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Special offers, top 10s, major product launches, new online ventures, lawsuits – Christmas must be just around the corner… it’s the Friday blog!

Published on: 28th September 2012

Q4 officially starts on Monday, and you can tell that we’re getting to the ‘business end’ of the year, as things are really starting to hot up now – there’s certainly no shortage of things to blog about this week, that’s for sure.

After last week’s flurry of retail sales promotions, Argos has waded into the fray this week with a heavily-promoted ‘3 for 2’ offer on all toys, which is made even more attractive for consumers by the addition of £5 and £10 vouchers being given for every £50/£100 spent. No doubt mums have already been getting together at school gates to plan group purchases…

I have also heard a strong rumour that Costco is about to launch a major new online initiative. I wish I could tell you more about it, but unfortunately details are sketchy until the site goes live, which I understand is on Monday (1st October). However, I gather it’s already become something of a talking point throughout the retail community, especially the grocers by all accounts.

John Lewis is the latest retailer to unveil its top 10, an interesting mix of the latest hot tech products – Kurio, Innotab 2, App Fishing, Furby and Hexbugs – alongside some classic favourites such as a scooter and a dolls house. Speaking of Furby, he was officially relaunched at Hamleys on Monday, and the media has certainly been quick to pick up on his revival. I saw one particular tweet which showed that Hamleys is currently selling Furby for £76, which some might call a tad optimistic -note, I didn’t say greedy- on the basis that the ‘RRP’ according to Hasbro is £59.99 (and I wonder what the ‘going rate’ will be in a few weeks time…).

Hornby released a profit warning, announcing it will break even – rather than make a profit – this year after ‘disappointing’ sales of Olympic merchandise and operational difficulties with one of its main Chinese suppliers. On that subject, a number of toy companies have told me that they are experiencing their own ‘challenges’ with Chinese factories, many of which are apparently struggling to find staff and fulfil production demands. This was predicted by a number of my Far East contacts back in January, and it seems that their concerns have turned out to be founded.

Over in the USA, Toys R Us has been sued by Fuhu, the manufacturer of the Nabi children’s tablet, for “using Fuhu’s trade secrets and confidential information to start selling Tabeo, which systematically attempts to replicate the Nabi experience, far earlier than Toys R Us could have done otherwise, if at all.” Tabeo isn’t available in the UK, so the lawsuit has no direct consequences for the Toys R Us UK operation. But it’s interesting to see a supplier taking such a bold stance, and it may well have repercussions on a far wider scale if the lawsuit proves successful (not that I’m implying that retailers ‘borrow’ ideas from suppliers for their own-brand ranges, of course…).

Neil Oulton will apparently be leaving Argos shortly to become Sports Buyer at Amazon, whilst industry stalwart Peter Hatton will shortly be launching a new venture called Kidzstation. The company already has a Hong Kong operation up and running, but I understand Peter will be opening a UK division -which will be developing its own product ranges- shortly. Based on his distinguished career to date, Peter will no doubt be at BLE looking for licences to sign up, and I wish him all the best.

The October edition of Toy World will be landing on your desks in the early part of next week – if licensing is an important part of your business, it’s frankly unmissable, with a huge BLE preview, an extended Licensing World section, and an exclusive supplement brought to you in conjunction with Warner Bros. And if licensing isn’t your thing, there’s still plenty of interesting content to get your teeth into. Enjoy!