Firstly, would you mind giving me a bit of background to your career history in the toy business? How long have you been with Bandai?
I joined Bandai Japan after graduating from university in 1996 and for six years I worked in the sales team of the vending machine department where we launched capsule toy vending machines in the Japanese market.
In 2002, I moved to Bandai in France to establish the vending machine business in Europe. After four years I became European corporate planning director and worked closely with the Bandai European management team before becoming manager of Bandai European operation department in 2008, dealing with toy R&D, purchase, and QA/QC.
I am now delighted to be working with the Bandai UK team as their new president.
How has the experience you gained in previous positions at Bandai helped with your role at Bandai UK?
Having experienced several divisions and assignments, I have a wide network in the Bandai Namco Group and I will be taking advantage of this. I would like to bring our unique and innovative business model, which our group delivers all over the world, into the UK market.
How do you see the toy market in general at the moment? Did 2011 progress how you thought it would?
Having experienced the economic situation in Europe and seeing industry circumstances and production in the Far East getting tougher, it seems things do not look bright. However, our toy business is all about entertainment for children and I think people are still happy to spend on kids. The important thing is that choice and value will be tougher and what kids want is changing. So how do we become ‘unique’ for kids? Using new technology is one way, but it is not the only solution. We must explore all product, brand and licence opportunities to ensure we excite the consumers of the future.
For Bandai, where did you see growth last year? Was it from the areas you expected?
We had Power Rangers back on the market following the launch of Power Rangers Samurai. Thanks to all the licensor, TV and retailer support, this was a very successful re-launch. However, we have had more success in the past, so we are focused on continuing to develop these relationships and take confidence in the brand to a higher level.
How will you continue to grow the business in 2012? What are your key brands for the year? ThunderCats and Power Rangers look particularly strong...
Yes, Power Rangers and ThunderCats are key brands for us, but we also have Ben 10. The new series Ben 10 Omniverse launches this year and we are working closely with Cartoon Network to bring this innovative TV show together with new innovative toys.
On the girls’ side, we have a strong brand in Harumika and our spring launch of a lower price item in Petite Harumika has been well received.
Are there any gaps in your portfolio you are looking to fill, by acquisition or otherwise?
We intend to maintain and grow our strength in the boys’ action category and this is our main priority.
However, we will always consider any opportunity that may enable us to expand into other areas, so we are open to all ideas.
Speaking of acquisition, we saw Tomy and RC2 and Mattel and Hit in 2011 – are company acquisitions something Bandai might consider in order to grow the business?
Acquisition could always be an option, but we are focused on exploring our own unique business opportunities within the international group, as we feel this will give us the platform for further growth.
What are the main challenges the toy business has to face this year? And how will Bandai look to overcome them?
NPD data showed the consumer trend during the Christmas season last year with present buying becoming later and later, and this makes business more uncertain. So we need to think of how to appeal to consumers and help them make the choice to buy our products before they come into store.
What are your main aims for the business for 2012?
I am looking forward to learning more about the UK toy market and to finding the clue for further growth.