The transition from distributor to fully-fledged IP owner and developer is the Holy Grail for many UK suppliers. Re:creation believes 2011 is the year it will make that jump. Ronnie Dungan spoke to MD Nick Joslin?
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Toy Fair is always an important event for suppliers, for some more than others, but this year Re:creation boss Nick Joslin (pictured) believes it is the firm’s most important ever, possibly a watershed moment.

Re:creation has reached a point in its relatively short history where it needs to reach the next stage of its development. It’s a familiar scenario for many UK suppliers who have relied on the distribution of (mostly) US product lines to build their business, but who find they have reached the point where they need the stability offered by owning and distributing their own IPs and brands.

“Three years ago we looked at the business and thought, ‘we’re just a distributor’ and recognised the merits in developing our own product,” comments Joslin.

“We had a fair amount of focus on an in-house portfolio that we can sell on a global market and we’ve got very strong partnerships going forward. This year is where the fruits of that will be seen.

“It changes the scope of what we are. We are not just a distributor and it’s important as a company that we develop our own ideas. At Toy Fair we are getting ready to show a lot of new product for the first time and I’m more excited than at any time in our 12-year history. It’s our most important Toy Fair yet.”

The firm enjoyed success with the Cranium games before Hasbro bought it, but it has been difficult to replace the range, outlining the sometimes fine line between success and failure as a distributor.

But the Razor line of scooters and boards has been a big winner for Re:creation and fits in well with the firm’s image and ambitions as a purveyor of innovative products.

“We created the scooter category in the first instance. And the pogo sticks category,” Joslin reminds us.

“We thrive on opportunities to create something out of nothing or ride on growing brands or categories. We over-invest to establish them.

“The big concern is that we can’t continue to do that if we end up creating a category which has come from nowhere and then get the familiar knock-off problems. Most retailers are crying out for innovation and incremental revenue and we are set up to deliver that. It’s what inspired us to create it in the first place and it’s made more difficult if copycats put us in a difficult position.

“It hurts us and hurts the category and if it’s allowed to continue unchecked it does run the risk of stifling innovation, because we can’t continue to invest in it.”

2011 will see the firm looking hard at its current line-up and separating some of the wheat from the chaff, with less profitable lines phased out.

“We have to be a bit more ruthless on the management of our portfolio and look at how some of the more mediocre performers go, going forward. We are far more analytical now on the profitability of any brand.

“At the end of the day it has got to make money for us and our retail partners and we ought not to be prolonging the agony.

“The focus has to be on strong long-term brands. In the past we have been seduced by cool innovation, without considering how long-term it is. We’ve now become a lot more discerning.”

Part of its expansion plans included the opening of a Hong Kong showroom, with six staff, and in the UK Joslin says the firm is in its best ever position with its personnel.

“As well as a focus on longer-term products, we’ve been looking at the quality of people we bring into the business. We’ve got a stronger team now than we have ever had before.”

If the firm can deliver the right product mix at Toy Fair, with all its other ducks in a row, 2011 may be when it makes the great leap forward.



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