Mottik seeks risk-takers in battle for children

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The Independent Online
LEGO, one of the world's best loved toys, may soon face a serious challenge to its dominance of the market for children's building bricks. Mottik - the company and brand name - today starts looking for risk-takers to play the Scandinavians at their own game.

There are about 22 rival products pitching for Lego's shelf space, but many lack the quality and innovations in design to pose a serious threat. Mottik is different. And Lego's spies will undoubtedly be out in force at the Earl's Court Toy Fair next month, keeping a wary eye on the innovators from Petersfield, Hampshire.

The first stage of Mottik's pitch against Lego is being built around a pounds 600,000 offer for subscription of 2 million shares at 30p each. The risk factor is high. A whole page in the prospectus has been dedicated to the potential pitfalls.

Risk, though, can be rewarding. Mottik is likely either to fail in spectacular fashion or to become a household name. There is no guarantee that interest in the product will evolve into orders, but equally there is no way of gauging the demands of children.

Parents this Christmas are having to dig deep to satisfy demand for Sega Mega Drive and Nintendo computer games. Thunderbirds models are also in vogue, as are Lego and Duplo, the company's junior spin-off.

The message is clear. There is always a craze at Christmas - remember Cabbage Patch Dolls? But there is always demand for traditional toys like Lego, Brio and Hornby train sets, not forgetting the old favourite, Meccano.

Mottik's success will hinge largely on the whims of retailers. No shelf space, no sales. Marketing the product with companies like the chain of Early Learning Centres, Woolworth and Argos is of paramount importance.

There is a clear educational appeal associated with Mottik, and it would be surprising if Early Learning did not pilot the product in selected stores. Mottik also has price appeal. The basic starting set of 24 bricks - eight cubes and 16 triangles - will retail for an eye- catching pounds 4.99.

The basic kit alone has so far been assembled into 1,200 different shapes. Triangles open up a realm of mathematical design elusive to Lego's rectangular and square bricks - curves.

Mottik's designers have also taken account of the importance of using different colours as part of the educational appeal. The product is also tantrum proof.

It is not a frustrating toy, though. Dads will not find themselves storming into a rage because they cannot understand mind-boggling instruction sheets. Mottik does not need batteries, and there is no need to obtain a repossession order on Boxing Day for the television set showing the umpteenth re-run of the Mighty Spleen versus Bustergut.

Another advantage over Lego is the novel assembly feature. Instead of relying on overlapping bonding to link adjacent pieces, Mottik has delved into the world of carpentry and adapted dovetail jointing.

That simple design feature makes the need for base sections redundant. It is possible to join pieces of Mottik together in a line, which is impossible with Lego without a base. Perhaps Lego will have to start thinking about incorporating a male and female jointing system for the sides of its bricks.

Because Mottik has no trading record, the shares will be traded on a matched bargain basis on the Stock Exchange's 535 list. The issue is being sponsored by Griffiths and Lamb, the Birmingham-based brokers.

The company will pull the issue if it does not sell 2 million shares, and turn to more traditional sources of funds.

Despite the high risk, and the inevitable losses in the first few years, investors can indulge for a small outlay. There is no minimum investment.

If the product is successful, and its chances look favourable, watch out for the natty headlines in tabloid papers, running along the lines of Dymottik.