Hail Cesar

The Dekkertoys name has disappeared from toy shelves replaced by the French Cesar Group?s mark. Ronnie Dungan spoke to the firm?s new-look UK operation to find out more?.
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Dekkertoys, one of the mainstays of the British dress-up business is no more. But in its place is a new more streamlined operation called Cesar UK, part of a French-based group with a turnover of more than €120m.

As well as a new brand name, the firm has moved to new premises in Peterborough and has a new managing director in Michael Noakes, who joined from the clothing industry.

Noakes tells ToyNews how the firm’s new direction will be to concentrate on its core activities of dress-up and role play items and moving away from toys.

He says: “There has been a review of the business over the past 18 months to two years and it was decided that we needed to concentrate on the strengths of our business and of the group. Which meant getting out of the toy side and into dress-up.

Sales director Adrian Leafe adds: “We were doing OK on toys but some of the range is quite old-fashioned. Our humming top has been a best seller for us for a while but it’s not as new as it should be.

“Toys doesn’t really fit into the remit of the core of the group,” adds Noakes, “and we have to play to the group’s strengths so that we can leverage the economies of scale that exist within that.”

The firm has just moved to smaller HQ, having sub-contracted its warehousing to the Amethyst group, which left it in a building too big for the new look Cesar operation.

“The toy business was very marginal really,” says Noakes. “But we’re still selling into toy retailers so we’re still part of the toy business but not a toy manufacturer as such. There are people who can do a better job of that than we can.

“We had done toys since the year dot but it was beginning to peter out,” says Leafe. “The Thomas humming top sales were going down but we did have it for 24 years.”

Noakes adds: “The market is very volatile and you’re either on top of it or you’re not. There are limited resources and you have to back your winner.”

So the focus now is on creating range of licensed dress-up and role-play items including brands like Lazy Town, Thomas and Marvel.

“Using the group strength we can look for licences worldwide but also in the UK. The Thomas dress-up is UK only, for instance. We’re doing things in dress-up that are not being done by the rest of the group.

“The categories are more or less the same but they might not be the same costume. What we sell to Toys R Us or Argos might be different to what we sell into the independents,” adds Leafe.

“We don’t make a cheap costume for cheaper retailers or an expensive one for expensive retailers,” says Noakes.

“I believe we’re as competitive as anyone else. We’re always looking for ways in which to add value to the products. It’s not really about fancy dress as such it’s more about role-play, it’s about what else you get with the costume.”

Adult costumes are a growing part of the business and Argos and Woolies are big customers in that area.

So the Dekker brand is no more and the reign of Cesar begins. But Noakes believes it is the licences and the properties which are the key issue for consumers.

“The Dekker brand was important for the trade but not for the customer. For them it’s more about the property brand. Although, I like to think that when they buy something like Lazy Town they are also choosing the Cesar brand too.”

About Cesar

The Cesar group was established in 1991 around the companies Masport (manufacturing fancy dress items tents and playhouses for children since 1947), and César (manufacturer of masks since 1842), leader in the French market.

The group gradually developed a successive and targeted acquisition strategy. Each of the acquisitions of Dekkertoys in the UK and of Josman in Spain in 1995, of Disguise in the US in 1998 and then of France Cotillons doubled the sales of the Cesar group.

In those years the Cesar group also reinforced its production capabilities with the purchase of Fawn-Eye, a trading office in Hong Kong and of Festival, a textile manufacturer based in Madagascar.

In 1999, the group expanded in Europe acquiring the Italian company Joker and strengthened its position in Germany purchasing the carnival market leader Hilka at the end of 2000.

Cesar facts

  • More than 28 millions products per year
  • Net sales of more than €130m in 2004-05 for an EBITA of more than €8.5m
  • Four major collections each year
  • Product mix : license 65 per cent, generic 35 per cent
  • 1,226 employees in the world as of March 31st, 2005
  • 66 per cent of business is US and remaining 34 per cent Europe

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