Year in Review

The flight back from Hong Kong Toy Fair gave me plenty of time to contemplate this past year.  As the year progressed, there were signs of economic “challenges” in Canada.  Even with these challenges, it was a very positive year for Outset Media.

Here is a list of my top four highlights and two biggest concerns from this past year:

Highlight #1 - Revenue Growth

Our sales grew over 30% this past year.  Managing that level of growth is challenging of course, but it sure is exciting!  We know that the market for board games and puzzles didn’t grow by 30%.  Some of that growth was from new customers.  And some of that growth was from existing customers.  We do know our existing customers allocated more shelf space to our product in 2015.  And that is a great honour!

Highlight #2 - International Sales

While we have been selling to international markets for several years, sales outside North America have always been… well… zero percent if we rounded to the nearest percent.  Not anymore!  This past year our international sales were 2% of our revenue.  While still not a large amount, this will continue to grow.  We have a fantastic long-term partnership with a distributor in the Czech Republic, and we started new relationships with distributors in Australia and New Zealand.  Our brands are gaining attention worldwide!

Highlight #3 - Successful Launch of a Brand-Licensed Game

While we do license hundreds of images for puzzles - and have licensed a handful of games - we have intentionally stayed away from brand licenses.  I have always felt there was too much risk.  This year we introduced a Goosebumps® board game and puzzles.  The results were great!  This opens a whole new market for us.  Look for more brand licenses this coming year, including Jeopardy® and Shaun the Sheep® games and puzzles.

Highlight #4 - Continued Growth of the Cobble Hill Brand

The brand that grew the most for us this past year was Cobble Hill Puzzle Co.  We re-introduced our CHiRP program, to encourage retailers to make Cobble Hill their puzzle brand of choice.  Our new 2015 images were very strong.  Our best-selling new puzzle was Nancy Drew, which was a collage of vintage book covers from the iconic book series.  But most exciting was the number of retailers in Canada who said that Cobble Hill had become their number one puzzle brand with their customers.

Concern #1 - Exchange Rate

The exchange rate is undoubtedly the biggest issue we grappled with.  As the CDN$ plummeted in value, we held our prices steady.  While our margins did suffer accordingly, as part of our commitment to awesome customer service, we felt it was important to maintain consistent pricing throughout 2015.  This way, our customers would have pricing certainty during the crucial Christmas season.  The exchange rate will continue to impact all aspects of our business going forward, including where product is manufactured, and what lines and products we carry.

Concern #2 - New Warehouse Floor

We have been planning the details of our move to a larger warehouse for almost a year.  Three days before Christmas we received bad news from our structural engineer.  He discovered that our concrete slab was only 4” thick, and hence wasn’t strong enough to support the weight of our pallet racking and machinery.  Our only real choice was to replace the concrete floor.  The problem being of course, that our warehouse floor is over 60,000 sq. ft. in size.  As you can imagine, this news was an unwelcomed early Christmas present!

But all things being considered, 2015 was an exciting year.  And 2016 promises more of the same!  I am looking forward to what the forthcoming tradeshow season will bring.