Bringing Favorite Early Childhood Brands to the School Market
by Tina Manzer
At about the same time Missouri-based Children’s Factory® celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2016, the company known for making colorful and safe play spaces for children joined forces with Angeles®. The 60-year-old brand is known for its commercial-grade tricycles and early childhood transportation buggies, furniture, storage and rest-time products. Learning Carpets, a 20-year-old maker of play carpets and cut pile rugs recently became part of the Children’s Factory family, too, making it a one-source solution for high-quality classroom furnishings and active-play products. Discussing the companies’ longevity and its latest innovations with us recently were President Bob Graman and VP of Marketing Kelly Madden. Here’s what we learned.
Educational Dealer: Children’s Factory, Angeles and Learning Carpets combined have more than 100 years of educational product manufacturing experience. To what do you attribute their longevity?
Bob Graman: We hire people who are not only experts in their respective areas, but also people who sincerely care about the children who will be using our products. Our team is passionate about early learning and works tirelessly to make sure our products are safe, durable and have the most play-value possible.
Besides the education market, in what other markets are your products popular?
Kelly Madden: Our school products translate well into other areas such as pediatric waiting rooms, children’s libraries and church daycares. We also produce proprietary products. We’ve found that many of our larger dealers want products that are unique to them, and we are happy to partner with them to make that happen.
How often do you launch new products?
Kelly Madden: We introduce new designs every year at the Spielwarenmesse Toy Fair in Germany, and exhibit domestically at some of the larger shows such as EDspaces and at NAEYC. Throughout the year we also roll out new products by introducing them on our website.
Our design team at the corporate offices in Union, Missouri is intricately involved in the product creation process, from the sourcing of materials to the point at which new items are production ready. We have three U.S. manufacturing facilities: two in Missouri and one in Indiana. We also import from select countries when necessary.
We routinely evaluate our product offerings to add and retire products as needed. We listen to our customers and respond to their needs as preschools and classrooms evolve. For instance, our Angeles® Technology Tables are relatively new and were created to securely hold the electronic tablets so many children now have access to in their learning spaces.
On the flipside, our Soft Tunnel Climber, one of the original Children’s Factory designs, is still a customer favorite.
What is your current bestseller to the school market?
Kelly Madden: The most popular Angeles-brand products include commercial-grade trikes, SpaceLine® cots, dramatic play furniture, and a wide assortment of table and chair sets. On the Children’s Factory side, soft block sets and climbers are in high demand because they promote free movement, exploration and social interaction for growing children.
What do you do to differentiate your products from others like them in the market?
Bob Graman: While there are similar products available from other sources – and yes, we even see some of our original designs popping up in other places – we choose to continue to innovate and to keep moving forward. In the end what sets our products apart is our attention to detail. Our quality standards and safety features are simply unmatched. With the merging of our brands, we now also provide the ability to purchase all classroom equipment and furnishings from a single source.