Tough times, car-crash TV and international forays…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 7th December 2012

Last weekend’s Fence Club Ladies Night Party was as glamorous and enjoyable an event as ever. Looking around the room, you perhaps wouldn’t have guessed we are in the midst of what one retailer recently told me is “probably the most difficult Christmas trading period since 2008.” The NPD figures for week ending 24th November apparently showed a double digit reverse over the corresponding week last year, which is obviously not good (not that I want to scaremonger or be a harbinger of doom, but neither is it right to put my head in the sand and pretend everything’s rosy when it clearly isn’t). Can the trade make up that level of deficit over the next few weeks? You can certainly bet they’ll be giving it their best shot. On the plus side, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has apparently got off to a flying start, according to the stores I’ve been speaking to, and suppliers and retailers continue to promote as hard as they can (Mothercare/ELC is the latest to announce a half-price sale, whilst Amazon has been emailing customers offering 50% off a range of construction toys featuring most of the major brands).

The media is also doing its best to help us, although anyone who saw This Morning’s toy-related segment this week might question that statement. Sadly it ended up the very definition of ‘car-crash TV’. Most of the products stubbornly refused to work when the camera was on them, perplexing the children who were meant to be playing with them and completely flummoxing presenter Phillip Schofield. At one point, he even turned to a child and said “I bet you’d like one that works for Christmas, wouldn’t you?”

The overseas operations of British retail chains have been in the news this week. Tesco has announced it will be undertaking a “sweeping review” of its loss-making ‘Fresh and Easy’ chain in America, with an ignoble retreat from the States the most likely outcome. In complete contrast, Hamleys has just unveiled annual profits of £2.3m, a whopping increase of 283%, apparently driven by the expansion of its international franchise operation. I have also just returned from interviewing Duncan Grant about The Entertainer’s ambitious overseas expansion plans, which were initially announced a few weeks back. You’ll be able to read about the venture in more detail exclusively in the January Toy Fair edition of Toy World, but suffice to say the whole initiative sounds like a fantastic opportunity for The Entertainer. The aim is to replicate the phenomenal success it has enjoyed in the UK within the international market, and if they get it right (and I have every confidence they will), the potential for growth over the coming years is huge.

I’m delighted to hear that Toy World columnist David Ripley has found a new role in the toy trade, which he takes up later this month. We’ll let you know exactly what he’s up to as soon as the NDA allows.

I’m going to finish with something I’ve unashamedly purloined from Rob Goodchild’s Facebook page. I think it’s rather amusing, not to mention accurate:

Presentation = we’ve done a Powerpoint
Working session = we didn’t finish the Powerpoint
Brainstorm= we forgot to do a Powerpoint