At the Nuremberg Toy Fair this year it was very noticeable how busy Sonja Hartmann is now she’s part of the the Hape team. It’s fair to say that I barely saw her over the 5 days, despite frequent visits up to the large Hape booth in Hall 3A, definitely too far from the main lobby for such frequent walks! However, once there, it was very worthwhile as there were was a bar, and food for visitors – certainly one of the best booths there, for its catering.
It fell to Hagen, Sonja’s husband, and her daughter Gesa, who has made a natural move to Product Manager for Kidz ‘n’ Cats, at Hape, to tell me all the recent Kidz ‘n’ Cats news.
I always feel especially lucky to be able to chat to Hagen as he is very involved in the Kidz ‘n’ Cats production, so there’s nothing he doesn’t know, and he has the time to tell me all the fascinating little stories of what goes on! This is the first year I met Gesa as my trip is usually shorter and she usually attends the show on Saturdays, but this year as Product Manager for Hape (pron. Harp’ay), she was there the entire time, and it was a real pleasure to meet her after working with her by email for so long.
Certainly, I can report back that they’re all settling in well, and are very happy with the decision to sell the Kidz ‘n’ Cats company at the beginning of this year. At the Friday night Gala held in personal celebration of the Hape owner’s 30 years in business, Sonja and Hagen were introduced to the audience as special guests of the evening. This introduction at this important evening event was a big honour, and significant to Sonja, as a successful professional artist and entrepreneur, working within this larger company. She petitioned hard to become brand ‘Sonja Hartmann’ within Hape when she negotiated the acquisition – and has markedly created a very defined role for herself within the company. There will be some very exciting things to come in the not too distant future, as I witnessed her rushing off to meeting after meeting, with an important German ‘children’s personality’ in tow – that’s a bit more than I am allowed to say but I’m hoping to get away with it. I think Sonja did as many miles to and from that booth as I did! Sonja will play a very important role in the doll development in general at Hape, and let’s not forget this company also owns Kathe Kruse. It’s a case of watch this space!
This year of course we’re looking forward to the 2016 Kidz ‘n’ Cats dolls. Many of you have posted comments in previous posts on this blog to request a return to the paler doll vinyl of the earlier years of Kidz ‘n’ Cats. I can confirm that the vinyl will indeed be paler. I did of course ask to see a sample doll from the production run, but there wasn’t one available. In fact I understood that one sample doll had been made by the factory in China, and that everybody involved in the process – from the factory in China to the CEO – was in possession of a limb belonging to this doll for reasons of strict quality control! The Hartmanns’ ‘limb’ was not in Nuremberg, it was in Berlin during the week of the Toy Fair – under lock and key I don’t doubt!! As I said, I did ask! So, as yet I’ve not seen the new vinyl, but I understand that it’s a return to the vinyl colour of Grace 2011 which was incredibly popular.
It’s certainly tough being a small company and trying to get great results in China. Kidz ‘n’ Cats is by no means a small brand in terms of the impact that it has had on the play doll world in the last 7 years, however, in terms of financial power, a large company like Hape has the kind of strength needed for Chinese factories to take proper notice. The factory in China would not always make the adjustments that Sonja wanted for her Kidz ‘n’ Cats brand, and production in the last year has been challenging for them personally. Towards the end of 2015 the dolls were being fully assembled in Germany as China would otherwise have increased the doll price yet again. The contrast in the treatment Sonja and the the brand receives now is huge, simply because the owner of Kidz ‘n’ Cats is stacked with financial muscle. The factory in China cannot do enough to please the wealthier company. Whilst this is a sad but true fact, there can be hope for many years of fantastic dolls.
The dolls will be available towards the end of May, with the final delivery in July. For now, let’s enjoy getting to know the new 2016 Kidz ‘n’ Cats characters as presented at the Nuremberg Toy Fair, and look forward to the first photographs of the new production dolls very soon. Click the pictures to be taken to more information about each doll, and the chance to pre-order yours.
As you can see, I did glimpse Sonja!
Sonja and Hagen…