Home to some of the most recognisable heritage brands in the arts and crafts sector – namely Spirograph and Plasticine – Flair is a company well-versed in the art of preserving the rich history of cross-generational brands, while pursuing the unique and innovative in a sector that is as much about where its future is taking it, as it is about its past.
The arts and crafts sector, a staple of the UK toy scene and yet another one of those toy categories to have experienced increase demand at the idle hands of families locked inside and looking for new, creative pursuits over the course of the pandemic, is in a state of constant evolution. A sector underpinned by its heritage brands, this is a market in which creativity arrives from keeping one eye on its history, while another firmly on the horizon.
And this is exactly where Flair currently sits; with the likes of Spirograph and Plasticine at the heart of its arts and crafts portfolio, new innovation bursting through from the likes of Sneak’Artz and technology at its fingertips to bring the two schools together, this is a firm adept at mixing its mediums.
We catch up with Nicola Bergot, Flair’s commercial director, and Iulia Toader, the company’s marketing manager to talk more about its longstanding history in the space, and what the future of the Arts and Crafts sector looks like.
Flair is home to some of the best-loved heritage brands in the arts and crafts sector – Spirograph, Plasticine included – as well as innovative new ones such as Sneak’Artz. How do you best summarise Flair’s position within the sector?
Nicola Bergot, commercial director: Flair has a strong foothold in the arts and crafts having had this category within our product portfolio for many years, with both heritage favourites including Spirograph, and Plasticine, as well as fresh new creative play concepts, such as Sneak’Artz, and something extra special that launches next month. There really is something to appeal to all ages and all interests – be it traditional creative play enthusiasts, children who want to customise their own collectables, or teen and tweens who want to inject a bit of technological magic into creative play.
Can you give us a quick overview of Flair’s arts and crafts brands?
Iulia Toader, marketing manager: Spirograph is the nostalgic heritage brand that lets children create their own unique patterned shapes with interchangeable Spiro-Tracks. While the classics in the collection remain popular year after year, new additions in the range, such as the Spirograph Scratch and Shimmer Set and the Original Spirograph Animator which will launch in the second half, help to keep the collection fresh.
Also timeless and packing endless creativity into every pack is Plasticine, the perfect modelling material that never dries out. Great fun for all, Plasticine can be used to create fun shapes or intricate models. At pocket money prices, there’s a colourful array to choose from including the simple pick-me-up BaSix packs to the award-winning, Movie Maker Studio for larger projects.
Sneak’Artz is a new creative play concept where collectables meet craft. Letting kids create their own miniature sneaker designs, the range launched in SS21 with 24 mini shoe styles to collect and customise. Each Sneak’Artz Shoe Box pack contains one shoe, washable pens, charms, stickers, and an attachable key chain. Keep an eye out for the Sneak’Artz Bumper Set, with its two-shoe format, exclusive spray can, and the glitter and four-dots pens, accessories, and stencils included. Big news for AW is an exciting refresh to inject a spot of newness into the Sneak’Artz collection.
And finally, we can’t say too much right now… but watch this space – we’ve got a huge announcement next month, which brings together tech and the creative play space.
What does Flair bring to the arts and crafts space? How are you guys pushing boundaries in innovation, while staying true to the ‘traditional’ sector? How do you strike the right balance?
Bergot: I think it’s fair to say we tick all the boxes in the arts and crafts space. We nurture our heritage brands, preserving all the classics and those products that continue to enjoy a year-on-year solid performance, but we also continue to assess our offering. We’re always looking at how we can keep our ranges fresh, by introducing new products that retain the core values and play patterns of each brand, while tapping into the current trends in the market. Take the Plasticine Movie Maker for instance, or the Original Spirograph Animator that we’re launching later this year.
For our newer IPs, it’s about finding that unique selling point, which is bang on trend. Ultimately, creative play brands need to provide children with the inspiration and the tools to express themselves and let their creativity and imaginations flow.
It’s important to remember that children are all drawn to different things – and they won’t always want to play with the same kinds of creative play items. Variety is key – and that’s why our portfolio is all-encompassing.
How have the past 12 months impacted Flair’s approach to the sector? Have you seen greater demand for those heritage brands?
Bergot: Through lockdown, creative play brands as a whole did really well. Families were looking for ways that they could keep the children entertained for prolonged periods of time – items that offered real play value, which children could come back to time and time again. What’s more, the power of heritage brands really shone through. Parents and grandparents were choosing the brands that they were familiar with, which they knew would be high quality and which were based on tried and tested play patterns. For both of these reasons, we had an outstanding year with both Plasticine and Spirograph. And, while the country is now beginning to open up, that demand for creative play items is still there, so we’re really excited to see just how far we can take both the heritage brands and our new IPs.
“We nurture our heritage brands, preserving all the classics and those products that continue to enjoy a year-on-year solid performance.”
Why should retailers be excited to work with Flair in the arts and crafts market this year and beyond?
Bergot: Not only are we friendly team, passionate about toys, but we have something great for all ages, all budgets and all interests – which means that we’re a one-stop shop when it comes to arts and crafts.
We also know the importance of providing brilliant support for our brands to drive retail sales. Across the full arts and crafts portfolio, we have extensive marketing and PR plans in place throughout the year to ensure that there is awareness and demand.
We’ve got a lot of online/digital presence, as this is where we know generation Alpha, parents and gift buyers are spending a lot of their time. We invest in YouTube advertising and we also have a host of other social and digital activity, including our work with influencers and bloggers.
What do you think the future of the arts and crafts market looks like, and what will Flair’s position/role be within that?
Bergot: Time and experience have taught us that there will always be a space in the arts and crafts market for heritage brands, such as Plasticine and Spirograph.. These are the kinds of products that allow children to explore and express, developing ideas and thoughts through their play. Of course, there is also the nostalgia of being able to share something from your own childhood with your child/grandchild.
In the world of creative play, there is always going to be an opportunity for innovation. And one trend that we are starting to see in the arts and crafts sector is the blending of categories. We’ve done this with Sneak’Artz – you’ve got a fun collectable, which is fully customisable – you can show off your designs, treating it as an accessory, thanks to the attachable key chain.
As technology advances, we’re also going to see that reflected within the arts and crafts sector. You can already see this with the app-based, stop-motion inspired Plasticine Movie Maker. But, next month, we’re unveiling something really forward thinking – we just can’t say too much right now…
Continuing to focus on your creative play portfolio, can you give us a taster of what’s to come in the next few months?
Toader: This year, we’re combining traditional play patterns in arts and crafts with innovative new brands. We’ve got a host of brand-new creative play ranges launching for the second half.
July will see the exciting introduction of IDO3D Ultra! Using the IDO3D Ultra pens, children can create amazing 3D art. With three ways to create from just one pack, bringing 3D creations to life couldn’t be easier or more fun. First, kids can hone their 3D drawing by using the theme-based moulds, then they can use the pens to draw and set their designs before placing them upright to bring their 3D artwork to life. Finally, once children have become well-versed in the art of 3D design, they can take up their IDO3D pens to create freestyle drawings in the air.
Children will be amazed as their creations set before their very eyes. From animals to mythical creatures, all the way through to impressive buildings and structures, IDO3D offers children the tools to create their very own world in a fun and inventive way. Longevity for this collection is guaranteed, with plenty of newness planned for the second half and beyond.
There’s also Jewel Secrets, which launches for AW21. This is a gem of a collection, which combines the thrill of secret reveals with a magical transformation and jewellery making fun. With each set, children receive a chamber containing magical stones, and jewellery accessories to turn the gems into wearable accessories.
Children simply add water to dissolve each colourful stone to reveal a gem. Each gem has a different meaning that can be discovered via the included collector’s chart. The range launches with three Jewel Secrets lines: the Royal Jewellery Set includes a tiara and wand, the Ring Set comes in a CDU, and the Princess Glam Set, features a locket.
Another creative play range we’re introducing for the second half is Paper FX. This fabulous brand encourages kids, tweens and teens to “upcycle” their scrap and decorative paper into all manner of things. They will love being able to create beautiful accessories, gifts and decorations from magazines, wrapping paper, junk mail and more.
The Paper FX weaving machine transforms any sheet of paper or card in minutes. Simply tear the sheets, crease them, weave them and make unique creations. From handbags to purses, wallets to belts, as well as coasters and more, children can let their imaginations run wild with this crafty kit.
And of course, there’s the other brand that we can’t yet speak about that’s going to allow tweens and teens to add a sprinkling of technological magic to their creative play.