3 April 2007
Award-Winning Toys(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 04,2007)
Manley Toys Ltd
|Manley Toys Ltd (established 1977) has won awards in Hong Kong and overseas for its innovative and interactive toys|
Among other award-winning toys from Manley is Tekno Dog, which won a US Family Fun magazine Toy of the Year award in 2002. The firm's Blue Man Group Percussion Tubes and Door Slammerz received the same award in 2006.
The firm began as a trading company in 1976. "We started with less than six employees and grew steadily to our present level of 500 and we are now one of the major toys companies in Hong Kong," says chairman and CEO Samson Chan.
With experience trading in many different lines, Chan says that he and his team eventually decided that the toys sector was the way of the future. "I also have a passion for toys, I love to design them and even play with them, so it was a great move for me," he laughs. "That was in 1990, and toys accounted for almost all of our business by 1995."
Being a major toy exporter, Manley has outsourced most of its production to OEM factories on the Chinese mainland, in effect becoming a "virtual" manufacturer. "By partnering with OEM factories, we can have more resources devoted to product design, marketing and after-sales service," Chan asserts. "We have been a virtual manufacturer for the past 10 years."
Chan says that the Manley line mostly comprises smart electronic toys. "Every new generation seems smarter than the previous one, and kids are encouraged to learn by their parents so there is always a market for hi-tech toys. The traditional toys market, while still good, is a more difficult and competitive market."
The full product line is spread across multiple categories, including preschool, plush, plastic, wood, inflatable, water and pool, battery-operated, radio control, plug-and-play, musical, youth electronics and My Size games.
Manley products are also widely promoted at Wal-Mart, Kmart and Toys'R'Us stores in the US, and many retail stores worldwide.
New and noteworthy is the company's latest set of dog collectibles, Snubbies, which includes 90 canine breeds available with a person's name and birth date. The ears on a plush version of the toy flap when the dog's tummy is rubbed.
Chan is well aware that the life cycles of toys are becoming shorter, and that shorter life cycles bring about all sorts of problems including product development time. "The impact on Hong Kong suppliers is thus not just the lowering of profit margins, but also the need to invest more in R&D and to develop own-design capabilities and more value-added edges," Chan says.
Noting that children aged 12 and up easily turn to non-traditional playthings such as video games, computers, music and even cosmetics, Chan says these developments have spurred Manley to challenge other toy manufacturers.
Meanwhile, there is greater effort in introducing toys for preschool age children - toys that require a higher level of creative input and help develop brainpower, coordination and the still-developing senses of young players.
"We have been taking all this into account in our style of OEM manufacturing over the past 10 years and it has proved pretty successful," concludes Chan. "There is no question that behind our sales figures there is a lot of hard work and a lot of good people. We have great design and engineering teams, both for the hardware and software elements - and now we have the business.
"There is still a lot of room for growth and development in the toys industry, especially if you take a global view," Chan says, adding that in 2002 the group established Manley Inflatables Shanghai Ltd with a view to greater penetration of the mainland market. "The China market is going to open up in a big way, and that huge potential demand is very much a part of our future."
Manley Toys certainly appears to be in tune with children's needs worldwide.
TEXT BY TONY HENDERSON
Manley Toys Ltd