Published July 18, 2006
Volume 14, Number 7

It's Christmas in July at ELH Enterprises

Rich Esposito, chairman and CEO of ELH, shows off some of the
company’s current line of plush products.

By Scott Eldredge
Special to NETWORK

Christmas comes early at ELH Enterprises, because it always comes early. In fact, it's not even Christmas 2006-2007 that ELH is concerned with; it's Christmas 2007. There's barely 475 shopping days left.

ELH Enterprises is a gift, collectible, and licensing company located at 5880 W. Las Positas Boulevard. ELH specializes in premium licensed products for recognized names such as General Motors, John Wayne, and the United States Postal Service. It is the gift and specialty plush toys licensee for Spot, a popular children’s book series written by Eric Hill.

While small in size, the six-person company is global in scope and directly involved with all aspects of its product lines, from design and manufacturing to marketing and distribution. Product lines include stationery, tote bags and stuffed animals and characters—a gift category referred to as "plush."

Work on a new item begins 12 to 18 months before the product goes to market, which is now for the 2007 holiday season.

"We're deciding what we want to introduce to the marketplace for Christmas 2007," explains Rich Esposito, chairman and CEO of ELH. "We begin that process conceptually, then we move it to storyboards, and then to actual sampling. That whole process takes roughly six months. Our goal is to have product to show to the marketplace, believe it or not, in February, which is when a lot of retailers begin to make their decisions for Christmas 2007."

All the design work is handled in-house by Esposito and his creative staff, who take cues from fashion trends and the juvenile market. Samples are produced in China, which also handles production when it’s time to head to market. Orders are taken at the Hacienda office, sent to manufacturing in China, and product is shipped from there to ELH's warehouse in Livermore, from where it is distributed to clients and retailers across the U.S.

Esposito has 25 years experience in the industry and has been doing business in China since 1986. He travels there three to four times a year to review new samples, current production, pricing, and quality, which he's seen progress in 20 years from the level of "throw away" products to the level he needs to get licensing agreements with companies like Chevrolet.

"We are not competing with what I would call a commodity-type plush product," says Esposito. "The quality of our products is one of the things that has helped us get some of our contracts and opportunities."

For Chevrolet, ELH is producing a line of products that includes eight plush characters wearing Chevy-branded apparel. ELH also produces its own philanthropic line of teddy bears called Cure Bears for Kids. The company donates 30% of its proceeds for Cure Bears to a number of organizations that fight childhood diseases.

So, what can you expect from ELH for Christmas 2007? Look for plush mixed with other media such as wood, and in colors other than the traditional red and green. And don't expect this gift category to go away.

"It's still a classic property," says Esposito. "I just got back from New York. I was walking through the airport, and it was interesting to me how many young children were carrying a teddy bear or had a stuffed animal attached to their stroller. That warm soft cuddly feeling—people are still enamored with it."


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