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Air miles, Argos impersonators and hot properties…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 12th October 2012

I seem to be one of the few members of the toy trade who hasn’t been racking up the air miles over the past couple of weeks. California, Dallas, the Far East….people have been heading all over the globe as planning for 2013 gets underway in earnest. I’ve mostly been sat here in rainy Apsley, which is slightly less glamorous, but at least the jet lag is infinitely less of a problem.

It has emerged this week that fraudulent emails are being sent out by someone claiming to be Argos chief executive Terry Duddy. The offending email apparently asks the recipient to provide company information with a view to developing a future trading relationship. One wag suggested to me that “it was obvious the email was a fraud – can you ever imagine a retailer being that proactive?”

I understand that family-owned wholesaler S Webb was put into administration just over a week ago. The company has been trading for nearly 100 years, and it appears that problems on the book side of the business led to its sad demise. Rumour has it that a book wholesaler has acquired the company and will be retaining the sales force, but the family who previously owned it will no longer be involved. I just hope that too many toy suppliers haven’t been affected by this most unfortunate situation.

Congratulations to Paul Fogarty on his appointment as UK country manager for Famosa, and also to Alison Hubbard, who joins the company as its new head of marketing. I visited the Famosa head office in Spain a short while back, and I have to say how impressed I was with the new set-up, and how far things had moved on since my last visit there a few years back. There are some intriguing new launches for 2013, some of which have already been made public – such as the launch of a range of Furby plush – and at least one major announcement which will be kept a closely guarded secret until the New Year. You can read more in the next issue of Toy World.

It’s BLE next week, and as a pre-show taster, a number of major licensing deals have already been announced; HTi has signed up to produce a range of Barbie role-play toys, Sakar will be introducing a range of accessories featuring Skylanders Giants and Lego will be bringing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the construction category. No doubt plenty more deals will be revealed at the show, which we’ll round-up in next week’s blog.

And, of course, the cat is finally out of the bag as far as the major licence I hinted at several weeks back – yes folks, stop what you’re doing, Angry Birds Star Wars is about to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world! Hasbro and Character Options both have splendid ranges, as I’m sure do many other companies who daren’t break the ridiculous global embargo by actually telling me. Ludicrous controlling behaviour not-withstanding, it’s impossible not to smile when you see the product, as I’m sure many of you will be finding out very soon.

Look forward to seeing as many of you at Olympia next week as all of our over-stuffed schedules will allow (my show diary currently resembles a sort of business speed-dating event – half an hour back-to-back meetings all day every day, with no gaps for lunch or ‘comfort breaks’). If all else fails, we can always swap notes at one of the many after-show events, or over the road in the Hand and Flower. That’s when you find out what people really think of what they’ve seen that day.