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Flotations, ‘soft launches’ and milestone birthdays….it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 1st November 2013

Halloween been and gone: check. Half-term holidays finished: check. The Dream Toys event just around the corner: check.

Yes, Christmas is most definitely on the horizon. Our editor Tom spent a day working in one of the Toy Barnhaus stores this week, so we know at first hand that consumers are definitely beginning to make a dent in their Christmas purchases – just over £300 in one generous customer’s case (by the way, in case you’re wondering, Tom wasn’t topping up his salary by moonlighting: he was researching an article about ‘life at the sharp end of toy retail’, which will be gracing the pages of the December edition of Toy World).

Elsewhere it was announced that B&M Bargains is drawing up plans for a potential stock market flotation next year, which would value the retailer at a cool £1b. It has certainly come a long way since the Arora Brothers purchased the business in 2005: back then the business turned over £65m from 21 stores, while last year’s turnover was a cool £937m from over 350 outlets. Their trading approach hasn’t been enormously popular with many specialist independent toy retailers, but there’s no question that consumers – and indeed many suppliers – have an entirely different opinion.

After last week’s honourable Blog mention for the splendid phrase ‘over-arching retail road map’, I’ve had a few more examples of industry clichés which people have confessed to using: some – such as ‘restore the roar’ – are new to me (I assume big corporations keep those firmly behind closed doors, and rightly so), but I did like the person who admitted that ‘we’re going for a soft launch’ usually translates as ‘no-one big was interested and even we’re not sure.’ If anyone else would like to chip in with any other suggestions, feel free. Perhaps we can include a ‘catchphrase bingo’ sheet with our Toy Fair edition for people to tick off as they go along?

The Slow Toys Awards has gained some good media coverage again this year. What I like about this particular award is the fact that there is a tangible benefit to winning, i.e. having the products stocked in Harrods, who hosted this year’s ceremony. Of course, it’s always nice to win an award, but it is especially rewarding when it also makes a positive commercial difference to the business. Well done to Asobi Toys’ Thierry Bourret and his team.

I also hear that the inaugural Kids India exhibition, organised by the Spielwarenmesse, was a big success, and Stuart Whitehill – who corralled the UK contingent with aplomb – tells me he expects an even greater presence from British companies at next year’s event.

Finally, I’d like to wish a happy birthday to Dragon-i’s Dave Cave. I won’t mention his age in such a public forum, but suffice to say it’s a ‘milestone’ year. “It seems only yesterday that we werecelebrating Dave’s 40th +VAT birthday in Manchester, with a light finger buffet, disco and Hing Sing Double Ping balloons” said a former colleague who asked to remain anonymous.

You can follow John on Twitter @Baulchtweet.