Back to the coal face…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 15th February 2013

For those fortunate enough to finish Toy Fair season in New York this week, I am ever-so-slightly envious – even allowing for the major snowfall which disrupted so many people’s journey to the States. Exhausted as everyone is by this stage of proceedings, Manhattan is a destination that always manages to raise the spirits and put an extra spring in your step. But after four shows in a six-week period, it was high time I returned to the coal face and attacked the mountains of follow-up which the other fairs had generated. But obviously we’ve been keeping a close eye on proceedings from afar; among the more noteworthy events, the stars of Monsters University – Jon Goodman and Billy Crystal – turned up to promote the eagerly-awaited new movie. As ever, a host of new products were unveiled and many new licensing tie-ups were announced. Probably the most sought-after ‘freebies’ were the samples of the new Skylanders Swap range which were being  given away, many of which ended up rather rapidly on eBay for eye-watering sums (not that I am condoning that, naturally).

The main piece of ‘hard news’ emanating from the States this week was the announcement that Toys R Us CEO Jerry Storch would be stepping down from his role in the near future. I had heard some gossip to this effect from a good source during my trip to Hong Kong, although some of the details I heard didn’t quite match those in the official announcement (as is so often the case).

There’s not much ‘hard news’ to report on in the UK toy market this week – I suspect we’re all too busy playing catch-up. I was, however, amused by some of the media coverage of Playmobil’s new Bank play-set, which includes what one newspaper excitedly refers to as a “gun-toting bank robber”. No doubt it will be their new Wild West set which comes under fire next (every pun intended); maybe those complaining would prefer the bank robber/cowboy to be holding a banana for comic effect? In the end, I guess it’s all good publicity for Playmobil’s new ranges, so no harm done, but I do feel that some people miss the point occasionally.

In my unofficial – and unpaid – capacity as part-time recruitment consultant, I know of a couple of toy companies currently looking for NAM’s, so if anyone knows anyone who is interested, feel free to send them in my direction. The usual fees apply (i.e. beer).

I was quite curious to find myself contacted by LinkedIn this week, telling me that my profile was in the top 1% of those viewed in 2012…until just about everyone else I know posted the same thing on Twitter/Facebook. My rudimentary grasp of mathematics suggests we may all have been misled somewhat. Not one of the finer examples of marketing genius you’ll see this year. The funny thing is that I am hardly what you would describe as active on LinkedIn to begin with, so if mine is indeed one of the 1% most viewed, I’d hate to think how apathetic the other 99% must be.

I’d like to offer my congratulations to Vivid’s Emma Weber and her husband Andy on the birth of their daughter Alice last week – like all good babies, Alice did her best to retain the element of surprise and unpredictability by arriving a few days early, to coincide with her parents second wedding anniversary.

Finally, a mention for TK Maxx’s Children’s Buying Director Grant Groome, who will shortly be undertaking a gruelling 100km Sahara Trek to raise money for Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day. As if the trek itself isn’t arduous enough, Grant has agreed to dress as a different children’s character each day, with costumes kindly donated by Rubie’s (hopefully suitably embarrassing ones). TK Maxx has been the main retail sponsor of Red Nose Day for the past 8 years, raising over £10m along the way, so any toy suppliers who would like to support Grant in his endeavours can do so by clicking here – We’ll be posting pictures of Grant in his various desert disguises in due course – as you can see from the picture below, it looks as though they didn’t exactly have to twist his arm to go along with the whole ‘dressing up’ theme.