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Hands-on activities open a lucrative chapter for Parragon

Parragon is starting a new chapter in its North American business, as the publisher's US division forecasts exceptional growth potential in the "books plus" category - to the tune of US$30 million for each of its new ranges over the next three to five years.
September 28, 2015

Global publisher Parragon is starting a new chapter in its North American business, marked by significant expansion in the kit/gift set category with four branded ranges that will feature licensed and proprietary IPs. The push comes as the UK-headquartered publisher’s US division forecasts exceptional growth potential in this “books plus” category—to the tune of US$30 million for each of its new ranges over the next three to five years.

“The goal is to open up new retail opportunities. We want to look at incremental growth beyond the traditional book space—that’s really the key with our own brands,” says Parragon Global president and COO Wendy Friedman, who was upped to president of creative at Parragon this past April. “For us, it’s about building within our own brand, coming up with really inventive point-of-sale, and then figuring out how we can merchandise both efforts in the permanent and promotional space.”

To get the ball rolling at retail, the new products will debut this fall. First up are Parragon’s proprietary mass-market Craft Factory kits, which offer unique hands-on crafts and DIY activities (sewing, stamping, jewelry design, clay modeling) and come with a 32-page how-to book. Craft Factory is launching with two SKUs. Creative Tubes will debut in the US in October with four themed kits (puppy, kitten, owl, zebra), while a Creative Box Sets line hits retail in January with six SKUs (rock band, balloon buddies, friendship bracelets, foil jewelry, clay animals, chalk games).

In December, the publisher is also extending its premium baby/toddler range Little Learners, moving it more into the gift category with the launch of a Hush Little Owl book and plush gift set, as well as the Baby Milestones sticker pack gift set. (The Little Learners line first launched in the US and UK in 2012.)

Then in 2016, Parragon’s new licensed lines will start to roll out. The first to market in January will be Disney’s Frozen selfie kit, which comes complete with a book detailing how to take the best selfies, photo booth props, and (of course) a selfie stick. Disney’s Magic Foil craft art book and kits featuring Frozen, Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast characters also launch in January. The kits come with things like stickers, glittery foil and a book with 12 projects to build that follow a Disney storyline.

Parragon’s other key license getting the kit/gift set treatment, The World of Eric Carle, launches in February featuring the legendary American children’s author’s distinctive art and iconic characters. The range will be a mix of interactive and novelty formats such as activity pads with collectible cover-mounted gifts/toys and carry-along activity sets. It will also feature new formats like the storytime four-in-one activity game set, activity and jigsaw puzzle set and a show-and-tell story set.

In March, Parragon will debut the Disney Shadow Puppets line, letting kids use stickers, props, a flashlight and a how-to storybook to create their own shadow puppet theater. Parragon will also launch interactive Factivity sets in March, which combine illustrated 128-page encyclopedic books with all the tools kids need to build a dinosaur or a human skeleton.

Moving into spring/summer 2016, Parragon is launching its own premium Maker Craft line in May, which includes Maker Craft Dresses and an adult SKU. And in June, new Be STEM Smart science-based activity kits will teach aspiring engineers and scientists important first concepts and real-world applications for subjects like coding, circuitry, optical photography and 3D printing.

As for where to find all these “books plus” SKUs, Parragon’s key retail partners include traditional books stores like Barnes & Noble, mass-market retailers Walmart and Target, specialty stores Jo-Ann’s and Michael’s, and larger supermarket chains like ALDI.

Parragon will look to reinforce its retail presence in the “books plus” space throughout 2016 by replenishing its numerous distribution channels with fresh content. By the end of next year, the publisher intends to have 22 SKUs in its own range, and talks are currently in the works with several big-name licensors to extend the licensed range as well. Announcements are expected soon.

“The expansion of our partnership with various licenses is definitely the key for 2016,” says Friedman. “We’re looking at evergreen, A-list, entertainment-driven licenses. We’re also looking at global brands and what we can bring to the table. For instance, unlike with Disney, we’re not using third-party assets for our Discovery Kids products—we’re creating the story, content, photography and illustrations ourselves. As a publisher, we’re able to do that.”

This article was originally featured in Kidscreen‘s September 2015 issue.

About The Author
Patrick Callan is a senior writer at Kidscreen. He reports on the licensing and consumer products side of the global children's entertainment industry via daily news coverage and in-depth features. Contact Patrick at


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