At this time of year I spend a lot of my time trying to talk to people on the phone. Despite the fact that the way we conduct business has changed immeasurably over the past few years – with more and more ‘conversations’ and negotiations conducted predominantly via email – I still like to talk directly to as many people as I can.
It’s how you really find out what’s going on. If I do manage to get past the receptionist and/or avoid the ‘voicemail trap’, the first question I am usually asked is “What’s the gossip? It would appear that I have garnered something of a reputation for picking up those little nuggets of information that the close-knit toy community likes to know about. In fairness, gossip has been fairly thin on the ground of late, but I did pick up a couple of interesting titbits this week. So for those who like this sort of thing, it seems that Rebel will no longer be the UK distributor for Maisto in 2012, Andrew Dickson will shortly be parting company with Alpha Toys and there will soon be a high-profile departure from AB Gee.I did hear something else which I can’t expand upon (judging by the reaction of the person who I emailed to verify the details of the story – apparently my email was deleted rather rapidly from her computer!). I also managed to ‘surprise’ someone over lunch last week with how quickly I had found something out, but that’s a whole other story….
As well as attempting to reach people on the phone, it’s also great to visit as many toy companies as time permits. This week has taken me to some far flung corners of the country, seeing a couple of companies which have been in the toy business for many, many years, but which I’ve never graced with my presence before. Apart from the fact that people seem to drive rather ‘differently’ the further you get from London (how I do love to get stuck behind a tractor or lorry carrying empty pallets for 15 miles. And as far as I’m concerned, if it has only got 2 lanes, it is NOT a motorway!), it was great to see companies with such a rich heritage continuing to thrive. You’ll be able to read more about both companies in our ‘bumper’ Toy Fair edition, which is occupying just about my every waking hour at the moment. But I know it will all be worth it in the end!
The other thing that has struck me on my travels is the proliferation of blind bag collectible ranges that will be available in 2012. According to one supplier, a major retailer told them that they had seen 36 ranges so far! So will we see stores being redesigned to accommodate larger till points….or will they just have to whittle that number down considerably?!
I’m in the process of putting the finishing touches to my Hong Kong diary, so if anyone wants me to visit their showroom while I’m there, feel free to drop me an email with any gaps you have left – firstname.lastname@example.org
With less than 10 days to go before the big day, if we weren’t so busy I’d probably be starting to feel quite festive by now! For those lucky enough to be breaking up today, have a great festive season. For those like us who will be working right up to the wire, keep smiling, there’s not long to go now!