As pictures of empty supermarket shelves make headline news in the UK, there are rumours that the government is mulling over implementing a new ‘eat nowt to help out’ strategy to help relieve the pressure on the food supply chain. Looking at my post-pandemic waistline, it may not be the worst idea.
Meanwhile, the toy industry continues to grapple with logistics challenges of its own. Unlike Brexit, the shipping crisis – and I don’t think it is an exaggeration to refer to it as such – is impacting the entire global toy community. Posts on LinkedIn from senior industry figures from around the world all tell the same tale – that it is getting increasingly hard to make numbers add up.
I quite liked one potential ‘workaround’ I saw suggested on LinkedIn this week: with a 20′ container able to fit around 20 pallets double-stacked, these pallets take up 3.6 cubic metres of container space. In order to maximize space, perhaps it would be an option to pack product into outer cartons, loose-pack these cartons in the container and have the shipment palletized when devanned at the destination? Or is the person who put this solution forward missing something that would preclude this from being a viable strategy?
Incidentally, in case you think the problems are limited to shipments from the Far East, I received an email from a UK-Based toy company this week which proved just how much of a global issue it is becoming: “To ship 2 pallets (1600kg) to the USA last October was £1016. Today, 1 pallet (525kg) costs £945. Air freight for this would be about £1250, so there is not even much of a saving by sea these days.” Staggering.
Elsewhere, while the toy industry job merry-go-round has been whirring back into life in recent months, it hit full speed this week. We announced that Simon Hedge will be stepping down from his role as MD at GP Flair today, having been one of the founder members of the original company when it started life back in 1995. Taking Simon’s place as UK country manager will be Julia Cake, who has worked in the toy market for the past 20 years for a variety of companies including Mattel, Schleich and, latterly, Magic Box. Character Options has announced a sales restructure which saw Sally Hunter join promoted Richard Dinham and Anthony Thorpe in a new, three-pronged senior national accounts manager attack. There has also been a change of guard at Lego, where Isabel Graham has taken over as head of marketing for the UK & Ireland from Marius Lang, who is moving on to head up the Lego Benelux operation as general manager. Logan Stone has also been promoted to marketing director at Moose Toys. Our best wishes to them all in their new roles – and there are more interesting moves to announce soon (just as soon as we’re given the green light).
As well as a steady stream of people moving on up, we’ve also seen industry giants Mattel and Hasbro unveiling strong Q2 results this week – further evidence that consumer demand for toys is in a good place as we head towards the business end of the year. I just hope we can fulfil the demand – the sight of empty supermarket shelves has been disconcerting, but at least that doesn’t commercially affect the toy community. Empty toy aisles in November and December would be a different matter entirely. Because there are plenty of toy companies with exciting new launches and heavyweight marketing campaigns poised and ready to go – the August issue of Toy World, which will be landing on desks early next week, is another belter, 136 pages packed full of hot new lines to freshen up your shelves and online pages. Gone are the days of lacklustre mid-year issues – thank goodness. And looking ahead, September will be our 10th anniversary issue – it certainly doesn’t feel like a decade has passed since Toy World made its debut, but the youthful pictures in the first edition suggest otherwise. There’s still time for you to be part of our 10th birthday issue, which will be accompanied by our legendary pull-out supplement focused on the Games & Puzzles category – but you’ll have to be quick.
Finally, having started this week’s Blog highlighting something for you to sign up to, I’m going to end it the same way – with the start of the Premier League season only two weeks away, the Toy World Masters Fantasy Football League is now open for business. If you know your football and fancy pitting your wits against friends and colleagues from the toy community, or you just need a temporary distraction from shouting at shipping companies or being shouted at by retailers, you can sign up for the game by visiting https://fantasy.premierleague.com/ – the Toy World league code is y715p2. We’ve already had a few new names sign up this year, including a marketing person from Smyths who runs his own Fantasy Football twitter account and has a very strong pedigree in the game. So, it’s all set to be another keenly-contested competition – and if nothing else, when we finally manage to get together at a Toy Fair somewhere in the world, it will give us something else to talk about other than when we arrived, where we’re staying, when we’re going home and whether we should elbow bump, shake hands or kiss (and that’s just the fellas).