Oh great, more ***** snow…’s the Friday blog!

Published on: 5th April 2013

Let’s start with some good news. Vivid’s launch of Moshi Monsters series 6 has by all accounts been a huge success, and the company is – in its own words – “cautiously” predicting a whopping £70m worth of Moshi retail sales for 2013 (and that’s just Vivid’s range, without factoring in sales of all the other licensed product). So, without doubt, some things are certainly flying at retail.

Indeed, the overall trading picture doesn’t seem to have been as badly affected by the weather as some might think (although as snow gently swirls around my front lawn as I type this blog, it’s hard to believe the clocks have gone forward and we’ve already entered Q2). The vast majority of the retailers we’ve spoken to this week have thankfully reported highly respectable footfall and sales over the Easter period, so hopefully that has been the case wherever you are.

There have been a few comings and goings in the job market recently. Obviously I was sad to hear that Toys R Us has let over 20 people go, including outdoor buyer Richard Beckwith, who had been with the retailer for over 20 years. With an impending relocation into smaller offices, I guess it was always possible that some form of organisational restructure would coincide with the move. I hope those affected find other opportunities soon. Several other people who recently moved on from their previous companies have done just that, including – my sources tell me – Alex Kovacevic. News of his whereabouts will follow as soon as I can go public with the information.

Disney is continuing with its quest to dismantle the previous Lucasfilm set-up, the latest move being to shut the celebrated Lucas Arts video games studio, in favour of moving to a licensee-driven model. After the announcement of the cancellation of the Clone Wars series a few weeks back, it seems clear that Disney has definite plans for the Star Wars franchise, and they appear to be markedly different to the previous owner’s vision for the brand.

Toys R Us also made headline news in the States this week, when it announced that it wouldn’t be going ahead with its planned IPO (i.e. making the transition from a private to a public company), almost three years after first announcing the proposed move. In fairness, I doubt this comes as a surprise to that many people in the industry. There are those have been grumbling about Toys R Us’s reportedly lacklustre trading performance in the UK for some while now, but on the flip side, I have heard that their sales in some of the more ‘techy’ areas of the toy market have actually been quite encouraging, so maybe there are positives that the retailer can build on.

Speaking of positives, our healthy 100+ page April issue should have landed on your desk by now, so I hope you’ve managed to find some time to explore what’s on offer. We’ve posted a link to the digital edition online today, if you like to consume your information digitally. It’s also a great way to disseminate information to colleagues and even to overseas partners – it certainly beats the old ‘sticking post-it notes on a hard copy’ approach.

Over in Hong Kong, striking dock workers have apparently caused considerable disruption at one of the main container terminals during a week-long pay dispute. The workers are said to be seeking a 20% pay rise, with sub-contractors apparently only prepared to offer a 5 % increase, leading to a stand-off (how times are changing in the Far East…). Officials have said that the action is costing the dock owner an estimated £400,000 per day, which might lead you to the conclusion that they’d be doing their best to resolve the dispute swiftly, but nevertheless some shipping companies are already taking precautions, fearing that the strike could drag on for some while yet. You have, as they say, been warned.

Finally, congratulations to Robert and Jan Mann on the arrival of their first granddaughter Sophia Kate a few weeks back. Mum (Carly), Dad (David) and baby are all apparently doing well.

Have a splendid – and hopefully snow free – weekend. I’m off to Vicarage Road tomorrow to watch Watford’s most important match in a long while. It promises to be a lively occasion. I’m just hoping we can avoid the play-offs, as the second leg falls during Toymaster week. And much as I love the evening functions in Harrogate, some things just can’t be missed….

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