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Bluebird Toys plc was a British toy company.

Manta Force was a line of toys produced by a British company called Bluebird Plc in 1987. The toyline was initially divided into two main factions: the heroic Manta Force and their opponents, the evil Viper Squad. Following the popularity of the Manta Force toy range, an additional enemy was introduced in 1989; known as the Karnocks. In the subsequent year, Bluebird PLc also released the Skinkhorns, who were the enemy of both Manta Force and the Viper Squad. By the early 90s however, the popularity of the toy range began to decrease and eventually production was stopped.

Company HistoryEdit

Bluebird Toys was started by Torquil Norman in 1980, his first product being the now famous Big Yellow Teapot House. This was one of the first ‘container’ houses which broke away from the traditional architectural style of dolls’ houses in favour of this light and colourful family home.

The company was an almost immediate success, coming within £18,000 of breaking even in its first year of business, on turnover of £1.25m. By 1983 turnover had reached £3.4, and in 1985 the company went public on the Unlisted Securities Market. The shares had reached 500p by 1987, before sliding back to 26p in 1991, when the company reported a hefty loss.

The company was an almost immediate success, coming within £18,000 of breaking even in its first year of business, on turnover of £1.25m.[1] By 1983 turnover had reached £3.4, and in 1985 the company went public on the Unlisted Securities Market.[2] The shares had reached 500p by 1987, before sliding back to 26p in 1991, when the company reported a hefty loss.[3]

The company was saved by the Polly Pocket range, introduced in 1989, which became a global phenomenon. By 1993 the shares were back up to 575p,[4] and the next year Bluebird announced profits of £7m on sales of over £40m,[5] rising again to £20m on turnover of £100m in 1994-95.[6] This figure was dominated by Polly Pocket and Mighty Max, a parallel line for boys introduced in 1992, accounting between them for 87% of sales. Already by 1994 nearly three-quarters of Britain's 2 million girls aged between three and eight were estimated to own a Polly Pocket.[5] The shares rose still further, trebling again by October 1995 when the company announced a licence for a new line of Disney characters in the pocket-size format, which became the Disney Tiny Collection series, and a new distribution deal with Mattel.[7]

However, by 1997 Polly Pocket sales had fallen back, Mattel announced it would take no more of the existing stock until a brand re-format, and the share price was down to only a quarter of its previous peak value.[8]

Financier Sir Ron Brierley's Guinness Peat Group made an unsolicited bid for the company in January 1998, but was outbid by Mattel acting as a white knight.[9][10] Mattel swiftly went on to integrate Bluebird's products into its own lines, closing the headquarters in Swindon and offering redundancy packages to all those who were not offered relocation to the Mattel headquarters.

ReferencesEdit

  1. A. Alvarez, The Last Buccaneer, The New Yorker, 15 October 1990, p. 49
  2. Kenneth Douglas Brown, The British Toy Business: A History Since 1700, Continuum International Publishing Group, 1996. ISBN 1-85285-136-8. p.222 (Google Books)
  3. Derek Pain, Winners and losers in the 1992 share race, The Independent, 31 December 1992.
  4. Quintin Lumsden, Shares: Top toys turn profit into child's play, The Independent, 19 December 1993
  5. 5.0 5.1 John Shepherd, Polly Pocket helps Bluebird rocket to £7m, The Independent, 8 September 1994
  6. James Bethell, Bluebird flies into record profits, The Independent, 9 March 1995
  7. Tom Stevenson, Bluebird boss nets £2.3m from shares, The Independent, 28 October 1995
    (By this time there had been a stock split. The 367p share price in the article is equivalent to 1468p before the split)
  8. Sameena Ahmad, The Investment Column: US blow to Bluebird Toys, The Independent, 25 November 1997
  9. Terry Macalister, Bluebird going to Mattel, The Independent, 19 May 1998
  10. Mattel wins contest for Bluebird, BBC News, 19 May 1998
    (The final bid was 116.5p per share, equivalent to 466p per unsplit share, valuing the company at £48.5m in total)

External linksEdit

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