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The Great Outdoors

Toy World takes a look at the Outdoor Toys category to find out how it performed through the year and speaks to some of its key players to find out about their confidence levels as the trade looks ahead to 2014. Tom Roberts reports.

Mike Hartshorn of Trunki said that he thought the I

category’s performance had been helped by the growing trends of healthy pursuits and outdoor activities, the London 2012 Olympics, and the increasing amount of families holidaying in the UK rather than overseas. He said: “PaddlePaks are specifically designed for kids to use on outdoor excursions to the woods, beaches, or day trips with the family. There are a lot of back packs for kids out there, but we’ve focused on making them fun as well as functional, and we see excellent potential for growth in this area. On the weather front, another hot Summer in 2014 would be great, because 2013 experienced a superb turnaround from the gloom of the first half, which really boosted sales from July onwards.” And yet despite the positive comments above, the stats show the Outdoor and Sports category, according to NPD figures, experiencing a 2013 pretty much on a par with 2012 in terms of sales value. This year’s March experienced just 57% of the sales made in 2012, flanked by a flat January, March, April and May. July and August were undoubtedly the months that saved the Outdoor Toys category. Key highlights to date include sub-categories such

nextricably linked with the weather, the Outdoor Toys category received a welcome boost this year in the shape of one of the most prolonged periods of good weather of the last few years. Suppliers and retailers alike were delighted by the demand for product as the temperature rose,

with most confirming that July 2013 was their strongest month. In some cases, toy retailers experienced a tripling of their expected take for that month alone, which, as we’ll find out later, proved to be invaluable for the overall performance of the category. Step2’s Brian Tinniswood commented: “This year, business was up on 2012 after the hot Summer. Is this consumer confidence returning? I hope so. We could have sold a lot more than we did, but we sold out, our retailers sold out, and we had factored in a percentage which meant we were up, so we were happy. It could quite easily have gone the other way with bad weather, so we mustn’t complain about potential missed sales.” Phil Ratcliffe of MV Sports admitted that the first half of 2013 was challenging due to the poor weather, but: “After June we had a complete contrast when the Summer finally kicked in. July, August and September have all shown significant increases on last year. All-in- all we expect to be ahead of last year at year end, and we are confident that 2014 will be just as good a year.” Simon Pickavance of Hy-Pro International also commented on the positive impact of the weather, but added that in some cases there didn’t need to be blazing sunshine to make sales. He said: “We felt that although we benefited from the great weather, we equally saw some continued growth with the emerging trend of customers buying products that have strong play value, whether used outdoors or not. We pride ourselves on making many of our ranges available to use even if the sun doesn’t shine. ”

28 Toyworld

as Pools, Water/Sand Toys and Bubble Toys seeing rises in value of £1m or more. These sectors were among those highlighted by retailers as areas of growth. Non- pedal Ride-ons, Winter Sports Toys, and Playground Equipment also look to be doing well with slight rises in value for 2013. The sub-categories that experienced drops in value did so only by very slight margins, and they were Water Guns, Sports Activities and Games, Skates/Skateboards/Scooters, Battery Operation Ride- ons and Tricycle and Pedal Ride-ons. But with a couple more months of trading left in the

year, and the final push to Christmas, I wanted to get an idea of which products some of the key players in the category would be focusing on. Simon Pickavance told me: “Our range of games tables continue to sell very well, and Christmas is a key sales period for this type of product. This Christmas will also see the entry of our first item in the battery-powered scooter market, and after strong sales though the Summer we are now seeing further signs that show us this is going to be a market we will continue to develop products within.” Another company doing well with battery-operated scooters is re:creation. Katy Fletcher told me that the business they were doing on Razor’s electric scooters was “phenomenal”. She said: “We are 62% up on electric scooters at the moment, and selling almost 1,000 units a week. The impressive results can be attributed to the TV advertising, our great distribution network and our emphasis on providing good price points; the E100 model even made it into the list of top-selling toys for August. 2014 will see us pushing the electric scooters even more with a new marketing campaign titled ‘Electrify my ride’, the details of which we are in the process of cementing. We see 2014 as the year of the electric scooter, and we are really excited about showing off our ranges, including Razor, Air Storm and Fuze, at next year’s Toy Fair.”

Brian Tinniswood revealed that a lot of Step2’s lines will be drop-shipped for its retail partners on an extended range of kitchens and playhouses. He said: “These are all bigger items that Santa needs to be delivering as close to Christmas as possible, mainly to help the consumers keep them away from prying eyes. We can do this right up until the last few days, which means retailers can continue taking orders up until the 19th of December and still have it delivered to their customers on time.” Phil Ratcliffe explained that MV will be pushing

its extreme scooter brand, Stunted, and key licensed wheeled ranges such as Thomas, Peppa, Skylanders and One Direction, commenting: “Also, our award-winning range of battery-operated vehicles will gain momentum as we move into the final quarter.” Mike Hartshorn added that PaddlePaks is still a

relatively new product, but Trunki will be pushing it right up to Christmas and into next year. He said: “When a parent or child goes to buy a Trunki case, retailers will be able to offer PaddlePaks, too. The case is for the journey over, and the pack is for their day-to-day activities. Our goal is to position them as a year-round product because perception at the moment places them as a beach product, but they are specifically designed to be a year-round product. 2014 will see extensions to the range in the shape of new designs, bigger and better distribution, and the potential for retailers to make additional sales.” So what about next year? After a positive 2013 with

the Outdoor Toys category, toy retailers are naturally curious about the confidence of their suppliers regarding stock intake for 2014. Brian Tinniswood commented: “Our retail partners have had a good retail period this year, and we hope to grow our brand and help their businesses in 2014. Our deliveries for Spring start at the end of January so production will start in November on some lines to build the inventory to the required initial levels needed. Come January though, we will be at full speed on the Spring lines and the madness starts for another year.” Phil Ratcliffe observed that although it is early days

yet, the majority of the major retailers are still to finalise their selections, but added that MV’s early reads suggest that selections are increasing. Simon Pickavance, also positive, revealed: “We have

a great domestic and international order book for 2014, which is very encouraging. Looking a bit further into the future, by next year we are set to have a compelling new pre-school wheeled range available that we are very excited about, and a wheeled range of travel and commuter products that we feel the market will love. We are also manufacturing a wide range of products under the FIFA brand for next year’s World Cup, and, with the great news that England has qualified, we are delighted that we will be taking this official product range to market for 2014.” Over the following pages you’ll find information on some of the ranges available in the Outdoor Toys category.

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