For CEO and founder of the Dublin-based company, Damien Murtagh, getting the kit on the Toy Show and securing a place in the finals of the 2017 US Toy of the Year Awards, were the two major highlights of the year.
Set up in 2014, the company has already built up sales in the US, supplying 450 Barnes & Noble bookstores and Amazon.com, as well as several large online toy retailers.
So far, it hasn’t sold to any chain stores in Ireland but Mr Murtagh believes that after Arckit’s Late Late Toy Show appearance, this may well change.
Christmas came early for the company, when it was listed in November as one of six finalists for the Construction Toy of the Year Award, in an event organised by the US Toy Industry Association.
Described as the Oscars of the toy world, this is a global competition being judged in February, which will see Arckit’s newest kit go up against new products from both Lego and Meccano.
Arckit’s products, which consist of recyclable plastic building pieces which ‘click together’, have frequently been compared to an adult version of Lego. They have also been said to resemble a physical version of Minecraft — a virtual reality building game which has become a global craze.
Mr Murtagh says that Arckit is unique in being the first precision architectural model making kit on the market which allows users to build anything they like. “It’s a new tool for exploring design ideas.”
While working as an architect six years ago, the idea came to him that this type of reusable model making system would be hugely useful to architects since it would mean they could make models without labour-intensive measuring, cutting and gluing.
In 2013, he took his idea and a prototype to the Grand Designs Live Show in London.“I discovered that children loved it and realised that it had the qualities of a toy as well as being a professional tool and could open up model making to everyone,” he said.
With some private finance and feasibility funding from Enterprise Ireland, he set up Arckit, developed three kits and arranged to get them manufactured by Automated Plastics in Wicklow. Returning to Grand Designs Live in 2014, he sold everything he brought with him and came away with an innovation award.
A small company on a shoestring budget, Arckit was catapulted on to a new level in 2015 when US book chain Barnes and Noble put in an order for kits for 450 stores.
“They requested assembled models for each store so we hired model makers who put together 500 models in just seven weeks.”
The company finished off a very successful 2015 by winning a Red Dot design award and getting an order from Harrods in time for Christmas.
“This year we signed with Mindware, Uncommon Goods, Rapidonline and Marbles The Brain Store which are all major online retailers in the US, and began selling to multiple speciality design stores and to Brown Thomas in Dublin,” said Mr Murtagh, who estimates that sales grew by over 20% in the year.
New developments included a virtual version of Arckit, and education programmes for schools.
Another highly significant event for the company was the launch of its 12th kit — the first multi-coloured one.
Retailing at €59.99, the award-nominated kit which was seen on The Late Late Toy Show, is the company’s bestseller this Christmas. In 2017, Arckit will start shipping out to both Australia and New Zealand where it has signed a new distribution agreement.
Currently employing five full-time staff, including two in a London office, as well as four employees under contract, the company plans to actively target the retail and education sectors in 2017.
Mr Murtagh is hugely excited about the potential to develop Arckit for both educational and recreational use and to grow sales globally. Given the uniqueness of the product, he is optimistic Arckit can gain international brand recognition.