Toys ‘R’ Us is turning to studio licensing expert Michael Tabakin to execute its efforts to identify hot trends.
Tabakin moves over from Turner Home Entertainment, where he was vice president of kids branding and sales, to become director of trend merchandising at the Paramus, New Jersey-based retailer.
In his new position, Tabakin acts as the eyes and ears of the purchasing and sales promotions groups. He will be looking to identify upcoming hot trends in both nonlicensed and licensed products.
‘My job is to look at the different entertainment and event properties and try to gauge where they can be positioned,’ he says. This not only involves meeting with studios, but also coordinating internally at Toys ‘R’ Us to make sure that various divisions, including purchasing, sales promotion and in-store planning, all support the company’s overall effort or strategy. ‘I make sure internally everyone is aware of who is supporting what, and how we can create a difference at point of sale between us and anyone else out there.’
In the past, Toys ‘R’ Us, much like other retailers, has gathered information about licensed products through vendors. Tabakin lauds the efforts that companies like Hasbro and Mattel make to inform retailers. However, his goal is to make Toys ‘R’ Us proactive to licensing trends. ‘I want Toys ‘R’ Us to be on the cusp of trends rather than being hitched on the tail end of them,’ he says.
This means going directly to studios to find out what they are developing before they even have strategic partners in place. ‘I want to have as much lead time to [identify] the kid-friendly partners out there and create a matrix of all of those properties. Then we’ll have an idea of what we are going to support so we are not in a position of playing catch-up.’
Tabakin believes the more information he can provide for the various divisions, the better their decisions will be to ensure a program with high impact. This information will allow the buyers to make more educated decisions, and to purchase the appropriate amount of licensed product for each property. ‘It’s more important for me not only to explain to the group here what is available to them, but also to make better business decisions.’
He hopes that at the end of the day, this will result in a happier consumer. ‘We want kids to come into Toys ‘R’ Us and know that if they want a licensed property or any emerging trend, they’ll find it here.’