It’s coming home…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 6th July 2018

This week’s Blog is brought to you between sessions on a sun lounger in foreign climes, so I make no apologies for the fact that it is a little shorter and sweeter than usual.

There have been several notable comings and goings to report: Mark Foster has joined Playmobil as managing director for the UK and North American operations, the latter of which incorporates both Canada and Mexico. It’s a great opportunity for Mark, who recently moved on from Tomy, and we wish him well in the new role.

Meanwhile HTI has appointed Marc Eyer to the role of vice president of international sales. I first met Marc many years ago when he was at Smoby, where his impeccable English made my visit to the Jura far more productive – had we needed to rely on my rusty A-level French to conduct the interview with his management team, I suspect it would have turned out rather differently. Marc went on to work for both Schleich and Giochi Preziosi, and with over 20 years of toy experience, I am sure he will be a valuable asset to HTI.

I also gather that national accounts director Craig Mair left Lego after 17 years last Friday. With his considerable knowledge and contacts, I am sure it won’t be long before Craig pops up again.

I would like to wish Sequin Art’s Stuart and Patricia Marcus all the best for their retirement. Stuart started the Kitfix Hobbies business the year I was born – 1962 – and he has always been one of the industry’s liveliest characters. Stuart was a very hands-on business owner, a forthright individual and a passionate advocate of the British toy industry. That Sequin Art is one of the few UK toy companies to maintain a domestic manufacturing base speaks volumes, while Stuart’s interjections at BTHA AGMs back in the eighties helped to make them some of most lively and entertaining general meetings I have ever attended. Sequin Art is being left in good hands, as Stephen Ducker has worked with Stuart for the past 43 years – and I am sure Stuart will still pop up from time to time.

The July issue of Toy World landed on desks earlier this week – you can read the digital version of the issue here. It’s a very healthy 102 pages, packed with the latest developments from around the trade, a host of new products and plenty of opinion and analysis – proof that print is very, very far from being in decline.

If you need further evidence of the value of print, look no further than Amazon (yes, you did read that correctly and no, I haven’t been spending too much time in the sun). It transpires that part of Amazon’s strategy to grab a chunk of the TRU business in the US involves printing a holiday toy catalogue, which will be distributed to millions of US households. No word yet whether Amazon will employ similar tactics in other territories such as the UK, although I would suggest the presence of the ubiquitous Argos catalogue makes it rather less likely. Nevertheless, it underlines the role that print plays in spreading the word, even for the world’s most powerful online retailer.

Tesco is the latest UK retailer to hold a festive event at which it has predicted a selection of the lines it believes will be this year’s festive winners. Unsurprisingly, collectibles and craze lines dominated the list, with MGA, Spin Master, Character Options, Bandai and Flair all represented. You can read our editor Rachael’s full report from the event here. It was interesting to see Tesco predicting that the popularity of Fortnite will keep Laser X at the top of the sales charts; in the absence of any licensed toys (yet, at any rate), it is certainly logical that laser tag lines such as Laser X and Nerf Laser Ops which allow kids to role play the game in real life will provide an imaginative alternative.

I only have a few days left here before I head back home – hopefully I won’t be the only thing that is ‘coming home’ next week. I gather the atmosphere back in the UK on Tuesday night was incredible – and it was just the same here, with several hundred Brits packed into a small bar to watch the game. The scenes as the final penalty was saved were as raucous as you would imagine. With only two more nations standing between us and an appearance in the World Cup final for the first time in 52 years, I am sure everyone will be willing England on this weekend. The feelgood factor this would generate, not to mention sales of anything football-related, would be a welcome boost as we enter the run-up to Christmas. Although I bet Midco’s Dave Middleton is beginning to wonder whether he was a tad rash to offer 10% discount off everything in-store whenever England won….