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Toy 'n Joy Names Jonathan Becker Prexy; Revamps Organizational, Marketing Effort

Posted On: 8/18/2006

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APPLETON, WI -- Jonathan Becker has been promoted to president of Toy 'n Joy, a division of L.M. Becker Co. Inc. and a leading supplier of bulk vending products. The move, which comes during the parent company's 65th anniversary, signals a major effort to reorganize the firm. Becker replaces Marlene Campbell as division president, and Laura Van Groll has been promoted to vice-president of operations from the position of controller.

According to Becker, the restructuring is part of the company's revitalization effort which will include new and innovative products, increased marketing and greater flexibility on the part of their sales staff.  The goal, he explained, is to make the firm more aggressive in seeking out new product categories and more responsive to customer needs.

"Like many suppliers in the industry, we were hit hard by the lead crisis two years ago, but since then we have taken active steps to ensure that all of our products not only comply with the CPSC guidelines but also meet our own voluntary company standards that surpass those government guidelines," said Becker. "And while we have been maintaining our business well since the recall, we haven't really expanded our horizons. Now I feel that we have the opportunity to really focus on new innovative products that have not been seen in the industry before."

This is neither the first major reorganization the firm has undergone nor the first time it has undertaken an effort to break new ground in bulk vending. The company pioneered the concept of premium merchandise after a major structural change several years ago that included the dissolution of its exclusive distributor operator network. Those changes, instituted by Jonathan's brother, Peter Becker -- who has since gone on to found What's Up LLC -- proved a decisive strategy for both Toy 'n Joy and the industry. The introduction of premium merchandise with highly perceived value helped establish Toy 'n Joy as a bulk vending leader by easing operator transitions to a higher price point.

Becker now hopes to maintain Toy 'n Joy's leadership position in premium products as the industry once again moves to higher price points of 75¢ and $1 for 2-in. encapsulated merchandise and 50¢ for 1-in. capsules.

Becker, who has been with the firm founded by his father, Lyle Becker, for more than a decade, started off as a field service representative when the company sold exclusively to its network of bulk vending distributors and operators. Since then, he has served in a host of field and management positions, including production and inventory manager, purchasing manager and in-house IT expert. Additionally, he has operated routes for the firm when its distributor network was still active.

"We want to maintain a balance of premium products along with lower cost items with high perceived value for those operators that need the increased profit margin," said Becker.  "But our products will always remain up to the highest standards. We will continue to work in the 75¢ and $1 2-in. market aggressively and will renew our efforts in the 50¢ 1-in. market, working directly with operators to create new product concepts. Operators can look forward to an aggressive expansion in both of these product categories."

According to Becker, Toy 'n Joy's strategy is a response to the bulk vending industry's need for higher price points. "I think it is necessary that our industry move to this next price point. With increased gas prices, increased commission rates and general cost of living, it is going to be inevitable," he explained. "But we need to create a clear separation in quality as well as price with new items, just as we did when we moved from 25¢ to 50¢.  That is our goal -- to find or create items that maintain that high perceived value and adequate profit margins."

Market conditions, Becker also pointed out, compare favorably to when the company broke new ground with premium products several years ago. At that time, operators, still wary of the higher price points, were tentatively testing 50¢ merchandise in their machines just as they are today with 75¢ vends. The crucial difference is that the firm had only recently opened its doors to the bulk vending industry beyond its distributor and operator network. Today, Toy 'n Joy is concededly well known for its premium product mixes.

"The company has a tradition of providing new and innovative products to the bulk vending industry," he said. "Our staff is solid and together we will move the focus of the company forward. We have been too silent, and it is time our company is known and heard again."