The most recent big news from Schleich was the promotion of Gary Wilmot to country manager after five years with the company. However, the team was also boosted by the appointment of Michelle Rhodes to national account manager and Laura Bull (pictured) as marketing manager.
Between them, the team has launched a number of new ranges to the portfolio. Bull explains: “2011 has been both positive and exciting, especially as it’s my first year in the industry. Schleich has seen the global launch of the new Historical Heroes line – a fine example of how we continue to bring new and exciting products to the market. This together with the additional releases to the Worlds of Nature and Fantasy has increased brand presence in terms of our retailers and our customers.”
As well as new launches, many of the existing popular ranges have also been extended. Additions have been made to the farm and wildlife lines.
Despite the nature of the figures meaning Schleich’s offering is less seasonally dependent than many brands, the expansion of some lines is beginning to place extra importance on quarter four.
Bull offers: “The run up to Christmas becomes more and more important to us each year, especially with our larger key lines such as the Mighty Fighter Elephant, Elves Wedding carriage from Bayala and our new catalogue scenery lines, all make ideal gifts and the prospects for these look great.”
Perhaps the biggest line of the year was The Smurfs. Despite an initial slow uptake at retail, consumers really got on board with the brand. The film has, at time of writing, taken £14.8m in UK box office sales and as a result, consumer demand has been strong.
Bull says: “After 50 years with The Smurfs licence, we are still the original Smurf toy company. It’s a property that we have kept faith with and now we are being truly rewarded with the response to the film.
“Despite initial retailer response being cautious, our belief and careful planning meant we are able to respond to the late demand following the consumer reaction to the film.”
The global reach of The Smurfs is something that Schleich works to encompass throughout the business. Bull was recently named, alongside other staff from a number of international territories, as a global brand champion.
She explains: “It’s our job to keep the essence of Schleich constant no matter where the market is. Our motto, ‘Anywhere’s a Playground’ holds true for any child whether they are in Germany, the UK, North America or the emerging markets and it’s the task of the brand champions to ensure the company values are kept.”
Part of that communication, is obviously down to marketing, which has been a key focus for the company over the last year.
Support for independent retailers has been increased.
“The improved marketing includes Schleich play days, plus we have worked closely with the two main buying groups with specific campaigns including two nationwide shop windows, a first for Schleich and a strategy we hope to continue,” continues Bull.
“The improved display opportunities for our retail partners such as secondary placements with free standing display units, along with their complementary decoration packs were also well received.”
Furthermore, the firm implemented a ‘Who’s Your Hero’ campaign for retailers and consumers, which culminated in September being Schleich month, featuring heightened consumer awareness and high impact exposure in the parental and kids press.
Going forward, there is more to come in 2012. Bull concludes: “We will continue to invest in the foundations of the brand. And of course there will be new and exciting launches, but I can’t give anything away. Most of all, in 2012, we will continue to improve our imagery, design and presence, keeping our position as a true global player in the toy market. Appearing in the top 50 of NPD, was a significant step forward in putting Schleich on the list of any toy stockist.”