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

Published on: 19th June 2015

This week’s news agenda has been dominated by two major stories: the sale of H Grossman Ltd and the continuing saga of the 2016 Toy Fair.

The press release which announced the sale of Grossman to former HTi directors Mark Walls and Daniel Mclaughlin described the move as “a shock”, and indeed I’m sure it came as a major surprise to many in the toy trade. Personally I think it’s a great development for both sides. Succession planning is one of the hardest challenges for any business owner, and you certainly want to feel you’re leaving your company in good hands (I’m sure it remains your ‘baby’ for ever). I believe Martin has found the right team to take the business forward, and Mark and Daniel – and indeed anyone else who may join them in the future – have secured a great vehicle to build on. Even better, Martin and right hand lady Caroline Brotherton remain involved for the foreseeable future, which I’m sure will make the transition that much smoother. Good luck to all concerned – we’ll bring you more details about the plans for the company in a future issue of Toy World.

Meanwhile, on the subject of Toy Fair, Midco Toys’ Dave Middleton has started a petition in response to last week’s news about a couple of major companies withdrawing from the 2016 show, which at the time of writing has just passed the 100 signature mark (click here to view). Dave has never been afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve when he believes passionately in something, and some of the comments alongside the petition show just how strongly many other toy retailers feel about the show as well. The one dissenting anonymous retailer who posted that he felt Toy Fair wasn’t useful to his business drew some particularly choice replies.

Personally, I’ve never made any secret of my belief in the value of the show, and I’m sure that it will overcome the challenges it faces next year. 86% of the show is already sold, with many new applicants said to be waiting to fill in the gaps that have become available. I am sure the companies which have pulled out have done so with a heavy heart, after much consideration about how to overcome the logistics of two overlapping events. Clearly achieving that will be harder for some companies than others. Nuremberg is also a valuable show in its own right, and retailers will have to decide whether they are in a position to visit both shows. It’s certainly a debate which will continue to rage over the coming months.

Finally, it’s great to hear that Hornby is back in the black, announcing underlying profits before tax of £1.6m for the year to March, a highly encouraging turnaround from last year’s loss of £1.1m. Revenues rose by 13% to £58m. The company also intends to delist from the main stock market in favour of a listing on AIM, which strikes me as an eminently sensible decision. After such positive results, I guarantee you will see numerous corny ‘Hornby back on track’ headlines throughout the media this morning. Maybe the Hornby management should turn spotting obvious puns in media headlines into a drinking game? “Hornby back on track headline spotted – take a shot! Full steam ahead for Hornby – shot!”

Have a great weekend.