Daniel Benkwitt, Director of PR and Corporate Communications at The Pokémon Co. International discusses big wins, retail support, and the future of the brand in this extended edition of The Toy Book’s 2023 State of the Industry Q&A roundtable. Want more insight from the all-stars of the toy industry? Click here to explore this year’s lineup!
The Toy Book: From a storytelling angle, Pokémon is at a turning point. How will this impact be felt in the toy department moving forward?
Daniel Benkwitt: The past year has been an exciting time for Pokémon in the toy industry. It has been the No. 1-selling brand for all of 2022 in the U.S. led by The Pokémon Co. International’s (TPCi) Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG) and innovative licensed products from our fantastic partners, including master toy licensee, Jazwares, Mattel’s MEGA construction brand, and more.
After 25 seasons of epic battles, adventure, and friendship, the time has come for Ash Ketchum to achieve his dream of becoming a Pokémon World Champion, and for us to explore what the next great chapter in Pokémon animation will look like. Kids and fans can enter and experience the brand in many ways, from video games and mobile apps to the Pokémon TCG and more. All of these, plus a regular slate of new scripted content and the new series, will continue to translate into success for the brand in toys.
TB: Last year, The Pokémon Co. acquired Millennium Print Group. How is that beneficial to the industry?
DB: Millennium Print Group (MPG) has been a longtime partner of TPCi, manufacturing the Pokémon TCG for many years and delivering the highest quality product our fans expect. With the popularity of the TCG exploding in recent years, this strategic acquisition and investment enhances our ability to meet the growing fan demand and better support official retail partners by producing more of the newest expansions, thereby getting them directly into the hands of fans without sacrificing quality. By acquiring MPG and making it an official but still autonomous subsidiary of TPCi, both companies are now better positioned to further develop MPG’s capabilities, infrastructure, and scale to become a premier printer of trading cards, not just for Pokémon, but for the broader industry as well.
TB: Access to hot products at a fair price has been a hot-button issue for independent retailers. How is The Pokémon Co. supporting those stores?
DB: TPCi has long-standing relationships with independent hobby shops, who support not only the Pokémon TCG, but also local communities. To support them, we create special programs and products catered to excite and engage their players regardless of where they are at in their TCG journey. This includes exclusive items like prize packs, which can only be found at retailers that host Play! Pokémon events.
TB: How does Toy Fair moving from February to September impact your business, and what’s your take on the trade show shift?
DB: Toy Fair has been and will continue to be a valuable part of our sales and marketing cycles. The shift in timing will offer us new opportunities to celebrate current and upcoming product offerings across our business with a variety of stakeholders in one place at the start of the important Q4 time at retail.
TB: What are some of the big initiatives that The Pokémon Co. has planned for 2023?
DB: The Pokémon Co. International looks forward to delivering an exciting slate of new experiences across the franchise to kids and fans of all ages. While it is still too early to reveal everything that is planned, the brand is continuously expanding and iterating while staying true to the core of Pokémon. This blend of brand integrity and forward-thinking innovation is what keeps Pokémon top of mind more than 25 years after its initial launch.