Toy World Magazine January 2020

Page 164


Basic Fun

Making fun Basic Fun! acquired K’Nex early in 2018, the first in a series of major business moves which took place across the past 48 months, including the acquisition of PlayHut, securing the rights to the Tonka licence, and being named master toy licensee for Care Bears. Ahead of London Toy Fair, Toy World caught up with Jay Foreman, CEO of Basic Fun!, and Paul Fogarty, VP UK, to find out what plans are in the pipeline moving forward. How did 2019 end up for Basic Fun! in the UK and globally? Jay: For Basic Fun!, it’s really a tale of two markets. One is a market that is growing and thriving for us, as we bring more new product lines directly to the retail trade and UK consumers. The other is a market which, like many, is in flux; the contraction of brick and mortar retail is occurring alongside the growth of online retail, and combined with the uncertainty of Brexit, is looming over the entire United Kingdom like a dark cloud right now. Paul: With the decline in the UK market, it’s fortunate that we’ve been able to tap into some of the key innovative products in the collectibles market, which Basic Fun! excels in. In addition, we’ve seen a very strong uplift in classic toy brands such as Fisher-Price Classics and My Little Pony Retro.

What were the stand-out ranges for you last year? Paul: Cutetitos has been phenomenal for us, not only in the UK but also on the worldwide stage. The Basic Fun! development team has a great ability to spot online and social media trends, and, through the development process, translate them into fantastic product designs supported by truly innovative marketing. Core K’Nex building sets and Kid K’Nex have continued to be strong for us and will remain a major focus moving forward. In addition, we’ve seen continued growth in our classic brands.

Last year you signed the Tonka licence – what are your plans for the brand this year? Jay: We’re over the moon about our plans to relaunch Tonka globally, and in the US, UK and Australia/New Zealand in particular; these markets were always at the heart of the brand. Tonka is a unique heritage brand which enjoys almost universal consumer recognition in key markets. It was and will be again a ‘rite of passage’ toy. There are only a few toys that you would find in the attic, garage or garden shed of any home in the English-speaking world; Tonka is one of those. It’s the type of toy a parent doesn’t throw away or give away, instead being passed down to the next generation or bought new in order to share the experience. And it’s one of the few toys that today’s kid, yesterday’s kid and yesteryear’s kids would still play with, offering a rare inter-generational play experience for children, parents and grandparents to enjoy together. Our relaunch plans will focus on reminding consumers how great this brand is, from the quality and durability of the toys to the importance of getting kids outside to play. Paul: As Jay mentions, Tonka has fantastic heritage in the UK. Tonka is also one of very few real toy vehicle brands in our industry and has the ability to go anywhere. It’s not confined purely to the world of construction vehicles by licence or design – any ‘tough’ vehicle concept can work within the branding, which brings almost endless opportunities. With our expertise

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in reigniting heritage brands, we’re confident that Tonka can reconnect today’s parents with their childhood memories, and that those parents will then want to share their experiences with their own children.

What other new ranges are you excited to introduce in 2020? Jay: In addition to Tonka, we have two lines that we will be bring to the UK in 2020; Care Bears and So Boss. We’re delighted to be reintroducing Care Bears in a new way with a new focus, and direct to retail as opposed to through a third-party distributor. Our approach is to position Care Bears as a collectible rather than a pre-school range, going back to what it always was. My experience from launching it when I was with Play Along, 18 years ago, tells me that collectability was what drove sales. That’s the heart of the brand - having a ton of different bears. We’re targeting boys and girls across a much more diverse age range; collectible figures, plush and interactive figures will be available at great price points and with a broad assortment of characters to choose from. So Boss is the first girls’ collectible doll that really focuses on empowerment. The brand is themed around girls which are running their own small business in the form of mobile tuk-tuklike trucks, from which they sell their products. Themes range from a fashion boutique to pet groomer and a mobile spa. The core doll and store lines are complemented by a range of Secret Shopper dolls, which buy products and run