Classic toy Spirograph makes a comeback thanks to Ann Arbor-based company
Daniel J. Brenner | AnnArbor.com
Now, thanks to Ann Arbor-based Kahootz Toys, the toy will be available again for nostalgic Baby Boomers to pass along to younger friends and family.
Courtesy Kahootz Toys
“It became less of a drafting kit and more of a toy for young children,” Brent Oeschger, co-founder of Kahootz Toys, said.
“The only way you could find the classic Spirograph was to go on Ebay or from second-hand stores.”
Oeschger, Doug Cass, Joe Yassay, and Colleen Loughman, had all worked in the toy and childrens consumer product industry for the past 20 years when their former company, Giddy Up, was sold last year.
The four got together with the idea to bring back the classic children’s toy, and through a connection at Hasbro pitched the plan to the company that still owns the brand.
“Our pitch was to go in there and say ‘you have a brand that has tremendous recognition, everyone knows this name, and you’re currently only marketing it to a tiny segment of small children,’” Oeschger said.
“With our experience in arts and crafts and drawing products, we can reinvigorate the Spirograph brand and bring it to a whole new generation.”
Hasbro liked the pitch enough to grant Kahootz exclusive license to use the brand in North America.
Denys Fisher created the original toy in England in the mid 1960s. The brand was brought to America by Kenner, Inc. shortly after and was eventually acquired by Hasbro. Spirograph was named Toy of the Year in 1967 by the British Association of Toy Realtors.
“There’s a lot of pent up demand from parents and grandparents to find the initial toy to give as a gift,” Oeschger said.
That pent up demand is showing up in initial sales figures at local retailer Learning Express.
“We’ve been selling them like crazy,” store supervisor Shelby Sommer said.
“Just in the first day we stocked them we sold at least 70, that’s huge for us. And that’s with no major marketing campaign or anything. Right now we have them out in front of the register so customers will see them.”
Hasbro did not have any active manufacturing of the Spirograph, so Kahootz had to re-engineer the pieces and complete the tooling process for manufacturing. The only major change to the product is a new SpiroPutty to hold the gears to the paper.
“The earliest version had metal pushpins to hold the plastic pieces down. Then started using plastic brackets but those would still poke through the paper,” Oeschger said.
“In the 90s they tried to solve the problem by creating a bulky ‘desk’ of plastic, but that meant you could deliver fewer gears. The number of gears and options was the magic of the toy, so that’s why we developed the putty.”
Kahootz ordered an initial run of 12,000 Spirograph sets that currently are being shipped around the country. Oeschger said more sets have been ordered and they would be delivered soon to the company’s warehouse in the Airport Boulevard office park.
The company has plans for the toy beyond the recreation of the original product.
“We think that the Spirograph iconography, the designs the toy makes, is something we can really branch out,” Oeschger said.
“Play patterns, room decorations, painting, anything that your end result has that iconography we feel we can brand as ‘Spirograph’ and create an umbrella arts and crafts product like that can house numerous creative play patterns.”
If you’re still looking for a last minute holiday present, or just a little bit of nostalgia for yourself, you can find the Spirograph at Learning Express in the Westgate Shopping Center.
Ben Freed covers business for AnnArbor.com. You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2