Winding down for the holidays? Yeah, right… it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 15th December 2023

Someone sent me an email this week which opened with the phrase: “I hope you are winding down now ahead of the holidays.” As if – clearly that person isn’t overly familiar with what we do. For the uninitiated, there’s just the small matter of our (massive) January issue and first-ever standalone Nuremberg supplement to send to press before we break up for Christmas. If you want a comparison, right now at Alakat Towers it’s a bit like wandering around Toy Fair on the afternoon before opening day, when it resembles a building site. You look around and think “there is no way on earth this place is going to be ready to open tomorrow morning.” And yet when you turn up at 8.30am the next day, by some miracle, everything looks pristine and ready to go – as if the carnage of the previous day was just a bad dream. Hopefully we’ll be in the same position come next Thursday. Until then, it’s ‘all hands on deck’ and just a bit frantic.

Hopefully it’s the same for retailers. After a slow start to the festive season, I have seen an increasing number of encouraging social media posts over the past week, indicating that things are finally picking up out there. There will be those who say it’s too little, too late – and impossible to make up the ground lost in October, November and early December. However, at least sales are finally accelerating. I have said it before, but the next 10 days are going to be crucial – this weekend and next weekend can still be game changers.

One of the big challenges now will be how many retailers’ warehouses are still open to receive deliveries. I am even hearing reports of gaps opening up on some shelves, giving retailers the decision as to whether to replenish or just stick with what they have and hope that if consumers can’t find exactly what they want, they’ll buy something else instead.

It would be good to finish the year on a high, and hopefully with as clean stock levels as possible – we really want to head into 2024 without the excess inventory which blighted the first half of this year. It will be fascinating to see where it all lands as we catch up with the toy community when Toy Fair Season starts in January.

For the first time in four years, I will be heading back to Hong Kong in the first week of January. It will be the 50th anniversary of the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair next year, and I am very much looking forward to joining the show to celebrate this milestone. The Fair was paused for a couple of years, and although it returned in person last year, it was largely a local Asian market focused event. So, next year will realistically be the first opportunity to assess how many people from the international toy community will return to Hong Kong in January. Speaking to a couple of companies based out there, diaries are beginning to fill up nicely. On which note, if you want to grab some time with me during the trip, feel free drop me a line.

After returning from Hong Kong, we have both the London and Nuremberg shows to look forward to. London will be celebrating a milestone of its own in 2024, as it hits its 70th anniversary. Then it will be on to Nuremberg to bring things to a close, as the traditional finale to Toy Fair Season – the New York Toy Fair – is on hiatus for next year (at least). From London and Nuremberg’s perspective, the fact there is no US show can only be a positive: in the past, some of the larger US companies held new launches back to be unveiled in New York. Now that the US event is on a temporary sabbatical, suppliers can reveal the hot new lines in London and Nuremberg instead.

Don’t forget to register to visit all the Toy Shows (Toy Fair here, and Nuremberg here) – and while you are about it, if you are planning on visiting the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas next May, you might want to sign up soon too. Amongst a raft of new initiatives announced this week, there will be an admission fee of $50 which will apply to many attendees for the first time, including licensees, licensing agents and service providers (but not retailers). There is a limited time discount enabling free registration for people who attended this year’s show – as long as you register by 31st January. After that, the admission charge will apply. It’s all part of the shows ‘Pathway to Reimagination’, which will see even bigger changes coming for Licensing Expo in 2025. More on that in due course.

Obviously the biggest – and saddest – news of the week came from Hasbro, which announced 1100 further job losses, on top of the 800 roles that were already lost earlier this year. It goes without saying that it must be hugely disappointing news for those people affected, especially hearing about it just before Christmas (presumably so it is off the books before Q1 earnings are announced). I am not going to dwell on this latest development or pontificate about what has led to the decision. I have been around the trade long enough to see the fortunes of the global toy giants ebb and flow: it wasn’t that long ago that Mattel was having a hard time and look at it now. Clearly Hasbro does need to make some changes, but I hear good things about the people at the helm, and I believe it will bounce back from adversity.

Finally, congratulations to Tony White and Valerie Leuzy on joining Wow! Stuff as general Sales manager and head of European sales respectively, all the best to retailers everywhere for this weekend’s trading and I leave you with this meme, which is for all the toy companies who post on LinkedIn how proud they are to be one of eight companies nominated for one of twenty awards and haven’t quite twigged what is going on yet…