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If it’s good enough for David Cameron….it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 29th August 2014

It’s week two of the holiday. If David Cameron can run the country from his blackberry while away (blackberry? Seriously, who still uses those things – even my youngest daughter has given up with hers), I can keep an eye on proceedings via the iPhone and laptop (Wi-Fi permitting).

Congratulations to Gary Grant, who has been announced as the latest recipient of a BTHA Lifetime Achievement award. You can read the full story here. Gary is a strong character, and there have been times when he hasn’t always seen eye-to-eye with certain suppliers or even other independent retailers. But he has always had the courage of his convictions, which you have to admire him for. What he has achieved in a business sense with The Entertainer is quite remarkable, and his unstinting charitable work (in a modest unassuming way) marks him out as a special individual. Personally I’ve always found Gary approachable, open and honest: what you see is what you get, and he has made a huge contribution to the industry on so many levels, so it really is a richly deserved award.
On a slightly less upbeat note, I hear that major Swedish distributor / wholesaler Scanditoy has announced that it will be closing down. I don’t profess to be any sort of expert on the Scandinavian market, but I’m told that the company has been struggling and looking for a buyer for some time. However, my source tells me that the closure comes as something of a surprise, as it had been widely anticipated that they would eventually be successful in their search for a buyer.

I’ve seen rather a lot of Amazon stories while I’ve been perusing social media this week. I won’t dwell on the huge losses they continue to post: I guess if they are in a position to continually lose money, that’s their business, although surely there will come a point when shareholders lose patience. In my experience, deliberately loss-making businesses may distort the market for a while, but they tend to get their comeuppance in the end. What intrigues me more are the stories about what Amazon is allegedly going to try to do in order to address the situation. One report talks about them paring their range back considerably, while another suggests they’re planning to open bricks and mortar stores. Is it just me that finds it mildly ironic that their answer to the challenges they face is to start behaving more like an established retailer?

It would be great to interview the Amazon buying team to find out more about their plans, but I’m not holding my breath. Rumour has it that the only people in the Amazon operation who are allowed to give interviews have to have been media trained, and unfortunately that has a tendency to render people relatively uninteresting to interview, as opposed to people working at the sharp end of a business who can tell us what is really going on. Contrast that with Gary Grant (or indeed Stuart and Duncan), someone who has never been afraid to give us his personal, honest opinion when approached.

With a few days left to go before I head home, I’m just about to check out the local high street to see what toys are selling (pictured below). As far as I can see, this remains an untapped market for loom bands, while competition from online sellers isn’t a major factor. The rain hasn’t kept shoppers away over the bank holiday, although with a lot of haggling going on, I’m not too sure what the margins are like. Back to normality next week, in the meantime keep a look out for our 3rd birthday September issue, which will be landing on your desk any day now – it’s a corker! BlogPic

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