UK Toy Retail Goes Crazy For Black Friday…
2014 appears to be the year that Black Friday has become THE kickstarter for peak season sales for the toy industry.
There is actually no logical reason/justification for Black Friday in terms of the UK holiday calendar, we don’t have thanksgiving, in fact after Halloween, we haven’t historically really had any single one off event that drives peak season sales – instead it’s been more of an extended period of activity, starting from the October school holiday (usually 3rd week in October).
Not any more. Due to the ever growing power of American retailers in the UK, namely Amazon and Asda, and due to the American dominated social media landscape UK consumers now see ever more American shopping culture in their lives.
Today (Black Friday 2014) has been an insane day in the UK already, with police called to shopping complexes to break up fights at one minute past midnight as the sale started, where seemingly every major retailer selling toys is going Black Friday crazy, and where due to huge online traffic I can’t even get onto Tesco Direct – the online shopping portal of the UK’s largest retailer – seriously, I keep getting a ticking clock saying ‘we’ll try to log you in again in 30 seconds’.
Adidtionally, we can already see that many retailers are trying to turn Black Friday into an extended event to maximise the sales impact – Toys R Us for example is calling out a 4 day Black Friday sale!
So that’s the situation, Black Friday is now THE kick starting event of peak season sales in the UK, with retailers trying to squeeze every last penny out of consumers and to shift as much product as possible earlier in the season.
Let’s consider whether that’s a good thing/what the impact of that is for the UK toy business:
Firstly, let’s be clear, retailers are going to sell bucketloads of toys today, and throughout the weekend. That has to be a good thing for the toy industry. What we need more than anything is substantial retail sell through and clean shelves to allow us to hit our resupply forecasts and to drive retail re-orders into the new year to kick start 2015. So in that respect the Black Friday phenomenon is a really good thing.
The second (more cynical) point to make is that there is clearly a lot of hype in terms of deals & reductions with varying levels of reality behind the hype! For instance, several retailers are clearly calling out ‘special’ Black Friday deals on stick they are looking to clear out. And in many instances we can see discounts on hot products that are actually not that impressive or compelling. That isn’t to suggest that it’s all hype, there are clearly bargains to be had, and as the very healthy UK discount store channel proves, products which clearly weren’t selling become much more appealing & sell much better at discount/bargain prices. So frankly, at the very least Black Friday will allow both toy companies and retailers to clear under performing lines during a period of frenzied demand.
In terms of the promotional/discount situation, this event clearly provides another opportunity for retailers to squeeze toy suppliers for additional funding/markdown allowances, but as long as toy companies stay strong on their key hero lines, the retailers can decide to blow their margins on discounting the hottest items if they like to drive traffic/footfall/sales volume.
For toy companies the trick to managing this period effectively must surely be to focus on ensuring slow moving products are cleared through to a). prevent stock holding hangover/heated arguments on carry forward stock levels into the end of the selling cycle for 2015 when we want to look forward to our next listings not back to our last listings and b). to end the year with cleaner warehouses and year end stock levels ourselves, with maximum cash in the bank to manage the next cycle.
So here’s the bottom line – Black Friday is good news for retailers and should be good news for toy companies as long as they stay strong and promote/fund discount activity on slower moving lines, not on the hot products which will sell anyway
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