Dangerous fake toys that can cause cancer or even KILL are flooding into the UK – costing the industry a whopping £400 million last year.
Foreign counterfeits shrank the British market three per cent last year, with a weak pound also denting sales.
The shocking figures were announced by the British Toy and Hobby Association at the start of Toy Fair, the UK’s biggest game and hobby exhibition at Olympia London.
Toys are subject to stringent regulations in order to ensure they are safe for children. But counterfeit toys and games are often made using unsafe materials – including cancer-causing plastics.
Also they are more likely to break, making them a choking risk to youngsters.
Sales dipped by 2.8 per cent to £3.4 billion in 2017, but the UK market remains Europe’s strongest.
Natasha Crookes, Director of Public Affairs and Communications for the BTHA, said: “We are disappointed but not surprised by the contraction of the market from 2016’s exceptional performance.
“The increasing breadth and depth of counterfeit toys is a real concern, with over £400 million worth of sales being lost to the industry, as well as the cost to companies from the theft of innovative design.
“2017 was also a mixed year, with disappointments in some sectors but real success stories in others.
“Collectables, for example, seem to be an unstoppable force within the industry.”
Brexit also hit the market hard, with a weak pound pushing sales down by £100 million. Collectables grew by 17 per cent last year, with brands such as Fingerlings dominating kids’ Christmas lists.
The category was responsible for nine per cent of the market and 19 per cent of items sold. On average, parents spent £339 on toys for children under nine last year, with each toy costing around £9.70.
Online sales accounted for 37 per cent of sales – up six per cent year-on-year.