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The unwelcome return of the begging bowl….it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 9th May 2014

Mothercare has become the latest retailer to send a ‘21st century begging letter’ to suppliers, with the chief financial officer imparting the news that the retailer would be levying a 2.5% surcharge on all invoices and extending its payment terms to 90 days as from 18th May. As tends to happen these days, copies of this letter quickly found their way into the public domain. I have to confess to being a little surprised at how muted the general response to this proposal has been: maybe it has become so commonplace an occurrence that people are becoming accustomed to such requests.

In perhaps not entirely unconnected news, last week’s Sunday Times reported that Mothercare has apparently asked lenders HSBC and Barclays for what the article quaintly refers to as “breathing space”. A source close to Mothercare is quoted as saying that the talks were “part of a prudent approach” aimed at giving it the flexibility to fund investment as it opens new stores and carries out trial re-fits. Which all sounds vaguely plausible….

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s focus on some positive developments: LeapFrog has announced that its UK database has reached a hugely impressive 1.5m customers, and with a number of high profile new releases to come in the second half of the year, is confident of a strong performance in 2014.

It has been confirmed that Lionsgate, the studio behind the Hunger Games movies, has signed on to develop a live-action Power Rangers movie. This has to be positive news for licensees, and hopefully there will be more details (such as launch dates) after the Saban presentation in Vegas next month.

Nintendo has announced that it will be releasing a range of Skylanders-style ‘toys to life’ figures later this year. This move has been rumoured for some time, especially as the Wii-U GamePad already has near field communication technology built in. But the question remains as to whether Nintendo has come to the party just a little too late. There’s no doubt that the company has to do something to claw back lost market share, but it will undoubtedly be playing catch-up to Activision and other rivals. Toy companies will want to keep a close eye on the situation, as major developments in the gaming market often have a significant impact on toy sales.

I’d like to welcome the Toy Trust to twitter. You can follow them at @TheToyTrust, where you can keep up to date on their sterling work and find out about forthcoming events. It’s only one month until the largest event that the Toy Trust has ever staged: the Isle of Wight Big Challenge. 250 brave souls will be choosing between a 130km bike ride, 20km walk, 20km run and a biathlon consisting of a 130km cycle ride and 20km run (I notice that “sitting in the pub with a pint” doesn’t appear to be an option, which sadly rules me out). Everyone reading this will almost certainly know someone taking part, so I hope you’ll give them your support and help them raise lots of money for the very worthy causes supported by the Toy Trust. The hashtag to use is #ToyTrustIOW2014 (or if you’re me #goingdownthepubbuthavesponsoredsomeonesothat’sok).

Finally, after last week’s confession about my fondness for collecting World Cup Stickers, it seems I am far from alone: several articles on the subject of adult sticker enthusiasts have appeared in the consumer press over the past week (not all of them entirely complimentary, but never mind…), while Pointless’ Richard Osman tweeted that “the crew of Pointless has now bought every single pack of Panini stickers in Elstree”. However, on behalf of sticker enthusiasts ‘of a certain age’ everywhere, I would like to apologise to any parents reading this whose kids have come back from the shops still clutching their pocket money, after finding out that a bunch of old blokes have cleaned out the local shops. They’ll do exactly the same thing in 30 years’ time….

You can follow our fearless leader on Twitter @Baulchtweet.