By Neil Kuschel, DHL Express

With Cristmas fast looming, this year's hottest toys are flying off the shelves.

But instead of the usual high-demand toys, which include a remoisturising doll and high-tech tablets for kids, DHL Express has proposed an alternative list of British toys manufactured by independent UK businesses.

Neil Kuschel, Director of Sales at DHL Express UK comments: “The alternative 2011 Christmas toy list is a reminder that British SMEs manufacture some really fantastic products, and in this instance are combining the best of traditional craft techniques with a very modern focus on sustainability.

“This year, toy makers should also consider targeting overseas markets to make the most of Christmas demand — children all over the world would be delighted to wake up with a classic teddy bear or hand-crafted toy furniture in their stocking.”

“With 2% of global GDP passing through its network, DHL Express knows a thing or two about exporting goods. Here are its top tips for SMEs (small to mid-sized enterprises) looking to tap into global markets:

1) Research: you need to know your sector and the strengths and weaknesses of potential markets.
2) Plan: define everything step by step, from entering the market to the final distribution of goods.
3) Finance: make sure you have working capital in place for every stage — and don’t forget to keep an eye on exchange rates.
4) Customs and regulation: these can make or break your success. Make sure you’re aware of them.”

Christmas 2011 Alternative Toy List

Brendan’s Bears
Crafted with materials ranging from alpaca to cashmere, each bear is individually made in Oxford — including the Mellow Fellow, the official university bear, whose jaunty hand-knitted scarf will ensure he stays warm this Christmas.

Toys with Tools
When Yorkshireman David Palmer gave his grandson Luke a leather tool belt for Christmas, a business was born. Seeing his grandson’s eagerness to build something — just like his father and grandfather — Palmer created a series of ‘toys with tools’ designed to encourage future engineers.

Catherine Grimaldi
Having studied at Central St Martins, Grimaldi is another a fashion success story — except her customers are slightly younger than most. With an MA in illustration under her belt, she focuses on creating handmade toys for children. She may be from Brighton, but this is hardly Punch and Judy.

The Plate Rattle and Bowl Company
The Plate Rattle Bowl Company is not only British-based, but also uses British hardwoods to create bespoke rattles. Each toy undergoes 14 processes in their Northampton studio, promising a unique gift complete with a personalized gift box — perhaps more for display than a battered plastic rattle, then.

Orchard Toys
A real British manufacturing success story, Orchard Toys’ educational games and puzzles are made from 100% recycled materials. They’ve created a toy big red bus, that’s not only made in Norfolk, but made by the a company whose entire operation — from designers to manufacturers to the highly-praised customer service team — is based there.

Lynne and Michael Roche
Having made dolls for 30 years, Lynne and Michael have the craft down to a fine art. It’s very much a team effort, with Lynne focusing on creating handmade clothing for the dolls. And their British credentials are impeccable — even the dolls’ eyes are made in England.

The Toyman
As a member of the Country Crafts Association, it’s little surprise that the Toyman makes wooden games, knitting kits and even toys. Their animal shape sorter is a wooden toy for children that is hand-crafted in the UK.

Suffolk Playworks
This family-run business’ website creates wooden play equipment — and one look at their playboxes, including their ‘fantasy tug rocker’ will make you wish you were a three-year-old again.

Laurel Designs
As a child, Lynne Mulcock adored her hobby horse, and she has spent her adult life crafting similar horses for children across the world — her website boasts testimonials from as far afield as Australia. But, given that her designs have been featured on Big Brother, she remains very much best of British.