In a media landscape where brands such as The Simpsons, Moshi Monsters and Ben 10 compete for a place on children’s Christmas lists, it appears that the Blue Peter annual – a hardback with a history dating back to 1965 – no longer makes the grade.
This year, plans to release a 2012 volume have been scrapped after shops failed to show enough interest, RadioTimes.com can exclusively reveal.
Since 2004, publishers Pedigree have been responsible for the book and Matthew Reynolds, sales and licensing manager at the company, explained why the title has not gone into production: “We produced the front cover this year, presented it to the trade, but Blue Peter is fighting against up to 200 other brands that retailers select from and it wasn’t seen as being strong enough to be in the top 25 per cent that gets the mass distribution. The fact is that it was starting to struggle last year, which probably influenced their decision to back away.”
Figures supplied by Nielsen BookScan UK reveal that sales of the Blue Peter annual have declined from 59,941 in 2007 to just 13,140 in 2011.
The biggest-selling annual of 2010 was the Beano with 201,277 copies – followed by Doctor Who (140,044) and Peppa Pig (133,651). Data from 2010 reveals that the children's annuals market is worth £15m a year made from the sale of more than four million units, but it seems there's no space on the shelves for Blue Peter.
Although there have been previous gaps in the publication of the title (between 1986 and 1990, followed by a further hiatus taking in the years 1992 to 1997), it’s difficult to see how, based on current statistics in an already overcrowded marketplace, it can recover from this break in continuity.
Former Blue Peter editor Richard Marson, who worked on the show from 1998 to 2007, said of today's news, "These days, if you're going to do an annual, it has to be a really high-quality product, but the last couple could have been read in two minutes. They don't seem to be as thought through or as lovingly put together. The binding thread used to be that it was a compendium of the past 12 months with a lot of pictures but also a lot of text. In the last few years, the content has been quite thin.
"It is a very specific piece of merchandise and if you don't do it with the same care and attention as you do a TV show then the audience won't buy it. The direction it's gone in, which has seen it aimed squarely at young children, has also excluded those who used to collect it as part of a nostalgia kick."
Blue Peter’s production office has assured us that they will be seeking ways to get their product back into bookshops next year, but viewers and nostalgists alike may have to face up to the fact that this one-time staple of stockings across the country has disappeared for good.
The new series of Blue Peter begins on Monday 26 September at 4:30pm on BBC1