The week in toys….it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: September 25th, 2015

First, a quick piece of very hot gossip. I hear that CEO Chris Spalding has resigned from HTi after an 18 month tenure. It’s not clear yet who will succeed him in the position, but there are strong rumours circulating that chairman and principal investor John Hutt will be taking a more active role in the business in the short term.

Now on with matters which can be discussed more openly. Things are certainly hotting up at retail. Last weekend’s 20% off sale at Smyths seems to have produced extremely positive results: while the finance director is probably pulling his hair out at the loss of margin, there was a huge increase in sales – one supplier described the uplift as being in the hundreds of per cent. The sale coincided with the launch of the Smyths catalogue, a hefty 300 page publication. My initial impression is that product looks so much better in the Smyths catalogue than it does in the toy pages of the Argos catalogue; the bigger format, with less products crammed onto the page, results in far less squinting or trying to work out exactly what is on the page.

The timing of the Smyths promotional activity was carefully calculated; the fact it fell one week before the launch of Argos’ 3 for 2 promotion was clearly no coincidence. Neither was the ramping up of the Smyths discount from 20% to 33% this week. There is very much a battle of the giants developing. I just hope that other toy retailers don’t get caught in the crossfire, I suspect it could get fairly brutal.

Meanwhile the grand opening of the Toy Store on Oxford Street took place on Thursday evening. They’ve certainly lived up to the promise they made to create an exciting, engaging retail environment, and it’s remarkable what they have achieved from a build perspective in effectively a 10 week window. The grand opening was well attended, with many toy and licensing companies represented, and everyone I spoke to seemed to share my belief that the store is looking good. Prices seem very reasonable for the location as well.

LeapFrog is the latest toy company to announce it will not be exhibiting at next year’s Toy Fair. As I have said previously, the clash of dates with Nuremberg was always going to pose challenges for certain companies, but with the show 92% full, there will be certainly no shortage of fantastic new product to see at the show. What’s more, it will open up a few more appointment slots for busy buyers. The NPD article which will appear in the next issue of Toy World focuses on some of the unsung heroes of the toy trade, the companies that occupy the 100-200 slots on their top suppliers chart. Without giving too much away, it seems that many companies in this bracket are having an exceptionally good year, and these companies are actually responsible for a significant percentage of the market’s overall growth so far in 2015. It can sometimes be a challenge for some of these companies to get seen by certain buyers at Toy Fair due to lack of time, so perhaps they will be the ones to benefit from the withdrawal of a couple of large toy companies.

Finally, on the subject of Toy Fairs, I’m delighted to announce that we’ve teamed up up with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council again this year to offer special travel incentives to visit the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair in January. Options include up to three nights free hotel accommodation and discounted air fares, as well as a host of other incentives including free VIP Lounge access, an invitation to networking events and a complimentary business matching service. The offer is open to all new visitors to the show, so if you’ve thought about attending this hugely successful event, this promotion could help make the trip viable. Drop me an email for more details.

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