The Czech Republic is Europe’s top toy distributor, exporting more than 50 billion crowns now annually, according to a new study by UniCredit bank. LEGO, Playmobil and similar plastic toy sets account for two-thirds of that, though the country is also churning out various miniature sets and dolls. Along with neighbouring Slovakia, the Czech Republic has been the fastest-growing toy exporter in the EU since 2004. I asked UniCredit bank senior economist Patrik Rožumberský how and when this country became the top exporter.
One of the many successful exhibitions marking the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovakia is Mini Wonders, which explores the evolution of Czech toy design over the past century. The iconic Czech toys, including the inflatable animal-shaped seats produced by the company Fatra, have already been shown at Czech centres in Tokyo, Jerusalem, London and Prague, and will now travel to Moscow, Warsaw and Bratislava.
A major exhibition of dolls’ houses from the Victoria &Albert Museum of Childhood in London is now on display in Prague. Through the stories of 12 dolls’ houses from the past 300 years, visitors to the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague can follow the history of the home, everyday lives and changing family relationships.
The Czech environmental group Arnika is ringing alarm bells. According to the results of a recent study it conducted, some children’s toys and grooming accessories, such as hair brushes, sold in the EU contain toxic substances. Arnika’s Karolína Brabcová says this is an unfortunate side product of the drive to promote plastics recycling.
According to the statistics office Eurostat, the Czech Republic is the biggest exporter of toys to non-EU states from the entire EU. In its report, Eurostat confirmed that Czech production last year accounted for 32 percent of the EU’s overall toy exports outside the EU, worth a total of 1.5 billion euros in all.
One of the biggest retail outlets to open in Prague in recent years has been Hamleys, the first Central European branch of the famous UK toy shop. Hamleys was brought to the city by entrepreneur Pavel Čmelík, who had previously introduced other British brands, such as shirt- and suit-maker T.M. Lewin, to the Czech Republic. When we spoke at his office overlooking the bustling Na Příkopě St., the conversation took in pricing, Czech tastes and other aspects of his franchise-based business. But I first asked Čmelík about his own background.
Petr Homolka, the owner of the dozens of toy chain store outlets such as Sparkys and Bambule, has bought a Plzeň production facility which produced toy racing car circuits under the brand name Faro in socialist Czechoslovakia, iDnes.cz reports. The toy racing system at the time was popular throughout the whole of the Soviet bloc.
Prague has become the home of the largest toy store in Central Europe. This week the British chain Hamleys opened a new store in a former bank building in the centre of Prague. While the main Hamleys toy shop in London covers 4,500 square metres, the Prague store, which spreads over two storeys, covers more than 6,000 square metres.