29 Aug 2007
Fascinating Fun(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 09,2007)
|O.I.D. Magic stirs children's imaginations with high-quality magic tricks and games|
Based in Mouans-Sartoux, France, the goal is a labour of love for founder and director Philippe Rousseau, who says the firm is best-known in the toys industry for its range of professional magic tricks that are especially adapted for children.
Two years ago, O.I.D. Magic branched out by developing a series of juggling items in association with Circus Arlette Gruss, a French travelling circus. This year, it introduced a range of musical instruments for children, along with a DVD learning method that is both simple and efficient.
Originally a trading company that imported novelty items from Asia, the firm began focusing on magic tricks in its first year. "I found some very good magic tricks for adults on a street in Bangkok. I thought it would be a good idea to produce them with children in mind," Rousseau relates. "So, we decided to start a new concept of 'professional' magic that children could perform."
When that succeeded, he scoured the world for more magic tricks, and discovered them in diverse places like Thailand, China, the US and Malaysia. "We wanted a good range and so we brought products in from everywhere and did the packaging in France," he says.
Today, the firm has an extensive catalogue of 18 classic magic tricks for children aged eight years and up that includes card and mentalist tricks, sleight-of-hand and disappearing coins and balls.
Each trick is colour-coded to show if it is very easy, easy, fairly easy or difficult. Boxed sets featuring multiple magic tricks sell particularly well during the holidays.
"Our tricks are not the kind you often find in stores that children get disappointed with and put under the bed. With ours, they can learn from them and enjoy them right away," says Rousseau. "Children can start with easy tricks and progress, and they're good for parties as the tricks let them show off a little."
One favourite is a trick where the faces on a pack of cards are erased, leaving them totally blank. Another involves a silk scarf that moves mysteriously from the magician's fist to his/her pocket.
The tricks were developed in cooperation with O.I.D. Magic consultant and professional French magician, Jean-Pierre Vallarino. Each one also comes with its own DVD that shows exactly how it is to be performed.
After years of steady growth in sales of magic tricks to its European clients, O.I.D. Magic recently arrived at a critical crossroads. Should it continue along the same path or should it take more aggressive steps to expand? For Rousseau, the answer was the latter. "If we didn't grow, it would get boring," he says.
First, he decided to diversify the company's products. "Magic is a limited market, so we chose juggling and musical instruments because they are in the same general entertainment area and are also things that give children an opportunity to learn," he explains.
Second, to keep prices competitive and to expand its customer base, the company realised it had to offer a more efficient buying option, which led to the opening of a packaging and logistics platform on the mainland last year. Along with that move, a decision was also made to seek out customers worldwide.
Now, the company's clients can choose between the lower FOB mainland prices and the old domestic rate schedule, which includes various extras, such as a catalogue, promotions and other services.
Today, O.I.D. Magic subcontracts production to a dozen factories on the mainland and can easily handle orders of 800,000 items per month. Packaging is handled at its factory in Nanjing, and about half of its sales are under its own OID brand name. The remainder is in OEM/ODM contracts.
Magic tricks are still the firm's major product, accounting for 70% of sales, followed by juggling games (20%) and musical items (10%). The company has expanded its export markets beyond Europe to include Japan, Australia, South America, the Middle East and Taiwan.
The same high standards O.I.D. Magic demands for its magic tricks also apply to its new product categories. Juggling balls and clubs, for example, are properly balanced, and the clubs have wooden weights inside. Some juggling balls also feature leather covers.
The musical instruments (guitars, tambourines, drums, xylophones, maracas, bongos), are not toys per se, and can be played like real instruments.
O.I.D. Magic's business plan is to become an established Chinese manufacturing company. "Before, we were a small exporting company in France. Now we have grown to medium-size and we want to continue to grow," Rousseau notes.
He believes the secret to his company's profitability is that it sells not just a product, but a concept built around DVD instruction. "We compete with 1,000 Chinese companies, and so my aim was to bring more value to our products. The DVDs are an expensive part of our concept," he says, adding that it takes more than a year to decide what to put on a DVD.
It may seem ironic that a man who has built a business out of selling magic tricks isn't very interested in magic tricks himself. Rousseau smiles sheepishly and says it's only because he doesn't like to perform. "To be honest, my goal is more than making magic tricks. My goal is to produce a high-quality toy that children can have great fun with," he says.
His attitude to life and business is based on a pervasive sense of joie de vivre. "Everything we do starts with a feeling. We're not only here for the money. That comes second," he maintains. "We take things as they come. If something interesting comes along, we say 'why not ?' and try it."
TEXT BY ANDREA PAWLYNA