“YOUR COMPANY has to have a reason for being more than you have goods to sell and a big smile on your face. You have to demonstrate a point of difference and a reason for being.” So says Jay Foreman, president and CEO of US-based toy firm, The Bridge Direct.
Probably best known on this side of the Atlantic for its recent tie-up with Vivid Imaginations on The Hobbit, The Bridge Direct has only been shipping for 18 months, making it a newcomer to the business. However, despite its fledgling status, Foreman is keen to point out that things are going well and the firm is 33 per cent up over last year. Foreman is obviously succeeding in finding that point of difference so far.
He readily admits that the US market is currently something of a mixed bag; while consumer confidence is way down, consumer spending is up, he says. For The Bridge Direct, its licensed Justin Bieber line was its biggest success of 2011, followed by its Inkoos range of ‘do and redo’ plush (which will be rolling out internationally in 2012). Also due this year is a line of products based on the YouTube series, The Annoying Orange, which Foreman believes has huge breakout potential. And then, of course, there’s the first of the two Hobbit movies due to arrive in Q4.
“We’re partners with Vivid on this licence [The Hobbit],” Foreman explains to ToyNews. “We both joined together to acquire the rights and co-develop and source the product line. We will share the marketplace, with The Bridge handling sales in the Americas and Asia, and Vivid handling sales in Europe, Middle East, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. It’s a great way for two smaller toy companies to combine to offer a much bigger programme to a property owner.
“The films will be in theatres in Q4 2012 and Q4 2013. It will be the number one movie in quarter four of both years and the toy line will be a top seller in boys action.”
While Foreman may come across as uber confident, he has enough experience under his belt to know to err on the side of caution when it comes to the US economy and the challenges which companies such as The Bridge Direct are facing going forward. “The fact is, things are tougher than ever for our industry as it relates to being a start up or small business; we continue to see consolidation at retail, a difficult banking environment with regards to financing and continued cost inflation in China,” he states. “You have to be totally focused on delivering something unique to retail, whether it be innovative features and concepts, hot licences or value-oriented merchandise.
“The consumer needs to release some pent up demand and loosen the purse strings and spend. I think that’s good for the toy business because we know when they spend in tough economic times they spend on their kids. The challenge is that there are really no break out products driving consumers to stores, like a ZhuZhu Pets or Silly Bandz at the moment.”
He cites the brands coming from the internet and social media space – properties such as Angry Birds and The Annoying Orange – as a good example of where growth is going to come from in the immediate future. “This is the biggest emerging media to affect our market since the home video games business broke out 20 years ago and it’s going to spawn a lot of new IP to relate to toys and kids consumer products.”
Foreman’s goals for The Bridge Direct are quite simple. “In 2012 we want to continue to build our footprint at retail by bringing meaningful product to the market,” he concludes. “And I’d like to think within five years, The Bridge would be a growing and important company in the toy industry.”