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“The benefits of active play are irrefutable”

MV Sports’ sales and marketing director Phil Ratcliffe talks new launches, retail and the power of the great outdoors.

How has the outdoor sector performed for you over the past 12 months? What have been some of your big sellers?
What are some of the main challenges that you’ve come across?

The first quarter last year was tough with the demise of TRU, retail overstocks/retail restructuring and bad weather; but we recovered well and finished the year ahead of the toy industry and the sector. This year we have started very well with most brands and customers trading up on prior year. In particular our licensed business has started very well as has our new UMove scooter brand and Dream Dens.

What are your main launches in the outdoor space for preschoolers for 2019?
Are there any particular trends?

Our main new licensed launches centre around our new Disney properties Toy Story, Frozen and Spider-Man all of which have major releases in 2019. Our classic licenses such as Batman, Disney Princess, Peppa Pig and PAW Patrol are showing good year on year growth as are own brands such as UMove, Kickmaster and Wired. And of course, L.O.L. Surprise is still performing exceptionally well.

How are you finding the retail landscape currently? Do you work closely with retailers to create dedicated spaces in stores for your products?

The retail landscape seems to be consolidating so it is vital that we identify and work closely with the major players going forward. Each retailer has different requirements; some focused on exclusivity, others on promotions or perhaps enhanced on-line, catalogue or in-store presence. It is important to tailor the correct package with each individual customer.

With the focus remaining in the wider media on getting – and keeping – children active, how important is it for the toy industry to be promoting the category and creating a wide range of products, for preschoolers in particular?

I think active play portrays the toy industry in a very positive light and it is important that this should be emphasised. The benefits of active play are irrefutable and innovative products which get preschoolers out and active should be encouraged. I often do think that outdoor toys is an underrepresented and underappreciated category within the wider industry.

Many outdoor toys such as wheeled outdoor play products are built to last and are passed on to siblings and extended family members so have an extended life as opposed to being disposable.

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