Brik-a-Blok’s flat panels snap together to make walls and roofs for hollow structures children can play in. (Brik-a-Blok Toys Inc. photo)
QUEBEC (Nov. 30, 2:05 p.m. ET) — Plastic construction toys have made a quantum leap to a larger size through a Quebec company.
Brik-a-Blok Toys Inc. of Boucherville, Quebec, is marketing its polypropylene panes that children can use to make life-size forts, tunnels and towers. The flat panels that make up the system measure 16 inches on a side and snap-fit together to make walls and roofs for hollow structures kids can play in. Each panel weighs almost 9 ounces.
Brik-a-Blok was established in 2009 by Vincent Michalk, president. The panels are molded by Montreal-based Les Produits de Plastique Age Inc. in automated cells. Michalk said once shipping and warehousing costs are taken into account, Brik-a-Block can have them molded for 5 percent less than Chinese sourcing.
Brik-a-Blok chose a custom molder “because it costs too much to do it alone,” Michalk explained.
“When we’re bigger in the market we will use our own [injection] machines,” Michalk said in a telephone interview. “Now we have a small office and can work on development.”
The panels take 32 seconds in the molding cycle. Diamond shapes in the panels give them rigidity. Still, they are not strong enough to support children climbing over the resultant structures.
Sales are running at about C$1.3 million (US$1.31 million) a year and are projected to reach C$5 million in 2013. Key customers include Sears, K-mart, Costco, Toys R Us, Home Depot and specialty outlets. Brik-a-Blok has protected its market position by taking out or applying for patents in the European, Chinese, Canadian and U.S. markets.
Michalk said oil prices, which influence PP prices, can be worrisome, since its product prices are set for a year. At the retail level, a 46-piece set sells for C$179.95 (US$180.90) and a 26-piece set goes for C$109.95 (US$110.53). It’s important to find the right financing with a company that understands the seasonality of the toy industry, he noted. Centre d’aide aux enteprises de la Rive-Sud in Beloeil, Quebec. is a key backer for the business, according to a published account.
Michalk said more toys are in the company’s pipeline. Toy shovels, baby kits and printed Brik-a-Blok panels are ideas soon to be the company’s product extensions.