We Interview Jonathan Byrnes CEO Toy Networx

Jonathan Byrnes
Feature Interview — Jonathan Byrnes, CEO at Toy Networx

Off the back of a very successful rebrand, Toy Networx announces a global toy partnership with Australian Geographic (AG). In this changing world and without bricks and mortar stores, Australian Geographic have secured a partnership with Toy Networx to develop, market and distribute their toy product around the world. This relationship provides both brands with an exclusive partnership and allows for planned and significant growth. CEO Jonathan Byrnes along with co-owner Ben Bliss and team have been hard at work developing exclusive relationships that will assist in securing the business in the new world. Earlier announcements highlighting partnerships with both Toy Monster and Hinkler are further evidence of their growing profile in the market. We were fortunate to make contact with Jonathan recently where we were able to frame some questions to him in relation to recent developments and some emerging opportunities.

Jonathan, you recently announced that Toy Networx had been selected to represent Australian Geographic for toys globally. Can you tell us more? It is really significant for us as a business. We are specialists in this area and perfectly positioned to release a great range of new product to our existing customers and also new accounts & channels. It essentially puts us on the map as a supplier to the trade for new and innovative product. Some are staple lines and some completely new. With a focus on environmental and sustainability synonymous with the brand. For AG we provide a catch all solution to innovate and supply exciting new lines to a large unique customer base far and wide.

Toy Networx x Australian Geographic

Can you tell us a little about who might be your key retail partners etc? We are in discussions with all manner of retailers. However, we see this brand as perfectly positioned to the independent trade, and smaller chain/group stores in the first instance.

This announcement comes on the back of your Hinkler and Toy Monster partnerships. How are they developing? We are now a full 12 months into the Hinkler partnership program and it has been a really successful move for both businesses so far. We have been very careful to create a nice tight range and with the guidance and assistance from the amazing team at Hinkler we are really starting to see some significant traction across this part of our business. We are working very closely with the team at Toy Monster to bring some great ranges and new products to the independent market. Our key focus here is to ensure the independent trade is looked after with good margin lines and new and freshness to the categories.

Toy Monster are exciting to work with because they always seem to be able to supply product that is unique, well priced and exceptionally well designed and packaged.

Jonathan Byrnes

We are also being very conscious of our market and ensuring the products we offer have a strong independent focus where the smaller stores can buy similar lines from the range but with a point of difference to what is supplied to other larger retailers.

Aus Geo
Dig & Discover

In these new and evolving times, we understand that you are innovating by developing a brand-new virtual showroom to showcase you ranges. Can you expand on this a little? Yes Tony. I see a big shift to remote and online connection during this COVID crisis and beyond. We have spent a significant amount of time and energy creating a platform where we can run a virtual showroom. We have set up our showroom at the office to accommodate all of the new and existing ranges and are gearing up for our first large format presentation next week. We expect over 400 participants in each session, and are running multiple sessions showcasing some of our new lines in development among other things.

We saw your new Melbourne Toy Fair booth. It looked to be very busy. How was this event for you? We had an exceptional Toyfair. We worked really hard and created the new stand using our existing resources. We basically built everything ourselves in house and had a lot of fun along the way. I even taught Ben how to paint which was amusing to say the least! Dave was in his element painting and building the floor although I am worried our landlord won’t be so happy when he sees all of the white paint splattered everywhere in the warehouse! From a business perspective we had some great feedback on the ‘new and improved Toy Networx’ although unfortunately we were hit with COVID soon after, and had to shift our focus to other issues. The investment has proved to be mainly a marketing exercise rather than translating to any significant sales at this stage. I am confident we will have a strong Q4 as we launch and release a large number of new lines across our core ranges.

Trivia Game
In Living Memory — Trivia Game

How have you seen your rebrand? Essential. We are basically a new business but still holding strong to our customer base (although increasingly expanding this on a daily basis). It has taken some time for things to change internally, but we are certainly in a much better position than we were 12-18 months ago. We are half way through our turn around and have some great new things in the pipeline.

The re-brand was an integral part of this turnaround strategy as it allows us to reset and re launch as a new business. I am really looking forward to seeing our new branding on the back of products in the near future as we release some of our new developments later this year.

Jonathan Byrnes

There is an immense sense of pride for me on this, and for our small team as well. It is going to be so nice to see product with our logo on it in places like Toy World, Woolworths, newsagencies and many other locations around the country and abroad later this year. Our internal systems have had a massive overhaul also, and we are innovating and changing each and every day as the demand increases for our function in the market.

Star Model
Starmodel — Make your own style

Can you enlighten us on some of your more active brands within your current range? Sure, in the current environment we have seen a huge uplift in sales of games/puzzles/craft and books. We have not been able to keep enough stock of items such as school zone from Hinkler, Jigsaw puzzles (thanks Sco-Mo!) craft and our absolute stand out of late has been Star Model. Star Model has out performed pretty much everything else we sell apart from puzzles and books. It is actually really nice to see the buying patterns skewed towards families spending time together and obviously doing the basics together again.

Are there any further developments that you can update us on? We are very busy in the product development phase right now. I am really looking forward to the re-launch and updates of our Sprouts products into the market later this year. We have expanded the range and as part of our Aus Geo relationship innovated this line to include things such as soy printed recycled packaging, biodegradable components among other things. Keep a look out for this later in the year! We are also finalizing packaging on our new game we have coming Q4. Likes, which is a cross between Tinder and Cards against Humanity. Very fun! And we are also in development of a new book. Something to do with Bogans… apparently I don’t qualify just yet?

Jonathan, you have certainly been active over the past 12 months on creating opportunities for the Toy Networx business. During these changing times it seems the organizations that can think outside the square and drive innovation can be very successful. We look forward to checking in with you again, once things return to a more normal cycle. Thanks for your time Tony. As always I really appreciate the chat.

This article was originally featured in our July 2020 magazine