“I would actually say 2012 for Rainbow probably represents quite a big watershed,” MD Anthony Temple tells ToyNews.
The firm, he believes, has come of age this year, completing the transition from a boutique toy and gift company, into a bone fide mainstream toys and gift business. Over the last few years, the classic properties in Rainbow’s portfolio – including Beatrix Potter, Eric Carle, Miffy and Paddington Bear – have been joined by high profile licences such as Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, Wibbly Pig, Charlie & Lola and The Adventures of Abney & Teal. The latter, notably, is the firm’s first foray as a master toy licensee and will see it launch a variety of product from August this year.
“What we set about to do seven years ago [when Temple acquired Rainbow] was really radically change and transition from being a boutique business to more of a mainstream, quality consumer products business,” Temple explains. “Rainbow had enjoyed tremendous success in the ‘90s with classic characters, mainly servicing the independent trade, but we didn’t have a major, national key account business. “We invested in a sales infrastructure and into new products and new licences, which I think we executed very successfully. We deliberately set about going into mainstream toys, and I think that’s visible now with the introduction of more volume, TV-driven characters.”
OVER THE RAINBOW
Rainbow certainly has a reputation in the business for quality product, and over the last few years the firm has expanded into several new areas. Wooden toys, for example, have become a mainstay part of its new product development, while Rainbow has also introduced floor puzzles, jigsaws and matching card games to a number of its brands. It is also looking at new product development in the arts and crafts arena. On top of this, Temple and his team have worked hard to expand on Rainbow’s traditional gift business. This meant an investment into the Snoopy licence, with the firm taking a 60 year-old brand and creating a new concept called Snoopy Original Since 1950, while a successful partnership with Aardman has also been built up. It continued to expand its adult gifting lines, taking on the Edward Monkton property, while most recently, Rainbow has become the distributor of B Duck and there are ambitious plans for 2013 to build it as a main brand.
“B Duck is a hugely established franchise in the Asian market, with a massive range of product available,” Temple says. “It gives us a real opportunity to bulk up in that functional gifting arena, and it sits very neatly with our contemporary gifting programme. Our sister company is handling the licensing for B Duck and Boots is already on board. Greetings cards and apparel have been signed up, too. I think we have the next Paul Frank on our hands here potentially.” Running alongside, the firm has continued to grow its traditional book-based characters, while its commitment to the nursery and baby sector remains strong.
Part of the challenge for Rainbow now, admits Temple, is changing the perceptions of what the company is and what it can offer.
“I believe we can offer mainstream toys,” he confidently states. “We are very much a company that has great products, good brands, but also is appropriate for the toy business. We get compliments all the time about our products, but sometimes because of the quality of them, there’s the perception in the toy retail community that we’re expensive – we’re actually not. We very much offer value for money in terms of the scope of ranges that we’ve got.
“We also often get labelled as posh, but we have an offering which is something for everyone.”
Industry recognition of what Rainbow has been working towards is something that Temple would love to see. “What would give me great satisfaction is something that is a visible sign of what we’ve tried to do to actually be recognised,” he concludes. “What I would love to see [by the end of 2012] is what we believe is the strongest new toy brand we’ve got, working at retail: Abney & Teal. “I think that would firmly establish us in the minds of the toy retail trade that we have a must-have product, and we would see multiple benefit with our other great toy ranges.”