld Middle East 2018 exhibition, which takes place from 27 February – 1 March at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.  The US manufacturer is among the top 15 global toy companies, and is returning for the second year running at the dedicated Playworld Village, lining up alongside dozens of other international toy-specific exhibitors.

With a vast children’s product range found throughout the world, M&D launches on average more than 100 products every year, all of which will be on show at the Playworld Village in 2018.  David Postlethwaite, Vice President at M&D in the Middle East & Asia, said there’re opportunities everywhere for his business in the Middle East, with not a lot of variation between kids’ preferences.

“Wherever I’ve been in the world with the M&D brand, kids are kids,” said Postlethwaite, adding the company is still looking to expand its customer base in the Middle East.  “They simply want to have fun with a toy.  As parents, the decisions we make in the buying process is guided by many factors; advertisement, price, size, age, gender, and skill.

“The significance parents place on each of these factors changes from market to market. Thankfully, M&D ticks many boxes and we’ve had incredible success across the Middle East because of this.”

Postlethwaite said customers can find the M&D brand throughout the region in traditional toy retailers, department stores, gift shops, clothing stores, and card shops.  He added: “We believe wholeheartedly in the child being at the centre of the toy, and we’re always looking to promote creativity by having play at the heart of everything we do. From role play and pretend play to arts and crafts and puzzles, we’re always looking to feed imaginations with the toys we create.”

Other headline names at the Playworld Village include Ty, the world’s largest plush manufacturer; and German companies Karaloon, a market leader for high quality latex balloons, and Spiegelburg, a Children’s Book Publisher. Party Camel from the UAE, which specialises in all things party related, and Sarmadee from Palestine, which designs and manufactures educational toys, will also be part of the dedicated section.

Katrin Gille, Managing Partner for Karaloon, said the company is now just entering the regional market: “Karaloon has had some requests for our products from Middle East countries and so we’ve since started the GCC certification of our balloons,” she said.

“At Paperworld Middle East, we’ll introduce the high quality and safe brand for balloons for the Gulf countries, and we’ll show some new 2018 animal designs such as the Flamingo, Lama, Owl and Sloth, which have become very popular in recent months.”

The retail value for children’s toys and games in the Middle East includes traditional toys and games (plush toys, dolls, action figures and related accessories, remote control toys, puzzles, games, and children’s party items), and video game hardware and software.

According to EMI, traditional toys and games comprised 60 percent of the Middle East market in 2017 (US$2.1 billion), with video game hardware and software accounting for US$1.4 billon.

Ahmed Pauwels, CEO of Messe Frankfurt Middle East, the organiser of Paperworld Middle East, said: “The tendency of UAE and Middle East consumers to spend freely on acquiring toys and games is what is driving international interest in the region, and that’s also clearly reflected in Paperworld Middle East’s dedicated Playworld Village this year.

“While the market continues to be driven by leading international brands, there’s a growing niche for local and regional players with specialised products catering to regional preferences.”

New features at Paperworld Middle East 2018 include The Green Room, a dedicated section for environmentally friendly products with ‘eco-credentials; and Corporate Gifts, for promotional items.  A series of one-day seminars highlighting the latest industry trends and developments will also be staged for the first time.  Returning features include Wrap Star, the region's only gift wrapping competition.

Paperworld Middle East is co-located with Leatherworld Middle East, the region’s premier showcase of leather goods, accessories and supplies.  More information is available at: www.paperworldme.com