All the right notes | Halilit sees ‘fantastic growth’ of musical instruments amid pre-school sector boom

Halilit has reported “fantastic growth” of its musical instrument range over the past 12 months, citing an increase in demand driven by parents keen to help their children engage in online music classes throughout the pandemic.

The firm’s line-up of musical instrument toys is just part of a bolstered pre-school portfolio that itself has been subject to booming demand from parents to youngsters, that has seen sales ‘go through the roof’ across the company’s educational and developmental products.

Meanwhile, early indications – now that non essential shops have once again reopened their doors – are that Halilit’s recently launched Dodo range of jigsaw puzzles for pre-schoolers are excellent. In fact, it’s across the board that Halilit is enjoying some rather exciting sales at the moment.

And the driving force behind it all? Well, Halilit’s MD, Judith Stark makes no bones of the matter that the pandemic has played a major hand in perpetuating demand for products across the pre-school sector, having forced parents to ‘look behind the curtain’ of what goes on at a child’s pre-school or nursery, and take on the extended role of teacher in the home space.

Here, ToyNews catches up with Stark to take a look at just some of the latest developments from the UK pre-school specialist.

Hello Judith, thank you for chatting with ToyNews this week. To launch into it, then – How has business been for Halilit over the last 12 months? What has the strength of the pre-school sector been like in that time?

Whilst our focus has always been on the pre-school age range, our niche has always been in providing toys that are educational and developmental within this arena. Therefore, we have found that with more parents at home, and fewer children attending nurseries plus parent and toddler classes being closed, demand for products that help children learn at home has gone through the roof.

In particular, Halilit musical instruments have seen fantastic growth, with many of the music groups we supply moving online and thus parents sourcing their own versions of the instruments they use in class. Our Edushape Sensory range has continued to see increased demand year on year, again aided by the lack of community sensory classes, whilst this year has been the perfect time to launch the new Dodo range of jigsaw puzzles that aid children with both their motor and cognitive skills.

Can you talk us through some of the big releases from Halilit this year? What will the team be bringing to the pre-school space for 2021?

We first launched our Dodo puzzle range towards the end of last year and are particularly excited to see how this range performs now that retail environments are open again, as early indications during ‘lockdown’ have been excellent. This delightful collection of puzzles has a wide age range starting from just 18 months with perfect impulse purchase prices from just £1.99 and offers added play value with examples such as the Observation Puzzles featuring a ‘find and seek’ picture border once built to encourage observation skills. 

Taf Toys are releasing their new Savannah Adventures Collection for AW21, offering a range of products such as a supersized, double sided foam mat with cute age cards for recording milestones, and a Savannah version of their top selling Tummy Time Book featuring the adorable Harry the Lion with an irresistible teething mane.

We are particularly excited to launch the new ‘Koala Wonder Tissue Box’ also from Taf Toys which offers little ones the opportunity to pull organza and crinkle blankets from the stylish sorter box, engaging their senses as well as developing their motor skills. Early feedback from previews is that this is going to be a huge hit for 2021.

How have you guys been influenced by the changes over the past year? How has the shift in consumer mindsets (greater value in play, eco-consciousness) shaped what you guys are doing, or how you are innovating in the pre-school space?

For many parents, what goes on at school or nursery has traditionally been somewhat of a mystery with most parents happy to let these formal educational settings be the ones that ‘teach’ their children. The last year has given an enforced window into this world and parents have had to help support their children’s learning like never before. 

We have noticed that consumers are seeking out products that help them to support their children’s development at unprecedented levels. We are fortunate that lots of items in our range tick many boxes on a parent’s checklist. Our current focus is, through PR and targeted marketing campaigns, to reach parents with information about our products in particular to inform how the right products can help with the challenges they are facing whether that is development or entertainment for their child.

Of course, the more we can make parents aware of our products, the more this stimulates demand and helps stockists of our ranges too.

What sort of trends in pre-school have emerged from the past year, or what trends are you spotting and tapping into right now?

We can see that the appetite for educational toys, particularly those with longevity are continuing to grow within the pre-school category.

What has Halilit got in place to support indie retailers this year – how important is the indie retail space to you?

It is very important to us to work with retailers who are passionate about the products they sell. Independent toy and gift shops are able to offer a personal level of service and their knowledge of the toys on offer in their shop is often second to none.

Therefore, we are keen to ensure we remain well positioned in this sector and are supporting independents with bespoke bundle deals to try new brands and will make sure our MOQs remain low to allow even the smallest retail spaces opportunities to try our brands. We also have POS available for many of our brands to assist retailers in drawing attention to these areas in store.

What are you doing to push innovation in the pre-school sector and maintain your position as leaders within it over the coming years?

We work closely with our suppliers with their product development, liaising with both educational specialists and parents to ensure that we stay ahead of the game when it comes to introducing new items.