Shenanigans, obfuscation and expansion….it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 21st November 2014

So it seems that the Penguins of Madagascar won’t be heading to Stockley Park with a placard after all (if you have absolutely no idea what I’m on about, see last week’s Blog). The negotiations between Hasbro and DreamWorks ended almost as soon as they had begun. This can surely come as little surprise to most people. But the fallout from the aborted discussions has been full of intrigue: an article appeared in the Hollywood Reporter alleging controversy and shenanigans aplenty.

The quick summary is that someone allegedly leaked details of the talks in an attempt to sabotage them, while the main reason the talks eventually stalled had less to do with Hasbro’s share price drop and more to do with Disney’s “nuclear level reaction” at the prospect of the merger. Again, surely this comes as little surprise to anyone, least of all the top brass at Hasbro? That must surely have been the first – and biggest – ‘threat’ identified on the SWOT analysis of the deal? I was, however, interested to see that a third of Hasbro’s turnover is now estimated to be dependent on Disney licences. I wonder whether that figure takes into account the new Princess deal, which doesn’t take effect until 2017? If not, that number is going to be significantly higher in a few years’ time, with potential implications for other moves Hasbro may contemplate in the future.

The full report can be seen here.

It’s great to see Hornby’s latest set of results demonstrating that a major turnaround in the company’s performance is already underway. I’m genuinely delighted that things are going in the right direction for them. It’s also good to (finally) be able to report that Ian Cuthbert has joined Sambro. You can find both stories on our website today.

Mothercare has released a delightfully contradictory, ‘smoke and mirrors’ half year trading statement, where obfuscation seems to be the name of the game. Like-for-like turnover was up, yet overall sales were down both internationally and in the UK. The group’s profit rose, while still recording a significant loss in the UK. And perhaps best of all was the summary, which said: “The directors have a reasonable expectation that the company and the group have adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future.” I appreciate that understatement can sometimes be a good thing, but they’re surely not going to win any prizes for upbeat enthusiasm with that conclusion.

Other retailers have thankfully made more positive announcements this week: B&M’s financial results continue to be impressive, and the group is said to be in negotiation to acquire surplus stores from as many as six separate retailers including Homebase. B&M opened its 400th store last month, and is said to be hoping to open another 50 by next March, encroaching further into previously under-developed parts of the country such as the south east. And as its real estate portfolio grows, so does its potential to shift large volumes of toy product. Expect it to play a greater role in driving toy sales – and pricing – moving forward.

On a slightly different note, I was pleased to see Toys R Us announcing a special autism-friendly shopping event for 30th November. It’s a lovely idea and one that I’m sure will prove popular with the parents of autistic and special needs children.

I was also pleased to hear that Dominoes has confirmed it will be re-opening on the 1st floor of the Fenwick store in Leicester next February. Best of luck to Steve and the team with the new venture – it was always a popular store and I hope it can rekindle some of its former success with this move.

Finally, I’m sure that all those associated with the new Paddington movie were hugely relieved when the British Board of Film Classification withdrew its initial pronouncement that the movie contained “mild sexual references.” Thankfully this was downgraded to “innuendo”, reassuring parents everywhere that Paddington hadn’t after all been corrupted by sweary ursine superstar Ted, nor had he been turned into what the Guardian amusingly referred to as a “foul-mouthed, sex-crazed marmalade sandwich-chucking hooligan.” Rest easy, licensees and retailers: he’s still loveable old Paddington.

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