News from retail's front-line

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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The weather certainly didn’t help Spring Fair, but at least that gives the organisers something to blame. Nuremberg was apparently quiet, but with the value of Sterling at the moment, it was hardly worth going was it?

Overall, the words I keep hearing are ‘solid’, ‘safe’, ‘tidy’ and with the occasional moan about a lack of innovation. Overall I thought it was good, some great new product. All I ask is a fair crack of the whip when it comes to stock.

The news that Toy Fair was moving back to Olympia was the industry’s worst kept secret. The whole announcement thing seemed to have been dreamt up by some government spin doctor so everyone really knew the answer before it was announced. Good way to stop any grumblings.

There seems to be very mixed feelings about it out there. If it ensures the long-term survival of Toy Fair then great. Whatever the reasons for moving (and I can only assume it is financial) then as long as those savings are passed on to the suppliers, Toy Fair might just survive. ExCeL is a great venue but there was always complaints about lack of places to eat and stay, but surely the social life is the least important thing?

Ask anyone who remembers set-up days, logistics, trying to get the stands in and out of Earls Court and Olympia and you will hear horror stories. Stands were nearly always being touched up on the first day because of the access being so poor or the fact that they had ran out of fivers in envelopes.

I can honestly say I could never remember going on the Ideal stand (yes, I am that old) and not being warned off the wet paint.

However, if the adopted policy of shell stands stays then that goes some way to helping keep the fair alive. Great for keeping costs down and more sensible for the short show. I actually thought it worked well.

Was it me or did the Toy Awards happen with a whimper? Maybe it was change of format for the evening, but certainly I didn’t pick up on any buzz afterwards. Ask anyone who went and the reply was always “okay, but…”.

So, what’s the outlook for 2009? Our government keeps spending money it hasn’t got, consumer confidence is low, more and more people are worried about their jobs, credit insurers are nervous about the word retail and we still probably have at least another whole year of Gordon Brown.

But on the positive side, I have sold some sledges; Woolworths is no longer screwing the marketplace; it’s the Ashes this year (might be a negative, but you live in hope) and we work in an industry that can bring happiness to kids and families when all else seems miserable.

That alone is enough to keep us going, isn’t it?


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