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Toy World’s Toy Fair season draws to a close….it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 7th February 2014

My own personal toy fair season has finally come to a close this week. I am slightly envious of those who are fortunate enough to finish their ‘toy fair tour’ in New York next week, but the mountain of follow-up and catch-up emails has reached epic proportions, and it’s time to return to my real job. There’s a March issue that needs a lot of work, and the clock is ticking….

Thus Spring Fair was the final leg of this year’s tour. It would be wrong of me to attempt to summarise the whole show, based on the fact I spent most of my time in one particular hall. The nature of the show also makes overall visitor numbers somewhat irrelevant to any given sector. Whilst the toy hall seemed steady rather than buzzing, I would re-iterate my humble opinion that quality is more important than quantity when it comes to trade show attendance. Inevitably, I encountered the usual mixture of toy companies who would prefer their stand to be in the general gift hall (which, if I’m being honest, I can’t see happening any time soon) and companies who were happy to have opened up new accounts with the type of retailer which Spring Fair specialises in attracting.

The big news of the week has been the confirmation from Toymaster that Conways has finally entered administration. Sad news indeed, but I do think it’s important to keep it in perspective. First, despite a few whispers in Nuremberg to the contrary, Toymaster is more than capable of dealing with the losses it will incur. Ian Edmunds was kind enough to confirm to me that although they will inevitably take a hit, the Toymaster balance sheet is strong enough to cope. Toymaster has no debt, significant cash reserves in the bank and a bad debt reserve which will cover the liability. Which leads us to the big question, what will now happen to Conways? Of course, there are several potential scenarios. Over the Toy Fair period (when it was a major topic of conversation), the general consensus was that Conways was looking to slim down to between 6-8 shops and lose its warehouse. Hopefully that can still be achieved, but there are clearly obstacles to be overcome, in particular on the issue of getting hold of stock. Barry and Gordon are well respected in the industry, and I have no doubt that people will want to help them if they can: but whether credit insurance terms and conditions, or even individual company regulations, will allow people to continue to supply them is another matter entirely. This may be compounded by the fact that it is highly unlikely they will be able to rejoin Toymaster. Whatever happens next, I do think Gordon should be commended on his decision to attend Toy Fair. That could not have been an easy thing to do under the circumstances, and I believe a lot of people respected him for his courage. I’m sure everyone is hoping for a positive resolution.

Gordon’s behaviour arguably stands in contrast to another individual whose company has hit trouble recently. Those who follow me on LinkedIn will know I alluded to a distributor in trouble several weeks ago. We contacted the company, The In Thing, to ask for comment, which seemed only fair. This was declined, along with a ‘request’ that anything we print should be factually correct. So, here are the facts as we know them….several years ago, The In Thing got into difficulty, ended up buying its assets back from the receiver and started trading again a few weeks later under the same name with the same product range, having lost all its debts in the process. It would appear they may now find themselves in a similar situation once again: I have been told on good authority that significant sums of money are owed to several major toy companies. There was a stand at Spring Fair showing several of their proprietary ranges under the name ‘i-spy’, being manned by personnel who had previously been associated with The In Thing, although there was no sign of the former MD at either Spring Fair or at Toy Fair. Beyond this, anything else is pure speculation, and of course we wouldn’t want to do that. If anyone can fill in any of the blanks, feel free to get in touch. As for the future, I guess it will be interesting to see if people give them a third chance.

Right, it’s time to get back to the email mountain – my shoulders are already so tense from all the typing, at this rate I might have to add a masseuse to the payroll.

In case you were still at one of the shows and missed it, here is a link to last week’s Nuremblog: please click here.

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