Welcome back… it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 2nd September 2016

You can tell that the summer is drawing to a close; the early morning traffic on the roads is building back up as kids head back to school, while the populations of Italy, France and Spain have finally returned to work. Now that September has arrived, there is a palpable sense that the business end of the year has begun in earnest – the fun starts here. On which note, the rather splendid 5th birthday September issue of Toy World has arrived on desks in the last few days, and you can access the digital version here.

If any further reminder were needed that that the year is flashing by, Toy Fair registration opened yesterday – you can register here. With the show reverting to its traditional Tuesday to Thursday format in 2017, and no clash with Nuremberg, there really is no excuse not to be part of this fantastic event.

I mentioned in last week’s Blog that I was itching to announce a couple of moves, which became public knowledge this week. First, it was revealed that Rosie Bayles will be leaving her role as director of media and licensing at Bandai today, ahead of the company’s move to its new Richmond office next week. The toy industry being a hotbed of gossip, I initially heard this news several months ago, but wanted to wait until the time was right to announce it. Rosie has been an integral part of the Bandai team since the very start and I’m sure she’ll be missed not just by them, but also her many friends in the industry.

As Rosie leaves the toy industry, so another well-known industry stalwart returns, as we welcome back Robert Mann, who has joined Engino as VP International. It’s been a memorable month for Robert, after the birth of his latest grandson Theo, courtesy of his son James and wife Kirsty, who many of you will know through their Phoenix Agencies operation. Both Robert and James will be at the Autumn Fair next week, so expect lots of photos of the new arrival to punctuate the business conversations.

Finally, I can reveal that former Toy Store director Geoff Sheffield has joined the newly-formed MTW Toys as VP for the UK and Ireland. Geoff will be spearheading the sales operation as the company, driven by Darran Garnham, takes on the distribution responsibilities for Thinkway Toys across Europe. We wish him the best of luck in his new role.

On the retail front, Hamleys owner C. Banner International has unveiled its half-year results, which contained some interesting nuggets. Although the majority of the company’s business remains in the shoe sector, toys now accounts for 16% of its turnover. While Hamleys made what was described as a “seasonal loss” in the first half, C. Banner stated that it is on track to deliver profit in the second half of the year. It also revealed that it will be opening 29 further stores across the globe in the next six months, including a new flagship store in Nanjing this October. It will also be collaborating with department stores and shopping malls to extend its footprint across China next year. All of which is great news, but conspicuous by its absence was any mention of the Regent Street store, which many UK suppliers have suggested to me is in dire need of investment, both in terms of fixtures and also commitment to stock. However, whether London is a major priority for the new owner at this moment is very much open to debate.

Toys R Us also announced preliminary figures for the second quarter, which show that its turnover is marginally down, but more importantly that its profit has increased. I’m sure few will quibble with the old adage “Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity”, and Toys R Us certainly seems to finally be going in the right direction in the States, which has to be good news for the global operation and thus the worldwide toy community.

Finally, Hornby decided to have a little social media fun this week when it tweeted that it would be launching what it described as “a new Virgin East Coast train pack, complete with many empty seats”, a very obvious reference to Jeremy Corbyn and the recent Traingate episode. A gently humorous piece of consumer interaction, but unfortunately many Hornby enthusiasts somehow failed to get the joke, tweeting back serious questions such as “is this available in N scale?” and “is there any chance you could bring it up to date and do the new livery justice?” You have to admire the passion and dedication of the collectors, but they really are in a world of their own…