Catch up with what’s been happening in the world of toys this week…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 27th September 2013

Christmas must be just round the corner, because price-cutting on toys has kicked up a gear. Argos announced a ‘3 for 2’ sale across its whole toy range this week, which certainly got the bargain hunters excited. Admittedly, there has been some social media chatter about how genuine the offer really is – there have even been suggestions that some prices have been hiked to make the deal look better than it actually is. But savvy consumers can still save plenty when a deal like this is running (and it’s amazing how many take to online forums to explain in minute detail just how much money they have saved).

Shoppers in Leicester have been spoilt for choice when it comes to bargains, with the Dominoes closing down sale proving exceptionally popular. The administrator claimed that the staff had been “shocked” by the level of interest in the sale: £38,000 worth of goods were apparently sold on Friday and Saturday last week,  compared to the shop’s traditional takings over those two days of around £4,500. By the time you read this the shutters will have come down on the shop for good, which is a huge shame for all concerned.

But thankfully there are plenty of positive things to focus on as well this week. It’s good to hear that Toy Fair has sold out the Upper West Hall, with Zapf/MGA/Little Tikes – returning to the show for the first time since 2007 – taking the last remaining space.  Indeed, the whole show is close to selling out, making 2014 the largest UK Toy Fair for some while.

It’s also good to see The Entertainer’s overseas expansion plans coming to fruition – it has signed an agreement to open its first store in Dubai in December, with franchise partner Al Owais promising to open a further 44 stores across the Middle East over the next five years.

Last week’s blog touched on the reputation that some UK buyers appear to be getting within the Chinese manufacturing community, and one experienced toy supplier emailed me to offer his thoughts on the subject, which I reprint verbatim below:

“This is quite true. I was in China last week myself “encouraging” our vendors to pull their fingers out on the tail end of our peak production. There is good capacity in places, but the key factories have been rammed with work the last few months. The US has come in very late with production and is now demanding priority. The additional downside for UK suppliers is that, because so many of our lovely retailers impose ridiculous fines for late deliveries – up to £10k per line in some cases – factories are now beginning to turn away orders for certain retailers to avoid the potential for these additional fines, or even the requirement to air freight at their cost. This means you sometimes end up manufacturing at a second choice factory, which has the labour shortages and unreliability that leads to late shipment anyway! Catch 22 or what!”

Perhaps it’s time for a rethink on the penalty clauses?

Finally, I’d like to wish a belated happy birthday to Toymaster’s Paul Reader, who hit the big 5-0 this week. Apparently he wanted to keep it quiet, but thanks to Twitter and a few close friends, word somehow got out.

You can follow John on Twitter @Baulchtweet.