Category Archives: Burning Issues

Active Content in Ebay Listings

Hi all.

Many apologies for 6 months without a post. That really is pretty awful.

Earlier this month I attended the Toymaster fair in Harrogate where it was good to hook up with many of our suppliers once again. We now have lots of new stock flooding in so expect a flurry of new posts on these in the near future.

Some friends from Toymaster 2017

Firstly a quick mention of the current craze everyone is talking about – fidget spinners. You will probably be aware that they come in all shapes and sizes. Ours are fairly basic in design, but are heavy and very good spinners with a nice smooth action. Check them out here.

Secondly, here is a tip for other Ebay sellers out there. We signed up with Auctiva some years ago, who provided free rolling banners on our Ebay listings displaying other items in our Ebay shop. Unfortunately the html used in the past to generate these – active content- is now outdated since it is not mobile friendly. Ebay have recently announced they will disable all active content in June. Unfortunately this means nice rolling banners and the like will be replaced with a string of unattractive web code. See Ebay’s page on this.

It is quite easy to look up what the offending code is in each listing. However, if you have 200 plus listings the thought of going through all of these individually is quite daunting. I got on to Auctiva’s site where I discovered they are now rolling out Ebay compliant code, however to address the problem on existing listings (at least in the required timeframe) you would need to opt for one of their paid plans.

A little homework however soon led me to a free online tool at http://www.isdntek.com/ebaytools/ActiveContentScanner.htm, see the full instructions here. All you have to do is enter your seller name and let the bulk tool find all your listings. You can then scan them and get the tool to generate new descriptions for your items minus the offending content. Follow the instructions to download the ammended data (I also downloaded an unaltered set as well just in case) and sign up to Ebay’s file exchange programme to upload them to Ebay.

The upshot? Within a few minutes hundreds of active content free listings without either hours of frustrating html crunching or the need to pay a cent.

Here’s to 2017

2017

Sorry, there’s been no new posts for a while, but it’s been a very busy couple of months. A Chinese factory just sent me this, so I thought I’d share it with you.

Toymaster Show Harrogate 2016

These are exciting times for Comaco Toys. We have more suppliers, more lines and more stock than ever before in our history. A couple of weeks saw me heading south to Harrogate for our first visit to the Toymaster show at the Majestic Hotel.

After experiencing the less subtle delights of the London Toy Fair and NEC Spring Show, it was something a relief to find that this was a slightly lower key and less formal event. This is largely due to it being a trade only fair with only fairly limited stand space for the exhibitors.

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The venue for the Toymaster show

After a long drive from the north of Scotland, I arrived early afternoon and gave myself a good hour or two to recaffeinate and aclimatise. My pre-booked appointments were all for the following day, so the afternoon was free to browse and explore.

Mutant Ninja Turtles were on display at GP Flair, as well as Shopkins – currently a big seller. Teletubbies (which I once wrote a dissertation on) were making a reappearance at a couple of stands, and Paw Patrol and Angry Birds also had a definite presence. Super Hero Girls looked the business at Mattel.

H Grossman had a range Of Ghostbusters tie ins to come out later in the year, and I had already earmarked Posh Paws Ltd with its range of movie related plush toys. A little different was Stikbot from Brainstorm: fun figures with suction arms and feet who are designed to make simple stop motion animation using a mobile phone app.

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Turtles at GP Flair

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Super Hero Girls at Mattel

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Stikbot is meant to be big. The green screen studio set is forthcoming.

STARWARS

Star Wars plush toys from Posh Paws, shortly to be stocked at Comaco

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The Marvel range from Posh Paws – also in its way into stock

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A Finding Dory toy from Posh Paws; another forthcoming addition to our range.

The following morning I had a number of useful meetings with current suppliers Papo, Schleich, Peterkin, Padgett, Grossman and HTI. All had show deals on that we took full advantage of. In addition new orders were placed with Casdon -with their range of domestic role items, Posh Paws and Character Options.

Character’s new Weebles Peppa Pig range is definitely going to be of interest, but in the meantime we have already received stock of Weebledown Farm, Minecraft and Doctor Who figures. From H Grossman we have a selection of scooters and Minions/ Despicable Me related outdoor items are on their way. Whilst we were particularly excited about some of the new dinosaur figures from Schleich. Check out the Dunkleosteus below!

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Doctor Who Time Squad figures http://www.comacotoys.com/Doctor-Who/

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We got a couple of these displays from Papo. Check out the full range http://www.comacotoys.com/Papo-Dinosaurs/

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The Dunkleosteus from Schleich. Cant wait to get these in!

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Minions Tents. Due in stock shortly.

Ozbozz Cosmic Flasher Scooter – available in blue or pink

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Brookite Skybird kite from Peterkin, new in for the summer http://www.comacotoys.com/Brookite-Skybird-Kite

So a very busy and successful trip – I just hope we can find enough space in the warehouse! After all that a little garden therapy was called for, at Harlow Carr in Harrogate:

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First Post from our New Site!

This is the first blog post from our new website at comacotoys.com which went live on Monday 16th November – looking good!

We look forward to receiving your feedback on the new design and functionality. A few tweaks are still ongoing so bear with us if there is the odd glitch. However if something is not working or really bugging you please do let us know!

This is a very short post to begin with, but to wet your appetite here are a few nice Christmas toys newly in stock:

New Website is ready!

A very short post to tell you all our new website is ready and should be launched on Monday 16th November. We would have hoped for a few weeks earlier but these things happen!

The primary domain will now be comacotoys.com, although old comacodirect links should still redirect you there. Here is the new simplified logo:

Comaco Toys Logo

You will not have failed to notice we are now very close to Christmas and as always we have lots of great toys in stock. Here are some banners that will feature on the new site:

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This will probably be the last post on this site as our new site will feature an internal blog. I look forward to seeing you there!

New Website, New Loch Ness Toys

Loch Ness Toys, the new name for Comaco Toys Direct, Drumnadrochit

Loch Ness Toys Logo

It’s almost crunch time! We are on the verge of ordering up a brand new website with new name and domain to go with it. first though a bit of history about what has brought us to this point. Some time ago we posted about revamping our website at www.comacodirect.com, which is long overdue. We originally setup our own ecommerce site in 2009, 6 long years ago. At the time we were not even 100% commited to selling toys, hence the name Comaco Direct rather than Comaco Toys.

During 2014, I undertook two training courses with John Taylor through Business Gateway on getting results from your website and improving search engine ranking. These were extremely useful, but also somewhat depressing in that highlighted in my mind how much progress needed to be made. Certain deficiencies of the current site immediately came to light with regard to layout, navigation and responsiveness . In addition it was advised that this blog, then newly launched, would need to move “inhouse”. The reasoning being that having so large a number of incoming links from the same external website might actually be looked upon unfavourably by Google – the opposite effect of what was intended!

Later in the year I got in touch with Highlands and Islands Enterprise who eventually signed our business up under their “digital health check” scheme. This involved a brief meeting with an appointed consultant and the subsequent production of a report. The main focus of this was to seek advice about either overhauling of the existing website or setting up a new one with a different provider.

Our consultant, from Alchemy Plus in Inverness, advised us to go one for one of several new ecommerce site providers – Bigcommerce, Volution or Vendio. All of these were large companies offering a range of packages with a choice of off the shelf templates with broadly comparable features. A litttle further research saw us adding one extra name to the list – Shopify – which, although not initially recommended, appeared to be frequently compared  with the others in online guides.

Vendio immediately did not seem a good fit, and Shopify only offered pricing options where it charged a direct comission on sales which did not make it an attractive option. Bigcommerce and Volusion both had plenty of good features with similarly priced packages. Of the two, Volusion  seemed slightly easier to set up and import products, it also seemed to have slightly keener customer service with a UK office. One distict advantage with Bigcommerce though was that they offered completely unlimited bandwidth. We found no way to accurately calculate our current bandwidth use and only the most expensive Volusion option offered a monthly allowance that would definitely have been adequate. Unfortunately therefore Volusion also had to be rejected.

And so it was Bigcommerce then?

The big issue when it came down to it was the DIY nature of all these systems. You choose a basic template and it is then entirely up to you to try configure it with your stuff to get it look like a professional website using the basic set of tools you are given. We found this by no means straightforward, even once we had eventually managed to get all our 500 plus products more or less correctly imported. The Bigcommerce front page for example consisted of a huge splurge of text with our many product categories directly under the page title. There seemed to be no way to move this on the several responsive free templates we tried during the trial, and it did not look good. There were further responsive templates you could pay for, but the there was no way of trying these out in advance of signing up which made us reluctant to risk it.

Before giving up entirely with the off the peg solution we did make one more attempt – with a company called Squarespace – which I had only heard of due to some pretty agressive advertising on a science podcast I listen to occasionally. Again a free trial was available and for once manipulations of one of website templates (for a New York restaurant of all things) started to give some quite pleasing results. Sure, there was a long way to go, but at least it looked like something might be possible here. The next step was try importing products and … oh dear, there was no way to do this, unless you were coming from a couple of specific other providers. I couldn’t quite believe they were offering ecommerce without this facility in place (and I did contact to confirm that). The logistics of manually inputting 500 products was enough to scratch this off the list.

So where next?

As mentioned in a previous post, we had heard that Magento and Juplo were the big solutions in ecommerce. However we have now realised that these are not all in one soloutions but just basic platforms. Unless you are a savvy web developer with time on your hands you still need someone to build the thing for you and host it. The way forward would be to approach another web designer for a new bespoke site. A local company would seem to be preferable, however an ecommerce site, as opposed a more straightforward web presence, would seem to be something to be something that sorts the men from the boys in this regard.

More recently I did try contacting our former adviser from Alchemyplus to see if they would be interested to quote for this, or even to just  help with forwarding our existing site to the new domain, but disappointingly I never even received a reply to my messages. Clearly the work was not of interest to them, although I can recall being told on our meeting that setting up an ecommerce site was hardly any more difficult than a standard one.

One thing our advisor had been definite about was severing ties with the existing provider, Easywebstores, since little attempt had been made by them during the years to help keep our site up to date and modern. Although they cannot be 100% blamed for that, it is true that no one has ever made much effort to look after us particularly. I have however been in contact with them to discuss what options there are for an upgrade and we have been offered the set up of a new template which include most of the new features and functionality we need. This has a huge advantage of over the likes of Bigcommerce in that the setup would be done for us and all the products are already there.

Another factor is that Easywebstores would handle the domain redirection, and since they already host and are the registrants of our original domain this ought to make it a much simpler process. The initial idea was just to move from Comacodirect.com to comacotoys.com. However recently Loch Ness Toys has now suggested itself as a more exciting alternative.

To be Continued…

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Our current Loch Ness Toy – Papo Plesiosaur. This prehistoric creature has sometimes been thought to be the identity of the Loch Ness Monster!

Are “Toys of War” Acceptable?

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AR15 Toy Gun Set. One of a range of toy guns we stock which fire soft suction cup darts

This is a very different post compared to anything previously published on the blog. Like most companies we get a lot of unsolicited emails and letters. Some ask for contributions, some try to sell you their wares and a few just ask you questions. The vast majority can be quickly discarded, but I read one today that actually made me spend a good half an hour or so typing out a response. This was the email:

Dear sir/madam, I am writing to talk about the topic of war toys, we as students of oakgrove school have been taking part in a arts project to do with war. We are currently collecting military toys in Milton Keynes to create a sculpture of a war based toy. I am also writing to talk about why you as one of the main companies think it is acceptable for your children to play with war toys. Children view war as a game, when in reality it is a horrible thing that no child should ever view or experience as a ‘game’.

Although I certainly would not describe us as “one of the main companies” supplying such toys, army toys and toy guns and weapons do certainly form a part of our range. I have very occasionally encountered people who object strongly to this, and whilst I do not agree with them myself, I respect their feelings on the matter.

My attitude on the subject really comes back to my own experiences as a parent and as a child. I was in fact the father of two sons before starting the Comaco Toys business and found that, although both myself and my wife actually encouraged play with “more peaceful” toys, the boys seemed to naturally graduate to want to play with toy guns, action figures and knights etc. At the time I thought this was particularly interesting since I was keen to try not to reinforce traditional boy stereotypes in terms of toy choice. I remember that in particular my eldest son would frequently play “guns”, “swords” or “soldiers” with toys that were not remotely designed for this purpose.

As a boy myself these “violent” kinds of toy were always my favourites as well, but I had assumed that this was at least partly the result of nurture rather than nature, in that they were traditional boy toys that were encouraged by my parents. When our second son came along a few years later we quickly discovered he had similar preferences in his choice of toys. I gradually came to the conclusion that this kind of “violent” play might in fact be a way of successfully channelling aggressive tendencies, rather than a means of fostering them in the real world.

A controversial theory perhaps, and a difficult one to prove. However it is certainly true that neither myself or my sons, who are now into their late and middle teens respectively, have gone on to use real firearms, get into crime, have serious fights or even want to join the armed services. I realise this is a very small sample to make conclusions from, but my gut instinct is that play with these kinds of toys does nothing to directly encourage violence in the real world, or even to trivialise the harsh realities of war.

Later, as a toy buyer, it seemed natural to me that these toys would form part of our range and I must say I have no serious qualms about this. I guess it would be possible to find toys out there that cross a line in terms of good taste, but I am personally quite happy that the majority of mainstream toy guns, soldiers and the like are not a bad thing per se. However, I do concede that in certain contexts the use of such toys might take on a more disturbing aspect, for example in a war torn country like Syria where a child playing with a toy weapon might well be called upon to use the real thing a year or two later. I can also readily see that anyone who has come from a war torn environment is almost certain to have a different attitude to these kinds of toys.

I suppose in essence the argument is similar to the old one of whether the things we see on TV and in film actually encourage or endorse the kind of behaviour they show, or whether they act as a kind of harmless pressure release valve. Given the perennial popularity of action films, crime dramas, murder mysteries and the like it is only to be hoped that most watchers of these are not encouraged to go out and commit violent acts themselves. Similarly one would assume that most viewers of, for example, violent murders on television detective shows, would not then adopt a trivialised attitude to the real thing should they ever be confronted by it. To even argue that this might be the case does to my mind seem rather absurd.

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World Peacekeepers Action Figures – another range we stock which might be regarded as “toys of war”.

Well I’ve had my say. Why not let us know what you think on the subject?

London Toy Fair 2015

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Late January brings the start of the Toy Fair season with in short succession, the London Olympia, the Spielwarenmesse in Germany, and the Spring Fair at the Birmingham NEC. Last week it was the Kensington Olympia Toy Fair and I made a literally flying visit from snowy Inverness down to grey and rainy Gatwick to visit the capital for the day.

It was a great chance to catch up with some of our principal suppliers such as HTI, Papo, Padgett Bros and Peterkin. In addition, I was also of course on the lookout for what’s hot in the toy world in 2015, and for what might fit snugly into our rapidly expanding range of products.

Model designer Schleich was one of my first stops. They have a great range of dinosaur figures that will hopefully complement our lines from Papo. In addition there are also new exciting Justice League figures featuring Batman and Superman.

Movie tie-ins are obviously going to be a major factor in 2015. Minions were everywhere, Frozen was ever present, and there were no shortage of Transformers, Super Heroes and Dinos from the new Jurassic Park. Spongebob is also due to make a reappearance and even a certain franchise set in a galaxy far far away is about to prove it isn’t done yet.

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A good hour was spent having a guided tour round the Hasbro, where Transformers, Marvel Jurassic Park were in clearly in evidence. However of particular interest to me were new Nerf ranges. Below can be seen the Nerf N-Strike Modulus ECS-10 Blaster:

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Sadly, since we are not an existing Lego customer, I couldn’t get in to see their stand, but Playmobil had a great display, as did Bandai with their Power Rangers, and Character Options with Doctor Who, Simpsons and Minecraft Toys amongst others.

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There were many others too numerous to mention, including some lovely toy vehicles from Britains and Bruder, and smart toy versions of household appliances and power tools from Casdon and Klein. Finally, after helping myself to Character’s generous array sandwiches and snacks, it was time  to make my way back to Gatwick for the evening flight. One of my final stops was at HGL’s stand, where Megasaurs look likely to roar their way into stock range very soon!

International Delivery at Comaco Toys

Here’s some good news for our blog readers in the USA, Canada, Australia, Brazil, India and other locations outside Europe. With the busy Christmas season coming up we are very happy to announce that we are reintroducing worldwide shipping from Comaco Toys.

As from 27th October customers throughout the world will be able to order from us again. For buyers in the UK and Europe nothing will change. However, outside Europe we will offer new shipping services which are fully tracked where possible, and which  in every case will require a signature on delivery. Therefore customers will have the reassurance of knowing that their package can be traced, no matter how far it is going.

If delivery before Christmas is required, please make a note of our last recommended shipping dates to various locations around the world. We recommend you place your order with us at least two days before these dates if at all possible to avoid any chance of disappointment.

Wednesday 3 December: Asia, Far East (including Japan), New Zealand
Thursday 4 December: Australia
Friday 5 December: Africa, Caribbean, Central & South America, Middle East
Monday 8 December: Cyprus, Eastern Europe, Greece
Tuesday 9 December: Canada, Poland
Friday 12 December: USA
Saturday 13 December: Western Europe (excluding Greece, Poland)

Christmas is Coming at Comaco!

Ok, I know it’s still only September and, believe me, I am not anxious to see any tinsel going up just yet, but the truth is some people have already started their Christmas shopping. As a toy retailer it will be no surprise to hear that Christmas is by far the busiest time of year for us. October will see a steady ramping up in sales and then in November it will begin to go really mental.

At Comaco Toys we will soon be offering two new categories: Christmas Toys – for larger present ideas – and Stocking Fillers – for the smaller gifts that help make the big day that bit more special. In addition, we already have some Christmas Items in. These are decorations, cards and xmassy themed products just for the festive season.

For those of you who prefer not to think about Christmas until at least the beginning of December, you have my sympathies!

Comaco Toys at Christmas

Comaco Toys at Christmas