Moving the goalposts… it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 12th August 2016

A survey by the British Retail Consortium released this week suggests that consumer spending has not been affected in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum result. According to the results – which mirror the conclusions of other recent surveys by Visa and Barclaycard – shoppers appear to be taking a “life goes on” approach, for now at least. Of course, the true test of consumer confidence is undoubtedly going to be felt in the run-up to Christmas, but despite my deep misgivings about the whole sorry Brexit mess, I do think it’s important to keep things in perspective. I can’t envisage too many parents telling their children on Christmas morning that they haven’t got any toys for Christmas because of Brexit. Neither will retailers stop buying toys, because if they do, they won’t be retailers any more (no wise cracks please…). Of course there are significant challenges, but thankfully I’m seeing relatively few signs of panic thus far, and far more evidence of a considered approach to the situation on all sides.

Elsewhere on the retail front, Steinhoff is rapidly becoming the Arsène Wenger of the retail world, as it continues to fail miserably in its attempts to buy anyone despite seemingly having pots of money at its disposal. After failing in its frankly ludicrous attempt to derail Sainsbury’s bid for Argos, Steinhoff’s bid for Poundland is now in jeopardy after major shareholder Elliot boosted its stake in the retailer, in the belief that Steinhoff’s bid is inadequate. Another company holding out for a better offer is eOne, which reputedly turned down an offer from ITV which valued the business at £1bn. Interesting piece of brinkmanship, I wonder if it will succeed. I heard a salutary tale recently from a company which turned down an eye-wateringly massive offer at the height of its success, only to see its turnover plummet to a fraction of its former value over the following years. I’m not for one moment suggesting that will happen to eOne, but it will be fascinating to see how this saga plays out.

Darran Garnham’s move to head up MTW Toys unsurprisingly gave us our biggest online traffic spike of the week. Having revealed in last week’s Blog that Darran had left Universal, I immediately received a flurry of emails asking me where he was going. The newly-formed MTW Toys – which will be responsible for distributing the Thinkway Toys range across Europe – certainly represents an excellent opportunity for Darran, and a really positive move for the brand. We’re looking forward to bringing you further news on the company and its plans over the coming months.

Meanwhile Wilko has poached Anthony Houghton, former retail director of Argos retail stores, ahead of what has been described as an “aggressive push into London”. While it will be interesting to see whether this push has any material impact on Wilko’s toy business, which has always struck me as being a trifle under-cooked, one wonders whether the appointment also possibly represents the start of the rumoured Argos staff exodus?

Also on the move is Vicki Elmer, who left Bandai yesterday after six years. She gets married this weekend, so we wish her all the best for a fantastic day and look forward to hearing about her next move when she returns from honeymoon. I suspect that someone with her industry pedigree won’t stray too far from the toy community. Vicki’s beloved Southampton take on the mighty Watford as the Premiership season kicks off this weekend, which gives me the perfect opportunity to remind you that there is still time to join the Toy World Fantasy Football League. The league code is 2058-4789, and the website is here.

Finally, I’d like to thank Mattel for one of the finest football-related gifts I’ve ever received. While visiting the Mattel office this week, Steve Asbey interrupted his presentation to a retail buying team (sorry guys) to come over and thrust a Lionel Messi FC Elite figure into my hands. But this was no regular model, for Messi is adorned in the hallowed yellow and black of Watford, as you can see below. My extremely limited edition, one-of-a-kind Lionel now has pride of place on our office toy table – let us hope he proves to be a lucky mascot for the coming season.