Mind the Gap - In the Toy Market

To-day is the first day of Toy Fair 09, an industry trade fair that takes place in London's ExCel exhibition centre. Many, but by no means all, of the suppliers to the toy trade will showing their wares for the forthcoming year. I shall be attending so I can report back to you dear r
eaders, see some toys before they're in the shops and to enjoy a train, tube and Docklands Light Rail journey.

This opportunity to make a sales pitch to thousands from the retail trade is what the fair is mainly about, however, gossip will also be traded in a way that will make, as with much of life, "being there" an important added bonus.

This year much of the talk will be a continuation of conversations started by the closure of Woolworths. Many of the major suppliers will have had a sharp decrease in orders. Woolworths was the second largest toy seller in Great Britain and not only is that a major company no longer placing orders, many other toy retailers had a decline in customers as bargain hunters flocked to Woolies' "Biggest Ever" and last ever sale.

The puzzle now is: where are the Woolworths toy shoppers going to buy from now?
In the immediate future I suspect Argos (which sells the most toys) will be the main beneficiary. Toys R Us (sells the third most toys) and The Entertainer will certainly benefit too, however, these companies operate out of far fewer stores.

One of the outcomes I would like to see is a rise in the fortunes of the independent toy shop, especially the ones that make an enormous effort to keep that little bit of special magic alive that is so sorely missing from the aisles of departments in those vast chains of shops.

In all likelihood, though, it will be the major supermarket chains that will be picking up new custom in run up to Christmas 2009. This could see many smaller toy shops that have survived the last few years (an achievement in its own right), finally extinguished.

A slightly better outcome would be old giants returning to glory; WH Smith and Boot's were some decades ago among the largest sellers of toys. These chains do still offer a limited choice of toys and games in their larger branches, maybe a comprehensive toy department in WH Smith will be a perfect complement to the children's books, DVDs, art products, comics and sticker books. Yes, WH Smith would certainly be wise to get in on this.

There is a remote but delicious possibility that a new or vastly expand existing toy retail chain may take advantage of the current availability of shop space.

Hamley's have been popping-up in various parts of the world recently and have hinted that they intend to open more branches. The Entertainer will probably only want relatively small stores and may prefer to take over established but struggling shops. Toys R Us are highly unlikely to open new branches in town centres and will insist on steady slow growth. Smyths, the Irish raiders that opened their first store in England in 2007, will only want large out of town stores and will be carefully minding their savings for a rainy few economic years at home.

Could there be a totally new player in the toy market? Never has there been such an opportunity for someone that'll do the thing right. Yes, it'll be hard going to sell stuff over next few years - any stuff. However, Christmas will happen and so will birthdays; and pocket money may become a little limited, it will still remain as disposable as ever.
Previous Post Next Post

Contact Form