TFE/TFE Licensing, February 2021

Page 34


No Small Feat: How Small, Specialty, and

Independent Toy Companies Survived 2020 By Victoria Sheridan For smaller-scale toy companies, in-person experiences can be the key to making connections with retailers and consumers. Whether putting their name on the map at trade shows or drawing in shoppers at specialty toy stores, these toymakers rely on others being able to touch, hold, and play with their product to understand just how well-made and innovative it really is. When COVID-19 hit, this was no longer an option. Many toy companies had to adapt by strengthening their online presence, participating in virtual trade shows, adjusting product launches, and more. Though there were challenges in the past year, some companies even came out stronger on the other side. In this article, they share how they pulled it off. Earlier this year, Most Management, headed by Marc Mostman launched a collector action figure line based on an original property called “M.O.F.O.s: Men of Felonious Occupations,” as a collaboration between Most Management’s toy division, The Most Toys, and independent toymaker Toy Pizza. Though Mostman’s line of fourinch articulated figures began as a side project, the COVID shutdowns allowed him more time and energy to move forward on the designs, tooling, and production with the help of Toy Pizza. Mostman says that because there was no firm release date for the line, he was able to get

around the production and shipping delays caused by COVID and push the official launch from fall 2020 to January 2021. The figures were released through the Toy Pizza website and Mostman credits the success of the initial release to the direct-to-consumer strategy. A few brick-and-mortar retailers have also carried the product, but Mostman says he’s seeing more action figure collectors gravitate toward buying online in response to the lockdowns. Currently, he is working with additional online retailers who specialize in action figure sales to reach a broader collector audience. He’s also planning Most Management’s next new original property launch with toys and comics for “The Adventuresons.” “While COVID has definitely had an impact, there has been some good that has come from the lockdown and shifting consumer patterns,” he says. According to Jim Pitocco, President of Steiff North America, the demand for the company’s plush products has remained strong throughout the pandemic. “Our e-commerce business has actually become more significant during the pandemic,” he says. In spite of trade show cancellations, Steiff has not changed its product launch schedule and has continued to introduce two new collections, one for spring and one for fall. Pitocco adds that Steiff continues to work with licensing partners, such as Disney, and has been approached by several new potential partners, with more brand collaborations in the works for the year ahead. Going into 2021, he expressed optimism that Steiff ’s retailers will be able to return to business as usual and that the com-

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