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ITALIAN TOY INDUSTRY SEEKS INNOVATION THROUGH CO-MARKETING STRATEGIES
A sector worth 2.350 million euros in manufacturing and 795 million euros in exports. These are the main figures for the Italian companies which manufacture toys, games, miniature models, child-rearing items and Christmas ornaments and decorations, brought together by Assogiocattoli , the trade association headed by Roberto Bonazzi, who leads an organization of mainly medium-sized enterprises (over 150), with some large players such as Artsana-Chicco, Clementoni, Giochi Preziosi and Peg Perego.
“We make all kinds of toys. Our product portfolio – says the President of Assogiocattoli – is no different from that of our main competitors, because we are always talking about toys. There is no doubt, however, that Italy leads in certain areas, such as battery-powered vehicles for children, outdoor games (footballs), board games and metal miniature car models.” In the past few years the sector has experienced similar dynamics to those of many other Italian sectors: some manufacturing operations (such as stuffed animals and dolls) have been relocated to China to pursue more cost-effective production models.
Overall, what distinguishes Italian toy manufacturing is the ability to add value through the creativity and taste which characterise many other ‘Made in Italy’ sectors. “But we are just as engaged on the innovation front – assures Mr Bonazzi – in terms of compliance with product safety regulations. In this area keeping up to date is an ongoing process”. Furthermore, in the past few years there has been a trend towards associating toys with cartoon characters or other brands. This type of “linked” marketing connects toys either to cartoon characters or other adult product brands. “One of our companies produces, in partnership with Scavolini, a leading manufacturer of kitchen furniture, a range of toy kitchens for children. Another associate of ours, a manufacturer of battery-powered vehicles partnered with Ducati to make a toy motorbike bearing their brand name. It is important for our sector to tie our products to quality brands: it allows us to guarantee and reassure adults of the quality of the product, while gratifying the child with the novelty of a unique toy. This is the co-marketing and co-branding which has really been picking up speed in the past few years”.
Design, quality and safety are undoubtedly the strong points that ensure the competitiveness of Italian toys. But more is needed to gain footing in a ripe market which is under threat from other entertainment products such as videogames. «2007 is almost over but I will not give estimates, since the Christmas period is a crucial time for our sector: 60-65% of sales are concentrated in December. Our end-of-year growth objective is around 3-4%: ours is a stable sector which seeks to defend its position”. Imports, which account for 35% of production, are also a factor of stability.
“Especially in Europe, which takes in 70% of the total”, the head of Assogiocattoli explains. The main EU markets are France and Germany, while sales are increasing in Eastern Europe, notably Russia.
In a traditionally international market, attendance at the main trade fairs is vital for Italian toy manufacturers. “The two most important fairs – says Mr Bonazzi – are Nurenberg in Europe and Hong Kong in Asia. Our strategy envisages a constant presence, in coordination with ICE, the Italian Trade Commission”. On the marketing front, in 2008 there are projects planned for Russia, India and Dubai as well as for trade fairs.