Clare Turner talks to Rebecca Lazarus, senior brand manager of leading electronic toy company VTech
What’s your background?
I’ve worked in a few different sectors and industries, the most exciting being at ITV. I worked on the [daytime magazine show] This Morning, bringing the brand to life in the consumer goods space.
Then I worked for a global video game publisher that released games on all leading console and handheld platforms. I was responsible for marketing a broad selection of games for different target audiences from Zumba on the Nintendo Wii, Cooking Mama on Nintendo 3DS, and Sniper Elite on the PlayStation and Xbox consoles.
Tell us a bit about VTech.
VTech is a world leader in age-appropriate and developmental stage-based electronic learning products for children. It develops high-quality, innovative educational products that enrich children’s development and make learning fun.
Which of your brands are performing well?
We are proud of being the number one infant and toddler manufacturer 2021 YTD (January-September 2021 NPD). Our KidiCreative range is performing well, and the Kidizoom Duo camera and Kidizoom Smartwatch DX2 are consistent best sellers.
What changes have you made in light of the restrictions that Covid has created?
Lots of things had to change. For example, our product development team had to preview products from their houses to ensure our customers still got to see the fantastic products.
Initially the office team was at home, where we adapted very quickly to ensure that it was business as usual. We used Zoom for regular team catch-ups.
Now we have adopted a flexible approach where we do a combination of going to the office and working
As we emerge from the pandemic, what will VTech look like and what positive changes will be made?
We’ve had to change the way we do some things, but still get the same result. For example, we are designing and developing category-leading products without travelling to Hong Kong – just lots of early hours Zoom meetings instead!
What are your core goals for Q4?
Research and development is a huge focus for VTech. We strive to be pioneers in our sector by identifying trends in other sectors such as adult/teenage consumer electronics, and transferring the technology into children’s toy categories, ensuring that [products] not only have the durability required for this sector but are fun for children to play with.
For example, VTech has launched its very own version of the on-trend cameras that give instant images. The Kidizoom Print Cam is a fun camera that children can use to take a photo and print instantly. The flip-up lens allows for easy selfies, and it is
jam-packed with features such as special photo effects, stamps and borders, three games, panoramic prints, and a comic strip maker.
What new product launches can you reveal for 2022?
We are just starting to preview some new and exciting additions and refreshes for 2022 to our retailers. We will then showcase them all again with more final samples at London Toy Fair in January. So, I would urge everyone to book an appointment to come and have a look for themselves.
What are your ambitions for your current brands?
After seeing the exciting new additions planned for VTech Baby in 2022, we would like to maintain our number one manufacturer position in the infant and toddler category.
Where do you see opportunities for growth?
We have some fantastic new products planned for our licensed portfolio. These are with licences that are performing really well in the preschool market. Pairing that with VTech’s electronic and educational proposition, the products are set to be very popular among this demographic.
Are you looking to expand into other categories or add more brands in the near future?
VTech is continually looking at alternative categories, identifying opportunities to bring our USP of electronic innovation to and, by doing so, improving play experience for all ages.
For example, in A/W21 we launched a new brand: Marble Rush. Compatible with each other, these easy-to-construct modular marble runs include electronic modules that trigger track splits, sound effects and reset the run. The electronic element adds to the fun and enhances the play experience of a popular play pattern.
During your time in the toy industry, which retailers have impressed you most and why?
They have all been so impressive in the way they have adapted to the challenges set by Covid.
What’s the biggest change
you’ve seen since you joined the toy industry?
One of the biggest changes was the demise of the largest toy specialist Toys R Us, which I have fond memories from as a child. Shopping habits have also changed a lot in this time, with online shopping becoming more popular than ever.
What’s your earliest memory of your
I’ve only been in the toy industry for seven years so I’m still relatively new, especially compared with some. One of my earliest memories after joining in October was attending the DreamToys event in November, where I met [TV presenter, actor, choreographer, and leader of dance troupe Diversity] Ashley Banjo and ate a roast dinner for breakfast!
What one change would you like to see in the toy industry?
This one is for Graham Canning [VTech sales director and chairman of the British Toy and Hobby Association]!
But as both a parent and someone that works in the toy industry, I would love to see the UK government change legislation to prevent the sale of unsafe toys being sold by third-party sellers via online marketplaces.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I find it really interesting seeing toys come to life from concept drawings to actual toys, and find it really rewarding to see babies and children playing with them and having fun – which is usually in a very different manner than we expect!
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
Telling my children that they can’t have everything they see on my computer!
What opportunities has the pandemic created?
As a manufacturer of electronic learning products for children, we noticed a huge demand for some of our products such as the Touch and Learn Activity Desk. This is an example of a great product to assist families trying to homeschool children or even trying to keep little ones entertained.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the toy industry?
Go for it! It’s a great industry to be in. There’s lots to learn from colleagues and peers who have been in it for a long time, but because of the nature of the industry there are always opportunities for new ideas.