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That’s a wrap… it’s the Hong Kong Blog!

Published on: January 13th, 2017

I’m going to start with an apology. I know that I said today’s Blog would be a round-up of some of the great products I’ve seen this past week in Hong Kong, but my schedule has defeated me. There will be a product focus to follow next week, when I’ve had the time to go through my copious notes. In the meantime, I thought I’d return to flesh out and summarise a few of the points raised in this week’s previous Blogs:

– Buyers are accepting that prices will be increasing (even the one who started the week saying that they wouldn’t – presumably they realised that a toy department without toys wouldn’t look too good).

– Retailers looking to buy TV promoted lines at half price are getting the same short shrift as anyone refusing price increases.

– Some retailers are looking to trade up; rather than just going with a product with heavily reduced specs, if they’re going to pay more anyway, they’d rather pay a little more on top and get a much better value line.

– Buyers are leaning more towards domestic rather than FOB deals this year, pushing the risk back towards the suppliers.

– There is a feeling that, ultimately, some good may come of all this. There is a prevailing belief that there is little point in being too rigid and dogmatic: if a product can’t hit £9.99, don’t try to force it. Chasing turnover and market share at the expense of cash profit seems foolhardy. Maybe there will be less silly deals around this year? Argos stood its ground while Tesco was slashing prices, and it doesn’t seem to have been unduly hurt. Tesco may have increased its toy business by 8.5%, but at what margin – the consensus is that the increase came nowhere near breaking even from a cash perspective.

– Some bridging price points may emerge. £19.99 to £24.99 is a big leap; why not £21.99 or £22.99? Few other retail sectors are so constrained by inflexible price points these days.

– I am coming around to the idea that all licensing personnel should be fitted with a lie detector for meetings. That way, when they say things like “Moana is the new Frozen” or “It’s all fine, it’s still early days for Teletubbies, it’s just getting started”, we can see whether they genuinely believe their own hyperbole, or whether they light up like a glitter ball. Of course, the majority of them would have absolutely nothing to worry about…

Gossip has been relatively thin on the ground, but I understand that former Hasbro executive Grant Gie has joined Sambro as commercial director, while John Ward has joined Epoch. I was also very sad to hear that Jim Brearley had passed away. I received numerous emails saying what a great person he was – another toy doyen gone too soon.

I’d like to thank the people who got in touch to point out that the reason metallic balloons are banned on the MTR is that the whole system ground to a halt recently after one burned through an overhead cable, stranding 100,000 commuters in stations for almost two hours. Sorry Amscan but fair enough, I’d ban them from stations too on that basis.

My previously quoted walking distance (which ended up a little over 50 miles in seven days) was genuine, unlike that of a certain person who didn’t correctly format his app, resulting in it counting bus and train journeys as steps. I hope he realised before he flew home, or he really will think he had an impressive step count. I won’t name him, but if you want a clue, Shakin’ Stephens real name is the same as this person.

My favourite quote of the week came from the toy trade legend Alan Hassenfeld, who told me the day after the latest Trump revelations: “Being an American isn’t easy today.” I fear he may have to get used to many more days like that.

All in all, it’s been a fantastic and very productive week, but I’m delighted to be back in the UK. Only one week and we’ll be doing it all over again in London. I can’t wait….

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