The growing trend | Little Tikes’ expectations of a sell-out season for its Outdoor offering, Growing Garden

Little Tikes is eyeing a sell-out season for its latest launch in the outdoor play sector, its collection of grow-you-own inspired products that tap directly into the current surge in consumer interest in exploring their own back gardens and digging into the ‘grow your own’ sector.

The pre-school specialist’s new Growing Garden was unveiled only last week, launched to coincide with the on-set of spring and the likelihood that this summer will be recognised as another summer of the Great British staycation, as the country continues to ease out of the pandemic restrictions.

The new launch compounds what Michelle Lilley, head of marketing UK at Little Tikes has billed as a ‘strong year for the brand’s outdoor offering’ and will now tap into the expected spike in demand for outdoor toys and play that will echo the demand seen through 2020.

“We believe this year will be similar, with more families making the most of their homes and gardens while foreign and local holidays aren’t as accessible for everyone they will invest further in making their gardens havens to enjoy,” Lilley told ToyNews.

“We’ve already seen significant above season demand for our core classic outdoor lines this year, so we’re hopeful it will be a sell out launch season for Growing Garden too.

“We’re also expecting our other staple outdoor items, such as slides, playhouses and sandpits, to grow further in 2021 and have underpinned with increased marketing activity.”

Here, ToyNews catches up with Little Tikes’ Lilley to talk about the increase in demand for the grow-your-own market, the sustainability messaging behind the Growing Garden range, and how innovation and inspiring wellness in children is at the heart of the Little Tikes mission statement.

Hello Michelle, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Last week Little Tikes unveiled its own move on the surging ‘grow-your-own’ space. What inspired that move into this sector of outdoor play?

At Little Tikes we’re constantly innovating and looking for new categories to inspire through play, and knowing how much kids enjoy the garden and with increased time at home, we felt this launch was a natural step for us. Growing Garden will let little ones feel part of the gardening fun and help to teach about sustainability and the environment as well as keeping them entertained.

The range is all about family play and giving little ones the tools to do this themselves felt like a great move for the brand. It’s perfect for enjoying with grandparents and parents alike, and the versatility of the range lends itself well to gift givers too.

Why was it important for Little Tikes to tap the trend and join the growth of the ‘grow your own’ market?

Sustainability is an important message that we want to convey in our toy range. Families are spending more time in their gardens so why not get hands on with your little ones, and show them how it can be implemented first hand?

We’re really looking forward to seeing what kids (big and small) create with our dual use product box – it makes the perfect base for creating your own planter.

What are your expectations for the range this year? 

We are really excited to launch this range, and with summer on the horizon and the UK most likely spending more time in their gardens, we feel it’s the perfect opportunity to get hands on, grow your own fruit and vegetables or plant some flowers.

Last year’s lockdown, although not ideal, did create a spike in the Outdoor category and Little Tikes retained its number one position as the UK leading outdoor and Sports brand.

We believe this year will be similar, with more families making the most of their homes and gardens while foreign and local holidays aren’t as accessible for everyone they will invest further in making their gardens havens to enjoy.

We’ve already seen significant above season demand for our core classic outdoor lines this year, so we’re hopeful it will be a sell out launch season for Growing Garden too.

How important to the Little Tikes outdoor offering will Garden Growing become? Do you foresee this being a staple category?

We hope to see this become a strong range in our outdoor line, adding something different into the mix of our current outdoor offering and also expanding our seasonal retail offering. We know how much kids love getting mucky in the garden and Growing Garden will let little ones feel part of the gardening fun – all while encouraging the whole family to play.

Can we talk about the strength of the Little Tikes outdoor toys and play business? What has the strength of the business been like over the past 12 months? 

We have had a great year and have secured number one category positions across our core outdoor segments. Innovation and supporting our core line are as equally important to MGA and 2021 will see us continue to innovate.

2020 saw us go into brand new categories, with lines such as First Appliances and Tobi Robot Smartwatch – which is really exciting. We’re expecting our other staple outdoor items, such as slides, playhouses and sandpits, to grow further in 2021 and have underpinned with increased marketing activity too.

Meanwhile, wellness and active play is an overarching theme for the Little Tikes portfolio, from your tech toy portfolio to the new Garden range. Is it a conscious move to tap into the wellness trend and why is that becoming an important one today?

At the heart of Little Tikes is a drive to create products that encourage active and imaginative play and ultimately we feel new launches like Growing Garden bring another way to champion children learning and being free to play their way.

We have always created toys that encourage playing together and getting outdoors – creating a positive impact on children from a young age is something we’re so proud of and something we want to shout about.

What plans have you guys got to continue to build on the Growing Garden range?

Innovation is a huge part of our DNA and we’re always looking for ways to extend our lines. The current range covers garden tool essentials, however we are keen to expand the range in the future. Customer feedback is so important to us and something we always keep in mind when developing our ranges.

What’s the next step for Little Tikes in the Outdoor sector?

We’re in a strong position as we continue to expand our portfolio and sub-brand offering, launching new products and categories. We’re hopeful the new on trend T-Rex Truck and water lines appearing later in the season will help us continue to drive innovation alongside our core outdoor line up.

We’re also increasing our marketing investment this year, the biggest investment seen in the past seven years – and we’ll be directing a large proportion of this to our core outdoor and ride-on categories through spring and keep an eye out for a lot of TV and digital campaigns going live very soon.

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of Licensing.biz and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both ToyNews and Licensing.biz, 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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