Toy sensation makes play for UK: The firm behind a craze challenging Lego wants to open pounds 9m factory

K'NEX, a new construction toy that has swept America's children off their feet and has just been launched in the UK, will soon be manufactured in the British Isles.

Joel Glickman, who invented the system and runs the Connector Set Toy Company of Hatfield, Pennsylvania, has been visiting sites in the UK and Ireland, and will decide by the end of the year where the dollars 15m (pounds 9m) factory will be built.

K'nex, an ingenious cross between Lego and Meccano, involves fitting together plastic pieces to form cars, houses, animals - anything that sparks the user's imagination. The toy, launched two years ago, has already recorded sales of dollars 75m (pounds 47m) and is on track to double that next year. At that rate it could soon be challenging the international dominance of Lego, based in Denmark.

Peter Brown, president of K'nex International, says European sales should reach dollars 300m within four years, and the factory will employ 200 people. It will also take on a number of professional constructors, whose job will be to design and build new models.

Three possible sites have been identified for the plant: Waterford in Ireland, the south Welsh valleys, and Thanet in Kent. If Thanet is chosen, K'nex will be one of the first low-tech foreign investors in south-east England in recent years. Thanet has recently been given development area status, which entitles it to the same grants as blighted areas further north. That location would also be a feather in the cap of the troubled Eurotunnel, as one of Kent's attractions for K'nex is its proximity to cross- Channel transport for sales on the Continent.

Mr Brown says he expects supply constraints to limit UK sales to pounds 2m this year, but they should reach pounds 10m in 1995. K'nex will be launched on the Continent next year, and the new factory should supply European demand from 1996.

K'nex has been a sales phenomenon in the US. In 1988 Mr Glickman, who had built up one of the country's biggest plastic moulding injection businesses but says he was bored, started experimenting by joining straws together during a wedding reception. After perfecting the system, he invested dollars 15m in the factory and launched K'nex in two cities in time for Christmas 1992. He sold dollars 1.5m worth in six weeks. The next year, with K'nex available in Toys 'R Us nationally, sales were dollars 23m. This year, he says, they will top dollars 50m.

Toy companies, which shunned Mr Glickman when he first offered them the system, have been queuing up to join him. K'nex International, responsible for overseas sales, is a joint venture with Hasbro, a US giant.

K'nex was launched here at London's Science Museum in summer, and the museum was so impressed by its educational possibilities that it made a large area available. A museum shop sold pounds 4,000 worth of K'nex in the first day and a half.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, poses at the premiere of
people
News
people
News
The frequency with which we lie and our ability to get away with it both increase to young adulthood then decline with age, possibly because of changes that occur in the brain
scienceRoger Dobson knows the true story, from Pinocchio to Pollard
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Life and Style
health
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Administrator

£13000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about custom...

Recruitment Genius: Dialler Administrator

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Main purpose: Under the directi...

Ashdown Group: Contracts Manager - City of London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Contracts Manager - City...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen