K'nex tries direct online sales to China

President Obama looks a rollercoaster with from left, K'Nex inventor Joel Glickman, robotics expert Joao Silver, and chief executive officer Michael Araten and during a visit to th K'Nex factory in Hatfield, Pa. on 11/30/12. ( Michael S. Wirtz / Staff Photographer )

K'nex Brands, the Hatfield plastic fit-the-pieces toy company started by Joel Glicksman 21 years ago, says it's attempting its first direct-to-consumer sales in China. K'nex has hired Export Now, of Akron, Ohio, to sell online via Chia's Tmall.com and Taobao.com. 

"We wanted to enter the Chinese markets" with "the right e-commerce partner," K'nex ceo Michael Araten said in a statement. He's planning to market K'nex's Angry Birds and Super Mario lines, among others, and to add new products in China each quarter. K'nex retail and education products have been sold in China stores "for many years, but this is the first effort by K'nex at direct ecommerce sale" in China, K'nex spokesman Kate Loffio told me.

Export Now is headed by Frank Lavin, Undersecretary of Commerce under President George H.W. Bush, 2005-07, and a former U.S. Ambassador to Singapore. The company also counts Totes and a number of small maunfacturers as U.S. export customers, said spokesman David Hertz.