How toys can make a boom out of Brexit
On the 31st January 2020 the UK officially left the European Union, and the transition period in which the country can negotiate new trade deals has begun. In amongst all of the Brexit talk it might seem strange to ask what this means for our favourite Japanese toys, but it’s actually a fair question. With most of our favourite anime figures coming from overseas, exchange rates and importation are a big part of the hobby. While in the short-term collectors probably aren’t going to see any changes, we’re moving forward into uncharted territory – and there’s every possibility the UK will become a bigger market than ever before.
With new trade deals needed to be ironed out, the first place the UK is going to look towards is our good friends in America. This potentially means that rather than using European distributors as a middleman, the UK is free to strike up a deal with American distributors and get the goods from them instead. Now, of course getting them straight from Japan themselves would be the best-case scenario, but if that weren’t to work out America would open our doors to a lot more releases. US distributor Bluefin have been supplying the country with Bandai Tamashii Nations products for many years now and have built up an excellent rapport with their fanbase. Access to more figures is one thing, but from a distributor who actively communicates with buyers would be a dream come true. London has its own Toy Fair, but when it comes to collector-orientated figures it’s always through third parties and has very little in the way of new announcements. This could change.
The alternative to this is that with the UK now going it alone, a new distributor could potentially step up to do for us what Bluefin have done for the US. Tamashii Nations has dabbled in the UK (and admittedly things are slowly getting better), but it isn’t even a footnote compared to US distribution – where you can just pop into your local GameStop and pick up the latest releases. Imagine anime figures just having that same kind of exposure here! The same applies for Good Smile Company as well, who undoubtedly have much more of a presence in the UK but are still a manufacturer largely known to collectors.
But if you want to get more technical with the possibilities, there’s also nothing to stop these companies coming over and doing it themselves. It’s an unfortunate truth that the initial Brexit shift is going to bring some currency devaluation along with it, but it also means it’s cheaper for foreign companies to come and set up their own subsidiaries here in the UK. Costs will be cheaper for them, and their expansion will spell good news for the country. Despite everything going on at the moment the UK toy market is still doing exceptionally well, and with more licenses on the table it’ll no doubt continue to grow.
At the very least, all these possibilities are good news for UK-based retailers. Right now, the more online-savvy buyer might simply go straight to the source and buy straight from Japan. According to a survey of 400 people aged 20-60 by UK-based online store Curibo, 86% still do just that. Their reasons include it being cheaper to simply cut out the middleman and buy straight from the source, certain items being only available in Japan due to licensing restrictions (Bandai of Japan’s Star Wars offerings are a good example of this), and just a general lack of brand awareness in the UK.
But a potential rise in import and customs fees might not make that feasible anymore, and if that’s the case change is definitely in order. With better choice and more competitive prices, local stores can become that one-stop source for everything collectors need. Even now UK-based stores can offer a far more comprehensive service than their Japanese counterparts (have you ever tried arranging a refund/replacement with an overseas store? You really don’t want to), but with a bigger customer service base behind them stores will continue to have the scope to grow. So, if there’s anything to take away from this, it’s definitely to support local business.
The editorial unit