Suzy’s Zoo was created in 1963 by illustrator/artist Suzy Spafford, initially as cheerful images of animal characters, doing things people do, and sold as small originals.
It was first introduced to retail as a range of boxed note cards in March 1968, first establishing itself on the west coast of the US, before spreading across America over the next five years. The first domestic licensee, Contempo, was signed in 1973 for a line of cocktail napkins, which was followed the first international licensee in 1978, with H Ling & Son beginning to sell Suzy’s Zoo greetings cards in the UK.
The story continues with the addition of Enesco Giftware and, in 1980, Suzy’s Zoo was licensed into other EEC countries through Esselte Graco in the form of cards and school accessories. Over the years, the programme in the US grew into a full social expressions range. The most significant licensing activity, however, has been since 1997, when Gerber Products and Gerber Childrenswear began featuring the art, which would lead to the Little Suzy’s Zoo brand, with picture book publishing following.
Today, there are more than 100 active licensees worldwide, with over 2,000 products in almost all categories including publishing – more than 750,000 books were sold in the US alone in the first quarter of 2011 - apparel, games, puzzles, greetings cards, social expression and homewares to name a few.
While Suzy’s Zoo is the umbrella brand, there are a number of sub-groups including pre-school offering Little Suzy’s Zoo, Wags and Whiskers, Woodland Friends, Camp Mudpuddle and The Murky Marsh among others. There is also an animation series called Adventures in Duckport, featuring the core three characters from Suzy’s Zoo, as well as their sidekicks and a range of adult characters. In total, there are over 250 characters in the core product range.
As well as a huge following in the US and Japan (where apparel and accessories were introduced into Plaza Style stores in 2005, and in 2010 over $110m of sales were notched up), Suzy’s Zoo is also making its mark in the UK and Europe. A deal is in place with University Games to develop board, card, travel and electronic board games, plus colorforms and jigsaws for worldwide distribution. In addition, the company has just partnered with Brecrest to develop babywear and childrenswear for the UK and Europe, and Suncrest to create nursery bedding and accessories, pre-school toys, car and travel, while Blue Sky will be producing books for the UK.
“The biggest challenge we have come across is that of the need to utilise multiple platforms of exposure in order to build greater brand awareness,” comments Suzy Spafford. “These platforms include animation, books, retailer support, trade ads, attendance at trade shows for all categories of potential licensing. We are working on this now, as well as focusing on other platforms for awareness, including online.”
A presence at Brand Licensing Europe will help increase this awareness, and Spafford is keen to sign up a toy licensee and retail partner, as well as concluding the development of the animation series by the end of 2011.
“Suzy’s Zoo is truly a brand that is poised to explode in the marketplace,” she enthuses. “In five years, we would like to have established retail partnerships in all of the world’s major markets – the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, Latin America – to establish the brand’s of Suzy’s Zoo Studios as a household name the world over. Additionally, we would like to have the animation fully established and potentially a feature film in the works. Oh, and I’ve always dreamed of a theme park, too…”