INTERVIEW: A year to remember for Asobi

A range of new distribution deals, more brands in its portfolio and some upcoming top secret launches have helped make 2013 a year to remember for Asobi. ToyNews talks to the company's founder, Thierry Bourret.
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2013 has been one to remember for Asobi, and that’s not just because of the royal baby.

“It has been a really exciting year for us so far,” Asobi founder Thierry Bourret told ToyNews.

“Not only did we secure the ‘Seedling’s Paint your own Gnomes’ involvement in the 100th year of the Royal Chelsea flower show with none other than Elton John taking part, we also took on Vilac in January.

“This has been a truly significant account to work on throughout 2013. Add to this the imminent arrival of Alice’s Bear Shop in Selfridges, it is going well.”

Alongside its trusty Seedling performer, the company has also seen a number of its other new brands come into their own this year.

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“The new Seedling range for 2013 has been such a hit, as has the pocket money collection which is going into John Lewis exclusively with point of sale created especially for them,” added Bourret.

“Interest has grown for Radio Flyer, another new brand for us this year. Vilac never ceases to amaze with its products and long heritage – it has a plethora of loyal fans and new ones joining thick and fast thanks to its traditional qualities.”

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Arriving through a distribution deal with Petitcollin and Jeujura, the company has high hopes for the brand to land on shelves soon.

Bourret told ToyNews: “Vilac came with Petitcollin and Jeujura as they are part of the same company. This was quite a large deal. They are happy with us, we are already 30 per cent up on their UK figures for last year.

 “We have also welcomed Krooom and Kid O to our catalogue. Krooom is a brilliant cardboard toy series from Israel and Kid O is a high design plastic toy from the US. Both brands, we hope will be in stock from this September.”

And that’s not all. Asobi has even more new launches in the pipeline, all under lock and key, but Bourret promises there are exciting things to come.

“I could tell you, but I would have to kill you. No seriously, we are talking to a couple of brands. The brands we are already working with have some very interesting new products coming too, so expect some exciting things ahead.

“I have a few ideas [of sectors to move Asobi into], that we are exploring. I would like to have an Asobi range of products.”

Despite the great start to the year, it hasn’t been without challenges and for Asobi, these have come
via cash flow.

“Cash flow is always challenging to manage but we seem to have found a happy compromise with our financier,” said Bourret.

“Being above forecast from last year, we have some leeway.”

Bourret also runs the Slow Toy Awards, an event, which began last year to celebrate traditional toys.

“We are trying to provide a platform for all the other toys out there – not the computer games or the gadgets that distract the market but the real toys that offer genuine play value and a bit of tradition.

“Parents are keen to get the newest gadget and latest trend, but we are trying to give other toys a chance, toys that really allow children to create their own fun. Slow Toys highlights seven toys that offer more traditional style play.”

With the second ever ceremony taking place at Harrods this year, the awards have been placed firmly on the map.

“Given the awards are still in their infancy the vast entries received and final shortlist is fantastic. The wonderful part is we have created a platform for smaller brands, showing we have already achieved one of our key goals.”

In only four years Asobi has become one of the most loved firms in the toy industry. A success Bourret attributes simply to “passion, commitment and a love of toys,” and when asked what he hopes to achieve by the end of this year, it’s no surprise he answers “more of the same from the first semester of this year.”

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