TOYMASTER 2011: Industry comment

With the annual Toymaster event upon us, Katie Roberts spoke to some of the exhibitors about the role independent retail plays in their business. This is followed with a comprehensive guide to what will be on show this year?
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A selection of suppliers took some time out from show preparation to talk to us about the importance of the independent retail sector.

Also in discussion were the reasons for attending the show, how firms support the indies, how the retail landscape for toys is changing and whether grocers and online retailers are posing a threat.

“Toymaster is a really important show for both us and the members and a great chance to update everyone after Toy Fair. The independents are a valuable sector to Spin Master, usually the most loyal of retailers with a passion for product and willing to give most things a go.

“We doubled our independent retail business last year and are expecting anything from 30-50 per cent growth again this year.

“We offer strong promotions to independents during key periods (London Toy Fair for spring deals and May show for autumn deals) which gives them both margin and various options for competing in the market.“

Jacqueline Taylor-Foo, sales director, Spin Master

“We exhibit at Toymaster because it is a great place for doing business with members. We always come away with a good level of new orders for the forthcoming Christmas season from members in the UK and Ireland.

‘The independent retail sector is growing again in the post-Woolies era. Toymaster is a very strong top ten customer for Vivid.

“Vivid supports the independent retailers with good promotions, good service, catalogue support and ensuring members get a fair share of hot products like Moshi Monsters.

“The growth in toy offerings at grocers and online is affecting independents, but Toymaster offers great customer service and range, which is why they are still growing despite the current challenging market conditions.”

Nick Austin, chairman, Vivid

“We have been regular supporters of the Toymaster show for many years now. The independent sector represents a significant portion of our UK sales. Our independent sales grew by over ten per cent in 2010.

“We have a dedicated sales manager and a nationwide sales team that service the sector. We run indie-only promotions, sector exclusives and ensure the service they receive from us is excellent. This strategy is probably not unconnected with the growth shown last year.

“The question of how we view grocers and online vs the independent sector is always a balancing act. We value the major’s volumes but need the coverage and range breadth that the independent sector gives us as well. As we’ve grown both sectors alongside each other in the past five years I can only trust we’ve got the balance something like right.”

Clive Wooster, European managing director, Learning Curve

“Independent retail is vital to our business. This is the one sector that distributes our full portfolio of products and is a showcase for our consumers.

“The independent sector is key to the success of many brands. In particular since the Woolworths downfall, they provide a High Street presence, which could have been lost and makes toys a destination within many city centres.

“We support independent retailers through tailored promotions, in-store theatre, regular purchasing opportunities and support through a field-based sales team.“

Tim Ives, general sales manager, Tomy

“The independent retail sector is a key area of focus for us. We are committed to continuing to develop and improve the way we look after all our retailers.

“The sector has shown great resilience over the last few years. We have seen significant growth within this sector and this is a trend we expect to continue.

“The retail environment is always challenging but the independent retailer definitely has a place in the mix. The High Street is a part of British culture and Toymaster retailers are perfectly placed to maximise this predilection by providing consumers with a shopping experience that they wouldn’t get within the grocers.

“We are continually looking to work smarter and improve our processes to benefit the independent retail sector. This includes investing in an additional salaried-salesman to help maximise and deliver growth opportunities, plus the launch of a new monthly newsletter that will keep the independents up-to-date on new product launches, marketing campaigns and our extensive TV advertising programme.”

Dominic Geddes, sales director, Mattel

“Toymaster gives us an opportunity to meet with customers from the north of England. It’s the only trade show we do north of Birmingham. It’s a good chance to catch up with other supplier/competitors in order to get a feel how the year’s progressing for the industry.

“Allowing all independentsin, not just Toymaster members, gives us an opportunity to invite customers who we would have to otherwise visit.

“The independent retail sector is vital for providing depth. Independent retailers tend to stock lots of different products within our range rather than just one or two lines. They also are more adventurous in their selections and willing to take a chance.

“To support the sector, we find giving a free sample of a new line works particularly well. We also offer demo days.”

Roger Martin, MD, Coiledspring Games

“For us, it [Toymaster] is one of the must-do events of the calendar year. The independent sector is of huge importance to Esdevium. Independent retail forms the bedrock of our business.

“Independent retail is a growing sector for our company. What we can offer the toy trade has expanded dramatically in recent years. Five or six years ago we were seen as a specialist distributor, but now we feel we have lots to offer the toy trade.

“We look to support independents and look after them as best we can. We try to provide a great service and this includes next day delivery; fast stock turnaround; a low minimum order; knowledgeable and friendly staff and weekly new release sheets.”

Steve Buckmaster, sales director, Esdevium Games

“We are new suppliers to Toymaster and wanted to showcase our ranges – we have a really exciting portfolio with lots of new ranges for 2011, all of which are ideally suited to Toymaster retailers.

“The sector is hugely important; 80 per cent of our business is from independents. We have fantastic relationships with our existing retailers and are keen to meet new faces at the show. We really focus on independents and are constantly looking at ways to further support our retailers.”

Thierry Bourret, director, Asobi

"We consider Toymaster the biggest and most prepared independent trade show in the UK. The independent sector is incredibly important to us and it makes an important contribution to Hasbro’s business.

“Our Orders Direct team will also be using this as an opportunity to be there opening accounts, presenting products, talking through promotions, facilitating main season orders and taking top-up orders.

“We have a comprehensive business plan and support package that is bespoke to the independent channel, delivering what they need.”

Peter Burcham, national sales manager, Hasbro

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