When it comes to manufacturing toys, it’s a complicated situation.
Over the past 10 months, tariffs have dominated the headlines as the toy industry braced itself to possibly be swept up as part of more than $300 million in Chinese goods that could be taxed at up to 25% upon entry into the U.S. if the long-threatened “List 4” went into effect.
Following July’s so-called tariff truce between President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping, the two nations remained in an uncomfortable holding pattern until a tweet changed everything at the beginning of August. President Trump declared Sept. 1 as the start of a 15% tariff, but on Aug. 13, the plan changed once more: the Office of the United States Trade Representative issued a revised plan for tariffs, splitting the previously announced list in two: 4A (Sept. 1) and 4B (Dec. 15).
Toys are in 4B, giving the industry enough of a reprieve to get through the all-important holiday season largely unscathed, but not entirely. Numerous products are already impacted by the previously enacted 25% tax on certain raw materials that are used to create finished goods in the U.S. Additionally, the increased cost of living for American families — thanks to tariff costs on everyday products being passed on through manufacturing and retail channels — could further skew needs and wants, meaning less overall spend for non-essential items, such as toys and games.
Due to the unpredictable nature of the current administration, tariff dates and amounts could change suddenly, so many companies continue to plan for mitigation.
For some members of the general public, the reaction to tariff talk has veered toward the knee-jerk comments of “bring production to the U.S.” or “move production elsewhere.” These are two prospects that the industry has considered many times over, only to discover a reality somewhere between “this will take many years to accomplish,” “this isn’t feasible,” and “this is impossible.”
Still, toy production occurs throughout the world, largely in specialized, niche clusters that serve the distinct needs of comparatively few toymakers overall. In the U.S., it’s largely wooden toys and plastics, with a sprinkling of arts and crafts, sports items, and a few other odds and ends. Supply chains and sourcing are an equally complicated affair for companies based in other countries, with nearly no single country of origin. Although China dominates toy markets around the world, it is not the only country that is manufacturing toys.
Here are some notable global destinations where toys are manufactured.
The birthplace of the famous Troll dolls, Denmark’s most-famous export is arguably the output of the LEGO Group. The famous bricks are largely manufactured in Denmark, Hungary, and Mexico. The company recently began production in China as well, but primarily to facilitate its own growth with consumers within that country — not for export purposes.
When thinking about German toys, the high-quality production and design out of Bruder and Playmobil come to most minds. Like the U.S., more than 70% of toys sold within the country originate elsewhere — mostly from China — according to DVSI, the German Toy Association.
Playmobil, which could see a boost in some territories from Playmobil: The Movie this fall, produces its toys in Germany, Spain, and the Czech Republic, with its famed figures originating from a factory in Malta.
Bruder continues to produce most of its highly detailed vehicle replicas and action figures at its headquarters located in Fürth, Germany.
As one of the main territories to benefit from production exiting China, Vietnam has been increasingly building infrastructure. Many — but not all — of Hasbro’s Transformers action figures have shifted production to the country. This move started long before the trade war and is perhaps due more to growing IP theft, such as bootlegs and knockoffs, than production costs.
Funko’s famed Pop! Vinyl figures are also a big export for Vietnam, with an increasing number of figures originating from the country. According to Funko CFO Russell Nickel, 70% of the company’s core production is taking place in Vietnam, with the remaining 30% distributed to facilities worldwide — including in the U.S.
Takara TOMY produces most of its die-cast Tomica vehicles in Vietnam as well.
MALAYSIA AND THAILAND
According to Mattel, approximately 10 mainline, 1:64-scale Hot Wheels are sold every second, a fact that is reflected in the brand’s continuing dominance on the NPD Group’s monthly sales charts. Those millions of die-cast vehicles originate mostly from Malaysia, where they’ve been produced for decades.
In recent years, production has also ramped up in Thailand, where Hot Wheels vehicles are manufactured alongside another Mattel brand, Matchbox, which was originally produced in England.
Like Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand are expected to benefit greatly from production leaving China.
Creative Education of Canada manufacturers more than 80 of its popular kids’ costumes and role-play items from the Great Pretenders at its facility in Ontario.
Mega Brands, purchased by Mattel in 2014, produces many of its items at a facility in Montréal.
MADE IN THE U.S.
From Wiffle Ball bats to Slinky and Flexible Flyer swing sets, toys are still being made in the U.S., but mostly in just a few categories.
Green Toys (California) and Luke’s Toy Factory (Connecticut) are both producing new creations from recycled materials, while Flexible Flyer continues making metal swing sets in Tennessee.
In Eastern Ohio, there’s the power trio of plastics, with Little Tikes, Step2, and Simplay3 — all founded by Thomas Murdough — each producing rotationally molded toys and home products. Elsewhere in the state, Berlin Flyer Wagons continues to produce traditional wagons from steel and wood with an Amish workforce in Millersburg.
Little Colorado produces its wooden toy boxes and toddler furniture in Denver, while American Plastic Toys crafts an assortment of items from facilities in Michigan and Mississippi. Crazy Aaron’s, Crayola, Twee Sidewalk Chalk, and K’NEX parts all originate from Pennsylvania.
Yes, China. Tariffs may put a dent in production, but they’ll hardly end it. In fact, the rebranded Kids2 broke ground on a new, 250,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, currently under construction near the Jiujiang Port in Central China. Announced this summer during Kids2’s 50th-anniversary celebration, the project represents the first fully owned and operated manufacturing facility in history for the Atlanta-based makers of Baby Einstein, Bright Starts, and Ingenuity Baby.
The new factory and its accompanying 65,000-square-foot office building (pictured top) will triple the overall Kids2 workforce with the addition of 1,000 employees who will fill management, operations, and factory roles at the new facility.
If the facility is a success, Kids2 plans to build up to three additional factories.