Feeling hot, hot, hot …it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 9th June 2023

It certainly took its time, but summer has finally arrived here in the UK. Hopefully there will be no more requests for markdown money on outdoor ranges from the major accounts, as I would assume they are shifting stock like hot cakes now things are hotting up.

Summer also traditionally heralds the release of major blockbuster movies, and this year’s crop of cinematic hopefuls sees ‘toyetic’ movies strongly represented – forget ‘hot girl summer’, this year is very much ‘hot toy movie summer’. Last week we shared the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trailer, which I loved- I am seriously looking forward to seeing the film in its entirety. The same goes for the Barbie movie, which looks like it is going to be an absolute blast. I caught up with Mattel’s Sanjay Luthra yesterday to hear all about the retail activations planned to coincide with the movie launch next month – and they truly sound epic. You can read more about the activity in our July issue, but the top line is that Mattel’s investment is massive; a huge cross-section of retailers from all channels are going to be involved with a range of high-impact executions and the campaign is undoubtedly going to generate excitement and traffic – two key things that all retailers need right now. Plus, of course, sales: Mattel’s movie doll range went live this week, and apparently many dolls sold out within hours. Forecasts and quotes are apparently being revised as we speak – and in a good way.

And to kickstart a summer of blockbuster toy movies, we went on a Toy World team outing to a preview screening of the new Transformers: Rise of the Beasts movie this week, which was a real thrill ride. Tremendous energy, bags of exhilarating action, some smart humour, a few clever hat tips to other toy brands (including one very intriguing set up of another Hasbro spin-off towards the end…) and a banging rap soundtrack. It felt like this is the Transformers movie that Hasbro has been trying to make for a while. A great opportunity to reset the brand, get a whole new generation of kids excited and sell plenty of toys.

From what I can see, many people agree, although Toymaster’s Paul Reader made a very pertinent point on my LinkedIn post about the movie merchandise: “Why do retailers decide that the best way to launch the brand in-store is to take 20% off? Before even attempting to give the brand a run for its money. The investment to bring a brand to market is huge. Mr. Retailer – give the brand a chance. Mr. Supplier – partner up with retailers that want to grow your brands.” I wasn’t initially sure who he was referring to, but only hours later I received an email from the Mr. Retailer in question, highlighting the discount it was offering across the entire range. A smart way to capitalise on the movie launch, or an unnecessary erosion of margin from a retailer which is well-known for having very particular margin requirements? I’ll leave you to decide…

That wasn’t the only minor controversy this week: Ravensburger has been rightly excited about its upcoming Disney Lorcana trading card game launch, only to find out this week that it may now have to fend off a proposed lawsuit from Upper Deck, which is alleging that Lorcana is based on a game that it had paid the designer to create while he was working for them. Ravensburger told us that it “has not been served with a complaint” at the time of writing this article. With the launch scheduled for August and a full programme of support activity already in place, this is definitely one to keep an eye on over the coming weeks.

As is the situation with the FAO Schwartz / Sharper Image brand. I gather that current UK distributor Redlands was placed into administration this week, while Canal Toys has confirmed that it will not be taking on the range for 2024 after all, having failed to reach an agreement with ThreeSixty Group. So where now for the brands in the UK market? I guess time will tell.

Summer is also a time when hot new autumn winter ranges start to be unveiled (the launch of Tamagotchi Uni has been our highest-read story of the week, which I suspect reflects the level of both trade and consumer interest in the new line), while licensing news also ramps up several notches ahead of Licensing Expo, which opens in Las Vegas next week. If you want to keep a finger on the pulse of all the latest announcements being made before and at the show, signing up to receive the newsflash would be a smart move. Our sister website is dedicated solely to the world of licensing, so we have greater scope to run even more of the latest licensing-related content there.

We also announced the dates for both Licensing Expo and BLE for ’24 and ’25 this week – and for those who like to plan ahead, there are some notable changes from this year’s dates. Licensing Expo returns to a mid-May timeslot for both years (unfortunately for us, clashing with the Toymaster May show at least for next year, and potentially both years), while BLE moves from early October this year to late September next year and then mid-October the following year. It can’t be easy finding suitable dates that work across so many different industries without there being clashes, while country and religious holidays, as well as venue availability, only exacerbate the situation. So, there is always going to be one group of people or another for which the date presents challenges – just one of the joys of putting on a cross-category, multi-territory event.

I’m looking forward to our trip to the show this year and will endeavour to give you a flavour of what happens in next week’s Blog. It’s going to be bloody hot though – if you’re worried about the soaring temperatures here in the UK over a weekend, spare a thought for those of us heading to a location where the heat does this to traffic lights: