The MD of a prominent toy company told me this week that they had already been given a strong indication as to which of their lines their largest customer will be selecting for 2014. Whilst it’s not technically an order, as they haven’t received official written confirmation as yet, it does offer evidence that the majors – or at least some of them – are getting their act together fairly promptly this year. This can only be a good thing for the toy market as a whole: the security of a supplier knowing where they stand on selections enables them to firm up their own plans just that little bit quicker, and the knock-on effect for companies like us is hugely welcome.
Hopefully the optimism which is evident in political and economic circles is filtering through to the end consumer, and that in turn is allowing retailers to be more forward-thinking in their ordering process. With the CBI reporting that retail sales are rising at their fastest pace in two years, it does seem that confidence is already returning throughout the retail chain.
In keeping with the upbeat mood, Lego has unveiled another extremely strong set of financial results; the company finished 2013 11% up, bucking the global trend. With the Lego Movie remaining number one at the UK box office for a second week, there must be some extremely happy people at Lego at the moment.
However, not everyone is riding high on the crest of the recovery. In a surprise move, Mothercare chief executive Simon Calver announced his resignation this week. He is generally recognised to have smartened up certain aspects of the Mothercare business – notably its online presence – but sadly the share price continues to languish in the doldrums, and ultimately, it would appear that the numbers have finally proved his downfall. Whoever takes over the role certainly has some big issues to address.
Elsewhere Game lost a landmark legal case over not paying its rent while the company was in administration. Game has been ordered to pay £3m after a consortium of landlords argued that rent should be paid on what they described as a “pay as you trade” basis for stores that were still operating, even though the owner had filed for administration. Undoubtedly there will be major ramifications for any other retailer looking to employ this tactic in future (i.e. enter administration the day after their quarterly rent bill is due in order to avoid paying the bill). In fairness, it does seem sensible to close this particular legal loophole.
There have been a couple of notable moves to announce: Jon Tilley has joined Chicco as customer development director, Sue Barratt has started a new role as sales director of Docrafts and I understand that David Allmark will be returning from the States to take up a new role heading up Fisher Price’s European operation.
Finally, we were contacted by the ‘recruitment partner’ for a company in the toy market, asking us to help the owner find an executive assistant. What was unusual about the press release wasn’t just the fact that the recruitment company was too tight to pay for an ad, but that they described the post as “Robin to XXXX’s Batman”. As last week’s little blog quiz proved so popular (it was interesting to see how many people got the answer spot on…), I think we should do another one: so can you guess which person has taken to describing himself as “the Batman of toy retailing”? Will his identity be revealed, or – like Bruce Wayne – will it remain a closely guarded secret? Maybe he’ll be caught wearing his underpants over his trousers in the office…..cameras at the ready just in case.
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