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K’NEX dips toe into preschool licensing

Putting the pieces together to build a new in-bound licensing program, Hatfield, Pennsylvania-based construction toyco K'NEX has partnered with Sesame Workshop to bring its Muppets into young builders' hands everywhere.
January 1, 2008

Putting the pieces together to build a new in-bound licensing program, Hatfield, Pennsylvania-based construction toyco K’NEX has partnered with Sesame Workshop to bring its Muppets into young builders’ hands everywhere.

K’NEX has traditionally concentrated its licensing efforts on older kids with lines based around properties such as Mech Warrior and Orange County Choppers. VP of global marketing Barbara Rentschler says the preschool toy market is quite property-driven, and K’NEX went hunting for an IP that would mesh with and enhance the educational, interactive and motor-skill development aspects of the construction play pattern, which Sesame Street delivers across its many brand activities.

The deal involves the toyco’s Kid K’NEX line of younger-skewing building sets for kids two to five, which are responsible for about 25% of the company’s overall sales. President Michael Araten says he expects the Sesame license to double sales for the gender-neutral construction toy line.

The first range of products, retailing between US$9.99 and US$29.99, will feature constructible Cookie Monster, Elmo, fairy-in-training Abby Cadabby, Oscar, and Bert and Ernie figures, plus location sets such as Mr. Hooper’s Store. And in keeping with the strong imaginative brand values that both companies espouse, the Workshop’s director of licensing Eric Morse says the interchangeable rods and connectors offer the potential for alternate constructions. So kids who like to build out-of-the-box could conceiveably create a Cookie Monster with all body parts, but no torso. Sets will also include an instructional card for parents with educational suggestions, like encouraging kids to count all the red blocks.

Product will launch at select US retailers this July, before rolling out in the fall in Latin America, Germany, Holland, Spain and Southeast Asia. A second phase is planned for 2009, and Morse says it will include more characters and larger piece counts.

Though K’NEX isn’t actively seeking additional licenses, Rentschler is open to the possibility, if a property comes along that jibes with the company’s educational and constructible bent.

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