Can you give us a bit of background on Russimco and Gazebo?
Russimco is based near Bridgwater in the West Country and was founded by me and my brother Sam in 1993, initially sourcing products from Eastern Europe and importing them to the UK. Far from the days when we specialised in mainly wooden toys, the portfolio has now changed and has a focus on bringing innovative new concepts to market that are not seen from other firms in the UK.
Myself and my colleague Richard Bowman pride ourselves on new innovation and have a strong ethos of helping make the world a better place through providing toys that enhance good old-fashioned play values and have a real feeling of yesteryear. We’re also focused on creating new innovative lines that have ground breaking qualities, such as the Ecotronic Toys range.
In 2002 Russimco incorporated Gazebo Games, an established games and puzzle manufacturer, also based in the South West. During 2008 all the Gazebo product lines were bought under the Russimco banner.
How would you classify the firm?
I guess ‘niche’ is the correct way to describe Russimco. We pride ourselves in thinking outside of the box when it comes to toys. This was certainly the case with Ecotronic, which is a project that is close to my heart. When this was launched no other toy company was offering such a product. You have to ask yourself why no-one has thought about battery-less electronic toys before. When looking into the details of how many batteries end up in landfill sites each year in the UK alone, I was appalled and knew that we would make a real difference if we could create a dynamo powered range.
What sort of year has it been for Russimco?
I think any company that says 2008 has not been tough would not be being entirely truthful. We had a lot of new innovation and development to pay for with the launch of the Ecotronic range, but this has paid off. The collection has been really well received and we certainly could have sold more had we been able to supply greater numbers. But, as with most new collections we had to apply a degree of caution. Now we feel more confident for 2009 and have extended the range.
Our Retro Games have also done particularly well. We have a huge selection and the prices are really good, meaning that even in the current climate they have sold well.
Do the current economic conditions pose more of a threat to toys that are not so mainstream?
As long as we have distribution then I do not feel the current climate will affect us more than any other toy company. The fact is that we have not TV-advertised in the past and our products don’t warrant it. But they are toys and games that people instantly want to buy when they see them in store. There is a real point of difference about everything we do and this constant innovation and development will help keep us buoyant even at times like this.
What sort of stores stock your product outside of toy specialists?
Right across the board really, we have many independent accounts and also we have been really popular with gift shops and the gift buyers of department store. But the introduction of Ecotronic has taken us firmly in to majors and multiple territory.
What has been the reaction to the Ecotronic range?
Fabulous! The media really embraced the story and we have had loads of coverage for all products in the range.
It’s been exciting but it’s the retail buyer, and ultimately the consumer, that we have to impress. Nearly
everyone who has seen the collection has been really impressed. The fact that items are packaged in eco-friendly packaging helps too. The packaging has certainly helped reinforce the whole ethos of this being a range of environmentally conscious products.