Spielwarenmesse: Interview EK/servicegroup: creating new trends is the goal

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Interview EK/servicegroup: creating new trends is the goal

from Harald Hemmerlein

Fashionable and Trendy Articles are increasingly successful in reaching the customer with an individualised approach. Even the toy industry relies on trends for new highlights in retailing - both in the brick-and-mortar business as well as online. Frank Mertelsmann, head of central purchasing for toys of EK/servicegroup knows how to implement the coming trends and tips.

Spielwarenmesse®: Designer toys, fashion and accessories for children have long been an established element in the product range of many toy retailers and shops. Just as for many consumer goods, individual lifestyles and current trends are just as crucial and play into a decision to buy toys. EK/servicegroup and its multi-sector structure should be able to recognise such trends across all industries at an early stage and integrate them into the product assortments of the respective sectors. Does EK/servicegroup have trend scouts?

Frank Mertelsmann: As a multi-sector association we tap into many retail-relevant areas all around the globe. Our buyers as well as our import and industry partners continually provide us with information about the latest trends. Add to this that the individual assortments have a dedicated Category Manager plus our specialists in Central Marketing. They all think outside of the box and are therefore ideal trend scouts for us.

Additionally, we draw on the expertise of renowned trend agencies which know how to consolidate social developments as well as industry and consumer trends. One solid product is our regularly published trend book which summarises the most important trends and provides the respective orientation to our retail partners. Fact is: Those who do nothing but copy concepts and ideas will fail sooner or later.

Lifestyle is a rather broad term. Your Living business unit is most likely to have gathered quite a bit of experience on this topic already. Does this mean that your Family business unit - which includes toys - can also profit from this?

F.M.: The answer to this is a clear yes, since trends and the lifestyle theme are also development drivers for the family segment. Especially when parents make the decision for their little ones, their personal lifestyle plays a major role. Once the children are somewhat older, they voice their wishes more clearly and their parents’ influence wanes accordingly.

A teenager’s lifestyle is marked more often than not by their personal entourage which in return is influenced by TV series, cinema movies and brand advertising, but also and in particular by social networks and Internet blogs. The relevance of licensing, e.g. the Minions or Star Wars themes within the toy industry is not just a matter of chance.

Trends that fascinate the entire family are then added to this. The offer for computer and video games has made all generations come together at the console or the Smartphone. Modern entertainment is absolutely part of the lifestyle and moves the retail trade as well as the industry. And even the family sector requires an innovative approach in order to, on the one hand quickly take up the latest trends or even anticipate them, while on the other be able to offer products which are attractive and which ensure a high margin. That is the route of EK.

Do you currently see trends which will define the product assortments in the Family segment over the years to come?

F.M.: Sustainability and Green Living continue to play a major role for the quality-minded specialist retailer when it comes, for example, to wooden toys. A striking point especially in politically and socially more restless times is the retro movement and the nostalgic penchant for classics. The wish here is to rediscover one’s own childhood and share trusted experiences and values.

In relation to fashion and textiles for babies and infants, many parents’ focus lies on eco labels. A trend which our product ranges have reflected for some years now. Moreover, we will be dealing with the growing digitization and the impact of new technologies on the toy world in the years to come. The successful combination of offline and online at specialty shops will become more and more the decisive success factor.

It is much easier to display products within a shop in a stylish manner than online. Is this an advantage for brick-and-mortar retailers?

F.M.: Absolutely. Generally speaking, those retail partners enjoy success who understand their business as a stage and present their product ranges as an act. For this, we have developed for example emotionalising shop concepts such as SPIEL & SPASS (Fun & Games) and HappyBaby. In this context our retailers can bring the latest trends more easily to life than any online retailer can, while simultaneously establishing themselves as EK members across all industries.

But one thing is clear: offline and online retailing cannot be separated. On the contrary: it is about combining individual specialist retailer strengths on site with all the advantages online trading has to offer. The high acceptance of our myWeb multi-channel platform shows that retailers share this opinion.


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Author of this article:

Harald Hemmerlein

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