One of the things I have always been especially proud of when it comes to Toy World and the Friday Blog is that they consistently evoke a reaction from our readers. Having worked in the trade press for over four decades, trust me when I say that you would be surprised how rarely that happens. I have worked on numerous titles where you feel like you are just shouting into the void and that very few people give two hoots about what is being put in front of them.
When I launched Toy World on this very day 12 years ago, I certainly knew that I didn’t want it to be a vanilla, fence-sitting magazine that never expressed an opinion about anything. There were enough of those around already.
There is an adage in media that says it is better to be hated than bland. While that may work for the ‘shock jock’ likes of Jeremy Clarkson, that’s not really what you want to be your defining characteristic. But you do want to feel that what you write has made a difference and actually given people something to think about – even if they disagree. So, I want to thank everyone who reacts – in whatever way – to what we send out into the world. Whether you call, send a WhatsApp, email or post a comment under a LinkedIn post, every interaction validates that we are on the right track, and that trade magazines don’t have to be bland, boring and unambitious.
This week alone, I have had an email from an online retailer disgruntled with a toy company selling directly to consumers at a smidgeon over cost price after he had just bought 10,000 items; a toy company asking what I feel about those companies which are still trading with Russia (frankly, I am amazed it is still going on, and I have no idea how it is being sanctioned by major licensing companies…) and a toy stalwart from the supply side expressing their incredulity that they were potentially being asked to pay a four figure sum to get into a toy trade show opening later this month.
But although we get a lot of calls about the foibles, idiosyncrasies and occasional questionable practices that crop up in the toy community from time to time (I guess because we are the only magazine with the cojones to actually highlight them), we also get a lot of heartwarming messages too. This week I received a lovely call from an independent retailer who is closing down after an incredible 58 years of running his store. John Hughes of Look Around toy store in Anglesey, I salute you – I hate taking any shop off the circulation and seeing another indie close, but you, sir, have earned a fantastic retirement. Sadly, there won’t be another toy specialist for 35 miles now he has closed down, but I guess these are the times we live in.
I also got some more response to the subject of trade shows which the Blog has been ruminating on for the past few weeks: I was contacted by Ian Chaplin, a name many of you will be familiar with through his long stint heading up the toy buying team at Argos. Although Ian moved out of toys some while ago, like many people he stays in touch with the industry in which he spent many years. Always known for his honest and frank opinions, his feedback was as insightful as ever: “I remember my first view of toy fairs in about 2000 – New York, London, Nuremberg and the HK trip – and questioning why we saw all of the brands at all four shows. I guess it was because suppliers held back launches for each show to ensure you saw them. I always used to say they were buying our time, as they were paranoid that if we were not with them, we were with their competitors.” I suspect Ian has hit the nail on the head here – and I guess it is ultimately up to buyers whether they fall for that trick or not.
Ian also went on to point out that he believes HK “should always be an own brand and FOB trip.” Again, I agree completely and on that basis, when gauging whether or not to visit Hong Kong in January, the non-attendance of certain major global toy companies shouldn’t necessarily be a deciding factor – as long as the FOB buying and selling community are well represented. I must confess that I always had an inkling that some toy companies were only there because the big buyers were in town and – to Ian’s point – were paranoid about buyers spending time with their competitors. If Hong Kong returns to its core purpose, it may yet have a valid raison d’etre to continue as a valuable stop on the toy buying trail.
There have also been a few key moves to call out this week, with John Briggs being appointed as commercial director at Canal Toys and David Kelly joining Skillmatics to support the company’s UK launch as VP Sales UK & Ireland. Congratulations to them both on their new roles.
I mentioned earlier that the inaugural issue of Toy World first landed on desks twelve years ago to this very day, and you can read the digital version of our September birthday issue online now. As ever, the September edition is accompanied by our iconic standalone Games & Puzzles supplement, the only one of its kind anywhere in the world. So, if you need a little weekend reading, may I recommend a deep dive into the 216 pages of these combined powerhouse publications. You will find plenty there to get your teeth into. And if you agree or disagree with anything we’ve written, you are more than welcome to tell us.