It’s been half-term week across most of the UK and Ireland, so hopefully retailers have been blessed with lots of extra footfall. There has certainly been no shortage of deals on offer to entice customers into stores. Amongst the more eye-catching promotions, Argos has been offering a £5 gift voucher for every £30 spent on Lego, Toys R us and Smyths have been running ‘3 for 2’ deals on Skylanders figures, and every retailer and his dog seems to have some sort of half-price offer running. The enthusiasm of British shoppers for special offers – no matter how ‘special’ they really are – clearly shows little sign of abating.
Elsewhere, Tomy has restructured its sales and marketing teams following Clive Wooster’s decision to move on to pastures new. Clive was keen to stress how amicable the whole situation is; wouldn’t it be great if all departures could be handled with such professionalism and civility. With his extensive background in the toy market, I have little doubt that Clive will return to the fold in due course.
I can also reveal that Melanie Beer has joined Everything’s Rosie licensor V+S, whilst Julie Quirke has moved from V+S to join Dreamworks. Also on the licensing front – albeit that is perhaps the most tenuous link I’ve ever had the gall to attempt – a familiar face suddenly appeared on the BBC News last Sunday evening. It turns out that the eighteen-year-old lad who got lost for several days in the Australian outback and was thankfully found just in the nick of time is the son of licensing stalwart Claire Derry. What a nightmare few days that must have been for her and the family, and what a relief that the story had a happy ending.
Sticking with happy news (Lord knows, there’s plenty of less positive news in the media right now), I was delighted to hear that The Entertainer’s international expansion plans are developing rapidly. Having interviewed Duncan Grant on this very subject for our Toy Fair edition, it’s good to be able to report that swift progress has been made, with Pakistan and Dubai announced as the first two destinations where franchise stores will be opened later this year.
In amongst all the media hoopla surrounding the ongoing horsemeat scandal and a certain trigger-happy paralympian, one potentially worrying economic development has slipped quietly by, namely a rather sudden, steep decline in the sterling exchange rate. I’ll bet it hasn’t been missed by toy suppliers, though; with increased pressure on pricing and margins, the weakening of the pound was the last thing anyone needed. To make matters even worse, I’m going on holiday to the States this year; oh how I wish I’d had the foresight to forward buy currency before Christmas. Hopefully UK toy companies were more on the ball than me.
I’d like to finish this week with a brief calendar of forthcoming events. Having played a minor part in avoiding a slightly embarrassing industry-related clash of dates recently, I thought that a round-up of what’s coming up in the coming months might come in handy in certain quarters:
24-26 March – Harrogate Nursery Fair
16 – 17 April – The Independent Toy and Gift show, Solihull (i.e. the AIS Show with a new name)
14-16 May – The Toymaster Show
4 June – The Entertainer Stakeholder Day
8 June – Big Kids Bike Ride, Isle of Wight in aid of the Toy Trust
18-20 June – Licensing Expo, Las Vegas
If I’ve missed anything important off the list, feel free to let me know.
Finally, I’m sorry if last week’s blog upset anyone who thought they’d done well to be told they are in the top 5-10% viewed LinkedIn profiles. I wasn’t boasting, honestly. I really am quite apathetic when it comes to LinkedIn; after all, I don’t need a new job. But if it helps, as a reader of the toy industry’s finest and most prestigious blog (even if I do say so myself…and I do!), feel free to post on Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest that you are in the top 1% of Toy World blog viewers. I’ll even get our designer to knock up a snazzy logo if you like.
You can follow John on Twitter here: @Baulchtweet.