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Here comes the Summer…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 25th July 2014

I hope you’re all enjoying the beautiful weather – perfectly timed to coincide with the start of the school holidays. I would imagine that toy retailers have been inundated with parents looking to buy paddling pools and other outdoor toys to make the most of this week’s hot spell. Fingers crossed there’s plenty more sun to come over the next month: if retailers can enter the Autumn with clean shelves and warehouses, bereft of Summer merchandise, it’s always a major bonus.

Mind you, just as we reach the height of Summer, we have an immediate reminder that Christmas is not that far away with the launch of the Argos Autumn/Winter catalogue this weekend. In years gone by, the release of the catalogue was a pivotal event in the toy calendar: the toy community would rush en masse to get a copy from the store – suppliers to see how their products were represented, and retailers to assess the competition. Sales directors would often take an impromptu holiday to avoid irate calls from certain other major accounts wanting to remonstrate over pricing. Of course, with the rise of the internet, prices in the main Argos catalogue are perhaps not as aggressive as they once were, although it still gives a strong flavour of what is to come. So, for old times’ sake, I for one will certainly be picking up a copy to peruse over the weekend.

NPD’s report card for the first half of 2014 makes encouraging reading, with UK toy sales up a healthy 6%. Indeed, along with France, the UK is currently the strongest performing toy market in Europe. Earlier this year, Roger Dyson told attendees at the Toymaster suppliers meeting how important it was for his members to have a craze over the coming months. It seems that Roger got his wish, with not one but two red hot crazes: football stickers and loom bands. £9m worth of loom bands have been sold in the UK since the start of the year, with the first week of July recording the highest weekly number so far, a cool £1m. With Lego minifigures also experiencing a major upsurge in sales, the pocket money sector is booming, putting toy retailers in a strong position heading into the second half of the year.

Nevertheless, I’m interested to see that certain categories – such as Dress-up, for example – continue to fall outside NPD’s parameters, despite selling well through toy outlets. I wonder just how many Frozen costumes are being sold through toy channels this year (my guess is an awful lot) and what difference that would make to the overall numbers?

Another reminder that the Autumn is rapidly approaching is the launch of this year’s Fantasy Football League competition. Toy World will once again be running a Fantasy Football League this year. Last year’s Toy World Masters was easily the most competitive yet, so if you’d like to join in this year, feel free to email me for log-in code (entrants from last year will automatically be able to sign up for the league by logging into the game). Last year’s winner, Wilton Bradley’s Mike Gasgoigne, played an absolute blinder, so if you fancy your chances at taking his crown, or just want to have a bit of fun through the season, drop me a line – john@toyworldmag.co.uk.

Finally, I know that some journalists can get a reputation for being a little negative – not us, obviously – but I thought that one website’s review of the Hamleys press day really took the biscuit. Step forward the Money Saving Forum’s blogger Charlotte Burns. Having been invited to review Hamleys predictions for Christmas bestsellers – as well as being fed and watered and given a nice goody bag to take home no doubt – you might think her report would be full of the spirit and generosity of Christmas. Not a bit of it – as you can see here.

In short, she criticises most of the toys on the list (Hasbro seems to come in for a particular bashing), and even manages to have a bad word to say about some ranges which didn’t make the list (Hasbro again). Then to top it all off she tells parents they shouldn’t “buy into the hype” but if they must, to go anywhere but Hamleys to buy them, because it will be cheaper. Charming. My guess is that she won’t get an invitation next year….

You can follow our fearless leader on Twitter @Baulchtweet.