Classroom Clamour: Commotion Distribution talks 2014 successes

Commotion Distribution has been supplying educational toys and games for the last 30 years. We talk to MD Tim Coote about classroom trends, government initiatives and a lot of silicon.
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Since the days of the cane and dusty chalkboard erasers, the words school and fun have rarely appeared in the same sentence.

However, thanks to the ongoing efforts of educational toys and games supplier Commotion Distribution, the phrase ‘fun learning’ no longer seems so far fetched.

Having been in the business of delivering learning aids and toys to schools and school suppliers for over 30 years, Commotion Distribution has seen many changes in the educational sector.

And in August 2013, the firm sold its direct to schools catalogue in order to concentrate its efforts on developing, manufacturing and importing the latest ranges to keep kids engaged in
education and keep itself ahead of the curve.

“Traditional toys and games, especially wooden products, have always been used and enjoyed in schools,” says managing director Tim Coote.

“But schools are constantly looking for new ways to engage pupils and enhance their learning experience, so our remit is to find and develop products that meet this need.”

Just as technology in the toy industry has evolved, so too have the needs of the educational sector, and the classroom toys of yesterday are all but a shadow of the almost futuristic products of today.

And among them is a new range of classroom toys which are made entirely from silicon.

“A huge success for us has been SiliShapes, a range of products made entirely from silicon,”
continues Coote. “This soft, safe and tough material comes in some very bright colours, and has had a large hand in helping us achieve growth of around 15 per cent this year.”

Commotion’s SiliShapes range spans a variety of products, including Trace Letter and Numbers, Linking People, Sensory and Coote’s own favourite, SiliShapes SoftBricks.

“The range received Overall Winner, Gold and Silver Awards from the 2014 Practical Pre-School awards, and we are looking forward to extending the range in 2015.”

Light Panels and Sensory Liquid Sets have also been big sellers for the firm this year, but before we paint a picture of today’s classrooms mirroring the sci-fi sets of Star Trek, Coote is quick to note that recent years have also seen a real hark back to the traditional.

“There has been a strong bias towards electronic products in recent years, but we are seeing the demand change now for more traditional tactile products and games,” explains Coote.

“Wooden products have really come back in to fashion and our giant wooden rainbow bricks
seem to have hit the spot with both our customers’ expectations and our own sales expectations.”

Of course, working within the education sector, Commotion Distribution’s product portfolio is
influenced by a different group of trend-setters to the usual crowd, swapping the back-to-schoolers for the UK’s backbenchers.

“The trends in the educational sector are basically either lead by changes in government
education policy or funding initiatives,” continues Coote. “If the government decides maths is a priority, then we see an increase in sales of maths resources.

“And our recent ranges of Sensory and Maths products are a particular example of how we
introduce products which fully meet the requirements of teachers and schools. Both these ranges have been extremely well received by our customers both here and abroad.”

With a generation of experience, Commotion Distribution is certainly an expert in the field of educational toys, and the company prides itself on offering high quality and core values
throughout its range of innovative products.

“We are constantly being offered products that are called ‘educational’ but in reality are just cheap toys using the term for marketing purposes,” exclaims Coote. “We look for innovation and products that offer new ways to enhance play and learning.

“We are very choosey about our partners and that is why we are proud of the brands we represent in the UK and Europe.

“With EDX Education, Top Class and Mojo, we know we have companies that
have the same view and high standards.

“We are keen to build relationships with new partners and brands
provided they have a similar ethos and outlook.”

While the firm reports an eight per cent growth across Europe and new growth in the Baltic States and Russia, the UK remains Commotion Distribution’s biggest market.

But with the threat of political upheaval on the horizon with the upcoming general election, what are the firm’s hopes for 2015?

“Economically, I think that 2015 will be a difficult climate with the general election, continued
national debt problems and currency fluctuation all contributing to tough trading conditions,”
explains Coote.

“Having said that, at Commotion we are looking to consolidate our success so far, trim our sails for the seas ahead and push forward with bringing exciting, innovative educational products to the market,” he concludes.


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Talking shop: Slow moving stock

This month, we talked to retailers about shared risk and the support they get from suppliers with slow-moving products and whether they get enough support to help move stock through and enable them to be confident to take a risk on new concepts?



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