TFE/TFE Licensing, May/June 2022

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The Other Side of the Tunnel by Nick Truss In the early and middle months of the pandemic, industry operations were very touch and go. Last week’s cataclysmic disruption was this week’s new reality. Each supply line jam and cancelled trade show accelerated the evolution of toy business, inexorably, to where we are now. With the worst of the pandemic hopefully behind us, we can now cautiously claim the benefit of hindsight, and learn from the trials and tribulations moving forward. The toy industry has proven to be, if nothing else, adaptable and relisilent. We reached out to a number of toy industry professionals to weigh in on the new business world that we all must navigate, as well as any insights they’ve gleaned from the past two years. Kathy Hawk, Senior Manager of Marketing and Publicity at Smart Lab said, “Covid has challenged and changed every industry worldwide. With toys, sales rose 16% in 2020, and even higher in 2021, according to NPD Group. Parents began homeschooling their kids and looked for ways to keep their kids engaged with toys. SmartLab Toys are STEM/STEAM toys, educational and participatory, as much as they are entertaining. We were able to learn a lot about the buyers’ digital shopping journey and fine-tuned our marketing strategy to meet the needs of these families. VP of Marketing at Red Toolbox Donna Arbietman also remarked on the greater consumer interest in STEAM toys. “At Red-Toolbox, we felt this trend with increased sales of our Stanley Jr. DIY kits which introduce engineering and math concepts, offering a great bonding activity for parents and children. Our Stanley gardening tools also enjoyed tremendous growth during and post the Covid pandemic as a result of people being more home bound and looking for non-screen based activities and toys.” Many families made the best of a tough situation and grew closer during the quarantine. Jim Seymour, VP and CTO at E-Blox, stated, “The pandemic led to much more time at home together as families, and one thing that was learned is that toys give families the fun play experience to bond and enjoy time home together. As a Play Ambassador for the Genius of Play group within TIA, I have been promoting 26 tfe May/June 2022

the Power of Play, and as we come out of the pandemic I expect families will make the time continue the fun play experiences they enjoyed over the last few years with the great variety of toy products available in the industry. Lisa Gulli, General Manager at Educational Insights, added, “We have a positive, bright outlook for how toys and games will continue to influence and impact children’s lives and family fun. Families are once again gravitating to experiences, and toys and games can enhance those experiences, making them richer for everyone. Plus, we’re finding that intergenerational play is important to many families. Some of Educational Insights’ most popular games and toys are great connectors that spark togetherness; they make family game night or playtime inclusive and fun across generations.” Some companies are anticipating a surge in demand for outdoor toys and experiences. Lev Nelson, CEO and Co-Founder of Sky Castle Toys, postulates, “Despite inflation, the toy industry remains recession-proof thanks to the fact that parents need to keep kids happy. If anything, inflation will benefit lower-price point and novelty toys that can satiate kids’ toy appetites without breaking the parental bank. While we can’t predict how future Covid strains will affect retail sales, theater attendance or group gatherings, we anticipate a growth in outdoor and active play categories with group activities becoming more common. There is a growing sentiment that the Covid-paranoia of slumber parties and indoor gatherings is a thing of the past, so let’s hope that continues!” How Will February Fare Without a Fair? The Toy Association’s decision to move Toy Fair from February to October was a monumental decision, if not unexpected. With two years of postponed NYC Toy Fairs, something had to give. Ask any number of industry insiders what they think of the move, and you’ll get just as many differing perspectives. Of all the changes that occured in the wake of the pandemic, Toy Fair’s shift from winter to fall generated some of the highest buzz the industry had seen in quite some time.

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