Exclusive: Rick Derr and Dave Middleton’s learnings on their markets

Published on: 4th October 2022

The owners of Learning Express and Midco Toys have formed a strong friendship, whilst learning from each other on their respective markets.

The two toy retailers, located on opposite sides of the Atlantic, have been in touch to find out how their respective experiences and views can benefit both the UK and US toy markets. Toy World caught up with the pair during Dave’s latest trip across the pond to find out what he and Rick have learned from each other.

Toy World first spoke to Rick and Dave back in March 2022, when they sat down over Teams to quiz each other on the differences between their regions. Since then, a fair bit of trans Atlantic jet-setting has taken place. The main hope for the relationship between them – and through a wider lens, between Toymaster and Learning Express – was to share information in a way that would benefit indies both in the UK and the US. You can read all about these trips, and that very first Teams call, in the March, July and August issues of Toy World.

The pair discuss how UK indies often feel neglected by certain suppliers but actually how in the US they have a much harder time. Dave used to think that the US toy market ran ahead of the UK, but through his relationship with Rick he knows that he is receiving toys possibly two or three months ahead of Rick. They give Cepia’s Pop Art Soft plush line as an example, which they are both selling.

The pair offer insight as to how indies can give suppliers so much information regarding merchandising and in-store placement and how all this affects sales.

Rick explained: “Indies can help you learn early on which characters are selling the best, for example, what merchandising is having the greatest effect, how in-store placement is affecting sales and so much more. This allows toy companies to lower their research investment and save on launches.”

Dave has appreciated how lucky he is with his shopping centre-based Derby store, whereas Rick’s Lake Zurich Learning Express is much more rural and is why Rick puts so much time and effort into his social media presence. Another realisation Dave has come to during his time with Rick and the Learning Express group is that Toymaster really is successful at making life easy for its members.

Rick also takes a moment to highlight the role the Toy World team and James Zahn (AKA The Rockfather) of The Toy Book play in keeping the US and UK toy industries connected. Hopefully, as we head into the festive season and another year riddled with uncertainty, that communication will pay off for us all.

To read more on this and the full article click here.


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