Mastermind Toys launches its own private label

The retailer is extending its brand identity into its own toys, coinciding with a new catalogue positioning it as the "cool school supplier."

Mastermind-Toys

Mastermind Toys is putting out an eponymous private label line to drive awareness of it being a “hidden gem” that can find toys and activities that will be on-trend for kids.

Helming the line-up is Sarah Lowry, head of private brand for Mastermind, who joined just after it launched its first brand campaign late last year. Her previous experience includes launching Indigo Books & Music’s exclusive home brand, OUI, and growing the Hudson’s Bay Company’s owned brand portfolio, including the HBC Stripes Collection and working on patio furniture and tabletop.

“Mastermind Toys started on this strategic journey in 2020 with a new leadership team in place who were focused on introducing more Canadians to our brand, while completing a significant digital transformation and elevating our curation,” Lowry says. “We identified that in too many communities, Mastermind Toys is a hidden gem and saw an opportunity to introduce the brand to more families through our private brand offering that proudly has our name on it.”

Lowry tells strategy that she joined the team late last year with a mandate to establish a private brand collection that represents Mastermind Toys’ brand values, serves an educational purpose and upholds the quality the retailer is known for. Part of what Mastermind Toys has built its identity around is its internal team that is able to find the toys and activities that will be on-trend with young people, differentiating itself from the “sea of plastic” and IP-driven offerings of other toy and big box stores.

Lowry adds that many consumers didn’t realize that some of its exclusives in the past had been developed in-house, so establishing a recognizable identity for its  packaging has been integral to the official launch of the namesake collection.

“We wanted to ensure we extended our signature look through to our products, not only in our packaging and on-product branding, but also through the colour palettes and patterns,” Lowry says, adding that it takes its aesthetic very seriously, as it helps foster a sense of wonder in kids and the “young-at-heart.”

According to Lowry, Mastermind Toys has got big plans in-store for the private label side of the business, planning on doubling its private brand assortment for the holiday season in 2022 and doubling its presence again in the coming years, and playing in categories it feels it can win, such as baby, outdoor and arts and crafts. Private brand also plays a big role in the retailer’s Perks birthday program, where it engages with consumers by celebrating the birthdays of youngsters very year with a free gift as a surprise and delight moment.

“As it relates to private brand, we’re putting the new collection front and center in our stores for customers to discover,” Lowry says. “We’re taking products out of packaging, displaying them throughout the store, and merchandising them alongside national brands in our key shopping areas.”

For the launch, the private label will be a big part of Mastermind’s second annual Back to School Play Guide, called “Grade-A Play,” an expanded offering with items that it says can’t be found at standard big box retailers.

According to Lowry, back-to-school season perfectly aligns with Mastermind Toys’ identity as a toy store rooted in education. That’s also why it decided to develop its own collection of pens, pencils, highlighters and bookmarks.

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Outside of the private label, the new guide boasts the largest assortment of Rubik’s products in Canada, as well as Creativity for Kids sensory bins, the Crayola Colour Caddy that acts as the all-in-one creativity case and STEM-focused activities, like OSMO.

“We learned that our customers want to shop at Mastermind Toys for back to school to get supplies that are different from what they find in larger box stores – we became the cool school supplier, where trendy meets educational, and the trusted resource for parents and educators,” Lowry says. Its guides are at the centre of campaigns that also include in-store signage with a QR code to our website, window displays, and toy demos.

Lowry says its creative services team has been a differentiator for Mastermind, and that it’s not engaged with external agencies on its private brand launch.