Two relative newcomers to the world of winter toys are looking to the skies and saying, ``Let it snow, let it snow.''
Pelican Industries of Laval, Quebec, and American Plastic Toys Inc. of Walled Lake, Mich., each have entered the winter toy field in recent years to offset sales in other product areas. Pelican is a major producer of kayaks and recreational boats that began making sleds and other winter items in 2003.
APT had solid businesses in summer and fall goods before buying winter toy tooling in 2002 from Come Play Products of Worcester, Mass. Both Pelican and APT now make a variety of sleds and saucers, and Pelican also makes snowboards. Their products are sold at major retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target, as well as a number of supermarket chains.
The move into frosty products ``has been a good thing for us,'' according to Pelican product manager Dominique Dube. ``It's allowed us to present more diversity to our customers.''
``One of the reasons we got into the market was to service customers who wanted to offer a sled, but didn't want to go overseas to get one,'' said APT President and Chief Executive Officer John Gessert.
At Pelican, a smaller sled might lead to big things this winter. The firm is introducing a covered baby sled for children up to 2 years in age. The cover is designed for protection and was especially popular with the Toys ``R'' Us line of stores, Dube said.
APT is continuing to market a new line of ``hot colors,'' such as purple and green, that it debuted in 2004. Both companies have products that start with retail prices in the $2-$5 range. APT's products top out at around $10, while some of Pelican's larger sleds can sell for as much as $60. APT primarily uses high density polyethylene and polypropylene as raw materials, while Pelican's line is focused on HDPE.
Pelican makes its products at its 200,000-square-foot site in Laval, which soon will be expanded to 300,000 square feet. APT produces its line at plants in Walled Lake and Rose City, Mich.
Pelican's winter toy sales were steady in 2003 and 2004 and look to be around the same in 2005, Dube said. APT's Gessert declined to discuss sales totals.
One thing that winter toy makers have to adjust to is the major lead times needed to make sure their products are in stores when those first snowflakes fall. Gessert said that, in late November, he made his first sales presentation for APT products that will be on store shelves in late 2006. APT makes its final production decisions in February or March, while Pelican has to do so by June or July.
``It's tough to make product-design changes because the lead times are pretty great,'' Gessert said. ``So I'm always doing the opposite. In the summer, I'm thinking about winter toys.''