Bringing good news to the somewhat beleaguered US licensing industry, Erlanger, Kentucky-based Ty’s Toy Box and All Aboard Toys in Denver, Colorado merged late last month. Together, the e-tail specialists now sit as the largest independent online shopping source for licensed character merch.
The two companies combined work with some 400 suppliers and more than 25 licensors/licensing agents, carrying upwards of 10,000 SKUs that include toys, apparel, school supplies, home décor, DVDs, costumes, party supplies and video games. And as a single entity, they are hoping to take a bigger slice of the estimated US$26 billion spent at US retail on character-based goods.
Ty Simpson, founding CEO of Ty’s Toy Box, takes the title of CEO at the newly formed company, while All Aboard’s CEO Dave Carlson becomes chairman of the board. Simpson says the merger will trigger the development of broader-reaching retail programs for brands and licenses, but he won’t be straying from the formula that has seen Ty’s roster of licensed boutiques shoot up from six to more than 80 in five years.
The focus for both AllAboardToys.com and TysToyBox.com – which continue to operate as individual e-tail sites – will be on creating fully merchandised, individually branded shops carrying product primarily for licenses that are not found at mass-market retailers, although big franchises like Dora the Explorer, Thomas the Tank Engine and Spider-Man will also be part of the mix.
In addition to the increased distribution reach of the duo, what’s different is that the e-tailers will be able to further customize retail programs for each license. ‘We’re looking at both of our customer segments now to determine which customers do well with which properties,’ says Simpson. ‘We may launch something at one site and bring it over to the other, or launch on both with a different product mix…We’re looking to offer consumers a unique experience with a lot of exclusive, private-label and hard-to-find products.’
To that end, the companies are consolidating their buying teams to boost purchasing power. But both the Erlanger and Denver offices will continue to operate with their current staffs, and Simpson says he’ll be splitting his time between the two locations.
You can also expect the merger to lead the e-tailers further into the realm of product development. Ty’s set up a custom apparel program last year, creating hundreds of new SKUs around fully personalized versions of Thomas, Barney, Care Bears and Noddy duds, to name just a few participating characters, and Simpson’s not done yet. He’s looking to bring more licenses into the fold and to produce more hard-to-find items. ‘The idea is to give the customer what they want,’ he says. ‘As a retailer, to tell them that the product doesn’t exist is just a lame excuse.’
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but both companies are backed by financial partner eonCapital.