Mat­tel plans to go full steam ahead

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By WANG ZHUO­QIONG in Bei­jing wangzhouqiong@chi­nadaily.com.cm

Global lead­ing toy pro­ducer Mat­tel Inc, owner of renowned brands in­clud­ing Bar­bie and Fisher-Price, is en­hanc­ing its brand aware­ness in China with plans to build more Thomas & Friends Towns in ma­jor cities and by in­tro­duc­ing the first Chi­nese char­ac­ter to its 70-years-old train story.

Hai­ley Wu Sul­li­van, se­nior direc­tor and head of Mar­ket­ing for Mat­tel Asia-Pa­cific, said the com­pany will open its first Thomas & Friends Town in Chongqing in western China in Oc­to­ber.

Cover­ing an area of 1,200 square me­ters, the amuse­ment park will have a host of fea­tures, such as theme restau­rants, mul­ti­func­tion class­rooms and an ad­ven­ture cas­tle.

“It is an im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence for kids to walk into the town and bring Thomas to life,” she said.

Themed parks and play zones have been es­tab­lished by toy mak­ers to bet­ter con­nect with young con­sumers, such as LEGO’s ex­plor­ing cen­ters.

“Such themed fa­cil­ity in­crease their sales ef­fi­ciency,” said Du Ji­aqi, re­search man­ager of Euromon­i­tor In­ter­na­tional.

Sul­li­van dis­cussed the amuse­ment park at a cer­e­mony to in­tro­duce a new mem­ber of the Thomas & Friends’ fam­ily, Yong­bao — its first Chi­nese char­ac­ter.

“The new mem­ber Yong­bao and his story will fur­ther pro­mote the Thomas & Friends brand from a more Chi­nese an­gle and helps the world to learn about China,” said Sul­li­van.

In ad­di­tion to ac­tual toys, Yong­bao will also be fea­tured in short an­i­mated fea­tures and the up­com­ing mo­tion pic­ture of the Thomas se­ries early next year, which will be screened world­wide, she said.

In ad­di­tion to in­no­vat­ing con­tent, the toy maker has also di­ver­si­fied its dis­tri­bu­tion by col­lab­o­ra­tion fur­ther with JD.com since 2013.

By the end of 2015, its five ma­jor brands — Bar­bie, Fisher-Price, Thomas & Friends, Hot Wheels and Mega — have launched of­fi­cial stores on JD.com, and have seen a com­bined growth in sales of more than 150 per­cent.

Mat­tel said that the Thomas se­ries is the No 1 preschool toy brand for kids aged two to four.

"It is an im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence for kids to walk into the town and bring Thomas to life.” Hai­ley Wu Sul­li­van, head of mar­ket­ing, Mat­tel Asia-Pa­cific

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