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Restructures, dock strikes and a tantalising glimpse of the sun…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 26th April 2013

No question about the week’s biggest news as far as the UK toy trade is concerned; the latest developments at Mothercare. We were tipped off on Thursday that CEO Simon Calver had called an impromptu emergency meeting to announce an organisational review, which will result in the restructure of a number of the UK and Asian offices. Toy World understands that the proposals could potentially result in a reduced number of roles, but the company is said to be aiming to minimise job losses as far as it can. We will keep you posted as and when there is further news.

Meanwhile, over in Hong Kong, the dock strike I mentioned a few weeks back continues to simmer, with workers seen by ‘our man on the ground’ protesting at dock owner Li Ka Shing outside the Cheong Kong Centre in Central. With many major UK retailers imposing significant fines for late delivery of shipments, if the situation persists – or indeed escalates – it could potentially have major repercussions for many toy suppliers, so it’s worth keeping an eye on the situation.

Thankfully we’ve enjoyed a far better week from a weather perspective (those of us in the South at least). Indeed, if screen glare wasn’t an issue, I might even have been typing this week’s blog from the comfort of my back garden. Crucially, this must come as a huge relief to many outdoor toy suppliers and retailers; I’m hearing that sales of outdoor toys are down by almost 30% so far this year, and if the rumours are true, the March figures could be as much as 40% down on last year. Of course, this performance could be easily turned round with a prolonged bout of decent weather, so if anyone knows any good voodoo spells, feel free to start practising.

The Tesco toy sale which I mentioned a couple of weeks back got even tastier this week, with the remaining stock being reduced by as much as 75% to clear it through. Consumer forums quickly filled up with news of the brands on offer, and whilst much of the stock consisted of last year’s lines, much of it involved carry-forward brands, so there were some tempting bargains to be had for the savvy consumer (and maybe even the odd independent toy shop).

The Toy Trust has been asking the trade to nominate a charity to be the beneficiary of the largest single donation from its 2014 fundraising efforts, so if anyone has any suggestions, they should email matt@btha.co.uk with details of the name of the project, its registered charity number and a website or contact details. I’m sure there are some extremely worthy causes out there, so if you know of one which deserves consideration, the BTHA would love to hear from you.

Finally, congratulations to Playmobil, which has risen eight places to number 16 in the NPD chart since the start of the year (sorry, I appear to have gone all ‘Radio 1 DJ’ on you there). It’s also the fastest growing company in the top 25, with sales up by a whopping 54% in value and 61 % in volume. Graham Brennan and his team have clearly done a sterling job; I’m sure the Germans must be delighted with the progress the UK division has made. I would say they are ‘head and shoulders’ above the competition; however, after the amusing story about the theft of the Playmobil display model‘s head from Adeba Toys that has been doing the rounds this week, I thought Mr Brennan might feel I was taking the mickey.