One of Britain's biggest toy distributors is facing a glum Christmas, despite the best efforts of Peppa Pig and Fireman Sam.
Character Group, which supplies Tesco, Argos and Toys'R'Us, has been left with a glut of last year's Christmas bestseller - Zhu Zhu robotic hamsters - and said its great hope, robot game App Gear, hadn't met expectations.
The group, which designs and develops most of its toys, announced a 21% drop in half-year profits to £7.1m in the year ending August 31 today and said the retail climate meant it expects Christmas to be unsatisfactory.
Character said old favourites such as Peppa Pig continue to be popular while its construction toys and collectable football player game Sports Stars were also doing well.
Chairman Richard King said: "We see this Christmas as a bit of a blip. It is a difficult period and the retailers are struggling."
He added: "Our own product ranges are ok, but not great, so we are suffering because of that."
The group hopes to emulate the success of internet sensation Moshi Monsters with its own recently launched pet game Bin Weevils, which Mr King said he was particularly happy with.