“In a crowded market, we’ve always stayed true to our eco-friendly ethos,” says Andrew McGregor, Managing Director of Artiwood Australia.
“It’s our most powerful differentiator,” McGregor tells Kochie’s Business Builders (KBB).
“It offers retailers and consumers a clear and compelling reason to support our brands and buy the toys we supply. The best business advice we ever got was never to try beating others at their own game. Instead, find a unique niche, stay true to its path and make it your own. The phenomenal growth of our business is a testament to this counsel.”
McGregor and his business partner acquired Artiwood from its founder John Daniels in 2016. By then, the business had already been in operation for over 15 years. It was well-loved for its commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly products. McGregor says at the time of acquisition; they had been searching for close to three years for the right business to purchase.
Sustainable and eco friendly
“We fell in love with the company, its products and its potential from the moment we first saw it.”
Since acquiring the business from Daniels, McGregor says the company has grown three-fold.
“We’ve won numerous industry awards including Supplier of the Year and built a strong portfolio of top-selling brands,” he says. “You’ll find our quality products in-store and online with reputable, independent retailers nationwide.”
Sustainability and ethically sourced products are the building blocks of this business. Artiwood’s toys are all made by hand using natural materials like wood, rubber, cork and cotton.
“You’ll never find an assembly line of plastic extrusion moulds in any of our factories. It’s the human touch that ultimately enhances our toys – a distinction we like to call heirloom quality.
“For example, one brand we support, Apple Park, creates soft dolls from 100% certified organic cotton.
However, it also fills them with 100 per cent eco-friendly materials. There’s no hidden polyester. Growing sales reassure us consumers genuinely value these features,” adds McGregor.
Passion and purpose at the heart of the business
“Our business began as the personal passion of our founder, John Daniels. For many years he helped small family-owned handicraft manufacturers in rural Sri Lanka bring their products to market.
The same commitment to high-quality, ethically sourced, safe and creative products remains at the heart of our business two decades later.”
While the business may be successful, McGregor says that they are still a relatively small business as far as toy distributors go. Until recently, the two owners managed all the day-to-day affairs. Letting go of control has been a challenge.
“My business partner and I consciously focus on devolving more and more responsibility to others. For example, we made a senior appointment just as the national COVID lockdown was unfolding. Despite the external environment, we ultimately decided the talent on offer was too good and too rare to pass up. A year later, our business is all the better for it. Rhonda’s taken our reputation and capability into new and exciting places,” he exclaims.
Conscious consumers spark rise in trade during COVID
Unlike many businesses which faced a downturn during COVID, Artiwood saw an uptick in trade as families in lockdown searched for new ways to play.
“The toy industry, by and large, has done remarkably well during the pandemic. As house-bound parents desperately tried to keep their restless children entertained, our sales grew more than 70 per cent. This result would be even higher if we’d been able to source enough inventory to meet demand.
Every year more than a third of Artiwood’s new business prospects come from exhibiting at trade shows. This month he will be amongst the exhibitors at Reed Gift Fair spruiking their wares.
“Collectively, Reed Gift Fairs are our largest single source of leads. They connect us with “hard to reach” retail channels like regional and rural retailers. Sales agents rarely visit these remote prospects. As a result, trade shows are the only opportunity for them to view our products and meet our team physically.
“Equally, for customers based inter-state, trade shows are often our only opportunity to meet face to face. These engagements constantly renew and strengthen our relationship.
They also generate higher value sales for us and a refreshed product mix for them. For example, we can’t wait to show them the Kinderfeets Rainbow Kinderboard. It’s just won Product of the Year in the industry’s annual awards,” he says.
Asked what makes a successful trade event, and McGregor’s answer is a simple checklist.
“We use three criteria to determine the success of trade shows. Did we discover new and meaningful business prospects? Did we gain valuable industry insights and a better understanding of our own business and product portfolio? Did we secure new and existing sales at the right level? A successful show must generate results on all three fronts in equal measure.”
Owning Artiwood has been a life-changing experience for McGregor. As the backlash against disposable consumerism continues to grow, Artiwood’s toys offer plenty of scope for more sustainable, creative play. No plastic, no gimmicks and no batteries.
Find out more about Artiwood here.
Reed Gift Fairs Sydney is a trade-only event, showcasing wholesale suppliers of Home, Gift, Fashion and Kids & Family products. Running from 17 – 20 April at ICC Sydney, Darling Harbour, Reed Gift Fairs Sydney is also co-located with Life Instyle. Registration is free to all legitimate retailers – register here.
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