What a truly incredible, unpredictable night.
As usual, I had spent Thursday afternoon carefully crafting today’s Blog. I knew this was a risk under the circumstances, but I figured I could probably make enough general comments to get away with it. I have a meeting with my accountant this morning and I was supposed to be prepping for it first thing – that’s gone completely out of the window now and I’m going to have to ‘wing it’, as the events of last night have necessitated a hasty rewrite of the Blog.
In fairness, the original Blog started well, suggesting that speculation would be futile and putting forward the theory that if the last few elections – Brexit, the American Presidency – have taught us anything, it is that nothing can be taken for granted. So far, so good.
The following paragraph was where the Blog – rather like Theresa May’s spectacularly ill-judged plans – began to unravel. This is what it said: “Whatever the result, it will hopefully ease the uncertainty that has started to impact both consumer confidence and sales.” Clearly, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The so-called “coalition of chaos” that the PM warned of is now precisely what we have – except with the current government at its epicentre (for the moment at least – I wonder whether moving out of Number 10 is seen as a boy’s job or a girl’s job in the May household?).
So where now? Frankly, who knows? The only thing certain is uncertainty: how ironic that the PM is calling for stability this morning, after she has caused unbridled chaos by calling yet another disastrous vote – did she learn nothing from her predecessor? Brexit negotiations are due to start in 11 days – they will surely be postponed? If she was looking for a mandate for a hard Brexit from the British people, it is clear that she doesn’t have one. The pound has fallen further against both the dollar and the euro– just what everyone in the toy market didn’t need right now (I’ll come back to the subject of the impact of currency fluctuations on this year’s FOB business in next week’s Blog, as I’ve had some very interesting conversations about that this week). At least it’s only a couple of per cent this time round, rather than the ten per cent post-Brexit swing, but who knows what might transpire in the coming hours and days.
Mind you, if you think it is just the UK toy market that is facing challenges beyond its’ control at the moment, spare a thought for The Toy Store: I spoke to the retailer’s CEO Mark Handley earlier this week, the day after the Gulf States turned on Qatar and effectively closed its borders. With seven Hallmark branches and one Toy Store branch in the country, the logistical challenges he faces in getting stock to those stores puts the UK’s challenges into perspective. The fact that some uncomfortable truths about Saudi Arabia and Qatar are now being spoken about openly will also have to be considered by any retailer looking to expand its presence in the Middle East. By all accounts, Hamleys has very much taken its foot off the pedal in the region, but other retailers have continued to see it as a market with potential. The Middle East is, of course, experiencing its own economic challenges, but I wonder whether these will turn out to be the least of these territories’ problems when it comes to attracting overseas companies going forward.
Jumping ahead for a moment to 2018, the date for the ever-popular Fence Club Hong Kong Football match and dinner has been confirmed as Tuesday 9th January. Make a note in your diaries, more details will follow in due course.
Finally, in such an astonishing week, there is only one group we can leave the last word to – if their expression doesn’t sum up the nation’s feelings this morning, I don’t know what does: