Page 1

Table of Contents

December 2011 Volume 7, No. 1



on this page

22 Ghoulish Goods Ready for Halloween

4 Observations & Opinions

From the top left: CDI’s Pirates of the Caribbean Dress-Up Set; The Orb Factory; Zing’s Ickee Stikeez

by Jennifer Lynch

25 Halloween Product Presentation by Jennifer Lynch

26 Sports Toys: More than a Walk in the Park by Chris Adams

28 Sports Toys: Product Presentation by Chris Adams

30 Roleplay: Product Presentation by Laurie Leahey

32 Specialty Emporium Profile: The Orb Factory

by Jennifer Lynch

6 Sizzlers 8 Specialty Sizzlers 10 Entertainment Marketplace: Alvin and The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

From the bottom left: Step 2’s Kickback Soccer Goal and Pitch Back; Rubie’s Monster High Costumes; Coop’s Official Sand Soccer Ball; Fox’s Alvin and The Chipmunks property

12 Industry Forum: TIA 14 Industry Forum: ASTRA 16 Industry Forum: Design Edge 18 Merchandise Makers: Zing Toys 20 Tips from the Imagemakers: Kiddie-I-Oh 34 Calendar of Events

on the cover MGA Entertainment’s Little Tikes’ Adjust & Jam Basketball Set is shown on the left. Wham-O’s Snowboogie Snow Globe Air Tube is shown on the right.

ObservatiOns & OpiniOns


New Trade Show Launches at Dallas Market Center BY



must give kudos to the Toy Industry Association (TIA) for putting on another successful Fall Toy Preview this past October in Dallas. Exhibitors that we spoke to had only good things to say about the quality of their appointments. In fact, the one gripe from this year’s show was that manufacturers didn’t get enough face time with the retailers in attendance. The TIA will again host The Fall Toy Preview in Dallas from October 2–4, 2012. The Fall Toy Preview 2012 will run concurrently with a new trade show this year called The Preview for Baby & Juvenile, aptly named PB&J. This new trade show was created as a joint venture between the TIA and the Dallas Market Center. Much like the Fall Toy Preview, PB&J is a by-appointment-only trade show catering to long-lead mass market retailers. There will be an emphasis on the following categories: furniture, bedding, gifts, décor, baby care, accessories, strollers, high chairs, and nursing/feeding. Bringing both industries together in one venue should certainly prove to be mutually beneficial. Visit for more information. As of this writing, it is too early to report on holiday sales. Retailers were certainly giving shoppers extra incentives and extra hours to shop heading into the busy Thanksgiving weekend. What I find interesting about this year’s holiday frenzy is that all the economic experts predict spending for this holiday season to be up slightly from last year. That’s certainly a good thing. Retailers began offering shopping incentives earlier this year than in year’s past. Consumers have their set holiday budget and from all indications many shoppers will be done by Thanksgiving weekend. Yet, Christmas is always December 25. What does that mean for the month of December? How early will the season end this year and does this indicate an overall shift in holiday shopping moving forward? As they do every year, toy manufacturers have given consumers many great choices for new and innovative toys this year. We also look forward to seeing what’s on tap for 2012 as the trade show season begins again in January. All of us at aNb Media wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous holiday season. Happy New Year! Safe travels in 2012!




MEDIA • Volume 7, Number 1

PUBLISHER BOB GLASER BOB@ANBMEDIA.COM ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER ANDY KRINNER ANDY@ANBMEDIA.COM ADVERTISING MANAGER DONNA MOORE DONNA@ANBMEDIA.COM CONTROLLER MARY GROGAN MARY@ANBMEDIA.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF JIM SILVER JIM@ANBMEDIA.COM EDITORIAL DIRECTOR NANCY LOMBARDI NANCY@ANBMEDIA.COM EDITOR AT LARGE CHRISTOPHER BYRNE CHRISB@ANBMEDIA.COM CONTRIBUTING EDITOR CHRIS ADAMS CHRISA@ANBMEDIA.COM EDITOR LAURIE LEAHEY LAURIE@ANBMEDIA.COM ASSISTANT EDITOR JENNIFER LYNCH JENNIFER@ANBMEDIA.COM WEB MASTER ERIK KIECKHAFER ERIK@ANBMEDIA.COM WEB CONTENT MANAGER BRENDAN SANABRIA BRENDAN@ANBMEDIA.COM CONTRIBUTORS KATHLEEN MCHUGH; MATT NUCCIO, MATT@DESIGNEDGE.NET; TIA STAFF PUBLIC RELATIONS REPRESENTATIVE JOSSLYNNE WELCH LITZKY PUBLIC RELATIONS, 320 SINATRA DRIVE, HOBOKEN, N.J. 07030 (201) 222–9118 EXT. 13 • JWELCH@LITZKYPR.COM INTERESTED IN A SUBSCRIPTION? CONTACT SUBSCRIPTIONS@ANBMEDIA.COM ANB MEDIA, INC. 229 WEST 28TH STREET, SUITE 401, NEW YORK, N.Y. 10001 PHONE: (646) 763–8710 • FAX: (646) 763–8727 Toys & Family EnTErTainmEnT is published eight times per year by aNb Media. Copyright 2011 aNb Media. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. Printed in the U.S.A. Toys & Family EnTErTainmEnT and spEcialTy Emporium are registered trademarks of aNb Media. Opinions and comments expressed in this publication by editors, contributing writers, or solicited or unsolicited documents are not necessarily those of management.


Sizzlers: What’s Moving Off Store Shelves? What Are the Hottest Web Orders? Here is an alphabetical listing of the hottest-selling items in the toy industry, based on a combined survey of both offline and online retailers, reflecting the previous month’s sales. LeapPad Explorer Learning Tablet

Angry Birds Knock on Wood Game

Beyblade Metal Fusion

Star Wars LEGO

Air Hogs HyperActives r/c spin Master

lAzer stunt cHAser drAgon Fire thinkway

Angry Birds KnocK on Wood gAMe Mattel

leAppAd explorer leArning tABlet leapFrog

Angry Birds plusH WitH sound commonwealth

lego ninjAgo lego

BeyBlAde MetAl Fusion Hasbro

lego stAr WArs AssortMent lego

cArs 2: die-cAst AssortMent Mattel

tHe logo BoArd gAMe spin Master

crAyolA Model MAgic crayola

Mini lAlAloopsy treeHouse MgA entertainment

Fijit Friends Mattel

Monster HigH deAd tired doll AssortMent Mattel

Hot WHeels WAll trAcKs Mattel

perplexus plasmart

innotAB vtech

tonKA cHucK & Friends rAce Along cHucK Hasbro

lAlAloopsy silly HAir doll MgA entertainment

xiA xiA cepia


Specialty SizzlerS

Specialty Sizzlers: What’s Moving Off Store Shelves in the Specialty Market? TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT continues its monthly poll of individual specialty retailers. Rather than polling retailers nationwide, this month we asked KID STOP TOYS for its current top sellers. Listed below, in alphabetical order, are what consumers recently purchased in store at Kate Tanner’s Scottsdale, Ariz., location as well as online at WWW.KIDSTOPTOYS.COM.

Mogo Charm Bracelets



“This is a sleeper hit,” says Kate Tanner of Kid Stop Toys. “I just ran my numbers on this last week and, wow, I called my Manhattan Toy rep and increased my order.”





“Sold a couple hundred of these this year already,” she says.



“These have rocked all year long,” says Tanner. “Of course, being in Arizona helps our sales through the winter. The key to this item is you must demo it.”

Baby Stella (It is shown here with the accessory set, which is sold separately.)



“We had to re-order these after our trunk show,” she says.





“These are perfect birthday gifts for older active kids,” Tanner says.



“In-store demos are easy—just hang it from the ceiling and it sells,” she says. “In general, Sticky Mosaics are way up this year. I can’t believe how much I keep re-ordering.”



“We demoed this for our teacher’s night and everyone fell in love with it,” Tanner says. “Just put out a laptop and a Zoomy and it sells.”





n 1958, all Alvin and The Chipmunks wanted for Christmas was a plane and a hula hoop (and for Christmas to not be late). This holiday season, The Chipmunks just want to get off a deserted island. In the latest Chipmunk movie, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, The Chipmunks and Chipettes accidentally go overboard a cruise ship and end up marooned in a tropical paradise. They soon discover their new turf is not as deserted as it seems. Alvin and The Chipmunks have come a long way since their first introduction in 1958 by Ross Bagdasarian. From their

above: Alvin and The Chipmunks with The Chipettes on an island below: Jason Lee returns as Dave Seville in Chipwrecked.


first appearance as puppets on The Ed Sullivan Show to their new CG incarnations in film, The Chipmunks have been a part of pop culture for more than 50 years. With the new film being released December 16, Fox Consumer Products (FCP), in conjunction with Bagdasarian Productions, kicked off a long-term merchandising program. FCP will offer new character art and graphics with themes tied to key retail selling windows, such as back-to-school, holiday, and spring. The spring look will include a Chipwrecked island theme inspired by the new film. Key partnerships with Build-A-Bear and Majesco form the foundation of a merchandising program that interprets the brand at retail in a fresh way. Other licensing partners include Just Play for plush and Santa’s Best will introduce holiday seasonal goods. Ty will continue producing its own special lines in the toy category. A publishing program includes licensees HarperCollins and Bendon Publishing. Hallmark will produce greeting cards, ornaments, and gift wrap. Apparel and accessories partners include Isaac Morris Limited, H.E.R. Accessories, Berkshire Fashions, Accessory Innovations, JCorp, SGI, and SG Footwear. FCP will also further develop the role of The Chipettes by focusing on the cute, yet sweet and sassy attitude of Brittany, Jeanette, and Eleanor for a line of accessories, toys, and more. FCP’s 365-day brand plan will keep Alvin and The Chipmunks on store shelves year-round and rejuvenate the brand throughout the year.

NEED TO KNOW • Alvin and the Chipmunks has won six Grammy Awards and earned 18 Grammy nominations, five Emmy nominations, and 16 Gold and Platinum albums. •Bagdasarian Productions, owners of Alvin and The Chipmunks, The Chipettes, and other related characters, is helmed by Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. (whose father created The Chipmunks) and his wife Janice Karman. • In Chipwrecked, the voices of Alvin, Simon, and Theodore are performed by Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, and Jesse McCartney, respectively. • On, visitors can create their own chipmunk avatar and record a message for their chipmunk to say–in a chipmunk voice, of course.



Just Play will create basic, feature, and novelty plush lines for Alvin and the Chipmunks. Talkin’ Alvin says a variety of different phrases when you press its hand.

In the Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked video game, players dance to classic Chipmunks songs while playing in environments from the movie. Unleash your “Munk Power” to perform ultra-cool dance moves. The game is available for Kinect for Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, and Nintendo DS.

BUILD-A-BEAR WORKSHOP At Build-A-Bear Workshop stores, kids can make their own Alvin and Brittany or purchase pre-stuffed plush of the other main characters, including Jeanette, shown below.

HARPERCOLLINS HarperCollins signed on to produce beginning readers, novelizations, sticker books, and story books. Alvin and The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked: Too Cool for Rules is based on the new movie and is for ages 4–8.



Santa’s Best will introduce holiday seasonal goods for the new film, including Christmas ornaments and musical plush.

Bendon Publishing will publish a line of activity, board, and coloring books, along with flashcards and workbooks.


Industry Forum




egistration is ramping up for the Toy Industry Association’s (TIA) American International Toy Fair, as thousands from around the world are eager to get a first look at the 100,000-plus toys and games that will be on display at the February 12–15, 2012 show. As of press time, nearly 7,000 tradeshow guests from 78 countries have already registered, including 5,000 buyers from 3,000 unique retail outlets and 250 members of the media from global news organizations such as CNBC, USA Today, NBC, International Radio Moscow, and E!. Thousands more will flock to the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City in the hopes of being the first to see the hottest new toys, trends, and exciting talent from around the globe; network and do business with buyers, sellers, and other industry influencers; and participate in a series of “new and improved” educational and networking events that are unique to Toy Fair and only happen once a year. Here are some of the activities on the agenda for the week: • The Play Happens game is back by popular demand. . . and it’s better than ever. This year, the game will start well before Toy Fair. Players who read the Toy Fair Blog leading up to the show will earn points, which they can redeem for cool swag or opt to save up the points in order to increase their chances of winning the Grand Prize at the close of the show—a


New York City New Year’s Eve package. The Play Happens game allows players to “check-in” using their smartphones at locations throughout New York City, earning points on the virtual game board. Different locations will have different point values. Special events, such as the Toy of the Year Awards, will earn higher points. Read for details. • On the Saturday night before Toy Fair (February 11) from 6–10:30 P.M., the Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards will be presented at the iconic Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center. Awards will be bestowed in 11 product categories and the highly coveted overall Toy of the Year award will be announced. Two industry leaders that have made their mark in the world of toys will also be inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame. TOTY is administered by the TIA in support of the Toy Industry Foundation. For more information and to purchase tickets for the Oscars of the toy industry, visit • One of the top priorities of the Toy Fair public relations team is to make sure that TIA members and their products are noticed by the 1,000-plus journalists at the show. Kicking off the media blitz, the public relations team will host 15-minute members-only product preview sessions the Saturday before Toy Fair. Information gathered at these crucial meetings will be used to promote products and companies to media during the show. The sessions will be held outside the Press Center located in the Special Events Hall (lower level) of the

Javits Center; for more information, please contact the Toy Fair Product Preview Coordinator at (212) 725–4500 ext. 311. • Get an early start on Valentine’s Day on Tuesday, February 14 by joining TIA’s volunteer and staff leadership during the Association’s annual general meeting from 7:30–9 A.M. Open to both members and non-members and free to all registrants and exhibitors, this year-end wrap-up and look ahead will cover a variety of topics including a summary financial report, key activities and accomplishments since the last meeting, and the election of the new board members and officers. Coffee and bagels will be provided. • Later that morning, from 9:15–10:30 A.M., TIA will host its annual Toy Safety Compliance Update, providing an update on pending state and federal legislation impacting the toy industry and an overview of TIA’s efforts to prevent passage of any harmful legislation or regulation. The session is free for members and $149 for non-members. These are just a few of the activities that will enhance the business and play experience for everyone visiting the largest toy trade show in the Western Hemisphere. For information on how to register and for details on all of the show’s happenings and events, visit

Industry Forum

Social Media BuildS the Specialty toy induStry Brand BY


“Many stores are having special discounts, entertainment, and crafts for the kids, and many will even gift wrap your items before you leave, bless their hearts. Chances are you’ll leave with a few great toys. Chances are also strong that you will not get rammed by a metal shopping cart while you’re there.”


hat’s the word from Christina Refford, a mommy blogger writing about The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA) Neighborhood Toy Store Day on the website, which Parents magazine calls “the online arbiter of cool for the swing set crowd.” The site’s audience is 99 percent moms, 82 percent ages 18–39, and nearly 60 percent have a household income above $75,000—the specialty toy sweet spot. The site gets 350,000 page views per month. Refford’s message gets to the heart of the specialty toy difference. She is writing about an event (Neighborhood Toy Store Day), but she brings to life why her readers should check out a specialty toy store: great toys, great service, and a better shopping experience. She captures the essence of the specialty toy “brand” in three short, trustworthy, real-world sentences.

Building the Specialty toy “Brand” When it comes to consumers, ASTRA can be considered the manager of the specialty toy industry brand. Our objective? It’s all about building the recognition among


toy consumers that specialty toys are different than mass market products and specialty toy retailers offer an entirely different shopping experience than big-box stores such as more knowledgeable staff, highly attentive customer service, and a less stressful shopping experience. Our challenge? Our budget for getting the message out is modest. We need to be smart, highly strategic, and make every penny count.

aStra’S uSe of Social Media In this effort, social media is our friend. According to a study titled The Social Media Behavior of Young Moms (November 2010), 90 percent of mothers of young children are active in social media and 60 percent have used information they got from a social networking site such as Facebook or a blog to make a purchase. A study commissioned by Child’s Play Communications found that moms who buy based on recommendations they get from social media do so, on average, five times per year. ASTRA created Neighborhood Toy Store Day, celebrated each year on the second Saturday of November, as a platform for our message during the biggest sales season of the year for independent toy retailers. The strategy for reaching targeted consumers is two-pronged: local retailers reach out to their community’s media through press releases and step-by-step guidelines ASTRA provides for them, and ASTRA provides support through national media. Most of our national effort is focused on bloggers and social networks because it is affordable, targeted, connected to the way moms make

decisions in real life, and highly viral. This strategy helps ASTRA leverage the small amount we have to invest and helps position specialty toys as a mom-trusted “brand.”

reSultS froM neighBorhood toy Store day 2011 How does it work? In our second year of promoting the specialty toy industry through Neighborhood Toy Store Day, here is a sample of the results: • Significant placement in what is becoming “traditional” media such as Huffington Post (30 million unique visitors) and many placements on (8 million unique visitors) • 250,000 Twitter impressions on the day of the event • 12 million impressions through blogger outreach • One million impressions through Facebook advertising • Coverage in Daily Candy and top mommy blogs such as • 64,000 Google hits for “Neighborhood Toy Store Day,” and 23,000 hits for “Neighbourhood Toy Store Day,” reflecting participation by our Canadian friends for the first time this year. Together with manufacturers, sales reps, and retailers, ASTRA is taking the message directly to moms—and judging by this year’s enormous response we’re on to something important for the specialty toy industry. Kathleen McHugh is president of The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA). Visit

Industry Forum




he entire world is in a state of mass economic confusion. We now inhabit a “brave new world” and, like it or not, we have to play the cards we have been dealt. Most of us have had to survive through these seemingly endless ups and downs. Credit is short and receivables linger. When items get on shelf there is still the worry about sellthrough and returns. The question cycles in your head. How do I sustain sales in such a confused economic environment? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this difficult and complex question. There are, however, steps you can take to exploit your brand by paying attention to the details from the beginning of a product’s design through to its presence on shelf in stores. The devil, they say, is in the details—and it can make or break your item. During boom times many companies seem to gloss over the small stuff but now is the time to pay acute attention to it. • Be original. There is too much “me too” product out there. Calculate very carefully the value and need of placing a license on your product. Licensing


is increasingly expensive so use it where it has the most value and don’t just slap it on needlessly. It does both your product and the property an injustice. • When developing a product be sure that you have the best price point. Then cost it out carefully with multiple makers for the best price and delivery. Remember that in today’s world you have to concern yourself with wall thickness and mold set up on plastic parts. Make an item too thick and you will pay too much. Make the mold one size up or add multiple cavities and it becomes a “mold cost vs. production capability” question. You must address these questions early on. • Avoid safety testing issues by addressing safety concerns early. Build safety in from day one. Develop a good relationship with your safety lab by submitting early and with all your paperwork complete. It sounds simple—like putting your name on your homework—but it’s easy to overlook. Not addressing these issues costs time and shipping delays. As I mentioned earlier, the devil is in the details. • Make sure your packaging design is developed in tandem with every other aspect of product development. Attractiveness, size, shape, durability, assembly, and environmen-

tal issues all have to be dealt with. Again, the earlier the better. If the item is licensed don’t wait until a week prior to shipping to submit for approval. That is the formula for disaster. The same applies to sculpted designs that must be approved. • Keep your shipping promises realistic and hunt for the best shipper prices. Product that arrives on time lets the buyer know you are dependable—a sure way to continue to increase your sales. • Lastly, once the product is on shelf, track where your product is being placed. Is it really on the shelf? Is it forgotten in the back of a chain store’s warehouse? Sounds simple but we know this happens all the time. If the item warrants extra attention, consider hiring detailers to make sure the product is where it should be. Of course the point of all of the above really comes down to this: organize, schedule, and, most importantly, follow through as early as you can. The fruits of doing so are undeniable—especially in these tough economic times.

Design Edge is a New York-based graphic design and research development studio. Matt Nuccio can be reached at (516) 377–0500 or at

Merchandise Makers

Zing Toys: A FormulA ThAT sTicks BY JENNIFER LYNCH


eter Cummings and Steve way the toy shoots is innovative, Walterscheid already had years so it’s safer and more performof experience in the industry ance-driven, but still identifiable before they became to parents, and grandparcofounders of Zing Toys. ents, who buy the toy for Cummings, an Australian who moved to their kids,” he says. Portland, Ore., opened his own toy manuBy putting a fresh spin facturing company Ozwest where he devel- on classic toys, Zing seeks to recapture the oped a soft foam indoor boomerang called imagination of its target age group, 9- to 11the Roomarang. Walterscheid was a long- year-olds, who are just starting to get time toy inventor in the industry, who creat- ensnared by technology, says Loerzel. ed items such as Hog Wild Toys’ Benders “There’s still a lot of value to be had from and Snap Watch. But imaginative play,” he says. “If you have a when the specialty marbow and arrow, you can imagine anything ket hit a rough patch in the you want. It’s not something that’s spoonearly 2000s, Cummings was fed to you through video games or TV.” forced to close up shop at Ozwest Zing has also found success in the novand used the opportunity to move to elty category. But the category is not new China, where he immersed himself in territory for Zing as some may believe. the ins and outs of toy manufacturing. While its outdoor toys have earned When he returned he was ready to the company success in the U.S., elsestart fresh and teamed where in Europe and Australia, it’s up with Walterscheid Zing’s novelty items that have (who was seeking earned it the most recognition in more control over his the toy category. inventions) to launch Zing in 2006. “Bows and arrows With a goal to get kids active and off the don’t sell well couch, Zing started by expanding its outoutside the door play offerings in the U.S. But for U.S. because Zing that wasn’t enough. It also sought it’s a very innovation. One example is Zing’s ZAmericana thing,” Zing Z-Curve Curve Bow, which unlike a traditional Loerzel says. Bow bow and arrow has a safer design “Historically, strung with an elastic band that hooks the novelty side in the front of the bow. It also has a holder for of our business the arrows for a more accurate shot. has always been much stronger internationRecognizable products with a twist is how ally.” Zing’s first official product was even Josh Loerzel, sales manager at Zing, a novelty item called ZeeBeez, a line of describes Zing’s toys. “The mechanism or the spinning, rubber disc pop-up toys, origi-


Ickee Stikeez one- and three-packs

nally distributed by Spin Master as Drop Popz in the U.S.) But with the recent rise of the collectible market in the U.S., Zing was able to strike a chord with U.S. audiences with its Ickee Stikeez, a line of collectible miniature sticky, squishy figures, says Loerzel. “Pete [Cummings] and the artists got together and made these really loveable monsters,” he says. “Each has a suction cup bottom and sticks to things. Kids can make that fun, annoying popping sound and collect all the different characters.” But Zing’s novelty items go beyond mere collectibility. For Zing, there must always be a play pattern. For ZeeBeez, it’s the drop and pop back feature; for Ickee Stikeez, it’s the popping sound the toy creates. Ickee monsters also play into a kind of mindless play pattern, like drumming your fingers, says Loerzel. With plans to launch series two and three of Ickee Stikeez in 2012, Zing also hopes to build the collectibility of the characters, which kids can interact with and learn about through the Ickee Stikeez website. Plans are already underway for a line of plush Ickee monsters and a new line called Ickee BeeBeez that merge the Ickee characters with a miniature version of ZeeBees. Marrying these products, just as it’s married classic toys with innovative play concepts, Loerzel says, will be the key to Zing’s future.



’Tis the Season: Families Tackle Holiday Shopping B


he race for holiday readiness is on. By the time you read this it will be mid-December, and many families will be in frantic prep mode. How do our three families prepare? What and who are on their lists? First, let’s reacquaint ourselves with the families: Freelance writer, Tim, and his wife Sarah, a graduate school program director, live in a Chicago suburb with their three children, Nick, 11, Ian, now 9, and Molly, 6. robin, a screenwriter, and DouglaS, an editorial director, live outside of Manhattan with their kids, Greer, now 16, and Logan, now 12. Composer roberT and wife leigh, a script supervisor, live near Los Angeles. Their kids are Jordie, 16, and Zander, 13. Tim and Leigh’s families celebrate Christmas. Robin’s family celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah. “I’M BUYING FOR LESS PEOPLE YET SOMEHOW I’M SPENDING MORE,” SAYS LEIGH. Holiday purchasing has not changed much during the recession for Robin. “We’ve always spent modestly. We just don’t go overboard,” she says. Yet for both Tim and Leigh, the last few years have meant buying changes. The biggest change for Tim and his extended family was a shift from everyone buying for everyone to, as he calls it, a “draw-aname-to-buy-for” system. While this meant less spending, it also meant more


headaches for Tim, who manages the process. “Then last year I found,” says Tim. “It’s a website that manages Secret Santa gift exchanges for families, offices, etc. It keeps track of who’s buying for whom, even year to year.” With not only is there less time and money spent shopping but less headaches. For Leigh, the shift was about the kids getting older. It means spending more. “When the kids were little they were just excited to get a gift, any gift. As the kids get older, we can’t get away with just those little gifts anymore,” she says. “WE




TIM. While none of these families have an official holiday budget, they are all aware of their spending and try to keep a lid on it. That being said, they all believe in a little “wiggle room.” As of press time, the families had not yet completed their holiday spending but they did share last year’s budget with us. Robin says they spent between $500–$700. Leigh says they spent between $750–$1,000 while Tim spent $400–$500.

BLACK FRIDAY. I DON’T LIKE PEOPLE THAT MUCH,” SAYS LEIGH. None of these parents shop on Black Friday or during the Thanksgiving weekend because of the crowds. “I




“It’s the time we spend together that’s more valuable than the money,” Leigh says. “Shopping just isn’t quality of life.” Although none of the parents have shopped specifically on Cyber Monday, all shop a mix of online and in-store. “Online is great for food gifts—gifts we send to work colleagues. But for things like clothes you have to go to the store to touch and feel it,” says Leigh. Tim agrees. “We’ll start out looking online but then go to the toy store to check it out. We patronize our neighborhood toy store. But if it’s something pricier, we get it on Amazon.” Robin starts her holiday shopping in late November and is done by the week before Hanukkah. Leigh starts shopping in early December and has things wrapped up the second week in December so she has time to ship gifts. Tim starts after Thanksgiving weekend and is finished the week before Christmas so he also has shipping time. Tim and Leigh use credit cards for holiday shopping while Robin uses a mix of cash and credit to shop. “WE HAVE NO PROBLEM MANAGING OUR KIDS’ EXPECTATIONS. THEY FIGURE IF THEY ASK HIGH THEY GET LOW. IF THEY ASK LOW THEY GET NOTHING,” SAYS LEIGH. Not even the youngest of these kids—which is Molly, age 6—will be asking for toys this year. “Logan loves his action figures and LEGOs but he’s

not asking for those. He wants electronics and Greer wants clothes,” says Robin. Tim agrees. “Molly wants clothes and a violin. Ian wants money because he’s saving for an iPod. He also wants a Ripstick and sports team jerseys. Nick wants an iPhone—it’s a middle school status thing. And no, he’s not getting it.” Leigh says that, “Jordie wants a new, expensive cell phone and Zander wants a PS3 game system and anything to do with baseball.” These parents say that managing expectations isn’t an issue with their kids. “My kids don’t ask for big-ticket items,” says Robin. However, Tim adds, “My kids’ big requests are reminders for us not to take that item off our mental lists.” But what will the kids likely get this holiday season? “We always have one big gift under the tree that they’ll remember. We’re thinking of an electric race track, although I’m thinking Molly won’t be so excited about it,” says Tim.

Have extra inventory?

In addition to gifts, these parents take caution by also offering their kids items with a lesson. “We give gifts that make them more responsible for their spending, such as gift cards or a pre-loaded debit card,” says Leigh. “Or we might take a trip. I like experiential gifts.” Robin says, “Greer is going on a school trip to Italy. She’s earning money to pay for part of it and our part of it will be her gift. Logan will likely get video games.”

Secret Santa shopping, he buys for all grandparents and all of Sarah’s side of the family, including token gifts for younger cousins and gift cards for older cousins “for whom no creativity is creative enough,” he says. All three families say they buy gifts for elementary school teachers or give to the holiday fund for the elementary teachers but not for middle or high school teachers.

“WE DON’T GIVE GIFTS TO NEIGHBORS. THEY HAVE THEIR OWN FAMILIES,” SAYS TIM. Beyond members of their households, whom do they buy gifts for? Leigh and her husband gift work colleagues and buy books for their siblings and gift cards for the mother-in-law who is known to re-gift, but they don’t gift grown nieces and nephews. Robin doesn’t have nieces or nephews but she does buy for her sister, mother, and parent-in-laws. For Tim, along with his family’s

Editor’s note: This concludes our year-long series tracking how these families spend their time and money. We thank them for participating and allowing us to peek into their lives. We thank Ali Pohn and team for conducting this research for Toys & Family EnTErTainmEnT.

Donate it to K.I.D.S.

Your excess product can put smiles on faces!

Ali Pohn is president and founder of Kiddie-iOh!, a market research and consulting firm specializing in kids and moms. Learn more at or call (773) 525–2345.

Poverty is a disaster that happens every day, but K.I.D.S. brings hope to 4.5 million children and their families every year. Donating your excess apparel, shoes, toys, books and juvenile products can provide your company with a generous tax deduction and replace despair with dignity. Fill out the donation form online at or call 1-800-266-3314.


Ghoulish Goods Ready foR halloween BY JENNIFER LYNCH


ccording to the National Retail Federation’s 2011 Halloween Consumer Intention and Actions Survey, recent talks of a double-dip recession didn’t stop consumers from holiday spending. In fact, the average person was expected to spend around $72.31 on decorations, costumes, and candy, up from the $66.28 spent on average last Halloween. Although not all agree with the early prediction, many already anticipate a solid sales year in 2012. “Next year, historically being a presidential election year, the perception of a better economy is there, which is a perception that encourages spending,” says Howard Beige, executive vice-president of Rubie’s Costume Company.

Spooks Not Just for Kids

uct design and marketing at Disguise, a division of Jakks Pacific. Disguise launched a new line of accessory kit costumes (including T-shirts and masks) this year called H2Go (Halloween 2 Go), which the company originally targeted to boys ages 15–16 still looking to trick-or-treat but not wanting to wear a full costume. But Disguise found a whole other consumer base for the line thanks to the involvement of more adults during the season. The rise in involvement can also be attributed to the escapist quality that the holiday offers, which consumers can appreciate any time of year. “More people are looking at Halloween as an event to share with the whole family rather than just send the kids out by themselves,” says Gary Schneider, manager of marketing and licensing at Rasta Imposta. Two trends seen in both adult and kid costumes are an increased demand for humor and group costumes. Some of Rasta Imposta’s classic humor costumes have become yearround fixtures. “When watching a ball game in the middle of the summer, you’re bound to see a banana costume in the ballpark,” Schneider says. “Our humor costumes have so many uses outside of Halloween that we’re starting to see an uptick in other seasons.” Couples costumes have always proved to be major selling items in the industry, and now group costumes are also on the rise. “I think you’re seeing more groups getting together and planning out their costumes and wearing different costumes from that theme,” says Rubie’s Beige. “We had licenses such as Monster High, which features all different girls descended from the monsters. And we noticed a lot of groups of kids getting together as a group of the characters.”

While Halloween is always a year-round event for the industry, it is also becoming more of a year-round event for retailers and consumers as well. As popularity for the holiday increases across age groups and spreads on a global scale, there has been a natural expansion of the boundaries of the celebration, says Jonathan Erwin of the Halloween & Party Expo. “The American idea of Halloween being a fun celebration of all things spooky is rapidly spreading to other parts of the world,” he says. “Other countries and cultures that may once have seen Halloween as a more subdued harvest festival, or non-event entirely, are beginning to embrace its carefree creepiness.” With more costume sales occurring year-round, many retailers are even stocking permanent sections in their stores solely for Halloween costumes. Online retailers also serve as year-round vendors for consumers Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle accessories from seeking costumes at times of the year and in parts of Disguise’s H2Go costume line The Evolution of Halloween Shows the world where costumes are not readily available. This month the Halloween Industry Association (HIA) will kick off the “Halloween is still the event that provides the most overwhelming use of costumes, but there are other seasons that costumes are selling in,” says Rubie’s International Halloween Show December 5–10 at the Halloween Tower in Beige. “For that, some online retailers do earn a nice percentage of their sales New York City, followed by the Halloween & Party Expo (HPE) January 28–31 in Houston, Texas. And while the economy and budget cutbacks may outside September and October.” Among the events adding steam to year-round sales is an event known as mean less of a buyer presence, most in the industry, exhibitors and retailers Halfway to Halloween, which occurs from the end of April to early May and alike, recognize the importance in attending both shows. “I wouldn’t say has drawn older age groups to the festivities. “It started in Las Vegas, but that either show is more important than the other,” says Disguise’s Kerzner. now we’re seeing it in San Diego, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, “Each has a different audience, which I think is critical.” The HPE was once the show that kicked off the selling season but now where millennials, ages 21–30, are celebrating halfway to Halloween in costume and hitting the bar scene,” says Cheryl Kerzner, vice-president, prod- it’s the grand finale, says Elliot Spiegel, vice-president of sales at Rasta


Imposta. Likewise, the International Halloween Show has evolved from its beginnings as an addon show into what many consider the premiere show for deal-making with larger retailers. As the first show of the season, the International Halloween Show has historically offered a more intimate buying experience and this year’s show will build on that format. For the first time, the show will hold open hours on December 8–10 exclusively to offer regional independent buyers a special sneak peak at 2012’s costumes and Halloween apparel, says Michele Biordi, executive director of HIA. (Dec. 5–7 will remain reserved for invitationonly pre-scheduled appointments.) “The longer lead time will allow for better planning, saving attendees money,” she says. Although this will mean more work on the exhibitors’ end, manning the show room during the extended hours, most are interested to see the results. “I always find New York to be a great show to not only meet with our retailers, but also the media and our licensors,” says Disguise’s Kerzner. “It’s a really good place to touch base with people in addition to selling product.” HIA will also present each qualified retail company registered for the show with 20 “HIA Dollars,” each valued at $25. One HIA Dollar can then be redeemed per exhibiting company on minimum orders of $250. A maximum of two HIA Dollars can be redeemed per participating company, and discounts beyond this may be offered at exhibiting members’ discretion, says Biordi. HIA Dollars are only valid on orders placed at the International Halloween Show, and eligible registrants must attend the show in order to receive HIA Dollars. The goal is to give attendees more incentive to buy at the event, and specifically target more regional buyers. “The New York show is the big show, but it’s still not for all players,” says Rasta Imposta’s Spiegel. If smaller, independent retailers can only attend one show for the year, it’s still going to be the Halloween & Party Expo. “They’re

2011 Halloween & Party Expo Kids Costume Style Show

going to see pretty much everybody who’s anybody in Houston,” Rubie’s Beige says. “I think that’s part of the attraction of it—that you really get all the players in Houston from a vendor point of view, and not just the larger accounts.” The Halloween & Party Expo is the largest of the Halloween shows held in the U.S., featuring more than 350 exhibitors and growing annually. While for exhibitors, New York is their big business show, Houston offers smaller companies more opportunity, especially if they utilize the show’s resources. “We’ve made some alliances with newer, younger companies at the show,” says Disguise’s Kerzner. “We’ll find a manufacturer doing an interesting product that we can potentially work into a licensed product.” Houston has a looser atmosphere, says Schneider of Rasta Imposta, which has transitioned to using the show as more of a PR show than selling show. “Houston is where we really show off our entire product range with costume characters walking around our booth,” Schneider says. Their booth also features events that enable its team to mingle with attendees, such as its daily 3 p.m. happy hour and prizes


that tie back to its licensed properties. And from past attendee feedback at the Expo, this is the kind of experience they seek, says HPE’s Erwin. “It isn’t enough to leave the Expo with products alone,” he says. “Buyers have to do more with less these days, and the opportunity to learn techniques and practices from experienced professionals is an extremely helpful, long-term benefit to guests.” Following the show’s Halloween Costume Style Show, which previews more than 100 of the latest costumes and licenses, attendees and exhibitors will converge at the Expo’s new Saturday Night After-Party hosted at a nearby pub where buyers can see the show’s latest costumes up close and network in a more laidback setting. Erwin says, “By bringing these groups together in a casual, personal environment, we hope to create a positive conversation and rapport to kick-start lasting business relationships.” No matter which show is attended however, all agree that having a plan of attack is essential. Strategizing, utilizing the shows’ resources, and scheduling as many appointments as possible and as early as possible are all great ways to start.



Halloween is no longer just for the kids, but a family affair. In response to the trend, manufacturers are offering more group costumes and trick or treat accessories for all family members to share in the fun of the holiday. Below is a sampling for the category.


Disguise, a division of Jakks Pacific, launched a new line of Halloween costume kits and accessories called H2Go (Halloween to Go) that includes a variety of licensed T-shirts with coordinating accessories, licensed vacuform masks, and costume kits. The line is targeted at men, women, and junior consumers on–the–go. Disguise has also secured the licensing rights to create costumes for anticipated 2012 films including The Amazing Spiderman, The Avengers, Brave, Men in Black 3, The Dark Knight Rises, and Madagascar 3.

Rasta Imposta

For 2012, Rasta Imposta will debut new licensed character costumes for kids, including LazyTown and In The Night Garden, as well as costumes for the Chiquita Banana and Hostess Brands properties.

H2Go Captain America costume

Rubie’s Costume Company

Rubie’s will offer a line of Batman costumes, featuring characters from the upcoming 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises. Rubie’s will also continue to feature its sell-out costumes from 2011 including Monster High (pictured), Lalaloopsy, and The Smurfs characters.

Fun World

Fun World’s latest Lite-Up Octo-Lites come in two character assortments—skull and pumpkin— and offer a fun way for trick-or-treaters to light their way on Halloween. The 12-piece assorted pumpkins and skulls spin around in a display of multiple colors. The pumpkin and skull tops also light up while spinning.


Sports Toys: More Than a Walk in the Park BY



et’s face it, being involved in the toy industry has its perks. Even on the worst of work days, it is easy to set aside the stresses of the day for a moment by putting things into perspective; kids across the country are having fun from the fruits of the toy industry’s labor. In order to ensure that the toys being introduced to the market are fun, lots of grueling market research takes place. For instance, a sports toys manufacturer might have to schlep out to a nearby park—breathing in all that fresh air—and ensure that a ball performs as it should. Or the executive may watch kids play with their products in the park to see how they can further refine the manufacturer’s offerings. It is hard work, I know. But somebody has to do it. “The thing that drives our innovation most is going out to a park and seeing kids playing with Junk Ball and hearing their feedback,” says Jason Engle, brand manager for Junk Ball at Little Kids. “You will see this feedback reflected in the new products we will introduce in 2012.” Engle couldn’t go into detail on the 2012 introductions, but he did say the products will utilize high-performance materials. But the sports toys category isn’t all fun and games. Engaging in sports is a great way for kids to develop motor skills and to keep healthy and active. Teaching kids the basic skills necessary to begin a lifelong interest in sports is one area in which the sports toys category excels. “Parents are looking for sports toys that provide an opportunity for their children to have fun and help minimize frustration while they learn and develop their skills,” says Chris Pardi, vicepresident, marketing at Fisher-Price. “The decision tree for sports purchases at an early age often starts with the sport or activity parents are shopping for.” Traditional sports such as baseball, basketball, football, and soccer are well-represented in the sports toys category, as are more free-form sports activities, extreme sports, and sand soccer (see sidebar). No matter what the sport, parents generally feel that getting involved in any sport and being active is important to a child’s development. “Purchases for children ages 3–5 are primarily driven by mothers who believe sports are an integral part of a preschooler’s overall devel-


Products that teach children the skills necessary to take part in sports and active pursuits are big in the sports toys category. Above is Diggin’ Active’s 3-in-1 Sports Goal. Below is Fisher-Price’s Grow With Me 1, 2, 3 InLine Skates. On the opposite page is Little Tikes’ Attach ’n Play Basketball.

opment,” says Pardi. “They believe participation in sports helps build self-esteem and teaches their children physical and life skills. Fathers become more active in the purchase of real sports equipment when their children are around age 5.” There is a distinct dividing line between products that fall under the sports toys umbrella and actual sporting goods. Sports toys are often more fashionable and whimsical, while sporting goods generally consist of standard, regulation offerings. “Sports toy consumers look for more of a novelty factor versus the performance factor necessary in sporting goods,” says Molliee Martin, PR and social media manager at Wham-O. “This is how Wham-O separates its recreational lines from its sporting goods lines.” Just because there is differentiation between the products, doesn’t mean that each segment has wildly differing consumers. There is a lot of crossover.

“Kids age 7–12 will go out and buy a brown football, but Coop provides them with a fashionable, fun option as well,” says Darrin Bryan, brand manager of Coop at SwimWays. “They are looking for fun, cool products that aren’t serious. Our balls are for beach and backyard fun.” Part of that crossover involves the role that sporting goods and professional sports play in driving the sports toys category. The interest and passion that professional sports stoke in fans is at the heart of what drives interest in many sports. Sports toys manufacturers have certainly taken note. For instance, Coop has aligned itself with professional athletes such as three-time Olympic soccer champion Angela Hucles and professional surfer Vanina Walsh. Little Kids is also utilizing professional sports to drive sales of Junk Ball. The manufacturer signed a deal with Minor League Baseball that puts licensed Junk Ball products in Minor League stadiums. That deal is a great fit because the family-oriented atmos-

phere that Minor League Baseball cultivates fits nicely with the kid- and familyfriendly elements of the sports toys category.

The Economy Even though parents view passing on an active lifestyle to their children as being very important to their children’s well-being, that’s not to say that the economy hasn’t affected the sports toys category in much the same way as the overall toy industry. “The economy affects things like sports toys less than some toy categories,” says Nathan Keker, CEO of Diggin’ Active. “If anything, the economy has focused the category on lower price

The Growth of Sand Soccer Coop has established a presence in the spin-off sport of sand soccer. It is the title sponsor of the North American Sand Soccer Championship and it manufactures the regulation ball used in the sport as well as the sand socks that players wear. The formalized sport of sand soccer has its roots in the 1992 establishment of Beach Soccer Worldwide, which was set up to develop the sport. Its popularity has grown so much since that time that the sport is vying for inclusion in the 2016 Summer Olympics, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro.

points and value buys.” Little Kids’ Engle says that basic ball and bat sets drove the Junk Ball to neardouble-digit growth in 2011. Playing up the valuequotient has also proven successful for Little Tikes. “Little Tikes’ sports products have held up very well over the past few seasons,” says Craig Wilson, marketing director at Little Tikes. “Retail sales on promotions at value price points are very important to our value-conscious consumers.” Just because consumers have been interested in value in the sports toys category doesn’t mean that price is the only consideration. The products still have to perform. For instance, if the bottom line were the deciding factor, consumers could find a cheaper ball and bat set than the Junk Ball set, but the Junk Ball brand has earned a reputation for performance. “We are seeing more and more plastic-bythe-pound goods entering the market, but that isn’t a long-term strategy,” says Coop’s Bryan. “Buyers are looking for innovation, and they are looking for it in a way that is relevant.” Sure, it is hard to innovate on a ball. But the manufacturers that have found ways to do it—through design, performance, and materials—are the most successful in this category. That’s what shoppers are looking for and that’s what kids want when they head out to the park to play their favorite sport.


Sports Toys



It is common knowledge that leading an active lifestyle is a very important component of healthy living. The sports toys aisle is overflowing with a variety of options to get kids interested in sports and active pursuits. The products in this category serve as great introductions to a variety of sports and teach kids the skills necessary to take the next step in their active lives.

Fisher-Price Fisher-Price’s latest sports toy introductions include the Grow With Me line, which includes Grow With Me 1, 2, 3 Roller Skates (shown), as well as scooters, skateboards, and inline skates.

Little Kids While the sports aisle was flat in 2011, Little Kids’ Junk Ball was up with close to double-digit growth. Sales of the basic ball and bat sets drove this growth. Shown is the Junk Ball Neon Bat and Ball Set.

Step2 The Kickback Soccer Goal and PitchBack serves many roles. It can be used as a soccer or hockey goal as well as a baseball pitch-back where a kid throws the ball into the net and it bounces off the net back toward them. It includes a soccer ball, two hockey sticks, a puck, and a pitch-back ball.


Little Tikes Little Tikes’ Adjust & Jam Basketball Set adjusts in height from four feet to six feet. This product refresh, which is suited for indoor and outdoor play, features a break-away rim and includes a junior-sized ball.

Bravo Sports Coop New patterns for Coop are New Aloha Wave and Chaos. Shown is the Hydro Ball Rookie line featuring the two new patterns.

Bravo Sports signed a deal with Lucasfilm to produce a line of Star Warsthemed outdoor products. Shown is a 21inch Darth Vader skateboard. Also in the line are 28-inch skateboards, 31-inch skateboards with lenticular printing, scooters, and helmets.

Diggin’ Active Wham-O Wham-O’s sports toys offerings span the four seasons. Shown is the Snowboogie Snow Globe Air Tube.

The 3-in-1 Sports Goal inflates and includes a soccer ball, a baseball, and a football. On its side, it serves as a soccer goal, while upright it can be a baseball or football target.

Saturnian 1 Sport Saturnian 1 Sport’s Fireball line includes two footballs of differing size, one volleyball, a soccer ball, and a soft flying disc. The balls are safe for play on land and in the water.

International Playthings The Hop & Squeak Pogo Jumper by Kidoozie is made from soft, durable foam and is suited for indoor and outdoor play.




Through roleplay, kids can dress up and pretend to be someone (or something) else: a superhero, a cartoon character, a chef. The act of putting on a costume or having just the right accessory immediately transports kids to an imaginative world. Below is a sample of the latest roleplay and dress-up items hitting store shelves.


CDI, a division of Jakks Pacific, will release official Pirates of the Caribbean dress-up products, including deluxe feature swords that make real battle sounds and a Jack Sparrow signature roleplay set.

Tara Toy

The Design and Wear Activity Sets let girls decorate and wear their own themed fashions. The Barbie Design and Wear Activity Set includes a mini skirt, headband, glitter stickers, adhesivebacked gems, trims, and fabric embellishments. The Disney Fairies Design and Wear Activity Set includes fairy wings, slippers, stickers, gems, glitter, and trims.


Hasbro’s Star Wars Electronic Helmets let kids take on the personas of favorite characters, including Darth Vader, General Grievous (shown), and a Clone Trooper. Each helmet includes signature sounds and phrases. They are for ages 4 and up.



New in Aeromax’s dress-up line is a collection of four cowboy hats. Each hat comes with a bandana.

Learning Resources

The Pretend & Play Pro Chef Set includes a large deluxe stock pot with lid, a saucepan with lid, a skillet, a spatula, two cooking spoons, an oven mitt, and play food pieces, including a chicken leg, carrot, corncob, and fried egg. The Pretend & Play Pro Chef Set is for ages 3 and up.

Xcessory International

Xcessory International developed a line of roleplay accessories for Mattel’s Monster High, including petti skirts (shown), shrugs, leg and arm warmers, wigs, and trunks. All items are sold in the toy aisle only.


Jakks Pacific

Kids can bring their creations to life with the new motorized components from Jakks Pacific’s Real Construction line. The new Real Construction power tools include a Real Construction Nail Gun, a Real Construction 9-in1 Gadget, and Real Construction Motorized Power Drill. Real Construction Action Playsets are motorized accessories that include engines, propellers, and launchers.


HABA’s new roleplay line for ages 3–6 is Henry Haba-Strong. The knightthemed collection includes a shield, a spiked mace, a sword, a helmet, armor, a lance, and a hobby horse. Each item is sold separately.

Wild Planet

The Micro Spy Kit comes with a collection of gadgets attached to a bandolier-style utility belt. The grappling hook features a magnetic claw to help retrieve objects from a distance. Use the motion alarm to guard doorways or protect documents. The hand-held disc shooter launches three discs, one at a time, up to 20 feet in any direction. The wallet conceals a pop-up scope, coded paper, and a decoder lens for writing and revealing secret messages. It is for ages 6 and up.

Real Construction Nail Gun

Elope’s new full costume dress-up items include The Cat in the Hat and Thing 1 & 2. Each Thing costume comes with numbers one to four. Elope also has several accessories, such as The Cat in the Hat hat and a The Cat in the Hat hat, necktie, and gloves accessory kit. A Thing 1 & 2 blue wig is also sold separately.


Bandai’s ThunderCats toy line includes a variety of roleplay items, such as the Deluxe Sword of Omens. Kids can wield the power of LionO’s mystic Sword of Omens and pretend to be a member of the ThunderCats. The Deluxe Sword of Omens features lights, sounds, and an extendable blade.

Little Adventures

Two of Little Adventures’ newest dress-up items are the Sleeping Beauty dress and the Teal Fairy dress. The Sleeping Beauty dress comes in sizes small 1–3, medium 3–5, large 5–7, and x-large 7–9. It is for ages 1–9. Accessories are sold separately. The Teal Fairy dress also comes in sizes small 1–3, medium 3–5, large 5–7, and x-large 7–9 and is for ages 1–9. Accessories to go with the Teal Fairy dress are sold separately.



Orb Factory Crafts A Success


s a kid Steven Kay was already keeping a diary of all the toy inventions he made out of any material he could get his hands on. “The toys that we play with as kids often have a deep and subtle influence on what we do as adults,” he says. “In hindsight, it seems natural that I would end up in the toy industry.” Using his formal training in art and design now more than 20 years ago, Kay started small, sculpting and selling at craft fairs what would become the company’s namesake toy, the Celestial Orb. Aptly named, the handheld wire toy was a kaleidoscope for the hands that, just like the company would do, transformed while always maintaining its core components: an easyto-use design with educational and artistic value. The Orb Factory was officially founded in 1991. But topological toys like the Celestial Orb only make up a fraction of the toy market and even with The Orb Factory’s expansion to specialty, to continue growing as a business, Orb knew it had to expand its offerings. So, in 1998, the company added an assortment of wood and paper puzzles, brainteasers, and crafts products. Perhaps, the most well-known became Orb’s crafts, and more specifically its line of magnetic and sticky mosaics, creating an entirely new category of crafts. Its mosaics put a twist on the traditional arts and crafts project. Unlike many arts and crafts projects that can become too complex or frustrating for younger children, Orb likes to keep things simple, says Stephanie Carver, communications director for The Orb Factory. “I remem-

ber being a kid and really wanting to do art projects and some just being too confusing, or you make it and it doesn’t look like what’s on the box,” she says. “You feel sort of defeated. Kids shouldn’t feel that way when they’re young and exploring art for the first time.”

wearable craft jewelry; and most recently its first Sticky Mosaics iPad app. While the majority of Orb’s products are made for ages 4–5 and up, Orb created the My First Sticky Mosaics line for ages 3 and up. Video gaming and touch-screen technology, which requires a high degree of dexterity, are Left: lowering the age that kids can engage in these Sticky Mosaics activities. The age that kids have the dexterity Ladybugs to do crafts has also been lowered, Kay says. and Friends “And parents are becoming increasingly Below: Curiosity aware of the benefits of engaging their kids in Kits activities that require manual dexterity and Cardboard creativity,” he says. Because of the simple Adventures design and non-reliance on instructions, Orb’s Knight products are easier for children to decipher what to do on their own. Learning skills unknowingly also come into play, such as hand-and-eye coordination as well as number and pattern recognition, making learning such skills fun for a child. With its acquisition of Curiosity Kits earlier this year, Orb has also had the opportunity to offer more craft kits for boys, which are often overlooked in the crafts category. “It’s imporTo counter that, The Orb Factory provides a tant, especially for boys, that there is a secondsimple legend for the crafts that guide kids like a ary use, as seen in our newer items,” Kay says. classic paint-by-number activity. The crafts also Curiosity Kits’ Cardboard Adventures Knight offer something all parents can appreciate, a and Gladiator, for example, may not require as mess-free clean up. “The one thing parents hate much craft time but, once completed, kids can is glitter and things like that that just get every- wear it for open-ended play. where,” Carver says. But the sticker-based crafts While there are more crafts than ever, new eliminate that aspect. And seeing the success in crafts don’t emerge often, says Kay. But Orb its mess-free line, Orb expanded its craft offer- hopes that by targeting new markets and integratings with SparkleUps, jem-by-numbers sticker ing its play concepts into licensed product, it will kits; Stick ’n Style, a line of jem-by-numbers continue to innovate the crafts of the future.


events of


Industry-Related Trade Shows January 9–12

Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair

Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre

Hong Kong



Las Vegas Convention Center

Las Vegas


The Toy Fair

Olympia Grand Hall



New York International Gift Fair

Jacob Javits Convention Center

New York City

February 1–6

Spielwarenmesse International Toy Fair

Nuremburg Exhibition Center

Nuremburg, Germany


Kidscreen Summit

Hilton New York

New York City


New York International Toy Fair

Jacob Javits Convention Center

New York City

March 2–6

Minneapolis Mart Gift & Acc. Show

Minneapolis Mart

Minnetonka, Minn.


Playworld Middle East

Dubai International Convention Center

Dubai, UAE


Australian Toy, Hobby, & Nursery Fair

Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre

Melbourne, Australia


Halloween Costume & Party Show

America’s Center

St. Louis


Bologna Children’s Book Fair

Bologna Fair Centre

Bologna, Italy


Toy Fest West

Long Beach Convention Center

Long Beach, Calif.

april 1–4


Palais des Festivals

Cannes, France


London Book Fair

Earls Court Exhibition Centre



Ed Expo

Baltimore Convention Center

Baltimore, Md.


Time To Play Spring Showcase

The Altman Building

New York City


All Baby & Child Spring Show

South Point Hotel, Casino, & Spa

Las Vegas


Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair

Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre

Hong Kong


Sweets & Snacks Expo

McCormick Place




Gaylord National Hotel and Conference Center

National Harbor, Md.


National Stationery Show

Jacob Javits Convention Center

New York City








Toys & Family Entertainment, December 2011  

Toys & Family Entertainment is a monthly magazine showcasing the hottest trends in the toy and family entertainment business.