The whole package

Character Options is preparing for the launch of its new range as master toy licensee for the Postman Pat brand. As the finishing touches were being put in place for the new Special Delivery Service series, Katie Roberts visited the Cosgrove Hall studio to find out what?s on the way?.
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Pat Clifton and Jess, aka Postman Pat and his black and white cat, hit our screens in 1981. A year later, Jerry Healy, now Character Options’ Marketing Director, joined the toy industry and attended his first Toy Fair (as a very young man, he assures me.)

Last September, 25 years later, the pair came together as Character Options became the new master toy licensee for the Postman Pat brand.

The new collection of toys will launch in January 2009 and is based on the new series, airing on Cbeebies in September with 26 episodes, each 15 minutes long.

The collectible range will now be to scale, meaning all characters and sets will be compatible and starts at £4.99 for a tube of three figures. A Pilot Pat talking plush will retail at £12.99, with the highest-priced product for the launch collection being a Postbox Bath Set at £14.99.

The range is a bold introduction for Character, demonstrating strong faith in the new recruit. Healy explains: “We could have gone in smaller, but we have such confidence in the brand, we decided to cover every eventuality. It needed to have plush, feature plush, activity playsets and collectible figures and vehicles.”

The variety of toys hitting the market has allowed Character to put its full weight behind consumer awareness. An initial two or three commercials will be aired in the lead up to Christmas, as the new series is released. There will then be a gap before the toys appear in-store, which is expected to create a pent-up demand.

To carry the momentum, further adverts will screen in February to coincide with school holidays. Leading up to autumn/ winter, higher priced items will be highlighted and from then on, the company will follow its tried and tested path, supporting every major introduction on TV.

The main attraction for Character when taking on the licensing deal was the brand’s history and evergreen characters. This, along with the respected BBC platform and the audience it will delivers, made the deal irresistible.

Healy explains Character’s choice: “Postman Pat has huge heritage, which is a wonderful thing in this industry. I just don‘t think you can beat it; any company trying to sell a brand new product is at a disadvantage from the get-go as you just can‘t guarantee its success.”

The seemingly risk-free Pat brand also settles comfortably into Character’s grand plan. “Recent statistics from the market have shown just how important the licensed market has become. Often up to three quarters of the top ten toys are licensed products and no more so than in the pre-school sector.”

Healy continues: “Over the last five to six years, Character has changed its strategy to focus on developing long-term brands. We aim to have ten ‘building blocks’ to form the company’s foundation. We see Pat as one of our building blocks which, alongside the likes of Peppa Pig and Scooby Doo, will hopefully secure 50-60 per cent of our revenue.”

The production team at Cosgrove Hall is working around the clock to complete the programmes. A number of new, intricately-designed sets see the residents of Greendale branch out into the neighbouring town, Pencaster. Pat’s infamous van has also been replaced with a multitude of vehicles including a helicopter, scooter and a hybrid electric van.

The SDS series has transferred well to Character’s new range of toys. Healy explains: “The new series takes Pat into new directions and a new environment, which for us, opens up the opportunity for a more extended range. This will allow us to take a successful toy range a step further.”

He continued: “The new storyline is more modern, so kids of today will relate to it. Until now, Pat just had his van, but now he has a vast range of vehicles, giving us a huge potential at Character. The product has been very well received so far and we are extremely confident as we hit spring/ summer previews.”

Entertainment Rights delivers

Entertainment Rights bought Postman Pat from creator Ivor Wood for £5.1million in 2001. The company has sold the new Postman Pat – Special Delivery Service series to over 110 territories worldwide.

Over 50 licensees are currently on board for Postman Pat, spanning toys and games, publishing, apparel, food and partyware.

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