Addo Play Comes to America – My Interview with Mary Price and David Martin

I am delighted to be interviewing Mary Price and David Martin, CEOs and Co-Founders of the UK Toy company Addo Play. Both Mary and David have had extensive careers within the toy industry (25 years+). Mary has worked in Buying and Merchandising for Woolworths, Tesco, and Mega Brands, specializing in Buying and Product Development. Dave has worked for global toy companies Mattel and Mega Brands. In our interview we talk about the background of Addo Play, it’s unique business model, extensive toy portfolio, existing international customer base and their exciting plans to enter the US market.

Tell me about Addo Play?

Dave: Addo Play is an award-winning, dynamic toy company. Founded in 2015, we are now 8 years old and have grown from 2 people to over 60. Our team are global experts in product development and toy sourcing and create outstanding toys through intelligent, caring, and safe design.

We have two complimentary toy brands with distinct personalities: Addo is our outstanding value, everyday toy brand that offers a genuine alternative to brand leaders while Early learning Centre (ELC) is our world class preschool toy brand with 50 years of expertise in provideing a guiding hand to support every child’s unique path of development, encouraging learning through play.

We have been able to grow our portfolio quickly to over 1,000 products.

Our brands are fresh, contemporary, and up to date, right in line with today’s consumer.

You can currently find Addo and ELC in over 50 countries. Our strategic partners and distributors run from Canada and South America to Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. We are already partnering with major retailers worldwide, including Tesco, M&S, Toys R Us Canada, and Target Australia.  

Early Learning Centre is an established toy brand, can you tell me a little bit more about how this came into your portfolio?

Mary: We acquired Early Learning Centre as a group in 2019 and the brand celebrates its 50th anniversary next year. We are immensely proud to be the custodian of this world class preschool toy brand that provides a guiding hand to support every child’s unique path of development, encouraging learning through play. Early Learning Centre has many points of difference. The products are unique, and we like to think that every item is that little bit better and that little bit more special than other preschool ranges. We have spent the last 4 years bringing the brand up to date for today’s children, parents, guardians, and educators.

What does Addo Play offer its customers and how are you different?

Dave: Addo Play offers a multi-category solution for retailers. We have a lot of bases covered for a coherent toy department because the line is produced using data and insights from retail. As we said the program is different because it’s elevated using world-class design, licensing endorsement and in the case of Early Learning Centre a large proportion of the line is uniquely tooled so it can’t be found anywhere else.

We offer full solutions, capsule ranges or single items for retailers depending on their needs.

We also like to think we are straightforward and professional to deal with, we aim to offer our partners solutions, and the best possible blue-chip service.   

What do your current customers say about Addo Play?

Dave: Simply, that we offer very high retailer margins mixed with high sales velocity which is an unbeatable combination. The partners we work with often take our line exclusively in their market, so they can control retail prices and margins and have a differentiated offer versus their competition. In more recent years, we have added evergreen licenses to our portfolio so that we offer high margin and points of difference on powerhouse brands like PAW Patrol and Barbie. More recently we have had incredible success with Spinmaster’s Fuggler brand. This is a truly unique property. We repositioned the price to be true value and accessible as a collectable. The retail sales around the world have been phenomenal.

You mention you are part of a group of companies, can you explain more?

Mary: We are a sister company to The Entertainer who operate over 200 Toy specialty stores in the UK and Spain under the Poly brand. They also partner with Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Matalan to help run their toy departments. Our business model is to then extend the access to the range exclusively to other like-minded retailers around the world as a ready to go ‘turnkey solution’. Our product development is data driven using The Entertainers 40+ years of toy specialty insight along with a window into all the latest trends. All items already comply with all relevant QA ethical and safety standards. This is another great advantage for our international customers as the product is ready to go with no capital investment for the partner.

Quote from Gary Grant, Founder and Chairman of The Entertainer Toy Shop chain in the UK: “As a leading UK toy retailer, we love toys that delight and surprise our young customers. We are also always looking for our point of difference, setting ourselves apart from the wider market. The Addo Play team make outstanding toys, they are toy people through and through…  they love designing toys that are unique, outstanding in value and their green credentials are always front of mind. With customers chasing ever lower prices, to have a quality, exclusive and great value range of toys is invaluable. Customers return again and again as these Addo Play toys deliver at every level for the consumer”.

Richard: What is great for your partners is that you have toy solutions for every consumer whether its Preschool, Wooden toys, Dolls, Soft Toys, Outdoor, Role Play, Arts and Crafts, Compounds, Science, Games and Vehicles as well as having a range of on trend global licenses.I am keen to find out more information about the way you do things. You state on your website you are guided by core values, and you constantly challenge yourself to find smarter ways of doing business. Tell us more about how business ethics are important to you and your sustainability strategy.Dave:

 Absolutely. We work to exceed ethical expectations and safety standards through ground-up design. 100% of our large-scale manufacturing base has been independently audited in alignment with globally recognized standards and certification programs, such as SMETA, BSCI, and the ICTI Ethical Toy Program. Our team of compliance professionals have extensive toy industry expertise, ensuring that all our toys meet international quality and safety standards for markets around the world, including the USA, and are conversant with CTPAT trade compliance.

Mary: On sustainability, Addo Play have always been committed to making the planet a better place for every child, future generations, and the global communities we work with. Our strategy aims to deliver this commitment through sustainable product and packaging design, responsible business operations, ethical trading principles, community focus, and a caring, diverse, and inclusive organizational culture. Guided by our core values, we constantly challenge ourselves to find more intelligent ways of doing business. Ways that positively impact society, helping build a safer, more sustainable world for generations of children to come.

What are your next steps for the US? We have been working for several years in Canada and more recently we have been working with some new US partners, but we would like to grow our business here in the US and we are keen to talk to new potential partners that are interested in the service we can offer. We have established a US company, Addo Play USA LLC, and we are opening a permanent Showroom in LA this September in Suite 1220, 1960 E Grand Ave, El Segundo, CA 90245, USA. We are really looking forward to the next chapter for our business and we are sure it will be a great success.

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