We talk to DHX Brands’ commercial director Tom Roe about Teletubbies, new launches and the crowded preschool space.
What were your big successes in 2015?
Definitely our new breakout show Twirlywoos, which first aired in February with the product launched in June. It marked the biggest ever new preschool property launch for our master toy partner Golden Bear. Twirlywoos as a property ranked 9th for the month of November in the NPD, and has consistently been in the top ten to date since then, despite only being on sale since the summer.
We’re also really proud of the Twirlywoos Big Red Boat, a superb toy which is already a Top Ten preschool licensed product in the NPD rankings. Our evergreen preschool brand In the Night Garden also went from strength to strength, placing 4th overall in preschool properties for the November NPD results, and the Ninky Nonk Train – now in its second year of production – rating 3rd overall in the product categories. In the Night Garden’s three plush lines are also all in the top 25 according to the latest NPD results.
While Teletubbies hadn’t launched in the consumer products space, we were putting plans in place throughout 2015 and the response from the licensing trade and retail was phenomenal.
And what are your big properties within the preschool space for 2016?
All of the above! Especially Teletubbies as a new launch, but we are looking forward to continuing to build on the success we’ve enjoyed on Twirlywoos and In the Night Garden so far.
There is a superb and extensive Teletubbies toy line from Character Options that hit stores in the UK from the middle of January. Full listings have been secured across pretty much the whole range, which is an incredible start. Teletubbies also has market-leading licensees set to roll out a host of other categories throughout 2016. Internationally, this year is very big for Teletubbies, with key broadcast launches kicking off across North America, France, Italy, Spain, the Middle East, and many more.
What was the biggest change in the preschool environment in 2015?
With more preschool properties launching than ever before, the marketplace is incredibly crowded. That said, the fact we got these results with our brands in this landscape is extremely encouraging.
Just how competitive is the licensed preschool sector at the moment? What is the main challenge for you as a brand owner?
I think again just the volume of product, brands and launches that we’re seeing, and with that the competition and the challenge to stand out.
How is the retail environment for preschool properties currently? Are retailers willing to take a risk on newer brands or is it hard with so many classic brands still performing so well to get a break?
Crowded! Looking at the figures from the November NPD, the total toy market is up 5% YTD November, with preschool showing a 1% increase. We’re in an enviable position of having both classic and new preschool properties, and enjoying success on both fronts – so I wouldn’t say that either type of property has a distinct advantage.
In the Night Garden, a well-established brand in our stable, is seeing ongoing success and organic growth. With our new properties, we only have to look at the success of Twirlywoos for proof that it can be done – the consumer products programme launched very quickly after going on-air, owing to retailer and consumer demand. So there is space for both heritage brands and breakthroughs, the deciding factor is quality and appeal.
Do you think that the consumer is much more savvy now as to what they will buy? What do you think they look for?
Yes – consumers today are looking for extra value, more features, and better incorporated technology in many cases. They are also very price-savvy, given online options and the comparison which internet shopping affords.
Is having a link with the parents vital? For example, older brands – such as Teletubbies and The Clangers – might have more resonance because they watched them/played with the toys growing up?
Yes – and certainly this has provided additional exposure and interest on Teletubbies given that the generation which grew up with it are now entering adulthood. We’re actually looking at adult opportunities, and potentially a standalone programme on Teletubbies given that 2017 is the twentieth anniversary. But the parent/carer link is especially important for us on Teletubbies and In the Night Garden as these are at the younger end of preschool.
What would you most like to see happen within the licensed preschool market in 2016?
Fewer new launches – apart from ours, of course! Specifically on our brands, continued success on In the Night Garden and Twirlywoos, and a successful consumer products launch of Teletubbies.