I couldn’t have put it better myself…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 5th August 2022

A few interesting nuggets about the impending Toys R Us UK launch have emerged this week. According to what we in the media like to call ‘multiple sources’, the original intention was apparently to launch the website in June. However, according to an official statement issued by Louis Mittoni to the Australian Stock Exchange, “we experienced disruptions to equipment availability in the UK that have delayed operations.” In an email he sent to me earlier this week, Louis indicated that delays caused by customs were to blame, which is certainly plausible (I’ll return to that point later).

In the same official statement to the ASE, it was reported that Toys R Us ANZ had secured a loan facility of A$15m to support the company’s entry into the UK market. The loan was described as supporting “working capital and capital expenditure requirements, including the acquisition of inventory.” Perhaps this was actually the driving factor behind the delay? You need hard cash to buy stock in this climate – I would imagine many suppliers are nervous about offering extended credit facilities to new accounts, even ones with iconic names.

Either way, the launch date is now scheduled for the end of August / early September, which may ultimately prove to be better timing than the start of summer– arriving just as things start to hot up for Christmas. It sounds like the person who tipped me off about a second Amazon Prime Day in October was right (I’ve now heard it from numerous sources), so I think we are going to see a lively and competitive festive trading period this year, both on and offline.

Let’s hope there aren’t too many curveballs before then – such as the story about 92% of workers at Felixstowe voting for strike action in a dispute over pay. Nobody needs any further supply chain disruption right now; I think I can speak for every toy retailer and supplier when I say, politely and with the greatest of respect, NOT NOW FELIXSTOWE!

It’s not just container ports where it is all kicking off – this week saw Roblox sue WowWee over an alleged infringement of its trademark ‘block’ figures by the toy company’s new doll range My Avastars. WowWee has strenuously denied the allegation and vowed to vigorously defend its position. We’ll keep you posted on further developments.

On to happier news, the August issue of Toy World landed on desks at the start of this week, and the digital issue has already been racking up views online. There’s plenty to get your teeth into in the 148 page edition, which is jam-packed with great content and a treasure trove of new toys which are currently hitting the market. You can also find out what happened when Paul Reader and David Middleton visited the Learning Express Toys show in Florida, as the relationship between the UK and US specialty retail chains continues to evolve. Someone sent me a fascinating email after reading that article to let me know that a similar attempt at fostering UK / US indie collaboration took place back in the 90s. I will keep the detail private – or at least hold it back until I release my memoir of my time in the toy trade just before I retire (the plan is to include all the ‘interesting’ material I couldn’t use over the years). Suffice to say the meeting didn’t quite go according to plan, but three decades later, there seems to be a much more open-minded attitude on both sides as to the benefits of exchanging information and knowledge.

I will be doing my own bit for transatlantic relations when I host a POP webinar later this month, where I will be joined by representatives from the London, Nuremberg and Hong Kong Toy Fairs to give US marketing and PR people a flavour of what to expect at the Q1 international toys shows, arguably even more relevant now that New York has chosen to move its show from February to September.

On so many levels, the world is getting smaller, and the ripple effect of what happens in one place is invariably felt across the globe. Nowhere is this more true than Brexit. I don’t think it is any great secret that I am not the biggest fan of Games Workshop (long story), but I am prepared to put any enmity to one side to quote a passage from the company’s results statement this week, just because it falls into the ‘I couldn’t have put it better myself’ category: “Low Point: Brexit has added £3.4m of additional supply chain costs, we have an outstanding £11m VAT receivable (a timing difference as we now pay VAT on entry to Europe and submit a reclaim) and we are trying to mitigate staff recruitment gaps, especially those with language skills in the UK based European trade team. We look forward to the Brexit benefits promised.” I hope they are a patient bunch, as I suspect it will be a while…

Finally, with the incredible achievement of the Lionesses last weekend (Men: “It’s coming home” repeated ad infinitum for over 50 years; women: “Ok, just leave it to us”) and the Premier League making a welcome return tonight, football is very much back with a bang, and this is your last chance to enter our Fantasy Football Toy World Masters League. We have just crossed the 100 player mark, so you will be joining lots of your industry friends and colleagues. The entry code is vnpxlv – just go to the website, where entering a team and joining our league is completely free. Everyone’s welcome, novice or pro alike. If nothing else, it might help to take your mind off the truly bizarre Conservative leadership contest and yesterday’s announcements about rising inflation and impending recession. Keep smiling – Christmas is coming.