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Reasons to be cheerful…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: November 15th, 2013

Right, good news, we can all relax: the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney has announced that “the recovery has taken hold”. Phew, that’s a relief. Of course, we all know it’s far more complex than that, but it’s good to see some positive messages about the economy featuring prominently in the media at this all-important time of the year.

In fairness, this positivity is largely borne out by the majority of people I’m talking to: the grumbling that occasionally emanates from suppliers at this time of the year hasn’t really materialised as yet. Each time I’ve found myself at close quarters with a bunch of toy companies recently (BLE, Dream Toys, Fence Club AGM, Licensing Quiz), the mood has been pleasantly – if cautiously – optimistic. No horror stories of cancellations or warehouse doors closing just yet (apart from a few predominantly nursery-oriented accounts): if anything, it seems that some retailers are already running short of stock in some areas. As long as the snow which is being forecast in some quarters for next week doesn’t materialise, we’re hopefully set for a decent run through to Christmas.

Somewhat inevitably though, every day seems to bring news of another toy sale: Asda started its half price sale this week, while Toys R Us appears to have a permanent flash-sale running (it’s becoming a bit like those sofa-shop sales which are always being TV advertised…the ones where no-one believes it when they say “must end soon”).

Hornby released its latest set of half-year results, which were actually quite encouraging, giving chairman Roger Canham the opportunity to work the phrase “on track” into his summary, making it nice and easy for the headline writers (at least the ‘glass half-full’ ones). Hornby also revealed that is has opened a new retail store at the Swindon Designer Outlet (now there’s a name to conjure with…). The outlet is actually right next door to Steam, The Museum of the Great Western Railway, so full marks to whoever was responsible for scouting locations for the store.

Belated congratulations to new Fence Club members Dave Howard (Drumond Park) and Simon Pilkington (John Adams), both of whom were inaugurated into the Club at last week’s AGM. The event also saw Phil Green take over the Chairman’s mantle from Steve Wells, and we wish him an enjoyable year in the role.

Those of you who have already booked tickets for the Fence Club Football match in Hong Kong will be pleased to know that some half-time entertainment has been lined up. This will take the form of a penalty competition between England and Germany to settle the argument once and for all about which nation is the best at taking penalties. And I can now reveal the identity of the men in whose hands (or more accurately, feet) English hopes lay – Joe Kissane, Paul Reader and yours truly. Frankly, there’s no way of sugar-coating this; we’re in trouble. If anyone is betting on the result, I’d have a sneaky few quid on the Germans to keep up their run of penalty competition victories over the English. But hey, we’ll give it our best shot (literally). If you’re in Hong Kong and free on Tuesday 7th January, come along and give us some encouragement: tickets can be bought from davidb@charactergroup.plc.uk.

Finally, with all the hype surrounding this year’s crop of festive TV ads from major retailers, I quite liked this ‘alternative’ version of the John Lewis ad. Enjoy – but maybe look away now if you a) like the real John Lewis Christmas ad, b) like Keane or c) aren’t a fan of mild swearing….

You can follow John on Twitter @Baulchtweet.

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