Firstly, can you tell us a bit about Meroncourt’s background?
Meroncourt Europe has been a well respected distributor in the UK for nearly 20 years. Its roots were firmly working with independent retailers in the IT and computing sector supplying accessories and peripherals. With a vision of diversification we moved into console and PC gaming, selling some of the most well-known brands in this market.
Just over three years ago, to complement our IT lines, we began to sell electronic licensed toys from Hello Kitty, Ben 10 and Disney. This was hugely successful and we then moved into outdoor and creative toys. In February we moved into the more traditional toy arena like jigsaws, cards and dominoes.
Why did you decide to move into the toy sector with the M-Play brand?
We launched our new website in the summer of 2012 and decided that as we were now addressing two different sectors of retail, we would create a much easier way for customers to navigate and search the particular areas which were of greatest interest to them.
So M-Play and M-Tech were born, Play for toys and Tech for computer-related lines. There are nearly 2,000 separate lines on the site and this is increasing.
What kind of toy lines will you be focusing on?
Our original plan was to add lines which complemented our existing ones, but as we gained more experience we saw that many of our customers would be happy to source other non-traditional lines from us. We reacted to this and expanded our ranges further. This is something we will continue to do.
Are you currently working with any toy companies? If so, who and what kind of products are you handling?
We are working with several companies including Ingo, Zinc, D’arpeje, Zeon and Uncle Milton. We expect to add at least two additional brands shortly.
How much of your business is currently toys?
In the three and a half years we have been distributing toys it has reached nearly 20 per cent of our total turnover. We expect by the end of 2013 this will rise to nearer 30 per cent, and over coming years, equal our PC/IT revenue. Our turnover in the PC sector is increasing, so we have huge expectations for toys.
Will you add more licences to your portfolio?
We are always looking to add new licences. Certainly we expect an increase in Hello Kitty and Skylanders this year, but have our sights firmly on some other prestigious licences which we should close within the next few months.
What’s the reaction been like from retail so far?
We are targeting all retailers but especially independents. The reaction from retail has been extremely encouraging, as can be witnessed by our rapid growth in sales.
What do you think Meroncourt can offer to toy suppliers? What’s the firm’s USP?
I think Meroncourt offers a new approach to distribution. We are very customer focused – each customer has a dedicated sales manager – we offer online ordering 24 hours a day and can ship the majority of orders placed by 4pm on the same day.
We offer XML and FTP feeds, a ‘direct to customer drop shipping service’, we are also able to store and ship customer products purchased elsewhere. It’s all about service. We understand how difficult it can be for retailers to run a business today, so we look at ways to offer services both flexible and personal.
How will your experience in other sectors will help you in the toy market?
We already know our 20 years experience in IT has helped us and our customers in toys. Meroncourt is forward thinking and innovative, so our customers can take full advantage of these concepts to grow their business, to increase efficiency or save overheads.
You joined Toymaster last September – why did you decide to do this?
We decided to join Toymaster as, in our opinion, it is the major voice in the toy market. For Meroncourt Europe as a ‘new boy’ it is important to listen to good advice and take advantage of the experience of the Toymaster team.
What would you most like to have achieved in the toy space by the end of 2013?
I expect Meroncourt Europe will be well known as a toy distributor, and certainly one to watch in the future.
And what are your plans for the longer term, in say five years’ time?
In five years’ time we will be a major player in toy distribution, and one which is especially aimed towards the independent retailer.
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