Crawling crabs sidle into UK to pinch festive sales

A toy crab which has taken the US by storm is be launched in the UK in time for Christmas, the toy distributor Character said yesterday. The group hopes XiaXia, pronounced ShaSha and developed by the creators of ZhuZhu Pets, will help to prop up sales amid a tough festive toy market.

The range of four crawling crabs, which have 12 changeable shells and come with an extra mini-toy, were due for release in the new year, but the launch has been brought forward to the second week of December following success in the US, where one is sold every seven seconds. Character, which also distributes Bob the Builder and Fireman Sam toys, yesterday reduced its sales forecasts for its current financial year to August, but hopes a range of new toys set to be launched over the next few months, including XiaXia, should help it to outperform the toys market.

Its new year launches will include toys relating to the BBC's wildlife programme Deadly 60, about the world's 60 most deadly animals, and Mike the Knight, a spin-off from a children's television programme of the same name.

The group said sales rose 11 per cent to £95m in the year to 31 August, while pre-tax profits gained 20 per cent to £9.1m.