After spending last week in Vegas for Licensing Show, it’s been a case of ‘back to earth with a bump’ this week; grey skies have replaced last week’s brilliant sunshine, there has been a mountain of follow up and catch up to wade through, a healthy July edition to get ready for print (we’re almost there) and the BTHA Industry Day to attend.
The aforementioned Industry Day was as enjoyable as ever. Plenty of networking opportunities and some interesting speakers – Andrew Brown’s account of his 2,500 nautical mile solo Atlantic crossing was fascinating and more than a little humbling, whilst the British Retail Consortium’s Stephen Robertson gave an insight into the current state of play in the retail market. When he spoke last year, I thought his presentation was, frankly, overly-gloomy (someone even said that was exactly how he was at Woolworths!), and the first part of this year’s talk sounded as though it was heading into similar territory. But midway through proceedings, he stopped dwelling on negative statistics and started talking about how retailers can fight back, and I found some of his observations extremely pertinent. I’ll be sharing some of them in the July issue (I don’t like to give everything away online, I want to make sure you’re all reading the print editions of Toy World just as avidly as you seem to be reading the blogs!).
There was also a thoroughly deserved lifetime achievement award for Vivid’s Nick Austin and Alan Bennie, who were described by colleague Paul Weston as “the Lennon and McCartney of the toy industry” (although I also liked his alternative description of them as “Waldorf and Statler”). On the subject of awards, it was also great to see Robert Mann given an award for his outstanding contribution to the Toy Trust, and Peter Fielding receive a Golden Teddy earlier this week; a very nice guy and a worthy recipient.
In retail news, American retailer Walgreens has offered £4.3bn for a 45% share in Boots, with an option to buy the outstanding shares by 2015. The deal needs to be approved by industry regulators, but assuming it does get the green light, it sounds like a positive development which may even create more jobs at the Nottingham head office. Elsewhere, one of the largest Department Stores in the country, Allders of Croydon, went into administration this week. However, from the suppliers I spoke to, very few toy companies appear to have conducted any significant business with Allders since the days of Rick Carter, so the news only caused the most modest of ripples in the trade.
Finally, I have a new favourite buzz-word: ‘omni-channel’. My spell-checker suggests that it doesn’t exist and I’ve made it up, but I didn’t; I heard it first during a Saban presentation in Vegas last week, and it also cropped up in an interview Toy World columnist Richard Gottlieb conducted with Toys R Us CEO Jerry Storch this week (so it’s obviously another of those phrases that has sprung to life in the States; we send them English, they send us, well…..). I wasn’t aware that there was a particular need for a new addition to the global lexicon, but apparently when the phrase ‘multi-channel’ just doesn’t sum up the enormity of something, there’s ‘omni-channel.’ Thanks for that guys.