Feature Interview — Allan Hineman, Business Development Manager at HeadStart International
During the global health scare, there have been some toy categories which have shown significant growth. As more families moved to work and operate from their homes, they have been searching for activities that can engage their children whist at home. One of these categories has been Outdoor Play. This has been a traditional play pattern which has seen swings, balls of all sorts, trampolines, motorised vehicles and bikes. We recently learned that Allan Hineman, an industry veteran in this field, had joined HeadStart to form a new division — HeadStart Outdoor Play. HeadStart has been very active and particularly innovative in the toy business over recent years and they take a committed position to everything they do. They are set to dominate this category with innovative new play patterns and products and The Bugg Report recently spoke to Allan to discuss how HeadStart will approach this new opportunity.
Alan, this is a new venture for HeadStart. What is HeadStart Outdoor Play and what will it’s primary focus be?
Hi Buggy — HeadStart Outdoor and Preschool play is a new venture drawing on the World Class Designers and Andrew Hendy’s leadership at HeadStart. Like most things, a lot of invention is created by need and with Andrew having a young daughter, we saw a need to create an offer that not only encourages the kids to get active but also provides consumers an alternative to what has been in the cycle for the last 10 years. The Outdoor area has become a bit of a race to the bottom, but we want to provide an exciting range that encourages kids to get on their Bike (Pardon the Pun).
HeadStart have become known for their innovation and domination of categories, what will be the main play patterns that you will be driving?
Innovation is the key to most things we have in the pipeline, and certainly HeadStart’s ability to think outside the square will create products that are both innovative and educational at the same time. We want kids to have fun with the ranges we are doing and want them to play over and over again.
The product designs are across a broad spectrum of play patterns and we are working on owning patents in areas where our design is groundbreaking.Allan Hineman
The experience gained by doing the Resoftables product line shows us that we can make an impact on an environmental front globally as well. Andrew is working in the background to provide us with some great news in this area.
From a strategic standpoint what is the size of the market and how do you see the growth opportunities?
Our growth will come from the innovation of product and with our ability to supply on a global basis, we see the need for educational and quality product in not only our backyard but more a global network. The Aussie intuition is alive and well and we can see a niche market for product without batteries and sourced from recycled materials that stand up on a world stage. The potential size of the market is enormous, and we believe our creative juices coupled with our partnerships worldwide will lead to HeadStart product in most countries around the globe. The US Outdoor and Sporting market is a $4Billion USD market year on year.
The category has not experienced a lot of change over many years now. How does the HeadStart team intend to use innovation as a tool to change the outlook of the business?
We will not be competing in the low-end product ranges without innovation. The sticker slap is not where we want to be, we would prefer to compliment what is in the market and give consumers a better choice of product with interactive play that gets kids out and playing again. Our environmental message is important to us and we want to continue down this path as we discover new ways to have an impact.
Will you engage licensing where appropriate to drive product ranges and to tell a story to the consumer?
Yes, we have already engaged licensors where it makes sense. Licensing plays an important role as part of our strategy, but it has to make sense and the partnership with the licensor is key to making this achievable. The HeadStart team has great relationships across the board with all our friends in the licensing game so it is really exciting to see some of the licensed product come to life.
We are currently working on a really exciting project with an animated movie released mid next year which just works beautifully within the category.Allan Hineman
We have taken this out globally and the feedback already is fantastic. We have also signed with Universal to do Jurassic World ride-ons and the team has come up with an exciting version of a 12 Volt Quad bike that kids will love. The feedback is already very good on this product so watch this space.
What are your short, medium and long-term goals?
The short to medium term goal is create a range of product that retailers identify with as being different and value to their consumers. We want to challenge the market to produce innovative and environmentally friendly product at the right price where the consumers think twice about what they are buying.
The long-term goal is take HeadStart to a position where consumers identify and seek out our creative and innovative product worldwide.Allan Hineman
Outdoor and preschool goes hand in hand to create long term habits in kids being active. The sooner we can get our kids engaged at an early age to get outdoors the more active they become as they get older. Let’s face it — computer games are here to stay, however let’s give the kids a head start to being outdoors and having fun.
Over recent times, there have been many smart companies who have played the role as disruptor in a particular industry, will HeadStart play this role with Outdoor Play?
I’m not sure we will be a disruptor, but we intend on setting a standard and licensors are already reaching out to us, knowing we are not about doing the same thing that’s already in the market. HeadStart are renowned for product that adds value to the brand. I have been around a while now and the thing that excites me about this role is that Andrew has a clear vision on putting the best product we can on the shelf. After years of doing the same thing with a different license, it is refreshing to sit down with the creative team and throw everything on the white board.
HeadStart’s business is becoming more global every day. Will your outdoor division look to play on the global stage?
Yes, we will and have already started reaching out to the global market. This certainly gives us the ability to bring the best possible product to our own backyard also. We have now warehouse facilities in the USA to also support our push into the North American market.
Gary Coppen has done a brilliant job in establishing the relationships off-shore and now we can take advantage by adding this exciting new category to the mix.Allan Hineman
Allan, how will you communicate your capabilities to the market?
The world has changed and I would love to think we could have a stand at some of the big trade shows and tour the world. But who knows, our guys have become very good at streaming our showroom to our customers and distributors, that’s a shame for our partners as I have a good head for radio…
We are working feverishly to get tooling, samples and factories in-place to present later in the year. Then a hand over to Al Ngov and his terrific sales team locally to engage our local partners.Allan Hineman
What will your lead product be?
Our own patented design Foot to Floor is something completely different and I think is one of the most exciting products I have worked with. I can see this as a standard setting item that kids will love. The global deal we have signed in sporting goods is a home run knowing what the first movie did on the world stage. We will keep you up-to-date with progress on this one as I think it is the movie of the year.
Thanks for your time. Now that the market has changed, it looks very likely that we will all be spending more time at home in the future. It’s an ideal time for you to make a move into outdoor product. We look forward to the launch of your new ranges and hope to be able to cover your successes as they roll out.