Out and about …it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 5th May 2023

As we come to the end of another four day week, with yet another to follow next week (cue the infamous meme of that lady saying “what, another one?”), I suspect people fall into two very distinct camps: those who are relishing the additional days off, and those who are wondering how on earth they’ll get all their work done with so many disruptions.

Like many companies, our deadlines don’t (indeed, can’t) get pushed back: we just have to do the same amount of work in fewer days. Retailers must be delighted though; May 1st was a bit of a ‘nothing’ bank holiday, with very little going on, making shopping one of the few viable options to while away the time. Next Monday will be even stranger: a day off to celebrate the King’s Coronation, which will have taken place 48 hours earlier. Are they expecting people to have massive hangovers that they need a few days to recover from? Anyway, hopefully plenty of people will head to toy shops over the weekend to keep retailers happy, despite the fact they have to work and miss all the pomp and ceremony.

Despite the short weeks in April and the start of May, our May issue landed on desks this week with a reassuringly heavy thud, bang on time. With all due modesty, it’s another fantastic issue, with one of the most eye-catching and classiest Front Covers ever to have graced Toy World, featuring Mattel’s extensive doll portfolio. At just shy of 200 pages, it shows that those people who believe that print is a thing of the past could not be more wrong. Our April edition was the same size, and June will be similar – three consecutive 200-page issues…remind me again why it’s “all about digital”? That may be increasingly true in the B2C channel, but certainly not at a B2B level.

In addition to the extensive category features and exclusive interviews with some very interesting key industry figures (including Hasbro’s new president EMEA, LATAM and Asia Pacific, Joao Nielsen Sebastian amongst others), the backbone of the issue is our largest-ever preview of the Toymaster May Show. With just eleven days until the event opens in Harrogate, our extensive preview feature will give Toymaster members and other specialist retailers who will be attending the chance to see what will be on show and who they should visit. It will also be great to finally meet our US contributor Rick Derr, who will be visiting the May Show for the first time, as part of the ongoing close collaboration between Learning Express and Toymaster. Rick has already posted on LinkedIn about how excited he is to be attending, and I gather he will also be visiting some Toymaster members’ stores during his trip. I am very much looking forward to hearing what he makes of Derby – that will be a nice surprise for him. All in all, the May Show promises to be another fantastic event, and we can’t wait to see everyone there – we’re planning our road trip as we speak.

The Toy World team has also been out and about this past few weeks, with an exclusive sneak peek at Lego’s new Dreamzzz animated series being a particular highlight. Not only did we get to see the first two episodes, which will be broadcast from 15th May on a dizzying array of different platforms and channels, but we also met some of the people behind the show and heard about what inspired them and how it all came together. Described as Lego’s “biggest-ever homegrown IP”, I must admit that we were very impressed – the high-quality animation, strong storytelling and characterisation, plus witty dialogue, should make it a firm favourite with kids in the coming months.

We also attended Generation Media’s KidsCon23 event yesterday; another fascinating day with a series of thought-provoking presentations and panel discussions covering the ever-changing media landscape. There was a strong attendance from both the toy and media communities, and plenty of opportunities to network across the day. Well done to the Generation Media team for keeping the event fresh and interesting each year.

Our final outing this week was to the swanky Moor Park mansion, to join Fence Club members and guests at the Fence Club Spring Dinner. Speaker John McCarthy certainly had some engrossing tales to tell of his five years in captivity in The Lebanon (honestly, it was more interesting than it might sound…) and more money was raised for the charities supported by the Fence Club.

Elsewhere, Toy Trust fundraiser May Mayhem has now officially started – and the event will be continuing for the whole month of May. It will be great to see everyone in the toy community getting involved in any way possible to raise money for Whizz-Kidz, this year’s official charity – whether by arranging their own fundraising activity or donating generously to those companies and individuals that are taking part. Take a look at the official website here for more information.

A few senior people are on the move: I gather that Schleich UK country manager Thomas Randrup will be leaving the company at the end of the month after five years at the helm, following former Schleich marketing manager Paul Dearlove – who departed last month – in seeking new opportunities. In addition, Rubie’s MD Mike O’Connell announced on LinkedIn yesterday that he would be stepping down from the role. I understand that Pete Warton from Rubie’s Australia will be taking over the position on an interim basis.

I’m sure there will be more news to report from Harrogate in a couple of weeks’ time, but as we have a massive June issue to wrestle into shape before we head North, next week will see us chained to our desks (metaphorically, of course…. I’m not taking any lessons from John McCarthy’s captors). Enjoy the Coronation and fingers crossed for a weekend of fun, strong footfall and healthy sales.