There’s only a week to go before The Toy Store opens its doors on Oxford Street. The grand opening takes place next Thursday evening, so I’m assuming that the store will be open to the general public the following morning. After a year or more of speculation and conjecture, it will be absolutely fascinating to see what the retailer’s first foray into the UK market looks like in the flesh. I’m looking forward to taking a tour round the store and will report back – I can’t wait.
Looking a little further ahead, the popular toy industry Christmas PR event, Dream Toys, will once again be taking place in the first week of November, specifically on 4th November this year. Given the number of major suppliers and retailers involved in the event, it must be a monumental task to get everyone to agree on the date and the format, but I’m sure that this year’s event will be as successful as ever. With Black Friday taking place only three weeks later, it seems the ideal precursor to that increasingly important date in the retail calendar.
There have been a few notable appointments in recent weeks: Katherine Pierce has joined Golden Bear as senior licensing and marketing manager, Rachel Middleton- Smith has joined Jakks as trade marketing manager and Melanie Beer has re-joined Amscan as licensing director. Good luck to them all in their respective new roles.
Congratulations to the toy company winners in this week’s licensing awards: Flair for Shopkins, Rubies for its Frozen Dress-Up range and The Entertainer for Pre-School retailer. There were also wins for EOne (Peppa Pig), Mattel (Barbie), Nickelodeon (Turtles), as well as Minions and Minecraft. Some things don’t change: the presentation does go on a bit – perhaps proceedings might not have been so protracted had Mattel’s Simon Price not had to double air-kiss the entire staff of the Primark head office on stage as they collected their trophy – and even host Alexander Armstrong (half) joked that the whole event was hideously over-sponsored. But arguably none of that matters: it’s always a good night out and a chance to catch up with friends and colleagues from the licensing community. As for whether it warrants the licensing community spending well in excess of £1million on a party, I’ll leave you to decide.
I wonder what Wal-Mart would make of it. According to Bloomberg, the retailer wrote to suppliers earlier this year, telling them to cut back on marketing and promotions and use the savings to lower their prices. Wal-Mart is also apparently asking suppliers to pay to use its distribution centres and warehouses, as well as for shelf space in new stores, while at the same time telling suppliers it will take longer to settle invoices. As is often the case, it all seems a little one-sided and by all accounts some suppliers are not taking the new measures lying down. As for cutting spending on marketing, I’m not sure how well that particular request would go down in the toy trade, but it’s often the case that measures adopted by American retailers are borrowed by their UK counterparts, so it may yet surface as a talking point in the future.
Finally, the one piece of promotional activity that stood out at the licensing awards was a Top Trumps set featuring personalities from the licensing community. Good work by Winning Moves. Maybe they should do one for Toy Fair? If so, bagsy being the person who decides the scores for each category. I’m sure I’d be a little more generous – poor Ian Downes only got a four for service, while Paul Bufton managed a criminally harsh two for style. Still a great idea though.