Between 2000 and 2006, the US infant and juvenile product market grew by almost US$2 billion to US$8.9 billion. And 110-year-old Edison, New Jersey-based Gund is banking on this trend to continue as it shifts focus from manufacturing toys and plush to gift products with the launch of GundBaby.
GundBaby doesn’t mark Gund’s entrée into infant goods. However, by renaming the brand formerly known as Baby Gund and trebling the breadth of available products to encompass nine themed lines and more than 100 SKUs, the company stands to make quite a statement in the category at mid-tier and specialty retailers in the US this year.
Beyond the plush for which Gund is so well-known, GundBaby products will include activity playmates, Cuddlehugs, Huggybuddy, Loveable Hugs, backpacks, bibs, growth charts, diaper stackers, wooden puzzles, quilts and travel toys. Additionally, to hit the right note at boutique and gift retailers, marketing and licensing manager Shallu Chhabra says gift packages have been carefully thought out. So unlike past iterations, the new sets such as the Loveable Hugs series features a soft animal plush holding a blanket that can be removed, unrolled and used to keep baby warm, and other gift sets include matching baby essentials – booties, a onesie and a bib.
While it’s sticking to its upstairs retail strategy, the breadth of the GundBaby brand has also helped increase the amount of real estate commanded by the manufacturer within its chosen retail channel. Moving beyond the toy shelf, Chhabra says the new collection has been sold into bedding and nursery aisles and boutiques. Gund has also taken a more active role in merchandising plans, constructing new floor displays and branded shelving to house items it hadn’t manufactured before. For example, the company has constructed custom quilt racks for retailers taking in the new product and has trained its sales associates to create product display suggestions for retail partners.
To further maintain GundBaby’s higher-end price points (a hooded towel has an SRP of US$50, and the new playmats ring in at US$100), the company is using proprietary plush material and fabric that can be matched across each collection to create a unified look and feel. The material, developed by the vendor, is inspired by current apparel trends, such as calico patterns and corduroy accents.
To keep the assortment fresh, Chhabra says that the company will release new GundBaby collections twice a year. And as for licensing the brand into categories it doesn’t handle, she says the company hasn’t decided.