If your name’s not down, you’re not coming in…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 2nd June 2017

You’ll be pleased to know that I made it back unusually refreshed from Vegas – a hugely under- occupied return flight (the first time that has ever happened coming back from Licensing Expo…) afforded me the opportunity to have a whole row of seats to myself. So, while those in premium economy were crammed in like sardines, I managed to stretch out over four seats in what I like to refer to as my ‘economy flatbed’. I even managed to avoid the whole BA fiasco by using the cunning plan of flying Virgin.

Duly recovered, this week has seen me attend my third show in three consecutive weeks – Distoy. Markedly different from any other toy event, it brings together toy distributors from across the globe to look at 2018/19 ranges and discuss potential distribution deals. Many shows like to think of themselves as being international; Distoy truly is. Most importantly, it works. The buzz is palpable, deals are actually signed (one exhibitor told me he had received two firm offers on a new range before the show was even halfway through) and few corners of the globe are unrepresented. By its very nature, it’s all terribly clandestine: closed doors, appointment only, no retailers allowed (officially, although inevitably a few have taken that as a personal challenge – a few suppliers may mutter that they’d rather they didn’t attend, but I guess it would take a brave person to frog march them off the premises). Thankfully many exhibitors know and trust me, so access to most showrooms is not a problem – in stark contrast to last week’s Licensing Expo presentation day, where some studios may as well have put a sign up saying ‘No Blacks. No Irish. No trade press.’ Bear in mind that an NDA has to be signed before being allowed in to these events, so it’s not as if I am going to break any embargoes! American licensors really must not trust their own trade press, or clearly don’t have the kind of relationships we have with UK licensors….

As you can appreciate, I can’t talk about most things I’ve seen at Distoy. But I can say that there is no shortage of exciting new product coming through: coming off the back of three strong years for the global toy market, that is hardly a surprise. The benefit for the UK toy community is that brand new product is currently easier to discuss with retailers, as there is no established price perception to contend with. I’m hearing that wars of attrition are still going on with certain retailers on pricing and terms. Their reticence is perhaps understandable – one retailer admitted that if he is even slightly out with his pricing on a particular line, the difference in his market share can be vast. However, some retailers appear to have turned intransigence into an art form. Despite what some Prime Ministerial candidates may believe, being a bloody difficult woman – or man – isn’t always the best way to conduct negotiations.

Distoy did illustrate there are still plenty of new developments coming though in the spinner/fidget category. Some companies are introducing character lines (I saw a fantastic Captain America shield version), others are focusing on enhancing collectability or developing a range of related fidget products. All of which suggests the craze may well have more legs than some have predicted. An interesting option is on offer from Mondo: its new range of spinners is not only plastic rather than metal (and works just as effectively), but is also made in Italy. As a result, orders can be placed and stock delivered in days, costs are highly competitive and the tap can be switched on and off quickly, providing a great solution for those retailers for whom speed, flexibility and the ability to react is key.

Finally, our June issue landed on desks this week – you can read the digital version here. Having reached the mid-way point of the year, Toy World is the only UK toy magazine to have increased its market share so far this year. So thank you for that – as ever, your support is very much appreciated. We were hoping to include an interview with Theresa May in the issue, but she didn’t show up at the last minute, and Amber Rudd was too busy brushing up on the rules of Monopoly (which she clearly failed to grasp). Maybe next month…