ToyJobs

About ToyJobs

Tom entered the recruiting business immediately after finishing at Drew University where he double majored in Economics and Sociology. He is the Founder and President of Toyjobs which have been the dominant toy recruiters since 1981. He regularly fills senior and mid-level toy jobs in sales, marketing, product development and operations. No toy recruiters fill more toy jobs than Toyjobs. In 1996, Tom was admitted to The Pinnacle Society, a prestigious organization limited to 75 of the top independent executive recruiters in the country. He continues to be an active member and has twice served on the organization's board. From 2011 to 2014, he served as the Pinnacle Society's Treasurer. He has also served on the Advisory board of Women in Toys, an organization promoting professionalism and career development for women in the toy industry. Toyjobs is the only recruiting firm to be a member of the Toy Industry Association (TIA). Tom has written numerous articles on the toy industry, recruiting and employment issues and has been featured in a variety of publications including The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times and The Fordyce Letter. He is also the author and publisher of Toyjobs Executive Monthly, a highly regarded and widely read industry newsletter. Tom speaks frequently within his own industry on such topics as: becoming a better recruiter and recruiting ethics.

Toy Industry Hiring Continues Robust Pace

The U.S. economy added jobs at a steady pace in July as job growth has had its strongest six-month stretch since 2006. Confusingly, the headline unemployment number (U-3) actually ticked up from 6.1 to 6.2%. This was largely because more people re-entered the workforce. Typically, a lot of people “leave the workforce” or stop looking for work during the summer months as well as during the holidays. This summer the hiring environment has been strong enough that a lot of people took themselves off the sidelines and got back into the job hunt.

A variety of talking heads have been spending a lot of time bemoaning the lack of solid wage gains. As someone who has spent three decades in the employment business, I can tell you that wage growth accelerates as the labor market tightens but there can be a considerable lag time. During the economic downturn employers held the upper hand in compensation negotiations. People were desperate to hold on to their jobs or to land a new one if they were unemployed. The perception (and fervent wishes) of employers is that this is still the case. There is a dialectic effect where perceived negotiation power swings between employers and employees and there is almost always a lag time of a year or two before the group holding that power realizes and admits that it is waning and even then they fight like hell to retain it. Today the process hasn’t even begun because while the employment picture is consistently strengthening we are nowhere near the tightened labor market.

There are two interesting asterisks of note in the U.S. employment story. The first is U-6 which includes part time workers who would prefer a full time job and workers who aren’t actually looking for work but would take a job if it was offered to them. U-6 has remained stubbornly above 12%. This reflects a lot of people engaged in consulting (there are certainly a lot of them in the toy business) as well as a lot of companies who need more pairs of hands but are not yet confident enough to commit to them as full time employees. Some of this also reflects the deleterious effect of Obamacare with businesses fighting to keep their employees under a thirty hour work week which would qualify them as “full time.”

The second asterisk is that it is widely unreported that the “white collar” population holding a college degree enjoys only a 3.1% unemployment rate while for those without a high school diploma the rate skyrockets to 9.6%.

BLS Chart

Focusing on the toy industry, hiring continues to be robust. For most of my thirty plus years, after an early summer slow down there would be an abrupt jump in search starts in late August. This coincided with goods being shipped to retailers’ warehouses. An order can change for almost any reason but once the pallet is on the retailers’ fork lift, manufacturers begin to feel like they’re on more solid ground. At the same time, senior execs returning from vacation would be jolted into the awareness that the following years sales season would begin in Dallas in about a month’s time. If they wanted to make adjustments to their sales staff they needed to begin looking at that immediately.

Last year … that didn’t happen. Retailers for the most part were a gloomy and pessimistic bunch. They were keeping inventories tight and bringing in goods as late as possible. The usual late August jump in search starts didn’t come. In fact, September was completely dead. Then, when goods finally did ship in very late September, all hell broke loose and manufacturers began hiring like crazy through the end of the year.

This year, like flipping a switch, Toyjobs phones started ringing off the hook with Sales searches during the last week of July and first week of August. Something had changed, but what? The retail environment certainly has not been all that good. Several of my clients have told me that this year retailers have planned to receive goods in a much more orderly fashion. After tracking the sales of small initial orders that arrived in June, they are bringing goods in stages rather than all at once. This allows the retailer to better control inventories and, in theory, allows the manufacturer to better control how much product they make. Of course, the lead times are still too short so that doesn’t really help manufacturers as much as advertised. In any event, this practice shortens the manufacturers sweat and fingernail biting period and they seem willing to start their sales searches soon enough to actually complete them by the Dallas Fall Toy Preview.

So, you may ask, “If there are so many sales searches why aren’t they posted on your job board?” That’s a good question and there are really two reasons. First, we like to get most of our candidate gathering work done before we post our searches. This is because part of our job is to evaluate search candidates against each other and focus our clients attention on those that we think fits their particular opportunity the best. This saves them time and effort. They like that. In order to facilitate this we like to have the bulk of our candidate selection done before everyone starts raising their hands. That way once people start contacting us about a posting we are better able to see where they fit in that searches candidate pool.

The second reason is for purely competitive purposes. There are a couple of recruiters out there who don’t have much in the way of a client base or repeat business. The reason for this is that they spend endless amounts of time and energy puffing on and on about how great they are but have a pretty poor track record when it comes to actually fulfilling searches. With a lot of time on their hands these recruiters continuously eyeball our job board and they try to worm their way into the search process. Since all of our searches are exclusive to Toyjobs, that rarely happens but it can be very disruptive to both our clients and candidates.

So there you have it. At the current time toy companies are aggressively looking for Sales Execs. Toyjobs is working on a large number of Sales searches. Look for them to pop up on our job board in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you very well might be hearing from us about a search that we haven’t posted yet.

Enjoy the rest of the summer!!
Tom Keoughan

By | August 13th, 2014|ToyJobs Blog|Comments Off on Toy Industry Hiring Continues Robust Pace

Toy Hiring Approaching Normal But a Little Too Early To Call

Toy Industry hiring continues to be strong and the job environment seems to be close to back to normal. I don’t want to “call it” until we see what search start volumes are coming out of the summer doldrums. The usual mid-August ramp up was delayed last year until early October. I’m a big believer that hiring in the toy industry is event-driven. One event trigger is when the product ships. When that happens, companies relax a little bit and feel better about themselves and then start hiring. Last year, retailers delayed having goods shipped until late September/early October. I’m guessing that will be a structural shift and goods will continue  to be brought in later as retailers continue in their never ending quest to shift as much risk as possible onto “their partners” in the seasonal fashion goods business.

It would also be nice to see an uptick in Marketing and Product Development jobs. Prior to the financial crisis, those positions were Toyjobs’ bread and butter. During the crisis whatever hiring there was focused on safety, sourcing, and sales. That only makes sense: there was a big product safety brouhaha in 2007 and safety issues were put under a magnifying glass. Regulations (some ridiculous) were constantly changing. Sourcing is simple code for “beat down the prices at the factories.” Sales, well we all want more sales and many business owners and senior managers subconsciously (I’m being kind) blamed poor sales on their Sales guys rather than the economic collapse. In any case, Marketing and Product Development jobs seem to be just starting to pick up. That is a sign that toy companies are moving from a defensive position and are looking to do new things. For me to declare the hiring environment “back to normal” it is important for that trend to fully develop.

Many people have been able to change jobs over the past year and that looks set to continue. Unfortunately, there are far too many people who have been unemployed for a long time. For people who have been out of work for three or four years, things are extremely tough. If you have been consulting, it is important to list what projects you worked on and what companies you did them for on your resume. Also highlight them in your interviews. For the long term unemployed who haven’t really been doing any consulting it may be time to reinvent yourself and perhaps even reset expectations. I know that is very difficult but it may be even harder to find your way back to your old career.

It’s not so much that companies are discriminating against the long term unemployed as much as there is strong competition for every job and that competition includes a lot of people who were doing that job just yesterday. For about five years, even employed people who wanted to change jobs had nowhere to go. Now that jobs are opening up, currently employed people with an up to the minute skill set and current connections are going to naturally be in the front of the line.

If you have legitimately been consulting, you can work your way back inside. If you haven’t, it may be time to reinvent yourself and move onto the next phase of your career. I know that’s very difficult to hear, but not as hard as continuing to pound on doors that aren’t opening.

For the rest of us, we should feel especially grateful for having come through this thing mostly intact and should reach out to help others who need it when we can.

The best to all,
Tom Keoughan

By | May 6th, 2014|ToyJobs Blog|Comments Off on Toy Hiring Approaching Normal But a Little Too Early To Call

Toy Fair Has Upbeat Vibe – Toyjobs Has 3rd Best Month Ever

Toy Fair Has Upbeat Vibe – Toyjobs Has 3rd Best Month Ever

After the requisite snowstorm, New York Toy Fair opened up Saturday night with the annual TOTY Awards dinner. Shirley Price and her team did a fantastic job and this event was even more fun than usual. It was especially gratifying to see that six of the twelve category awards were won by companies that have been in existence for less than three years such as Goldieblox, Choons Design and blog1Just Play. Choons Design’s Rainbow Loom won three category awards as it cruised its way to the Toy of the Year. So much for the carpers and back benchers who say that only the big boys win awards.

There were several inductees into the Toy Hall of Fame including Jill Barad, who gave a rousing speech which graciously gave shout outs to numerous mentors. Jack Friedinan of LJN, THQ and Jakks Pacific; Horst Brandstatler, founder of Playmobil and Wham-O founders Richard Knerr and “Spud” Melin were honored as well.

Next on the event calendar was the annual Women in Toys Dinner. Somehow Genna Rosenberg, Ashley Mady and their team continue to make this event better every year. How do they do that? …and how will they keep it up? Amongst the Wonder Women Award winners were Rita Raiffe of Gund garnering a well deserved Lifetime Achievement Award and Debra Sterling of the runaway start up Goldieblox. I think the award for funniest acceptance speech of the evening probably goes to Michelle Litzky who pretty much cracked everybody up.blog2

The always elegant Joan Luks will be stepping down as President of Women in Toys. Joan is someone who always put way more in to the organization than she took out. I’ll not be surprised if she continues to do that in her post-presidential role. New President Ashley Mady will have a heavy torch to carry but she certainly has the talent and energy to do so.

Toy Fair itself was very positive and upbeat which was a surprise considering that October’s Dallas Toy Preview was a bit gloomy and toy sales didn’t exactly rocket to the moon this past holiday season. Despite the travel-snarling snow, foot traffic was up 14% on Sunday and 9% on Monday. Tuesday was up 3% and Wednesday? …I can’t really tell you because, as is always blog3the case, like a lot of people I went home. All the major toy retailers had buyers there and that includes Wal-Mart, Target, Toys ‘R’ Us, Amazon, and Costco.

What I heard from senior toy executives who were actually showing at the Toy Fair was very different than usual. What they repeatedly said went something like this: “While retailers have already decided on the core of their planograms, there has been a lot of indecision on the part of buyers. We were able to fill a few nooks and crannies simply because we were here.” Interestingly, I heard that from every single company with a booth that I spoke with – no exceptions. I only heard otherwise from several senior toy executives who weren’t showing but instead just walking the show, poking around, and taking a few meetings. From them I heard the usual: This show is so expensive and we’re “really all done anyway.” It seems to me that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you’re not out there pitching at a place where you can meet twenty of your top customers in a period of four days – you may indeed be “really all done anyway.” I would encourage those people to talk to their friends who had full booths at the show and see what they have to say.blog4

Kudos, as always, goes to Carter Keithley, Stacy Leistner and the whole TIA crew for hosting an outstanding Toy Fair. They pretty much had their hands into most of the outside events as well. To paraphrase fast Eddie Felson – Toy Fair is Back!

 

Mirroring the regained enthusiasm at New York Toy Fair, Toyjobs has continued to knock it out of the park. After having out best month in thirty-two years in December, we quickly followed with our third best ever month in February. Toy companies are looking at new talent and they’re pulling the trigger. Best of all, companies are hiring senior people which means they’re not just doing patchwork. Toy companies are looking to do new things and they need senior people who can find and execute on new opportunities.

The increase in hiring is reflected in the economy at large as well, Non-farm payrolls grew by an encouraging 175,

blog5

000 (seasonally adjusted) in February despite severe weather challenges in much of the country. Even though Toys ‘R’ Us started rolling layoffs last Tuesday culminating in a “Pink Friday,” the economic picture is brightening. The point of inflection appears to have been at the beginning of last October. Let’s hope that the economy continues to improve and that hiring keeps on keepin’ on. It has every indication of doing so. Spring may at long last be at hand.

All the best,
Tom Keoughan

By | March 12th, 2014|ToyJobs Blog|Comments Off on Toy Fair Has Upbeat Vibe – Toyjobs Has 3rd Best Month Ever

Toyjobs Logs Best Month Ever

In December 2013, Toyjobs recorded the best month ever in its thirty-two year history. Not only was hiring strong in general, but many toy companies were hiring people at senior levels. This is a strong indication that the industry as a whole has left behind its primarily defensive posture of the economic downturn (teenage ninja heads in shells) and is now aggressively looking for opportunities (mutant turtle heads popping out of shells).

Typically, toy recruiting slows in January and February as the industry is focused on running from one trade show to the next. However, this year activity has not let up and search starts have continued to be strong. It can be difficult to actually close searches during this time period with so many people on the road but I think that the high level of search starts bodes well for toy industry hiring in February, March, April, and beyond.

Holiday toy sales were down slightly and no brick and mortar retailer stood out as having a great year. Several retailers came into January with particularly grim results. Toys ‘R’ Us and Kmart staggered out the holiday season punch drunk and wobbly. Costco’s toy department bombed. Even Dollar stores and the value channel were hurting. Our award for the worst behavior for a retailer this season goes to Target. Not only did Target have a massive breach of consumer data, but they are now compounding it by trying to strong arm suppliers into paying for their credit card problems.

Many retailers overpromised consumers on their ability to deliver late purchased goods. Some were advertising that orders placed as later as December 22nd would arrive before Christmas. This will only serve to increase already growing consumer cynicism over retail practices.

Retailers also cut into their own margins with “discounts” which were early, constant and deep. Even though many of these “discounts” were built into the purchase price, a lot of potential earnings for both retailers and their suppliers were still left on the table.

On the positive side, online retailers like Amazon, Zulilly and others absolutely knocked it out of the park. Offering both price and convenience is an unbeatable combination and physical retailers have a difficult task ahead in figuring out and presenting their value proposition to the consumer. Personally, I can’t think ofgeared up a single reason why I would want to be caught dead in a large retail store or mall during the holiday shopping season.

Total retail sales also improved. I can’t help but think that without any red hot toy smashes in 2013 that there were a lot of Xboxes, iPads and Microsoft Surfaces under the tree. Total retail sales are an indicator of the economy as a whole. As it improves, toy sales should come along for the ride…as long as we have engaging product.

Most economic data continues to improve, including the unemployment rate with the headline number (U-3) dropping in December to 6.7%. That said, the headline unemployment number is greatly understated on two fronts. First, a more accurate gauge of financial pain is U-6. U-6 represents unemployed people, plus people who are employed as a consultant or on a part-time basis but would prefer full-time work. It also adds people who have quit looking for work but would take a job if they could find one. U-6 currently stands at 13.1%. Another area of understatement is that U-3 does not consider people who have left the workforce or have stopped looking for work. You may think – “Well, how do they do that? How do they just decide to leave the workforce?” The answer is that most of America is populated by two income families and when one of the earners is either unemployed or underemployed, then the entire household is financially pinched. Rather than thinking about a 6.7% unemployment rate, a more accurate way of looking at the employment picture is that 20% of two income families are living worse off than they used to. As depressing as that may be, statistics are just a snapshot of a moment in time. The best way to view them is by looking at the trend history. Both U-3 and U-6 have been consistently improving. Unfortunately, the trend in people leaving the workforce is not. However, that should turn around as the first two continue to improve.

Looking forward, most economic data is improving. Employment data is improving, it’s overstated, but the trend is consistently growing better. Retailers had a difficult year but it wasn’t terrible –except for a few of them. Because retailers played it very cautiously in 2013 – ordering fewer goods and ordering them later – inventory levels are okay and there is not a lot of carryover. I expect retailers to play it the same way this year even if once again it means losing out on some sales due to empty shelves late in the holiday season. Most importantly for toy industry hiring is that manufacturers are hungry again and are actively looking for opportunities. This means they will need key people to recognize and seize those opportunities and more people to execute on them.

I look forward to seeing y’all at The New York Toy Fair!

All the best,
Tom Keoughan

By | January 28th, 2014|ToyJobs Blog|Comments Off on Toyjobs Logs Best Month Ever

Another Black Friday Disgrace – While Toy Hiring Soars!

Another year – another national disgrace as the human herds were once again rampaging through the nation’s retail outlets in what is little more than legalized wilding. While spreading out the bait over several days made the peak frenzy a little less intense, it also means that we now have four consecutive days of mayhem.

As usual, we had human (?) stampedes, knockdown merch, brawls, aggressively unnecessary pepper-sprayings, shotgun battles over parking spots, a guy stabbed while carrying home his new big screen TV, police officers being dragged by cars through parking lots, and a new low: kids having a stun gun fight in a Philadelphia mall.

Thank you Wal-Mart, Thank you Target, Thank you Best Buy, Thank you Kohl’s for inciting this dehumanizing behavior. If I or a member my family was foolish enough to venture out into these deal hunting scrums and became injured; you can be sure that I’d be having a phalanx of the most rabid attorneys around suing you for intentional reckless endangerment. I’m sure we could find a slew of other legal misdeeds as well (BLACK FRIDAY DEATH COUNT)http://s.wsj.net/public/resources/images/P1-BO270A_Econo_NS_20131206180603.jpg

More people were out participating in the melee than ever before, but on average, people spent less than last year ($407 vs. $423). Maybe retailers’ promotional activity pulled forward some holiday purchases earlier into November. Maybe, with smart phones at the ready, consumers are better able to make price comparisons and sniff out the best Black Friday deals. What does appear clear is that retailers have cut costs so much that it will negatively affect their margins and those of its suppliers (Wait? That’s us!).

In the meantime, toy industry hiring has soared. As reported here last time out, search starts rocketed in early October as children’s products started hitting the retailers’ shelves. Toy companies have been filling those jobs at a feverish clip which continues to this day. The pace will likely be maintained through year end. On January 2nd, the toy industry, as a whole, will board the planes for their annual pilgrimage to Hong Kong. This time out, a whole lot of business cards will be wearing fresh, wet ink.

The surge in hiring appears to be mirrored in the economy at large. Payrolls increased by a seasonally adjusted 203,000 in November. Earlier months have been revised upward and the job increases have now averaged 193,000 for the past three months.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/rf/image_296w/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2013/12/06/National-Economy/Graphics/296GDP1206.jpgThat is nearly enough to impact the unemployment rate in a meaningful way. The jobs recovery has had false starts before, but this time it seems much more solid and sustainable.

Other economic data seem to support an improving outlook. Third quarter economic growth has been revised sharply higher to 3.6%. US consumer spending is up 2.1% from a year ago. Wages are up a modest 0.2% Consumer Confidence is on the rise and The Federal Reserve reported that credit card debt has risen to the highest amount in three years. All of those are hopeful signs that shoppers will be out buying more toys, Xboxes, and iPhones in the coming weeks.

I would like to see a few more months of improving economic data before declaring that the train has left the station, but it does appear that we are finally, finally gathering momentum. Remember folks, you heard it here first – all the way back in October…now if Washington can just stay out of the way.

It is my fervent holiday wish for the coming year that the economy continues to gather strength in a sustainable way and that there are more and more jobs for people who don’t have them and want them, especially the long term unemployed. God bless us, everyone!

All the best,
Tom Keoughan

By | December 11th, 2013|ToyJobs Blog|Comments Off on Another Black Friday Disgrace – While Toy Hiring Soars!

August-September Toy Hiring Surge – Delayed

It seems to be an annual event: as children’s products ship to retailers in late August, companies start feeling more comfortable about meeting their sales goals. Timing coincides with the winding down of summer vacations and the realization that the next year’s annual sales season will begin in a few short weeks in Dallas at the Fall Toy Preview and in Los Angeles at various private toy company events. Almost every year this leads to a big surge in search starts and hiring in late August and September. A surge that this year did not come.

Up until late August, we at Toyjobs saw toy industry hiring as quite strong. In 2012, things turned the corner and 2013 was looking like a return to “not quite normalcy.” Toy industry hiring in early summer was even better than the average during good times, but when late August arrived, not only was there no surge, but activity fell off the table. During late August and September – it was dead.

First off, spring and summer toy sales were extremely sluggish. Also, retailers were very cautious about inventory – ordering smaller numbers and bringing goods in later than ever before. This, in turn, made toy manufacturers nervous.

Coming into the Fall Toy Preview, I was, unfortunately, pretty well-rested and the paper piles in my office were beginning to look small. The good news was that, as I was arriving in Dallas, children’s products were beginning to arrive in bulk to the U.S. Toy companies have now begun to feel better about themselves and search starts have rocketed. Toyjobs is currently in talks with a wide array of companies about to begin new talent searches. Those searches haven’t hit our job board (Current Toy Jobs) yet but stay tuned, they’ll be posted in the coming weeks.

As for the show itself, it seemed noticeably less busy than last year. As always, Carter Keithley and his TIA team put on a superb event, but it just looked like there was quite a bit less traffic. I don’t have the official numbers, but my unscientific survey had three components. First, the Starbucks line was much shorter than last year. Second, the great opening party thrown by the TIA seemed less well-attended. Lastly, it is important to remember that foot traffic at this show can be much higher than it appears because so many people spend much of their day tucked away in little cubby holes. My favorite “metric” is to simply look over the railing down to the lobby floor at lunchtime. This, too, proved to be disappointing. Even when I went down to lunch myself, although the cafeteria was full, I never had any trouble finding a table.

I’m NOT privy to ANY official discussions, but in my gut – I give the show three years…and my guess is that in year four, the Fall Toy Preview constituted as it is now in Dallas will be no more. I certainly hope that is not the case. We all know the reasons that this show is faltering: large toy companies holding private events in LA during the following weeks, buyers making oddly timed trips to Hong Kong, high trade show costs, etc. I’m sure that the TIA and the TIA Board have talked about this until they’re blue in the face, but I would suggest giving a member of either of those groups your input – whatever that input may be. One thing that is glaringly obvious is that there is a disconnect when the TIA Board is largely made up of representatives of companies who do not support TIA events intended to strengthen the toy industry as a whole. With broad input, hopefully a solution can be found that works for everyone.

Just my two cents,
Tom Keoughan

By | October 14th, 2013|ToyJobs Blog|Comments Off on August-September Toy Hiring Surge – Delayed

Economy and Employment Continue Gradual Improvement

U.S. consumers continued to increase spending in July as the economy continued to grind out a slow but steady expansion. The Commerce Department last week announced that retail sales for July climbed a seasonally adjusted 0.2%. They also adjusted the June growth rate upward from 0.4% to 0.6%.

People are seeing the value of their homes and retirement accounts rise, which has begun to create a “wealth effect.” Also, Americans have spent the last few years struggling to shed debt. Total consumer debt is now 12% lower that at its peak in the fall (just before “the fall”) of 2008. Lending and spending are on the rise, especially for the big ticket items like homes, cars, furniture, and my favorite – barbecue grills.

bbqConsumer confidence is increasing and is at its highest level in years, which economists attribute to the gradually improving employment picture. Toyjobs concurs that, at least in the children’s product business, hiring has increased dramatically. On the jobs front, things seemed to turn the corner in 2012 after three dismal years. In 2013, hiring has been much more robust. Even the annual summer doldrums period has seen more hiring than in any of the last five years. [See Toyjobs Success Stories)

That said, there is a puzzling disconnect behind the rise in overall consumer spending and the weak recent showing of many retailers. Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Nordstrom’s, and Macy’s last week, posted poor second quarter results and cut their profit forecasts for the year. Aeropostale, American Eagle Outfitters, and Abercrombie & Fitch also lowered their sales and profit outlook.

Part of the problem may be that spending for cars, houses, and home improvement may have eaten up dollars that would have been spent on clothing, accessories, and general merchandise. The hope is that once this pent-up demand is sated that spending will trickle down to retail more broadly. After all, one can only buy so many cars and washing machines before you have all you can use.

Spending Habits

Holiday spending, in the aggregate, can be looked at as one big ticket item which bodes well for toy manufacturers. However, consumers will likely chase sales and hunt for value, thereby causing margin pressure on retailers. The question is will retailers eat those margin hits or will they beat it out of their suppliers in small Bentonville rooms.

On the “good news” side of the ledger, Toys’R’Us, which has been reeling as of late, has announced that it plans to add 100 stores internationally by the end of the year. There will be 19 new or reconfigured stores in the US and a total of 51 stores in China by year end. This is good news for two reasons. First, there will be more shelf space to fill which should translate into more goods sold in to the retailer. Also, it appears that ownership of the private entity is investing for growth rather than backing off after recent poor results. We wish them all the best as a strong Toys’R’Us makes the toy industry stronger.

All told, the economy is slowly gaining ground and increasing momentum like a train leaving the station. That said, we should not forget that we currently live in a bifurcated society. Most people have jobs and, for them, things are slowly getting better. However, U6 (the number of people either unemployed or having to accept only part time jobs) is still at 14%. So while 86% of us are doing alright, at least 14% are still struggling.

Fortunately, increased consumer spending on big ticket items should start to trickle down to improve retail sales as a whole. As this couples with increased consumer and business confidence, it should lead to a much better employment picture. This is already beginning to happen. We should all hope that as the train chugs out of the station and begins to pick up speed that the long term unemployed and the under employed will be able to climb aboard. As employers, we should try to haul them aboard when we can.

See ya’ll in Dallas,
Tom Keoughan

 

PS – Dallas Alert! Dallas Alert! If you want to upgrade your sales team for the 2014 sales season, you better get cracking. You should have started two weeks ago!

By | August 20th, 2013|ToyJobs Blog|Comments Off on Economy and Employment Continue Gradual Improvement

Toy Industry Hiring Slowing but Steady

The headline unemployment number has ticked down to 7.5% but the number would be higher if so many people hadn’t left the labor force. “White collar” (who actually wears white collars these days?) unemployment continues to drift between 4 and 5%.

The US economy, while not good, continues to slowly and steadily improve. Employers have been adding around 200,000 jobs a month. That isn’t enough to bring the jobless rate sharply down, but it’s better than the average 140,000 per month that we saw last year.

Housing sales have greatly increased and home prices are up 10% from a year ago. Also auto sales have improved about 7%. The various stock indices are up about 15% since the beginning of the year and consumer confidence is concurrently at a five year high.

Although payroll tax increases and the sequester are depressing consumer spending, upward momentum should begin to grow retail sales after we get through the summer. Economic growth, while still slow, is beginning to build. I liken it to a train just leaving the station.

Toy industry hiring has slowed from the torrid pace set in the first four months of the year, but continues to be steady. I look for this to continue through June and then slow down in July and early August. Come mid-August, toy industry executives will suddenly wake from their beachside slumbers and realize that the 2014 sales season is only six weeks away. The annual sprint to add new sales talent before the Dallas Fall Toy Preview will begin. If the economy has followed through and is continuing to build momentum, then the job areas of the toy industry should follow suit.

That’s my call and, for now, I’m sticking with it. Of course, I’ve always been an optimist. It’s the only way to be.

All the best,
Tom Keoughan

By | June 5th, 2013|ToyJobs Blog|Comments Off on Toy Industry Hiring Slowing but Steady

Toy Companies Hiring at a Torrid Rate

Job growth appears to be slowing even as the headline unemployment number has ticked down to 7.6%. Unfortunately, the reason for the lower number is not job growth but rather that labor force participation has been plummeting.

Things are better than they appear for our audience. People who work in an office and wear a collar have a much lower unemployment rate of 4 to 5%. Also, toy industry folks seem to be very good at creating consulting opportunities for themselves.

Here at Toyjobs, we’ve been on fire! (Success Stories) We’ve filled so many of our client’s key positions during the last few weeks that our job board is beginning to look anemic. Search starts have slowed over the last two weeks but I attribute this to the event-driven nature of toy industry hiring.

We have entered the annual phase of the calendar where a large percentage of toy execs that I speak with are complaining that retailers are “late” with their orders. Of course, the retailers don’t think they’re “late.” They’re just pushing as much risk as possible onto their suppliers in a seasonal fashion business. In a few weeks, these orders will come in. Some of those will come so late that it will be impossible to secure factory time, manufacture, and ship the goods for arrival at the time that the retailers want them. Many toy companies will do the impossible and either get the goods there at the appointed hour or find ways to roll back the delivery date.

When the orders come over the wires, toy executives will both grumble and breathe a sigh of relief. They will also need more people to get the work done which will trigger the next wave of toy industry job openings. Except for a few ugly years, like 2009-2011, the dogs bark but the caravan passes on.

All the best,
Tom Keoughan

By | May 1st, 2013|ToyJobs Blog|Comments Off on Toy Companies Hiring at a Torrid Rate

Toy Fair: Return of the Snows

After two snow-free years, the weather hit back with a vengeance at the 110th American International Toy Fair. While New York City itself only received eight inches or so the rest of the Northeast was hit hard by the Snowpocalypse.

Things kicked off Saturday night with the TOTY awards. As always, Carter Keithley and his Toy Industry Association (TIA) team led by Stacy Leistner organized a terrific affair. The food was superb and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

The evening awards program, organized by Jamie Gallagher of Faber Castel and Shirley Price of Funrise was fun and kept everyone engaged. The night belonged to Lego and Leapfrog who each garnered several awards. That said, it was good to see awards won by several small companies such as: Just Play, Plasmart, and Cloud B. The boys category was dominated by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from Nickelodeon/Playmates.

Traffic seemed a bit off on Sunday, most likely due to weather-related travel disruptions. Countless war stories were shared by sleep deprived refugees from New England and Toronto. At the end of the day, action shifted to the Women in Toys (WIT) dinner. Genna Rosenberg and Ashley Maidy again did a great job organizing the annual event at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers. The evening was presided over by the always glamorous WIT president Joan Luks and it was good to see an award given to “The Queen of Toy Fair” Gail Jarvis. Particularly fun was the presentation of capes to the award winners.

Confidential sources tell me that someone looking very much like a cape wearing Nancy Zwiers was spotted over the next several days dancing around the Javits Center 🙂 Congratulations to all Wonder Woman winners and nominees.

Toy Fair traffic picked up substantially on Monday and Tuesday. Between bouts of “Javits feet”, Toyjobs was able to pick up on several young, under-exposed companies with exciting product lines. Some of these will undoubtedly be amongst our “sudden surprise” toy manufacturers of the future.

On Wednesday, we headed down to New Orleans for a few 65 degree days of good food, good music, and an evening glass of wine or three. We at Toyjobs will never drink anything out of a large Dayglo plastic toy – nor should you.

On the economic front the toy industry continues to have its challenges. Leftover retail inventory will likely mean that the first half of 2013 will be even slower than usual as little restocking needs to be done. Also, due to the management shuffle at the top, one has to believe that Toys ’R’ Us will be stuck like deer in the headlights for a considerable period of time. In addition, we continue to have a condition of torpor in Washington D.C. – nothing seems to move except their mouths. That said, total retail trade sales continue to trend cyclically upward. Warren Buffet, in last weekend’s shareholder letter said “ignore short term uncertainties, the immediate future is uncertain; America has feared uncertainty since 1776…American business will do fine over time”.

That’s the spirit that we’re seeing from our vantage point. As is usually the case, we were given a large number of search assignments in late December and January but those searches generally don’t close until the toy industry finishes cycling through trade shows in Hong Kong, London, Nuremburg and New York. Here at Toyjobs, we’re expecting to have an excellent
March as companies start to pull the trigger. In addition, search starts have been accelerating since the close of New York Toy Fair. Should this trend continue it bodes well for the industry as a whole. After the usual summer slowdown, I foresee hiring to come back even stronger in the fall as the headwinds of retail inventory and Washington gridlock abate and the economy continues to strengthen. Let us all hope it is so.
More light at the end of the tunnel,
Tom

By | March 5th, 2013|ToyJobs Blog|Comments Off on Toy Fair: Return of the Snows