The largely positive start to the year seems to be continuing. Selections are beginning to drift in, and so far there appear to be relatively few grumbles from suppliers – although a few people have mentioned ‘challenging’ negotiations with a certain catalogue / store chain, which may not come as a massive surprise with analysts continuing to speculate about potential store closures. The retailer in question is also apparently trying to change its FOB terms – long after all this year’s pricing has been fixed, naturally! Suffice to say the reaction from suppliers has been fairly predictable (and largely unprintable).
Elsewhere there’s a game of ‘musical chairs’ going on at several retail accounts: Nick Cooke is leaving the Tesco toy team to head up the video games buying department; Tom Folliot is to be the new head of toy buying at Sainsburys; Lee Clarke (not the former Huddersfield manager apparently) is to set to replace Tom at Tesco Central Europe and Sainsburys Lauren Bennett is leaving the toy team to buy gifts and stationery, to be replaced by Jessie Matthews.
It is interesting to see that Hamleys is having another crack at the Russian market. The retailer has confirmed that it will be opening a new store in Moscow at the end of March, which – at 1700 square metres – will be around 1/3 the size of its flagship Regent Street store. Hamleys previous attempt to establish itself in Russia in 2009 didn’t really work, but this is undoubtedly a far more concerted effort, and with the Russian market said to be growing rapidly, the time looks right for a fresh attempt.
Probably the biggest news in licensing circles this week has been Classic Media’s acquisition of the licensing rights to Noddy. I wish them all the best, and I am sure they know the scale of the challenge that lies ahead; the brand has undergone a series of re-launches in recent years (it could be said that Noddy has had more comebacks than Frank Sinatra), but in truth it has never really taken off to the extent that licensees and retailers had hoped it would. Will it fare any better under new ownership? Seems appropriate to wheel out the time-honoured phrase ‘time will tell’….
Finally congratulations to Worlds Apart – without doubt one of the nicest companies in the toy trade – on signing up to become the lead licensee for Horrible Histories. The taxi driver who took me from the Toy Fair to my hotel on set-up day spent most of the journey telling me how much his kids loved Horrible histories and how he wished there was more product available (and we all know that taxi drivers are always right!), so he’ll certainly be pleased with this development, as I’m sure Worlds Apart is.