This quarter, ToyNews is catching up Tim ives, the new Managing Director for UK and Basic Fun’s ROI to find out what the role means to him, his best career moments and the fortuitous nature of Lincoln Logs launch in the UK
Hi Tim, congratulations on the latest news and the new role with Basic Fun! What does this movement mean for you, how will you help shape the future of Basic Fun! from here ?
This new role means so much to me! I was one of the original members of K’NEX UK and have worked for the company for over eight years. During this time, there have been so many exciting developments (most notably the acquisition of Basic Fun! In 2018), and the company has seen significant growth.
We are now one of the top 40 toy companies in the UK, and with the double-digit growth we currently envision this year, we are on track to meet our long-term goal of becoming one of the Top 20 companies.
We are entering an exciting phase for the company, with many positive changes being implemented. We are adding amazing IPs to the portfolio and our brands such as K’NEX, Tonka, Care Bears, Lite Brite and Cutetitos continue to explode our expectations. So being able to take on a larger responsibility for the business right now is a great opportunity – I see so much potential, and I can’t wait to build on the incredible success we’ve seen.
Of course, I am also delighted to be able to continue to work closely with Holly and Lynne. With their help and the invaluable support of our business partners, I am confident that the company will continue to grow stronger.
You’ve been with the business from the start. What do you love most about working for Basic Fun! ?
It is first of all about the people. We have a small, tight-knit, super-efficient team that works closely with our American colleagues and of course a fantastic product. Basic fun! is renowned for developing exciting products and the company works hard to keep up with and create new trends… as well as relaunching brands – Fisher Price Classic, Care Bears, Tonka, K’NEX continue to hit the headlines!
In 2021 and beyond, we have an exciting portfolio that taps into most of the core categories. The toys we market appeal to all ages and are recognized in all age groups. And I think the most exciting thing for me is that we are only at the start of our journey with so many brands: Care Bears is celebrating its 40th anniversary next year and consumers just can’t seem to get enough of our line. of Master Toy soft toys. Then, right after the sales success of the Steel Classics collection, there is Tonka’s 75th anniversary. And not to mention K’NEX which will be celebrating its incredible 30th anniversary next year – perfect timing for many of the brand’s exciting developments!
We’re bringing back old favorites like the bestselling Amazing 8 Roller Coaster in the new K’NEX Thrill Rides collection. We are also introducing a new multi-build sub-segment, K’NEX Classics; each set comes with a color coded instruction manual for making different models. In addition, we will also unveil our vibrant and eye-catching waterfall packaging. But there are also opportunities for growth.
We are only at the dawn of seeing the real potential of Lite Brite, where over 1.4 million units were sold in the United States last year. Plus, there are so many new waves coming from our award winning Cutetitos. In addition, we also have some great IP news for 2021.
There are our Monopoly Surprise collectibles – our versatile collectibles for kids to peel and reveal to discover the surprises hidden inside.
These surprises include Heavy Exclusive Tokens, Unique Coins, New Mr. Monopoly Expressions, and Pursuit Tokens, which can be used while playing Monopoly!
In September, we’re also launching Bitty Boomers, the miniature wireless Bluetooth speakers that take the form of popular characters including Spider-Man, Venom, Darth Vader, and The Child. Already very popular in the United States, these speakers can be synced for an added boom. And I can’t say too much at this point, but there’s some extra special innovation help for the pop culture aisle in the second half.
You have had a long career in the toy industry to date, working at TOMY, MGA, K’NEX and Basic Fun! What have you been passionate about in the industry all this time?
In the toy industry, there is always so much going on, so much is always changing, and there is always so much to do … you can’t get bored! Of course, I love people too and can’t wait for some normalcy to return so that the industry can come together again for customer meetings, toy shows and social events.
What are the biggest changes you have seen in the industry during this time? How do you think they influenced your approach to the market / industry today?
Without a doubt, the shift from bricks and mortar to a growing demand for the internet which has accelerated further with the pandemic. For this reason, Basic Fun! is also changing its approach to deliver improved and richer content and SEO copy for retailers and we had to be nimble, taking a 360 degree approach to public relations / marketing that includes significant digital activity.
However, nothing can beat in-store theater, branding, product in the hands of kids, events and character experiences and that will continue to be on our agenda when the time is right!
Can you tell us Tim, do you have a memory of a favorite toy? Did your relationship with toys growing up influence where your career has taken you to date?
Growing up in the United States, one of my favorite toys was Lincoln Logs. It’s funny that 45 years later we’re about to bring this classic American toy, with over 100 years of heritage, to the UK. Like all the classic toys we make, Basic Fun! takes exceptional care to reproduce them “as they were”, which evokes great childhood memories but also appeals to a whole new generation. You can’t beat a classic!
With the greatest respect for your current role, what is / was your dream job or proudest moment in your career?
I couldn’t think of a better industry than toys. It’s fast-paced, constantly changing, and there are some great people. So, I have the job of my dreams! With the help of my team, the moment I am most proud of is how we have all taken on challenges over the past year, adapted to the way we work, and continued to achieve exceptional growth.
What has been the funniest moment in your career so far?
You should dress every year at the Toymaster Show. Everyone goes to great lengths and some costumes are quite special. Usually taking place in May, it’s a good time to unwind after the busy AW period and catch up with fellow industry.
What did you learn from the last year?
Despite the challenges, you should always try to stay positive.
Do you think the toy industry is heading in the right direction?
I would say it’s not so much the “right” direction – it’s just exciting direction. For basic fun! not only are we starting to see the mix of categories like Cutetitos and Care Bears being plush and collectibles, Tonka painting vehicles and compounds, but also entire industries (e.g. electronics for young people). This offers huge possibilities for collaboration that would never really have been seen in toys before. The positive implications this has for innovation, pop culture and intergenerational appeal, as well as new product development are immense!
And we’re really starting to scratch the surface of that potential with the Bitty Boomers and other exciting new launches, which I can’t speak to yet!