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Russ Berrie reveals company restructure

Plush toy supplier Russ Berrie has linked up with US gifts company The Encore Group as part of a “strategic repositioning” in a bid to focus on the infant and juvenile market, effective from December 23 2008. A designer, supplier and marketer of key licences such as Harley Davidson, Papel Giftware and NASCAR, The Encore Group has acquired the stock of Russ Berrie worldwide gift segment subsidiary Russ Berrie Gift as part of the deal.

Both companies believe similar product lines and distribution channels will provide “a solid base to work from”. They also see opportunities for cross-selling with Russ Berrie supplying plush toys worldwide and The Encore Group specialising in gifts, collectibles and speciality products.

Meanwhile, Russ Berrie has created a new international division following a review of its international sales strategy. The division will result in a merger of the former travel-retail and export teams to create market and country specialists. The company said that the aim of the new division is to advise buyers on relevant lines for international and domestic travellers.

Existing director duty-free sales Paul Widdop will focus on key markets in Russia, Ukraine, Egypt, Ireland, Morocco and Switzerland, where he will work with Swiss travel retailer Dufry Group. Beckie Kington will be responsible for all UK travel-retail business and will use her knowledge of UK accounts to work with local retailers such as John Lewis and Debenhams. Rebecca Dickinson will continue to handle Aldeasa, The Nuance Group Portugal and Gebr Heinemann travel-retail accounts as well as France, Benelux and Cyprus. She will also take over domestic sales in many of these markets. Mike Briggs, who has worked in the export division for five years, continues his work with Keflavik travel-retail and is responsible for the development of duty-free markets in several countries. The team will be headed by director of international division Geoff Sheffield, who has been with the company for 13 years. Sheffield will be responsible for UAE travel-retail business along with his domestic duties in the region. He will also manage sales teams in Germany, France and Austria while handling big accounts in specific markets.

Sheffield said: “The new team creates a group of youthful, energetic account managers who will look to drive the business forward during what will be challenging times for a number of operators. The travel-retail industry has had its fair share of challenges over the past 10 years, with SARS, the abolition of duty-free for intra-EU travellers in 1999 and airport security to name a few, yet the industry has a never-say-die attitude which makes it so exciting to be a part of. We have made these changes because the industry is such an important sales channel to the company and we want to continue providing the best support to our customers and to prepare for the challenges ahead in 2009. The Encore Group brings further opportunities to develop sales, particularly through its licensing programmes.”