Can you run through the history of Alyss Toys?
We started in April 2012 – our first transaction was April 20th – but we were formerly over ten years known as Treasure Trove.
The staff count including myself stands at six, with Liz Nield as business director and Sandra Cambridge as commercial manager. We also have five sales agents covering the UK and Ireland, and will be adding to the team shortly with a business development director. I think that structures us up, certainly for the balance of this year.
Our office is part of three companies – one is importing and distributing to the education market and another that supplies directly to nurseries and kindergartens.
Which brands do you currently distribute?
Orb is the headline brand in our portfolio, with its main sub-brands of Sticky Mosaics and Orb Disney. Quercetti is a quality pre- school line, plus Safari replica animals, Bilibo, Plastwood magnetic construction, plus we have recently added self- propelling ride-on Plasmacar and Mic-o-mic construction sets.
What are the top sellers from each of them?
Orb: Sticky Mosaics Butterflies have been a real hit, plus Orb: Disney Princess Tiaras, Quercetti: Marble runs, Safari: Tubes and Dinosaurs. Bilibo is always a perennial top seller and Plastwood magnetic construction: Super Maxi for three plus.
What are the main products we should be on the look out for from each of them this year?
Orb: Plushcraft pillows, Orb: Disney Princess Cinderella Heart Box, Quercetti: Pallino, Safari: Additional dinosaurs and a great new merchandising stand, Bilibo has a silver coloured version for the tenth anniversary and Plastwood magnetic construction: Kliky 1+ for the younger child. Plus, Plasmacar and Mic-o-mic are both new.
The Mic-o-mic acquisition was a major coup for you. Can you tell us more about your plans for this?
Mic-o-mic is a top quality product range with real heritage that has just benefitted from a major revamp and with impactful new flip-top packaging. This is a major change as recognised by one of the largest US importer/ distributors International Playthings, which started this year with Mic-o-mic on the strength of the new packaging style. I’ve worked with them and they handle Quercetti as we do.
The packaging and the development stand by the principle of the main aspects of it. It presents and merchandises so muchbetter now and I think it’s also a product that not only goes into toys, but into gift. Distribution-wise I think we can perhaps extend it more.
Are we likely to see more acquisitions as you look to build your portfolio?
Yes, later this year – potentially an autumn announcement for a January physical distribution. It’s likely to be in the same areas – educational, learning, quality. We don’t go out of our way for licensed products, we tend to go for more traditional, back-to- basics brands and products.
We have several strong candidates ready for launch including a new look children’s lunchbox for school and outings called Kidzpod. Also, a great portable storage case.
Kidzpod can be personalised with the child’s images, and from a parent’s view it is safe and hygienic, without all the spills and mess. It’s nicely designed and I’m dying to get it on the market.
What are the big challenges facing firms the size of Alyss?
Managing working capital to enable the pursuit of new business opportunities. Both to take on additional brands and additional distribution and marketing opportunities. We are considering new structural arrangements including mergers/ acquisitions to enter 2014 with. Watch this space...
How has the toy business changed over the years?
Shrinkage in the target age the influence of digital, media and licensing, and the increased market share by supermarkets. Changes in safety regulations. We have to realise that it is becoming easier for people to trade directly with the Far East. For distributors to have their own products or strong brands – and where Alyss Toys focuses is on having strong brands that are exclusively available through us for the market. Fortunately our brands are global, well managed and ahead of the game.
What would you most like to have achieved in 2013?
Strong second half sales and financial performance. To establish further opportunities for our core brands and to establish new ones like Orb Disney. Clearly the business is reformed, we did really well last year (which was a part- year of nine months).
We want to accelerate our company development and financial base. We are pursuing merger and acquisition opportunities.