Talking to people about the first couple of months of the year certainly produces an interesting array of responses. On the plus side, a few new introductions and old favourites appear to have got off to a flying start; I’m hearing good things about PJ Masks, Glimmies, LOL Surprise and Power Rangers amongst others. And Lego has just reported its highest global revenue in the company’s 85-year history, rising 6% to a whopping £4.4bn.
But I’d be lying if I said I was getting universally positive feedback, and it will be fascinating to see what NPD has to say about February trading. After a strong January, I’ve had several suppliers observe that the second month of the year has been mildly disappointing by comparison. It seems that many retailers saw an opportunity to delay the impact of price increases by stocking up heavily at the back end of last year. Unquestionably a smart move on their part, but there appears to have been a knock-on effect on orders last month, with several large retailers highlighted as going AWOL. Of course, trying to get by on existing stock will only last for so long, and eventually retailers will have no option but to bite the bullet and accept the new prices. But for now, some appear to be digging their heels in, perhaps hoping that suppliers will crack and drop the proposed price increases. Let’s just say that, if that is indeed their thought-process, I have my doubts that things will turn out the way they hope.
I also gather that at least one retailer has instigated a particularly labyrinthine system for evaluating price increases, asking suppliers to justify the price increase on every single item stocked – individually! Even more bizarre, after receiving a list of, say, 400 items with basically the same comment against each one, some rises are being accepted and some declined for not meeting the required criteria. If you see any sales directors walking around with far less hair than they had at Toy Fair, you can assume they have torn it all out in frustration.
I’d like to offer my congratulations to Guy Rooney, who has deservedly been promoted to sales director at IMC, and also to Ruth Leonard, who has joined MI PR as marketing director. We wish them both all the best in their new roles.
Anyone visiting Hong Kong in the next few months might like to take time to visit the ‘Legend of Hong Kong Toys’ exhibition which has just opened at the Museum of History on Chatham Road South in Tsim Tsa Tsui. The BTHA’s Roland Earl attended the opening, and was very complimentary about the exhibition, so for anyone looking to add a little culture to their trip, it is on until 5th May.
Finally, after last week’s Blog, which highlighted some nefarious practices which are allegedly being employed by certain testing houses out in the Far East, I have been told of a problem which suppliers are facing closer to home. Having read Danny Baker’s autobiography, which included a section about his father’s job on the docks in Bermondsey, I am well aware of the practice of ‘skimming’ and ‘dipping’; for the uninitiated, it’s when a percentage of a consignment mysteriously goes missing from the delivery. You would be forgiven for thinking that such roguery would have no room to flourish in today’s highly-polished logistics environment. And yet, by all accounts, it is – and it appears to be affecting one retailer in particular. So much so, in fact, that I am led to believe some suppliers even allow for it in their trading calculations. If what I have been told is even close to the truth, it surely goes way beyond one or two dodgy warehouse operatives. I can quite understand the reticence of suppliers to raise the issue directly, given the size of the account in question. However, if this practice is anywhere near as prevalent as has been suggested, I am sure the company concerned would want to know and take steps to rectify it immediately. The Nuremberg dolls are otherwise engaged this week, but one of their close friends is equally surprised at this revelation…