Kiddicraft Germany – a short history.
After the initial great success of Kiddicraft ‘Sensible’ Toys in France, which had begun in 1950, Mr Hilary Page and Mr David Day decided to try the same concept in Germany.
February 1953: The first meeting was held between Hilary Page, Philippe A Mayer, Wilhelm Seelig and Kurt Molineus. It was agreed that a company would be founded in Bebra, with a licence agreement for exclusive distribution and production in Germany, using the injection moulding tools available in England or France on a rental basis.
Summer 1954: The Company, “Kiddicraft Deutschland, Kurt Molineus KG”, began distribution activities. The goods were very expensive, the start was difficult, and some representatives gave notice. Mr Seelig & Mr Molineus started a selling tour themselves and were more successful in persuading retailers to buy and resell the products.
Spring 1955: Distribution costs needed to be reduced and so the decision was taken to form a second company “Molineus & Seelig” to distribute a range of low priced goods. By using the same representatives to sell both product lines the costs per visit were reduced and the turnover per visit was increased. The resulting advantage was passed on to customers by means of improved selling terms and conditions.
June 1956: “Bébé-Confort Sarl”, Paris, manufacturer of baby articles, offered us the exclusive distribution rights of its products in Germany. This program was so successful that the following decisions were made: -
Beginning of 1958: “Kiddicraft Deutschland” and “Molineus & Seelig” were consolidated into a new company under the name “Bébé-Confort Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG” wit h the majority stake holding of 55% belonging to the French company “Bébé-Confort Sarl”.
The business expanded its product line by adding other well-known trademarks such as “Delacoste” and “Steinmaier”. The strengthened portfolio only enhanced the distribution of the “Kiddicraft “ brand.
As turnover increased terms were renegotiated and the Kiddicraft France / England reduced the licencing fee by 50% on the understanding that the benefit would be reinvested in additional advertising and promotion in Germany. This proved to be a very positive business tactic for all parties.
1959 – 1964: Turnover was increasing during this time by between 25 to 40% a year, causing considerable issues in planning the budget!
1964: The steadily growing turnover over extended our office capabilities in Bebra, and its geographic location made less since as our major customers were all on the other side of Germany. We closed down Bebra and moved to a new facility in Pulheim, on the northern outskirts of Cologne.
1965 – 1973: Turnover grew steadily with trade-chains and major mail order houses. A random poll during out market research within the trade showed the following result: “Considering Baby Toys, which brands do you recall first? Please state 5 – 6 names”. 70% of the respondents named Kiddicraft amongst the top 4 brands.
Nevertheless, it became demographically evident that there was a declining birth rate within our target group of ‘well-off’ parents in Germany.
1963 approx. 1.64 million births - of which 170,000 were of immigrant parents.
1973 approx. 0.79 million births - of which 270,000 were of immigrant parents.
This was an incredible reduction of 65% of our target customer profile.
1973 – 1974: Bébé-Confort in Paris ’turned a deaf ear’ on my far-reaching suggestions for improvements and a need to adapt to this dramatic change in the marketplace. I felt obliged to cancel my contracts as manager and as partner, and be reimbursed for my investment. I took on the task of winding up the company in Pulheim and transferring it to Bienengräber & Co. in Hamburg, to which Bébé-Confort in Paris had agreed.