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We’re all kids at heart…it’s the Friday Blog! (On a Thursday)

Published on: April 13th, 2017

The Easter period seems to be turning into a mini- version of Christmas here in the UK: many people are away from the office for a week, or even two. Compare that to the US, where I seem to recollect that they don’t even have both Good Friday and Easter Monday off work (it’s one or the other if I remember rightly). So, if you’re one of the lucky ones, I hope you’re enjoying your extended Easter break. For everyone else, there has been plenty of news to keep us occupied this week.

Bandai announced yesterday that former GP Flair marketing director Nic Aldridge will be joining the company as its new general manager on April 24th. We wish him all the best in his new role. Elsewhere, I finally managed to get to the bottom of a story I first picked up in Nuremberg, where a rumour started to circulate that Dr Wolfgang Link, the president of Toys R Us Europe since 2013, would be leaving the business. As Toys R Us is only marginally less clandestine than the Knights Templar, the Masons and the Mafia combined, getting to the bottom of the story was not easy. However, it was finally revealed this week that he will be joining department store group HBC Europe in May, so the rumour turned out to be accurate. As for who will be replacing him, we’ll probably find out some time next year if we’re lucky.

What we do know about Toys R Us is that it has merged its Japanese and South Asian operations. The HQ of the newly-combined business will be based in Hong Kong. In fairness, the Asian market has been one of TRU’s success stories in recent years, so although on one level the move may well be about reducing costs, I very much doubt the retailer would do anything to harm business in one of its best-performing territories.

Tesco finally put its accounting scandal to bed this week by agreeing to pay a cool £235m to settle its case with the Serious Fraud Office (I wonder if there is a Not-So Serious Fraud Office for lesser offenders?). Joking apart, it does illustrate the immense pressure that even the largest retailers are under in the current climate. The fact that Tesco ended the week by announcing its first sales growth in eight years suggests that perhaps the worst is now behind. That said, if the rumour is true about Tesco trying to retrospectively charge suppliers for the heavy discounts it gave away in the run-up to Christmas, maybe they’re not quite ready to join the ‘whiter than white’ club just yet.

Another story picked up by the media was the announcement from NPD that adults buying toys for themselves were responsible for one in eleven of all toys sold in 2016 (although if you took Midco Toys’ Dave Middleton out of the data, I suspect that figure would drop considerably). The so-called ‘kidult’ sector has grown by a whopping 65% in value terms since 2012, and unsurprisingly, adults without children spend more on toys for themselves than parents (who, to be fair, can indulge their inner child by pretending that they are going to watch a kid’s movie at the cinema because their child wants to see it). I was interviewed about the trend by the BBC World Service, and admitted I was not in the least surprised; if you’ve ever been in a position where you’re asked by someone outside the industry what you do and you say that you work in toys, very few people have zero interest or nothing to say on the subject. Pop culture is cool right now, and it’s great that the toy trade is able to capitalise on its popularity. Long may the trend continue – I’m sure that toy retailers welcome all the sales they can get right now, regardless of who the product is being bought for.

Have a happy Easter one and all – with the Easter weekend coming at the end of the school holidays this time round and good weather predicted, let’s hope there’s a bumper sales weekend ahead.

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