The 2013 Autumn/Winter preview season has officially begun. I ventured North this week – to the wilds of Oldham to be specific – for my first preview, and the coming weeks will see the whole Toy World team traversing the country on our quest to discover some of the hot new lines being launched in 2013.
But even though our focus has shifted to next year, the most critical six weeks of this year’s trading calendar still lie ahead. Reports about the current state of business vary wildly; I continue to hear positive things about Smyths amongst others, whilst low-level grumbling about the lack of effective supermarket promotions hasn’t subsided. Opinions differ as to whether Argos sales have picked up over the past few weeks, and whether their toy exchange promotion has been a success. Half-term coming a week late to many regions hasn’t particularly helped, but at least with Halloween and Bonfire night out of the way and October salaries nestling in bank accounts, things should hopefully start to step up a gear or two from now on. And with Amazon’s Black Friday event only seven days away, expect pricing shenanigans aplenty next week. But will this be the Christmas where things really go down to the wire? One major retailer seems to think so, having apparently decided to concentrate its promotional efforts into a ‘two-week bonanza’- in the two weeks before Christmas!
I was genuinely sad to hear that Chapman Entertainment has entered administration. Sad, but not entirely surprised; I guess the writing has been on the wall since the initial staff ‘purge’ a year back, and with Val Fry announcing a move to Coolabi earlier in the week, it did seem to be a precursor for what was to come. Hopefully a deal can be struck which will secure the future of Chapman’s key properties – a few licensees will certainly be watching developments with a keen interest.
Wednesday night saw the Fence Club AGM, which, in keeping with the club’s ethos, is singularly unlike any other AGM I’ve ever attended. It was great to catch up with so many toy people in relaxed, convivial surroundings (although much of what was discussed needs to remain firmly off the record). There is a tradition that new members to the club join in with the round of joke-telling, but this year one new member – Turner’s Simon Cox – decided that as telling jokes isn’t his forte, he would sing a song instead. So it was that Simon belted out a hearty rendition of Frank Sinatra’s ‘Fly me to the Moon’ to a room full of slightly stunned men (which, it has to be said, made a welcome change from the endless stream of Jimmy Saville jokes which had dominated proceedings up to that point). Maybe a new tradition has been forged? Future new members may now have to sing for their supper – literally.
Before I go, I’d like to get in a shameless plug for our January Toy Fair edition; we’ve hit a minor milestone this week, as the issue is now 50% full. So if you’re one of the very nice people who’s already confirmed their requirements, many thanks. To the other 50%, if you could find the time to let Mark or I know what you’d like to do in the not too distant future, it really would be hugely appreciated. No-one likes a last minute panic (those who have been known to criticise buyers for leaving their decisions to the very last minute, or not returning their phone calls and emails will presumably have some sympathy…).
Finally, a sincere thank you to the person who sent us a lovely email this week telling us how much he enjoyed Toy World, which included the almost poetic phrase: “I get gravitas as I work my way through – but gravitas with a smile.” Not that we’d expressed it so succinctly before, but that pithy comment summed up in a nutshell exactly the tone we’ve been striving for – and coming from an acknowledged media expert, it made the whole Toy World team very proud. Thank you, my friend.