Beware of the Bull…it’s the Friday (Vegas) Blog!

Published on: 26th May 2017

By the time you read this, Licensing Week will be well and truly done and dusted.

Those who have attended will know that Vegas is a different show on so many levels: one major UK retailer making her first trip to the show – armed with calculator no less (as she would be at Toy Fairs) – was slightly bemused to find herself sitting in a meeting where the main objective appeared to be to set up a meeting with her back in the UK in a few weeks’ time.

Some people have suggested that the UK retailers may have travelled to Vegas in smaller groups this year. As this is a purely anecdotal observation, I have no hard evidence to either prove or disprove the theory. However, if it is true, you can perhaps understand the logic – if ever there was a year when the finance director was likely to win the ‘does it really need this many of you to go to Vegas?’ debate, this is the year.

Whether it is accurate or not, the British contingent still represents a sizeable group, evidenced by the Wednesday evening gathering at the Voodoo Lounge, where colleagues and competitors came together in the spirit of friendship, camaraderie and networking. Rather like the toy trade, the ability to put aside commercial rivalries on occasions such as these is the sign of a special, tight-knit community. I certainly know of no other country that arranges this sort of ad hoc, communal event at an international trade show.

2018 is already shaping up to be an interesting year, and one which might potentially be less dominated by Disney than some licensees might have feared; talking to one prominent UK toy retailer, he admitted that he would be asking licensees not to pitch him any Star Wars merchandise at all next year, suggesting that he would prefer to use 2018 to clear the decks of the considerable volume of stock he still has from Episode 7 and Rogue One. The phrase ‘long tail’ would appear to be something of an understatement in this instance. By the by, I watched Rogue One on the plane coming out to Vegas and enjoyed it immensely; but – spoiler alert – as everyone dies by the end, I’m not sure how much this has impacted sales of the merchandise. Maybe this is why the only thing on offer at the end of Monday’s Disney presentation – at the end of a long hard day for everyone – was a glass of water. Even prisoners are given bread to accompany their water…

After my comments about the questionable practice of grown men high-fiving on stage in the previous Blog, I gather that there was an (over) abundance of whooping and hollering at both the Lima Licensing Awards and Nickelodeon presentations a few nights ago; Brits clearly feel uncomfortable with such ardent displays of excitement, but I guess when in Rome….

The buzz phrases continue to come thick and fast: one licensee mentioned how much he enjoys the delicious ambiguity of the phrase ‘it has performed in line with expectations’. And once – just once – it would be reassuring to hear of a programme that was performing at either number two or number three in its timeslot (they can’t all be number one, surely?). Other Vegas euphemisms include “Thursday is my walking the floor day” (the aisles were so quiet that I suspect the floor in question referred to their hotel room) and “I’m going comp shopping/ on a store visit / conducting competitor analysis” (basically, you’re going shopping, aren’t you?).

Finally, I was looking for a humorous way to sum up the experience of the past week when Ian Downes sent me this image, which I feel may become the unofficial logo of licensing shows everywhere….

Beware of the bull