I didn’t see that coming …it’s John Baulch’s Friday Blog!

I’ve spent a few years in the toy trade, so you would think by now I would be able to spot things coming a mile off. Yet this week has seen some twists that I just didn’t foresee on any level. For instance, I had only been discussing at a client meeting the previous day how I thought it was likely that Toys R Us would strike a deal to take over retail space within an established retailer in the UK, rather than building a store estate of its own from scratch. We even kicked some ideas around about which retailers might be suitable for such a partnership. But did we include WHSmith in that list? No, of course not.

That announcement really came out of left field yesterday. I gather that the initial trial will see concessions open in nine stores for 12 months, starting in the first half of next year, with a view to extending the deal across the store estate for a period of up to ten years if it is successful. I guess we’ll find out in due course whether the deal is a stroke of genius on both parts. For sure, WHSmith needs to do something to attract more customers: it has felt like a store struggling to find its lane for many years now, and in toy terms, it hasn’t been perceived as a major player for a very long time. So, a tie-up with Toys R Us makes sense on a number of levels. But is there a match in terms of customer profile, and how will the arrangement work in terms of in-store space and merchandising? Are WHSmith stores really big enough – with enough spare shelf space – to do justice to the Toys R Us toy offering? There are lots of questions and this is very much one to keep an eye on. You can read more here.

Away from the toy market, I had a whole raft of gags lined up about the increasingly ridiculous political events of the week, but it doesn’t feel right to be making light of what is developing into a genuinely concerning situation. Yes, the revolving doors at 10 & 11 Downing Street may be spinning more often than the one used by Watford managers, but I am not sure it’s a laughing matter anymore. Take the preposterous personalities out of the equation and you are left with the harsh reality of taxes rising even further, the promise of a two-year energy cap truncated to six months, public spending cuts and the potential return of austerity – just weeks after UK consumers were promised more money in their pockets. Who saw that coming? Actually, quite a few expert economists, but unfortunately it seems we don’t listen to experts anymore.

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