Interview: Vivid’s Emma Weber – ‘Our responsibility is to represent the world our consumers live in’

With the launch of the Headstart range of Love Diana Fashion Dolls and Far Out Toys Collectables, met with the ongoing success of this year’s launch range of Vet Squad animal dolls and play-sets, Vivid is readying itself for a bumper year in the dolls and play-sets sector in 2021.

Add into the mix the matter that signs now point that this year’s increased interest and demand in the traditional toys space is expected to continue well into the midst of 2021, the UK-based toy firm couldn’t have timed its launches better.

ToyNews catches up with Emma Weber, Vivid’s marketing and licensing director, to talk about the company’s plans for the dolls space come 2021, the staying power of traditional doll play through the year of the coronavirus, and the importance of bringing diversity and accessibility into the sector through mainstream launches.

Hello Emma, thanks for chatting with us. Can you talk us through the strength of the Vivid dolls range and product portfolio for 2021? What innovation are you guys bringing to the doll sector in the coming year?

We’re delighted to be bringing excitement and innovation to the doll shelves launching the Headstart range of Love Diana Fashion Dolls and Far Out Toys Collectables to her growing Youtube fan base in the UK

The Collectables span across a range of articulated mini figures of Diana, her brother Roma and the myriad other characters from her channel along with a selection of play-sets that deliver entry and mid-level price points. The dolls are sure to be a big hit with various scales, including classic play patterns, swappable fashion outfits, hair play, accessories and play-sets.

With Love Diana’s popularity continuing to grow, AW21 will see the Diana fashion dolls given a refresh; the range will include all-new outfits and accessories across both 6-inch and 13-inch scales allowing for more mash-up fun and imaginative play. New lines introduced will expand into 2-in-1 fashion accessory play-sets where an accessory can be opened to unveil additional play environments for double the fun.

The range will also introduce two larger scale surprise-filled playsets centred around a royal theme with princesses, knights and castles to discover. 

This will all land on shelves from January and have been modelled on content created on Diana’s Youtube Channel proving that you really can ‘Play it, Be it”!

What are the key launches and key trends that you’re tapping into for the coming year?  To what extent do you think the trends of 2021 will be dictated by the events of the past year?

Vivid is also building on the strong A/W ’20 launch for Vet Squad. Based on the enduring play pattern of rescuing poorly or injured pets and restoring them back to full health, we’ve seen a huge spike in demand for this sort of role play as our audience collect across the pets, vets and vehicles whilst creating their own mini vet adventures with the Vet Squad Surgery Play-set.  

The pandemic has certainly brought classic brands and traditional play back to the forefront of parents and children’s minds and this can only be a good thing to build on as we move into ’21.  

How has business been for Vivid and the doll sector in particular over the course of 2020? Have you guys seen consumer mindsets shift, and what impact has this had on the dolls’ market?

Through the launch of Vet Squad, we could quickly see consumer demand for the type of nurturing play and despite the challenging retailer environment with lockdowns, parental approval for the brand and play pattern has driven strong sales.  

We have seen a shift in parents purchasing as every penny counts so their toy decisions are more involved as they seek products with long lasting play appeal. The doll sector offers this in spades as role play with dolls offers endless play scenarios using the toys as props to tell a multitude of stories. 

As a toy developer, we can only ever start the play adventure through our packaging and marketing, once the toy is in a child’s hand, they become the master storytellers.  

Doll play has for a long time been championed for its child developmental benefits. How important do you think the sector has become over the course of 2020 and the imposed social distancing and home learning?

You only need to see how sales have increased for brands such as Barbie to prove that this point to be accurate. I’m sure there is some excellent research out there to show children role played being ‘teachers’ with their dolls during the home schooling weeks. I’d say that there were also other categories that helped benefit child development during such a protracted few months at home including the creativity that construction toys offer to also ‘build’ stories and adventures for children.  

The dolls market is also the focus of major advancements in the topic of empowerment, representation and inclusivity. To what extent is Vivid across this area and what are you guys doing in this field to fuel conversation and change?

We’ve seen lots of feedback through our social media about parents loving the classic play patterns enjoyed with Vet Squad. In hindsight, this was a great range to launch this year as consumers searched for wholesome brands that could be played with over and over and represented great value for money. 

Inclusivity is key when developing a doll range and we ensured that our vets represented a diverse ethnic mix that children could identify with. Through popular demand via our social media channels, we have also addressed the demand to include a boy vet into the range which helps to complete the storytelling and allows boys and girls to role play being vets. 

Our brand ambassador, TV star James the Vet also felt it was important to include boys in the play, after all, playing with pets is universally loved by all children.    

How important is it that children are exposed to these conversations through play and in particular through doll play?

It is hugely important to ensure all children feel fully inclusive and represented in their doll play. Consumers have such a great choice of brands to buy into and imaginative themes to immerse themselves in, it is our responsibility as toy manufacturers to ensure it is representative of the world we live in. After all, play at this young age is universally popular and our product is always tailored to a global audience.  

What are the the next big steps for Vivid and the dolls’ market?

We are hugely excited about our growth in the doll aisles in ’21. Vet Squad development has been tailored to meet demand of higher priced vehicle and play-set play, more to be revealed through our current ‘virtual’ previews.  

We’re starting to see great early sales reads for the Love Diana doll range that launched late A/W ’20 across the pond showing that girls are loving her YouTube content and want to re-enact being Diana off screen through the doll play. As her channel stats continue to climb, we’re looking forward to launching a comprehensive doll range, on shelf January, to meet all price points and play patterns.  

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of ToyNews and its sister title, Licensing.biz. He has worked his way from Staff Writer to Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@biz-media.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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