Plum Play was founded in the 1980s by Jonathan and Diane Schaffer. In the four decades that followed, it has become the leading manufacturer of outdoor equipment for children and sells its products in over 40 markets. Simon Wittenberg caught up with their Managing Director to find out more.
Luxurious Magazine: When did you start working for Plum Play, and was it always the plan to follow your parents’ footsteps to keep the business in the family?
Paul Schaffer: I was always exposed to Plum from an early age, from sorting screws to packing brochures in school holidays. After university, I worked in Finance in London for four years before coming to join the family business again.
It was never a guarantee, but I am delighted to have joined and be running it now. Plum is over 30 years old – my parents never took anything for granted and always looked to innovate, something I strongly believe in and live by.
I take each day as a new opportunity and enjoy the freedom to be able to steer Plum in a way I believe in and tackle new challenges and opportunities head-on. We’ve never sat back and never will.
LM: Please give our readers an overview of the garden sets and toys made by Plum Play.
PS: We sell a whole range of toys and garden sets, from trampolines, swing sets, playhouses and picnic tables, to sandpits, scooters and more. Most importantly, we offer amazing imaginative play experiences that get kids off screens and interacting with one another. Play is the most important aspect of learning; we want to ensure that all children stay active and embrace playtime.
We create innovative and exciting products, and we are 100% committed to sustainability and protecting the environment.
LM: Who is your target market, as the high price point is clearly not in everyone’s grasp?
PS: We sell a huge range of items at very varied price points. We want every child to be able to have a Plum item in their childhood, wherever they are. Our products are suitable for children from 18 months with our Junior Bouncers and Little Plum range and go all the way up to the teenage years with our larger trampolines.
Some items are priced higher than competitors, but that is because we don’t and won’t compromise on non-sustainable wood sources. We want to leave the world in a better place than when we found it, so we commit to green initiatives and will happily pay more to ensure we get sustainable wood for our products.
We find that retailers and consumers are happy to pay for sustainable and high-quality products as they fully understand our commitment to protecting our environment and creating high quality and safe products.
LM: Are all materials used for your products sustainable?
PS: At Plum, we sustainably source and ethically manufacture every product in our range. Long before FSC® was established, my parents were actively involved with the ethical sourcing of wood products, and we have been sustainably trading for over 30 years. They were trailblazers and set the tone for something we all expect now in green / eco products.
We are constantly approached to use cheaper materials; we could save money and reduce our product prices and make more money. Plum is more than profit – we have a duty to create environmentally friendly products and help the next generation of children enjoy our planet and embrace nature through sustainable play. If children grow up using sustainable products, then being green becomes second nature.
LM: What have been the key ingredients to the business being a real success on the world stage?
PS: We stand by four key principles that overarch everything we do.
We ensure that all our products are independently safety tested. Our Product Director sits on the European Committee for the Safety of Toys (CEN), BTHA Toy Safety Committee and the BSI Safety of Toys to ensure we are leading the way both domestically and internationally.
When building a brand, this is fundamental to ensure that quality never slips. We have people in the factories to ensure that nothing leaves that is not of Plum quality. We have spent 33 years building a top-quality brand, and we want to maintain this.
This is key in differentiating, attracting new customers and keeping the brand excitement. We have a huge pipeline of new and exciting products that we will continue to release.
Our products are all designed to last and represent value for money as they create unforgettable childhood experiences.
LM: With many people making improvements to their home during the pandemic, and spending more time there, has COVID-19 accelerated sales?
PS: We spent the last few years positioning ourselves for strong growth. Once the pandemic hit, we did see unprecedented demand over a short space. However, we were always forecasting double-digit growth, and this brought forward our plans by a couple of years. We are now propelling ourselves forward in all countries as we grow the Plum brand domestically and internationally.
LM: You have some celebrity clients amongst your customers. Can you give us an insight please into who these people are?
PS: We have many celebrity customers who have put up Plum items, from sporting heroes to movie stars. I have recently seen our Discovery Easel in Joe Wicks videos. Also, Sky Brown, who is set to Great Britain’s youngest ever Olympian, uses our Plum Bowl.
LM: You have recently expanded into the US after securing significant investment. Was this a tough market to crack?
PS: The US is a very hard market to crack, but it is also a very exciting one. Our products work very well there, and we add unique twists on what already exists in the market as well as innovation. We have some very big retailers that we work with there, and we are extremely excited about the growth we are seeing. We could have taken baby steps into the US market, but I wanted to be aggressive – I know we can scale up quickly, and so far, things are going well.
LM: What is are Plum Play’s best-selling products?
PS: Based on the current market, we have seen an uptick in all items. Trampolines are always household favourites as they have a lot of play value for children (and adults). We have found whilst people haven’t been able to go on holiday – they’ve been more than happy to invest in their homes and gardens.
Our range of treehouses, trampolines and sandpits have been a perfect fit to allow families to enjoy their gardens. A lot of customers buy more than one product at the same time, so I like to think we have contributed to making lots of mini play parks in homes across the country and keeping plenty of kids active.
LM: You have appointed Sky Brown, a British skateboarder and Olympic hopeful, as a brand ambassador. What values do you share in common, and how will she be representing your brand?
PS: We are delighted to have Sky Brown as our ambassador, as she is redefining an extreme sport that was traditionally regarded ‘just for boys’. She is young and an incredible prospect for the sport, and it suits our Bowl Trampoline perfectly, as we redefine the way you look at a traditional trampoline. Sky is an extraordinary athlete, and I know she can encourage more people to try something new and enjoy being active.
LM: Thank you for your time Paul, and it has been a pleasure speaking to you.
Plum Play – Where and How?
For more information on Plum Play UK and the current product range, visit www.plumplay.co.uk.
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