Philip Bloom - The Man in the Iconic Sweater Reveals Almost All
What exactly do you do in the industry?
After many years as a retailer (Bargain City, Yankee Dep. Stores, Circus World Toy Stores, Toys R Us), for the past 22 years, provided the Toy Industry with all our industry news and information via “the Bloom Report”, a website that has over 8,000 subscribers in 29 countries.
What is your claim to fame in the industry?
Fame? No fame! Just a desire to be a part of a great industry and provide a meaningful service.
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
I was a starving college student in the 1950’s working my way through the University of Toledo (Ohio). Got a part-time job with an early version of a discount store, and they said “you’re our toy department manager” (could have been worse, they could have put me in the hardware department, where I would have languished as I still only own a hammer and one screw driver). After College, I became their toy buyer, and worked my way up.
What are you working on now?
Retirement! I have been working since 1955. It’s time...and I’m ready.
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
I am extremely concerned as to how our industry will change and what the new normal will look like to manufacturers, importers, and retailers. I’m not smart enough to know what will happen, but I do know that “the change” will be an upheaval and that things will never be the same. But our industry, in some form will survive and flourish as it finds a way to provide play and education for the worlds children.
What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?
Plastics! No, no no-what am I saying! That line from the classic move “The Graduate” is certainly not the buzzword of the 2020’s. Being young, you already have much of the technical prowess you will need to succeed. Being educated with a diverse knowledge base is also a must. Your world will not be an isolated vacuum. It will be one where you must interact with it. One where you are a part of the “whole”. But just as important, have a passion for what you will spend the rest of your life doing.
Do you have a typical work day and how does it play out for you? – Typical? The word doesn’t exist in our industry (especially recently). But that’s the beauty of it all. Every day is new. New ideas...new challenges. But yes, I do have a structure that I follow (until it gets interrupted by the crisis of the hour). My day starts early, and I try to end it before dark. After all, enough is enough!
What’s your workspace setup like?
Since my first retirement (from Toys R Us in 1998), and since beginning “the Bloom Report”, I have worked from a home-office. My home-office is equipped with all the necessary stuff to create and publish tBR, even though some the hardware I use requires me to get some help from a local middle-school student. James is a great intern...sometimes I think he is more my peer.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Without question, it’s the satisfaction each day of providing something that our industry finds interesting, useful, and sometimes actionable.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?
One of my early retail jobs required that I unload trucks. Hated that. The boxes were heavy (I weighed 120 pounds at the time). Also found out that stuff inside the breaks when you drop the boxes. My college education was already paying off...
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
How to grow older and wiser. Doing OK with the wiser....the older, not so good.
What and/or who inspires you?
What-new things. Who-Ethel, my wonderful wife and best friend.
What excites you?
A great dinner at a great restaurant, and great fast food hamburgers & fries from Shake Shack. The rest is personal.
How do you define creativity?
The ability to take something (anything) and make it better, or different, or to see it differently from everyone else.
How do you recharge or take a break?
My wife and I love to cruise (well...we did) in order to visit new places and people. And I hate to admit it, but I’m a TV junkie (lately it’s the news), but I really enjoy great movies, cop shows, dramas, and interesting documentaries.
What words describe how you think or how your brain works?
Erratic, fast, slow, creatively, and sometime just plain dumb.
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
Without question, Monopoly! And not some wimpy version or short form that’s around today. The official version from the 1950’s. The long playing version (hours to play). I loved to crush my fellow players. It got so bad that my wife refused to play. And cap pistols. No apologies.
Where were you born?
Columbus, Ohio. Even though I’ve been in the East for over 30 years, I still consider myself to be a “midwesterner”.
What was your life like growing up?
Both good and bad. Coming from a broken home, I was spoiled with lots of toys. That’s the good. The bad is the broken home part.
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
Toledo, Ohio. Grew up there, had friends there, went to University there. Started work career there. So I guess all that must have influenced who I am.
What do you read every day, and why?
I used to read two newspapers cover to cover (except the classifieds and obits). Hard to do today, so I read news online from several sites and watch CNN (and occasionally watch the enemy FOX).
Who might be role models for the work you do?
The founder of Toys R Us Charles Lazarus. He was a mentor to me and a visionary.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
Email, web browser. They both make my life more productive and both are revolutionary.
How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?
While I won’t readily admit to being stalled, a big dish of Sea-Salt Carmel ice cream usually does the trick.
What is the last time you did something for the first time?
Right now - staying in quarantine for the past 2 1/2 months. AAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!
What are your favorite childhood memories?
Going to the roller rink to roller skate. Had my own skates. Never was better at it than fair. My Uncle managed a local movie theatre that showed just western movies. Went there every week for free. Hopalong Cassidy was my favorite (indecently, years later I discovered he was one of first, if not the first, to be involved with licensing!).
Do you have any kiddos?
My daughter Debbie and son Jeremy.
Do you have any pets?
Not presently, but always had multiple cats while my children were growing up. Love the cats...hate the cat-box smell.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Of course, but I’ll never tell.
Do you play any musical instruments? If so, which one(s)?
In grade school, was an accomplished violinist (except when our school orchestra performed, my music teacher forbid me to let my bow touch the strings. I believe her exact word were “Bloom, if that bow you are holding ever touches the strings of your violin during this performance, you will be my first dead violinist”. I of course, complied, as I had much to do before dying. I think it was kind of an early version of lip-sync. Last year, started taking Ukulele lessons. That worked out a little better...but not much.
Who are your favorite musicians, singers or musical groups?
Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Mel Torme, Frank Sinatra, Buddy Holly.
What’s your favorite cereal?
Another embarrassing question? Fibre-One.
What are your favorite books?
Historical biographies of famous Americans.
What are your favorite websites?
Google, CNN, Facebook.
Do you prefer scary movies or happy endings?
I hate scary movies. But in addition to happy endings, I like unusual or unexpected endings.
What’s your favorite TV show?
Law and Order (all the iterations).
What are your favorite sports and sports teams?
Baseball (grew up in Toledo, home the Toledo Mud Hens-many greats played with them before moving to majors). Football. Philadelphia Eagles.
Who are your favorite athletes?
Love the sports they play, but won’t name any favorites as they are all way, way overpayed. Who do you think causes the ridiculous ticket prices?
What is your favorite night out?
Dinner and a Broadway show.
Favorite movie of all time?
Patton. George C. Scott was terrific.
What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
Australia. The year Toys R Us opened in Australia, went there 13 times. Felt like I was commuting. Loved the country and the people.
Do you have any special talents?
No, unless you count falling asleep while watching TV.
What’s your beverage of choice?
Since all the stupid meds I take prohibit alcohol, Arnold Palmer Ice Tea does it for me. I guess I am a simple person afterall.
Summer of Winter?
Summer, Summer, Summer, Summer. And did I say Summer. I hate being cold.
Everything would have been different if…
I had pursued a career as a Pawnbroker. My Grandfather raised me, and I worked in his Pawnshop. Not the Pawnshops of today, but the real ones of the 1950’s. I had some of the greatest experiences of my life working with him there. From being held-up regularly, to meeting some of the Damon Runyon characters who frequented his shop. Wow, what experiences. I always thought if I’d have pursued his vocation, I would have adapted it to the upcoming times and been the money king of financial lending. Next life maybe.
The toy and game industry clearly has….
Major challenges in all facets of businesses. It will take all of creativity the industry can muster to meet these challenges, many of which we can’t even recognize yet. But the people in our industry have always met the challenges before them. This time also.
I’m lucky that….
I had a chance to experience our industry from the 1950’s until now. It seems that each decade was different in our industry’s growth...and I got to see it all.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
A philosopher. So that the great leaders of our industry will come to me for advise and guidance. And I will give it out without reservation. Both the good and the bad. Hey guys and gals, don’t look at me, you’re on your own.
A life of enjoying family and friends. Travel. And oh yes, doctor appointments...
Note from editor..
After 22 years, the Bloom Report has a new look and steward. If you would like to reach Phil, this is his new email. It was our privilege to share with you the personal side of Phil in the funny, warm, revealing interview with him.
It is with great honor that we assume publication of such an esteemed toy industry news source. Phil is the opposite of the curmudgeon he self-proclaimed to be. He is loved and respected by many many thousands of people in the industry. I've heard from those that started new businesses or pivoted their business based on what they read each Friday. We endeavor to fill the enormous role Phil carved out in the industry knowing there will only ever be one Phillip Bloom.
Many others agree, here are a few comments from colleagues:
"Phil Bloom has been one of the great unifiers in our industry.For years his ferreting out all stories that have effected our industry has been invaluable to all of us.Thank you Phil for your indefatigable love of our industry." -Alan Hassenfeld
"Phil is the epitome of a kind, wise soul. He has always been so sweet and supportive of me and my business and you can tell her really cares of people in the toy industry, as well as the industry itself. We will miss him so much!" - Lisa Orman, KidStuff PR
"Phil Bloom, while he was at Yankee Distributors in Detroit before his TRU role, was the first customer I called on for my first road trip as a salesman for Louis Marx and Company. Phil was a class act then and treated me with kindness and respect and has conducted himself and represented our industry with class and dignity throughout his career." - Jerry Cleary
"The Bloom Report ad its namesake are an institution in our industry and I am very grateful it will live on." - Michael Kohner
"Philip was a trail-blazer, recognising the opportunities offered by digital communication long before many of his peers. Online newsletters are now an established part of the media landscape, but the Bloom Report was very much the forerunner of this approach within the toy community." - John Baulch, Managing Editor and Publisher of toyworld UK.