INTERVIEW: The In Thing

The In Thing distributes the popular Skylanders figures to indies ? and it?s about to record its 12th month of consecutive sales growth. MD Paul Jackson tells Dominic Sacco the secret to its success?
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When was The In Thing set up and how have you grown since?

We formed in 2000 and grew steadily for three to four years. Over the past couple of years we’ve concentrated more on our own products. We work for some of the biggest toy manufacturers on a sub-distribution basis, such as Flair, Vivid, Character Options and Spin Master, but we have a number of our own lines now, including five Moshi Monsters licences we control. We have always specialised in pocket money products and craze lines.

Why focus on lower-priced products?

It’s good to have a focus. In Thing products don’t really retail at £50. If you look at the top of the NPD sales charts, it’s usually goods that have sub-£10 RRPs. I believe the only income unaffected by the economic climate is pocket money. Everything I sell is impulse purchase, and because of that, we’re flying in a less than favourable economic climate. We had 147 per cent growth in May.

And what about growth over the past year?

June will be our 12th consecutive month of growth. We have been averaging approximately 40 to 50 per cent year-on-year growth each month since July 2011. But this figure has jumped to 100+ per cent over the last couple of months since we started distributing Skylanders. 

I got involved in Moshi Monsters products in July 2011 and that’s when our rate of growth originally started increasing. I am pretty confident we will have doubled our turnover during the past 12 months.

Do you have plans to expand your warehouse or your team?

Yes. We’ve just hired a new marketing manager, national account manager and sales team members. We currently have 29 staff – up from 21 last year.

Our warehouse is 8,000 sq ft. Our best sellers are Yu-Gi-Oh, Magic Choc, Skylanders, Moshi Monster Moshlings, Pokémon trading cards, Lego Minifigures, Match Attax trading cards and Angry Bird Mash’Ems. Everything fits in the palm of your hand, so I don’t need 50,000 sq ft of warehouse space.

How excited are you about the upcoming Skylanders Giants toys?

We paired up with Activision during a quiet time of the year in April and Skylanders was already six months old.

But we’ll be involved with Skylanders Giants at launch in September or October, so I’m hugely excited by the potential of that. Activision’s planned TV spend for Giants dwarfs any spend I have ever seen from even the biggest toy distributor.

Its arrival into the toy market has got to be hugely beneficial to the toy business in the months and even years to come.

I can see Skylanders going from strength to strength, and for sales to go off the scale.

Have you ever had any stock issues?

There have been a few issues but nothing too major. For any collectable, you keep supply just below the curve.

Leave the market just slightly short and it means you don’t flood it. We try and treat indies fairly with products that are in big demand, so we have a maximum order quantity on goods that are ‘thin on the ground’.

What are your expectations for your new Angry Birds range?

We’ve got at least eight new novelty stationery lines due to launch in July. These include erasers, stationery sets and Plush Flingers which can be fired from your fingers. We are also supporting Character Options with its master toy range.

It’s a very exciting licence, the world’s most downloaded app game and it’s what kids are playing with nowadays. The product is priced right and it’s going to sell.

What’s changed since Dracco acquired a 50 per cent stake in The In Thing?

Its manufacturing expertise has enabled us to pursue our own licensed products. We have just signed some new licences and have at least two new ranges of Dracco products launching in spring/summer 2013. We’ll have a minimum of two TV campaigns starting January 2013 and I envisage the company will spend more on TV ads next year than in the previous ten years. 

We have exciting times ahead.

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