Nico Blauw is President and CEO of BOTI, Ltd., and BOTI Europe, BV. Nico has an impressive resume, having founded BOTI and serving as the CEO of Upper Deck International BV/Upper Deck Europe BV. He is an outspoken advocate for the toy industry. Here is his take on the state of the toy business in the Netherlands, with the arrival of Smyths, one of Europe’s leading retailers.
I don’t see why not. The Smyths formula has proven to be a success outside of the UK/Ireland in one of the most complicated toy markets in the world, Germany. The acquisition of the German TRU stores in 2018 was received with a lot of skepticism in Germany. But look at its success now. Smyths has managed to turn the tables in an impressive limited amount of time. We will see the same in France with their acquisition of Picwic.
The Dutch approach is a little different with Smyths Toys starting from scratch. The positive side? They don’t have to deal with the negative side of existing infrastructures and resources.
So what is the common ground? Brick & Mortar retail in Germany, France & Netherlands have gone through very rough times in recent years. At the time Smyths took over the German TRU stores in 2018, the German market was disrupted. The market in France has been disrupted by a variety of (toy) retail bankruptcies in the past years. The same we can say for The Netherlands: the market has not yet recovered from the Blokker/Intertoys bankruptcies in the late 2010’s. Although the “new” Intertoys has operated a profitable business in the past 2 years, the Dutch market is trying to reinvent itself.
What Smyths understands very well: The world is very different from 10-15 years ago. Social media and online sales have made physical and cultural borders practically disappear. Kids have become universal consumers.
Many of us make the mistake they believe they know what kids are looking for. I love it when I come back from a trip to Japan, USA or wherever and present my kids with what I believe is the next big thing…their answer: “Dad, get real. We have seen that 6 months ago on whatever platform, you are way to late”. So I have turned this around. If my kids don’t notify me about the next big thing they see online…they are grounded for a month, no play station, no money😉! Information travels so fast these days, it is hard to keep up with new developments. While we still have 24 hours in day, the amount of data we need to consume on a daily basis just to have a basic understanding what tomorrow will bring, is mind boggling. Investing in market and business intelligence is therefore key. Consuming data is critical, expert networks crucial.
My experience is that Smyths Toys understands the end consumer very welll. They know what the consumer wants, they know how to reach them and they are often first to market. Smyths is not afraid to invest in marketing. They understand that kids want the latest of the latest and they will make it available in store and online. And with that they are the reliable toy destination for kids, online and offline.
Will they be successful in the Netherland? We will see, but I would be very surprised if they wouldn’t.
#toys #toyindustry #brickandmortar #online #retail #socialmedia #onlineThe