Magazine article Marketing

A Never-Ending Toy Story

Magazine article Marketing

A Never-Ending Toy Story

Article excerpt

As the Christmas toys jostle for shelf space, it takes POP to give you an edge.

Bar code readers are bleeping merrily on high at the UK's toy stores in the run-up to Christmas. But for the toy manufacturers, the celebrations are already over. By the beginning of November they had either sold in the hoped-for number of products and obtained the display space they sought, or were rubbing their commercial bruises.

Their attention is now focusing on the long approach to Christmas 1997, for which the preliminary skirmishing starts with the round of international toy fairs in January and February.

While the biggest volumes of toy sales are through Argos, Woolworths and Toys R Us, probably the best-known name in the market is Hamleys. Prominent exposure there is seen as a special cachet and the store is often the launch pad for new products.

Alan Kearns, merchandise manager at the five-storey emporium in London's Regent Street, says: "Although we are a big store, we are tight for space. Hamleys has always been about people being able to see the products and displays, activities and videos, not box after box of toys."

Once space has been provisionally allocated to a product range, the tough talk begins with manufacturers and their POP designers on how their displays will complement the Hamleys image. Ideally, manufacturers want an exclusive area in which they can set up a shop-within-a-shop. This is granted to established big sellers, such as Mattel's Barbie, Hasbro's portfolio of Action Man, Star Wars and Batman toys, and Lego. Most others have to be content with more modest displays or simply a piece of shelf.

"We review every year and if we haven't taken the money we think we should we cut back the space," Kearns says. "We always have new products to show."

Construction toys have long been dominated by Lego, with Meccano a distant second. Other building toys have failed to make a significant impression. This makes it all the more remarkable that the youthful K'Nex has been granted a ground-floor shop-within-a-shop at Hamleys.

Jointly owned by Hasbro and K'Nex Industries of the USA, K'Nex International manufactures in Ashford, Kent, and has global marketing rights outside North America. "We are just completing our first full year as an international operation with a UK manufacturing base," says its president, Peter Brown. "We are looking forward to getting a 20% market share by the year-end from a standing start."

A foot in the door

Its distinctive POP displays are seen as vital ingredients in its success. …

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