You've Got Mail (July)

Every month, ToyNews Q&A's one of the top faces from the global toy industry. This month, we speak to Halsall's Sarah Holden...
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>How’s life in Britain’s kipper capital? Much going on in Fleetwood?

For cod’s sake! Fleetwood may have a fishy reputation but I assure you there’s much more going on in Halsall’s sea-side set up than you might think – and I’m not just angling for a cheesy line, honest! Seriously it’s as manic as ever at Halsall’s Fylde coast HQ, what with several exciting new license deals for Spring Summer 2009, really innovative new tooled toy designs in development and yet another big showroom redress. I think the fact that we are based ‘up North’ in Fleetwood (probably better know for its fresh fish, proximity to the hen party Mecca that is Blackpool and the occasional weekend getaway for tired inhabitants of Coronation Street!), somehow taints the expectations and conceptions of visitors to the Halsall head office. We are frequently told by new visitors to our Fleetwood showroom (be them licensors, customers or members of the press) how amazed they are at the sheer breadth of our product range, impactful displays and level of professionalism.

>It’s not exactly the M4 corridor though is it? Do you find it difficult to attract other people up there, or just lazy journos?

Well put it this way………we have no problems convincing people to come up and visit us a second time! That includes busy journos.

Twice? Not sure I’d want to go past Birmingham more than twice. So Halsall must be one of the biggest things in Fleetwood? Or does honour go to the Fisherman’s Friend?

Located pretty much next door to us, Fisherman’s Friend is a neighbour, who, I concede, does beat Halsall in the awareness stakes – credit where credit’s due. But nonetheless Halsall is a major employer in the area and we are working on raising our profile locally as the UK’s number one privately owned toy company. In fact, a full page company feature in the local Blackpool Gazette published earlier this week referred to the Fleetwood showroom as (and I quote….) “The Tate Modern of the toy world”.

>Well, I’m not going to ask you if you’ve ever sucked a Fisherman’s Friend. That would be crude. So, what’s keeping everyone busy at Halsall this summer?

Saucy! Moving swiftly on, this Summer we are busy working on developing some fantastic new outdoor ranges for Spring Summer 2009 with hot, high profile licenses such as Hannah Montana, Disney Fairies, Batman and Wall E. Not to mention extensions to existing summer ranges such as new Fifi and Roary outdoor games, Fifi wheeled toys with sound, Barbie gardening and more JCB role-play toys. If that wasn’t enough we’re also working on securing more new top licenses and exciting distribution deal.

Sales this Summer are certainly back on track. After last year’s wash out many retailers were concerned that outdoor sales would struggle but we certainly haven’t seen this. Since the weather picked up around Easter time, sales of our outdoor toys such as Barbie and Spiderman inflatables, Fifi and Roary wheeled and the boys and girls Evo micro scooters have quite literally flown, far exceeding expectations and proving the pessimists wrong.

But it’s not all work and no play. Halsall recently hosted their annual day at the races for those employees ‘crazy’ enough (sorry ‘loyal’) to have given the company 5 -10 years of their life. It was my first time to join Halsall’s ‘5 Year Club’ – I would describe it as ‘exclusive’ but with 35 of us occupying a rather posh double box at Haydock Race Course, it’s more apt to call it ‘sociable’!

I should point out that members of the ’10 Year Club’ are treated to an even more lavish affair. It was a lovely day enjoyed by all, which began in a very civilised manner sipping champers on the balcony and ended with the kind of jovial group hugs and spirited sing-songs usually reserved for the Christmas party!

Needless to say I didn’t win a penny and even managed to lose some of my own hard earned cash on over-enthusiastic flutters but some of my colleagues faired much better, ‘romping home’ with tidy sums made from the well chosen bets generously placed by the company. Winnings or not, I was certainly flush with something and am just grateful you didn’t E-mail me for a chat the day after.

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