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Awards, new beginnings and sad goodbyes…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 8th March 2013

The Toy of the Year award has come in for some fairly stinging criticism in certain quarters this week. In many respects, the award ceremony itself was an easy target. It was the first year in a new venue, and some things didn’t work. Everyone who was there knows that, and from conversations I had at Toy Fair, it was clear that changes will undoubtedly be made next year, regardless of what any magazine writes – or attempts to take subsequent credit for.

But let’s not insult the winners of this year’s awards by inferring that the judging process was flawed. Being interviewed by Radio Derby this week, Midco’s Dave Middleton described his award as being the equivalent of “winning an Oscar.” I’m sure all the others were equally delighted. Nobody will ever agree with every award, but somehow it doesn’t seem right to undermine the winners by implying there was widespread dissatisfaction with the decision-making process behind their victories.

I also think it’s worth remembering that these are industry awards. There are plenty of other awards voted for by kids and parents – more than enough, some might even say. But the Toy of the Year award has always been rooted in commercial performance; most other countries operate their industry awards the same way. On that basis, the judging process and winners seem entirely logical; I wonder how many of this year’s winners those people complaining actually disagree with? Sure, it is always nice to see smaller companies also recognised in some way, but the special recognition awards have often done that in the past, and will probably do so again in the future.

I’m all for lively debate, even the occasional whiff of controversy, but as I said in my March leader column, I just think it’s important to keep things in perspective.

Anyway, some other stuff to report before I sign off: congratulations to Richard Hollis, who has joined the Hallmark licensing division on a six month contract, and to Peter Byrne, who has taken over the role of CEO at CPLG. It was encouraging to hear that overall retail sales increased in February -let’s hope that toys have followed the trend. I was also interested to see that Lego has brought its promotional association with The Sun to an end, a decision which may – or indeed may not – have been influenced by an online petition against the partnership.

Good luck to Clive Wooster, who is walking round the Isle of Wight in aid of the Brainstrust charity in 2 weeks time. And to those few lucky souls who finished Toy Fair season in Australia this past week, needless to say I am suitably jealous, so it’s probably best not to send me photos of yourself on the beach after a ‘hard day at the show’.

Finally, I was very sad to hear that Peter Fielding passed away last Friday after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Fence Club member, holder of a Golden Teddy and lifelong Manchester City supporter, Peter was a genuinely nice and hugely respected man who spent over 40 years in the toy trade with Matchbox, Hasbro and Kids Biz. In 2004 he formed Panda Toys with his great friend Alex Gribben, handling sales for numerous toy suppliers including Corinthian. He will be truly missed by his many friends in the trade, and our thoughts are with his wife and family.

You can follow John on Twitter here: @Baulchtweet.