Jumbo's big ideas

Dutch-owned Jumbo is expanding beyond its traditional niche as a games and puzzles company into pre-school licensing and other areas...
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Ronnie Dungan spoke to MD Gray Richmond about the firm's continued resurgence.

Firstly, can you give me a little bit of background on the firm and its restructuring?

I was appointed MD in September 2008 and Kirstie Oliver took over as marketing manager halfway through last year. I think the team is probably more settled than it has been in a long time, something I was particularly keen to achieve. Jumbo is a Dutch company which is wholly owned by the M and R De Monchy Group. We operate throughout Europe – under either the Jumbo brand or through our sister company Diset.

How is the firm different now? What difference has it made to the range and sales?

We have become much more focused on strategy and playing to our strengths. We have a long tradition, in this country, for the quality of our puzzles in both adult and children’s ranges and it’s important we respect and embrace that. We have actively targeted the pre-school games market with low price points, but good value for money, lines. This has seen us move to number two in pre-school games in NPD data for 2009. During 2009 we experienced growth of 31 per cent as a company, which is something we are very proud of.

How has it changed in terms of personnel and the size of the operation?

In the UK office, we are a team of ten controlling marketing, sales, finance and order control supported with a team of six sales agents. As a business unit we have gone through a period of de-centralisation, which has given us much more control of our destiny and allowed us to look at trends and opportunities in the market. We are also well supported by our head office team in Holland, especially with regards to logistics and product development.

What is the firm’s main focus now? Are you broadening out of puzzles?

Puzzles will remain a vitally important part of our business and we have big plans to continue growing in this market. As I mentioned before, we have had a great deal of success with our pre-school games range and we plan to continue growing this side of our business too.

Where does Grow with Jumbo fit into the plan? Is that all about customer retention?

We felt that it was important to introduce children to the Jumbo brand early, and our Grow with Jumbo range allows us to do just that.

Grow with Jumbo – through our work with the National Schools Partnership – will allow us to assist in children’s development. Puzzles can help improve motor skills, problem solving abilities and aid with colour recognition. That is why, with this range, we have placed product quality at the top of our priorities.

Going forward, we will also look to help children develop the social skills they will need as they grow and get bigger, through a range of Grow with Jumbo games.

What is the thinking behind the new lower pricing?

I think everyone would agree that money is tight and for us it is important to offer value for money in our range. With both our puzzles and our games, the hours spent playing, when measured against cost of buying, represents very cheap entertainment. We also believe that there is a definite shift in parents going back to basics when buying.

Licensing has become a bigger part of the firm’s plan now, how is that working out?

Licensing has always been a big part of our plan, we have just looked at how we can make it work better for us. For example, we have had a fantastic year with Peppa Pig in 2009, as many manufacturers have, but we have achieved this by putting a lot of time, effort and innovation into getting a range of products that are on brand with Peppa as well as offering a solution for all retailers. NPD measured us as the number three licensee on Peppa, something you rarely see in a puzzle and game licensee. We also had a good year with Mr. Men last year and with Fireman Sam, Guess with Jess, Ben and Hollies Little Kingdom and Big and Small in 2010, we hope to really build on the success of last year.

I believe you’ve even moved into electronic products, with the Infant range? Is that not a complete departure?

In some ways, yes, however JoJo does mirror our desire to bring innovation into the market. JoJo has been a proven success throughout Europe. We are working with Silverlit on this and are very excited to be its chosen partner in bringing JoJo to the UK.

Again, by targeting the infant/ toddler market, we hope to introduce the fun we believe Jumbo can offer, into homes much earlier.

What is Jumbo these days? Are you now a toy firm rather than a games and puzzles company?

Can we say both? Puzzles and Games will always remain our core business and priority, but for us it is important that we look to spread our wings when the time is right. By bringing electronics into our stable of products this year, we are without doubt signaling our intent of becoming a successful toy company in the future.

What is the firm’s future direction?

Good question. We aim to continue the growth of 2009 by continuing to gain market share in games and puzzles, as well as establishing JoJo in the market.

We will continue to look at other opportunities as and when they arise, but the most important thing for us is to continue to strive to improve and try to do everything that little bit better. We have a great team in place and through its hard work and dedication we have every reason to view the future with excitement, rather than trepidation.

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