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Quiet time for toys, early success stories and a burst of mild weather … It’s the Friday blog

Published on: 2nd March 2012

It seems that I was wrong to believe that a major toy industry news story would break this week because we’d sent our March issue to press last Friday. In a week when national news outlets had an embarrassment of riches in terms of stories to report on, as far as the toy trade is concerned it’s ‘all quiet on the Western Front’. This is hardly surprising, as major retailers are in selection mode, suppliers are in limbo waiting on those selections and independents are doing what they do at this time of the year, ticking over steadily. It always intrigues me when people ask me how retail is faring at this time of year; it’s a little like asking an ice-cream sales person how business is in December. That said it’s been nice to hear of several early success stories which have ‘come out of the traps’ quickly (Magic Box’s Bungees, Sambro’s One Direction range and Vivid’s Baby Jake collection). A little burst of mild weather surely hasn’t hurt either, but I guess Easter will be the first real litmus test of how the trade is bearing up. And that’s not far away now at all.

My favourite tweet of the week came from Richard Gottlieb, highlighting an article he’d written about the American Toy Awards; the tweet announced “let’s fix the Toy Awards.” Perhaps they have a different use of the word ‘fix’ in the USA? Anyway, the article picked up on some disquiet over the fact that 70% of this year’s awards were shared between 3 publicly traded toy companies (Mattel, Hasbro and Leapfrog). Making matters worse, this was largely a repeat of what happened last year. By comparison, our own awards seem to strike a far better balance, so maybe the TIA should talk to the TRA / BTHA to get a few tips.

Speaking of the BTHA, Toy World would like to offer congratulations to Simon Pilling and his wife Sam on the birth of their son Kit on Valentines Day.

For one reason and another, I seem to have spent a fair bit of my time this week talking to people from the licensing community, and have thus picked up a few nuggets to report: I gather that Jenny Smyth will shortly be leaving Turner to become Marketing Director at Classic Media, while Alice Bernardi will be leaving Warner Bros to head to Nickelodeon / MTV, joining former VTech MD Andrew Dickson, who is currently covering Katy Sorkin’s maternity leave. Target also went into administration, which was sad but, in fairness, not entirely unpredictable.

Over lunch with one senior licensing executive, the question of the new bribery act came up. I’d just like to reassure anyone who wishes to take Toy World to lunch or offer us the opportunity to see new movies in advance that we would in no way believe this constitutes a bribe, and we can assure you that your secret is safe with us!

Finally, I was delighted to see that the theme for the first night’s party at the Toymaster Show is Yogi Parmar’s 50th birthday. It’s nice to see someone else joining our merry band of toy people celebrating a milestone birthday this year.