Want to meet a buyer? That will be £95 + VAT please… it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 26th February 2016

After the deluge of major toy-focused stories of the past few weeks, a sense of post-Toy Fair season calm has descended on the market. Major retailers are in full-on selection planning mode, with suppliers nervously awaiting the outcome of their deliberations, which should start to become clear in the coming days and weeks. Independent retailers, meanwhile, are out of the traps and running, and by all accounts some potential craze lines are already beginning to emerge, mainly of the stacking variety.

Elsewhere, the Argos takeover story rumbles on: over the past week a new bidder has emerged to rival Sainsbury’s, after South African furniture retailer Steinhoff trumped the original bid by offering £1.42bn. Furthermore, as the new bid is cash only – not the ‘cash plus shares’ deal that made up Sainsbury’s original bid – it may well be that Home Retail Group’s shareholders prefer the new suitor. Sainsbury’s has been given until 18th March to decide whether it wants to increase its offer, but first it will have to persuade its shareholders that this would still constitute a wise investment, and there is some doubt that this will be an easy thing to do.

Even if Sainsbury’s does up its offer, Steinhoff may well do the same, as its £14bn stock market value is almost three times its rival suitor’s £4.8bn. Indeed, some analysts have gone so far as to suggest that it might even be a blessing in disguise if Sainsbury’s misses out. I’m curious as to which of the two options toy suppliers would prefer, or whether they don’t mind either way (as long as Argos continues to place huge orders, naturally).

Elsewhere, there have been a couple of quirky news items which have caught my eye this week. The news that MGA has been given the go ahead to build a brand new office and housing campus in California is an intriguing proposition. The company’s 280 local employees will apparently be encouraged to live in the new housing, which according to Jason Larian is apparently modelled on work / live projects in China. Will the concept travel from Asia to California? I wonder, would you choose to live in such close proximity not only to your work place, but in particular to the people you spend every day with at the office? Nothing personal against my current team – who are genuinely lovely people – but based on some past experiences, I would have my doubts (and I’m putting that as diplomatically as I possibly can). After all, you can choose your friends, but you can’t always choose your work colleagues….

The most bizarre story of the week for me is not wholly toy-related, but it does have a relevant retail angle. The British Home Enhancement Trade Association (which has the snappy acronym BHETA) is advertising a ‘meet the buyer’ day with Wilko (as they seem to prefer to be called these days, rather than the perfectly reasonable Wilkinson), for which they are charging their members £95 for the possibility of meeting a buyer or assistant buyer (they can’t actually specify which will turn up on the day). There is no guarantee of a meeting, as if too many people apply, the choice of who gets to see them will apparently be decided by lottery. I really don’t know where to start when faced with a story like this: when did Wilko’s buyers decide they can’t meet with suppliers without a third party needing to arrange it? Isn’t it part of a buyer’s remit to see or assess potential new suppliers as a matter of course? And how do you justify having to pay an unrelated third party to meet with a buyer? I know it’s a trivial amount of money, but it’s the principle that seems rather strange. I wonder if they’re planning a similar approach for toys? Maybe I should approach them and offer to run their screening process?!

Finally, as seen on twitter as part of a promotional campaign for the Big Knit charity – what on earth has Innocent Drinks done to this poor Clanger? Not remotely innocent as far as I can see….