‘Tis the season for speculation… it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 26th August 2016

While offering my thoughts on the ongoing CMA investigation into the VTech / LeapFrog merger in last week’s Blog, I focused on the inconvenience that the protracted process was causing VTech. Of course, it was remiss of me not to point out that LeapFrog is also very much impacted by the whole situation. LeapFrog remains an independent operating business and the team is clearly doing a great job in what must be challenging circumstances, evidenced by the very successful launch of LeapStart last month. I’m sure all parties want clarity, but while the process is ongoing, I guess everyone involved can only focus on the day-to-day running of the respective businesses. Indeed, if the investigation does proceed to a second stage, that would take a minimum of 24 weeks to conclude, so there is the very real possibility that it could be well into 2017 before a final decision is reached.

Someone whose future is no longer the subject of speculation is Chris Ashton; the former Toys R Us and Toy Store buyer has joined Groupon as category manager for toys, nursery, sports & pet care for Northern Europe. I think it’s a great opportunity for Chris, and yet more evidence that Groupon is rapidly becoming a key player in the toy retail landscape. As David Ripley pointed out when he announced Chris’ appointment earlier this week: “It’s a common misconception, but there is no market place at Groupon – we actually buy everything.” Chris can be reached on and we wish him all the best in his new role.

I also hear on the grapevine that Sarah Harding will be leaving Toys R Us to join Mothercare. There are a couple of other interesting moves that I’ve heard about in the past few days, which we’ll hopefully be able to announce very shortly. Keep an eye on next week’s newsflash….

For those on the hunt for new American ranges to distribute, it’s worth noting that the Dallas Fall Toy Preview Show has moved a week earlier in the calendar this year. The 2016 event will be taking place from 27th to 29th September in order to follow on immediately after the 2017 previews held by the major American toy companies which don’t show at Dallas. Making a small tweak to keep all the previews in the same month seems an eminently sensible move by the TIA, so well done to them for being flexible and reactive.

If you’re passing the Stoke-on-Trent area in the coming weeks, it might be worth popping in to see the new digital store which Argos has just opened in the local Sainsbury’s – I suspect it may well represent the shape of things to come. Just to throw another curveball into the mix, there have been a few low-lying rumours in recent weeks suggesting that Alibaba is looking to increase its presence in the European market. Given the relationship which is already in place in China between Alibaba and Sainsbury’s, I guess it wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility that any European incursion could involve the new Argos / Sainsbury’s operation. It’s a purely speculative theory at the moment, but stranger things have happened….

Finally, I was thinking of finishing this week’s Blog with a picture of the Japanese PM appearing at the closing ceremony of the Rio Olympics, dressed as Super Mario. The obvious follow-on comment would have been a rumination on which licensed character Theresa May would have dressed up as (I am far too polite to offer any suggestions, but I suspect a few readers would have been kind enough to make an observation…). However, when I saw the following tweet, I decided it was just too good not to share. Poor Sweep….