Well not me personally, obviously (even after my appearance on Sky News this week…of which more later).
But having just returned from the Toymaster Show in Harrogate, there’s no doubt that the spinner frenzy has put some serious smiles back on people’s faces. From suppliers like Martin Grossman (who sat at behind a table covered in new spinner models with a big grin on his face for the entire duration of the show…someone suggested it looked like he was holding court) to just about every Toymaster member I spoke to, the excitement – and let’s not beat about the bush, the cash – driven by spinner mania has dramatically changed the mood of so many people.
The reports of lacklustre trading towards the end of Q1, coupled with concerns about price rises and margin struggles, have largely been forgotten – if only temporarily. They’ll be back as the year progresses, for sure, but for now the mood is buoyant. In that respect, the Toymaster show could not have been better-timed. I sometimes have to use a tiny bit of journalistic licence when it comes to reviewing exhibitions, but not this time. Spending time with retailers during the evening event, they were brimming with positivity.
Good for them – it’s a constant struggle to compete with major accounts and Amazon, so it must be nice for the indies when they’re in the driving seat for once. Their ability to react, their flexibility and their ability to ‘duck and dive’ has meant that while many majors are still working out the logistics of how best to get involved, the independents are one step ahead of them. One indie told me he was worried about running out of stock over Easter: he rang round numerous suppliers, found someone 60 miles away with stock, jumped in the van and bought the lot – 1000 pieces. He figured it would tide him over the Easter weekend at least. He put 500 pieces on the shelves of each of his two stores at 12.00 on the Thursday before Easter: by 2.00 that day, every last piece had been sold. Nice money in the till (and a very healthy profit to boot).
Of course, not every supplier has spinners, and not every retailer got on board from the start. But whenever the craze wanes (and there was much talk of the likely time scales in Harrogate), the cash it generated will still be around. And there is another benefit too: one retailer told me she had gained many new customers over the past few weeks, and had also seen old customers return, many of whom hadn’t been in the shop for years. When sales of spinners reach saturation point, those customers will want something else, and the retailers will have some cash to take a few punts on new ranges.
With all the talk of spinners, gossip was relatively thin on the ground. I can now confirm that David Martin will be leaving Funrise to take over at Posh Paws (something I knew weeks ago to be fair, but respected the protocol by not going public until it was appropriate to do so…), while Terry Crew tells me that he will be moving on from IMC Toys in September, after his successor (to be unveiled very shortly) comes on board.
I’ll be swapping the biblical showers that accompanied my drive home from Harrogate for the sunnier climes of Las Vegas next week, as Licensing Expo has moved from its previous (perfectly good) time slot in June to nestle (annoyingly) between the Toymaster Show and the Distoy event in two weeks’ time. For me at least, May has become the new January, when an appearance in the office is as rare as a buyer happy to accept price increases.
Of course, work doesn’t stop while I’m away. At the moment, in addition to the stream of emails that inevitably need attending to, I’m also receiving lots of media requests to talk about spinners. Sky News was particularly persistent this week, so I agreed to appear ‘live’ from my hotel room in Harrogate via the wonders of skype. For anyone who thinks this is in any way glamorous, allow me to disavow you of that notion. Not only did it necessitate ducking out of proceedings slightly early the night before to avoid looking too tired (alright, hung over) on screen, it also required me to kneel on the floor in an extremely uncomfortable position for duration of the interview (and ten minutes beforehand, waiting to appear onscreen), in order to get the laptop camera at the right angle. On the positive side, I didn’t have a kid run in midway through the interview like the expert on the BBC last month. And at least I remembered to take my wig off from the night before.