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All change at the top, the return of 50% off and an old chestnut rears its head again…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 12th April 2013

There has been a flurry of activity to report in the higher echelons of a number of major toy companies this week. Mary Wood will be joining Vivid as marketing director in early June, with Emma Weber taking on the role of international marketing director when she returns from maternity leave in November. Meanwhile, over at re:creation, Seth Bishop has been promoted to sales and marketing director, resulting in the departure of former sales director Ian Wickham. We wish all concerned the best in their new roles (and Ian in his search for a new role).

Aside from all of these comings and goings, opinion remains divided over the state of trading at present. I was pleased to see that the vast majority of the indie retailers we spoke to for our ‘post Easter’ round-up seemed fairly positive, but I’ve seen reports elsewhere which suggest others may have struggled – or maybe Toy World readers are just a happier, more optimistic bunch?

The latest round of retail trading reports continues the ‘decidedly mixed’ theme: Mothercare like-for-likes were down by 3.6%, but chief executive Simon Calver professed himself to be “looking ahead to the new year with confidence,” saying that the retailer is on what he refers to as “a firmer footing.” WH Smith’s like-for-likes were also down, but group pre-tax profit is up by 5% (which, even as a small business owner, I know is what really matters).

Somewhat inevitably some might say, several of the major supermarkets have been running high-profile toy promotions over the Easter period: I spotted the Sainsbury’s toy sale first, where a relatively broad selection of lines were being offered at 25% off. That night I went to Tesco and their old-school, aggressive ‘50% off’ sale was back with a vengeance. I won’t mention specific brands, just in case they vary geographically, but suffice to say that a number of high profile toy companies and ranges were present and correct (cue a bunch of independent retailers putting down their laptops and heading straight to their local Tesco to see if there’s anything worth loading up on…).

Another story which caught my eye involved a group of academics attempting to revive the old chestnut of ‘banning advertising to children’ by writing an open letter to the Telegraph (like that’s the best way to make it happen…). This particular debate has been done to death, and I’ve been asked to comment on it many times before by national newspapers. My response is always the same: personally, I believe that calling for an outright ban is grossly over dramatising the situation. I have two bright, happy, well-adjusted kids, despite the fact they have lived their life being constantly bombarded with advertising messages (not to mention spending hours looking through copies of toy magazines). I view the measures they are proposing as disproportionate, and ultimately unnecessary: the advertising market is tightly regulated, with especially stringent rules already in place governing advertising to children. I appreciate that others will think otherwise, and I am sure the subject will continue to be debated, but I do believe that the industry is well-positioned to make a robust case in defence of the status quo as it has in the past (not the band, no: no-one can defend them).

The Toy World team will be heading to Solihull for the Independent Toy and Gift Show – the AIS show to you and me – next week, so we look forward to seeing many of you there. Happy faces on please.

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