Indies hold majors to question following merger murmurs

With talk of big name mergers making headlines recently, the attitudes of some of the leading toy manufacturers towards the UK’s indie retail scene are being called into question. 

Members of the ToyNews Retail Advisory Board? have united in the belief that many of the smaller retailers that make up the UK’s High Street outlets are overlooked by the leading names in toy making. 

Concerns have arisen that many of the big names are preoccupied ‘chasing larger accounts’ with toy retail giants such as Toys ?R Us or supermarkets to acknowledge the smaller carriage paid orders. 

The worry has been heightened by recent speculation over potential mergers between the likes of Mattel and Hasbro, and LeapFrog and VTech. 

It has driven a number of those smaller, indie stores to begin to ‘stretch the boundaries of what makes something a toy’, indicating a real concern that the independent scene is in danger of being pushed into slimmer margins.

“Obviously there is?a lot of talk about big organisations merging, which can’t help but have an impact on the industry,” Helen Gourley owner of Scottish independent, Toy Hub, told ToyNews. 

“We will adapt to any?of these changes as they go through, but as a small indie, concerns arise that we will get lost as majors chase large accounts.” 

Gourley outlines that in anticipation for any such eventuality, a big focus for the toy shop is exploring new avenues for revenue. 

The frustration isn’t limited to the High Streets of Perthshire of course, as the online retail brand XBite, now with a string of digital toy and collectables outlets to its name, voices its chagrin at falling below the eye level of suppliers. 

“For 2016 I would like to see changes from vendors towards independent internet retailers,” says Karla Mitchell, senior buyer at XBite. 

“We have three warehouses and multiple websites. We are certainly not a bedroom trader and yet we are looked at like one by certain vendors.” 

Previously, stories about the likes of LEGO or Hasbro holding stock back from the indie scene have peppered the media in the run up to Christmas. But it seems that 2016 may just mark the year that many of the independent outlets start to put their foot down and look to put their money elsewhere. 

“The biggest changes I will be putting in place this year is with the suppliers ?I spend with,” comments Brian Simpson, general manager at SMF Toy?Town. 

“Business is tough out there and we are being more clinical about our operations to ensure there is no ‘fat’ being carried.” 

Of the ‘medium’ sized suppliers championed?by the indie scene this ?year, Brainstorm has been applauded as its Stikbots continue to perform well at High Street vendors in the country, alongside TY’s new Teeny TY plush lines.

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