Toy Knight Jousting MatchWho Will Control the Market?
Papo, a French company, was the first to export their knights and accessories to the United States starting in 2001. Hotaling Imports (ToyShow) is their lead distributor, carrying a vast array of Papo’s PVC line.
“Papo figures have developed such a large following because of how well crafted and playable they are,” Hotaling Imports’ president, Larry Hotaling, told TDmonthly Magazine.
Hotaling confided that it isn’t necessarily the medieval theme, but the product itself that attracts children’s attention. “This type of figure captures a child’s attention and fuels imagination. A child could go into a toy store with a little pocket change and buy figurines and castles, and after time, they have a collection of figures,” Hotaling said.
In 2003, a second combatant entered the arena: German-based Schleich. SacToys.com is one of the companies that sells Schleich figurines in the United States. Owner Don Snyder said that the line is very popular beyond the fact that they’re action figures. “The toys have a historical element that I think parents like,” Snyder told TDmonthly.
Schleich’s Toys are crafted with the assistance of ideas from parents, teachers and children. Each figurine is hand-painted. Schleich’s “World of Knights” line includes a vast range of knights and related accessories, such as catapults, a jousting set, towers and more.
But while Papo and Schleich were battling for shelf space, a third company has taken advantage of the trend. Safari Ltd. (ToyShow) launched its line in August of 2005 and has toys on the shelves of 4,500 retailers.
Ramona Pariente, president of Safari Ltd., a wholesaler of creative and educational toys, told TDmonthly, “The action-packed, colorfully attractive figures are great for the imagination. There’s been an extraordinary response and sales have been very good.” She added that not only are young kids collecting the toys but older kids and adults are as well.
So what makes a retailer choose one manufacturer over another?
Sandy Bicking, office manager of Hotaling Imports and mother of an avid Papo fan, said Papo’s figurines are “more detailed and larger” than other brands out there, which is why her daughter loves them.
At SacToys, although Snyder is aware of other brands that make knight figures, he chooses to stock only those from Papo and Schleich.
“There’s another brand coming out with these figurines, besides Papo and Schleich, but they’re not detailed enough,” said Snyder. “Schleich sells the best here, because of its packaging and maybe because we advertise them online — but even so, I like their line the best so far.”
Packaging, detail and size seem to be what sell the best, but Pariente believes that Safari’s figurines offer more than that.
“Our extensive collection of figurines and the fact that we are educational makes us different from the rest of the companies,” Pariente said. “Our toys usually come in several languages.”
Clearly, retailers have a tough decision to make when choosing which line to stock. If they can only choose one, then the most “valiant” solution may be to select a brand that possesses the best combination of great detail, superb packaging and educational benefits. Which brand that is, though, will undoubtedly vary from one retailer to the next.
The following are just a few examples of the knights from each company’s extensive lines: