Haba, a brand of the Haba Family Group in Germany, recently opened an exclusive toy store at the new Mixcate Center in the Luohu district in Shenzhen, China. Apart from the United States, the foray into the Chinese market is the first time the brand has gone overseas. Designed in bright, inviting colours and equipped with specially developed, high-end wooden furniture, seating options and a play area, users can browse a wide range of products, try them out and experience the new brand environmen
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ment. In a space of around 58sqm, the store offers its range of toys for children of all ages. From wooden toys to ball tracks, board games, puzzles and baby toys, the store encourages children to take on a voyage of creative exploration. “This first Haba brand-store in the world in Shenzhen offers customers the opportunity to experience first-hand the high-quality, long-lasting children’s products,” Adrien Semblat, Asia managing director of Haba, told Inside Retail. He hopes families will come to the store and discover the many loving and functional details that Haba is famous for in Germany. Adrien Semblat, Asia managing director of Haba The story so far Headquartered in Bad Rodach, Germany, the Haba Family Group has been family owned since 1938. The brand made its first appearance at a toy fair in 1950. It later published a German-English catalogue and extended its operations into Switzerland and the Netherlands. Its toys emphasise social responsibility and environmental sustainability. They are designed to last for years, keeping trash out of landfills, and are made from wood that is sustainably sourced from forests in Germany. “We’ve been doing well in 2022, the business is growing despite global challenges, such as supply chain bottlenecks and the scarcity of raw materials,” he added. Haba’s product offerings are quite holistic, and that has made its growth quite resilient in the face of these current economic headwinds that are sweeping across global markets. “We have two brands essentially, Haba and Haba Pro. Haba is all about toys and games, board games and so on, while Haba Pro is all about furniture that we design for education and development,” Semblat explained. The brand is looking to enter the education and development sector in the Asia Pacific region in the coming years as well. “We believe that childhood education makes you what you are. In my opinion, a child’s ability to learn and explore new worlds is the most valuable and creative asset in our society today,” he said. In Germany, the brand runs a digital workshop (Digitalwerkstatt) for children to discover the digital world and acquire the necessary skills to deal with new technologies. It is thinking about introducing the offering into international markets soon. Why China? Haba Family Group has taken a strategic step to grow internationally, and is now transforming its business from being very German-focused to now opening up its operations to the world. “We’ve decided to scale up our operations in Asia, we’re hiring people right here in Hong Kong and we want to build up the brand in the APAC region. It’s all about creating brand desirability and credibility,” Semblat stated. He went on to say that the brand is carefully evaluating its expansion plan in the region, but more Haba ‘experience stores’ are key, in order to create an emotional connection with customers. “We want families to come to our store, get comfortable and try out our offerings, experience what the brand can offer, and maybe buy some products. The offline experience is central to what we do, so these stores are an integral part of what we do,” he said. Interestingly, Semblat revealed that the company is looking to localise its offerings by developing its products in the local language, in this case Mandarin. This is a deliberate strategy by the company to get closer to the consumer in overseas markets. “For markets like China, Korea and Japan, having products that are communicated in local languages will be key for us,” he explained. The Covid-19 lockdowns in China of course have been challenging for Haba, but Semblat is optimistic about the brand’s chances in the market. “We want as many Chinese consumers to be able to experience our products and develop their skills along the way. All the way from ages 0-12, we want to create awareness around our products, and localisation is perhaps one of the biggest opportunities,” he said. Going digital A big part of the brand’s strategy going forward will be to create content around its offerings in local languages for key markets. “The biggest challenge will be to educate people about our offerings, teach them how to play our board games, and create that emotional connection with children in their local language. We will aim to create content on relevant platforms for each market,” he stated. Semblat is clear-eyed about the journey ahead. He is ensuring that the brand proceeds cautiously, with inventory that is more focused on ‘quality over quantity’, so that the business remains sustainable in the long term. “We are focused on building the brand. We are here to stay in Asia, and we are in for the long term. It’s a building process for us now, our current business model does not expose us too much, so it’s a very positive stage in our journey,” he explained.