Two for the price of one…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 4th May 2018

When I wrote in last week’s Blog about major stories breaking on a Saturday morning, I would never have guessed that it would happen two weeks in a row. Ironically, I was stood outside the Watford branch of Sainsbury’s when I saw the news on twitter that Sainsbury’s and Asda were planning to merge. Except, of course, it’s not really a merger (it never is); Walmart is passing on the responsibility of looking after Asda to Sainsbury’s, in return for a substantial minority shareholding.

So, what might this historic deal mean for toy companies? I’ve pulled together a piece which answers some of the most FAQs so far, which you can read here. Think of it as a bonus Friday Blog – you get two for the price of one this week (rather in keeping with the supermarket theme I thought).

The simple truth is that if I had included my ‘Sasda’ observations in the Blog, I couldn’t have fitted in everything else that has happened this week. There really has never been a better time to be a toy trade journalist. If you can’t get your teeth into these sort of stories (and I don’t mean just regurgitating press releases), there really is something amiss.

So, apart from ‘Sasda’, what else has happened this week? Hasbro has bought Power Rangers, plus a host of supplementary / secondary brands, from Saban for a cool $522m. As I have previously suggested, my understanding was that this was always the plan, and one of the main factors in Hasbro winning the bid to take over the Power Rangers licence in February. So, Haim Saban has got his final payday – just a lot earlier than had been predicted.

House of Fraser has a new majority shareholder – C.banner, the owner of Hamleys. However, the change of ownership doesn’t appear to have negated plans for the retailer to enter a CVA, with store closures and rent reductions still very much on the agenda. Landlords are said to be unhappy, which is no surprise given the sheer volume of retail CVAs currently being proposed, and the number of rent renegotiations that entails. Some people might even feel some sympathy for them…

The plaY-room show took place in Solihull this week. The new date – which saw the show move from its traditional April slot – appears to have been a resounding success. The show certainly felt busier on the first day, and Miles Penhallow has since confirmed that Tuesday saw a record attendance, so that’s great news. Hopefully the increased numbers were reflected with increased orders for exhibitors.

The May issue of Toy World landed on desks this week – you can read the digital issue here. It was also accompanied by a dedicated, stand-alone Licensing World supplement, which you can read here. We’ve had plenty of positive feedback already, especially as the other magazines have yet to make an appearance this month. No need for us to put Toy World in hotel rooms in Harrogate, people will have read our issue two weeks before they get to the Toymaster show and worked out who they want to see well in advance. Job done.

I also attended Generation Media’s 10th birthday celebrations in London this week; congratulations to Dean and the team on this milestone. The event raised £1200 for the Toy Trust and the proverbial good time was had by all.

Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe seemed to be having a good time himself this week, when he was caught on camera singing “We’re in the money,” not just once but several times (for emphasis?). Poor Mike has copped a lot of flak for this – I can just imagine his millennial PR team in apoplexy, wondering what on Earth to say in his defence. But is it really so bad? You can’t blame him for being happy – have you seen his Sainsbury’s shareholding? Or maybe he was just a bit bored or distracted during a day of interviews which saw him having to answer the same basic, not exactly taxing questions over and over. I am inclined to laugh with him rather than at him on this occasion – he is just showing he’s human.

Contrast that with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who was asked in an interview this week if he found it difficult spending his vast reserves of cash ($131bn and counting). He admitted he does, suggesting the only thing he could think to spend it on was space travel. Note: not paying his workers a living wage, not improving working conditions so employees can go to the toilet without worrying about losing their job. Not even paying fair taxes around the world. No, space travel. Give me a singing CEO over someone so vastly out of touch with reality any day.

Finally, I also love the way that British people tend to find humour in trying circumstances. This trait was exemplified by one particular group of Maplin employees this week, who posted the following sign in their store: