Spielwarenmesse: As an omni-channel retailer, we want to make family shopping easier

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  Movers & shakers

Movers & shakers

As an omni-channel retailer, we want to make family shopping easier

from Harald Hemmerlein

In the summer of 1999, Oliver Lederle, a young father and management consultant, came up with the idea of offering parents toys and child-related products at a low price and in an easy way via an online shop. Together with four friends, he founded a limited liability company, and started the online shop www.myToys.de with 5,000 toys in October 1999. Two decades later, the online shop offers 130,000 articles, has an English and Russian version as well as brick-and-mortar stores that supplement the online range of goods.

We talked to Oliver Lederle, now Chairman of the Management Board, about current developments in the toy sector and his plans for the future of myToys.

Spielwarenmesse®: When you founded myToys back in 1999, the German toy market seemed to be largely distributed across cooperative groups, department stores, self-service markets and a few other trading companies. At that time, it was just four years after Amazon had sold its first book online. Can you be described as a visionary?

Portraitfoto Oliver Lederle, mytoys
Oliver Lederle, Chairman of the Management Board, mytoys

Oliver Lederle: I wouldn't call myself that personally, but I've always had a keen interest in business and knew very early on that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. When the idea for myToys came up, I, as a consultant for a well-known management consultancy, was in charge of handling Internet projects. During the boom phase at that time, it was quite evident I should set up something of my own. But without investors or strong partners who have faith in the idea, even the best vision can't get off the ground.

As a pioneer of online retailing in the toy industry, you recognised early on that use had to be made of all touch points to reach the consumer and you got into the brick-and-mortar market. Quite courageous – in view of the supposedly impregnable dominance of the top dogs at the time. What are your conclusions?

O. L.: The MYTOYS GROUP can already look back on more than ten years' experience in omni-channel retailing. Early on, we paid attention to consistently integrating all the relevant sales channels within the customer journey, so we were among the first purely online players to venture into the environment of brick-and-mortar shops – and very successfully, too. myToys opened its first branches back in 2006, making it one of the pioneers in cross-channel retailing. These days, myToys operates 17 actual stores throughout Germany. We are convinced that online and over-the-counter retailing will mutually benefit each other, with both channels growing disproportionately. As an omni-channel retailer, we can thus serve “hybrid customers” who shop both online and in actual shops.

You recently announced your intention to expand your partner programme. The fact that your three online shops provide a sales platform for all family products will also certainly be helpful. The study "Gamechanger Plattformökonomie – Verhaltensänderungen verstehen und Spielregeln bedienen" ("Game Changer Platform Economy – Understanding Changes in Behaviour and Using the Rules of the Game") by IFH Cologne underlines how important platforms are in everyday consumer life. It shows, among other things, that consumers are willing to pay for the basic use of platforms alone. Should myToys become a marketplace?

O. L.: Since it was launched in 2016, the MYTOYS GROUP has been continuously expanding its partner programme. Last year alone, the brand family integrated more than 130 new suppliers into its shopping range of myToys, mirapodo and yomonda. Our success is impressive. Compared to suppliers who are not yet part of our partner programme, the majority of the brands that were linked to mirapodo, myToys or yomonda last year grew disproportionately. With our partner programme, we are consistently investing in the growth of the group and we plan to significantly expand our supplier partnerships in the future as well.

Photo of branch in Siegen, Germany, © mytoys
© mytoys

German spending on toys has been stable for years, coming in at around 3 billion euros, regardless of the economic situation, and with a slight upward trend. As far as the retail trade is concerned, gains can only be achieved by conquering market shares. Could the successful establishment of a platform for family products be an effective way to achieve this?

O. L.: We address the family target group more successfully than any other e-commerce company. Our clear positioning and the relevance of what we offer this target group have proven to be key growth drivers here. For us, this also includes that we establish ourselves as a platform for family products, because, in partnership and in long-term cooperation, we want to strengthen our prominent position in the family shopping online market together with our partners and constantly increase our portfolio by cooperating with further manufacturers and retailers in the future, too.

Toys R Us, or rather the owners of the name rights of the new TRU Kids brand, have now announced that they will enter the toy retail sector again – initially with two shops in shopping malls in the USA. The aim is to translate shopping experiences in high-street retail into sales in the online retail sector. You went in the other direction and created a brick-and-mortar shopping world out of online shopping. Is selling online only possible if you also have offline shops?

O. L.: As family shopping specialists, we've made it our mission to make life easier for families with children. This includes not only having a comprehensive range of products and services, but also providing customers with an easy ordering process, competent advice and a range of offers that is individually tailored to the customer – both online and offline. That's why it was clear to us right from the start that in order that we could be regarded as a competent retailer of children's products, we had to be present with our brand in all areas of life and for all the occasions when our customers wanted to buy. For us, this also includes having actual shops. In my view, the future of retailing is a mix of channels, both online and offline, that reinforce each other. But I wouldn't go so far as to say that online shopping only works if you have offline shops. Of course, there are also successful online models without any offline shops.

The European Commission has fined Sanrio €6.2 million because the company prevented retailers from selling licensed goods to other countries within the European Economic Area. What can you tell us about the demand for myToys from abroad?

O. L.: Of course we also sell goods abroad. We don't just deliver within Germany, but also to Austria, Switzerland and most other European countries. We also launched our Russian online shop myToys.ru in 2010.

A completely different question... What do you want to get from exhibitors when you attend the Spielwarenmesse?

O. L.: I am always happy with good conversations, combined with the willingness to listen. An intensive exchange of ideas ensures greater understanding on both sides and often makes it easier to be open to new ideas and points of view.

Mr Lederle, thank you very much for talking to us.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Spielwarenmesse eG.

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