October 8, 2008, 12:00 AM

Online toy retailer to help kid-centered brands learn the e-marketing game

The company that operates e-commerce sites TysToyBox.com and AllAboardToys.com has created a new company called Brand Performance, which will work with brands that appeal to kids to market their toys, videos, apparel and other items online.

A retailer who has built his web business selling products related to such children’s favorites as Thomas the Tank Engine, Doodlebops and Curious George, has created a new company that will help other kid-focused brands market their wares online.

Ty Simpson, CEO of the new company, Brand Performance LLC, has put under its umbrella the two web sites the company owns-TysToyBox.com and AllAboardToys.com. In addition, Brand Performance now operates the official online stores for brands Simpson has been serving. Those include Hit Entertainment, owner of the rights to cartoon characters like Barney and Thomas the Tank Engine, and Big Tent Entertainment, which promotes children’s music group the Wiggles and other kid favorites.

Brand Performance will use its expertise in online marketing, including search engine marketing and e-mailing to its customer list, to promote these brands, many of which lack expertise in online marketing, Simpson says. “None of these companies we work with have the resources or the attention to the online channel, although they realize they need to be there and that people are looking for their products there,” he says.

Simpson says his company can make available online a broader selection of branded goods than any bricks-and-mortar store is likely to carry. For instance, fans of Thomas the Tank Engine can find at TysToyBox.com videos, apparel, bedding, party favors, school supplies and toys, all bearing the likeness of the cheerful little British railway engine.

In addition, Simpson introduced in January a print-on-demand feature that allows consumers to order items such as T-shirts and pants imprinted with the image of a favorite character and the child’s name. “Barney used to be everywhere, but now it’s hard to find Barney,” Simpson says. “So people are going online to find things they can’t find.” He says the print-on-demand program has been a success, but declines to provide sales figures.

Simpson says his service can help brands demonstrate the appeal of their products to such major retail chains as Toys ‘R’ Us, Wal-Mart and Target, which are hard sells for all but the most popular brands of the moment. “It’s about getting visibility for these companies’ brands and products,” he says. “I can’t emphasize enough the difficulty these brands are having in getting big retailers to take a chance on their brand.”

At the same time, selling online also allows brands to test out products without going into the kind of mass production required to stock the shelves of a major retail chain. Simpson says he provides the brands he works with information about how their products are selling, which sizes are selling best, and how their sales compare with those of similar brands. “It helps them shape the program before they bring it to traditional retail,” he says. “You may launch a brand online and find no demand, which can save a company a lot of money. Because if it’s not selling online, it probably won’t sell on the shelf, either.”

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