Flexibility is key to a successful Christmas this year, says retail

ToyNews' Retail Advisory Board discusses the best strategy for tackling early Christmas promotions.
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Frozen and Loom Bands may be topping the Christmas predictions lists this year, but flexibility is the real key to a successful festive period, says our Retail Advisory Board.

While it’s no surprise that planning for the festive season commences in January, retailers admit that “keeping things fluid” through the Christmas countdown is the best way to adapt to any changes in the market.

“We start planning our Christmas promotions and activities in January,” Stuart Grant, buying director at The Entertainer told ToyNews. “But the reality is, we are planning right up until December as the market changes and moves.”

So while the family-run toy giant has already set its sights on what it believes will be making the wish lists of kids across the UK this year, Grant suggests it is the firm’s adaptability that keeps it on top of changing trends.

“Our plans won’t really change until mid-September now, but after that, they are fluid and will alter as opportunities or changes in the market come up,” he continued. “There are things that we are predicting right now to be strong for Christmas that may not perform to expectations, so we can change things tomorrow if we choose.

“It’s about remaining flexible, and that’s what makes us successful.”

However, not all retailers are able to enjoy this level of adaptability.

When faced with a growing pressure from suppliers, coupled with the frustration of product shortage, many find themselves making their Christmas commitments as early as May.

“With suppliers being increasingly careful about the amount of stock they commit to, it puts more pressure on the retailer to place their orders as early as possible to try to guarantee the stock they want,” explained ToyTown manager, Brian Simpson. “This isn’t something that I enjoy having to do, especially as we are now calling our stock commitments as early ?as May.”

But despite the frustration, Simpson is able to see the positives in making those earlier calls.

“It places an emphasis on how much detail we go into in our sales to try and catch trends, which is a positive aspect of the current situation,” he said. “Plus, I wouldn’t be doing anything different if I was in [the supplier’s] shoes, so I can’t complain.”

Meanwhile, the online retailers believe they are in one of the better positions to react quickly to changing trends.

“We start planning our Christmas strategy at the beginning of the year,” said Neil Mitchell, toy buyer at Shop Direct. “We then look at specific promotions and activity all the way up to Christmas itself. That’s the beauty of being online. It allows us to very quickly react to what’s going on in the market.”

But while promotional activity is kept fluid through the year, the online retailer likes to gauge the products likely to be big Christmas sellers by launching autumn and winter ranges as early as July.

“This gives us great insight and allows us and our suppliers to react and make sure we have as much stock available for Christmas as possible,” ?said Mitchell.

So what will retailers be ensuring is sitting on their toy shelves in time for the Christmas frenzy this year?

Results are certainly unanimous that the ?current craze for both Frozen and Loom Bands is likely to carry through to the festive season.

“This year, more than most we have seen some big trends coming in, such as Frozen,” Linzi Walker, Argos’ trading manager for toys and nursery told ToyNews. “Anything Frozen related and I think we are on to something. That and Loom Bands, they are a huge craze.”

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