Let battle commence…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 19th September 2014

Retailers certainly don’t hang around these days. After last week’s blog observed that Furby’s price had tumbled below £40 in B&M, other major retailers – including Smyths and Toys R Us – quickly followed suit. Something tells me that this won’t be the last time that B&M influences pricing across the market either.

Rumour has it that Smyths has a few tricks of its own up its sleeve: it started a three-month sponsorship of the Simpsons on Channel 4 this week, which I am assured is quite a coup in media terms. I believe that Smyths’ Christmas catalogue will be out any day now, and my understanding is that it features some very competitive offers. And there are also whispers on internet forums that today might be the day when Smyths runs its annual ‘20% off everything’ day (in-store only mind you, the website shuts down for a day). So I guess that we can say that the battle for Christmas sales has well and truly started. Hard hats on everyone….

I hear on the grapevine that Ian Cuthbert will shortly be leaving HTI for pastures new (although I haven’t managed to ascertain which particular pastures as yet), while Peter Balcombe has left his role as MD of Plum Products to seek a new challenge.

I was intrigued by the announcement that Toys R Us and Claire’s Accessories will be joining forces to launch in-store set-ups across 100 TRU outlets worldwide, including a number of UK stores. A while back, when my daughters reached the tween stage and were less enthralled by toy shops, Claire’s became by far and away their favourite retail destination. If this initiative succeeds in persuading older girls to continue visiting Toys R Us, it could be a very smart move, especially as the worlds of toys, licensing and fashion accessories have arguably never been more entwined.

Finally, I thought I’d close with a few observations on this week’s licensing awards. Credit where it’s due, the organisers have done a tremendous job: they get an amazing turnout (a whopping 1,400 people this year, albeit crammed into a space which would more comfortably accommodate 1,000), and they raise a decent amount of money for charity on the night, so you can’t really knock something that successful.

However, do the awards go on too long? Just about everyone I spoke to on the night thought so. Are there too many individual awards? Again, the general consensus says yes. And has the whole ‘tat’ thing gone just a shade too far? There was so much gubbins on the table that the poor waiters struggled to fit the plates on.

This year’s awards host was Miles Jupp, who I personally find witty, erudite and very amusing– although some suggested he was maybe a little too subtle and understated for this type of event. I did think it was a bit disingenuous that he pretended not to know anything about licensing when he used to be an actor in BBC children’s show Balamory (I notice he kept that one quiet…).

The most popular post-awards attraction seemed to be the Frozen karaoke, which many people were throwing themselves into with commendable gusto. I declined several persistent attempts to persuade me to participate, not because I don’t do karaoke (as anyone who knows me will attest), but because Frozen songs are really not in my key. Anyway, how can anyone top Warren Traeger’s brief appearance on stage earlier in the evening singing ‘Let it go’? Full marks to him for enthusiasm and bravery –maybe there should be a ‘Licensing’s Got Talent’ event?

Overall, it was a hugely enjoyable evening as ever, and I would like to say a big thank you to my hosts from Nickelodeon for inviting me along. To those people who made it through to the daylight hours before heading home, you obviously have far more stamina than me – or perhaps just less work to do the next day.

A list of the toy-related award winners can be found here. Congratulations to you all, there are some great products there.

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