Stranger things …it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 4th August 2017

Several people contacted me after last weeks’ Blog, suggesting I had been brave to say what I said, which is absolutely fine; I never want this column – or Toy World for that matter – to be thought of as bland and boring. As it turned out, it was not the part of the Blog that I thought might cause a few ripples, but rather my comments about the performance of the July blockbuster movie merchandise that people were referring to. One suggested that the studios would have a different opinion – and naturally, I accept that (although, as Mandy Rice-Davies once famously said, “they would say that, wouldn’t they?”).

What was most interesting was that the retailers I have subsequently spoken to have largely agreed: I had a meeting with one last Friday who had read the Blog before I arrived and suggested the part about movies was “spot on.” He professed to being “exhausted” by the relentless movie schedule, and admits he will be reducing the number of movies he backs next year. He was particularly worried about franchises where there is not enough time between movies: not only is too much stock still left in the market place, but he believes too many parents are reluctant to buy yet more toys based on the same property. It’s obviously different for older tweens and teens / adult collectors who are buying for themselves, but in his opinion, there are too many big movies in too short a space of time, too many are over-licensed and he isn’t surprised that a bit of fatigue is setting in.

Many people also agreed with my comments over Argos’ strategy of cutting back on the number of stores stocking printed catalogues. One supplier went to his local branch to see how his product looked on page, only to find they weren’t actually holding catalogues there and he would have to drive to another store 15-20 miles away to pick one up. While he was there, he heard three people ask within 30 seconds where the catalogues were. Whatever Argos may feel, it seems that people aren’t ready to let it go just yet.

I was also interested to see Argos running a ‘3 for 2’ promotion at the end of last week. Is this the earliest ever? It may or may not be, but I do wonder whether promotion fatigue may become just as much of an issue as movie fatigue; it’s getting like the never-ending DFS sale out there at times. I can only imagine that this was a test to assess how reactive certain lines are to multi-buy discounts – unless this new generation of parents are a lot more organised than we were in my day (not to mention brave enough to spend big bucks based on what their child says it wants for Christmas five months ahead of the big day). Or maybe the next announcement will be that Argos is officially bringing Christmas forward? Stranger things…

Retail reports released this week have made for pretty grim reading – it was difficult to work out which set of figures were worse, Asda or Wilko – so maybe we are going to see a lot more aggressive discounting to boost sales after all, despite all the evidentiary financial logic that points the other way.

Arguably the biggest toy story of the week was the news that the Independent Toy & Gift Show will be moving from its traditional April date to a new slot at the start of May, taking it to within two weeks of the Toymaster show. Perhaps the close proximity will make it easier for suppliers to organise both events almost simultaneously – it will certainly help with the availability of samples. plaY-room will start selling stands in October, so we’ll find out then what impact the new dates will have.

In case you have just returned from holiday or have been busy trying to juggle work and family commitments, our August issue arrived on desks on Monday – you can read the digital version here if that is your thing, but as my leader column suggested, I’m very much of the opinion that you really can’t beat reading it in its full-size, luxury print format.

Finally, with the start of the new Premier League football season only just over a week away, a reminder that we’ll once again be running the Toy World Masters Fantasy Football League over the coming season. If you’d like to pit your wits against toy and licensing industry friends and colleagues, the league code is 8729-3126 and you can join the Fantasy Premier League game free of charge here. Last year’s winner, Creative Toys’ Hugh Evans, is bidding to be the first person to hold the title for three years in a row, so if you know your football and think you could give him a run for his money – or just want another topic for discussion in forthcoming meetings and over Toy Fair season – feel free to join us.