As more customers look for affordability, durability and sustainability in toys, Melissa & Doug CEO Fernando Mercé tells Toy World that the company’s theme of ‘timeless toys’ is more timely than ever.
Catching up with Fernando, and Francisco Anselmi, managing director International, at Toy Fair – Fernando’s first visit after taking up the role three years ago – Toy World heard how Melissa & Doug is raising its brand awareness, particularly in the UK, where the company says it “started getting serious” in 2009.
The company launched just over 30 years ago, with international expansion starting 10 years later and Fernando explains that the UK has always been at the heart of its global growth.
“I think the UK consumer is more in touch with what we bring,” he says. “We want to continue growing the brand in the UK and in Europe. We want to grow all round and eventually create the full Melissa & Doug experience at retail. Some places already have it, but we want to continue expanding on that.”
Much of Melissa & Doug’s recent innovation has been around puzzles, and a new infant and toddler range launched in autumn 2022 has seen strong sales. The company’s Barber Shop Set also attracted great attention when it was named among the 25 Hero Toys at this year’s Toy Fair.
“We are already perceived by customers as the most sustainable brand,” Fernando enthuses. “We have carried out research which shows this is down to the durability of our products. If you buy something that doesn’t last – even if it’s made of paper or wood – it’s not really sustainable. Our customers can see that each of our items is not a single use toy.”
Melissa & Doug is changing its packaging to eliminate plastic and, as a company, it has made a number of commitments including FSC certification. All of its paper is now certified, along with over half of the wood it uses for manufacturing. The aim is to have all wood FSC-certified by 2025. Alongside this, the company ensures it buys from responsible sources and is carrying out its own tree planting, targeting the planting of 10m trees by the end of the decade.
Melissa & Doug’s sustainability credentials are prominent in the company ethos, but Fernando concedes that there is still more to be done with raising brand awareness. “We want to grow but we want to do it in a disciplined way. For us, it’s less about heavy discounting and getting a lot of product out there; it’s more about getting the brand well established in the market, getting consumers to understand what the brand stands for and being known for the highest standards when it comes to quality. “What we know is that once a consumer becomes familiar with our brand, the purchase intent is incredibly high, so the obvious challenge is to get people to know the brand.”
Francisco adds that Melissa & Doug plans to spend more on marketing investment behind brand communications. In the UK, it has been supporting retailers with a variety of marketing initiatives including on-shelf tactics and events.