BOSTON — Canadian molder Shirlon Plastics Inc. has opened a new rotational molding plant to compete for the first time in the highly competitive toy market.
The company is launching a new division, called Weeplay, that will mold a new line of plastic toys that includes children's wagons, multiuse activity centers and pivoting kitchen sets.
Based in Dundas, Ontario, Weeplay is one of the only Canadian rotomolders to vie in the toy market with the likes of industry giants Little Tikes Co. and Step2 Co., said Shirlon President Sol Algranti.
The newly formed division purchased the assets of Dundas-based toy manufacturer M.A. Henry Inc. before starting operations, Algranti said.
M.A. Henry had manufactured a line of swing sets and rotomolded toys before going out of business last year, he said. The assets' purchase price was not disclosed. Weeplay will make an entirely new product line.
The purchase included M.A. Henry's 60,000-square-foot plant and three, three-axis rotomolding machines, Algranti said. The Weeplay plant first opened in November and is just launching its first products for the spring toy season, he said.
The company plans to sell its products in North American toy-store chains such as Toys ``R'' Us and major mass retailers, including JC Penney Co. Inc. and Canadian Tire, Algranti said.
``We're trying to be competitive by offering toys that are innovative,'' he said in an interview April 19 during Structural Plastics '99 in Boston. ``We want to reinvent the toy market by adding new design features.''
But the company knows it must go a long way to match sales of its larger competitors. Parent Shirlon recorded sales of about $20 million last year, said Algranti, who offered no sales projections for Weeplay.
The new plant employs about 75, he said.
The company will attempt to carve out a niche as a smaller, unique toy maker, he said.
``We know we have no assurances [of success],'' he said. ``But we're being careful where we place our product. We're not trying to compete with the big chains and have mass production as much as try to do something different.''
Shirlon, based in Cambridge, Ontario, makes industrial products and parts for recreational vehicles. Another division, Algreen, molds lawn and garden products and housewares from a Dundas plant.
The company's core businesses include rotomolding and thermoforming. Shirlon has a total of seven rotomolding machines and four thermoforming lines at its three plants.
Algranti, a former GE Plastics engineer, bought the 30-year-old company a decade ago.