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It’s (mainly) good news week….it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 5th December 2014

And so we enter the final stretch. Black Friday and Cyber Monday provided a briefly entertaining diversion to the festive retail scene, but the unseemly scuffles and scenes of general mayhem largely seemed to revolve around tech products. A number of retailers included a few toy lines as part of their overall sale offering, but toys didn’t appear to constitute a major focal point. The event did, however, provide Asda with the opportunity to deliver my favourite typo of the festive season thus far: according to the Asda website, Little Tikes is apparently now responsible for fostering civil unrest through its’ Cosy Coup line. Ultimately, as far as the toy sector is concerned, Black Friday and Cyber Monday seem to be just two more days in the run-up to Christmas, with plenty of attractive retail offers available, just like all the other days.

By all accounts orders are still flowing in, although the big hurdle now is apparently getting products accepted into warehouses. But, then again, isn’t it always in December? Apart from the big boys and the logistical challenges they can sometimes present, this is the time of year when the independents really come into their own, so it’s good to see certain toy suppliers – including Brainstorm and Schleich – reducing their carriage-paid terms to encourage further orders from the indie sector. A smart move for all concerned.

Having said last week that I don’t have time for Christmas parties, I did break my rule this week to attend the Nickelodeon Christmas event. It’s encouraging to hear that they’ve secured strong listings for SpongeBob in Q1, as I think the movie will definitely help to re-energise the brand. Paw Patrol has also got off to a flying start at retail, and with the new Turtle segment Half-Shell Heroes going into stores next week, Nickelodeon is really on a roll at the moment.

As is The Toy Store, which has just opened its largest-ever outlet in the Middle East, a 31,000 square foot store in Abu Dhabi. I also hear that its inaugural London store is likely to open around late August / early September next year. A new buying team, which will be based in the UK, is apparently being put together shortly, so I’m sure there are a few experienced toy buyers tidying up their CVs as we speak.

Congratulations to Character Options on, frankly, a stellar set of year-end results. The company’s revenue grew from £67m to nearly £98m, group profit was up from £0.2m to £7.1m and a 40% growth in both domestic and international sales is some achievement. Having attended Character’s 2015 Preview a few weeks back, I have to say that next year’s range looks equally strong.

I hear that Jason Rice will be leaving Turner today, while Paul Sanders has joined Groupon, having parted company with Rakuten (formerly play.com).

I’ve been working on my Hong Kong diary, so if you would like me to pop in to see you in your showroom or at the Toys and Games Fair, feel free to get in touch. If you are still considering whether to visit the Far East in January, we have an offer that may help to sway your decision: Toy World has teamed up with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council to offer up to 3 nights’ free hotel accommodation and special air fares to UK visitors to the Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair, which takes place from 12th – 15th January. For all the details of this special offer, click here

Finally, it’s been confirmed that the new Frozen short film – Frozen Fever – will make its debut next March, showing before the new Cinderella live-action movie. Crucially, the song-writing team behind the original soundtrack – Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez – will be returning for the new project. I don’t think it is possible to under-estimate the duo’s role in the success of Frozen: Disney’s golden era movies (Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Lion King) and even its original sixties classics such as Jungle Book were set apart from other animated movies by their fantastic soundtracks, something that has been missing in many of its recent movies. Robert Lopez was co-creator of theatrical successes such as Avenue Q and Book of Mormon, so he’s effectively modern song-writing royalty, and licensees should be very happy he’s committed to the new project. Indeed, had there been a musical theatre aficionado at Disney, maybe they wouldn’t have missed the whole Frozen phenomena in the first place? (If anyone at Disney is reading, my wife is available at exorbitant consultancy rates….)