Image above: Snap Dragon toy shop, Turnham Green Terrace
Board games are all the rage this festive season, according to Fiona Wallis, owner of Chiswick’s toy shop Snap Dragon on Turnham Green Terrace. They have seen a spike in popularity since the start of the pandemic as families spend more time together.
Fiona, who has owned Chiswick’s only toy shop for 20 years told The Chiswick Calendar Christmas may be a bit different this year. Parents may not be able to find their child’s first choice of Christmas present because of supply chain problems, but there is still plenty of choice.
While stock levels are likely to fluctuate between now and 25 December, some coveted toys are already listed as out of stock at leading retailers such as The Entertainer, Argos and Amazon.
The CoComelon Deluxe JJ Interactive Doll, based on a character from a popular YouTube series, is one that is hard to get. The soft toy version of Pikachu, a character from the Pokémon franchise, is another.
National retailers are facing shortages of electronic toys due to shipping issues as well as the global shortage of microchips, which has affected everything from interactive dolls to complex gaming consoles such as the elusive Xbox X Series.
Fiona told me:
“The sort of big toy that features in the newspapers or on the TV is often the one that becomes like that [singled out] because you can’t get it… There’s not a lot of stock of a lot of things this year because of various issues. Mainly I think because of the price of [shipping] containers. Also with Covid and everything, the parts for a lot of these electrical toys couldn’t get to the right places.”
So which toys are popular this year and are still available to buy? Fiona gave me a run down.
Image above: Lego sets in Snap Dragon
Lego is a universally popular toy and has been so for decades. It adapts to trends in popular culture rapidly and is enjoyed by children of all ages all over the world. There’s a Lego set for nearly everything in 2021, from popular video game Minecraft to film franchises like Star Wars and Jurassic Park – there are even Lego advent calendars. A far cry from the original Lego sets in the 1950s, many of the more pricey Lego sets feature quite complex designs.
“We always will sell a lot of Lego,” Fiona said.
“We’ve got a big delivery coming in today or tomorrow and hopefully it’s more or less what I ordered. But until it arrives we don’t actually know what’s in it. It’s always popular, Ninjago particularly. Unfortunately they’re quite license-led Lego now, so there’s lots of Disney and stuff like that. Star Wars has been less popular I’ve noticed.”
Lego tends to sell for anything between £10 to £100+, though Snap Dragon doesn’t stock any of the most expensive sets (such as the £650 Imperial Star Destroyer).
Image above: Bakugan multipack
Bakugan are ‘creatures from an alternate dimension called Vestroia’ and are popular ‘boys toys’. Bakugan is also a game in which said creatures are used to ‘battle’ each other. The toys start off as small colourful spheres which then pop open into unique monster-type creatures. The Japanese (kanji) term “Bakugan” means “exploding sphere”.
Fiona said these toys are very popular with boys aged six to 10 years old, so popular in fact I couldn’t spot any in the shop.
Bakugan start from £10 for single packs.
Image above: different types of Barbie dolls in Snap Dragon
Always a toy sought-after throughout the year are Barbie dolls, which Fiona says are still “unbelievably popular”, due in part to the diversification of the dolls. Rather than just white slim, blonde hair and blue-eyed Barbies, now there are plus-sized versions, redheads and representation of black and ethnic minorities.
The Barbie doll brand has expanded into a media franchise, including a long-running series of animated films.
“Barbie’s quite different now, she can be anything. But any pretty doll [is popular], and babies as well.”
There are plenty of Barbie dolls in Snap Dragon and they sell for anything upwards of £10.
Image above: Board games and others in Snap Dragon
Games and board games
Fiona said games and board games have seen a spike in popularity since lockdown. A common sight on Christmas day for many households is likely to be a fiercely competitive family game of Monopoly or some other game.
Cards Against Humanity, an adult party game in which players complete fill-in-the-blank statements using words or phrases typically deemed offensive, risqué or politically incorrect, is popular, as well as internet meme caption guessing game, What Do You Meme?, Fiona added.
“We’ve found, that because of lockdown, families have got together more to play more games. Last year, including young adults like housemates who have done all the Netflix; they’re playing more of the unusual games like Catan and Cards Against Humanity.
“We’re also stocking the Richmond Monopoly… Although Chiswick isn’t really featured in it, but you know, it’s only the other side of the river.”
Games and board games in Snap Dragon can cost up to £30.
Image above: Paw Patrol toys
Paw Patrol toys are always in demand for young children. Paw Patrol is a series centred on a crew of search and rescue dogs which work together on missions to protect the fictional shoreside community of Adventure Bay. The show is aired daily on children’s TV show Cbeebies.
“Paw Patrol toys are difficult to get, we got a very limited amount in the other day and we have very little in at the moment. We’ve got one lookout tower, and a few bits.”
Fiona said normally there is a whole section of the shop solely dedicated to Paw Patrol toys with more backup stock but supply chain issues and the toys’ popularity are having an impact.
“There are no boxes out back even though it [the delivery] only came in last week. And it was a few orders because there was a backlog. From at least June we have been ordering batches staggered so we would have a drop every month from September. But we didn’t get one in September and we didn’t get one in October.”
Paw Patrol toys start at around £10-15, with the lookout tower Fiona mentioned costing around £80.
Image above: a child playing with slime
Slime toys and bath bombs
Fiona said slime-based toys and bath bombs continue to be popular with children, a phenomenon fuelled in part by slime accounts with huge social media followings. These slime social media influencers rack up millions of views almost daily with aesthetically pleasing videos that are immensely popular with children.
Similarly, bath bombs and bath bomb kits remain well liked. Many kits allow you to make multiple bath bombs in different shapes and colours.
L.O.L. Surprise dolls, which are dolls trapped in bath bombs that emerge after being placed in water, were popular in 2020 but Fiona said Snap Dragon are not stocking them this year.
Other DIY bath bomb kits and slime are still in stock and cost up to £20.
Image above: Candylab wooden toys
Candylab wooden toy cars
Candylab toys are described as ‘deliberately elegant yet super-durable’ and are crafted from solid wood, which makes them stand out from mass-produced forgettable plastic toys. The cars look super-stylish, almost ornamental, when not being played with too.
They’re ideal stocking-filler type presents and a typical find in Snap Dragon’s often unique selection.
“This sort of thing is not going to be in the newspaper but they’ve been really really popular, I think just because they’re quite retro, though they are quite expensive.”
Candylab wood toys in Snap Dragon cost roughly around £10-15, but rarer versions like the milk and bread vans can cost anything up to £50.
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