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“Retail will be the biggest challenge for any brand in the near future”

Source chats to Marianne James, vp EMEA consumer products at Hasbro, about the opportunities in the preschool sector going forward.

Firstly, which preschool brands are you currently focusing on?

Following the integration earlier this year of our Hasbro and eOne portfolio, we’re excited to be diving deeper into preschool and exploring themes and play patterns complementary to our existing brands. Ricky Zoom, PJ Masks and of course, Peppa Pig, are standouts for us and we have some exciting plans for fresh content and partnerships in 2021.

Have you seen any major trends emerging over the course of 2020 in the preschool space?

As consumer behaviour changes, we are seeing growth in Food, Health & Wellness, Personal Care, Puzzles & Games and Home Goods which reflects the increased time that families are spending together at home.

How healthy do you think the preschool licensed sector is in general?

There’s talk of a post-Covid baby boom so that certainly bodes well for the preschool sector! There’s no doubt retail has been hit hard with the closure of shops during a large part of this year. However, the growth of online sales is promising and audience viewing figures were exceptionally high this year as families spent more time at home, so that should reflect positively on sales of preschool merchandise.

Hasbro is building towards a full product roll out for Ricky Zoom which will see new categories hit retail in 2021.
Hasbro is building towards a full product roll out for Ricky Zoom which will see new categories hit retail in 2021.

What are some of the key challenges that you think the sector is facing going forward (retail recovery from COVID-19, lack of shelf space, risk averse retail, etc)?

We’re going to need to find creative solutions to factor in social distancing for all our activations, packaging and product development and for a preschool audience that is very tactile and sensory motivated that’s not always easy.

How we approach retail is going to be one of the biggest challenges for any brand in the near future. We recognise the need to remain agile and diversify our category mix to address the changing needs of the world with a particular focus on e-commerce and the value channel. With many retailers operating under social distancing rules and trying to win back consumer confidence, more and more people will turn to online shopping to meet their buying needs and we’re ready to embrace that with our product offering and promotional mix.

How easy is it for new brands to break through at the moment?

It’s never been easy for new brands to break through, and now there are additional challenges to contend with. Economic downturns don’t tend to create an environment where retailers are willing to take a gamble on a new property and its usually at these times that heritage and nostalgia brands do well.

With reduced retail opportunities and a multitude of broadcast platforms and subscription services all vying for attention, the marketplace is fragmented and it’s difficult to cut through, although the next big thing could come from anywhere. There’s huge potential in the digital space given the popularity of tablets among preschoolers, particularly during lockdown.

Peppa Pig is an official partner for Team GB.
Peppa Pig is an official partner for Team GB.

What would you most like to achieve for your preschool brands from the remainder of 2020 and into 2021?

Our brand portfolio is our strength that will set us up for success in 2021.

Following the initial release of TOMY’s Ricky Zoom core toy line this summer, we’re building towards a full product roll out which will see new categories introduced at retail in 2021.

We’re looking forward to a time when we’ll be able to bring back more of our live events and attractions in 2021, such as the theatre shows, and it would be great to move forward with some of the events that were paused this year, such as the Tokyo Olympics in summer 2021 where Peppa Pig has been announced as an official partner for Team GB.

Our Peppa Pig Afternoon Tea Bus launched in London recently in partnership with Brigit’s Bakery and proved to be a big success, which demonstrates the demand for these sorts of experiences to start operating again.

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