September is upon us, and kids have finally gone back to school (with apologies to our Scottish readers, who I understand are several weeks ahead of us in this respect). TV is thankfully becoming slightly less rubbish than it always is through the Summer months, and Christmas advertising campaigns are beginning to kick in. One toy retailer really upping the ante this year is Smyths; I am reliably informed they are “spending a fortune” investing in two major sponsorship deals with prime time ITV. The first is for evergreen family favourite You’ve Been Framed, and runs from this week until the end of December; the second covers the six-week run of new show Big Star’s Little Star. It’s certainly a statement of intent, with – I suspect – one eye firmly on the coveted ‘No. 2 toy retailer’ slot.
Another retailer continuing to push forward is The Entertainer, which has announced that it will be continuing to expand its bricks and mortar presence by opening six brand new stores across the UK over the next two months, while Argos Chief Executive Terry Duddy has announced that he will be stepping down from his role next July after 13 years with the company.
Elsewhere Lego has overtaken Hasbro to become the second largest global toy company, with soaring Asian sales (+35% ) making a major contribution. The company turned over £1.2b in the first half of the year, which represents a 13% increase on last year, a highly creditable performance given what Lego chief executive Jorgen Vig Knudstorp described as “a slow start to the year in the largest and most mature markets of North America, Europe and Japan”.
Looking ahead to next year, Toy Fair registration has opened, so if you’re planning to visit the show (and frankly, if you’re in the toy industry, why wouldn’t you be?), make sure you register free of charge via the registration page of the Toy Fair website, thus saving time when you arrive, not to mention the £15 entrance fee you’ll otherwise have to pay on the door (which will at least get you a Sandwich and drink at lunchtime!).
On the subject of exhibitions, if any of our readers are thinking of visiting the forthcoming China Toy Expo in Shanghai (15-17 October), the organisers have contacted me to say that they have a number of hotel rooms in 4 and 5 star hotels which they are prepared to offer free of charge for three nights during the show to what they term “important buyers”. They are also offering free tickets to the Industry Dinner, where you can mix with key players from the Chinese toy industry and the manufacturers association. If anyone would like to find out more about this rather generous offer, feel free to drop me an email (email@example.com).
I’ll be heading to the Licensing Awards next week, so I’m sure I’ll bump into a few of you over the course of the evening. Good luck to all the toy nominees – I’ll be rooting for you (and not just in the hope of getting a free glass of celebratory champagne at the end of the evening).
You can follow John on Twitter @Baulchtweet.