TNP.MEDIA speaks with Richard Wells, MD of University Games UK, about bringing The Lagoon Group on board. He shares University Games’ plans for Lagoon and discusses the role of acquisitions in growing the business.
Why was The Lagoon Group of such appeal?
There is a great synergy between University Games and the Lagoon Group and this acquisition will open avenues for both businesses across both the toy and gift sectors. Lagoon has a great reputation and a fantastic range of games and puzzles that I have been a fan of for many years.
How does the Lagoon portfolio complement your offering?
The Lagoon brand is very well known and has a great reputation, especially in the gift sector. It has a number of well-established and successful lines including some brilliant trivia games and best-selling tabletop games and puzzles, all of which are distinctly different but complement our current product range very well. Lagoon’s distribution into gift stores, garden centres, book shops and tourist outlets also complement the areas where we are strong as a business.
What do you hope to learn from the Lagoon team?
The entire Lagoon product range has a distinctive look and feel. The products are design-led, regularly updated and perform exceptionally well in the independent gift sector. Therefore, the Lagoon product design and sales teams are integral in working alongside our current product development team and sales force to ensure we maintain not only the quality of products but also the Lagoon brand integrity going forward. I hope there is a great deal that we can learn from each other, we should always aim to be open to new ideas and ways of working.
And how will you use the University Games business to take Lagoon to the next level?
We have an extremely strong and successful sales team supporting our independent retailers across the whole of the UK. This is not something that has been part of the Lagoon sales strategy in the past and is something that I am certain will be a huge benefit for this specific product range. The businesses also have some common and complimentary licenses that are certain to strength both brands including The World of David Walliams, Professor Rubik, Einstein² and Question of Sport.
What are you immediate and long-term plans for The Lagoon Group?
In the near future we plan to grow the sales of the range across the most diverse retailer base possible. Moving forwards, we hope to cross sell both the University Games, Paul Lamond Games and Lagoon ranges across these retailers. We will keep the product development flowing across all the brands and already have several exciting lines in place for launch in 2021. The Lagoon Group will retain its individuality and distinctive design-led feel into the future.
This isn’t University Games’ first acquisition – it’s the fourteenth and the third in the UK. But the process must have been a little different from the others, given it was completed from start to finish during the Covid-19 lockdown. How did you work around the obstacles that you faced?
This process has been, in terms of business acquisition, extremely quick. The process began at the very beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown and it is testament to the entire University Games team that it has allowed the management team the time to focus on acquisition and complete within just 14 weeks. Within just two weeks, we now have all the Lagoon stock in our warehouse and a fully briefed sales team already selling to both University Games and Lagoon customers. Obviously, the main difference is that the meetings were conducted over the phone and via Zoom rather than face to face but the professionalism of all the people involved made this a smooth ride on the whole.
Acquisitions have played an important role in University Games’ growth over the past few years. Generally speaking, do you tend to actively look for new businesses? And if so, what are you looking for when you do so?
Historically acquisitions have played, and will continue to play, an important strategic role in the global growth of University Games. Identifying businesses with an aligned fundamental ethos, strong values and a complimentary product offering to University Games is a vitally important part of that acquisition process. The critical thing for me is that any company we acquire should provide incremental growth for the business, there is no point buying a company for the sake of vanity if we are simply replacing one set of products with another.
Our strategy over the next few years combines organic growth with additional acquisitions – and, for me, product is the initial deciding factor, we are always interested in great product which is why I was so happy with the Lagoon acquisition.