The pandemic doesn’t seem to have taken too hard a toll on toy shops, who are once again back in the whirlwind of pre-holiday shopping, from old favourites to new trends.

Now more than ever, Father Christmas must bring sackloads of gifts: in 2020, Christmas presents are a consolation prize for children tried by remote learning and itchy face masks. Parents taking on the annual role of fairy godmother are seen patiently strolling through toy shops aisles until tried by tantrums and whims, they can be caught sighing in-between the Barbie and Playmobil shelves.

At Joué Club Monaco, Sylvie Bovini plays Father Christmas’s helpful elf and gives tired parents a helping hand. “I’ve put on show a stack of L.O.L doll plane play-set – this year’s big hit. Same thing with the Beyblade spinning tops. Every other phone call we get is about them.”

In November, our turnover increased by 30% compared to the previous year.

Monaco : a toy eldorado

In her Fontvieille shop, Sylvie has nearly 25,000 items, quite enough to satisfy local clients, but not only. “Many of our buyers either actually work in Monaco or live in neighbouring towns.” And it doesn’t look like France’s lockdown, which lasted from late October to 15 December, deterred French shop-goers from some early Christmas shopping.

“In November, our turnover increased by 30% compared to the previous year,” says Sylvie Bovini, who stresses that Monaco is an exception. “In Monaco, trends are different. Christmas represents only 25% of our annual income.”

Wooden toys are back in vogue

In Monaco, old favourites like Lego and Playmobil are still going strong, while Barbies are turning a few more heads than usual. “Barbie dolls are now a staple for girls and boys alike,” says Sylvie Bovini. In nearby Nice, Florence Dufourgneaud, owner of L’Atelier des Jouets in the old town of Nice, confirms the trend. “I recently had a grandmother buy a pink pram just to please her grandson.”

Shopowners also report a growing interest in wooden toys. “One out of two customers wants to shop more sustainably,” says Florence Dufourgneaud. “Not only do wooden toys last forever, but they can also be passed on from generation to generation.”

Wooden toys are trending
L’Atelier des Jouets

Are gendered toys officially a thing of the past ?

As societal gender norms become increasingly questioned, what should a parent do if their child wants a toy intended for the opposite gender?

Christian Sivilotto, a psychologist based in Nice, recommends flexibility above all: “Until the age of seven or eight, toys have no sexual value. Make-believe is key for the development of a child’s imagination.  A little boy can dress up as a woman without wanting to change sex.” Christian Sivilotto says that parents must never make a child feel guilty for his or her wishes. It is the only way to avoid sowing the seed of “lack of self-confidence, mental rigidity, and obsessive disorders”.