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Wooden toy player Brio makes licensing tracks with DCP

AS consumers' love affair with plastic playthings continues to wane in light of product safety concerns, wooden toys stand to gain some ground. And luckily for licensors, it looks like a veteran category manufacturer is opening its licensing doors. Sweden-based specialty toyco Brio has dabbled in character brands, but a new deal with Disney signals a return to the business model.
January 1, 2008

AS consumers’ love affair with plastic playthings continues to wane in light of product safety concerns, wooden toys stand to gain some ground. And luckily for licensors, it looks like a veteran category manufacturer is opening its licensing doors. Sweden-based specialty toyco Brio has dabbled in character brands, but a new deal with Disney signals a return to the business model.

Acting on demand evidenced by focus group interviews with kids eager to play with products sporting their favorite characters, Brio CEO Thomas Bräutigam says licensing seemed a natural move for the company to make. Looking for a high-profile international license for its famed wooden train sets, Brio has found a perfect fit in two of Disney’s latest preschool properties.

Starting this August, characters from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and My Friends Tigger & Pooh will appear on sets for preschool kids ages five and under. A range is set to roll out at retail in all European territories, and it will include brightly colored wooden track sets and village and scenery sets, retailing from US$21 to US$57.

Though the current deal spans just three years, DCP’s SVP of European toys business, Edward Catchpole, sees this as the beginning of a long-term relationship with Brio. If the partnership proves to be successful, he expects the arrangement to expand outside Europe and thinks there’s room to up the percentage of girls playing with the product. The second phase of the plan is to introduce girl-friendly, accessory-laden railway playsets.

For its part, Brio will be moving into licensing carefully, chiefly looking at preschool properties. As part of that strategy, Bräutigam says the company would be open to other characters targeting this demo in Disney’s portfolio.

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