The year is rushing past at its usual rate of knots. I’ve just received NPD’s latest column, in which Jez reviews the toy market’s performance in the first half of the year (spoiler alert: it’s better than anticipated so far). Elsewhere this week Argos held a big Christmas press event, as did a toy company relaunching a hugely successful toy brand from the early noughties, which an embargo precludes me from mentioning until next week (and I wouldn’t want to upset Isaac); Spring Summer Previews commenced in showrooms across the country; major retailers started heavily discounting outdoor toys and Philip Schofield got hit in the face with a cream pie in the name of promoting toys. Oh, and the autumn / winter Argos catalogue is out today. Yes, it’s that time of the year when we cross the Rubicon and leave the gentle waters of the first two quarters behind for a full-on, headlong rush towards Christmas.
Smyths has announced that it will be holding free parties in all its stores this weekend, featuring DJs, balloons, free face paintings and giveaways. Of course, I’m sure it’s entirely coincidental that this is happening on the same weekend that the Argos catalogue is launching.
As well as the festive season, Black Friday is starting to occupy retailers’ thoughts. Earlier this week, Amazon tried to capitalise on the burgeoning popularity of Black Friday by trying to create a ‘mini-me’ Amazon Prime Day (maybe it should have been called Grey Wednesday?) to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Sadly, all it did was end up embarrassing itself. Consumers took to social media sites in their droves to bemoan the lack of genuine bargains: the general consensus was that most of the stock was discounted because no-one wanted to buy it in the first place. I’m not sure how much stock Amazon ended up shifting, but the event certainly did its reputation few favours.
Looking ahead to the genuine article, courier Yodel has issued a warning to retailers to be realistic in how they promote their Black Friday offers this year, especially with regard to delivery promises. Yodel has made it clear that it will only accept the parcel volumes agreed with its clients in order to protect service levels, and its Chairman was quoted as saying that “this will require retailers to engage their marketing departments, and be responsible in only offering the next-day delivery capacity that has been agreed with their carriers.” So if there are any retail marketing executives reading this column, there’s a challenge for you. I can’t believe that Yodel is alone is taking this approach, so it will be interesting to see if consumers are willing to wait a little longer for their deliveries, or whether they will choose to join the unseemly in-store bunfight.
There are now only 100 days until new consumer toy show Toytopia opens its doors in Liverpool, and I was delighted to announce that we’ll be working with the organisers to produce the show guide for the event. If you’d like to find out more about how to be involved, drop Mark or myself a line.
Finally, I’ve often found that people can underestimate just how savvy and clued-up our ultimate target consumer – children – can be. I’ve certainly encountered a few consumer journalists that have a habit of looking down their nose at the toy industry, implying that the fine and noble profession we all love so much is somehow less dynamic and complicated than more thrusting sections of the business world. So it amused me greatly to see the Financial Times being ripped to shreds by a six-year-old boy this week. Read his letter below and smile: I guarantee that at least one journalist will be careful not to patronise the toy industry in future.