Golden balls

Thanks to strong, new licensing and increased distribution and marketing support, Tomy Yujin Europe's impulse purchase Gacha balls are making an impact with toy retailers keen for steady pocket money income. Ronnie Dungan spoke to Simon Moore, commercial director of distributor Hive Entertainment, to find out more...
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Gacha has been popular in Japan for years now, is it about to take off in a big way here?

I think we are definitely about to see Gacha making a big impact in the UK. We have been trialling selected product with specialist retailers over the past 12 months with tremendous results. Now, with licenses such as High School Musical, Hannah Montana, SpongeBob and so on. we are ready to deliver a complete offer to the mass market. It would be a brave man to suggest that we might ever match the popularity of Japan where the streets are literally paved with Gashapon machines, but with the new CDU concept we do have an offer that fits perfectly with UK retail.

What sort of numbers has it been doing?

Pokemon is one of the most popular Gacha series. We have just launched the sixth collection which is based on the Pokemon Movies. The previous five versions which carried an evolution theme have sold in excess of one million capsules. The Mario Kart collection which was launched to coincide with the new Mario Kart Wii game has now sold around 300,000 units in the UK. Last week High School Musical became our biggest ever opening shipment into the UK market and we expect to sell close to 500,000 HSM capsules between now and Christmas.

Why is Tomy Yujin Europe suddenly putting so much weight behind it?

I wouldn’t say it is a sudden reaction, more of a gradual well thought out plan. When Gacha first arrived in the UK, the product range was limited and perhaps only suited to a small selection of retailers who had a targeted customer demographic. Now, with the new licenses, we feel we have a product that has genuine mass market appeal and as such we are looking to put together a campaign to support this.

How did Hive get involved?

As individuals we have worked closely with TYE for the past couple of years. We were introduced to them by Tomy who had been impressed with some work we had done for them with the Nintendogs range of plush toys. We have good experience of delivering toy brands into the video gaming sector and vice versa. Hive Entertainment was set up to achieve exactly this and, as such, the product suits our profile perfectly.

Are indie retailers the main target for you?

We are equally as interested in speaking to Indies as we are multiples. We don’t really expect that any one retailer would ever stock the whole Gacha range (although that would be nice!) which consists of about 30 different CDUs. However, the depth of the range and the strength of the licenses coupled with the strong margins and impulse purchase price point means that we can pretty much tailor a range to suit all retailers no matter what their size or what their core product is.

What other retail channels will you be going through?

We are talking to pretty much all segments of retail. As well as toys, we are working closely with video games, confectionery, stationery and gadget retailers. We also in discussions with cinema chains, clothes retailers, department stores, petrol stations, newsagents etc. This product is all about footfall and we genuinely believe it will not look out of place whatever you sell.

Which lines do you expect to shift the most units?

Pokemon consistently delivers incredible numbers and accounts for almost a third of all Gacha sales. With a new collection just launched and one more to come in November this will be a great seller. Having said that, High School Musical has just become our biggest ever day one ship plus then, in November, we have our first Hannah Montana collection. Pre-orders on this are already huge and we could see this beating its Disney counterpart quite easily.

How do you sustain interest in the brand?

As with any toy that is impulse purchase priced, the product needs to grab the attention, be current and be interesting. By constantly refreshing the range we can ensure that all of these boxes remain ticked at all times. The licenses we are working with are not only current but amongst the hottest properties around. The quality of the product is also incredible for the price point. We then work closely with all of our retail partners to ensure they are constantly updating the collections they stock.

Can this become a fixture in the toy market?

In the same way that trading cards have become a fixture not just for the toy market, I believe that Gacha will do the same. We are already seeing complete collections being traded across various forums and as we continue to develop and evolve the product for the western market Gacha will be here for a long time to come.

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