Thames & Kosmos | “Tech and gadget toys continue to rise in popularity”

With demand for STEM and science kits still unabating, driven by parents keen to deliver their children an educational alternative to screen time and a lift in interest in all things to do with space exploration among young audiences, Thames & Kosmos is primed for continued growth here in the UK.

In fact, the business has just about outgrown its current UK warehouse, and, right now, is in the process of moving it to a bigger premises; one that can accommodate the uptick in demand it has seen for a portfolio of STEM products that span its early years, Kids First range to its FEAK line-up of products for the year.

Here, ToyNews catches five minutes to chat with Thames & Kosmos UK’s sales director, Jo Drage…

Hi Jo, good to talk again. Can you talk us through the strength of your STEM and science kit portfolio? What have been some of the best sellers in the range these last few months?

Our STEM and science portfolios attract a multitude of customers. From the parent who is looking for a kit to enhance their child’s learning or a grandparent looking for a present which is educational and fun, to the tech enthusiast who is looking for that gadgety toy with an edge. Our kits offer something for any age and any budget.

Our award-winning Early Years range, Kids First, which is aimed at children from the age of 3+ continues to be a bestseller with products starting at £13.50 RRP. Kids First is a line of science kits that allow parents to introduce scientific topics and hands-on empirical learning to pre-schoolers and gradually prepares them for more advanced science kits and schoolwork.

Our mid- price point ranges such as the FEAK range which starts at £15.00 RRP also continues to be popular, particularly our Ultralight Airplanes, Solar Powered Rovers and Rubber Band Racers which are all great for indoors and outdoor play.

You guys have previously mentioned that you’ve seen an increased interest in space exploration reflected in the popularity of various kits in the range. What do you think has been a key driver behind this? How are you guys tapping into the increased demand in this field in particular?

Since Major Tim Peake visited the International Space Station in 2015, school children in Britain caught the bug for space and the solar system and are now curious about what and who is out there. We think that this is enhanced by modern technology enabling immediate live streaming of events such as the historic landing of NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars earlier this year.

A recent new arrival, the Orbiting Solar System (£27.50 RRP), has proven hugely popular amongst end-users and garnered rave reviews amongst social media influencers. The kit enables children from the age of 8+ to build a mechanical model of the solar system, including the sun and eight planets (also known as an orrery), wind it up, and watch the planets revolve around the sun.

Keeping in with the space theme, our My Discovery Telescope (£16.50 RRP) as maintained a best-selling place for many years due to its top quality and versatility at an attractive price. Mini-explorers aged 6+ can gaze at the stars or discover wildlife or become the next Jack Sparrow, arr!

What are some of the key trends in the STEM toy/kit sector right now and how is Thames & Kosmos aligning itself with these?

Tech and gadget toys will continue to rise in popularity with the focus of end-users being on products which do not just let children sit on electronic devices but also offer an educational value. We are bolstering our Robotics range in 2021 with the introduction of a brand-new range, ReBotz, which is due to arrive in the UK in September. ReBotz is a series of four motorised robot pals which spring into action from a heap of scrapyard parts. Children from the age of six and upwards can collect all four models at an affordable RRP of £12.00 and the different robot parts are all interchangeable which will keep inquisitive engineering minds engaged.

What does Thames & Kosmos bring to the STEM market? The name is well respected in the market, how does T&K get it right? What drives the innovation behind the products?

The German manufacture and design of our products ensures quality, safety, educational substance and fun all wrapped up in a competitive price tag. This year in particular, we have also been blessed with the German product availability, and we haven’t been overly affected with the issues around transportation at present, and have been lucky that we didn’t have to introduce any price increases.

We founded Thames & Kosmos UK in 2009 when we recognised the need for new designs of quality science kits in the UK when looking for fun and educational toys for our own children. We have since then continued to invest in high-quality kits and our range has been steadily increasing to offer products for any age and budget range. For 2021 for example, we have introduced new kits to our bestselling FEAK range such as the Gravity Bugs, a free-climbing microbot which scuttled into our warehouse a few weeks ago and has proven popular since. The kit which is suitable from the age of 8+ brings engineering and physics to life while defying gravity and will surely excite young STEM enthusiasts.

We love nothing more than seeing aspiring scientists experimenting with a Thames & Kosmos kit which lets their knowledge grow and inspires them to go on to achieve big things in the future.

What do you make of the overall health of the STEM toy market at the moment? Is it heading in the right direction? What changes or advances would you like to see in the STEM toy space?

Despite easing out of lockdown and children being back at school, the STEM market is continuing to grow which we partly put down to the increase of parents opting to home-school after lockdown. Parents are a lot more involved in supporting their children throughout their learning journey and have rediscovered their passion for STEM throughout the pandemic and really enjoy the time they can spend together while conducting experiments.

What’s the next step for you guys in this market?

We have a lot on at the moment. We have outgrown our warehouse, and so are currently moving, and R & D is always an important pastime in the office, and I can’t wait for the big reveal at Toy Fair 2022!

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Jo. Before we let you go, is there anything you’d like to shout about?

Our customers are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Massive Erupting Volcano (£25.00 RRP), the biggest yet in the company’s 200-year history, standing at one foot tall. With this kit, children get to simulate the epic, earth-shattering power of a volcano in their own home, after building the huge volcano model.

The volcano effortlessly slides together and can be decorated with the paint, fake boulders, and cardboard cut outs of dinosaurs and prehistoric plants that come included. Our Science kit team had a first play a few weeks ago and the verdict is a definite thumbs up, learning through play at its best.

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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