“Without Innovation, toy companies stagnate and decline,” Neil Bandtock, Vivid Imaginations’ MD, simply states.
“Having a powerful R&D machine driving new product development is vital for growth.”
This is certainly something the team at Vivid knows a lot about. In the past 18 months, the company has more than doubled its investment in in-house product development.
“In the same space of time, Vivid has made successful in-roads into other territories, with over 33 per cent of sales now coming from non-UK markets.
“[The new model] reduces risk in our business and allows us much more control over our long-term destiny,” Bandtock explains.
“With a more stable business model we can continue to increase investments in new product development, plus advertising and promotion of our brands.”
A prime example of this is Vivid’s Animagic, a brand which started out three years ago as just one animatronic pony and is now a full product range, with retail price points ranging from £6.99 for the Newborn Pets up to £79.99 for Benji My Best Friend Puppy.
Animagic is proving a major hit at retail, doubling its market share in 2010. “Our biggest selling item for the past three years has been Fluffy Go Walkies, which is joined by cute kitten Cassie Goes Catwalk this year,” Bandtock continues. “We will have five different Animagic product lines on television this year, which shows just how fast we have grown and just how big our investment is on Animagic.”
On top of this, investment is also being poured into Moshi Monsters and Furrblings, plus Little Charley Bear from Chapman, Everything’s Rosie from V&S Entertainment and Disney-Pixar’s Cars 2.
Indeed, Moshi is currently the best selling girls toy in the UK, with Vivid expecting the brand to be grown even more from May onwards, when stock is less scarce.
“Around 45 per cent of our range is licensed and this segment is growing strongly,” admits Bandtock.
Outside of the UK, meanwhile, Vivid also operates subsidiaries in France and Germany, with a strategy to set up more bases in other key markets in the long-term. “We set them up to maximise sales in these big markets and so far we’re enjoying spectacular success in difficult retail conditions. Retailers in these markets appreciate the innovation and brand investment we bring. Our goal is to become a top ten player in France and Germany at some stage in the near future, but we will be prudent and patient and understand that we have to earn the respect of the local retailers and the hearts and minds of local consumers.”
Meanwhile, Vivid is also notching up success in North America with Animagic, Moshi Monsters, Roary the Racing Car and Timmy Time.
“The toy industry is probably in better shape than many other consumer goods industries as we tend to be relatively recession proof,” Bandtock explains.
“However, there is no doubt that in virtually all developed Western economies, there is the spectre of double-dip recession still hanging over us all and that undoubtedly means consumers are very careful with discretionary spending and are very value conscious.”
Despite the note of caution, Vivid is quietly confident about its aims for 2011: “Double digit growth in the UK, France and Germany, and tripling our business in North America, which looks very likely on current performance.”