Best of British: Part one

Whether it's a loaf of bread or a multi-million pound business, nothing compares to the taste of home. And the UK has a stellar line-up of toy firms in its midst, each as impressive as the last. Here, Robert Hutchins explores the heritage, products and plans for the future with some of Britain's greatest, starting with Sambro.
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Sambro

Founded: 1989, Sales growth: 18% YoY growth for 2015/16 period, Product to watch: Sesame Street hand puppets

On the cusp of opening its second UK office in the coming months, if ever a company reflected the evolving toy business, Sambro would be it.

A shift in gears in its recent history has placed Sambro at the forefront of sourcing and manufacturing licensed toys and games on a global scale that, having grown through value retail channels some 20 years ago, now spans Europe and the Middle East.

Soft and hard-line business has become its bread and butter, and today Sambro works with huge firms including Spin Master, LEGO, Disney, Universal and Hasbro.

It’s no surprise then that over the 2015 to 2016 period, the firm that has tracked an annual growth of 18 per cent year-on-year, is significantly outpacing the market place, and with it, a number of its competitors, too.

It’s a good news story for Sambro then, who is now preparing to report its strongest sales period to date.

“You might say the business has changed gradually over the last two decades, but as you will have seen, we have accelerated the pace recently and the way we operate and service the industry is very different,” explains commercial director Grant Gie.

“Our strategy is clear and simple; we want to retain all that’s unique and valued about Sambro such as being a collaborative and open partner, while always looking forward and taking on new initiatives.”

A forward-thinking leader of the business, MD Tom Duffy, and recent addition to the business, Gie, have been quick to pin-point new areas of growth, whether that is building up Sambro’s own IP across the art and crafts sector, or entering wholly new sectors such as plush toys and hand puppets (kicking off with a Sesame Street range this autumn).

With a head count of 160 strong, Sambro’s staff remains the heart of Gie and Nikki Samuels’ business. A reshuffled and newly formed marketing team also means that 2017 will be a year of firsts as the team readies new campaigns across TV and cinema.

But regardless of the new plans, Sambro hasn’t forgotten its roots and the audience that has propelled it to success and will continue to innovate in the licensing space with properties such as PAW Patrol, Play-Doh, Disney Princess and Frozen, while securing new brands Hatchimals and PJ Masks.

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