Arts, Crafts, and YouTube Stars | Canal Toys on a record last year and why it’s expanding beyond the booming arts & crafts market

The explosion of the arts & crafts sector over the course of the UK’s lockdown periods this past year has helped the internationally-reaching toy maker, Canal Toys achieve not only significant growth, but a record year of sales for the business.

Fuelled by consumer demand for products to keep children and families entertained during the government’s social restriction and school closures, it has been key products within the Canal Toys’ portfolio, as well as the introduction of its newest brands So Sand DIY and its Studio Creator that have enabled the company to a vastly successful past 12 months.

In fact, so successful has the company’s latest launches been, that Canal Toys has now earmarked 2021 as the year that this one time staple of the arts and crafts sector begins to develop the brand beyond the core market, and enter other, equally profitable areas of the industry.

Here, ToyNews catches up with the Canal Toys team to talk about the firm’s successes throughout the pandemic, products that will be leading the charge for the company this year, and why growth for the firm now lies outside of the booming arts and crafts sector.

To kick us off, how has business been over the past 12 months for Canal Toys? What has been the key to success this past year?

After seeing the demand for Arts and Crafts toys explode during the initial lockdown, we took the strategic decision to always be in stock of our key products and significantly increased our marketing spend to support the sales through the till.

The introduction of the So Sand DIY brand and also our Studio Creator set as a late launch also contributed to a very significant growth and a record year for the business.

How have you guys adapted to the pandemic and the new demands from retailers and consumers that it has brought with it?

We invested in our team, taking onboard a Marketing Executive whose main focus was to develop our digital tools to support our retail partners.

Setting up a virtual showroom enabled us to have the continued interaction with our customers, keeping them updated on the new products we introduce throughout the year.

Can we talk about Canal Toys’ heritage in the arts and crafts sector? How have you guys managed to evolve and contemporise the scene over that time? 

Canal Toys has over 25 years’ heritage in the Arts and Craft sector and a clear understanding of the play patterns that this sector needs and requires. This enables us to keep our range innovative, fresh and on trend whilst ensuing that we offer value for money to the consumer.

Although all products are developed by our corporate team in France we also have considerable input from our offices in the US where most trends usually originates from.

Our So Bomb, So Slime and So Sand ranges are classic play patterns that have stood the test of time but updated to deliver a great experience to the consumer. So Sand for example has the enhancement of actually making your own sand as well as delivering a great, on trend, ASMR experience.

Having established our So DIY brands we support these throughout the year with a strong marketing campaign ensuring that there is always something new for the consumer to discover.

Can you talk us through the Studio Creator range? What does it bring to the toy space? How does it set you guys apart?

Canal Toys presented the Studio Creator for the first time at the 2020 New York Toy Fair and we knew immediately that we had something potentially huge if packaged and priced competitively. The no hassle, all you need is in one box approach, gives the ability for children (and adults) to create professional looking videos and pictures instantly. All that’s needed is a mobile phone and an app.

Our target market spends more and more time on their phones for social interaction so in delivering a creativity product that enables a more professional online presence was always a win-win. Crucially we are also now visible in the fast growing kidult market.

Since we launched our initial product in August last year the sales have been phenomenal and continue to be so.

Sounds great. Can you tell us about some of your other hero lines for this year?

We are really excited about our new Airbrush Plush Unicorn The set comes with a cute 25cm white Unicorn that the child can decorate and personalise using a cool airbrush gun, washable markers and stencils over and over again.

We are also introducing Doctor Slime, a collectable range of characters utilising our unique and patented Anti-bacterial slime. There are also great additions to our So DIY ranges and our Style 4 Ever brand.

We are just launching Craze Sensations and Anti-bacterial slime into the market. All in all 2021 is looking to be another strong year for the business.

What can we expect from Canal Toys for 2021 and beyond? What message will you be presenting and what growth plans have you got for the business?

We understand more than ever that we need to keep investing heavily in our core brands both in terms of product development and marketing in order to ensure that the sales are achieved at till point. Stock availability will also be critical.

The success we have had with Studio Creator demonstrates that if you have great product, react quickly to market demands and also deliver profit to retailers, we are no longer restricted to just the Arts and Crafts category.

For enquiries at Canal Toys, contact enquiries@canaltoys.uk

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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