After walking eight miles a day at shows last week, I have returned to my traditional sedentary lifestyle this week. In fact, I’ve been effectively chained to my desk (metaphorically speaking of course), ploughing through the mountain of follow-ups from a couple of very successful toy fairs.
Carving out time to write a Blog can sometimes be a challenge when there is so much else to do, but thankfully this week’s Blog pretty much writes itself, as big stories have come thick and fast over the past few days. In fact, I’m not sure I can remember a week with so many major breaking news items in the 35 years I’ve spent in the toy market. So here, then, is a summary of the hottest news stories of the week….
As was widely predicted in Nuremberg, Toy World revealed exclusively yesterday that Fiona Murray-Young has returned to the toy buying community, having joined Mothercare as trading director for ELC. A smart move all round I would suggest.
The Sainsbury’s acquisition of Argos has moved a step closer, after the former tabled a bid of £1.3bn, which represents a 63% premium over the share price on 4th January. The two companies have now agreed a three-week extension on the deadline of the deal to Tuesday February 23 in order to complete the due diligence on the proposed offer. Unless a rival bid is tabled – and there is no sign of one as yet – it would seem likely that the offer will be approved. Then begins the gargantuan task of assimilating the two businesses, developments which toy suppliers will be following extremely closely.
Another Toy World exclusive was announced on Tuesday, when we revealed that Toys R Us Ireland had sadly called in the receivers after less than six months in business. In fairness, taking on Smyths in their own backyard was always an ambitious task – some might even say foolhardy. The speed with which the venture failed reflects the scale of the challenge they faced. Hopefully there won’t be too much of a knock-on effect on the Toys R Us UK operation, especially as news broke this week that the US company had enjoyed a reasonably strong Christmas and was looking to restructure its debts on the back of this positive news. The biggest concern this side of the Atlantic perhaps revolves around credit insurance: it wasn’t easy to get cover on Toys R Us before this turn of events, so I’m sure the supplier community is bracing itself for insurers to be even more wary in the short term.
Our final exclusive of the week (there’s a pattern emerging here: if you want the best and hottest toy industry news, you know where to come…but then as you’re here, you probably knew that already!) was the revelation that new customs measures are coming into force in May which could have a significant impact on the UK toy market. If you missed that piece, you can read it here: suffice to say that if you’re a toy supplier and you aren’t aware of the potential impact of the new measures, you should talk to a customs adviser or your logistics provider asap. I’m not fond of scaremongering stories, but when Golden Bear’s Barry Hughes told me about the change in legislation at Toy Fair, it struck me that it was pretty big news and that we should be highlighting it just in case it had passed anyone by.
Private equity firm Elysian Capital have taken a controlling stake in Sambro, which will continue to be run by the same management team which has grown the business so much in the past few years, so it is good news all round.
And then, if all that wasn’t enough, Bloomberg Business revealed yesterday evening that Hasbro and Mattel have been in talks about a possible merger (or takeover to be more accurate). The last time this move was discussed twenty years ago it ended in acrimonious failure (I still have the infamous badge, created by the Hasbro UK team at the time….), and early conversations with well-connected colleagues in the USA suggest they would be surprised if it went through this time. But the toy world has moved on since then and, in fairness, stranger things have happened. If you think the Sainsbury’s / Argos takeover would create major waves in the UK toy market, there’s no doubt that a Hasbro / Mattel deal would create a veritable Tsunami in the global toy community.
I can’t promise that next week will be quite as eventful from a news perspective, but you can bet that if it’s a hot story, chances are you’ll find it on Toy World first. We’ve seen some massive spikes in our readership numbers this week, so I’m glad to see that delivering strong, original news content is still the best way to attract more online visitors (and more of the right readers too, ones that are genuinely connected with the toy industry). To paraphrase one of my favourite movies, “we’ll keep building it if you keep coming.”
Finally, this week’s award for ‘not thinking it through’ goes to Boots president Simon Roberts, who issued a statement this week after announcing 350 redundancies which blithely started with the phrase: “Everything we do at Boots is about helping people feel good.” Well, perhaps not everything, eh Simon?