Q&A: Foye Pascoe, UK and Ireland country manager, Hasbro

After a year of consolidating its position in a radically changed UK toy market, Hasbro is hoping for bigger things in 2010.
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A revamped sales and marketing team and new leadership sees a more confident firm looking forward. Foye Pascoe gave ToyNews an update.

How did the UK market perform in Q1? It seems to be in a much better shape than the same period last year?

Q1 2009 was a tough time for the toy industry with the combined effects of both the recession and the loss of Woolworths. In contrast the first quarter of 2010 has started well, and this is supported by NPD which is reporting sustained double-digit value growth for the first three months of the year. It is encouraging that there is sales growth across all price points reflecting buoyancy across a wide range of products and categories.

What has the mood been like at retail? More confident?

Overall the mood has certainly improved. Following the closure of Woolworths stores there were some major concerns that this would permanently impact the toy market. The encouraging signs are that consumers are now changing their habits and the total market is recovering.

Any particular sectors which have stood out for you in Q1?

NPD is reporting strong growth for the first quarter of 2010 across the whole of the industry, with a couple of categories showing exceptionally good growth. Hasbro has a broad portfolio of toys and games and we are also reflecting this with growth across all categories, notably within girls where were now hold the number one girls collectable by volume. We are also really encouraged by the trends we are seeing across games and outdoor.

What Hasbro lines have performed well in Q1?

Overall we are seeing great performance across a number of our key brands. Following the 09/09/09 Nerf raider launch event, we have some great traction with this brand at retail which is reflected in our growing share of the market.

Nerf has had a great March moving into third place in the category with the Nerf Maverick and Nerf Nite Finder really driving sales.

Eight months after the Transformers 2 movie, the brand continues to perform well and remains within NPD’s overall top ten properties.

Our games business continues to show a robust performance, with Monopoly continuing to perform exceptionally well. We are also very excited by our recent launch of Cuponk which seems to be capturing the imagination of consumers.

Another Hasbro favourite, Play-Doh, continues to go from strength to strength and is driving the reusable compounds the market with exceptional performance

How about the girl’s market, have you cracked it yet?

Littlest Pet Shop and Fur Real do continue to show significant growth. NPD March data is currently reporting Littlest Pet Shop as the number one girls collectable by volume with a 27.5 per cent market share. Fur Real is being driven by Fur Real Snuggimals.

FurReal is also set for an exciting autumn/winter with the introduction of the Fur Real Frenzies and GoGo My Walking Pup, our life size pup you can take for a walk.

2010 sees the return of old favourite Strawberry Shortcake, but she has been reinvented and restyled. In addition to a free DVD of an episode from the animated series available in packs of mini dolls, girls can get involved with Strawberry Shortcake and her friends by watching a brand new animated series on Cartoonito.

The girls’ portfolio is rounded out with the evergreen My Little Pony and Baby Alive brands. Overall with all of these exciting new ranges and re-styled favourites I think the Hasbro range has something to make girls of all ages smile.

You seem to have focused on a number of iconic brands this year, like Tonka. How has that strategy performed?

Hasbro has a fantastic stable of iconic toy and games brands that are constantly developed and re-invented in order to make them as relevant as they can be in today’s market and continue to appeal to boys and girls.
In 2008, we introduced Chuck and Pals to Tonka and this autumn we will extend the play pattern further with the introduction of Tonka Mod Garage.

Our focus on supporting classic brands such as Monopoly, Transformers, Trivial Pursuit, Nerf and Play-Doh are paying dividends and our market share has grown in all of these areas. We are also seeing equal success in growing our newer brands such as Littlest Pet Shop along with the other exciting opportunities our licence partners bring.

In what way has the marketing mix changed for Hasbro? Is television still king?

Industry research show that TV remains one of the main ways of communicating with mums and kids, with approximately 95 per cent of toy industry media budgets allocated to it. However, the media landscape is changing fast and we need to keep up with our customers evolving habits and trends.

Our research suggests that 40 per cent of all households watch video on demand, while mums are spending on average 21 hours per month online and seven per cent view the internet online – the internet is the number one source of information for many families.

Increasingly, we are looking at a more immersive brand experience which goes way beyond the 20-second TV ad and really takes our brands both into the digital lives of our consumers and into retail activation programmes.

Over the past year, brands such as PlaySkool have been involved with sponsorship of Bounty, SMA & Cartoonito which has enabled us to connect with mums through print, on pack and online. Hasbro boy’s brands have successfully teamed up with Nickelodeon to deliver an on-line interactive experience. Play-Doh is set to run an online competition which will get kids making Play-Doh creations. Nerf has been involved in shopping mall tours, while our games business has sponsored Family Games nights and recently signed as a headline sponsor for National Family Week 2010 which will deliver multimedia exposure to millions of homes across the UK.

How does Hasbro incorporate newer marketing techniques to target an increasingly mobile children’s audience?

Children are natural digital natives. 61 per cent own a TV in their bedroom, with PC and mobile phones having even higher penetration.

Research shows us that they consume on average nine hours of media in a seven-hour period as they multi-task across multiple media.

Our marketing and communication strategies are constantly evolving to respond to this new media landscape, such as online sponsorship with Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon or through Facebook pages for Nerf and Games.

What has Hasbro done to make itself more responsive to consumer demand and adapt to the changing retail landscape?

Hasbro has always sought to evolve in reaction to both changing market conditions and to meet the needs of our account base and, ultimately, our consumers.

Recently we have announced the appointment of the newly created position of national sales manager. We recognise the significant growth opportunities in the independent sector and we are delighted to be strengthening the sales team.

We also recognise the great achievements of our orders direct team, and we will be adding extra focus to this department as we seek to roll this service out across a wider account base. In addition to the changes within our sales team, we have also made significant investment in a customer strategic marketing team which will prove invaluable as we seek to maximise retailer activation programmes and work with our accounts.

These changes will be essential in building on the growth from our extensive repertoire of brands like Transformers, Littlest Pet Shop and Nerf and will also bring an increased level of service to this very important sector of our account base.

Has the change of leadership at Hasbro’s UK office brought in anything new?

So far 2010 has been very exciting for Hasbro UK. We have had some very straightforward and clear goals – to continue to invest and focus on our brands, to develop our people and strengthen and develop our key partnerships.

We are very optimistic about the potential of our extensive portfolio of classic brands and we continue to reinvent, reignite and re-imagine these brands to constantly surprise and delight our consumers.

We have successfully developed fully immersive experiences for these brands that reflect the lifestyle of children today.

Our people are also fundamental to our success and I am very lucky to have an absolutely first class team.

At Hasbro we pride ourselves on our ability to both retain talented people and also to attract talented people to the industry and the company. We recognise the need to ensure that we nurture, support and reward that talent.

We also continue to put a huge focus on developing our partnerships. We have strengthened the sales team and our customer service team and also invested in a customer strategic marketing department – all designed to ensure we provide first class service and strong business partnership to our customers.

Additionally, we are focusing on media, TV, licensing and other brand and business partnerships designed to grow and strengthen our brands on a European basis.

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