We talk 2014 so far, the unexpected success of Frozen, the beauty of One Direction and the toy industry's changing view on licensing.

THE BIG INTERVIEW: Nikki Samuels, MD, Sambro

How has 2014 been for Sambro so far?

Sambro had a brilliant 2013 and that momentum has continued into 2014. The first half of this year has been really positive and we have built upon last year with new licences, new products and lots of forward orders.
Last year we launched our first trade event at our Bury HQ and wanted to make these a regular event in our selling calendar. We ran our second trade event in May which was a great success and will run another pre-Christmas.
We are also in the process of launching our brand new B2B website which will make ordering and delivery of products even more efficient and simple.

Which brands have performed best for the company this year?

We have some brilliant licences in the company’s portfolio and all continue to exceed expectations. Our One Direction range has been phenomenal. To date, way over eight million of our 1D bags have sold in the UK, EU & Australia. In fact, the whole range which includes stationery as well as bags just flies out. Long live One Direction.
We have lots of Disney licences which encompass bags, stationery, arts and crafts and puzzles. This year we have also added Frozen which has, of course, been the icing on the cake.
The success of this Disney franchise has meant demand for innovative products has been high and the new arts and crafts products featuring the main characters are set to have a fantastic fourth quarter.

What brands have surprised you this year?

When Frozen was released last year I don’t think anyone envisioned the unparalleled popularity of the film.
By everyone, I mean not just manufacturers and retailers but parents too. As soon as products hit the shelves, they fly out and retailers have to keep up with demand from under-pressure parents.
Up until now, dolls and dress up have been supremely popular so we hope that during the run up to Christmas, shoppers will look to extend their purchases to include everything Frozen.

Which brands do you expect to do well for Sambro for the rest of 2014?

We are about to launch a great new licensed range which is quite different from Sambro’s usual licences in that we are appealing to an older demographic.
Our new MLB New York Yankees collection will include items that not only appeal to collectors of NY Yankees products, but the on-trend designs will be perfect for teens and students.
There is a new SpongeBob SquarePants movie due out next year and our products appeal to all ages as well as to both boys and girls.
We have also extended our growing wooden puzzle collection to include the Fisher-Price licence – the chunky, quality puzzle pieces are perfect for little hands to hold and we hope they will be a great pre-school line.
We continue our great relationship with Hasbro and will grow our Play-Doh collection.

How do you choose which brands to work with?

We are always open to discuss new licensing and distribution opportunities with potential partners.
We attend all the key trade events throughout the year meeting existing partners and, of course, sourcing new ideas and forging new relationships.
Having worked within the toy industry for many years now, we have honed our senses to know which products sell well and enjoy creating bespoke licensed alongside our partners.
We have signed some great distribution deals this year and some of these lines will be TV advertised during the latter half of the year.
Zed the Zombie is a brilliant game and we have also received a fantastic reaction to The Enchanted Mirror. In the interests of diversifying our product offering, we have also launched the BBC Earth Science range.

How has Sambro’s attitude to licensing evolved since the birth of the company?

The company has certainly evolved since we launched back in 1996. Since moving to our new HQ, we now have a dedicated design team of brilliant creatives who constantly come up with unique new takes on our licences. We have also invested heavily in tooling which allows us to replicate successful products across all of our licences. We always look to create a comprehensive range of licensed products in that we include products with various price points. This enables retailers to cherry pick key products to offer complete ranges to the customer. We are also able to offer great distribution and ongoing sales support for all our customers.

How has the toy industry’s attitude to licensing changed in this time?

The toy industry is now far more susceptible to peripheral licensed products. As well as key licensed items such as dolls and dress-up, retailers understand the need to offer a wide range of licensed lines to drive additional sales. This attitude to licensed products has contributed to our evolution as a company as we have now become a one-stop shop for licensed ranges enabling retailers to stock quality, reasonably priced ranges across arts and crafts, stationery, bags, games, toys, wheeled goods, pocket money lines and much more.

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