Dispatches from the retail front line (June)...

Like most retailers, I always look at other areas I could move into. Some manufacturers have tried the same , with Hasbro and Character being the most active and some have worked, others not...
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We shouldn’t be afraid of moving into areas we don’t know. Garden centres are now so diverse that I know of a couple of reps who sell more puzzles through a garden centre than any of their toy accounts. Puzzles fit the demographic of their customers perfectly (heck, I’m starting to sound like someone from a marketing department) and now they are doing more in outdoor play.

I’m not suggesting we start selling what they sell, but to just be sure we aren’t blinkered in the ranges we sell.

Video games has always been a sector that people see as fitting well with toys. But all is not well there at the moment. Consumers feel video games are too expensive and they aren’t considered a pocket money purchase. By the time a kid has saved enough money he has third degree burns from the cash burning a hole in his pocket.

However, even Nintendo and Sony are increasingly worried about a bigger threat that doesn’t just effect the video game sector but our beloved pocket money sector too.

Apple is the new kid on the block. The IPod Touch and IPhone are helping sell an outstanding number of add-ons (apps). The quality of some of these apps is incredible value for the money (under £5), easy to buy and all done via a download at pocket money prices. We all know that we are up against the ’cool culture’ of mobile phones. It isn’t just the cost of calls it is the ringtones, the screensavers and all the other add-ons hitting the pocket money pounds. But believe me, this is another level.

Maybe the next sector we ought to move into outside
our box should be selling iTunes top-ups.

Congratulations to Character for a great launch of a real action man in the shape of HM Forces, brilliant PR. Strangely enough I did mention to Character back in January it would be good to have a woman and someone not white in the range. I even suggested a Ghurka. How I bet they wish they had that ready for launch, just think of the marketing (OK, now I’m getting seriously worried about having activated a marketing gene).

But it’s not too late, Character could still piggy back this and solve the problem of a woman doll by producing a Joanna Lumley doll. Forget Eagle Eyes, she could have special eyes that fired daggers.

I’m sure a lot of the trade would join most of the country and get behind the campaign for allowing British soldiers to live in Britain.

And finally, a quick word of congratulation to Flair on its tenth birthday. A fantastic company which has always made the indies feel loved. I am sure with the support of their new parent company they will have many more years in business to celebrate.

Now if you will excuse me I’m off to get some therapy for my marketing problem.


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So, another round of shows over, and didn't they seem quiet? Toy Fair seemed quieter than last year, which is bad news when you consider it was not spread across two halls.

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