Parents using booster seats, strollers and travel gear for their children will have some bright new options from industry leader Diono through 2020. Best of all, you’ll be purchasing local.
That’s because Diono, a Puyallup-based company, just partnered with international toy and child accessories titan Little Tikes in a seven-year international license agreement to create more than 50 new products. Already, Diono offers 100-plus items in 54 countries, and has offices in seven different countries, so the Little Tikes partnership is icing on the cake for a very successful yet under-the-radar local business.
“We’ve been pursuing this for some time – actually, quite some time,” said Diono president Brad Keller. “Now, this deal allows us to sell through international retailers we previously hadn’t been able to reach, and also to start product launches twice a year to coordinate with the (timing of the) reviews.”
Keller, who is thrilled to be partnering with “an iconic and trusted toymaker like Little Tikes,” anticipates that the deal will accelerate what is already a steady upward curve for his company.
Already, Diono’s Radian and Monterey car seats have been noted by experts as some of the industry’s safest, and have won multiple awards for design and comfort.
The new Diono/Little Tikes line will begin to appear in larger U.S. chains, like Walmart and Babies R Us, in January, and have the same innovation and safety measures as Diono has always been committed to providing, Keller said. As for smaller, local children’s shops carrying Diono products, Keller said that owners might not know about the deal with Little Tikes yet. However, of the dozens that either carry or special-order items from the company, many are indeed not only aware of it, but jazzed as well.
“I’m very excited for Diono, as a local company,” said Heather Larson, owner of Best Loved Baby in Tacoma, where a Diono car seat is currently central to their display room. “That’s big. And as a business that places a high priority on green practices and child safety, we have enjoyed carrying their products.”
The other half of the partnership, Little Tikes, is also excited at the opportunity, and the market expansion possibilities it involves. Little Tikes president and CEO Isaac Larian explained the deal is the ultimate marriage of fun and “play value” from his company with the “well-being and comfort” for which Diono is known.
“Anyone familiar with the car seat and travel accessory category knows the unrivaled commitment Diono has in developing quality products that provide families safety, comfort and convenience,” Larian said.
The deal between the two businesses is hardly Diono’s first international success. Founded in 1999, the company actually started due to a 20/20 news story on child automobile passenger safety. The report exposed the lack of child secureness in car seats because most were too difficult to install safely and buckle properly.
That led to the invention of the Diono Might-Tite , which debuted at the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association show the same year. The prototype took home the “Show Off” Product Innovation Award, along with a slew of pre-orders.
Three years later, the Mighty-Tite received Mother & Baby magazine’s “Most Innovative Product” award, and the company had earned enough business to open a wholesale operation in Staffordshire, England.
In doing so, Diono kicked off sales to a whole new niche of independent and chain retailers throughout the U.K. and Europe, including Tesco, the world’s third-largest children’s toy and safety product retailer.
Also in 2002, the company added to its line with the Super Mat, which protects upholstery from permanent indentations caused by child safety seats, and can be contoured to any vehicle.
“That product led to two, then three, then eight, and now offices all over the world,” Keller said.
Indeed, Diono now also has operations in Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong and Shanghai, although the world headquarters is still based in Puyallup.
Products that came with the upward trajectory of distribution include the Radian Car Seat, the first steel-reinforced folding car seat designed to make travel and storage convenient; and the Monterey booster seat, the first height- and width-adjustable child booster seat that accommodates children as they grow up to a maximum of 63 inches tall or 120 pounds.
More awards, of course, came with the innovations as well. In 2008, the Monterey booster seat won Mother & Baby’s Award for “Best Junior Car Seat,” and from 2008 through last year Diono has been on Inc. Magazine’s “500 Fastest Growing Private Companies list. Diono was also on Inc.’s 2012 list of “Top Consumer Products & Services,” as well as on the “Top Companies” list for the Seattle Metro Area. As for the future, Keller said that the sky is the limit.
“It’s transformational, because it opens up new markets for us,” he said. “Before, we were only in regional chains and locally owned stores. Now we’ll be in Target and Walmart, which is the world’s number-one retailer. Now, that’s the big prize.”