I’m now safely ensconced back in the UK after a very pleasant break, ready and raring to throw myself into the maelstrom that undoubtedly awaits over the coming weeks. Apart from a trip to Autumn Fair – where I saw a decent sprinkling of toy folk conducting some healthy pre-Christmas business – I’ve been chained to my desk attempting to catch-up after two weeks away (I’m just about getting there).
So how did Force Friday turn out? I guess to some degree it depends how you are judging it. If you look on it purely as a PR stunt to drive awareness, I think it’s fair to say it did its job pretty well: the launch achieved a strong media presence, to the extent it almost became blanket coverage in some quarters. However, as a transactional event, I would venture to suggest the verdict may not be so clear cut: yes, a respectable number of collectors turned out at an ungodly hour to get their hands on the new merchandise, but apart from a few isolated incidents, it could hardly be described as a crush. Stores inevitably ran out of certain items very quickly (to the chagrin of people still queueing outside the shops), but that was as much about the volume of stock available than the quantities being sold. As Disney had decreed Force Friday be moved earlier in the calendar than had originally been suggested, I guess it was always going to be difficult for suppliers to react, especially with the level of global demand. Anyway, perhaps it was for the best that stock was restricted at the midnight openings: greater availability would probably have led to mass purchases that went straight in the loft or on ebay. Better to spread the stock out and let everyone have a fair crack.
I mentioned in last week’s Blog that American retailers have been approaching Chinese vendors for a price reduction due to the recent currency movements. True to form, it didn’t take UK retailers long to jump on the bandwagon. Letters began to arrive with toy suppliers soon afterwards; on this occasion, Argos was first out of the traps, and I’m sure others may be contemplating a similar move. Predictably, suppliers have reacted with not inconsiderable anger and frustration: I’ve been contacted by numerous disgruntled companies this week, pointing out a number of fundamental flaws in the argument. I’ve written a separate story today, highlighting some of the most common points raised by suppliers, which you can read here. To sum it up, it seems that companies are frustrated that Argos – and, other retailers – are not overly sympathetic when the prevailing economic circumstances point to a price increase, but they are not slow to get in touch the minute conditions go the other way. You could, of course, say this is just how business works, but some might suggest it exposes the concept (myth?) of mutually beneficial long-term trading partnerships which retailers are fond of promoting.
Finally, it appears that not all toy retailers felt the force with them last Friday. The ‘Farce Friday’ award goes to a branch of Toys R Us in Swansea, which came in for some not-so-gentle ribbing on social media after the store was pictured still setting up its Star Wars display the following lunchtime, a mere 13 hours late. Thank goodness they don’t have a stand at Toy Fair….