Catching Up With...

Catching Up With Ramona Pariente, CEO of Safari, Ltd.

Safari, Ltd., has spent the past 30 years servicing the specialty market and, despite global economic challenges, is faring well both in the U.S. and with international customers. Ramona Pariente, recently promoted to CEO, explains the company’s growth plans.

Nancy Lombardi: You were recently promoted at Safari Ltd. Explain some of the changes happening at Safari. How is the specialty market been faring over the past 18–24 months both for the U.S. and internationally?

Ramona Pariente: I was promoted to CEO and Alexandre Pariente to president. 2011 has been a good year for us with a steady increase in sales, especially in the specialty market. The specialty market, for us, is doing well across the U.S. I believe if you offer a unique, value-packed toy with an educational undertone, your store will fare well especially if you include great customer service. We have customers in areas that have high unemployment and still make their numbers and pay their bills. Again, the bottom line is the way you run your business—that’s what counts. Worldwide, although we don’t sell to every country, we do have some countries that are up in sales and enjoying our unique collections. One of our many strengths is that we offer a wide range of pricing to satisfy almost any market demand.

N.L.: How is 2012 looking? What is the reaction from retailers?

R.P.: It is too early to tell how 2012 will fare. However, we have created stunning new introductions for 2012, which always gets our retailers enthused. Inflation in China is a reality to deal with going into the next year and my vendors have been closely working with us to keep pricing down.

N.L.: I see Safari Ltd. is active in social media. How has social media strengthened your relationship with your retailers as well as with consumers? What have you been surprised to learn from consumers and retailers?

R.P.: Social networking has been an effective way to brand our company worldwide. Yes, it creates a dialog between us and our retailers, educators, collectors, and children alike. It is a great way to inform them of what is happening at Safari Ltd. Their reactions are often magical and insightful for us. We love interacting with everyone and learning from them as well.

N.L.: What are some of the key trade shows for Safari Ltd. Toy Fair? ASTRA? Some others?

R.P.: We work nearly 50 trade shows a year including Hong Kong Toy Fair and Spielwarenmesse Toy Fair in Nurnberg, Germany. Of course, the American International Toy Fair in New York City is the biggest fair in the U.S., However, there are many other fairs where we do very well at such as NSSEA, The Gathering, IGES, ASTRA, Learning Express, ABC Kids Expo as well as a variety of gift and hobby shows.

N.L.: What items are you most excited in your line for holiday 2011? What about for 2012?

R.P.: We are thrilled with our Toobs, which make great stocking stuffers, Good Luck Minis, especially the Fun Pack, all our dinosaurs and also our dragons. For 2012, we have extended our winning collections as always. Overall, we are always excited to continue to work with specialty retailers. After more than 30 years of selling quality, educational toys to the specialty market, we can proudly say that we remained loyal to this “special” market without any regrets. The retailers and their customers have, in turn, have remained loyal to us.