August will soon be upon us. Whilst not exactly the most auspicious month in terms of toy sales, this year is a rather special one, as there will be five full sales weekends (Friday – Sunday) in August this time round . The person who alerted me – thanks Scott – suggests that this doesn’t happen again for another 823 years, and as I’m too busy to check, I’ll take his word for it. No doubt someone will correct me if that’s not the case. Apparently the Chinese refer to it as ‘Silver pockets full’ and – as the name suggests – believe it is a great opportunity to make lots of money. I hope that proves to be the case for all the retailers here in the UK too.
Speaking of retailers, Tesco has been back in the news this week, after it emerged that the company is planning to reward its senior executives with a share windfall worth £25m. Admittedly, the eye-watering sums will only be triggered if specific targets are met, and it won’t happen for another three years. Nevertheless, with shares having fallen by 20% over the past year, shareholders are not exactly thrilled by the news, while other observers have pointed out that Tesco’s failure to pay the living wage has meant that the taxpayer has had to make up the shortfall through tax credit payments, estimated at £364m last year. All in all, it does seem to have been yet another PR own goal: you might have thought that Tesco would have been a little more mindful of how the news would be received, especially after all the negative publicity it attracted last year. Let’s just say it’s taking the company motto of ‘Every little helps’ to new levels.
Toys R Us is another retailer making headlines, this time as a result of several insurance companies allegedly cutting back on their coverage for suppliers over in the USA. I suspect that there will be some sympathy for Toys R Us from other retailers: the insurance companies in question – Coface and Euler Hermes – have shown before that they are certainly not great friends of the toy trade. Nevertheless, it just adds to the chatter about Toys R Us’ future on the grapevine, which won’t help anyone. Here in the UK, the new, leaner buying team is settling in: some buyers are having to get to grips with new categories they don’t necessarily have great experience of, while everyone is grappling with new stock and order procedures. There are unconfirmed rumours that the retailer took the decision not to open any new accounts this year while the new processes are bedding in. Others have suggested that there may be less focus on own brand within the UK product mix going forward, as the quantities involved are simply not large enough. Whatever the truth, the fact is that the industry – on the whole – is willing them to succeed. A healthy specialist channel is something that the vast majority of toy companies want to see, and Toys R Us unquestionably has a valuable role to play in that.
The August issue of Toy World landed on desks earlier this week. You can access the digital edition here. Some people have asked why we don’t post the digital version online a week before the print issue arrives like certain other titles, but I have to be honest, I much prefer people to see the print edition first. The digital version is undoubtedly an extremely useful tool, but in my humble opinion it doesn’t replace the impact that can be created by print – especially when it comes to the ads, which look absolutely glorious in the extra large format we print in. Sometimes, size really does matter!