Toy suppliers will have breathed a collective sigh of relief at the news that Toys R Us has reached an agreement with noteholders to refinance approximately 50 per cent of its $850m debt. The debt has been hanging over the retailer like the sword of Damocles for some while, and this latest move will undoubtedly be welcomed by toy companies across the globe. Toys R Us still has its challenges, arguably nowhere more so than in the UK, but at least it can now focus on its trading issues without the worry of the debt burden exacerbating the situation. Admittedly, to some extent it has simply kicked the can down the road, but that is surely a far better outcome than the alternative. Whatever challenges it faces, the global toy industry is undoubtedly richer for Toys R Us continuing to play a vital part in it.
Elsewhere, Argos was the first retailer to unveil its list of predictions for top toy this Christmas. There will always be a debate about how early is too early, and with the launch of the autumn winter catalogue still some way off, it seems this move was all about being first out of the traps. However, it most definitely paid off; the list achieved massive coverage across national media – garnering almost 350 separate pieces of coverage, including BBC Breakfast – and I’m sure Argos and its new toy PR representative Playtime PR must be absolutely delighted. There were no great curveballs on the list, though it was nice to see Worlds Apart’s Selfie Mic – a product we’ve championed since first seeing it in Hong Kong in January – make an appearance among the usual suspects such as Lego, Hasbro, Mattel, VTech, Character Options and Spin Master.
Aside from the frankly bewildering parliamentary appearance by Sir Philip Greed (NB: this is not a typo), where he morphed into a parody of Robert de Niro in Taxi Driver (“Are you lookin’ at me?”), there have been a couple of other quirky stories that have caught my eye this week: I’m genuinely not sure which was more disconcerting – the revelation that the UEFA 2016 mascot shares its name with a sex toy, or the news that Microsoft has bought Linked-In for $26billion. My gut feel is that the due diligence in both cases leaves something to be desired. It’s clearly a different world to the one I inhabit, when a company is prepared to pay $26 billion for a business which has never made money and which many feel is on a downward spiral (all those awful maths problems and condescending motivational memes which people post surely don’t help). Mind you, given the huge success of Windows 10, what could possibly go wrong….
A last day of preparations is ahead, before I fly to Las Vegas for Licensing Show tomorrow: my diary is practically full, my EU referendum postal vote has been cast (if you’re going too, don’t forget to do that before you head off) and I’m looking forward to seeing what the licensing world has in store for us over the next year. I’ll be posting a couple of bonus Vegas Blogs from the show next week, so hopefully there will be plenty to report. I’m even sacrificing the chance to watch the second half of the England v Slovakia game on Monday, as I have a Cartoon Network presentation to attend (you can tell when something has been organised by the Americans…), but after yesterday’s result, at least there’s a good chance we’ll be staying in the tournament a little longer yet. This would be no bad thing, especially if Wales, Norther Ireland and the Republic of Ireland could join us in the next round, as that would surely lead to even more Euro 16 product being sold by toy retailers. It might also lift collective spirits after the events of the past week; we could certainly do with some good news.