Press Release

2 ¾ Inches – 40 Years – 2.7 Billion

PLAYMOBIL Figures Celebrate 40th Birthday

ZIRNDORF, GERMANY – January 29, 2014 – When they made their first appearance at the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg on February 2, 1974, industry buyers were less than encouraging with their predictions for the future. A Dutch toy wholesaler, Hermann Simon, was the only one to see the potential of the 2 ¾ inch figures – he placed a major order worth 1 million German Marks. Now, 40 years later, 2.7 billion of the smiling figures have found their way into children’s rooms around the world, and PLAYMOBIL long ago achieved icon status.

An Unexpected Success Story

Back in the early 1970s, when company head Horst Brandstätter requested his chief developer Hans Beck to develop a new toy system, even he did not suspect the impact the new figures would have on children. Horst Brandstätter describes the magic of PLAYMOBIL: “I am often asked what is so special about PLAYMOBIL. And when I think about it, I realize that what Hans Beck created within the figures all those years ago is what makes them so special. What the child can do with them. It’s not a matter of what can be seen in the product, but rather of what happens in the child’s head.” Knights, Native Americans and Construction Workers – these were the first three characters and themes introduced 40 years ago. Today, the PLAYMOBIL universe encompasses more than 30 different play worlds. In the anniversary year 2014, PLAYMOBIL is introducing a record number of 147 new products. The assortment includes entirely new themes such as Amusement Park and Preschool, along with renewed versions of well-known classics such as the Fire Brigade and Knights. Although PLAYMOBIL – due to its original play themes – mainly appealed to boys in the early years, the gender ratio is now 55 percent boys and 45 percent girls as a result of its wide variety of themes. This makes PLAYMOBIL one of the few brands in the toy industry which successfully markets ideas which are of interest to both genders.

Fun “Made in Europe”

PLAYMOBIL is manufactured by family business geobra Brandstätter GmbH & Co. KG based in Zirndorf, Germany, which employs more than 4,000 people around the world. Current sales figures show that the appeal of PLAYMOBIL continues unabated.

Worldwide sales to retailers reached € 552 million in 2013, a new record in the company’s history. The Brandstätter Group’s total sales crossed the 600 million threshold for the first time, increasing to € 612 million.

While 70 percent of toys are manufactured in Asia, Brandstätter is holding fast on its own path with production facilities in Germany and Europe. Horst Brandstätter explains his loyalty to European production as follows: “By having our production facilities in Germany (Dietenhofen, Selb), Malta, the Czech Republic and Spain, we remain in close proximity to our main sales outlets in Europe, allowing us to respond flexibly and at short notice. Also my team ensures that our quality is under continuous control.”

In order to remain competitive, PLAYMOBIL’s owner invested € 100 million in 2013, and plans to spend a further € 95 million in 2014. A large proportion of this is being channeled into the new PLAYMOBIL logistics center at the Herrieden site. This is planned to go into operation at the middle of the year and will handle the packaging and worldwide consignment of more than 60 million blue packages per year. Certification of the Dietenhofen, Selb and Zirndorf sites in accordance with DIN EN ISO 14001:2009 and DIN EN ISO 50001 for Environmental and Energy Management shows the company’s commitment to handle resources responsibly and minimize their impact on the environment.

Since 1976, all PLAYMOBIL figures have been manufactured in Malta. A basic figure is made up of seven components, which used to be assembled by hand, prompting a move to have the figures produced in Malta with its lower labor costs. Today fully-automatic machines handle most of the assembly. About 100 million figures are produced each year by the more than 1,000 employees at the Hal Far factory in Malta.

40 Years of Creative Role Play

PLAYMOBIL is all about role play, which addresses a basic need among children. They process their everyday experiences, wishes, joys and fears in new, constantly-changing stories. Imagination is the driving force behind numerous adventures – the children “write” their own scripts.

Seven-year-old Tim expresses his passion for PLAYMOBIL in a few words: “It’s such fun to live your own life with the figures. Yes, it’s such fun.”

Along with the fact that the PLAYMOBIL figures are ideal for this type of play, and that at least a second generation is now playing along, CEO Andrea Schauer observes the following reasons for PLAYMOBIL’s success: “On the one hand I believe the unique, distinctive design of the PLAYMOBIL figures and products is important. Quality and safety are also vital considerations for our young target group. Above all, however, playing with PLAYMOBIL should simply be fun. Our in-house development team of 80 employees keeps on creating play sets with optimal play value. This guarantees continuing fun for both boys and girls.”

40 Years of PLAYMOBIL - Facts & Figures:

  • A PLAYMOBIL figure is 2 ¾ inches high and is made up of seven basic components.
  • Since 1974, 2.7 billion PLAYMOBIL figures have found their way into children’s rooms worldwide; if all the figures hold hands, they would circle the globe 3.4 times.
  • Since 1976, the figures have been produced at the PLAYMOBIL plant in Malta; roughly 100 million each year.
  • 3.2 new PLAYMOBIL figures come into the world every second; in contrast, the world’s human population is growing by only 2.6 people per second.
  • In the first few years after their market launch, all PLAYMOBIL figures had the same well-known jagged hairstyle. Today there are 374 different figures, 839 faces and 68 beards. This results in over 21 million potential combinations. Since their 1974 introduction, 3,995 individual PLAYMOBIL figures have been created.
  • There are approximately 25,000 components in PLAYMOBIL’s current range.
  • The patent for the blueprint of Hans Beck’s figure was applied for and approved in 1972 under number DE 2205525; the patent lapsed on February 5,1990. Of much greater significance, however, is that the PLAYMOBIL figure enjoys intellectual property rights protection. It has, therefore, been acknowledged by the appropriate German courts as a work of art that is particularly original. This copyright applies for 70 years following the death of the creator. Hans Beck died in 2009.
  • On May 27, 2012, the basic PLAYMOBIL figure was entered as a 3D brand in the trademark register under Number 010 065 258. This is a Community Trade Mark, which is valid throughout the current member states of the EU. For a product to be acknowledged as a brand suggests widespread awareness and a unique position.
  • The largest PLAYMOBIL production facility in Dietenhofen, Germany, with 1,527 employees (mid-2013) produces on average 10 million injection-molded parts each day, prints on 250,000 individual components and makes up 65,000 blue packages.
  • All the PLAYMOBIL production facilities together consume about 25,000 metric tons of plastic granulate per year.
  • There are 198 different color shades in PLAYMOBIL’s range. In terms of the various types of plastic, this results in 2,835 different formulations.

Dates and Attractions Relating to PLAYMOBIL’s 40th Anniversary:

  • Anniversary exhibition at the Historical Museum of the Palatinate [Historisches Museum der Pfalz], “40 Years of PLAYMOBIL – An adventurous journey through time”; December 1, 2013 to June 22, 2014
  • Exhibition at the Nuremberg Toy Museum [Spielzeugmuseum], “The World at Play – 40 Years of PLAYMOBIL”; April 10 to October 19, 2014
  • Birthday party at the PLAYMOBIL FunPark in Zirndorf on Sunday, July 13, 2014, 9am to 7pm
  • Anniversary promotion "Share the Smile" – September 13, 2014 – simultaneously in selected cities around the world – further information and a press invitation to follow
  • Participation in the road-show “Familiengarten 2014 – Mehr Zeit für Familie” [Family Garden 2014 – More Time for the Family] on tour 30 days through Germany, e.g. in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Bremen, Nuremburg.
  • Four 40th Anniversary Compact Sets with Bonus Gift at a special promotional price
  • An RC Police Car with Camera, another anniversary item, at a special promotional price
  • Anniversary microsite with plenty of information, pictures and stories about the anniversary: