Buoyed by a TRA special recognition award this year and the continued success of its Hama Beads creative line, DKL is expecting further growth in 2007 with its Corolle dolls, Viking plastic toys and Wonderworld wood ranges. Ronnie Dungan speaks to MD Kai Hawaleschka about its steady progress?
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DKL has been making steady strides in more traditional toy markets with its range of craft, wooden and doll products, which have become a favourite with the indie retail sector.

The firm’s Hama beads range has been its biggest product line and has helped it become one of the key players in the UK children’s crafts market where it has carved out a sizeable chunk of the UK retail value.

MD Kai Hawaleschka says: “2006 was a successful year for us, we saw a healthy increase in our turnover. We launched the Corolle doll range successfully and more than doubled the Corolle turnover in the UK in just one year. We grew the Hama business in the grocery sector significantly.

“We took more space at ExCeL this year and designed a new stand; as a result we had a great show and a good start to the year. We also had a great show at this year’s Spring Fair.

“Hama has introduced 18 new products, Viking 14 new products, Wonderworld 30 new products and Corolle over 50 new lines. Not including all the new doll outfits which were delivered into the trade by the end of May.”

With so many products across so many brands, Hawaleschka says the firm is unlikely to be adding any new distribution deals to its line-up this year at the very least.

“To be honest the current portfolio of Hama, Viking, Wonderworld and Corolle pretty much uses all our capacity but we will always look at new ranges for future years.”

This year will see the firm continue to cement itself at retail with POS and PR activity, plus plenty of sampling activity.
“Our plans this year will revolve around good PR and to help us to achieve this we have recruited our own in-house PR person – Suzie Warner – who has already made a big difference for us.

Hama have produced some excellent POS material and we continue to encourage our customers to mount in store Hama ‘Make and Take’ promotions where children can actually try Hama and make a design in store. We also had a presence in four shopping malls over Easter where, again, children could try Hama for themselves.”

The craft market is a happy hunting ground for DKL, but there are plenty of challenges in the competitive wooden toy market. The firm has had a good deal of success in the educational market with the range too.

“Increased competition and own brand development in the wooden toy market has had an impact, so growth is hard to find, with Wonderworld. In spite of this we have found growth in the educational market, and with own brand development, but the general market is static.

“Viking sales are healthy here. We have also had some success with own brand development, and growth in the educational sector. We have high hopes for Corolle and sales are already well ahead of 2006,” Hawaleschka continues.

Like many suppliers DKL is looking outside of the traditional toy market to open new retail accounts and has been targeting a number of different areas.

“We continue to grow our business outside traditional toy outlets,” explains Hawaleschka. “We are fortunate to have ranges that will sell into other retail sectors particularly Wonderworld and Corolle, gift shops, nursery outlets, garden centres and even children’s fashion shops.

“We also find the catalogue and internet business to be building into a significant sector for us.”

Understated and deliberately low-profile, DKL is quietly making progress inside and outside the toy market with a well-regarded range, which has that greatest of all selling points, the all-important seal of parental approval.

Sales are going in the right direction, there’s ample room for expansion and a special recognition gong at this year’s Toy Retailers’ Association awards means that the industry obviously approves, too.



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