Originally published Mar 1, 2022 11:03 a.m. ET | Updated: March 4, 2022, 3:21 p.m. ET
The Russian invasion of Ukraine creates a new ripple effect of challenges for toymakers around the world.
Following the invasion, the Ukrainian Toy Industry Association (UTIA) issued a call to action, urging toy and game manufacturers to immediately stop trading with Russian companies.
In a post on LinkedIn, UTIA President Pavel Ovchynnikov called on global toy companies to join automakers, including Audi, BMW and Volkswagen, and technology companies, including Intel and Lenovo, in stopping the sales and shipments to Russian retailers and distributors. Other companies soon followed, with chipmaker AMD and automakers GM and Volvo halting shipments to the region.
Commenting on Ovchynnikov’s original post, members of the international toy industry, including executives from Headstart International (Australia), TCG Toys (Canada), Sophie la girafe maker Vulli SAS (France) and Canal Toys España (Spain) pledged their support. Other companies, including PlayMonster, shared updates from business partners in the region.
An additional post shared by UTIA Quality and Technical Regulation Committee Head Alla Kornieieva detailed the need for medical supplies that can be purchased and shipped by international allies, with imports handled by a warehouse in Poland. The German Toy Association (DVSI) is calling on its members to join in donating medical supplies for its “DVSI – Help for the Ukraine” initiative. Supplies will be collected in Nuremberg for delivery to partners in Ukraine.
The fluid nature of the escalating conflict is prompting other companies in the toy, licensing and entertainment sectors to pause as sanctions against Russia kick in.
“Given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis, we are suspending the theatrical release of films in Russia, including the upcoming turn red of Pixar,” said a spokesperson for The Walt Disney Co. “We will make future business decisions based on how the situation develops. In the meantime, given the scale of the emerging refugee crisis, we are working with our NGO partners to provide emergency relief and other forms of humanitarian assistance to refugees.
On March 1, the LEGO Group became the first major international toymaker to get involved in supporting children and families in Ukraine who have been affected by the conflict.
The company, along with the LEGO Foundation and Ole Kirk’s Fond, made an emergency donation of approximately $16.5 million to support general humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine as well as efforts to educate and protect children.
“We stand with the people of Ukraine and all those affected by the devastating invasion of Ukraine, and call for a swift and peaceful end to the conflict,” the LEGO Group said in a statement.
LEGO says the funds are distributed to partners such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Save the Children and the Danish Red Cross. Due to the rapidly changing situation in Ukraine, the use of funds will be determined by each organization depending on the evolution of the situation.
The Horst Brandstätter Group has also halted deliveries of products from its Playmobil and Lechuza brands to retailers in Russia, effective immediately.
“Employees and the entire management of the company want to send a signal of solidarity with the Ukrainian people,” says Steffen Höpfner, CEO of Horst Brandstätter Group. “We are amazed and appalled by the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops. Our sympathy goes out to the many people who are in danger or who are fleeing their homes. »
According to the company, Playmobil and Lechuza were expected to make around $11 million in sales in Russia this year.
In the United States, the Toy Foundation has joined Hasbro veteran Alan Hassenfeld and the Hassenfeld Family Foundation to lead toy industry efforts to help displaced families in Ukraine.
Beyond the devastating impact of the conflict itself, fuel prices are rising around the world, as Russia and Ukraine are producers of oil and natural gas. Concerns over the cost of diesel fuel used in transport vessels, trains and trucks add an additional layer to persistent challenges within the global supply chain.
How the toy industry and adjacent industries support the people of Ukraine
- Eternal vintage game CEO Jeff Cheslik has launched a fund to help families in Ukraine and the city of Mykolaiv. Cheslik, whose wife is from Ukraine, has pledged $10,000 from his own funds and that 33% of all funds raised will be used to help provide food, shelter, blankets and to support reconstruction efforts in Mykolaiv. Donations can be made here.
- KIDDISVIT Ltd Pavel Ovchynnikov, CEO and President of UTIA, is co-founder of Pomagaem, a fund capable of accepting payments in any currency directly to Dnipro, Ukraine. The organization has already set up shelter for 100 people and will continue to provide assistance. As the organization works to translate its website into English, details on how to donate via SWIFT can be found in this post shared on LinkedIn by UTIA’s Alla Kornieieva.
- The LEGO Group, The LEGO Foundation and Ole Kirk’s Love made an emergency donation of approximately $16.5 million to support general humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine as well as efforts to educate and protect children. The funds are split between UNICEF, Save the Children and the Danish Red Cross.
- Maersk temporarily suspended cargo bookings to and from Russia, except for food, medical and humanitarian supplies.
- MGA Entertainment (MGAE) Isaac Larian, Founder and CEO, said: “MGA and Zapf have made a significant humanitarian contribution to Ukraine and we will do more. I encourage others in the toy industry to do the same. We stand with the children of the world.
- Shipping company MSC Méditerranée halted cargo bookings to and from Russia from March 1. The Swiss company says the shutdown includes access areas including the Black Sea, the Baltic and the Russian Far East.
- Modiphius Entertainment founders Chris and Rita Birch mounted a support effort in which all proceeds from sales of PDF versions of the company’s tabletop RPGs, war games, and adventure products, sold through the company’s online store or via DriveThruRPG, will be donated to Ukraine-relief charities. Additionally, the company has launched an information resource center for those looking to donate funds or supplies to relief efforts.
- The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum offers the first figurine of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Zelenskyy has become a face of defiance and a symbol of strength amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The museum says it won’t donate $5 from every bobblehead sold to GlobalGiving’s Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund, supporting humanitarian relief in affected communities in Ukraine and surrounding areas where Ukrainian refugees have fled. The bobblehead is available for pre-order here.
- Playmobil and Lechuza halted sales and deliveries to Russia. The parent company, the Horst Brandstätter Group, says it wants to “send a signal of solidarity to the Ukrainian people”.
- The Pokémon Co. International called the crisis in Ukraine and Eastern Europe “heartbreaking” and immediately donated $200,000 to GlobalGiving’s Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund to help provide humanitarian relief.
- The Toy Foundation and Hasbro legend Alan Hassenfeld are working with members of the global toy industry to help children and families in Ukraine. Details can be found here.
- The Toy Trust (UK) donated approximately $13,000 to Samaritan’s Purse, an organization that creates supply backpacks for refugees fleeing Ukraine.
- Ty Inc: The CEO of Ty Warner, of Ty Inc., has pledged 100% of profits from Beanie Babies sales during the month of March to Save the Children to provide emergency aid to people in crisis across Ukraine and the region. “The events unfolding in Ukraine are deeply disturbing,” Warner said. “I can only imagine what the kids must be going through there. I feel compelled to help. Purchases can be made here.
- Warner Bros. suspended theatrical releases in Russia, including those from DC The Batman.
- The Walt Disney Co. suspended theatrical releases in Russia, including that of Pixar turn red and Marvel Studios Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.
The toy book will continue to monitor the response of the international toy community to the situation in Ukraine. Watch this space for future updates.