Plush toy specialist Posh Paws readies for “biggest year yet” thanks to heavyweight licensing portfolio

The plush toy specialist, Posh Paws International, is preparing for what looks to be its ‘biggest year yet,’ as it readies for 2021 with a raft of new releases and licensed launches based on some of the biggest children’s entertainment franchises of the past decade.

With a portfolio brimming with blockbuster movie licenses, including Minions 2: Rise of Gru and Jurassic World, as well as the perennial evergreen, Sesame Street, and the fan-favourite Swizzels confectionery branded range, the Essex-based pre-school and soft toy expert states that it’s ‘in a great position going into the New Year.’

While you could be forgiven for thinking that – with 2020 a year of dampened box office sales, widespread cinema closures, and a roster of delayed major film releases – the licensed gift market would be feeling rather sheepish over the prospects of an entertainment industry emerging from the mire of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s with a diverse portfolio of some of the most in-demand licenses of the moment that Posh Paws maintains an unerring confidence. catches up with Lauren Shipman, group brand and marketing director at Posh Paws International to talk about navigating the pandemic, the current strength in the gifting and ‘self-care’ markets, and what will be driving the firm to further success over the coming year.

 Hello Lauren, it’s been too long since we last caught up! I hope everyone there has their sanity intact. How has business been for you guys, and how has Posh Paws navigated the events of 2020?

It’s been a challenging year, I think we can all relate to that, but we’ve been able to remain positive and focus on what we do best, which is bring the highest quality products to market and support both retail partners and licensors during a time when it’s been crucial for us all to come together and stay strong.

We’re well overdue a run through of the brands you guys are working with today. Can you talk us through the strength of the portfolio, and how it has positioned the business for a strong Q4 and 2021?

Our portfolio for next year is incredibly strong and we’re delighted to be working with some of the biggest global brands and franchises across our pre-school toys ranges and our plush gifting catalogue.

We’re in a great position going into the new year with some blockbuster movie licenses like Minions 2: Rise of Gru and Jurassic World soft toys, as well as ever-green TV show Sesame Street, to confectionary favourites with our scented and very squidgy Rainbow Drops by Swizzels soft toys.

2021 is lining up to be one of our biggest yet for new releases and we’re fully committed to making sure it’s a big year for our customers too.

We’re in a strong position to finish such a difficult year for us all, and we’re doing all we can to work closely with our customers to ensure we can help them as much as we can. We are constantly encouraging our customers to reach out to us, as we can support them with a variety of marketing initiatives to increase awareness of our products in their stores and to drive sales, so we can enter 2021 in a good place.

We’ve launched some fantastic new products this year that appeal to a wide audience, from our new Sunny Bunnies soft toys with special voice and movements features, new BBC baby animals soft toys made with stuffing from 100 per cent recycled plastic, our adorable feel-good Love Hearts Foodie Friends characters and our beautiful British designed range of Ragtales toys that make for perfect Christmas gifts for babies and pre-schoolers.

With Minions 2, Jurassic World, and Sesame Street you guys seem to be covering all bases across pre-school, film, TV (on demand) etc. What has reception been like to the range so far? 

The reaction and support from retail for our 2021 ranges has been incredible and we’re busy finalising how we can maximise their support so that our launch activities are aligned to build awareness and drive growth.

With Minions: The Rise of Gru being postponed to 2021, we’ve been able to look at how we can make it bigger and better from marketing and product development, working closely with customers who have orders in already. We have some fantastic exclusive products ready to hit the shelves and working with one of the best-in-class licensors, Universal, 2021 will be the year of the Minions with Posh Paws.

Despite Jurassic World III being moved back to 2022, we’re roaring into the new year with a range of soft toys with everyone’s ‘favourite’ T-Rex, Blue the velociraptor and more. With the success of Netflix’s Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous, and brand new content scheduled for release next year, we’ve developed a range of toys to meet the demand by fans for Jurassic World product, while we wait for the next movie.

And of course, who doesn’t know and love Sesame Street? The brand and its values are very closely aligned with ours at Posh Paws, so it was the perfect partnership and we’re delighted to be joining such a globally heart-warming brand to bring some incredible toys to market next year. As well as standard soft toys, we’ll be launching an educational development range of characters that allow children to interact with Elmo and Cookie Monster, incorporating fun and learning in our soft feature toys.

It’s not just about licensed product with us and we have been working tirelessly on developing new own-brand ranges for pre-schoolers that incorporate educational play patterns and the comfort that soft toys bring little ones. So, if you’re looking for non-licensed toys and gifts, we’ll be happy to show you what we have planned and how we can work together.

How have the events of 2020 shaped or evolved the Posh Paws perspective? Has it impacted on the kind of brands that consumers are turning to? Looking at something like the BBC Earth partnership, have brand values come to play more of a role in consumer’s shopping habits?

We have seen an increase in shoppers buying more gifts for others within toys and games this year and this has been evident with our Swizzels Love Hearts plush toys. It’s been a year when people need to treat others and are buying products that can give a ‘feel good’ factor and put a smile on their face, which is exactly what our Love Hearts toys do, with fan-favourites like Alan the Avocado and his ‘Let’s Avo Cuddle’ message and our new Patrick the Pizza with his ‘Have a slice day’ giving positivity and personal messages during a socially-distanced year.

Seeing the growth in popularity for ‘gifts for me’, we’re expanding the range for next year with more positive messages and fun characters that will continue putting smiles on faces and contactless cuddles.

Sustainable products continue to be a huge talking point and driving the industry forward with new developments, which is why our BBC Earth collections of Planet Earth II, Blue Planet II and our new Baby Animals, with their stuffing made from 100 per cent recycled plastic bottles, have seen a big increase this year and appeal to both kids and adults.

Our long-standing partnership with the BBC has gone from strength-to-strength and their core brand values are reflected across all our animal toys and consumers see this and want to buy the highest quality products from brands that they trust.

Looking ahead to next year and our BBC range, we’ve got some fantastic new animal soft toys joining our existing eco-friendly portfolio, that are focussed on our much-loved British wildlife.

How have you guys reacted to or adapted the changes we’ve seen throughout the year, at a retail or consumer level, or a day to day business level?

We invested in increasing awareness of our products, and where they are available, across digital platforms and focussing on Social Media marketing campaigns to be where consumers are spending more time.

With soft toys specifically, consumers want to pick-up and feel the product, but with that being difficult this year, we’ve focussed on creating eye-catching and engaging digital content to bring our products to life for viewers, so they can almost touch them and get a feel for the quality and how great they are.

Working with retailers, we’re always looking at how we can best support them in-store and especially digitally, to build awareness and increase visibility through stand-out displays and content that captures consumers attentions.

How confident are you guys as we plough into Christmas? 

We’re confident that soft toys and gifts will remain a favourite for consumers this Christmas, with fun and quirky adult gifting seeing an increase during a time where being able to spend time together will be challenged. Soft toys for adult gifting are a great way of showing someone you care and have sentimental value, while also being a gift that keep close to them throughout the year ahead.

Children’s soft toys will always be perfect for Christmas ideas and if they do have added play patterns to them, like our Sunny Bunnies with sound and movement features, then it offers more value for money and something children can interact with on a more stimulating level – something we’ll all need this Christmas.

What’s the next big step for you guys?

It’s now all about how we can make sure 2021 is a great year for our customers and delivering high quality products that can joy and create unforgettable memories in the year ahead.

While we have a lot of great products planned for 2021, we’re constantly working on and looking for new inspirations to develop the best ranges.