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The Digimag That Connects You to the Toy Industry

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A Classic Swing

A Classic S wAi n g Classic Swing

For People Who Sell Toys

January/February 2018

Playing with

Fire Trucks Shoppers make way for a tot on a test drive at Le Jouet toy store near New Orleans

january/february 2018 • • • • • 1

Doll of the Year

Playset of the Year

Specialty Toy of the Year

We’re TOTY-ly excited about our award finalists! Visit us at Booth 435

Vehicle of the Year

Infant/Toddler Toy of the Year

Game of the Year


by Kevin Fahy


Rough Cut

s a small-business owner, and as a citizen and taxpayer, there is nothing I have wanted more from our federal government over the past 35 years than tax reform. Lately I have been reminded of the old admonition to be careful what you wish for. Few people enjoy paying taxes, but my objection to the tax code was never about how much I pay. There are three basic problems I have with the system, starting with its overwhelming complexity. The code itself consists of around 2,600 pages, but to understand those rules the way an accountant or tax attorney does, you would need to be generally familiar with another 70,000 pages of related regulations and case law. Because I am unwilling to spend all my free time reading IRS publications, I’m obliged to pay $600 a year to someone who reads them for a living. I heard a number of prominent politicians claim that we would soon be able to do our own tax return on one side of a postcard. That would be quite a departure from the thing I file now, which was looking like a phonebook until it became an electronic document a couple of years ago. Other than owning a business there is nothing that complicated about my finances, but I have a hard

time even reading all the various “schedules” in my return, let alone explaining them. In most other industrialized nations, the process is much simpler, and many of them actually do use a postcard. Some of them, including Great Britain and Japan, have eliminated tax returns altogether. My second problem goes back more than a century, to the moment when someone in government first got the idea of using the tax code to engineer the behavior of businesses and individuals. If the government wants to encourage people to buy homes, or companies to buy equipment, or somebody to drill for oil, or whatever, it simply tacks on a credit or deduction accordingly. As much as I don’t like being manipulated, when money talks it’s hard not to listen. I once bought a car that came with a $4,500 tax credit, even though it made me feel as if I were robbing the Treasury. Somehow I doubt that the government is really improving the human condition by helping us make purchasing decisions for ourselves and our businesses. Third is the problem that probably bothers most people the most, and that is corruption. I’m not talking about the illegal variety, like giving a congressman unreported cash or gifts in exchange for political (continued on page 7) january/february 2018 • • • • • 3

For People Who Sell Toys

january/february 2018 Volume 25, No. 1



26 3



Let the Good Times Roll


Get a Fix on Your Mix

Rough Cut by Kevin Fahy

After 50 years, Buddy Wood still finds ways to improve the shopping experience in his toy and bike store


Remember Why You Go


Visit edplay Advertisers

34 retailers recommend


Take Notes!


Working the show is a breeze, not a slog, if you stay focused on the benefits of being there

Get their booth numbers and check out their specials here

Keep track of what’s important with these tips from veteran tradeshow-goer Phil Wrzesinski

4 • • • • • january/february 2018

Management advice for the inventory influx season

Fabulous Products Counting Down the Hits

Rep Sandy Ruben and his trend-watching team tell us what’s hot and what’s not

(continued on page 6)

(continued from page 4)


departments 42

New and True


Industry news


For your business information


Index of advertisers

The latest launches and perennial bestsellers

Counterfeit toys and consumer safety, Play Fair, Neighborhood Toy Store Day results, and more

Big boxes downsize, Target acquires Shipt, nostalgia that sells, and experiential retail lessons from Apple


Come to Booth #6943 at Toy Fair and ask who has the MacGuffin! 6 • • • • • january/february 2018


at t us Visi y Fair To NY h 6829 t o o b

(continued from page 3)

FIND IT® GAMES based on these beloved characters!

Where’s Waldo? and Captain Underpants, TM&©, DreamWorks Animation. Sesame Street, TM&©, Sesame Workshop. All rights reserved, 2017.

favors. I’m talking about perfectly legal contributions to campaigns and political action committees from corporations and other large organizations. No one doubts that these groups expect something for their money. In fact, it would be irresponsible of them to give away their shareholders’ profits or their members’ dues without getting anything in return. There are various services that a member of congress can provide to a donor, but probably the most coveted reward is an alteration to the tax code. Companies are not mentioned by name in the legislation, of course. I heard on the radio recently that there was once a provision in the law for businesses that were incorporated on September 16, 1908. “They” would be General Motors. Obviously, the three issues I’ve raised are related. If the income tax code were truly simplified, it would also reduce the unfairness caused by picking and choosing which expenses are deductible and which are not. If it were truly simplified, it would be much harder to insert amendments for the benefit of special interests. It is not going to be simplified. I will give the current administration this, they made it clear up front that what they were after was a tax cut, not tax reform, although the president continued to promise that our returns in the future would be short and sweet. I have not yet read the final legislation, but it appears that there will be just as many brackets, deductions and other complications as there were in 2017, perhaps more. For some of us, it won’t even be a tax cut. I live in New York State, which means that I pay very high state income taxes, very high property taxes, and very high sales taxes. About the only upside of that situation was that most of those taxes were deductible from my income before figuring federal income taxes. The most contentious issue among the drafters of the new legislation was the deductibility of state and local taxes (SALT). The eventual compromise was to allow a maximum deduction of $10,000, which amounts to a small fraction of my actual SALT. Even with the new lower rates, my own taxes will almost certainly go up. I know, it’s not about me, but I suspect that many of you may be in the same boat, especially if you live in the Northeast, the upper Midwest or the West Coast. We’ll see. There was also a provision in the new law that will benefit me, as well as the majority of other business owners in the specialty toy industry. Most of the companies in this business, both retailers and manufacturers, are organized as “pass through” entities. My own company, for example, is a subchapter “S” corporation. The final version of the new legislation includes a 20-percent exclusion on pass-through income up to




Call now for your Spring special!

877 346 3482

Promotes Focus & Concentration ©2017, Identity Games USA | 1118 First STREET | 2nd floor | Snohomish WA 98290 | USA |

(continued on page 9) january/february 2018 • • • • • 7


Launched in 1994, edplay became the first successful publication to focus on “specialty” toys and the needs of small, independent retailers. As the industry evolved, complete with its own trade association (ASTRA), edplay became a bimonthly print publication. Later, a website and monthly enewsletters helped to provide advertisers with seamless, year-round promotional opportunities. More than 20 years later, edplay remains the favorite among manufacturers and publishers who advertise; and the people who sell toys who tell us they read every page.

A brand of Fahy-Williams Publishing Inc.


EDITORIAL Tina Manzer, Director


Rebecca Carlson Assistant Editor


ART Mark Stash Production Manager


Jennifer Srmack Senior Designer


Maia VanOrman Designer


EDITORIAL OFFICES PO Box 1080, 171 Reed St Geneva, NY 14456 800-344-0559, 315-789-0458 FAX: 315-789-4263


Toy Times

the magazine of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association


the magazine of the Association For Creative Industries


The Decorative Painter for the Society of Decorative Painters

Educational Dealer

Life in the Finger Lakes

Art Materials Retailer

for the Rochester Builders Exchange

Copyright © 2018 8 • • • • • january/february 2018

ABOUT FAHY-WILLIAMS Begun in 1984 with the acquisition of Educational Dealer magazine, Fahy-Williams publishes B-to-B magazines, enewsletters, directories and other promotional materials for a variety of trade associations and three overlapping retail markets – specialty toys, educational resources, and fine-art supplies. The company also produces two consumer publications: Life in the Finger Lakes, a regional lifestyle magazine, and The Decorative Painter, a how-to art & craft publication.





February 2


April 6


June 8


August 3


September 29


(continued from page 7) $315,000 a year (for married couples, $157,500 for singles). In other words, the taxes on your pass-through income will be 20 percent less than they would be if it were simply added to your other income, as it has been in the past. Essentially, that will make most of our companies a little more profitable, and that’s a good thing. If retailers were to use that money to develop a more comprehensive advertising and social media program, it might even move the needle. Will it touch off a renaissance in the specialty toy business? I doubt it, but the larger question is whether the new tax law as a whole will be good for us or not. That tax cuts stimulate the economy is not in doubt. They do it by borrowing more money from the future and spending it now, but whether they create enough stimulus to pay for themselves or not seems to depend upon whom you ask. Some economists argue that the economy was doing well enough already, and that additional stimulus may trigger inflation, higher interest rates and even a recession. They say that we should be paying down debt right now so that we can increase borrowing when we really need to. Perhaps someday we will have quantum computers that can settle these arguments, but until then we will have to do what we’ve always done; try something and see what happens. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

You can e-mail Kevin at january/february 2018 • • • • • 9

Let the

Good Times

Roll 10 • • • • • january/february 2018

Going for gold. Buddy Wood will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his toy store this year.

By Maria Bucci


ravel down the old Airline Highway in Metairie, Louisiana, and you can’t help but notice the brightly painted yellow and blue building with toys in the windows. But you probably won’t stop. The busy divided highway “is a bit of an odd space for a retail business,” admits 73-year-old Buddy Wood, the founder of 50-year-old toy store Le Jouet. “I have learned to really appreciate that if people stop in they’ve made an effort to get here.” After one visit, they’re usually hooked. “We’re big on customer service,” explains the veteran retailer who makes it a priority to learn something new every day to improve the shopper experience. “I want people to come into the store and have some interaction with us and our toys. That’s the difference between what we do and the experience people have when they shop online, or at a Walmart or Target. We greet everyone and offer suggestions. People seem to like that. We build relationships with them. It’s gratifying.” The man with all the toys Great service creates repeat customers, but the initial attraction is the mix. Unlike other independent toy stores, Le

Jouet closely follows trends – mass market and specialty – and brings in whatever toys are trending at the time. “If Walmart has it, we want it, too, because they know what sells,” says Buddy, who makes sure the store also stocks the classics and specialty products that customers look for. “Every year there is a hot toy,” he explains. “When the store was young, the hottest toys were more accessible to small retailers than they are today.” In the early 1970s, when people went crazy for bikes for instance, Le Jouet began stocking bicycles and parts and providing bike repair services. “That was a tremendous boost for our business,” Buddy says. Today, bikes for kids are bestsellers, but the store carries bikes for all ages from brands like Schwinn, Haro, GT and KHS, in addition to adult tricycles made by Schwinn and Miami Sun. Bike sales account for about 20 percent of Le Jouet’s business, and about 100 bikes are assembled and available in the 6,600-square-foot store at any given time. “There are many bike shops in the city, but we are unique in that we service any bike, not just the bikes bought here,” Buddy explains. “We’re a specialty bike shop that also sells kids’ bikes – that’s unique, too.”

Wheels are a theme at Le Jouet. In addition to bicycles, customers can also find a wide selection of unicycles, tractors, wagons, and dozens of other ride-ons there. It’s not uncommon for shoppers to make way for adults and kids out for a test ride around the store. Wrap masters Typical customers are young mothers with children who travel to Airline Drive from the Greater New Orleans metro area less than 10 miles away. “They will be on their way to a birthday party and need a gift. We offer suggestions, get the gift wrapped quickly, and they are so appreciative,” says Buddy. Some of the moms can remember coming to the store when they were kids. Buddy and his employees wrap more than 12,000 gifts a year, he adds. “We have all sorts of paper choices, and people love the free service.” A gift from Le Jouet is easy to recognize: it comes with a signature ribbon and bow, along with a card and sticker featuring the store logo. As a result of all the wrapping, every employee is an expert. “Shoppers will come up to the counter with their purchase and ask, ‘How in the world are you going to wrap this?’ Sometimes I joke and say, ‘I’ve already got one wrapped in the back.’” january/february 2018 • • • • • 11

Clockwise from top left – Le Jouet’s 12,000 square foot warehouse is attached to the store. Jeff Reuther selects tools in the bicycle repair shop. About 100 bicycles are assembled and ready for purchase on the sales floor at any given time.

Back to the beginning Buddy got into selling toys in 1968 after a family friend approached his father about a temporary toy store. “My dad had a lumber business on an adjacent property and a guy we knew wanted to have a toy store here during the Christmas season. My father decided to put up the building. I put up the labor, and the other man put up the money. After the first season, we bought the guy out – he couldn’t stand on his feet all day like you need to, and was receptive to the idea.” At the time, the store was called Toy City Discount, “but I got tired of people telling me that they could find toys cheaper somewhere else. I didn’t want to play that game. I didn’t care about being the cheapest toy 12 • • • • • january/february 2018

store around because we needed to make a profit.” He changed the name to Le Jouet (“the toy”) two years later, and kept the store open year-round. “You know, it’s risky to name a business something that people can’t spell or pronounce, but I decided to go for it. At first I thought I had made a big mistake – people didn’t understand it and they didn’t know what we were doing. But we persisted. Now when people see me wearing a shirt with the logo, they come up to me and say, ‘Hey, it’s Le Jouet, the toy store!’” Nobody can be successful in business for 50 years without a little help from good friends. In Buddy’s case, A.L. Shushan from Shushan Brothers wholesale in New Orleans became a friend and mentor early on. “Thanks to our relationship, I

could always get what I wanted for the store,” he says. “In those early years, we bought from wholesalers instead of directly from the toy makers. A.L. did me a lot of favors, but treated me fairly. After I told him I wanted to go full-time, he said to order what I needed and pay him when I could. Then, he took me around to all the toy fairs and introduced me to people like Merrill Hassenfeld, the CEO of Hasbro. That’s how A.L. was – just a great guy and incredibly generous with his time.” Before the internet became a thing, another friend of Buddy’s called him up with a proposition. “He said ‘Buddy, I just bought the domain name’ I wasn’t even sure what that meant and I told him I wasn’t interested.” (continued on page 14)



E A-MAZ B Q · E SCIENC S · A V E · BOOK ·K S G E N I M N GA LEAR PLAY · E V EARLY I T AC · w whole E .m T w A w iz ite: w CRE lesale.b • Webs mw who


• Email

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-9485 0 -296 0 8 : e • Phon 6-6765 00 -93 • Fax: 8



january/february 2018 • • • • • 13

Buddy’s children Peter and Liz grew up at the store. They remember playing hide-and-seek in the shelving.

In 2010, after his daughter Tricia suggested that the store needed a web presence, Buddy called the friend back. “He told me, ‘I knew you would call me one day.’” The store’s website is one page with no frills. It lists Le Jouet’s hours, the brands it carries, and contact information. Buddy is unapologetic about its simplicity. “The online market doesn’t appeal to me, no matter how much money we’d make,” he says. “I’m an Amazoner myself, but I guess they use all sorts of algorithms to target people. I want people to come into the store because we are selling an experience. I want to build a long-term relationship with our customers.” The website does feature four live links: to Google maps, and to the store’s pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Le Jouet is very active social-media wise, with Buddy’s daughter Liz and other store employees hilariously promoting everything from the Speak & Repeat Unicorn to a zip line. 14 • • • • • january/february 2018

A joyful job It’s a family business in the truest sense. Until she died last year, Buddy’s mother retained partial ownership in the store, and all of his children have been involved in the business at some time or another. Liz works on the floor and handles marketing.

Her brother Peter is always on call to troubleshoot computer issues. “My sister Tricia lives 40 miles away,” says Liz, “but she does all the buying. She has a good pulse on what to buy and goes to all the shows in Dallas, and sometimes New York. She attends ASTRA – it will be in New Orleans this year! – and is planning a visit to AmericasMart in Atlanta.” Even the non-family member employees are like family – many have worked there for years. Le Jouet employs 10 people full time who all chip in wherever and whenever they’re needed, whether it’s unloading a truck, laying out merchandise, or greeting customers. “We don’t have a lot of turnover here,” says Buddy. “Our customers get to know our employees and when they come into the store, they look for their favorite one.” (continued on page 16)

Grandchildren Maggie, Adelaide and Blaise spend a lot of time at Le Jouet. Here, they’re with their grandmother, Judy.

january/february 2018 • • • • • 15

If you’re not a member of the Wood family, you still feel like one when you work at Le Jouet. Front row: Liz’s husband Jeff Reuther, Liz, Buddy, and Bridget Alexander. Back row: Sean Flanagan, Tricia Wood Cooper and Mike Tippie.

“People come here because of my dad,” laughs Liz. “It wouldn’t be good for the business for him to retire. But all joking aside, we all have an interest in keeping the business going.” The customers keep Buddy going, even after 50 years. “You know, there has been an incredible amount of change in the toy business since 1968. Sometimes I look around the store and say, ‘How did we do this?’ I don’t have a crystal ball, but we still have new people coming in every day and enjoying the experience. That is really important to me. I want to continue that.” He and his daughter agree that the joy of being in the toy business is infectious. “It’s hard to be miserable working at a toy store,” admits Liz. “We are lucky – we have nice, loyal customers. Like any place, the occasional person can make you crazy. In our business, you never know what people are dealing with when they come in the door. We just try to be nice, and every day is pretty joyful.”


16 • • • • • january/february 2018

january/february 2018 • • • • • 17

by Tina Manzer

Remember Why You Go


t’s expensive to attend a trade show. In fact, the high cost of hotels and travel, particularly to and within New York City, is the reason some specialty toy retailers decide to stay home.

But skipping a tradeshow like Toy Fair would

be a mistake. In the long run it would cost your business dearly, says noted retail expert Georganne Bender. “Missing out on your industry’s trade shows can impact your business success in a variety of ways, including missing opportunities to find new vendors, to stay competitive, and to expand your store’s inventory based on market trends and proven data.” In other words, tradeshow attendance is worth the investment. Here are some reminders of the many benefits of attending Toy Fair. 18 • • • • • january/february 2018

It’s efficient to consolidate your purchasing process in one place at one time. For four days – from Saturday, February 17 through Tuesday, February 20 – the Javits Center is your oyster. Put on your comfortable hiking shoes and explore the more than 440,000 net square feet of exhibit space. You won’t want to miss what any of the 1,100 or so exhibiting vendors have to offer. Booths and showrooms are arranged on three levels and are organized into 12 different product zones. Exhibitors in the newest zone, “Modern Design” (on Level 1) offer products “that marry contemporary form

with functional innovation.” Fat Brain Toy Co., Tegu, and Kid O are there. Plan your trek ahead of time by reviewing your sales numbers and listening to your reps. Sales rep Sandy Ruben recently polled his customers to find out which toy themes are in and which ones are out. Turn to page 38 for the results. A tradeshow lets you compare the products, prices and services of many companies all at once. The inventory of a successful specialty toy store is a mixed bag by necessity, with a variety (continued on page 20)

There’s No Other City Like New York and No Other Show Like Toy Fair!

• More than 1,000 exhibitors • 150,000+ products including 7,000 world debuts • 4 days, 1 location – in the heart of New York City

Saturday–Tuesday, February 17–20, 2018

january/february 2018 • • • • • 19

(continued from page 18)

of price points, age ranges, and appeal – from classic to trendy. At Toy Fair, the exhibiting companies run the gamut, too. You will find “economical” items if that’s your priority, as well as “highest quality” items if that’s what you’re looking for. And, if you want to see options within a specific category – “balls” for instance – you can advance-search Toy Fair’s exhibitor list to locate the booths of the 40-or-so companies that offer them, and then pay them a visit to compare product, service and price. Turn to page 20 to see show specials from edplay advertisers. Seeing an item in person gives you the confidence to buy it or pass it by. At a tradeshow, you can hold an item to discover its weight and dimension, feel the texture, learn how it works and how it plays, and get ideas of how to display it in your store. Move on to the next booth and repeat. Toy Fair’s Trends Briefing, scheduled for Sunday, February 18 at 4 p.m. in Hall 1E, provides a rare opportunity for you to experience a special selection of products from the show floor that best represent the latest trends.

You can get what you need and find what you want. Take advantage of manufacturers’ show specials to restock your shelves with your proven sellers. Then scout out new releases from your current vendor partners along with products from first-time exhibitors. Start at the Launch Pad on Level 1. There was a time when its out-of-the-way location did not draw the same traffic as, say, aisle 2000 on Level 3. But last year, The Toy Association expanded the number of firsttime exhibitors from 25 to 100, and the Launch Pad became one of the busiest and most exciting places at the show. Go there for the unique hidden gems that will delight your customers. This year, there are 125 first-time exhibitors displaying in The Launch Pad, located in hall 1E on Level 1. You can attend world-class and industry-relevant educational sessions for free. A variety of programs will be offered at the Javits 20 • • • • • january/february 2018

Center throughout the four days of Toy Fair, including licensing seminars, toy safety and compliance forums, and presentations on global trade and market expansion. There are also programs for game inventors and product developers specifically. Most of the sessions are free of charge. Take advantage of a unique seminar for specialty toy retailers called “60 Innovative Marketing Techniques in 60 Minutes.” Sponsored by The Toy Association and ASTRA, the session will be held on Monday, February 19 from 11 am to noon in Hall 1E. It features specialty retail expert Patricia Norins from Marketing Lemonade LLC who will reveal “proven digital and traditional marketing ideas that attendees can implement immediately for extraordinary results.” The description adds: “Attract more than 1,000 shoppers in a week, grow sales by more than 50 percent in a month, and obtain the highest store sales in one day using ideas from this fast-paced, one-hour session. (continued on page 22)

january/february 2018 • • • • • 21

(continued from page 20)

Tradeshows are powerful networking and relationship-building centers. Creating human connections, especially between buyers and vendors, is unquestionably the most valuable aspect of attending a tradeshow. “You do business with people, not entities,” Mina Chang reminds us in Forbes. The CEO and president of Linking the World International, writes, “The beauty of communication is found in the nuance that’s only felt in face-to-face conversations. When a whopping 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues,

22 • • • • • january/february 2018

talking face-to-face becomes more important than ever.” Conversations with industry peers are informal informationgathering vehicles. Listen and learn from everyone you talk to at the lunch table, in the aisles, at the booths, over coffee, and at special get-togethers like ASTRA’s Night in New York. Camille Candella, vice president of marketing for Emerald Expositions, the largest operator of business-to-business trade shows in the United States, says this: “Tradeshows are a great reflection of what is going to be hot in the upcoming retail landscape. The buzz from the

show floor is unlike any other buying opportunity that retailers have access to.” ASTRA’s Hospitality Lounge in Hall 1E Room 12 is a great place to sit down, eat lunch, charge your phone, and network. And don’t miss the party, ASTRA’s Night in New York. It takes place on Sunday, February 18, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Clyde Frazier’s, just down the street from the Javits Center. ($65 per person for members/$150 for nonmembers. Five dollars from each ticket purchase goes to KaBOOM! a nonprofit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of kids.)


january/february 2018 • • • • • 23

Visit Our Advertisers at


Here are some reasons to head to their booths

Adventure Parks Booth 2735

Unplug, get outdoors and discover the greatest adventure in your own backyard! AdventureParks. com is celebrating 42 years as the industry leader in outdoor adventure play. From their legendary ZiplineFun zip lines, classic swings, and the Air Surfer, to the most awarded swing ever, the Air Pogo, Adventure Parks has the right swing or zip line for any backyard.

See ad on page 31

Asmodee North America

Booth 3111 See ads on pages 5, 17, 23

Blue Orange Games Booth 103

Stop by to check out their new 2018 collection, which includes preschool cooperative games and one-of-a-kind dexterity races. Free freight special for orders placed at the show ($750 minimum).

See ad on page 52


Booth 6471 See ad on page 20

C & A Scientific

Booth 6639 See science in action and learn how STEM products SELL

C & A Scientific, makers of medical-grade equipment, is a 20-year exhibitor at Toy Fair. Stop by to see the hottest science toys for kids from the award-winning My First Lab product line! Explore cool specimens and 3-D objects, and demo best-selling microscopes. Take a picture with Mad Scientist Max and receive a FREE STEM Starter Kit featuring 3-D slides and a powerful microscope for your smartphone.

See ad on page 39

EDC Publishing/ Usborne/Kane Miller Booth 6305

EDC Publishing is the exclusive publisher and distributer of Usborne Books in the United States. Usborne Books are beloved by children of all ages. Kane Miller Books are award-winning titles from around the world. Go to their booth to take advantage of our their specials.

See ad on page 22

Fat Brain Toys Booth 6135

Known for innovation, Fat Brain Toy Co., the Nebraska-based omni-channel toy company, is excited to launch 36 new items at Toy Fair. Spanning from infant and toddler to building toys for older children, Fat Brain Toy Co.’s growing line continues to be a diverse selection of toys, games, and brainteasers for all ages. The company has plans to launch more than a dozen more new items at ASTRA’s Marketplace in June.

See ad on page 56

Firefox Toys Booth 1388

Firefox Toys are made with durable, kid-friendly materials. They’re perfect for STEAM and STEM activities. Come see our exciting new gliders and toys, and take advantage of their show special: 10-percent off.

See ad on page 47

Identity Games International Booth 6829 See ad on page 7

Kettler International Inc. Booth 2507

When KETTLER launched the Kiddi-o line in the early 1990s, no one knew the impact that these value-driven ride-on toys would have. But sales soared, thanks to a booming economy and safetyconscious parents looking for high-quality ride-on toys at a great price. In 2016, KETTLER brought back the brand with a fresh focus. Each Kiddi-o purchaser receives a coloring storybook that outlines education, giving, and the environment. In the back is a list of charities so that the child can choose where Kiddi-o will send $1 from his or her purchase.

See ad on page 48

Koplow Games Booth 2803 See ad on page 54 24 • • • • • january/february 2018

The Lazy Dog & Co./ Light Stax Booth 5747

Visit them at Toy Fair and learn about all of their unique brands! Experience the magic of Light Stax, their beautifully illuminated construction blocks, and check out the latest models from TICO mini bricks. See their brand-new line of wooden automaton kits featuring lifelike motion. Free demos, FFA, and other special offers available.

See ad on page 7

Learning Express Toys Booth 6301

Learning Express is a family of independent specialty toy store owners who demonstrate a passion and capability for the retail toy industry. Learn how these owners take advantage of the Learning Express system to help their businesses grow. Store conversion opportunities are available in select markets.

Mindware Wholesale Booth 2515

MindWare is passionate about filling the world with fun, high-quality products that foster lifelong learning, growth and success. They are committed to providing customers with the best Brainy Toys in the world.

See ads on pages 13, 55

Monkeying Around Booth 6835

You’ll definitely want to visit their Toy Fair booth because premiere Dot-to-Dot Designer David Kalvitis has released two new books: The Greatest Dot-to-Dot Adventure Book 3 and a We Are Connected Dot-to-Dot Philadelphia special edition. They also have these booth specials: 2 PERCENT OFF when ordering in 10 packs, 2 PERCENT OFF when paying with credit card, and free shipping on orders over $425 wholesale (to one U.S. address).

See ad on page 53


Booth 1957

See Looney Labs’ new games: Zendo, Doctor Who Fluxx, Get the MacGuffin, and Anatomy Fluxx!

Taking a key from the extremely successful Rock and Roll It Rainbow Piano, MukikiM is sure to Rock You with the new SpecDrum Electronic Drum Set. It BOOMS with a palette of color and is a fantastic starter kit for every aspiring young drummer! See the latest Rock and Roll It creation from MukikiM at Toy Fair.

See ad on page 6

See ad on page 30


North Star Games

Stop by to discover their new brands: TileBlox, Clicformers, Dolce, and KidsMe. Ask about their specialty exclusives!

The makers of Happy Salmon are introducing the Happy Planet brand of games. Go to their booth and play the games that are making everyone smile!

See ad on page 21

Looney Labs Booth 6943

Booth 777

Booth 6629

See ad on page 15

See ad on page 9

Odyssey Toys

Booth 1163 and 3253 See ad on page 29

Pink Poppy Booth 6654

Order at Toy Fair with a Pink Poppy USA Inc. representative and qualify for special offers.

See ad on page 39

Playmonster Booth 435

Here’s just one of the many reasons to visit their booth – they have SIX (!) TOTY finalists in six categories including Dolls, Playset, Specialty, Vehicles, Infant/Toddler, and Games.

See ad on page 2


Booth 6543 See ad on page 3

The Good Toy Group Booth 6207 See ad on page 27

Toysmith Booth 753

Discover new ways to play with Toysmith in 2018! We have an expansive portfolio of brands and partner programs, including STEM, creative, and active-play toys.

See ad on page 37 25

TAKE NOTES! by Phil Wrzesinski


don’t remember my first Toy Fair as a buyer. Oh, I remember the year, 1996. I remember going to multiple buildings including the Toy Building on 5th Ave., the building for Hasbro, and two days at Javits. I remember stairs and escalators and elevators and breakfast at the Stage Deli. The rest is just a blur. In fact, all the trade shows I’ve ever attended including two decades of Toy Fair, JPMA, ASTRA, and ABC Expo quickly become blurs in the memory. Don’t ask me what year I saw the (insert hot, new fad here) for the first time. I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head.

26 • • • • • january/february 2018

I could go check my notes, however. There are dozens of articles each year prior to the big trade show telling you how to prepare, what reports to run, how to plan out your visit to maximize time, and what to bring (comfortable shoes, business cards, and credit sheets). No one tells you what to do during the show. The fact is, after only one day of walking the booths at Javits, your eyes are bleary, your mind is numb, and you have a hard enough time remembering to eat, let alone what was in the

booth you just visited. Here is what I did during trade shows that could help you. As I visited the booths, I made sure to get a price list from each company. Not only is there nothing worse than getting home with a catalog but no price list, I also found that the price list was the best place for writing notes. I would star the items I liked, write down show specials, and make other notations like ship dates, display ideas, etc. The process of writing everything down on the price list meant that the info

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would be easily available when I got back to the office after the show. At the end of each day, I would also take about an hour in the hotel to compile all those notes into a notebook. I would write down the company, the booth number, the show special, the deadline for the show special, and the new products I liked the best. The process of writing everything down a second time into a notebook helped me organize my thoughts, spot trends and compare companies more easily, and decide where I might need to revisit before the trade show ended. I know you’re tired at the end of the day. I know you’re heading out to dinner with friends. I know you’re ready to have a little fun and not think about work for a few hours. But that one hour you take each night to compile your notes does a world of wonder to prepare you for the next day, and makes your next day much more productive. On the eve of the last day of the trade show I would use my notes to compile a list of booths to revisit, including where orders needed to be written at the show. Those notes I had taken made that last day much more efficient and productive. I knew exactly what I needed to do, where I needed to go, and when I could call it a day. Those notes come in handy after the show, too. Trying to keep track in your head everything you learned and saw at Toy Fair is near impossible; especially all those show specials good through the end of the month. One of my first tasks at my desk after a tradeshow was to read my notes and make a stack of the catalogs that needed attention right away.

Photo courtesy of The Young Sceintists Club

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In 1996 I wrote these words: “Pass on Tickle Me Elmo. No play value.” My dad ordered them anyway and although we sold out of every piece we got before Christmas, we got stuck with a few hundred that arrived post-Christmas after everyone else realized I was right. Take notes. Rewrite them. Reread them. You’ll be thankful you did. Philip C. Wrzesinski is the former owner of Toy House and Baby Too in Jackson, Michigan, named one of “The 25 best independent stores in America” by George Whalin in his book Retail Superstars. Now Phil takes the lessons he learned in a lifetime of retail to help other independent retailers and small businesses find their success. You can learn more about Phil at january/february 2018 • • • • • 27

Get a Fix on

Your Mix


t’s time to head to the biggest buying event of the year. At Toy Fair, you’ll not only choose what to order, you’ll also decide how many of each new product you’ll need and when

it should be delivered. Each one of those three decisions is equally important to your business, and even the best specialty toy retailers can fumble one or more of them. But if you’re following sound inventory management practices, chances are you’ll get it right. To help you do that, here are some tips from Francesca Nicasio, retail expert and content strategist at Vend, a tech firm in New Zealand that creates POS software. Poor control of your stock not only affects the new products you bring in, she notes, it can also impact customer experiences, cause reduced sales and tie up your capital. “In other words, if you fail to manage your inventory properly, you’ll likely see problems in other aspects of your business, particularly finance and customer experience,” explains Francesca. Here are some of the inventory management “don’ts” she’s seen, along with advice on how to fix them.

28 • • • • • january/february 2018

1. Don’t manage your inventory manually

You can’t keep your inventory in check if you’re still using pen and paper. Manual stock control can lead to human error, inventory discrepancies, and wasted time. What should you do instead? For starters, you need to digitize your inventory processes, particularly when it comes to data entry and reporting. Rather than handwriting your product information and quantities, get yourself an inventory management system that lets you enter your product numbers electronically or scan them into the system. Modern inventory management systems can also adjust levels automatically when you process sales or returns, which means you won’t have to manually update your records. You should also invest in an inventory solution with reporting capabilities so you can gain deeper insights into your stock. Having the right reports means you can quickly figure out what your top sellers are and how your products are performing, and thus make smarter stock control decisions. Case in point: Mom and Popcorn, a popcorn and candy shop in Texas that finally switched to a modern POS and inventory management system. According to company owner Dave Wilson, the move saved them a tremendous amount of time and allowed them to streamline their store

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operations. “For example, now we know there is some inventory that takes 12 months to move. We shouldn’t re-order it because it doesn’t move quickly enough,” he explains. “The technology helps us provide products that people actually want. We’ve gotten rid of 8- to 10-percent of our inventory that wasn’t selling, and that has allowed us to bring on another 100 items that are selling better.”

2. Don’t wait to count physical inventory

The key to successfully addressing issues like shrinkage and inventory discrepancies is to catch them early. You won’t be able to do that if you don’t count

30 • • • • • january/february 2018

your inventory frequently. Think about it: if you only conduct stock counts once a year, then your inventory report will have a year’s worth of discrepancies. It will be difficult for you to pinpoint the root causes of your inventory issues. That’s why a lot of experts recommend cycle counting; the process of partially counting merchandise on a continuous basis. This method entails counting just certain portions of inventory on a daily or weekly basis, so you won’t have to do a full inventory count anymore. Jordan Lewis, Vend’s resident inventory expert, recommends factoring in things like sell-through

and size when determining what merchandise to count and how often to do it. “My advice is to focus on the items that you sell more of or that are smaller or easier to misplace, he says. “For low-volume items, you can afford to count them less frequently. “You should also ensure that your online inventory is counted and synced with your offline stock levels,” he adds. “This is essential for customer satisfaction and online order fulfillment.” According to Jordan, you should ensure “that everything is counted at least once a month.” At the very least, retailers should aim to cycle through all their products every quarter.

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3. Don’t let your stockroom become disorganized

Be strategic with how you position merchandise. The key is to make things as easy as possible to locate. Depending on how you run your store, it could mean placing your fastest-moving items at the front, so they’re more accessible. In some cases, it may make more sense to group all similar items together or arrange merchandise by department. Whatever the case, find what works best for your business and go from there. Label your bins and storage spaces. Labels can be a godsend for managing a stockroom, so take the time to create detailed, easy-to-understand labeling for your storage spaces and containers. Stack it high. High shelves enable you to fully utilize the vertical space in your stockroom; thus making you more efficient. As a bonus, these shelves can also save you time and energy. As Will Ambroson of Homespice


32 • • • • • january/february 2018



11:48 AM

Decor told GiftShopMag, “Vertical shelving will also keep you from stacking too many boxes on top of one another. You’ll save time and energy by not having to take down and then restack each box when you need the one on the very bottom.” Make room for “admin” work. Storing products isn’t the only thing you’ll be doing in your stockroom. You and your employees will likely spend a considerable amount of time there taking notes, checking inventory levels, updating stock counts, and managing suppliers. See to it that your stockroom has a designated space for such tasks. Francesca Nicasio writes about trends and tips that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, “and be more awesome overall.”Please visit for more information and to see the free retail resources they offer including ebooks, videos, articles, tools, webinars and reports.

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Grayce McLaughlin from Touch of Grayce in Geneseo, New York “One of my favorite games on our shelves is Qwirkle (1) by Mindware, a board game that is fun for all ages. Players are supposed to match the tiles that have similar colors and shapes. When you create a line of six in a row, you score a “Qwirkle!” “You can never beat a classic board game, and we have several in stock. Adults are especially fond of these nostalgic games and can pass their memories down to their children. One example is Risk (2).The challenge is to take over the world. Another is Parcheesi (3), a “race and chase” kind of game. “Pom-Pom Pet Shop (4) by Klutz Jr has been a great seller for us. It’s a perfect toy for any child who enjoys crafts. Each kit includes an idea booklet and everything you need to make up to 10 different critters, as well as a punch-out pet carrier. “The RollerCoaster Challenge (5) by Think Fun! is a perfect STEM and engineering game for kids aged 6 and up. Players choose a challenge card and set up the coaster pieces that match it. Then, remaining pieces are used to complete the track based off of the building conditions also found on the challenge card.”





34 • • • • • january/february 2018







Ruth Kremer from Kremer’s Toy and Hobby in Albertville, Minnesota “6-inch Shopkins Plush Toys (6) have been bestsellers in our store lately. They’re perfect because even if customers are unfamiliar with the brand, they’re still unique and eye-catching. Shopkins come in a variety of different characters so there’s something for everyone. “The Wonderology Science Kits (7) are a huge hit for our customers that come in looking for gift ideas. They have a great price

point so people tend to buy more than one at a time. The science experiments themselves don’t take long to complete so kids won’t get bored easily. “Traxxas RC Cars (8) come in a variety of different makes and models. These remote control cars do well in our store for hobbyists and toy enthusiasts alike.” Steve Pressor from Big Fun Toys in Cleveland, Ohio “Retro candy is a must-have in


our store, and we get them all from b.a. Sweeties Candy. Candy Buttons (9) are easily transportable and can be enjoyed anywhere you go. Both adults and kids like to splurge on the sweets. Jaw Busters (10) last for a few days and it is fun to watch the colors change. “Always the fastest to leave the store are the Star Wars Lego Sets, more specifically the Star Wars BB-8 kit (11). Targeted to ages 10-16, this specific kit includes 1,106 pieces – it’ll keep you busy for awhile.” january/february 2018 • • • • • 35




Christine Osborne from Wonder Works Toys in Charleston, South Carolina “Orb is tapping into the world of STEM with atoms that magically bond together. Orb Molecules (12), a new and unique creation compound, will never dry out. Kids can play with them over and over again. “Build and Play Kits (13) from Antsy Pants are new and have been selling well. Kids can build any structure imaginable with easy-to-assemble poles and click connectors. The kits encourage active and imaginative play. “A new customer favorite is the game Story Craze (14) from Story Club Games. It’s all about creativity, imagination, and conversation. Story Craze uses random people, places, and things as inspiration for out-of-the box thinking. Based on those cues, players can create laugh-out-loud tales.

36 • • • • • january/february 2018


“Ring Pop Puppies (15) from Moose Toys takes the unboxing trend to a whole new level. Kids unwrap what looks like a ring pop, but inside the gemstone there’s a cute puppy figure. With 20 different characters, Ring Pop Puppies is sure to be a hot collectible! “Silly Squeaks (16) from Blip are new to the store, and they’re great for sensory development. They are musical pets that feature interactive songs and 16 silly sounds. Each character plays a different genre of music. I think they’ll be a popular collectible, too.


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Counting Down the


10 9

by Sandy Ruben

As a toy rep, I am asked these two questions most frequently: “What are the hottest themes right now?”

“Are mermaids still strong?” “Pirates have slacked off,



“Toilet Related”



haven’t they?” and “What do you think of sloths – will they be big in 2018?” In my quest to have all the answers, I surveyed a group of 23 toy retailers from across the country around Thanksgiving. The topic? “Trending themes.” I listed 18 of them, and storeowners ranked them highest to lowest. The resulting Top 10 list may help you with some of your buying decisions at Toy Fair and throughout the first quarter. Let me start with the has-beens. In terms of “pirates,” our group essentially declared them dead. In addition, the themes of “fox” and “owl” are dying, but did you know that “hedgehogs” are as well? Here are the 10 most popular toy themes right now, based on our survey. 38 • • • • • january/february 2018


A surprise to me – I had heard very little about the elephant theme until shortly before sending out the survey. We will be conducting this survey again after Toy Fair, and it will be interesting to see where elephants are ranked then. I suspect they may be higher.


and “Which once-popular themes are fading away?” Lately, I’ve also received these follow-up questions:


Coming off a solid year in 2017, “robots” is not a category to be forgotten yet.

In one of the biggest surprises for me, “toilet related” made it into our top 10. I should point out that the retailers were really split on this one. About half of them ranked it in the top 5, and the other half within the bottom five. Over the next few months, I will be closely monitoring this category, as it appears to be trending upwards quickly. I will also explore more specifically the items that are hot sellers in this category.

5 Princesses

By all accounts, numbers 5 and 6 will continue as strong categories.

4 Sloths

The relatively new trend had a very strong showing. Watch it closely. It seems to be growing.

3 Fairies 2 Mermaids

It’s another surprise to me. I wondered if its popularity, so high in 2017, might be waning a bit. Not so, according to this group of stores.

1 Unicorns

2018, without a doubt, will be the year of the unicorn. It was chosen as the hottest theme by 19 of the 23 stores surveyed. (continued on page 40)

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january/february 2018 • • • • • 39

Special thanks to the wonderful retailers who shared their insight. • Big City Toys in Alabama • Finnegans in Oregon • Five Little Monkeys in California • Geppetto’s in California • Grand Rabbits in Colorado • Hollipops Greenville in South Carolina • Island Treasure Toys in Maine • Kidstop in Arizona • Learning Express Alpharetta in Georgia • Learning Express Ann Arbor in Michigan • Learning Express Chattanooga in Tennessee

• Learning Express Durham in North Carolina • Learning Express Lake Zurich in Illinois • Nana’s in Florida • Piccolo Mondo in California • Play in Illinois • Shenanigans in Virginia • Stamford Toys in Connecticut • Totally Thomas in California • Toy Maven in Texas • Toys Unique in Texas • Wonder Works in South Carolina • World of Mirth in Virginia

If you’re wondering what came in dead last, I’ll tell you. “Bats,” the flying kind, was chosen number 18 by the large majority of respondents. As a category, it had been suggested by one of the participating retailers. In terms of emerging themes, “Llamas” were written in most often by survey participants. I expect it to make our top 10 list during the next round of surveys. Also receiving write-in votes were “Pandas” and “the Narwhal.” Watch for the results of the next trend survey in edplay’s March/April issue. If a theme is trending strong in your store let Sandy know. Send your suggestions to sandyruben@hotmail. com, or call 843-696-4464.

In 2015, Sandy was honored by ASTRA as the Sales Representative of the Year. A teacher by training, he opened a toy store in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1985. Fourteen years later, he founded Sandy Ruben and Associates – just Sandy and his Toyota covering six states. Since then, the group has grown to eight reps who cover eight states. Its showroom in Atlanta’s AmericasMart recently doubled in size to 4,500 square feet.



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g The Fridge Robot is a movin gravity with es defi that net refrigerator mag lding their each step. Kids will enjoy bui ts, magnets par own robot with the assorted and instructions., 800-356-0474, sales@toysmi

Chewigem offers sensory stimulation to kids with oral motor and/or tactile needs. The hand fidgets are a discreet and chewable solution for school, outings and other activities that require self regulation.

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Fractiles Large Edition includes little diamondshaped magnetic tiles that help kids build STEM skills as they create seven-fold snowflakes, starbursts, spirals, butterflies, and more.

Each block in the 30-piece History Makers Puzzle Block Set features six sides of play. They contain numbers and alphabets, biographical notes on iconic African Americans, historic events, and self-leadership concepts.

Stick-lets are flexible joints designed to join sticks of all shapes and sizes. This tool helps build meaningful memories outdoors while engaging in an intuitive STEAM activity.

Math Fluxx is all about the numbers. Players use positive integers in their quest to achieve a very mathematical goal. When the optional Victory Rules are in play, players can match cards, multiply them, or use a variety of operations to win.

Kettler’s Kiddi-o 6-in-1 Multi Trike adapts to a growing child with six different modes. It includes a safety bar and infant or toddler footrests. The adjustable stroller handlebar makes maneuvering a breeze. 888-253-8858

Easily turn any mobile device into a powerful microscope with the STEM Starter Kit from C & A Scientific. The My First Lab kit includes the best-selling cell phone microscope, the Smartphone Inspector, and 15 amazing 3-D specimens on prepared slides.

Mukikim’s SpecDrum Electronic Drum Kit helps teach the basics of rhythm while using a spectrum of color. The flexible, silicon-rub ber kit includes color-coded drum pads and a colorcoordinated instructional booklet.

january/february 2018 • • • • • 43

new and true

Funky Chicken is a card game featuring funky dance moves. Players will be spinning in place, hip-bumping, swinging with their partners and doing the iconic Funky Chicken!

The Knight Bus 280-piece 3D Puzzle, the sixth Harry Potter model in Wrebbit’s 3D Puzzle Collection, features the purple triple-decker bus for stranded wizards. It includes snug and tight fitting foam-back pieces. 855-787-8842,,

The Greatest Dot-to-Dot Adventure Book 3 unfolds before your eyes as our young boy travels around the world. Included are a variety of brand-new puzzle inventions.

Q-BA-MAZE allows for a limitless range of configuration options. The 7.5-inch-long straightaway rails attach easily to any single or double-exit cube to send your marbles zooming.

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Brackitz Bugz Play Park features more than 20 obstacles that let the imagination go wild. Watch out for the tumbling towers, falling dominoes, barrel rolls, the crusher, and the tripod, to name a few.

The Automoblox Mini SC1 Chaos and HR5 Scorch 2-Pack fits in the palm of your hand. It features a purple sports car and a red hot rod made of European beechwood. They have a universal connector system that enables the rapid inter change of parts to further accentuate the fun factor of creating different styles.

It’s time to fly the Twister, one of Firefox Toys’ bestselling gliders! With four styles and color stickers available, the S-Series line is a winner.

RollAgain Tower provides endless ball-run fun! Grab the ball from the bottom to make all the other balls roll down one level. Drop the ball into the funnel at the top and then grab the next ball to do it all over again.

The Clicformers Speed Wheel 34-piece Set lets kids build their own race cars. It contains 22 building blocks and 12 accessory pieces. Clicformers construction toys are ideal for developing eye-hand coordination.

january/february 2018 • • • • • 45

new and true Pool Party is the newest game from Blue Orange. Propel your teammates into the unsteady pool and be the first to land three divers in to win. Too many swimmers and this topsy-turvy pool can easily spill over and toss everyone out.

The Unicorn Dress-Up Set from Pink Poppy shows that unicorns really do exist! The iridescent unicornhorn headband and glamorous curly tail helps turn dreams into enchanted fun and play.

Techno Gears Dizzy Droid Construction Set from The Learning Journey moves and works for kids age 6 years and up. The set features more than 80 colorful construction pieces and aligns with STEM standards. (Two AA batteries are required) 602-787-1115

Are You There Little Bunny? from EDC publishing is a beautifully illustrated hide-and-seek book series. Children can “spot” the bunny through a hole on each page, but when they turn the page, it isn’t the bunny at all!

LandESCAPES Diorama Kits are fun, fast and easy projects for kids and parents alike. They come with fully-illustrated instructions to help whisk you away to the land of dinosaurs or a deserted island.

46 • • • • • january/february 2018

TICO Mini Bricks allow you to craft each set with amazing detail to create realistic miniature models or works of art! They come in a variety of colors and shapes. 201-771-0039


industry news In December, The Toy Association participated in a congressional briefing focused on counterfeits and consumer safety. Hosted by the Congressional Trademark Caucus, the briefing covered challenges related to e-commerce and IP-infringing goods, and included panelists from The Toy Association, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the National IPR Center, and the American Apparel & Footwear Association. The growing issue of counterfeit toys has become a significant safety concern for the nation’s most vulnerable population – children, said panelist Rebecca Mond, The Toy Association’s senior director of federal government affairs. “All toys sold in the U.S. must comply with very strict product safety requirements and must be tested by an accredited, independent testing lab to demonstrate compliance,” she explained. “Suffice it to say, it is highly unlikely that an infringing seller has undertaken the same efforts to ensure the safety of the knock-off toy.” Counterfeits seized at the ports damage the reputation of legitimate manufacturers, Mond added. In addressing other challenges, CBP noted that they are looking into making IP seizures of small volume parcels more expeditious and spoke about current initiatives with USPS and China Mail to get more advanced data to improve targeting. Advocating for systematic solutions to ensure that U.S. consumers have access to legitimate and safe toys only, The Toy Association supports the following. • Initiatives to improve enforcement and targeting of IP infringing goods, especially for low-value shipments. • CBP’s work with global customs authorities to share and exchange best practices and improve enforcement. • Educating consumers and small businesses. • The incorporation of strong IP protections and strong enforcement provisions into NAFTA and other trade agreements. “Our participation in the briefing, as well as our involvement in the International Trademark Association and the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, underscores The Toy Association’s commitment to raising awareness about the issue of IP-infringing toys sold online,” concluded Mond. At a meeting in September of the leaders of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), the group decided to form an Innovation Council to help guide the organization’s focus and growth. According to ASTRA President Kim Mosley in the most recent addition of Toy Times, the council is charged with examining the retail landscape to identify important developments, and trends and

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disruptions that impact the ASTRA ecosystem. “The council will prioritize the key developments and provide to the ASTRA Board insight and recommendations for further action to help members adapt and thrive in the face of ongoing change,” she wrote. The 10-member council will include ASTRA members “and nonmembers who have interests aligned with ASTRA,” says Toy Times. january/february 2018 • • • • • 47 Toy Fair Magazine 2.25x4.75 2017.indd 1

12/15/17 4:09 PM

industry news Results are in from retailers who participated in ASTRA’s Neighborhood Toy Store Day held on Saturday, November 11. Here are the highlights. • 252 retailers pledged to participate, up from 90 in 2016. • 46 percent of the respondents saw an increase in sales on Neighborhood Toy Store Day of between 5 and 25 percent, compared to a typical Saturday in November. • 29 percent of respondents indicated that the event they held included a charitable component. • More than 80 manufacturers participated – up 14 percent

and a record high. Forty percent of the retail respondents used Crazy Aaron’s Neighborhood Toy Store Day special. • 97 percent of the respondents promoted their event on Facebook. Fifty-seven percent used email and 48 percent used Instagram.

The Second Annual Play Fair, The Toy Association’s business-to-consumer event, was held Saturday, November 4 and Sunday, November 5 at the Javits Center in New York. At 230,000 square feet, it was more than three times the size of the first fair held in February 2016, when it coincided with Toy Fair.

The joint venture between The Toy Association and LeftField Media was presented by Spin Master and Toys “R” Us. Its goal is to help Toy Association members build their brands by connecting directly with kids and parents. Play Fair featured hands-on exhibits and larger-than-life play experiences from 70 toy and children’s entertainment companies. They included • a Minecraft VR station; • a NERF arena; • an augmented reality Ben 10 experience; • a K’NEX building area; • a Spin Master experience; • builder demos with Magformers; • an ALEX SPA experience; • giant LEGO brick piles and race ramps; • live unboxings; • Jedi training with the Empire Saber Guild; • a Shopkins Fashion show; • countless photo opportunities and • limited-edition items only available at Play Fair. Families who attended could take their Play Fair badges to dozens of shops, museums, restaurants and landmarks in the city – participants in the fair’s “Race Around New York” – for specials and exclusive deals. “Formal survey results from those in attendance are coming in extremely positive,” says Steve Pasierb, Toy Association president. When asked, “Did you or your family discover any new toys or characters at Play Fair that you don’t already play with or watch?” 75 percent of the respondents said “Yes.” In 2018, Play Fair will take place November 3 to 4.


48 • • • • • january/february 2018

for your business information What’s New in Nostalgia Marketing?’s December report for Toy Association members highlights how brands are using marketing techniques to promote “heritage,” a brand’s milestones, or pop-culture phenomena of the past. Highlighted in the report are these trends.

Whimsical Excursion

Nostalgia Supplies

Modernist Grunge Mania

School supplies incorporating a 1990s nostalgia motif resonated with younger consumers last summer, when Limited Too temporarily revived its brand to unveil a mobile pop-up in New York City. It sold everything from clothing and accessories to notebooks, key chains, backpacks, and cell phone cases.

Mid-Aughts Play

Fans of Harry Potter can now experience a Harry Potter escape room called The School of Witchcraft and Wizardry game. The UK-based attraction takes participants through a series of Harry Potter-related quests.

Pop-culture franchises are taking center stage with themed family cruises, such as a “Beauty and the Beast” themed cruise by Disney River Cruise line. The port calls and experiences are inspired by the live-action movie.

Fashion-minded consumers are looking on social media for footwear, accessories, and streetwear popular in the 1990s. Cult footwear lovers delighted earlier this year when Nike unveiled its Air Max 97 “Silver Bullet” shoe for a limited time, and Steve Madden re-launched its popular “Slinky” platform wedge sandals.

Narrative Flagship

As brick-and-mortar retailers work to entice consumers, many established brands are incorporating unique offerings in the form of personalization kiosks and other amenities.

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50 • • • • • january/february 2018

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Right now across the country, Sears, Walmart, Target, Macy’s, Nordstrom, and others are trying to edit their inventory so that it fits into smaller spaces with fewer categories. “It’s a challenge of enormous consequence,” Mark Cohen, a professor of retailing at Columbia Business School and former chief executive of Sears Canada, told The Washington Post. “How do you successfully distill 200,000 square feet of products into 80,000 square feet?” The shift in store size follows the trend of Americans moving from the suburbs to city centers where space is at a premium, says the article. “Big-box stores on the outskirts of town are no longer convenient nor practical for Millennials with tiny apartments and no car. Target alone is opening 30 smaller stores by the end of the year, doubling its presence near urban areas and college campuses.” The boom in online sales negates the need for millions of square feet of store space, and retailers must downsize to save money. Shopping centers are struggling to fill their empty spaces, stores are undergoing costly renovations and, in some cases, retailers have to pay their landlords to change their existing leases. Sales at smaller-format stores are projected to grow 3.9 percent annually until 2022, says Kantar Retail in the Post article. “Stores smaller than 20,000 square feet account for $612 billion in annual sales, with that figure slated to grow 21 percent to $741 billion in the next five years.”

12/11/17 4:33 PM

Target Takes Action on Same-Day Delivery In December, Target announced that it would acquire online same-day delivery platform Shipt. The deal was expected to close by the end of the month. Four-year-old Shipt is a membership-based grocery delivery platform for more than 72 U.S. markets mostly in the southeast, Midwest, and Texas. Depending on the market, Shipt currently fulfills and delivers orders from various retailers including Costco, H-E-B, Publix, Kroger, Meijer, Harris Teeter, and Fry’s. Shipt offers customers both a monthly ($14/month) and annual ($99/year) membership. This compares to Instacart at $149/year and Amazon Fresh at $14.99/month. The deal will give Target same-day delivery at about

half of its 1,834 stores by next summer, with the number growing to a majority of stores in time for next year’s holiday season. Initially, Target will offer food, beverages, essentials, and other smaller home/ electronics through Shipt, with a plan to expand the assortment to all major product groups by the end of 2019. While Kroger and Costco Wholesale are among Shipt’s existing retail partners, Target is buying Shipt, a decision that shows how serious it is about home delivery, notes Kantar Retail analyst Robin Sherk in a recent Bloomberg article. One-stop shopping was fine in

the 1990s, he says, but today’s families also want the option of instant food delivery. Four out of five shoppers want same-day shipping, according to a survey by fulfillment software maker Temando, but only half of retailers offer it, reports Bloomberg. When the Target deal closes, Shipt will operate as a subsidiary of Target and will continue to grow its partnerships with other retailers. The service will cost Target customers $99 a year for unlimited deliveries. Target’s plans include augmenting the number of participants on the Shipt platform over time to create its own digital

ecosystem; a different one from the marketplace both Walmart and Amazon have created successfully. Right now, Target expects to keep prices the same for Shipt purchases versus traditional in-store buys, but the 5 percent discount available for users of the Target Red Card will not be available on Shipt.

january/february 2018 • • • • • 51

for your business information Learn Smart Retail-Experience Lessons from Apple The mantra “location location location” is being supplanted by “experience experience experience,” and no store creates a better customer experience than Apple, says marketing expert Pam Danziger. “It transforms its products into experiences and delivers them through a new kind of retailing model,” she wrote on her blog in December. The model elevates Apple stores from “places to buy things” into destinations that offer meaningful and important experiences. “Apple retail generates some 28 percent of the company’s $229.2 billion net sales, according

to the 2017 annual report,” says Danziger. “Its impact on sales and branding, and also on personal customer connections, is only going to grow.” Here are three important lessons from Apple’s experiencebased retail business model. Danziger says, “Retailers across the board, from grocery to fashion, need to understand them, too.”

Be a place to learn

Consumers take the research that leads up to a purchase very seriously. Retailers need to arouse their curiosity, and provide the meaningful and

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52 • • • • • january/february 2018

useful information they’re looking for, but not by ballyhooing products. “The secret is not pushing that information out as a marketing ploy, but to use it to draw consumers in.” She uses “Today at Apple” educational programming as an example. While it does teach Apple customers to use its technology, it does not shill Apple products. Instead, subject-matter experts expose consumers to new experiences in music, art, design and photography that broaden their perspective. “Consumers today – the customers retailers hope to serve

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– are information sponges,” Danziger writes. “Retailers should think beyond providing information just about their merchandise to providing information about the customers’ lifestyles, dreams and aspirations that their merchandise makes possible.”

Become a place to gather

With nearly 500 stores worldwide and 15 years of retail behind it, Apple is redesigning its stores as “Town Squares.” Renovations resulted in the addition of real trees to the modern store design, and a name change from Genius Bar to Genius Grove. It elevates the idea of a store from “a place to display products in anticipation of a sale” to “an environment where people will gather.” Retailers and other local businesses that make up Main Street are already becoming gathering places – just think of the families that go to toy stores for music, story times, even childbirth classes.

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Become a place to serve

Apple modeled its customer service approach after the Ritz-Carlton’s Steps of Service guidelines and developed its own “steps,” listed here.

A pproach customers with a personalized warm welcome – not “May I help you?”

Probe politely to understand customers’ needs. Don’t sell.

Instead, solve their problems. (The stated goal is to “delight the customers.”)

Present a solution that the customer can take home today. Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns.

“And, when all else fails, there’s a guide for associates called ‘Emergency First Aid for Emotional Customers,’” says Danziger. It includes advice such as “Listen and limit responses to simple reassurances,” and “Acknowledge the customer’s underlying reaction.”

End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.

e january/february 2018 • • • • • 53

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