The Giftware Association and former buyer and retail expert Jenny Spivey will be hosting a seminaron how to approach and pitch to larger retailers to help scale up your business.  
Following a 36- year career within two of the UK’s most prestigious department stores – Harrods and the John Lewis Partnership – Jenny now uses her knowledge and experience in running her own retail consultancy. As ‘Sense Of Retail‘, she works with both established retailers and suppliers across the home and giftware categories. She also mentors SMEs in the sector, including brands new to market – helping them reach a wider audience and present themselves effectively in a professional and competitive environment, online and offline. 
This is a presentation by Jenny Spivey to smaller businesses who are contemplating extending their business to larger retailers. Jenny will outline the opportunities and the challenges that they are likely to be presented with and what they need to do in their approach. It’s a reality check as to what potentially lies ahead. Networking Lunch and Q&A included 

To book your place on this event book use the above link or to arrange a 30-day invoice, please contact Simone on 



The Giftware Association welcomes Louise Welsby from Buy From Creative Agency with her Instagram masterclass. Louise says about Social Media “Instagram is the best way to reach your gift buying audience, but it can be challenging managing the platform in house and growing your audience so that you can make a real difference on your ROI” 
This four-hour masterclass is designed for anyone who is looking to build their brand online – whether you are a solo entrepreneur or are looking to bring your social media in-house and want your team to feel empowered to take it on. 
How Instagram’s algorithms work 
Knowing your audience 
What is the differences between your ‘Feed’ and your ‘Stories’ 
Creating dynamic content 
Telling your story 
Influencer engagement 
* An MOT of your current social media output 
* A content creation guide 
* An Instagram Success Guide 
* Knowledge, excitement and motivation 
This will be a practical workshop, so you will need both a laptop and the phone that is used to update Instagram. If you don’t yet use Instagram but this is the beginning, please get the app set up before you come and we can take it from there. 

To book your place on this event use the above link or to arrange a 30-day invoice, please contact Simone on 



Independent retail advisor, Henri Davis will be presenting a workshop on ensuring that your business is fit for the future. The event is part of The Giftware Association’s education seminars. Henri Davis explains “The current economic uncertainty is impacting consumer spending, but people will always want relevant, quality products that represent good value for money. To be fit for the future I believe you need to have three key things: great products, great service and a realistic plan that gets you results.” 
Workshop Objectives 
This workshop will help you become ‘fit for the future’, we will look at the three elements mentioned above so you understand what this means for your business, you can then go away and start to develop realistic plans to take you through 2019 and into 2020 and beyond. 
If you are a small business owner thinking about the year ahead or someone in a bigger company involved in business planning, this workshop will suit you. Stepping away from your business for a day to discuss your thoughts and share ideas, allows you to be objective and see it from a different perspective. 
Workshop Content 
In this workshop, you will work individually and in groups and leave with a plan of action. 
Whether you are a supplier or retailer we will look at: 

  • Your business 
  • Your competitors 
  • Your current customers 
  • Your target customers   

This workshop will be participate, relaxed, enjoyable and satisfying; I hope you feel it is a day well spent and look forward to working with you.          

To book your place use the above link or to arrange a 30-day invoice, please contact Simone on 


New UK import VAT rules if UK leaves EU with no deal

With the UK been given a six-month extension to leave the European Union, a no deal could still every much be on the cards. If the United Kingdom (UK) leaves the European Union (EU) without a deal, the UK import VAT rules will change for goods sold to UK buyers that are sent in parcels. The changes will affect the rules for reporting and paying UK import VAT and will impact sellers outside the UK.

Current rules while the UK is in the EU

Under the existing rules, parcels imported into the UK from the EU are not subject to import VAT. For imports from non-EU countries, the goods are subject to import VAT unless they are covered by low value consignment relief, currently £15 or less per packet.

Rules after the UK has left the EU

The rules differ depending on the value of the goods in the parcel. Low value consignment relief is withdrawn.

  • Parcels with a value of £135 or less

Sellers outside the UK sending parcels to the UK where the value for all goods in the parcel is £135 or less, must pay the UK import VAT for any parcels sent to UK buyers after the UK leaves the EU. This includes the situation where goods were sold before the UK leaves the EU, but not sent until after. Sellers outside the UK include those in the EU, those outside the EU and the Channel Islands.

For the Isle of Man (IOM) and UK, VAT is treated as one, so VAT will have been charged by the IOM supplier, where appropriate.

This will include any goods worth £15 or less as they will no longer be eligible for the existing tax relief.

VAT will only be applied where the goods being purchased would be subject to VAT if purchased within the UK.

  • Parcels with a value of more than £135

When the value for all goods in the parcel is more than £135, UK buyers will need to pay the UK import VAT and any customs and / or excise duty on these goods. The parcel operator will apply any necessary charges to the parcel and seek the payment direct from the UK buyer. For excise goods – import VAT, Customs and Excise duty is due regardless of value, and will be collected directly from the UK buyer by the parcel operator.

If sellers outside the UK sell goods above and below the £135 threshold to UK buyers, the seller should only report and pay the UK import VAT on parcels containing goods worth £135 or less .

There will be two ways for sellers outside the UK to pay the UK import VAT. HMRC’s new online parcel registration service is open and overseas businesses are encouraged to register now and get their parcels reference so they are ready to use it if the changes are introduced in case of no deal. Alternatively, they can pay a parcel operator that offers a service to pay the UK import VAT to HMRC on the sellers’ behalf.

If sellers do not follow the new UK import VAT rules, parcels may be delayed or stopped from entering the UK. In addition, the UK buyer may have to pay extra tax and fees, and the seller may have to pay a penalty of £1,000.

More information about these potential changes, or others in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal can be found at A communications pack on this topic is also available on GOV.UK.



As a toy manufacturer it is our responsibility that every toy we offer to the marketplace is safe and fit for purpose.

So first thing any manufacturer needs to know is what is a toy?
A toy is classified as a product designed or intended for use in play by children under 14 years of age. Play does not have to be the exclusive use of the product, so something like a soft toy keychain is also covered because it has a secondary play value. If a product has been designed to have “kid appeal” whatever its primary use, it must also be tested as a toy.

Everything we sell is designed and manufactured to be a toy so this isn’t an issue for us but it does have a big impact on companies which, for instance make toys in the shape of food, or gift food or keychains who now have to ensure their products comply not just to things like food standards but also toy safety as well.

The legislation we follow at the moment is the The European Toy Safety Directive. Ironically this is not legally binding in itself, it only becomes legal if its implemented in parliament by the country, which it has in the UK. On a top line level the directive basically says that a toy must be safe, it must have no sharp edges, no harmful chemicals and no small parts.

EN71 then applies harmonised standards (EN71) to these directives which then makes it legal. If a toy manufacturer has applied these standards to the design and manufacture of their toys they will print the CE logo on the label to show that the toy complies.

Toys must satisfy the essential safety requirements of the Toy Safety Directive – there are 2 ways now that this can be done – one is going down the testing route through test houses. The other is self certification.
On the face of it self certification could sound as if its just a case of saying “Yup. Our toys are safe” but actually it is a lot harder than just testing a single item off the production line.

At Best Years we have a very stable supply chain. Rather than chasing around the Far East to get the cheapest prices we have always worked with the same people going back years and years. This means that we are able to get documentation to trace the yarn we use and any other materials all the way back to the original source. This includes the dyes we use, the cotton for the crochet, the material for our knitted dinosaurs and even the thread we use for the embroidered eyes.

Because we have such a close relationship with all our suppliers we can prove that the toy has been designed to be safe, the materials used to make the toy are safe and the way that it has been made ensures it is safe. This is the process called Self Certification. It moves the emphasis on safety away from a one off sample picked from the sewing line to be tested, to placing safety at the very core of the toy company.

We’ve been working with most of our suppliers for over 10 years and have a good working knowledge of all the requirements so for us its pretty straight forward. However it requires both an in depth knowledge of toy safety and your supply chain plus an awful lot of paperwork to back the whole process up

Our knitted and crochet toys are all designed and manufactured to be suitable for children from birth, which means that we ensure that there are no small part such as plastic eyes, obviously no sharp edges and that the toys can be washed by immersing them in water. You still see some toys which say “surface wash only” but to comply with safety regulations all soft toys must be able to be washed by being totally immersed in water. Anyone who has seen a child chewing vigorously on a toy and then wiping his left over food on it will understand the reason for that rule!

Toy safety is continually evolving and changing as new challenges, new processes and new toys are introduced. In order to ensure that we keep up to date with these changes we attend seminars by people such as Bureau Veritas, an accredited test house.

 Last week we attended one such toy safety seminar last week. The chap who took the seminar has been in toy safety for over 42 years and he has seen many, many changes in his time! He has also seen lots of toy manufacturers being fined for toy safety issues including some very big fines but its important for both consumers and manufacturers to know that people producing poor quality toys are being caught and then pay the price for poor product development.

One of the key issues which challenge many toy makers are the use of chemicals. We now have so much more information about which chemicals are harmful and which are safe than ever before. This has been one of the biggest changes to EN71 in the past few years.
Before accepting dusted down toys for your baby from your kind neighbour’s attic do remember that toy safety evolves and things which were once deemed to be safe would now be banned. There was a toy placed on the market in the 1950s that had actual uranium ore in it! Supposedly it was an educational toy but its not something which would be allowed to be sold today.
And did you know that the green arms on an alarm clock used to be mildly radioactive…

A big change to the regulations over the last couple of years is all the paperwork that needs to be held for each product. There are different processes which need to be followed by manufacturers, distributors and retailers but all of them require paperwork to be held to prove that processes have been followed

1. As a manufacturer we must ensure that the toy complies with essential safety requirements. Technical files, safety assessments, declarations of conformity are all part of the paperwork now required for each toy. We also need to ensure that each toy has our address, a batch code (for traceability), a product code and the CE mark.

2. As an importer/distributor we must ensure that the manufacturer has all the relevant paperwork and that the product has our name and address on it.

3. If you are a retailer it is important to note you also need to ensure that your supplier has the relevant paperwork available. You also need to ensure that your storage conditions and any transport you use (ie if you send the toy to someone) do not jeopardise the toy’s compliance.

Everyone in the chain has a responsibility to ensure the product that ends up on the shelf and is bought by a customer is safe.

A few bite size bits of info:

Decorative objects for festivities and celebrations are not classed as toys – therefore they do not need a warning on them.  The age warning is only used when the product is classed as a toy.

All pen lids now should have air ventilation in the cap – have a look at the pen you’re using…does it have one? This air ventilation will allow the person to breathe if its accidently swallowed.

Warning on toys. Because any warning on the toy is deemed to determine the decision on the purchase of a toy (if you are buying something for a baby you need to know that it is suitable from birth) the warning must be visible to the consumer at point of purchase. This is especially important if you are selling on line. Your product description must include any safety notices or information.

There were a couple of big toy issues for toy manufacturers and for test houses in 2018.

  1. Slime –The issue was that how do you define slime. Is it a solid or is it a liquid as it comes in both forms and therefore could be tested in one of two ways. Since slime includes chemicals Trading Standards verged on the side of caution which generated a lot of negative press as products had to be recalled.
  2. Squishies – these caused a major headache with regards to age grading and several countries in the EU have banned them. They are made from specialised rubberised foam and many have scent added to make them more attractive, ie if the squishy is designed to look like a water melon, then a scent of water melon was also added. The trouble was that the foam can be picked off by little fingers and given it smells so delicious the foam quickly ended up in the mouth and was swallowed.
    There were warnings that the chemicals used to make the toys included some which were toxic and should not be ingested. Furthermore because children are more sensitive to chemicals that adults then continued exposure to the chemicals used in the squishy could be harmful. 

Both of these toys had passed test when first designed and manufactured it was only as they became more popular that they were subjected to closer scrutiny and issues identified.

So what safety issues are we looking out for in 2019?

Smart Toys – The Government is considering regulating connected toys with regard to personal information. These are toys which are designed to connect to the internet to gibe the child an interactive experience. These “smart toys” have microphones, they have cameras and they even have recording devices. All these things store data obtained from the child and usually it is then stored in the cloud. At the moment there is no toy safety regulations as to what can be stored, for how long and where it should be stored. Given that data such as your child’s name, age, date of birth and sometimes even address are normally stored it makes sense that there should be some parameters around this issue.

Sequin plush – over the last year there has been a surge of soft toys released which are partially or completely covered in sequins. There is no doubt that these toys are attractive to children under 3 but manufacturers have been labelling them as suitable for 3+. Labelling a sequin covered soft toy as 3+ meant that the sequins did not have to pass the test for small parts (ie be small enough to swallow safely or secured on to the toy in such a way as to ensure that they could not be detached)
However this is going to change as toy safety authorities release updated legislation to ensure that manufacturers test these toys to be suitable for babies. We are assuming most of these toys will fail so please check if you carry them in your shop.

You can find out more about Gaynor and Best Years here