Exhibition became a great successful business starting point for Mart

Exhibition became a great successful business starting point for MartMART is a regular participant in the Mir Detstva exhibition. Once, back in 1994, they were the first to participate in the exhibition. Since then Mart has not only strengthened their position, but also continues to surprise and delight partners with a creative approach to the product range and its promotion. Marina Ushakova, Mart General Director, shares her memories of how it all began on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the exhibition.

Marina, what brands did your company present at the first Mir Detstva exhibition? What difficulties did you face at that time?

We presented Lego at the exhibition in 1994. It was exactly one year before this event, in November 1993, when we received our first delivery - four pallets of toys. This, in fact, was the beginning of our cooperation with Lego. Today it is easier to remember what difficulties we faced at that time. Everything was for the first time and everything was difficult and incomprehensible. We were only starting to understand new concepts like customs, TIR-Carnet, truckload, conversion, declaration, transfer, freight, etc.

At that time, Lego did not consider our market promising taking into account our income per capita. However, I was lucky to hear somewhere that in Russia at that time there were still about 7% of the population whose standard of living was reaching the level of well-being of the European middle class. I made a simple calculation and received about 10 million people, which was almost twice the size of the entire population of Denmark, including the elderly and children. This mathematical argument worked, and Lego decided to participate in the exhibition. They brought their own bright yellow stand with an area of just over 12 metres. Three employees of the company attended the exhibition, and they became our main contacts for many consequent years; they became our assistants and friends: Peter Panait, Regional Manager, Lars Christiansen, his assistant, and Annette Jensen, Customer Manager. Two Russian interpreters also worked at the stand. And we, Mart, were there too!

Now it is easy to make a mistake in details, but as well as I remember, the exhibition was held in the Forum Pavilion. The hall was half-empty, but there was a festive atmosphere. Music was playing, and the stage for guest performances was decorated with balloons. Tatyana Zinovyeva, the first director, opened the exhibition. There were many invited children, and the event was more like a children's party.

Exhibition became a great successful business starting point for Mart
Exhibition became a great successful business starting point for Mart

A crowd of children constantly surrounded Legos stand. We held numerous competitions with prizes and we gave out breloques of Lego-men and company packages to all the visitors. From time to time, we heard the voice from the main stage, Lego stand! Please stop distributing souvenirs; you hamper the event! However, we could not do anything about it; people were coming over and over again. For us, the exhibition was an incredible success!

You have created a successful business, which during these 25 years kept its own face and occupied its proper niche. What factors predetermined the success? What did you rely on? What was guiding you when you created the strategy of your business?

Working with Lego defined the scope and level of business of Mart. This brand has become our business school. I can say with confidence that Lego is one of the most professional companies in the field of branding. Eight years of close cooperation have taught us a lot, and that later brought Mart to develop itself as a distributor of products of the leading world manufacturers and to bring to the Russian market such brands as Playmobil, Zapf Creation, Wader, Getz, Klein, RoboFish, Fingerlings, Hansa, and Antonio Juan.

The company's strategy is to search for toys that embody new technical and design solutions. A toy should be not only a funny entertainment, but also something to add to the process of cognitive and emotional study of the world.

What role in your life did the exhibition play?

Since 1994 Mart has been a regular participant in the exhibition, which once became a great start for us. I believe that Mir Detstva is the main event for business related to the children's goods industry. It consistently attracts the largest number of both Russian and foreign colleagues, which makes it a relevant event for all.