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“Excuse me, is this Lego going to be half price on Friday?”…it’s the (Black) Friday Blog!

Published on: 27th November 2015

Black Friday has finally arrived. After a mountain of frankly rather boring press releases and a seemingly never-ending whirl of emails and social media activity trying to drum up enthusiasm/hype, the big day is here. I just wonder whether consumers have been holding back their spending over the past few weeks in anticipation of incredible deals that might not actually live up to expectation. I was speaking to one prominent independent retailer this week who shares my concerns: “Customers are expecting a lot more than they’re going to get,” he told me, “I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked if all the Lego is going to be half price on Friday.” You can guess what his response was….

Apart from Black Friday shenanigans, there have been plenty of other interesting retail developments over the past week. The Hamleys acquisition – by Chinese footwear retailer c. Banner International Holdings Ltd – has finally been confirmed, which will presumably come as a huge relief to everyone there, not to mention all its suppliers. According to well-positioned sources, Hamleys has been on “financial closure” for the past few weeks: i.e. buyers were not placing orders and invoices were not being settled. I can only imagine how much business the company potentially lost while stock was not being replenished at such a crucial time of the year, but presumably this fiscal lockdown will now be removed and Hamleys can start trading properly once again.

Debenhams made headlines for all the wrong reasons this week, after approaching suppliers to ask for an additional 1-2 % discount in return for earlier settlement over the next six months. One analyst commented that “it’s outrageous that suppliers have to wait longer than 60 days to get paid,” which seems a fair assessment to me. But I heard of another retailer this week which has arguably surpassed Debenhams, by introducing new lifting fees which are multiplied by the number of stores the product is stocked in. The supplier who told me about the scam – sorry, scheme – had calculated that these additional fees would exceed the volume of turnover the company had done with the retailer in question this year. It would appear that the retailer hadn’t taken the trouble to conduct the same exercise – unless they’re deliberately basing their new terms on levels of extortion rarely seen outside of Sicily and New York.

Congratulations to David Ripley, who has officially been appointed as category director EMEA for toys, sport, pets and nursery at Groupon after initially joining the company on a consultancy basis earlier this year. I think it’s a great opportunity for David, who tells me that he would welcome direct discussions with all toy and nursery suppliers who are not currently working with Groupon. David told me: “I may be biased but I think the new Groupon Goods initiative represents one of the largest retail growth opportunities for toy suppliers in the EMEA territory.” David can be contacted at dripley@Groupon.com, and you can read more about how Groupon is evolving in the January issue of Toy World.

Finally, it’s the inaugural Hamleys character parade in Regent Street this weekend. Let’s hope there is no repeat of this unfortunate incident from the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in New York…..

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