Dominic Sacco

By Dominic Sacco

June 26th 2012 at 5:12PM

Smiffy?s has recently branched out of its dress-up comfort zone, into the toy sector with the Time 4 Fun range. Katie Roberts visited the Gainsborough head office to find out more?

Probably the most surprising thing when you visit Smiffy’s for the first time is the sheer size of the operation. 

The head office is spread across two huge buildings and already the team is talking about needing more room to expand its showroom.

Established as a wig maker over 115 years ago, Smiffy’s then moved into fancy dress and carries both licensed and non-licensed lines across a number of brands.

As well as the sales and marketing team and the showroom, the massive premises also boasts an in-house graphic design and printing studio, which allows Smiffy’s to offer bespoke signage and POS for its retailers. 

Further offices in Leeds are the home of an in-house product design team, meaning the firm can react quickly to demand and market changes and retain a tight control over product offerings.

With all of this in place, the team, led by Louise Bielby, which is launching the Time 4 Fun toy range, is well-equipped to hit the ground running with its large initial offering.

Bielby joined to offer toy expertise for the launch of the range and brings with her a wealth of experience following roles at Re:creation and Lego.

Time 4 Fun was born prior to her joining the firm out of an increasing demand in the leisure industry for toy and novelty products and has been launched to fill this gap in the market.

Richard Pickworth, who came up with the idea, explains: “Time 4 Fun is in no way replacing the dress-up range, but is totally complementary to our current offering.”

In 2012, the portfolio will see a ‘low-key launch’ to Smiffy’s existing leisure customers, as well as indie toy retailers. The firm has exhibited at both the AIS Play-Room at the Park show, for which it is a new supplier, and the Toymaster May show.

Pickworth continues: “Many of our existing customers are Toymaster members, who may be interested in stocking the Time 4 Fun line alongside the dress-up, but we are hoping to get some new retailers on board, too.”

Louise Bielby, toy channel manager, adds: “The nice thing is that the line complements the dress-up collections, but can equally be stocked on its own. In time, hopefully some of the new retailers on board for Time 4 Fun may also take on some dress-up lines.”

The first year is all about getting the range one hundred per cent right for the retailers before a full launch “with a bit of a bang” in 2013.

Bielby says: “In 2012 we want to get as much feedback as possible from retailers on how the line works for them so that we can change and tweak things accordingly. It seems an obvious thing to do, but I don’t think it’s always done.” 

A strong branding and identity is already in place for the collection, so any new products and ranges will all fit under the recognisable Time 4 Fun umbrella. Colour coding identifies different categories, including orange for playtime toys and novelties, pink for girls’ toys, green for boys’ toys, camouflage for peace keepers and blue for outdoor.

As Pickworth explains: “If you get the whole range looking right, you can then tweak products and, hopefully, have a winning offering.”

It seems as though retailers think the same. Bielby concludes: “The reaction has been very positive, especially when they see the support we can offer. We have a full team to support retailers, so we never just sell them the products and leave them to it.”

With over 200 new lines planned for 2012 bringing the total offering up to more than 400, it’s worth finding out more about Time 4 Fun.