2007-05-11 - Philippe A Mayer
A fascinating history from the memories of Philippe Mayer.
After the war, I had been hired, in 1948, as Sales Manager for a small plasting moulding Company in Paris.
The plastic industry was then at its very beginning. In fact the technique used at that time was mostly compression moulding. And compression moulding was using bakelite or similar raw material.
At that time it was used mostly for telephones, automotive parts, radio cases, etc..
As I was looking for new customers or new products to be made, I visited the ‘’British Industries Fair’’ in London, in the Spring of 1950
This was an unpecialized, multi-products Trade Exhibition. As I was walking through the Fair, my attention was attracted by a very colorful booth, exhibiting a range of educational toys, it was Kiddicraft.
I immediately approached the person in charge of this Company, ‘’Mr Hilary Page’’ and told him that I was working for a plastic moulder in France and that we were looking for new products to manufacture in France.
I told him that I thought that these toys were extremely new, very interesting and could well be manufactured and sold in France.
I suggested that Kiddicraft could lend its moulds to my Company on a temporary basis, in order to mould a certain quantity of toys and return them to Kiddicraft.
Mr Hilary Page told me that I had come too late, because his Company was about to form a subsidiary Company in France, with a French friend of his living in Paris.
I insisted that we would be an ideal partner, that we could form a new Company with him and sign a license agreement.
He was not convinced by my offer
As I was rather stubborn, I came back two weeks later to London, and visited Hilary Page.
I explained to him all the difficulties which still existed in France just after the war, lack of plastic moulders, lack of plastic raw material, necessity to apply for import licenses in order to import the moulds (even on a temporary basis) lack of cardboard to produce the boxes, etc…
And I explained also that it would be difficult to start a Company in France just with a friend, who had his own job and knew nothing about the plastic industry or the toy industry, but I said that we would be willing to associate his friend in this new venture.
I must have been rather convincing because two or three years later, Mr Hilary Page called me and told me ‘OK, we are willing to form a subsidiary Company in France, but not with your plastic Company but with you, Philippe Mayer, personally’’.
The idea was that in this subsidiary Company, to be called Kiddicraft- France, the English Company would bring the right of use all the moulds, models, etc..and receive 50% of the capital and that I would finance the others 50%.
I was confronted with a difficult decision. I had a good job and a fairly nice salary with the plastic Company, I was married, had two very young children.
Should I leave all this and take a plunge in a new venture, which could succeed….or not. It did not take long for me to decide, but I had to find the necessary capital as I did not have very much in my Savings Account.
I asked a few friends to bring their share in the Capital, and Kiddicraft-France was formed on October 5th 1950.
I don’t want to describe all the difficulties we were confronted to
We used my previous Company as one of the moulders, but we found another one also.
We rented two offices and a small workshop in the center of Paris.
We found a young advertising agency, printed catalogues and prepared some ads in mother’s magazines
This was the first time toys were advertised to the public
In April 1951, we had prepared a certain quantity of every toy we wanted to launch and we exhibited at the ‘’Lyon Fair’’ which had, at that time a large Toy section.
We hired a couple of representative salesmen to get started….and waited for the first orders to come. And I must admit that these toys were a revolution at the time, because babies had only a Teddy Bear, a rubber toy, and a few wooden blocks…and we were quickly very successful.
Some additional representatives were hired.
In our workshop we had three ladies assembling the toys, mixing the colors according to a clever pattern, and boxing the toys, including in each box a miniature catalogue showing the whole range of Kiddicraft Toys. A mother seing this catalogue was induced to buy others toys
This is the first time that it was done in the Toy Industry.
Fairly rapidly our toys were sold in all good toyshops throughout France and in all leading Department stores.
In January 1952, I went by car to the Nuremberg Toy Fair with Hilary Page and my wife and we made the first contacts which lead to the formation of Kiddicraft-Deutschland.
Shortly after we started to sell Kiddicraft Toys in France, we also made an agreement with a very well known french School books publisher, Editions Fernand Nathan.
This Company was extremely well represented in all the Bookshops and also in all the Nurseries and Kindergartens.
We gave them the exclusive distribution for Kiddicraft Toys to all bookshops and Kindergartens.
This agreement lasted quite successfully for 25 years.
On September 30th 1958, Kiddicraft France made a very important agreement with a very well know French Company, Bebe Confort.
This Company was owned and managed by friends of mine and was the leader in Baby items : Cots, Prams, Infants goods etc..
We gave them the right to manufacture and distribute the entire Kiddicraft line in France.
They were using the same suppliers of plastic parts, boxes, etc…This agreement was instrumental in developing further the turnover of Kiddicraft.
From there on, Kiddicraft-France was no longer actually trading, it stopped having sales representatives, stopped having direct contacts with the customers, and was receiving from Bebe Confort a large royalty on all sales of Kiddicraft Toys, but Kiddicraft-France was still responsible for bringing new products to Bebe Confort, products developped in France or in Great Britain
This agreement was very successful and in force until 1975, when Hestair acquired Kiddicraft, including Kiddicraft-France and I left the Company.
Concerning Spain, a similar scheme was developed, around 1955, with a Company called ‘’Juguetes Racionales’’ and formed by two Spanish friends of mine, and myself.
Juguetes Racionales was also paying royalties to Kiddicraft, it was assembling the toys in a small factory near San Sebastian, and was distributing the toys throughout Spain.
This agreement also lasted until 1975 approximately and was also very successful.