Egg (not Pie) on their faces… it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 11th December 2015

There is a clear winner in the ‘monumental cock-up of the week’ stakes: in fact, cock-ups (plural) would perhaps be a more accurate description. Step forward B & M Bargains, scourge of the independents and a retailer which – let’s be honest – is no stranger to controversy. On this occasion, B&M has been caught selling a fake copy of the hugely successful Pie-Face game. Not a ‘parallel-marketed’ copycat version (Pudding Face or something along those lines), but a fully-fledged blatant knock-off, complete with a copy of the barcode and Hasbro’s address by all accounts. A brazen move and, frankly, a huge error of judgement. But it gets worse; reducing the price to £4.99 on Cyber Monday almost certainly helped to alert Hasbro to the offending item. It doesn’t even stop there. Apparently, when Hasbro told B&M to remove the offending product from sale forthwith, head office sent an email to the stores insinuating that the product was faulty and had to be removed; one store stuck up what should have been an internal memo so it was visible on the shop floor and – naturally – a customer saw it and put it on social media. A catalogue of errors which you literally couldn’t make up.

But if this all sounds farcical, there is a serious side to the tale: surely B&M chairman Sir Terry Leahy will be concerned about the damage to his reputation caused by his company being linked to such an unsavoury incident. And I can’t believe that B&M’s relationship with Hasbro has exactly been enhanced by the whole sordid affair. I can only imagine how independent retailers have reacted.

Elsewhere this week, Argos has launched what can only be described as a clearance flyer in-store, featuring some fairly hefty price reductions. The timing seems a little unusual – it looks more like the kind of flyer you’d see after Christmas, not three weeks beforehand – but it dovetails with rumours I’ve been hearing that retailers are asking suppliers to increase their consumer marketing activity to help shift stock which they’re currently sitting on. I’m not sure how much capacity the TV broadcasters have to be able to respond to this request, or if indeed suppliers believe it’s the right thing to do. However, it does suggest that predictions of a significant rise in sales for the toy market in 2015 may perhaps have been a little premature. I guess we’ll all find out in a few weeks’ time.

On to more positive matters, Alison Downie has been promoted to global licensing and brand director at HTi, David Kelly has been unveiled as the new managing director at Magformers and Alpana Virani has now officially joined Universal Licensing as director of hardlines. It was also great to see the toy trade rally round to support the Toy Shop in Cockermouth, which has once again fallen victim to the Cumbrian floods. Having been through a similar situation five years ago, owners Jonty and Fiona Chippendale do at least have some previous experience of how to handle things and are, I understand, up and running again already. Toymaster has asked for donations of stock to help them get back on their feet quickly, and I know from a few emails I received from suppliers that they were more than happy to help. It’s nice to see the toy trade supporting one of their own in need – but in fairness I would expect nothing less from such a close-knit, friendly community.

A quick note to remind you that if you’re going to be in Hong Kong in January, there are still a few tickets left for the perennially popular Hong Kong Football Match, in aid of the Fence Club. Email David Bramford for more details, I’ve well and truly hung up my boots, but will be there cheering the team on from the comfort of the stand / bar. I’m also working on my diary for Hong Kong, so if anyone would like me to pop into the showroom to see their new range for 2016 (and I will be looking for interesting products to highlight in the Hong Kong Blog), feel free to drop me a line. I’ll also be in London (all three days, beginning to end), Nuremberg and New York, so I’ll hopefully catch up with most of you somewhere along the trail.

For now, I hope you enjoyed our December issue – here is a link to the digital edition in case you missed it. Happy reading!