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when a plan comes together


“W


e’re not becoming a toy retailer,” said James Heese, trading director at Hobbycraft, in Toy World’s June issue’s interview about


the company’s plans to expand its Kids offering. “We’re expanding our proposition. But we want to make sure that we stay true to our core values while making what we offer our customers more compelling. Once upon a time we were perhaps too focused on components and niche crafting; now it feels like we’re opening up a lot more opportunities for suppliers and consumers alike.” In May 2013, the first phase of the expansion saw


Hobbycraft introduce 500 new products into its stores and aiming to increase the level of own-branded items. The aim was to re-launch the whole Kids department and become the destination retailer for creative play through differentiation of stock against that offered by pure-toy retailers. To that end, Hobbycraft engaged with its suppliers, and overhauled and reorganised its offering into seven main areas: ‘Create it’, which contains components and loose bits for art and craft projects. ‘Make it’, made up of boxed kits for baking, knitting, etc. ‘Build it’, which offers things like Meccano kits and jigsaws. ‘Picture it’, offering painting sets, drawing sets, and Crayola (which has performed especially well over the last six months, according to James). ‘Showtime’, containing masks, face paints, and role-play elements. ‘Project Zone’ which caters for school projects and other large endeavours, and finally ‘Science and Nature’, an area which features kits from Interplay and Thames and Kosmos, among other suppliers. James said: “Over the past six months we’ve


introduced a lot of new brands into the mix, both big and small. We’ve listed somewhere close to 800 new products, and our current amount of SKUs in Kids products is now close to 1,700. The team, made up of six buyers and one head of buying, continues to work flat out, and it’s all worked very well for us with the section experiencing double-digit like-for-like growth


Toy World’s Tom Roberts spoke to James Heese, Hobbycraft’s trading director, to find out how the company’s expansion of its Kids offering has progressed over the six months since its launch, and what 2014 holds for the section and the company.


every single week since launch. That growth doesn’t include our new stores either, if it did the like-for-likes would be even stronger.” James told me that the first half of the six months


following the expansion was dominated by strong sales in picture and colouring products, but the second half, nearing Christmas, has seen a huge rise in the sales of science and nature kits, with James confirming that “this particular sector has really stood out; it accounts for a very large percentage of our business this year”.


Next steps So, with the end-of-year trading period hotting up, Hobbycraft’s Kids section is performing strongly. The retailer has seen great success with products from Crayola and Play-Doh, and ranges from suppliers such as Fiesta Crafts, Clementoni and Thames and Kosmos. But most pleasing to the company has been the success of its own-brand ranges, Create A Bear and Crafty Monkey, which have been introduced into its stores over the last six months. James revealed that this was ‘Phase Two’ of the expansion that he had alluded to in our original conversations, and that it was indeed focused on increasing Hobbycraft’s own-brand products. James commented: “Crafty Monkey is a series of kits,


priced from £3-8, that allow kids to make small craft items like finger puppets. They are very easy and a great products for parents and their children to work on together. As each kit is built, kids can earn badges from the boxes, and then redeem them in-store for their very own stuffed monkey. It’s a really nice way of keeping kids interested, and hopefully they will graduate from Craft College, as we call it, and into our core craft products. Create A Bear comes in kit form, and allows kids to stuff and stitch their own bears. They can then buy costumes and accessories in the stores.” According to James, this second phase has seen


the introduction of 200 new products into the mix, the majority of which are own-brand. Next year, the company will be looking to expand the lines further.


James Heese trading director


Phase Three is quick to follow, and is focused on continuing the strong results already encountered. James told me: “Nothing has not worked during the expansion, therefore we are levelling our sights at building on the successes. We will be looking at refilling and refreshing what we have including expanding our Crayola offering and our own-brand ranges. We will be conducting extensive customer research over the next few months, as well as gathering colleague feedback. What is important to bear in mind is that this expanded section is here to stay, and will continue to be a big part of our business model well into the future. However, we want to stay true to our core customers and ranges, but this section allows us to differentiate ourselves and compete against pure-toy retailers, as well as making ourselves a port of call for suppliers of products that may not get a look in at larger retailers, such as the grocers.” Finally, an important part of Hobbycraft’s goals is


to increase their presence in the UK. I asked James how the company was progressing with this, he said: “We now have 79 stores, with the last three years alone seeing 30 new stores opening. Our plan is to continue this careful increase and continue to roll out new stores in the coming years.”


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