Dear Tim . . . Who Are OUR Front-Line Workers? tBR Columnist Tim Kilpin Comments
In an era where we are appropriately engaged in and concerned about the health and safety of essential front-line workers across many industries, I want to at least take the opportunity to thank a few toy industry folks who serve in some respects as our front-line workforce.
I’m talking, of course, about our Sales people and Retail Merchandisers.
Yes, the Design folks come up with the ideas, and the Marketing people try to wreck them (kidding! Just checking to see if you’re still with me.). But none of that work matters if the toys can’t actually get on shelf and be found by our consumers.
So let us thank our Sales teams – they have to make sense of all the product features, packaging, marketing plans, retail pricing, and (often late) ship dates. And then their work begins: do the items deliver the right net maintained margin, GMROI, and casepack productivity? Can I get a buyer appointment in time? Can I get package comps in time for the planogram room dates? Do the samples actually work? Is every one of the 2,000 pieces of data I need to set up the item in the retailer’s system actually accurate? Do I have A+ copy and feature videos ready?
Whew. I’m just getting going here.
This is enormously difficult and detailed work. And did I mention we’re calling on Walmart in the midst of all this?
Many years ago, as a callow Brand Manager, my boss insisted that I not only needed to tag along with one of our grizzled Sales veterans to walk the Toy Fair showroom with a particularly dour regional chain buyer, I needed to actually lead the Sales pitch. Showing the product was the easy part. But I was in charge of the ‘pencil,’ meaning I needed to physically get the order. (Yes, I’m that old. I used a real pencil.) I had to be on top of every detail about that customer – casepack needs, retail margin requirements, FOB vs. domestic delivery options (and related pricing), quantity flow.
I left that Toy Fair appointment dizzy and dazed and suffused with new respect for every one of our Sales people.
Years later, our training regimen included time in the stores – usually near the holidays – working side-by-side with Retail Merchandisers to pull casepacks, stock shelves, build endcaps, and occasionally direct a weary Dad toward the Hot Wheels aisle. (What, you think I was going to direct him to some OTHER company’s toys?) Retail Merchandisers are simply the hardest-working and most dedicated people on the Sales team. And having had the honor to ride along with them, I saw firsthand how much real estate they turned into effective selling space for our toys – every day, in every store they visited.
So hats off to our front-line toy workers. Today more than ever, these people deliver for us.
In their honor, I held onto that pencil.
I realize this particular column addresses the hard work of those front-line workers at the toy companies, but doesn’t mention the equally hard and heroic work of those who work in toy retail. They deserve more attention for having just come through the most challenging year in retail history, and I’ll touch on their particular achievements in a separate column.
In additional to penning his thoughts here, Tim Kilpin is enjoying his role as President of PlayMonster. To read more about Tim's career in the toy industry, check out this interview with Tim last year! Tim Kilpin - I’m a very proud elf. Every Christmas morning...