You?ve got mail: Jo Birkin, UK Director, Canenco

We find out more about Jo Birkin's new role at Canenco and her life back in the toy industry...
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> Good to have you back. I think a lot of people were wondering where you went after Jumbo. There was a little matter of a baby to take care of I believe?

Yes, I cannot report much rest and relaxation in the few months out of toys. Simply baby talk, playing with toys for under-ones and CBeebies. So I guess, in a way, I have been doing my research and keeping up to date with the world of toys.

> I see. And you still want to come back? It’s murder out there you know?

Yes I attended the Disney conference and many suppliers I talked with were feeling cautious over 2008 final results and 2009! However, Disney did not let me down with focus and enthusiasm for an industry that will always be here.

Obviously changes are happening and the winners will be the ones that embrace opportunity and maybe reinvent themselves to stay in the game. I can see several innovative toy companies and retailers building for a bright future and whilst prudence has never been more talked about, the insustry is still alive! And I guess Canenco are proof of that, still growing despite the tough climate. Although we are very optimistic, we plan to be caution and prudent to ensure we can deliver sales and profit to both ourselves and retail.

> Tell me a bit about Canenco?

Canenco is a Dutch-owned toys and stationery group called Canenco Group in Europe and Slammer HK group in the Far East, with companies in Holland, Denmark, Germany and Hong Kong. Its 75 people are creating and developing their own generic lines in the brand called Slammer. Under the brand Undercover or TCF they are one of Europe’s leading developer of Disney stationery, arts and crafts and bags. In Benelux they have been trading for 25 years.

The Slammer brand is specialised in arts and craft, stationery, dress up, bath and trend items and also develop private label or tailor made solutions for the biggest names in retail. Over the last few years they developed a major Disney partnership with pan-European rights and extended rights for the counties were they have their own offices.

> Oi. No cutting and pasting :-) Doesn’t sound a million miles away from what Jumbo does. What sort of operation will it be in the UK? Just you or a small team?

For me the two are worlds apart. Jumbo is a specialist in games and puzzles and trying to hang on to heritage games whereas Canenco maximises its Disney offer and what they’re doing with product is simple innovation.

They put together bespoke ranges for retailers to fit a range of solutions. I’m really energised by this opportunity even though I’ve never done anything but work with brands before.

> And the UK plans?

As far as UK goes, I have one account manager, Hein Meurer, who has been looking after the UK for a little while already so he’s got great knowledge of market. But
I think people want to deal with someone from this market too who has in-depth knowledge of it. So I’ll be going back to basics really and using his knowledege of the stationery sector. We first have to hit the budgets we want to hit in the first six months and then look at how we set up a UK office.


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