Today's Plastics is about to become yesterday's plastics, as it closes down in Booneville, Ark. - but the blow and rotational molder's toys and Backyard Gear line of outdoor products could live on if a new buyer comes forward.
``We are looking to sell the brands and the trademarks and the tools, and we're talking to several companies, about toys and Backyard Gear,'' said President Tom Romig.
Today's Plastics will stop production at its massive 1.2 million-square-foot factory and warehouse by the end of this month, idling 123 employees. ``We're in the process of shutting down,'' he said in a July 25 telephone interview.
The company had employed many more people, but has had a series of layoffs in recent months, Romig said. The closing ends 33 years of toy making in Booneville, a town of 4,117.
Romig said a move to diversify beyond toys was not enough to save the plastics company.
The Pittsburgh-based parent, Spang & Co., wants to sell the building. Also for sale are 11 blow molding machines, three rotomolding machines and a mixing system for liquid colorants used in rotomolding.
According to Plastics News ranking data, Today's Plastics generated sales of $20 million from blow molding and rotomolding.
That made the company a small player in the market for large hollow toys such as ride-on cars, basketball hoops and a bouncing pony. Today's Plastics, which changed its name from Today's Kids a few years ago, went head-to-head against rotomolding giants Little Tikes Co. and Step2 Co.
Those types of preschool toys have been hit hard in recent years. Little Tikes has closed several plants. Tikes and Step2 both reported flat sales for Plastics News' rotomolders ranking, which will be published in the Aug. 11 issue.
Toy makers blame their woes on large retailers that prefer smaller products that generate more sales per square foot, and the proliferation of computer games played by young children.
Today's Plastics did try to diversify beyond toys. The company launched a product line called Video Gear, which included swiveling chairs that allow a video game player to rock back-and-forth and side-to-side while playing a game.
The Backyard Gear line included toys for adults. A portable plastic cabinet has a flat preparation counter that also stores grill accessories.
``We tried to be different than other companies out there. We tried to do innovative products,'' Romig said. ``We're still looking to sell the Backyard Gear business and Today's Kids.
Today's Plastics even used the kitchen sink to win over retailers. The Serv'n Sink, displayed at the 2002 National Hardware Show, features a portable kitchen sink with foldable side tables, storage bins that flip over to become serving trays and an attached beverage rack.
Romig said the products sold well, at retailers such as Wal-Mart Stories Inc. and Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse. ``We got distribution from major accounts'' he said. ``It's a viable business for somebody.''
Today's Plastics also tried custom work, by creating TK Custom Molding five years ago. ``It was an OK business but again, the toys were such a big part of Today's Plastics,'' Romig said.