Long term values
With seven quality brands in its distribution portfolio, DKL Marketing celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. David Allan, sales & marketing director, spoke to Toy World about how things have changed in the past three decades, and what the future holds for the company.
It’s no mean feat for a toy company to celebrate its 30th anniversary – what do you think are the main factors that have helped DKL Marketing to reach this milestone? We’ve always distributed trusted, high-quality brands, and we work closely with our customers to offer strong in-store support. DKL has always responded to emerging trends and changing market conditions, bringing in products that consumers want to buy and that retailers want to sell. We started a TV advertising campaign for Hama in 2018 which worked very well, and with Plus-Plus really coming into its own this year we’ve decided to do the same for this brand. Marketing is one of our core strengths; we’re investing in TV, social media across all platforms, print, in short everything (within budget) to ensure that our brands are asked for. Retailers are facing a challenging time, so we want to help drive consumers into stores.
consumers increasingly conscious of price, perceived value is crucial. The previous generation would buy a toy that would last for years, but this has shifted in favour of a toy that may last only a year or so. Our marketing aims to show consumers that a long-term toy offers tangible benefits over one with a short lifespan, and it’s my belief that these toys will win out long-term. Retail has also changed - you can’t just throw a product on the shelf and hope for the best anymore. DKL offers in-store competitions, promotions and social media initiatives, while new stores benefit from special promotions and POS solutions. We also undertake training to help retailers with demos, which we have found are particularly important for brands like Hama and Plus-Plus.
How has the toy market changed over the past 30 years?
What are the biggest challenges for a toy distributor in the current retail climate? A lot of retailers are going own-brand - once they see a product doing well, they’ll try and make it themselves. That is a major challenge for us and is why our advertising it so key. We need to be driving consumers into stores in search of our brands. Price perception is also a challenge, as reflected by the success of retailers like B&M and The Range. We look at our ranges every year to ensure that the value consumers want is present across all our brands. A £10 product now has to offer a lot, and for that money consumers also expect a big box. Balancing pricing and box size against environmental factors is an ongoing battle.
What does the future hold for DKL?
Compared to 10 years ago, when the focus was on getting kids to play together or with their parents, parents are now looking for entertaining toys that kids will enjoy, but will also allow parents
Kai Hawaleschka with his celebratory champagne, presented at Toy Fair
to enjoy precious time to themselves. The market is also being impacted by electronic toys and games. With
Trolls. Kai used to tell me stories of retailers queuing up at his Toy Fair stand, calling him at all hours to ask for more stock because they kept selling out – this is surely a key moment in the company’s history. My own stand-out moments would be the Breyer and Carrolle display that we installed in Harrods many years ago, and seeing our first ever TV campaign air. This was when we felt we’d truly become a major UK toy distributor.
We’ve seen a tremendous increase in Plus-Plus sales. It’s a great pick up line, and kids and parents alike love that it’s themed. Hama has completely changed its packaging, which has really modernised this traditional brand. Breyer has allowed us to access the gifting and equestrian markets, while Play Mais lets us enter new retailers such as Hobbycraft. As time goes by, you’ve got to look at markets other than toys to grow your business, and you also have to react to the increase of online and mail-order consumerism.
What have been the stand-out moments from the past three decades? When Kai Hawaleschka (managing director) and his wife Dorte launched DKL they started out with
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We’re ready for more growth. To prepare for the changes brought about by Brexit we’ve moved to a third-party warehouse which allows more flexible shipping. We’re also looking at different ranges, which I’ve been viewing on my travels; there’s a big difference now between mass-market and independent ranges. We have to grow, but we have to grow carefully, and to continue being a distributor that people trust we have to manage our ranges well. Our TV and other marketing campaigns are already contributing to our growth as a company; long may this continue.
Do you have anything planned to mark the anniversary? We’ll be giving away special products across several of our ranges at upcoming shows including Toymaster, and we had a celebration at Toy Fair where we presented Kai and Dorte with special champagne flutes and a bottle of bubbly. While it’s nothing too high profile, we’ll be reinforcing that we are a key toy distributor in the UK, and that we have the experience, and quality brands, to support all types of retailers.