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Questionable business practices and literary giants…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: March 3rd, 2017

You have to feel for Vivid, after Sky News reported a leaked story about the company’s search to replace its long-term shareholder Phoenix. Ostensibly, this is a bit of a non-story: a change of shareholder is common business practice, something which is almost certainly going on in numerous other toy companies as we speak. Unfortunately, Sky decided to do what Sky – and sadly many other tabloid- leaning media outlets – do and sex the story up a bit. A clickbait headline and a couple of naughty insinuations – seemingly without foundation – made the whole story sound rather more sensational than, in truth, it really is. We’ll let everyone know when a new shareholder comes on board; until then, it’s ‘as you were’. Move along, nothing to see here…

Elsewhere, Mothercare has unveiled a re-organisation of its executive-level roles (thanks goodness Sky didn’t pick this story up, or Lord knows what they would have blown it up into). Among the noteworthy changes, global brand and marketing director Gary Kibble will be heading to Sainsbury’s Argos in June to take on the marketing director role. Until he leaves he will be taking on the additional role of chief customer officer, while Mothercare searches for a permanent CCO (it is just me, or do all the various permutations of Cs and Os in a title render it confusing and often meaningless?). Meanwhile Matt Stringer, previously UK managing director, has been appointed to the newly-created role of global product officer, while Kevin Rusling – formerly of Monsoon Accesorize – has been recruited as international managing director. The restructure also sees former group product director Karl Doyle leave the business. After a distinctly mixed set of results in the second half of 2016, the retailer is presumably hoping that these organizational changes will make a difference to its 2017 fortunes.

Meanwhile, there have also been a few comings and goings in the licensing / broadcast community to report: Bobi Carley is leaving Disney after six years; Traci Griffiths has parted company with Fremantle and Glynn Davies will be leaving Warner Bros as part of a forthcoming restructure. I also hear ‘on the grapevine’ that that Kirsty Barr has parted company with Mi PR Global – amicably I am assured – and has set up her own business called… Grapevine (see what I did there?).

Regular readers of the Friday Blog will know that I am not shy to highlight questionable business practices which suppliers can’t talk about, at least not with the same degree of openness. I heard of one dubious practice this week which has allegedly been going on for years, had subsequently died down but is apparently creeping back in – Tea Money. If, like me, you were unfamiliar with the term, allow me to enlighten you: the phrase refers to a practice whereby a testing house representing a large British retailer in the Far East visits a factory and ‘requests’ money in return for passing goods for shipping. It was supposed to have disappeared as a result of all the anti-corruption measures that have been introduced in recent years, but, by all accounts, it is rearing its ugly head again this year. The big question is – are the big retailers simply turning a blind eye, or are they genuinely not aware it is going on? One person told me that if he raises the issue, he is told it will be investigated, which ultimately results in delivery of his goods mysteriously slowing up anyway, so he feels it’s a no-win situation. If any other suppliers are experiencing something similar, or if any retailers have a view on the situation, I would be fascinated to hear.
Finally, this week saw the 20th anniversary of World Book Day – also known as World ‘parents argue with their children over what constitutes a book character’ Day. Smyths made it abundantly clear whose side they were on by sending out a press release highlighting the range of costumes it offers, which included those literary giants Shimmer & Shine. Our old friends, the Nuremberg Dolls, were suitably bemused…

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