It’s only a toy….it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: August 28th, 2015

Greetings from a rather warmer part of the world, where I am currently enjoying my annual holiday.

I have briefly left the family on the beach to wrestle with the hotel wi-fi in order to bring you this week’s Friday Blog. If you are reading this, it means I’ve won this particular battle.

Arguably the most interesting developments of the week have surrounded the allocation of Star Wars merchandise by Hasbro. In fairness, this was always going to be a challenging scenario for Hasbro, and one which in some respects they were going to find it almost impossible to emerge from unscathed. There is a potent combination of factors leading to an inescapable conclusion – that product was always going to be in short supply. It’s an end-of-year movie, never the best timing for suppliers to be bullish about numbers; Episode 7 is the forerunner of what is clearly intended to be a long-term licensing programme, so there was never an onus to go out all guns blazing from day one; there is inevitably going to be huge global demand, and when this happens, I find that American companies will often call first dibs on the stock; individual retailers will almost certainly have made huge commitments, and if you add every order up, it probably came to an eye-watering number, far more than the market is likely to be able to support. Add all these factors together and you get the perfect storm – allocation becomes unavoidable.

As an aside, I’m often asked by consumer journalists why toy companies deliberately short ship, and I usually tell them the same thing: apart from the fact that no company ever went bust selling all the product it had in its warehouse, the truth is that shortages are rarely deliberately manufactured by toy companies – they are neither that cynical nor so profitable that they can afford to turn down good business. But sometimes the circumstances dictate what happens, and I believe this is one such occasion.

All of which I offer in mitigation, having been contacted by a number of indie retailers who are incandescent over their Star Wars allocation, which in some cases might just be the lowest percentage of the original order value I have ever heard. It’s easy to see why they are so disappointed: indies live and breathe toys, to many it is more – much more – than just another product to sell. Which is why, if it is true that some were told when complaining that – and I quote – “it’s only another toy”, I think there may have been a slight misjudgement of the situation. Multi-channel retailers have many product categories to profit from: specialists only have toys, and without them they don’t have a business. For many of them, Star Wars sales could make a major difference to the year’s performance.

Of course, if there is only so much stock to go round, a lot of people are going to lose out. And the painful fines doled out by major retailers for non-supply might possibly be a reason why certain difficult decisions fall the way I do. Does that make it any less painful for the indies being offered six light sabres? Absolutely not. Is it fair? I’ll leave you to be the judge of that. On the plus side, there are a large number of licensees with Star wars merchandise, and maybe they will be able to step into the breech and fill some of the gaps. Either way, it looks like the ‘Pimpernel’ award – occasionally offered by the TRA when a particular toy is in excessively short supply – may need to be dusted off in time for January.

To end on a happier note, congratulations to Vicki Elmer, who got engaged on her recent holiday to The Maldives. Have a great Bank Holiday, I hope the weather is kind to you – I’ll be thinking of you as I sip my Tequila Sunrise swinging in a hammock by the pool.

I’ll leave you with this unusual example of local merchandise – I have my doubts that it is in any way official. Mind you, it’s still not as bad as the Hello Kitty/Chucky hybrid that we were sent a press release about this week, which unbelievably someone actually did authorise. What were they thinking? Heads will surely roll…



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