With its first crop of consumer products based on In The Night Garden blooming to the tune of US$22 million in sales between August and December last year, Ragdoll USA has been surveying the international market for fertile ground. And with a 7:30 p.m. slot secured six days a week on leading preschool channel Treehouse TV, it looks like the company will focus on planting seeds in Canada this year.
The early-evening programming strategy mirrors the original MO that worked so well in the UK, where the show anchors CBeebies’ slower-paced Bedtime Hour block at 6:30 p.m. And Ragdoll is investing a significant promotional spend in the next few months to reach Canadian moms online and through consumer magazines, imprint publications and advertorials in an effort to convince them to embrace Night Garden as part of their toddlers’ daily routine.
At the same time, the company is looking to license the brand quickly to get toys for kids ages one to four on the shelf by fall. On the heels of shipping US$24 million worth of product to UK retail in 2007 and winning the prestigious UK Toy of the Year Award with its Blanket Time Igglepiggle product, Hasbro was keen to sign up for toys, games and puzzles in Canada. Andrea Demacio-Morris, the property’s senior brand manager at Hasbro Canada, plans to use a Playskool-sponsored toy of the month program on Treehouse TV’s website and monthly newsletter to showcase Night Garden product during the fall launch.
Kristin Bufka, Ragdoll USA’s director of marketing and merchandising, is hoping to have a limited range of toy SKUs at retail in time for the holidays (plush, plastics, character collections, bath toys and vehicles), and she’s in negotiations with Canadian DVD and publishing partners to roll product out at the same time.
The next phase in spring 2009 will be the main thrust of the program, with about 15 to 20 categories including apparel, footwear, back-to-school, outerwear & accessories, furniture, melamine, stationery and craft & activity products rolling out nationwide at mass. Though bedtime merchandise such as sleepwear, blankets and bedding is obvious, Bufka says she’s open to looking beyond traditional categories and talking to manufacturers in other areas, such as health & beauty and social expressions. At a licensee summit held in Toronto a couple of months ago, Ragdoll revealed that it would offer its Canadian licensee partners a royalty rate of 10.7% of wholesale, over a three-year deal term.
Based on consumption patterns in the UK, Bufka expects boys to feel more of a connection to the male Igglepiggle character, whereas girls are more likely be drawn to colorful doll Upsy Daisy. For those who haven’t seen the show, it’s shot primarily outdoor in a lush woodland garden, so there’s a natural theme of trees, rocks and flowers that can be tapped into during product R&D. Bufka adds that the show’s gigantic gazebo, a very central component of each episode, would make a great fixture for in-store reading events that play on the prominent literary and rhyming elements of the show.