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allegedly...


Argos is trialling a new concept store which replaces the laminate catalogues, paper and pencils, which customers have used for decades to place orders, with tablet technology. The eventual plan is apparently to scrap the catalogue from stores altogether, as well as massively cutting circulation of the paper version used by consumers. It will be interesting to see how they will approach the subject of catalogue contributions when there are considerably fewer catalogues being printed. Not to mention the fact that people will have to go all the way to IKEA to nick little pencils now.....


After the item in last month’s Allegedly about the term ‘co-exclusive rights’, a licensee got in touch to say that his favourite phrase at BLE was ‘over- arching retail road map,’ which gets extra points due to the fact that the person using it apparently managed to deliver the phrase with a completely straight face. I also liked the suggestion made by one supplier that the phrase ‘we’re going for a soft launch’ usually translates as ‘no-one big was interested and even we’re not sure’. If anyone else would like to chip in with any other suggestions, feel free. Perhaps we can include a ‘catchphrase bingo’ sheet with our Toy Fair edition for people to tick off as they go along?!


Over in the States, reports have been circulating that joint-owner Vornado wants to exit Toys R Us. Its stake is said to be worth around $418m, roughly what it paid in 2005 when it bought its share of the business along with co-owners KKR and Bain Capital. There have also been a number of media reports suggesting that many investors have decided that this holiday season is a make-or-break one for Toys R Us. The dollar price of Toys R Us bonds has dropped sharply in recent months due to the number of investors selling them on, alerting analysts to monitor the situation closely. Let’s hope for the sake of the global toy industry that this short-term blip doesn’t develop into anything more serious.....


Almost lost amongst all the fi nancial ruminations surrounding TRU was the announcement that it has appointed a new European President, Wolfgang Link, who joined the company in 2007 and has latterly served as managing director of TRU Central Europe....


Now that England has qualifi ed for next year’s World Cup, many companies will be breathing a massive sigh of relief, not to mention giving the green light to all manner of football-related product tie-ins. I have one small suggestion I’d


62 Toyworld


like to share: if you have a range or brand which under normal circumstances has absolutely no connection whatsoever with football, it might be an idea to think carefully about your next move. Over the years I have seen all manner of tenuous associations with forthcoming major football tournaments by brands with no discernible link to the sport. It rarely – if ever – ends well. I saw one announcement from a licensing company recently which made me wince, and then I realised this would almost certainly be the tip of the iceberg. I grew up as a massive football fan, but had – for example – my childhood favourites the Thunderbirds characters have tried to cash-in on the ’66 World Cup, I would have been horrifi ed. Even at the age of four, I could have seen that this would just have been plain wrong. Prizes for spotting the most incongruous cash-ins at forthcoming previews....


It has been announced that B&M Bargains is drawing up plans for a potential stock market fl otation next year, which would value the retailer at a cool £1b. It has certainly come a long way since the Arora Brothers purchased the business in 2005: back then the business turned over £65m from 21 stores, while last year’s turnover was a cool £937m from over 350 outlets. Their trading approach hasn’t been enormously popular with many specialist independent toy retailers, but there’s no question that consumers – and indeed many suppliers – have an entirely different opinion....


There have been predictions of shortages of a number of this year’s hot items (begging the question of the need for the many ‘3 for 2’ offers which have proliferated in recent weeks....), with stories circulating of major buyers attempting to place large top-up orders in October: no prizes for guessing how that turned out – apparently delivery for Valentine’s Day wasn’t the response they were hoping for....


In contrast to the optimism being shown in the UK for trading prospects in the run-up to Christmas, over in the States, things appear to be a little less rosy: Toys R Us has even announced that it will be opening at 5pm on Thanksgiving Day, a move which has come in for widespread criticism on social media sites. But the fact that there are six less trading days between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, coupled with tough trading conditions, is clearly leaving retailers with tough choices to make. Let’s just hope that any diffi culties incurred by


American retail chains don’t impact on their UK operations....


Those of you who have already booked tickets for the Fence Club Football match in Hong Kong will be pleased to know that some half- time entertainment has been lined up. This will take the form of a penalty competition between England and Germany to settle the argument once and for all about which nation is the best at taking penalties. And I can now reveal the identity of the men in whose hands (or more accurately, feet) English hopes lay – Joe Kissane, Paul Reader and yours truly. Frankly, there’s no way of sugar-coating this; we’re in trouble. If anyone is betting on the result, I’d have a sneaky few quid on the Germans to keep up their run of penalty competition victories over the English. But hey, we’ll give it our best shot (literally). If you’re in Hong Kong and free on Tuesday 7th January, come along and give us some encouragement: tickets can be bought from davidb@charactergroup.plc.uk


According to Google, Zapf’s new Baby George doll seems to have one particular feature which – although groundbreaking – doesn’t seem entirely appropriate....


Finally, this picture drew a lot of comment when it appeared in the Friday Blog recently, so for those of you who missed it, we thought we’d reprint it. It certainly amused us when we fi rst saw it: can’t possibly think why....


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