“US retail is currently in a recession if you pay any attention to the media; however, sales over the internet continue to increase at a steady clip.” So say partners Dave Carlson and Ty Simpson, chairman and CEO respectively of the new holding company created after All Aboard Toys and Ty’s Toy Box merged earlier this year.
And these are the guys who should know. Before the merger, both firms were at the top of their game – for those who don’t know, All Aboard Toys is a character-driven online toy store with products ranging from birthday party supplies and costumes, to toys, clothing, bedding and children’s decorative items. Ty’s Toy Box, meanwhile, is a multi-channel etailer of licensed character brands, specialising in the creation, management, marketing and fulfilment of dedicated marketplaces that carry the full breadth of officially licensed product available for each brand.
Separately, they were doing well, together they have created one of the top five online destinations for character-based toys and merchandise.
“With approximately $26 billion spent annually on character licensed product and the internet being the fastest growing source of this revenue, combining our efforts will be advantageous to our licensing industry partners and provide our customers with an unprecedented assortment of character-related products, including exclusives they can’t find anywhere else,” explain Carlson and Simpson.
“We’ve seen the exploding demand from our consumers who are looking for specific character-related products that they often can’t find at their local retailer due to shelf space constraints. In addition, existing licensing relationships will benefit both retail websites, while assisting the licensing industry in building a stronger direct sales channel to its consumer.”
The new company now works with about 30 different licensors, with a rough count of around 60 properties available. Most popular properties for Ty’s are Barney, Ben 10, Doodlebops, Hannah Montana, High School Musical, Strawberry Shortcake, Thomas & Friends and The Wiggles, while for AAT the top ten is Thomas & Friends, Disney/Pixar Cars, Sesame Street, Disney Princess, Backyardigans, Dora the Explorer, Go Diego Go, Hannah Montana, High School Musical, Transformers and Spider-man.
And it’s not just toys; some of the firm’s best selling product lines are types of apparel and accessories.
“Licensors like working with a single vendor in each channel, and now with the merger we are far and away the largest independent toy destination for licensed character merchandise online,” Carlson and Simpson continue. “Also we can now leverage the strengths of each of our companies. Ty’s Toy Box brings a knowledge of branding and licensed property marketing to the table and All Aboard Toys provides a strong distribution avenue.
“One of the biggest issues for licensing is the availability of shelf space, and with this merger, there is now room for more niche characters that have a strong following both nationally and internationally. This merger provides a platform for distribution for some of these more niche products.”
While the new company specialises in ‘juvenile’ (or youth) products, Carlson and Simpson hinted that they are considering expanding this demographic in the future. Plus, while the sites are currently designed for US consumers – with many of the licences (especially for apparel) not allowing shipments outside of the US, or only US and Canada – Carlson and Simpson are looking at ways to expand internationally.
Opening bricks and mortar stores, however, is not under discussion at this time – although the duo cheekily added they’ve learnt to “never say never”.
“Ty’s Toy Box and All Aboard Toys have developed a new model for creating licensed product and for merchandising and selling licensed product via online store sites, and we see that model becoming more and more successful in the future. Our only limitation is how many different licences we can host without exhausting the consumer. But, as retailers continue to consolidate their resources and their shelf space, we offer licensors an option that allows them to get direct access to the consumer.”
And the ultimate aim for Carlson and Simpson? To simply be seen as the best in their field: the leading online brand partner for licensors and the largest toy destination for licensed character merchandise available online.