The countdown to Christmas has well and truly begun. Bonfire night has passed, the M&S Christmas ad has gone viral and the Dream Toys press event has finally taken place. Although the venue remained the same, the new PR company in charge – Bastion – succeeded in giving proceedings a welcome fresh feel. Bold new decor, a reduction in the number of companies on display and – crucially – a tidying up of the number of categories and nominated toys meant it felt more cohesive than before.
Attendance seemed respectable, and most importantly, the quality of press representation seemed high (i.e. it wasn’t all bloggers…). Five Live kicked things off with – appropriately – a live broadcast at 5am, followed swiftly by Gary Grant making an appearance on Radio 4’s prestigious Today programme and coverage on ITV’s Daybreak.
Somewhat incongruously, the Top 10 actually contained 11 toys (perhaps we need more numeracy-based learning toys?), apparently because the judges couldn’t separate LeapPad and InnoTab. In fairness, it’s never easy to choose just 10 (or indeed 11) toys from all the fantastic new launches, but the feeling was that the committee got it more-or-less right overall.
Plenty of post-Dream Toys press coverage will hopefully help to give a timely boost to Christmas sales for the whole toy market. As, undoubtedly, will Argos re-introducing a ‘3 for 2’ offer across its entire toy range. If the Dream Toys committee was sensitive not to overload the list with high ticket items, offers like this certainly enable consumers to stretch the family budget further, as well as significantly uplifting sales volumes.
Indeed, there are already predictions of shortages of a number of this year’s hot items (begging the question of the need for ‘3 for 2’ offers….), with stories circulating of major buyers attempting to place large top-up orders in October: no prizes for guessing how that turned out (apparently delivery for Valentines Day wasn’t the response they were hoping for…).
So the stage is set, fingers – and everything else which can be crossed – are crossed, let the games begin…on the positive side, people seem genuinely optimistic about prospects for the weeks ahead. In stark contrast, over in the States things appear to be less rosy: Toys R Us has even announced that it will be opening at 5pm on Thanksgiving Day, a move which has come in for widespread criticism on social media sites. But the fact that there are six less trading days between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, coupled with tough trading conditions, is clearly leaving retailers with tough choices to make. Let’s just hope that any difficulties incurred by American retail chains don’t impact on their UK operations….
All of us at Toy World would like to congratulate our ad sales manager Mark and his partner Zoe on the birth of their second son Oscar this week. Celebrations and sleepless nights all round.
Finally, on the subject of babies (tenuous link ahoy), Zapf’s new Baby George doll seems to have one feature which I’m not sure is entirely appropriate (see headline on the link to a story in the Telegraph below):
You can follow John on Twitter @Baulchtweet.