Dennis Blackmore, managing director at Learning Resources, reveals his industry origins, favourite launch and the main differences between the toy industry of today and the industry he began his career in.
Length of time in the toy business?
I guess I have worked in the toy business since about 1980 when our educational publishing company LDA launched an educational toy brand called Living & Learning.
We were ahead of our time in creating overtly educational products for the retail market based on our best-sellers to schools. Of course we knew nothing about retail marketing & selling, but still had some success; a sound effects listening game that we created called Soundtracks still features in the Galt range.
I must have attended my first Nuremberg Toy Fair in the early eighties...
What was your first role and what were your responsibilities?
I started out in product development at the company LDA. At the time we only sold into the education market.
I spent a lot of time in the company’s Cortina Estate (our only company car) visiting schools and teachers’ centres gathering and testing new product ideas. This taught me that you should only ever be one step away from your customers; listen to them and eventually they’ll give you your next best-seller.
I also learnt how to read an A-Z while driving; a more or less redundant skill nowadays.
What are you most proud of having achieved in your toy industry career?
Over twenty plus years I have seen our brand grow in relevance and importance and seen the amazing development and growth of the people I work with.
Learning Resources has been instrumental in raising the profile of educational toys and games; adapting best practice in schools and making it available to the home.
Anyone who works at Learning Resources will tell you that making a difference to a child’s life is what we are most proud of.
Favourite launch you've been involved with?
I read this question as ‘favourite lunch’ first time around...
When I worked at LDA we launched the Sex Education Dictionary; a controversial publication that attracted a great deal of ‘interest’ from the red-tops.
What is the main difference between the toy industry of today and the toy industry you began your career in?
Less passive smoking.
What would be your ideal job if you were not working in the toy industry?
The most coveted job when I was at school was Deck Chair Attendant on Southend seafront; this position still has much to recommend it.
Best piece of advice you've ever been given?
And what advice would you pass on to those just starting their toy industry career?
Don’t listen to advice, make your own.
The next one
Complete this sentence – I love working in the toy business because…
The alternative would be to find a real job.