Toy sales in the UAE increased 17 per cent last year, defying a trend that saw the market worldwide shrink 0.8 per cent, according to NPD group, a research firm based in the US. The toy market in the Emirates grew to US$379 million (Dh1.39 billion) from $323.8m as people spent more on their children and bought board games and other toys to entertain at home, said Philippe Guinaudeau, the director of the NPD Group, which conducts research into the global toys and games market out of Sydney, Australia. Globally, sales fell last year to $78.1bn from $78.7bn in 2007. The proportion of sales of board games and outdoor games over other toys in the UAE increased to 17 per cent last year from 15 per cent, Mr Guinaudeau said. People in the UAE also spent $30 more per child. "It happened in the second part of the year. When the financial crisis hit, people tend not to go out, but instead what they do is spend more quality time with the family," he said. "When it comes to providing pleasure and fun and basic elements for their kids, they will cut down on their own expenses so they can pay for that. That has been proven in all the countries around the world so far." Russia's toy market increased the most last year, rising 33 per cent over 2007. In terms of growth, the UAE toy market ranked 15th in the world last year, and 31st in terms of overall market size, said Mr Guinaudeau. In Europe, the toy market shrank from $24.8bn in 2007 to $22.5bn last year, a 10 per cent drop. Toy sales in North America fell by a more modest 4 per cent, from $24.3bn to $23.3bn, while sales in Asia increased 11 per cent, from $19.1bn to $21.1bn. Marine Bobrie, the product development manager of toy distributor Simba Toys Middle East based in Dubai, said its sales across the region grew 120 per cent last year, fuelled by the company's acquisition of the French toy company Scoby and growing demand. Simba, which has a portfolio of 4,000 products supplied to petrol stations, hypermarkets and other retail outlets, sold 1.8 million toys across the region last year, she said. Ms Bobrie also attributed the growth to the number of consumers in the Middle East with high spending power and an increased emphasis on family. "They are willing to invest in their kids," she said, although there had been a shift towards budget-friendly toys under Dh50. Preasad Dubbala, the manager of the toy store Imaginarium in Wafi mall in Dubai, said sales grew 8 per cent last year to an average of Dh85,000 each month, but the momentum had slowed. "It was good, even until March," he said. "But then after that it was really bad." He estimated sales slowed to about Dh50,000 last month. However, Laurent-Patrick Gally, a retail analyst at Shuaa Capital, said the market still had lots of growth potential because of its young population. In addition, the recent entry of big-box specialty toy stores such as Toys R Us and Hamleys had boosted sales, he said. "In western Europe and North America, there are chain toy stores that are on main streets in big cities and these only came recently in the UAE," he said. "And for people it is a big attraction, suddenly they know they can go to one place and find things for their children." email@example.com
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