The clocks have gone back, the temperature is steadily dropping and preview season has kicked off – all the signs of the approach of winter are present and correct. As you read this, I will be sitting in my first preview of the year, my gaze turning towards 2018 while the crucial weeks of the 2017 toy calendar still lie ahead of us. Make no mistake about the challenges which lie ahead over the next seven weeks; footfall figures shown to me by a major specialist retailer were not only significantly down for three of the four weeks in October, but also represented steeper declines than we saw earlier this year. And the launch of the new family-friendly Nintendo Switch looks set to challenge toy spend to some degree. But the eternal optimist in me still believes it will come good as we get closer to Christmas – that last weekend is surely going to be massive?
In the meantime, the November issue of Toy World arrived on desks this week – you can read the digital version of the issue here. The focus of this edition is also very much on 2018, with features covering the key new launches that will be hitting shelves early in the New Year. As you might expect, there is a plethora of new collectible ranges coming through, including Magic Box’s SuperZings, Alpha Animation’s Miximals and Zuru’s Smashers, while the ‘squishy’ category looks poised to be the next big craze, as several companies – including Bandai with Smooshy Mushy – rush to airfreight stock in to meet retail demand. Hasbro also announced at last week’s ComicCon that they’ll be introducing collectible Porgs to the Star Wars Black Series line in the spring, as the creatures continue to be the thing everyone is talking about from the new movie – in a good way thankfully (i.e. the new Ewoks rather than the new Jar-Jar Binks).
In addition to the new range highlights, the November issue also includes an article I worked on with Gary Grant. He first suggested in Nuremberg that he’d like to walk me round his warehouse and show me some of the challenges that his warehouse staff face every day. It took us a while to co-ordinate diaries, but I hope you will agree it was worth the wait: you can read the article here. It would be great to hear from suppliers, logistics companies and indeed other retailers with their thoughts on the subject. In times when every penny counts, it does seem like there may be some easy wins in this area.
And as if to illustrate just how many challenges retailers are facing in the logistics area, Toys R Us has been in the news this week after a parent complained that her daughter’s surprise Christmas present was delivered with the word ‘toys’ – and worse still, the name of the actual toy – emblazoned in large black capital letters across the box. D’oh! Discretion was obviously not part of the service on this occasion. We all know that parents need to master the art of lying to small children quickly, but this kind of faux pas does seem avoidable with a bit of thought. Just like some of the other practices which Gary talks about in the aforementioned article…
Another thing that should in theory be avoidable is embarrassing mistakes in Christmas catalogues; as a publisher, I have every sympathy with retailers, as I know precisely just how easy it is for things to slip through the net every once in a while. That said, Tesco’s catalogue has fallen into one of the more obvious bear traps, by heading a page ‘Stationary’ as opposed to Stationery (unless, of course, they’re really not expecting those lines to move at all!). I suppose it could have been worse; at least they didn’t put ‘Educashional’.
The toy grapevine has been buzzing this week with the news that Mary Wood had left Vivid – and I’m delighted to exclusively reveal that she will be joining Tomy as UK general manager, starting Monday. It’s a fantastic move for both parties and we wish Mary every success in the new role.
Finally, a reminder that it’s Dream Toys next week, so another week in the media spotlight for toys, and hopefully plenty of sales to follow as a result. As Tesco would say, “evry littel hellps.”