Former Spin Master sales director Graham Spark is moving on from a short spell with Tomy to set up a new UK operation for robotics specialist WowWee.
The move sees WowWee end its successful UK distribution deal with Character Options, which has already signed up a new range of robotic toys from US manufacturer Bossa Nova.
Spark will be UK sales and marketing director, assisted by Clare Smee at a new office in Middleton Cheney, near Banbury. WowWee’s new European operation will have 11 staff in total with offices in Belgium (which will be the European head office) and a further eight sales and marketing people in France, Germany, Holland, Benelux, Spain, Austria and Switzerland. WowWee’s Hong Kong office has 80 staff, with three dedicated to the UK.
WowWee acquired Belgian-based toy distributor Sablon for e3.8m in cash last year as it prepared to launch its European distribution network.
Spark told ToyNews: “Having returned from our 18-month expedition through Africa I was fortunate enough to get back into toys on a three-month contract with Tomy, which in turn re-united me with Jeff McCarthy, who was in the process of setting up WowWee Europe. I met the WowWee team and managed to persuade them I was still a ‘toy boy’ and could do the UK job for them.
“After five years of using the European distributor network, sales now exceed e25m and with three major successes in five years (Robosapien 2004, Roboraptor 2005 and Dragonfly 2007), the WowWee brand is the market leader and a category. Therefore, establishing a European base and dealing direct with the customers was the obvious and logical next step.
“By going direct and setting up local sales and marketing offices, serviced and supported from a European base, WowWee can be more focused on the product line in each particular market, allowing more time, energy and expertise on the sales and marketing execution. This will enable greater brand focus and a longer term commitment, which will ultimately benefit the retailers and allow for a faster growth potential.
The new range will include an extension of the Alive feature plush range, a new line of innovative licensed products from Think Wow and two new robots, which will be TV-advertised.
“We will be offering a full marketing programme across the key products/ranges which will include TV, trade activity, PR (we are working with So PR) and print advertising. Overall we will be offering a stronger plan than previous years,” added Spark.
The firm will be exhibiting at Nuremberg - Hall 6 B36 - C39.