INTERVIEW: Spin Master

Following a difficult 2012, Spin Master is heading into 2013 with ambitious plans to get back on track. Dominic Sacco catches up with UK MD Kevin Jones and marketing director Phil Hooper
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It’s not been the easiest 12 months for Spin Master – can you talk us through your challenges?

Jones: We’ve previously had six years of consecutive growth in terms of sales, which is quite phenomenal for a toy company. This has been the first year we’ve had a decrease in sales. That’s not been easy. Two of our biggest brands, Bakugan and Zoobles, are not as strong this year. Bakugan was massive worldwide – $250 to $300 million worth of business – to try and recover that is very difficult. So we have to make sure we run the business and keep the overheads right, and keep the investment in new brands high.

How popular have your Air Hogs and Tech Deck products been this year? 

Hooper: Both are enjoying a record-breaking year. Tech Deck retail sales are up 11.5 per cent year to date (NPD EPOS data- September), which is significant in the context of the growth we have delivered in each of the last four years. We have expanded the reach of our marketing in recent years with higher levels of TV advertising, TV sponsorship programs, national sampling and grass roots marketing.

Air Hogs is tracking to deliver significant growth in 2012. We have the UK’s number one RC property (NPD data). Vectron Wave is the UK’s top selling RC toy and continues to sell in massive quantities. Hover Assault is our new launch for 2012; it’s proving to be a big hit this autumn.

What’s next for both of these brands?

Hooper: Our aim is to continue to widen the appeal of Tech Deck. We expect our new range to deliver some of the most exciting and best-selling toys for 2013.

You launched into the UK games market in 2012. How has that fared? 

Hooper: Our top priority was to deliver a successful relaunch for classic game Hedbanz. The latest sales data shows Hedbanz is tracking as one of the best- selling children’s games in the market, following the start of our national TV campaign in October.

We have also increased the breadth of our games portfolio with the addition of Dr Dreadful Scabs and Guts, Beat the Parents and now Temple Run. We will be adding further new games to our range in 2013.

When will your Temple Run games hit stores?

Hooper: We’re shipping small quantities this side of Christmas in the UK. We have retailers on board but distribution is going to be quite tight. It’s late-to-market for us, but still in time for Christmas, so we hope it picks up momentum in 2013. The app recently surpassed 100 million downloads worldwide. Look at Angry Birds – app-based properties can translate very well to board games.

How has your Redakai brand been performing?

Jones: We’re a business that isn’t very patient, but we’ve had to nurture Redakai a bit more and make sure we’re not burning it out too fast. We’ve got more TV programming coming so we have to be patient. Let the brand develop itself.

What about AppMates? 

Jones: We’re still selling AppMates this year, it’s just not a big focus for us. Technology is moving at such a fast pace, the minute you release something, it’s almost out of date, then you have to go back and spend more money to catch up again. Eventually, kids will move on or maybe the category will settle down.

What are your ambitions for the next year or so?

Jones: We’ll expect to see the business growing again next year and we’ve got more of a balanced portfolio. There isn’t one category which would be as dominant, like

Bakugan was in the past. There are also three or four things we can’t talk about which are coming. We’ve run the marathon the past six years, we needed a rest before we kick off again.

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