Very superstitious …it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 23rd June 2023

A return to the office this week has allowed me to catch up with everything I’ve missed while I’ve been away, spreading the word about all the good stuff we’re doing here at Toy World and to prospective new partners across the globe (and some who work just down the road that I travelled 6000 miles to see. But hey, I still found it easier to catch up with them in Vegas, as they had time in their schedules that they may not have been able to carve out back in London…).

Word on the (toy) street suggests that retail trading has been on the quiet side for the past month or so, but that is hardly surprising when you look at what’s been happening in the wider economy. As interest rates in the UK rose to their highest level for fifteen years yesterday, a significant percentage of the population is being financially squeezed in a manner we haven’t seen for a very long time. And given that group includes younger mortgage owners, a large number of whom will also be parents of young children, this financial pressure is inevitably having a direct impact on the toy market.

I may not have an economics degree, but it still seems bizarre that someone has chosen interest rates as the sole means of controlling inflation by aiming to reduce spending, when families can hardly cut back on food, petrol, gas, electricity or mortgage payments – these are essentials, not discretionary spending. Nevertheless, the stubborn refusal of prices to fall has resulted in many UK families having less disposable income – a stark contrast to the US, where inflation has halved this year. It is almost as if our government has lost control of the basic levers of the economy– or maybe something that happened in 2016 has given us seven years of bad luck (I bet you’re all singing Superstition now……).

However, as I have said before, there is nothing any of us can do to influence economic policy, so we have to focus on what we can do to encourage those who can afford to buy toys to part with their cash (come on grandparents, time to step up…). The crop of summer movies should offer some welcome short-term respite: several toy retailers have told us that Transformers sales have picked up nicely since the release of the Rise of the Beasts film, while we have both the Barbie and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies to look forward to next month.

I attended an event to celebrate the launch of the Turtles toy range this week, which was enormous fun. Press, TikTokkers, Influencers, minor celebrities (including Linda Robson, who I swear has been at every single event I have attended over the past two years), retailers, licensees and of course the Playmates, Character Options and Paramount teams congregated in an underground lair to eat pizza and get excited about the arrival of the toy range in stores this week. My LinkedIn post from the event – which saw me shamelessly trying to pass myself off as the hitherto unknown ‘fifth Turtle’ – topped 10,000 impressions…people do seem to like a daft photo, and I have absolutely no problem giving the people what they want.

We also reported this week that Toys R Us is seeking to raise an additional $8m capital to fund its global expansion with new physical stores, specifically the opening of a major retail hub at its Australian headquarters and the rollout of new pop-up stores in the UK, for which $3m has been earmarked (assuming, of course, that the fundraising drive is successful). Interestingly, buried deep down in the release was a line confirming that Toys R Us ANZ CEO Louis Mittoni has resigned and will be moving on in the autumn. It will be fascinating to see what impact his departure will have on the retailer’s global expansion plans.

Meanwhile Amazon has revealed the dates for this year’s Prime Days, which will take place on 11th and 12th July. This year will see a slightly different approach, with Amazon dropping new deals on the website and on the Amazon app (giving Prime members an early heads-up) every 30 minutes. I am going to go out on a limb and say that suppliers will have been leant on heavily to fund these deals, so it will be interesting to see if the new strategy results in a decent level of additional sales, and how much profit suppliers will actually make once the ‘financial support’ deductions have been made. Mind you, it might shift a bit of that excess inventory that literally every supplier has been moaning about for the past few months, so every cloud…

I also have some extremely sad news to share – former Flair managing director Simon Hedge passed away this week at the tender age of 56. I know many of his former colleagues and industry friends were absolutely devastated to hear the news, as although it was no secret he was not well, things apparently deteriorated rapidly in recent weeks. Simon had most recently been working on a consultancy basis with Sinco Toys. Our sincerest condolences to his family.

In better news, congratulations to Andrea Hawker on her new role in the sales team at KAP Toys, Jonathan Wheatstone who has joined Funrise as national account manager and India Bullock, who has joined Wow! Stuff as national account manager.

It was also good to share news of Crayola’s fantastic work with the Spread a Smile charity and Hasbro’s sponsorship of the Special Olympics World Games online this week – it’s always lovely to see toy companies giving back.

I will leave you this week with the aforementioned photo of the fifth Turtle that some are calling Baulchicelli (well, my mate Tony from the HKTDC is, at any rate), but personally I prefer Tintoretto – an Italian Renaissance painter who purely coincidentally also sounds like he could be a decent bottle of wine. Cheers.