Spielwarenmesse: Interview with WECO Feuerwerk: Playing with fire

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Movers & shakers

Interview with WECO Feuerwerk: Playing with fire

from Harald Hemmerlein

A boom in the sale of fireworks occurs only a few times a year, but when it does it really is a boom. Selling colourful rockets and expensive pyrotechnics is, as a rule, limited to a few occasions, one of which is Spielwarenmesse® that offers one of the biggest platforms in Europe for fireworks. It calls for a great deal of preparation and care on the part of the trade – and that’s not only because of the sensitive nature of the materials. Oliver Gerstmeier, company spokesman at WECO Feuerwerk, gave us an insight into these explosive products.

Spielwarenmesse®: The fireworks business is very special because selling most of your products is limited in many countries to just a few days a year. How do the industry and the retail trade cope with that?

Oliver Gerstmeier: Even though business at New Year in limited to a few days in most countries, it’s really intensive work and needs sophisticated planning and preparation. We as manufacturer and importer have to pay particular attention to our time management, because there’s nearly a year between us acquiring goods and delivering them at precisely the right time.

As the market leader in Europe, we supply countries that are all very different and we sell our products at various times during the year. For example, in Switzerland the high point in the season is 1 August. So we have an end-of-year business but have to be flexible enough to operate counter-cyclically as well.

To ensure we’ve got the necessary volume of products ready for delivery, we start production straight after the turn of the year at our own three production facilities in Germany. The worldwide demand for pyrotechnics and the long time it takes to procure products from the Far East underline the importance of early discussions with suppliers and the retail trade. At our main location in Eitorf, we’re at the moment constructing a very unusual showroom building. There’s nothing like it anywhere else, with its unique product worlds on three floors that will provide the necessary back-up when we’re promoting our products to the retail trade.

Year-end business is action-driven, and the trade depends on finely adjusted and accurately timed delivery prior to events. As dangerous goods, pyrotechnic products are subject to special regulations regarding storage, transport and selling, which makes handling and trading this special product group a sophisticated operation.
Consumer demand for fireworks, which has risen in recent years, has created higher costs for the trade in terms of procurement, handling, advertising and finally selling.

Safety plays a big role in the case of fireworks. How do you guarantee that your products are safe, and how do you communicate information on product safety to both retailers and consumers?

O.G.: In the case of products from the House of Weco, we’re dealing with goods that are subject to permanent safety and quality controls. Before being allowed onto the German market, all products have to be authorized in compliance with strict regulations by the Bundesamt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (Federal Office for Material Research and Testing) in Berlin.

To ensure that quality and safety stay constant, we carry out quality tests on a daily basis at our production facilities.

Every article we sell carries detailed instructions for the consumer and the safety information needed to ensure that the product is used in the intended way.

Via an intensive press and media campaign at the end of the year, we inform the consumers about the safety of fireworks. Another channel of communication is the Verband der pyrotechnischen Industrie (Association of the Pyrotechnic Industry), to which we belong and which carries out intensive safety education campaigns every year.

Quite apart from this work to promote safety, we regularly supply our trade partners with information on the safety aspects of dealing with fireworks.

Are there any signs of sector-wide trends?

O.G.: Battery and combination fireworks have become clear favourites within the product group fireworks for end consumers. The offer and the demand for this product category – very convenient and simple to use – has increased year on year.

The claim of these products is similar to that of professional and display fireworks, and they are even attracting new target groups.

As the last remaining big manufacturer in Europe with goods “Made in Germany”, we also possess precisely the unique selling point in German production that attracts the attention of the trade and consumers.

What advice would you give to the toy trade to help them to be successful with fireworks?

O.G.: Basically we advise a thorough mixture across all product categories within the product group fireworks. Product innovations in the battery category in particular can become trends, which can add to the attractiveness of product ranges.

Retailers should stock a sensibly compiled core product range that is supplemented with profiling articles that are in keeping with their status as specialist outlets. With regard to the powerful competition driven by retail food outlets, they should demarcate their range to take this competition into account.

The typical Category I fireworks for young people, which can be sold all year round to persons over the age of 12, are a further incentive and an essential part of the product range that stimulates business throughout the year.

 

Author of this article:

Harald Hemmerlein

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