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The week in toys….it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 4th October 2013

Judging by a few tweets I saw this week, the teachers’ strike seemed to be good for business as far as toy shop owners are concerned – ‘every little helps’ as a certain supermarket would say. Said supermarket unveiled a mixed set of half-year results this week: admittedly pre-tax profits dropped by nearly a quarter, but they still made a cool £1.39b profit, so I’m sure they’re not too down-hearted.

Poundland unveiled a very healthy set of results, demonstrating that the growth of the value retail channel continues apace. Record sales of £880m – couple with underlying earnings of £45.4m – led CEO Jim McCarthy to claim the chain is on track to open a chain of 1,000 stores should this level of growth continue (it currently has 458 stores).

Elsewhere Playmobil unveiled its new UK commercial director, Uffe Kloster, who succeeds Graham Brennan. Big shoes to fill for sure, but I’m sure Uffe will relish the challenge.

Platinum Studios announced this week that ITV has greenlit Series 3 of Matt Hatter Chronicles, which will be broadcast in 2014. With master toy partner Simba Smoby onboard, there is some real momentum building behind the brand. Hopefully you enjoyed the exclusive interview with both partners in the October issue of Toy World, which arrived on desks this week. The digital version of this edition can be found here.

Hearty congratulations to Aardman, who raised an amazing £2m for Bristol Children’s Hospital by auctioning the dozens of decorated models of Gromit which have been on display through the streets of Bristol this Summer. Creator Nick Park was said to be “stunned” by the amount raised.

Over in the US, I would imagine that a minor panic rippled through the supplier community when it emerged that an email from Wal-Mart to a supplier written back in September suggested the retailer would be cutting orders over the next two quarters to address rising inventory. After a lacklustre Summer period – when weak demand for toys based on Summer movies and indifferent weather apparently cost the industry as much as $700m according to some observers – this was the last thing that American toy companies wanted to hear. But just how much the Wal-Mart cutback will impact on toy sales specifically, and whether other retailers will take up the slack, will no doubt become clearer over the coming weeks.

Finally, I read a fascinating article about the never-ending Bratz/Barbie legal battle, which finally explained in layman’s terms (I’m not a real lawyer you know) what the verdict hinges on. It turns out it all comes down to one word in a contract. The word in question is ‘invention’ and apparently the dispute comes down to whether ‘invention’ also covers ‘ideas’. According to the article, whichever way the jury goes on this point may well decide who wins the case and who loses (although based on the past few years, don’t bet on that!). If any of you would like to stop reading now and go and check the wording on your employees’ contracts, you are excused.