Toy shop legal issues

Little girl in pink top playing with different toys in toy shop

Some of the key areas where legislation is likely to affect your business are listed below.

What licences does a toy shop need?

Although there are no licences that relate specifically to the retail sale of toys, you may carry out some activities that do require a licence.

Selling fireworks

If you plan to sell fireworks during the usual fireworks periods - Guy Fawkes night, Diwali, New Year and Chinese New Year - you must register with your local trading standards department or fire authority (depending on your location) in Great Britain or with the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland. If you intend to sell fireworks in Great Britain outside the usual fireworks periods then you'll need a fireworks sales licence. You must also not sell adult fireworks or sparklers to anyone under 18. You can find out more about firework licensing in the UK on the RoSPA Safer Fireworks website.

Other licences

You should also be aware that if you play background music in the shop you'll need a Music Licence from PPL PRS Ltd. There is an annual fee for this which you can pay online on the PPL PRS website.

Toy safety

Specific safety standards have been set for toys and you must ensure that all items offered for sale in your shop comply with the appropriate requirements. Your suppliers should be able to confirm that their goods comply. The Toy Retailers Association website includes a section on toy safety which covers approval marks, safety notes on toys for the under 3s and toy safety regulations.


The sale of fireworks is closely regulated. If you want to keep fireworks for sale in Great Britain you must either:

  • be licensed for year-round sale of fireworks
  • have registered your premises for time-restricted firework sales with the local trading standards department or fire authority

In Northern Ireland you need to register with the Department of Justice.

You'll need to comply with the other requirements of fireworks legislation - for example you must not sell fireworks to young people under 18 (with the exception of a few products like cracker snaps and party poppers for which the buyer must be 16 or over and Christmas crackers, for which the minimum age is 12).

There's more information about firework licensing throughout the UK on the RoSPA Safer Fireworks website.

Videos and games

All video recordings and video games carry age classifications. Video recordings with U and PG ratings and video games with PEGI 3 and PEGI 7 ratings are unrestricted so can be sold to anyone. Products that carry the 12, 15 and 18 and PEGI 12, 16 and 18 ratings can only be sold to customers of that age or over.

Preventing solvent abuse

You should also be aware that it is an offence to supply a substance (for example paint or glue) to a person under 18 if you suspect that they are going to inhale the fumes for the purpose of causing intoxication.


There is a wide range of legislation that applies to retail outlets and that protects the interests of the consumer. For example, goods and services must not be misleadingly described and the retail price of goods must be clearly displayed. You will be responsible for making sure that all goods are fit for their intended purpose and of satisfactory quality.

If you intend to sell your products by mail order or online you should be aware of distance selling rules, which protect the rights of the customer and specify that clear information must be given about the goods offered. There's detailed guidance on your legal obligations to consumers, and on the requirements when selling online, on the Trading Standards Business Companion website.

Waste batteries

If your business sells more than 32 kg of portable batteries in a year you must take back used batteries from customers to be recycled. You must provide this service free of charge. You can use the tool on the Waste Support website to work out whether you sell enough batteries each year to be affected by the regulations.

Substances that could be used to make explosives

There are special regulations in place to prevent substances that could potentially be used to make explosives getting into the wrong hands. Some substances, which would normally only be available from specialist suppliers, are regulated and can only be supplied to a member of the public who has a licence to obtain and possess them. Other substances, although not regulated, are nevertheless of potential concern. Example of these, which are referred to as 'reportable substances', include hexamine and nitromethane (both sometimes used as fuel for model engines).

You must report any suspicious transactions (or disappearances due to theft) involving regulated or reportable substances to the police Anti-terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321. A transaction could be suspicious for various reasons, for example because the customer insists on paying cash and/or wants an unusually large quantity of a product containing a reportable substance.

There's more information for businesses about regulated and reportable substances on the website.

Carrier bag charge

A minimum 10p charge applies for single-use carrier bags in England (other rules apply in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). You can get detailed guidance from the GOV.UK website.

Health & Safety, fire

You must comply with workplace health and safety and fire safety legislation.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important areas of legislation include recruitment, employment contracts, pay, working hours, holidays, employment policies, sickness, maternity, paternity, discrimination, discipline, grievances, dismissals, redundancies and employment tribunals.

Insurance for a toy shop

Contact an insurer or insurance broker and explain exactly how your business will operate - they will then explain what insurance cover you must have by law, and other cover you should consider. This might include:

  • premises, premises contents and stock
  • goods in transit (items being collected or delivered)
  • cash
  • business interruption
  • employer's liability
  • public liability
  • motor insurance (for delivery vehicles)

It is worth noting that trade associations and buying groups often offer their members special insurance policies, which may provide the level of cover you need, possibly at a very competitive price.

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