Founded in April 2015 by Mary Price, a self-confessed ‘retailer at heart’ with a background in toy buying for the likes of Woolworths, and David Martin, who spent 13 years in sales and marketing at Mattel before moving to Mega Brands, Addo Play has grown into an internationally recognised and respected name in the toy market. Rachael Simpson spoke with Mary and Dave to find out the factors behind the company’s success, and what the toy community can look forward to seeing from Addo over the coming months.
How has 2018 been for Addo Play?
Mary: We’ve doubled last year’s turnover, making it our best year to date – but we would expect that in a business three and a half years old. Things are happening so quickly, in terms of the expansion of our range, of our licensor partnerships and of our team. We’re hugely ambitious, with a real start-up mentality. While we are bucking the trend, we’re very aware we couldn’t do it without our brilliant team supporting us.
David: Timing has been incredibly fortuitous in terms of our business model. The Entertainer is doing really well, and Gary Grant stated recently that the exclusive Addo programme is a certainly part of this. We feel very fortunate, and very positive about the road ahead.
Do you feel that the business model – which has worked so well here in the UK – translates across the globe?
David: Addo started with just Mary and myself and now we have 30 Addo employees across the UK, Hong Kong and Europe. The Entertainer team backed Addo Play right from the start, as we began to create it an exclusive programme of toys across multiple categories. We then make these ranges available to likeminded retailers in locations where The Entertainer doesn’t have a footprint.
The Entertainer has very strong criteria for listing products, and if it works for that particular retailer, there is every chance it will be an attractive proposition for others.
Because of our partnership, everything is designed with the retailer in mind. Our range is modular and fits on retail shelves efficiently, with well designed, contemporary packaging which features very clear consumer information. All the design is done here in the UK, and it’s certainly resonating with others in the global market. Our products also offer great retail margins; when you combine our carefully curated ranges, great packaging and strong British design, Addo Play really strikes a chord with international retailers.
Mary: Every single box we make is designed in-house by our small but very talented design team. Our product, merchandising and QA teams do a fantastic job sourcing each item so the blend of great product in well-designed packaging is really working. We genuinely care about what goes in each box, and we want the customer experience to be an enjoyable one. Of course we are obsessed by the growth of the company, but we are equally obsessed about the sell-through of the product and keeping those customers coming back time and time again. Spend time in any department of Addo and you’ll see this passion and enthusiasm first hand.
How many countries do you now have a presence in?
David: At the moment 20, in a variety of markets all around the world. We gained good traction early on in English speaking markets – Australia, New Zealand, South Africa – but we are also selling in Asia, with Toys R Us Asia being a good supporter of our line. We have good business in northern- and eastern-European territories too.
And have you added any notable new territories recently?
This year we’ve added the US. It’s a very big focus for us going forward because of its scale. A few weeks ago we launched one of our ranges in Walmart across America in the run up to Christmas – the Liquid Lava Nickelodeon Putty line is now in 2000 stores. To be supplying the world’s largest retailer in only our third year of shipping is not what we were expecting, but we’re delighted. We are hoping to announce announce another big long-term North American direct retail partnership across multiple Addo ranges, and we’re shipping outdoor/summer to Argentina for Spring too.
Mary: We started in The Entertainer with English- and Arabic-only packaging, but because of our global success we are launching international packaging for autumn/winter 2019. This will be a complete multi-lingual suite comprising 16 languages. This approach makes it much easier for the markets we are looking at to access our products.
How many ranges and products are you currently offering retail partners?
Mary: We have over 300 products and over 18 sub-brands, mostly in-house brands such as our mechanical plush range Pitter Patter Pets, our 18” doll range B Friends, and our Snuggle Buddies soft toy range. We also have strong licensor partnerships. Our portfolio with Nickelodeon won the Outstanding Partner Initiative award. It includes the Liquid Lava Putty which, as Dave mentioned earlier, is now in Walmart; it’s been simply phenomenal since launching 12 months ago. Our dough brand Ready Steady Dough, under Nick Jr., has performed incredibly well so far, as has our science range Experimake.
What has been the biggest success story this year?
Mary: We’re a top three supplier to The Entertainer, and we have serious ambitions to build on this next year. Everything we’ve launched has exceeded our expectations, but if I had to highlight one range in particular it would have to be B Friends. The dolls launched in early November with incredibly strong support from The Entertainer in the form of fantastic retail execution, along with a strong marketing campaign. We can’t take all the credit for its success; it’s been a combination of great product, launched in the right way.
What new lines can we look forward to in 2019?
Mary: We have five new ranges which we will be launching over the next few months, and we can announce that we will be launching a Pink Fong arts & crafts line aimed at pre-schoolers. Pink Fong is the company behind the viral hit Baby Shark.
David: WowWee, as the master toy partner, will be taking our product to the North American market, while we will be overseeing European territories. Pink Fong will be running the Asian business along with its partners, giving us multiple supply routes. Whilst core everyday toy categories are our bread and butter, these licences are the icing on the cake. Our partnership with The Entertainer allows us to access these licensed brands early in their lifecycle, and gives us the opportunity to open up the international platform too. The Pink Fong product line will be our most accelerated piece of development yet, with product available very early next year – while we are launching a lot of other product in January, Pink Fong is hot right now.
Where can international retailers see your 2019 ranges over the coming months?
David: Our Hong Kong showroom will be open from the 4th January, and we will be there for the full two week period, when all the international trade is there. We’re not showing in Nuremberg but we will be attending and meeting our partners. Our international customer base comprises distributors and direct to retail partnerships, so we’ll also be going on the road to ensure that everyone can see the whole range.