Tidings of comfort and joy …it’s the Christmas Blog!

Published on: 22nd December 2021

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Unfortunately, the Christmas it is most looking like is last Christmas. Yet more virus-related uncertainty saw last weekend’s retail footfall impacted in many areas, while all week there has been a seemingly never-ending ‘will he, won’t he’ debate around whether our Prime Minister would introduce new restrictions before Christmas, after Christmas, in the new year or not at all. Of course, what didn’t help his decision-making capacity was the steady stream of pictures emerging showing our ‘illustrious’ leader flagrantly ignoring previous lockdown rules. Rumours that Johnson is to record his own version of Wham’s Last Christmas – “Last Christmas I gave you a task, But the very next day, I partied away” – cannot be confirmed…

From a purely professional perspective, any form of pre-Christmas lockdown would have been disastrous, so retailers will certainly have breathed a sigh of relief to hear that the can has been kicked down the road, for now at least.

Anyway, if he had tried to introduce a lockdown, I was fully prepared: I was going to go shopping with an armful of wine and cheese and a baby, and say I was heading to a business meeting. Seemed to be a ‘credible’ defence for him…

Looking ahead to January and the genuine business meetings I am hoping to have, I have been reassured that the BTHA is monitoring the Covid situation extremely closely and working hard to ensure that everything possible is being done from its perspective to let the London Toy Fair go ahead safely. A further announcement will be made on January 5th, and we’ll keep you updated with any further developments as soon as we have them.

However, there has been some bad news on the international travel front: after France banned UK travellers from entering the country last week, Germany followed suit over the weekend. What made the timing of the announcement all the more ironic was that a mere 48 hours earlier, the organisers of the Nuremberg Toy Fair had announced that following a review of the situation, they could confirm that the Spielwarenmesse would be going ahead as scheduled. Life certainly comes at you fast these days…

So, where are we now? For those who missed our article on the new restrictions, UK visitors are currently banned from entering Germany for the next two weeks. That decision will be reviewed on 2nd January – at that point, the ban could either be extended or rescinded. There is no way of knowing which way the German government will go with this; it will largely depend on how Omicron case numbers evolve both here and in Germany over the festive period.

The uncertainty leaves Nuremberg’s 130 or so UK exhibitors in limbo: if the ban stays in place, can they find a German partner to run the stand on their behalf? Or should they cancel the stand and risk not being there if the ban is lifted. It’s a tough call, but the Nuremberg organisers are being remarkably decent by offering a safety net. I was told earlier this week that there is a special right of termination clause for exhibitors who are prevented from leaving their home country or entering Germany. Officially, any such cancellation would need to be exercised by 31st December, but incredibly generously, the show organisers have decided to extend that deadline until there is firm news from the German government.

One of the Spielwarenmesse’s new board of directors, Christian Ulrich, sent me the following email: “After our phone conversation yesterday, we discussed internally how we can support our UK exhibitors in their decision-making process. I can confirm that we can extend the special right of termination until 13th January for UK exhibitors. We hope that the travel/quarantine situation will get better and that UK companies will be able to participate in Spielwarenmesse 2022.” I am sure we all hope that – but if it isn’t possible, it is reassuring to know that the Nuremberg organisers won’t make matters even worse.

This will be my final Blog of the year – and you didn’t even have to wait until Friday because, if all goes according to plan in the next 24 hours, our January issue will have been sent to press and I will be heading out to buy my final few Christmas presents and festive culinary treats on Christmas Eve (typical bloke, guilty as charged – but in my defence, we are full throttle throughout December to make sure we hit our deadlines).

The whole Toy World team has worked incredibly hard over the past few months to bring you an amazing January issue, packed with everything you need to know ahead of Toy Fair Season, so we are all off to lie down in a darkened room for a well-deserved breather. We’ll be back online on 4th January, and very shortly afterwards, the bumper January issue will be landing through your door. As ever, you might want to keep any household pets or small children from wandering beneath the letter box for a few days, just in case – we can’t be held responsible for any concussion sustained as a result of the January issue landing unceremoniously on their heads. You might want to make sure your letter box is up to the job too…

So, all that remains to say is, on behalf of the whole Toy World team, I would like to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year. May your last week of trading be everything you hoped it would be, and let’s hope that when we return in January, Toy Fair Season can go ahead as planned and we can all meet up in person for the first time in a long while.