The end of days… it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 18th November 2016

The end of days might very well be coming. The omens are everywhere – Donald Trump will soon be ensconced in the White House; celebrities are dropping like flies; Liverpool are top of the Premier League and retailers are accepting price increases – albeit they’d look a bit daft if they didn’t. They’re fighting all the way, of course: Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe has publicly suggested that suppliers should be taking the currency hit because they are more profitable than the retailers, while Tesco’s Dave Lewis has now waded into the fray with a similar comment, albeit aimed principally at multinational suppliers. Nice try chaps, but somewhat disingenuous; would you have us believe that your buyers are such poor negotiators that they’ve been paying 16% over the odds for product over the past few years? If suppliers genuinely had the leeway to absorb that sort of currency swing, it follows that they must have been coining it in previously. I suspect that applies to very few suppliers in general, and even less to toy companies.

Talking to toy suppliers about potential rises, I know that many are doing their best to mitigate increases, using whatever means they have at their disposal; a product spec change here, a packaging tweak there…even using the dollars they are paid in for FOB and overseas transactions to purchase stock. But there is a limit to what can be achieved with such judicious snipping – and whatever they admit publicly, I’m sure retailers accept that privately. In an ideal world, suppliers would raise prices by 16% (one told me this week that rises varied anywhere from 5 – 20% across his range), but they know the potential pitfalls of following that approach. Hopefully the compromises that are agreed in January will work for all sides of the equation.

Elsewhere, it’s pre-Christmas business as usual; retailers attempting to entice consumers with promotional offers (some more genuine than others), while consumers are shopping around for the best value. Or, in the case of Hatchimals, shopping around to find one. There’s no doubt about this year’s ‘Pimpernel’ winner, and I opened a proverbial can of worms by suggesting in last week’s Blog that it was not sold out and stock would be coming in regularly before Christmas. Several retailers got in touch to query that observation, leading me to double-check the situation with Spin Master. Broadly speaking, I was factually correct; perhaps my use of the word ‘regularly’ was a tad optimistic, but there will be further stock landing in the UK over the coming weeks, with plenty more arriving in January and February. What is undeniable is that whatever stock does make it here, it won’t hang around on shelf for long.

What is also undeniable is that this shortage is not a cynical marketing ploy by Spin Master. I am reliably informed that they increased their numbers as much as they could before Christmas – it’s just that the level of global demand was simply unprecedented, and there isn’t a single retailer out there who has got anywhere near the level of stock they would want. In the end, who in their right mind would turn away sales of 100-150,000 units of a £60 line as a marketing ploy?

It was disappointing, therefore, to see one of the co-founders of Channel Mum quoted in The Guardian as saying that this sort of thing is “all part of the sales drive.” I’m afraid she couldn’t be more wrong if she tried. Gary Grant had been effusive in his praise of the video parenting site at Dream Toys, but if they genuinely want to forge closer links with the toy community, they might want to think twice before stabbing it in the back in future (especially when they’re completely wide of the mark). In a world where post-truth reporting is on the rise (particularly in the unregulated social media and online arena), we should do our best as a community to make sure that we don’t circulate – or validate – inaccurate perspectives.

On a more positive note, Lego’s new flagship store in Leicester Square opened yesterday, and a mightily impressive retail space it is, as Toy World found out in person ahead of its launch this week. You can read more about some of the outlet’s unique features in our December issue – it’s well worth checking out for anyone interested in the retail sphere. But in case you’re not coming down to London in the foreseeable future, you can get a sneak peek of what it looks like in this video, courtesy of Through The I: