Frances Cain details her own journey through the industry with her A Girl for All Time brand.

With a little luck…

With a Little Luck is playing on the radio as I write. It might be the heady effects of some watery sunshine finally peeping through the clouds, but I am inspired by the lyrics. I do think Sir Paul has something there. With a little luck – and a lot of perseverance – things can work out.

Two and a half years ago when we launched our brand, the toy industry was treading water, waiting to see how the economy would fare after its sudden downturn just a couple of years earlier. Sales in the industry had been resilient, but few retailers were enjoying the same level of bumper sales as in years gone by.

Launching a new brand at that time – and one with a high price point – probably might have seemed to some like bad timing at best and sheer madness at worst. But we had a product we were passionate about, and launching a range with traditional play values in an economic downturn actually made sense.

People were thinking about their purchases more carefully and were looking for items that would hold their child’s interest for a long time and had strong play value. Customers were purchasing fewer items, but of a higher price point.

But as a manufacturer, you can only get so far without a partner in crime: retailers willing to stock your products.
We knew that the best place to access these key buyers would be at London Toy Fair, where they are all actively seeking out new trends and ranges.

So we invested in a presence at Toy Fair 2012, ensuring we showcased our product in the best way possible, keen on offering retailers the opportunity to talk with us in an open, transparent and flexible way without pressuring them.

We were fortunate enough to be spotted by some of the best retailers in the industry: Harrods, Benjamin Pollocks and doll specialist Petalina.

While that very first show did not yield hundreds of orders, in fact I don’t think we wrote a single one, it was a great vehicle for opening the conversation with future stockists and to meet the retailers who could spot the range’s potential and who wanted to work with us to actively promote it.

Two years on, we have over 20 UK stockists and more signing up each week.

Continental European distribution is in place and our presence in FAO Schwartz in New York continues. Our strategy of having open, transparent and flexible conversation with our retailers seems to be working.

For any new manufacturer looking to get into retailers, I would tell them to keep trying, be reasonable, keep the conversation going and don’t expect things to happen overnight.

And with a little luck…

Frances Cain is managing director of A Girl For All Time and the chairperson of the Women in Toys UK chapter.

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