Olga Pavlova: the Rubik’s Cube is the toy of the epoch
PlayLab specialises in distribution of the world famous brands of educational games and puzzles. The company is proud of their product range of Rubik’s, Recent Toys, Meffert's puzzles, Slinky springs, and Spirograph sets for painting patterns – the brands that have a long history that have become classics of the toy world. We talked with Company CEO Olga Pavlova about how the world of puzzles, educational games, and toys is changing.
– Olga, your main brand, The Rubik's Cube, will celebrate its 40 years anniversary next year. What metamorphosis occurred during this time with this toy? What does this toy mean to you?
– The Rubik's Cube has become a symbol, a hobby that unites thousands of people around the world. Over 40 years, about 350 million copies of the Rubik's Cube have been sold on the planet.
Today, completely different technologies are used, as well as plastics of much higher quality. A more durable design has been developed, and the stickers have been replaced with plastic insets.
Now you can easily disassemble the cube and lubricate its parts, it is especially convenient for high-speed assembly competitions.
The trademark owner company has made the Rubik's cube a real brand, which has long overstepped the format of toys. Rubik’s Cube entered into collaboration with Zara (a line of t-shirts with The Cube was released), with publishing houses (books, stationery sets), and with McDonalds.
All production facilities are located in China; and it is a high-tech production, the only one in the world that produces various models of The Cube. It is from there that the products come to the USA and Europe. We also place orders there; there’s a queue, and the production lead time is several months. We develop Russian packaging, put our logo. Erno Rubik, the inventor, who will be 75 in July, is actively involved in the life of his creation, and he’s still inventing various puzzles that have not yet become as famous as The Cube.
– How will the anniversary of the Rubik’s Cube be celebrated in the world and in our country?
– A 20 month PR campaign has already been started. License agreements with global brands, publishing houses, and retail chains have been signed. McDonald's Happy Meal promotion has been confirmed again for 2019. In Russia, special versions of Rubik's toys will be launched in summer. The promotion will be accompanied by a massive 360° advertising campaign. The design of the puzzle line-up for McDonalds is still kept secret, but we know that there will be 2x2x1 and 2x3x1 puzzles with smiles (SmileyWorld® license). It will be possible to assemble an enlarged image-picture from several puzzles!
Collaboration with other brands is also planned, such as the RedBull Rubik's Cube Championship, projects with popular bloggers, movie stars, musicians, and athletes, the best Cubers of the planet. All these activities will be accompanied by a massive online support in social media.
– Why did you decide to build your business on selling puzzles? How did you start it?
– It happened by chance! At that time we worked at Kaspersky Lab, and we needed a Rubik's Cube for our corporate holiday. But in the stores and in the markets we could find only Chinese toys that were spinning badly. We wrote to the office of the brand owner and asked if it was possible to buy a cube in Russia? We were told that this product was not for sale in Russia. Then we asked to authorise us as a distributor. So we got the first contract. That happened 12 years ago. Initially we imported 3,000 cubes, and sold them out very quickly. After that we already purchased and imported our first container of cubes.
And then, together with Republic retail chain, we announced a large-scale sales start. The issue turned out to be so popular that we received the widest possible mass media coverage including even the 1st TV channel.
– What other items does Game Lab have in the product range? What age are your products targeted at?
– Today, there are 15 articles of The Cube: these are puzzles of all kinds, including the Rubik’s Junior Bear and Bunny, and the Rubik’s Snake, and other items. Our brands are Rubik’s, Meffert's, Recent Toys, Slinky springs, Spirograph, The Stories Cubes, and others. The customers can buy out balls-labyrinths, Yo-Yo, Nanoblocks, 4M Experiments, tabletop games, and card games.
The market is quite big in Russia, and we can afford to import big quantities of goods, and we cooperate with rather big distributors. There’s one more interesting product line-up: puzzles made by Mr. Meffert, an inventor who we met in Nurnberg. The Pyramid Puzzle is the most famous toy of his brand.
There is also a puzzle in our product range made by our Russian well-known inventor Mr. V. Krasnoukhov.
Our target audience age framework is very large: from 4-5 years of age up to unlimited age, there’s no upper limit.
– How popular is this category of educational toys? What future prospects do you see?
– For the first five years we have been very productive, now there is some kind of stagnation. But still our products have a fairly stable consumer. Yes, the sales volume has decreased this year; however, we see the reason of the sales decrease in the general economic problems in the country.
What really upsets and distresses us is that some partners fail to fulfill the contract terms. Some customers believe that since they are so large and popular, they should not pay in time, and even without warning! In response, we decide to stop the delivery without warning. We are disappointed with a low level of professionalism of managers of some retail chains; they seem to have no interest. We are quite satisfied with Detsky Mir, this is a professional market player who has experienced a strong growth recently, and it is a pleasure and a good profit to work with this company.
– What are you planning to demonstrate in autumn at the Mir Detstva exhibition? What would you like to please and surprise your customers with?
We’ll bring new items: for example, a samurai toy Kids Down designed to develop physical coordination and self-possession. This toy is over one hundred years old. We’ll also demonstrate various modifications of popular yo-yo toys. And, of course, we’ll bring our top products: The Cube, The Pyramid, and The Snake.
– We take part in every edition of the Mir Detstva exhibition: it is important for our customers to touch the products and have face-to-face interaction with us.
It might seem that everyone knows The Rubik's Cube, although every year people from various Russian cities who visit the exhibition are surprised to see our Cube, and they say they have been looking for it for a long time! Meanwhile, we have been participating in Mir Detstva for 10 years. We promise to come up with an unusual interactive show for the anniversary of The Rubik's Cube and the Mir Detstva exhibition. You are welcome to visit our booth, it will be fun!