Helen and I were invited to be part of a focus group at Gund headquarters in Edison, NJ last night. Never having attended one before, we did not know what to expect and were a bit apprehensive.
Gund has their offices in a multiple building compound. I was driving and wondering how we would know which one was the right one when Helen pointed out the giant Snuffles bear sitting outside the door. BINGO!
There were four businesses there with seven owners present, our sales rep Nancy (who is awesome by the way!), Vince the leader of the group, and Gus who was in product creation.
The Gund folks found out a bit about each of the stores represented – what kind of merchandise we carried, who our target consumer was, where we were located, etc. I’m not sure if it was planned out this way or not, but out of the four businesses there, two were close to each other in one location and the remaining two were close in another town. Proximity aside, we did not overlap that much on merchandise carried.
The main part of the evening was spent viewing stuffed animals that are in various stages of development. (I am checking with Gund to see how much we are allowed to describe what we saw. If they say we can go into details, we’ll update the post with more specifics.) Some are in the preplanning stage where they haven’t gotten past drawing boards yet. Others are partially developed and Gund was checking to see what we thought of color choice, fabric swaths, size, etc. And some were full on, ready to go.
Most of the products they showed us sparked quite a bit of conversation. What might work for the chocolate shop in a college town doesn’t necessarily work in a baby store. Some people liked certain fabrics while others weren’t so keen on them. We all agreed that ninjas probably wouldn’t work but that you can never go wrong with dragons. There were certain animals that we liked the look of but the fabric was all wrong, either in texture or in color.
There were a few items that just made everyone go quiet, mainly because we all disliked them. Intensely. This is where being part of a focus group gets hard. It’s very simple to say “I love that one. It’s so soft and squishy.” It’s much more difficult to come up with a constructive way of saying “I hate that, it makes my eyes bleed.”
And then there were three or four lines that elicited the squeals and that everyone agreed would be huge. One is taking several of their iconic bears and turning them into characters from a movie. They are hysterical and I so hope it works because I would buy them for everyone in my family! There were a few that are not like any other Gund products I’ve seen that have so much personality and quirkiness. They would fit in perfectly with our store … and our house:)
Some items will be making their way to Baltimore and a certain nephew, and Spike and Dru have already called dibs on one or two. Thank you so much to Gund for allowing us to be part of this. We had so much fun and it was very cool to see what is coming up for you guys.