Grant Chapman is President of Kroeger, a 51-year-old distributor, representing some of the world’s largest and best toy companies through the wholesale distribution of proprietary lines within the North American retail environment. The company markets and sells products to all types of retailers across North America – from specialty to mass, brick-and-mortar to e-commerce.
Richard: I would imagine people in the U.S. tend to confuse Kroeger (with an “e”), your company, with the Kroger (without an “e”) Supermarket Chain. Can you tell our readers the Kroeger story?
Grant: Klaus Kroeger founded KroEger in 1971. He was an avid collector and model maker, and decided to take his passion and make it his career (hint hint, any young people reading this…..). In 1985 he hired Dave Charbonneau, who eventually bought the company and grew it from a hobby distributor to that of toy and lifestyle. I bought the company in 2015, and have pushed forward with modernization, expansion into other markets, and category growth. But given our name, I get asked many times to pass products onto my buying team at Kroger, which I have to decline given that I am not the U.S. grocer. Boy, some sales people are truly persistent…..
Richard: Where in Canada are your headquarters and warehouses?
Grant: Kroeger is headquartered in Toronto, Canada. Attached to our offices is a modernized 60,000 square foot warehouse, with Mass, specialty and drop ship (DSV) and special project capabilities. We move roughly 350,000 units annually, so we need the space and the logistics to ensure we don’t get bogged down. We have a 2nd warehouse in Indianapolis, which we are expanding in 2023
Richard: Some in the U.S. toy industry may see the wholesale toy business as a 20th-century concept. Why is wholesale still so vibrant in Canada, and what can you offer American companies with your operation in Indianapolis, Indiana?
Grant: Selling the dream of FOB shipments is relatively easy, until the retailer realizes all the surprises and requirements to buying FOB. From MOQs, to logistics, to freight consolidators and delays, to insurance, taxes, and most recently the MASSIVE increase in freight and the pinch in supply chain logistics, most retailers can’t or don’t want to handle all the incremental steps/employees you need to manage containers from factories. And let’s not forget that North America is HUGE, and ports are East Coast and West Coast, so most retailers’ jobs are just beginning, logistics wise, once the FOB product hits port. So, Kroeger Inc. offers a domestic solution, where we manage ALL OF THE ABOVE and more, and all the retailer has to do is make one call (or better yet, one click on our website: www.Kroegerinc.com, to see inventory levels, prices, freight rates, and brands we carry). Minimums are minimal, and in-stock orders turn around in 24-72 hours. And for suppliers looking to break into the N.A. market, Kroeger is a one stop shop with sales, logistics, marketing, customer service and access to retailers coast to coast.
Richard: What types of toy companies and retailers utilize your services?
Grant: All sorts, from multiple segments. We have a gift division, that includes Pop Sockets, Room CopenHagen (Lego and Crayola storage and room décor) and Gund; a Halloween division, with Jazwares, and Gemmy as our leads ; and a Toy division, with Identity Games, Funko, Ceaco, Winning Moves Games, Clementoni, and many many more. Kroeger is also deeply engaged with E-Comm, with a Large Amazon SELLER portfolio (Seller because we can control MSRP and not get ‘scrapped by Amazon’) along with being an approved DROP SHIP VENDOR for Large retailers in Canada (we are in Beta in the U.S.)
Richard: The toy industry in Canada and the U.S. have gone through a very tough two years. How did Kroeger fare, and do you feel Kroeger can offer your customers advantages during these troubled times?
Grant: Personally I feel we are still going through it. The Kroeger model was born out of a need from and support of the specialty retailer. The mom and pop shop. Since 2020, the Mom and Pop shops have been hit the hardest in all directions, and are still recovering, but slowly. Covid continues to flare up, hourly staff are hard to come by, rents are going us, disposable income is going down, and those that are still standing are just hanging on. SO….Kroeger is doing whatever we can to hold prices, extend payment terms, and absorb whatever we can to help keep their heads above water. And we remind ourselves everyday, we are a service to the brands we represent and the retailers we sell to. Kroeger is making it as easy as possible for the North American retailer to thrive in todays logistics and retail world, with locally warehoused stock, great brands, integrated logistics, and technology in the ordering process to insert speed into the whole process.
Richard: What is in the future for Kroeger?
Grant: Growth. Category, market, reach and technology. But always grounded in having fun. That’s why we are here!
Richard: We always like to ask; do you have a toy on your desk?
Grant: Of course. I have a CNC model of Missile Firing Mater (Disney Cars) from when I was at Air Hogs and we had the Cars R/C license, I have a Montreal Canadiens (NHL) Rubiks Cube, a custom Lionel 1:24th Replica of the Air Hogs Nascar #7; and an original pencil sketch of the GRINCH, by Chuck Jones. Of course, these all dwarfed by the picture of my wife and daughters.