For People Who Sell Toys
STAR Power Our heroes O.P. and R2 are on a mission to sell toys
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by Kevin Fahy
The Golden Fleece
know this doesn’t reflect well on me, but my dog is something of a mess. His long fur is generally tangled and knotted, strewn with burrs and prickers. He sheds so much that we often remark that we could make a whole new golden retriever every day. We used to take him to a local dog groomer to get bathed and trimmed, but last year that woman retired and no one stepped up to take her place. I’m not sure whether it’s a product of our full-employment economy or there has been some sort of fundamental change in our culture, but lately it seems awfully difficult to find people who do independent service jobs, like snow plowing, tree trimming, appliance repair, pest control, or whatever. In most cases I’ve eventually found somebody to do those things, although they’ve become so picky about their clientele that I sometimes felt as though I was trying to get a child into an exclusive boarding school. In a few instances, I have actually had to resort to doing something myself. I thought I had reached those dire straits in terms of dog maintenance, so I decided
to look for some grooming tools. About a half-hour from my home there is one of those pet supply chain stores, and that seemed like a logical place to start. So I went to the store, and sure enough, there was a whole aisle of products intended for people who wanted to groom their own pets at home. One display rack in particular featured the type of tool I was looking for, with numerous variations based on size of breed, length of coat, and so forth. The appropriate tool for my dog was priced at $69.99, plus tax. That seemed like a lot of money for something that looked like a small hairbrush with a blade in it. (Knowing my dog, he would probably eat it.) I was going to buy it anyway, on the theory that it must be good quality if it was that expensive, but first I thought to Google it on my phone. My search results showed that Amazon sells the same tool for $15.99. There is no sales tax, which means that the final cost of the product in the store is five times what it is online. I’ve been around the retail business long enough to know how discrepancies can happen, (continued on page 5)
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For People Who Sell Toys
March/April 2018 Volume 25, No. 2
About the Cover The replica of Star Wars droid R2-D2 projects holograms and interacts with customers at O.P. Taylor’s in Brevard, North Carolina. “It’s crazy but people love it,” says storeowner John Taylor.
le Who Sell Toys
March/Apri l 2018
Space cadets O.P. and R2 are on a mission to sell toys
2018 • • • • •
The Coolest Toy Store on the Planet
As winter lingers, kids and their parents are beyond stir crazy. Here are some ideas to have on your shelves when the sun comes out.
The Golden Fleece by Kevin Fahy
O.P. Taylor’s three toy stores in the Carolinas offer fun-filled toys that are out of this world.
12 Toy Fair by the Numbers
14 Making Money
Retail consultant Phil Wrzesinski makes the case for lower-margin lines and their ability to create buzz, turn over quickly, and attract new customers.
12 16 How to Create
Unique and CostEffective Live Content With Facebook videos already a thing, it’s time to start live streaming.
19 Number Two
26 retailers recommend Fabulous Products
Three full pages of recommendations from Toy Fair!
and true 30 new Ten more pages showcasing the
latest products from the industry’s leading manufacturers!
is Number Four
Toilet-related toys move up the list of top trends, according to Independent Rep Sandy Ruben and his team of 23 insightful toy retailers.
It’s time to GET ACTIVE
Index of Advertisers
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Standard & Polyhedral Dice
10 12 20 14
(continued on page 7)
they were working on a golden retriever at the time. He was remarkably well-behaved, so I figured he was one of those professional actors you see in commercials all the time. My dog would have trashed the place. There was a countertop that had a sheet of paper taped to it, which looked just like a restaurant menu and had the prices listed for all the available services. While I was reading it, a customer approached me and told me how great the staff was at grooming dogs. It occurred to me that the woman could be a shill, but if so the store was working a lot harder than I would have expected. Then I was approached by a store employee, who asked if I had any questions. I did. “Could I have a copy of this menu?” No, it’s the only one they have. “Do you have a brochure or something I could take with me?” No. “Do I need to make an appointment?” Yes. “Do you have a card or anything?” No. “How am I supposed to know whom to call, or at what number?” “It’s probably on the website.” “Well, okay, maybe I’ll check that out.” Or maybe not. Over the past few years, it has become increasingly clear that there is a certain retail strategy that works well in the modern ecommerce and smartphone environment, and most successful brick-andmortar stores fit that model. Basically, it boils down to three
but 500 percent? Really? Many years ago, before the Internet became a factor, I remember talking to a group of specialty toy retailers about a pricing problem they were having with mass-market board games. Customers would often come in and ask for the classic board games that we all played as kids, but Walmart was actually selling those games for less than small retailers could buy them for from the manufacturers. My advice at the time was simply to buy the games from Walmart and mark them up slightly. Consumers expect to pay a little more at a specialty store, and they expect a toy store to carry classic toys. The goal is always to exceed expectations, but first we have to meet them. The pet store had certainly not met mine, because I cannot envision a scenario in which that level of markup is okay. Even if there are customers who would pay that much, and I’m sure there are, how are those people going to feel about that store when they find out how badly they’ve been hosed? Probably not how you would like people to feel about your business. Anyway, I was trying to find my way out of the place when I stumbled upon their dog-grooming station. It turns out that the store provides all sorts of pet services right there onsite (perhaps for owners who can’t afford the tools). The grooming station had glass walls, so you could watch as they washed and trimmed other people’s dogs, and in fact
Math & Language Manipulatives
(continued from page 3)
Timers ~ Spinners ~ Pawns & Chips
Tel: 1-800-899-0711 Fax: 617-482-3423 www.KOPLOWGAMES.com
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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.
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.
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(continued from page 5) basic tenets. First, it requires very careful product selection, deep but not too broad, in a very specific niche. Unless you’re Walmart or Home Depot, it’s pretty tough to be a generalist these days. Second is the “in-store experience,” which needs to check off three boxes. It needs to be entertaining, it needs to sell something, and it must be personal and hands-on. Finally, the service has to be perfect. By that I mean that the staff has to be extremely knowledgeable and willing to do just about anything to make customers happy. So how did the pet supply place measure up? Well, the products I wanted were there all right, but if prices are higher than any sane person would pay it’s kind of a moot point. The grooming station was pretty cool, so I’ll give them credit for an in-store experience. You can’t send your dog off to Amazon for a trim. In terms of service, I think we could all find some flaws. If you want customers to make an appointment with one of your staffers, for example, give that staffer some business cards. So, how does your store measure up?
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The LEGO construction was created in one evening by the local LEGO Club, a group John sponsors.
by Maria Bucci
oolest” is just one of many superlatives people use to describe O.P. Taylor’s, the independent toy retail business established by John Taylor 30 years ago. Imagination rules at its three locations – in Brevard and in Asheville, North Carolina; and in Greenville, South Carolina. And when you talk to John, you can tell where the stores’ creative energy comes from. “I’m an old school guy,” explains the man who wears a beanie with a propeller on top to work every day. “I sell thousands of toys and very few of them require batteries. People come in looking for the perfect toy and I often recommend a ball. They give
me this look, but nothing can beat a ball for play. “When you walk into O.P. Taylor’s, we want you to have fun – and an adventure!” he proclaims. “We have a lot of things that people can interact with. It’s as much a play space and destination as it is a toy store.” Employees play tag, throw balls around the store, and encourage customers to try the hula hoop. Life-size toy soldiers stand at attention at every entrance. In Asheville, a minion greets customers. Stuffed animals line the stairwell, and cars zoom by on tracks that zigzag through the store. The 6,000-square-foot, two-story flagship is in
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A popular hands-on activity at the store is slot car racing, which takes place from opening to closing each day.
downtown Brevard, a once sleepy mountain town that has evolved into a tourist retreat and retirement destination where people can enjoy the surrounding natural beauty and locally-run small shops, restaurants, and galleries. Taylor and his wife Susie have owned the building that houses O.P. Taylor’s since 1987, when Brevard was in the midst of an economic struggle. “Five major businesses left town, along with 2,000 jobs,” reports Taylor, who was running a successful restaurant at the time, and investing in other properties around town. “One day I eavesdropped on an architect talking about his plans to buy up and redevelop an entire downtown block. I wanted to get in ahead of that, so I bought the corner building on South Broad Street and renovated it. But the architect’s project never got off the ground, and I was stuck with an empty building.” So Taylor and his wife sold their restaurant and filled the building with an outfitter store. “I never thought I’d be selling toys,” he says, “until a customer came in with her toddler one day. She went into the dressing room to try on clothes and the little boy ran right out of the store. His mother ran after him with nothing on but her underwear! After that, I decided I better get some toys in there to keep the kids busy.” Taylor reached out to Brio and Playmobil, and soon the outfitter store was outfitted with toys. The transition to totally toys took about a year. “My first Toy Fair experience was a big deal,” remembers Taylor. “I visited FAO Schwarz and bought my first beanie.”
A fancy car parked outside the store attracts a lot of attention.
A memorable moniker The name of the store was hatched when the Taylors were hanging out with friends one night at a bar. They wanted something that sounded happy and also included “Taylor” in some way. A friend suggested the name of the little boy in the classic “Andy Griffith Show,” which was set in the fictional, idealized town of Mayberry, North Carolina. “I ran into Ron Howard, the actor who played Opie Taylor, at Toy Fair one year,” Taylor recalls. “I was worried he was going to make an issue out of the name. He’s cool with it, though, and even visited our store in Greenville when he was in town. He’s a great guy.” After several years of success in Brevard, Taylor started looking to expand his business in other locations. He went north to Asheville and Waynesville, North Carolina, both about an hour’s drive from Brevard. When
the Waynesville location didn’t perform as well as expected, he moved that store south to Greenville, South Carolina. Asheville and Greenville are larger, more urban communities. “The markets are very different from Brevard’s,” he notes. The stores are smaller and shoppers don’t linger in them as long as they do in Brevard. The general concepts of fun and imagination drive sales and product selection. Classic toys are everywhere. “I don’t keep stuff in a warehouse or back room. Everything we have is on a shelf in a store because if it’s not on a shelf, it won’t sell,” explains Taylor. The stores are run by general managers. Taylor purchases merchandise and deals with manufacturers, but he’s also on the sales floor a lot. “I like to play all day, so this job suits me well,” he says. (continued on page 10) march/april 2018 • • • • • edplay.com 9
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LEGO and Playmobil props join the Good Humor Man in spreading the fun.
Attention grabbing At any given time, O.P. Taylor’s employs about 42 people; most are part-time. “I hire people who can juggle. Literally,” he says, and tells the story of a young man who came into the store looking for a job. “I asked him if he could juggle. He said no, but he showed up the next week and performed a juggling act for me. That kid really wanted the job and I hired him.” Word of mouth and some radio advertising make up the marketing effort. Taylor and his employees also host events and stunts to draw customers in the door. “We set up giant chess sets for kids to play with. We stomp rockets on the sidewalk or play ping pong on the street. “One year, in the middle of the night, we set up a huge blue plane on the top of my building in Brevard, along with a smoke machine. It got a lot of attention, but the town leaders didn’t like it too much.” In recent years, mayors and other economic development folks from around the southeast have courted Taylor; inviting him to set up shop in their towns. But, he says, “It has to feel right, and I’m not as motivated to open new stores as I was 15 years ago.”
Taylor says selling toys is easy because “they never go out of style.” O.P. Taylor’s carries about 17,000 different types of toys. The top category is LEGO, which represents about 18 percent of annual sales. Open boxes of LEGO sets are always available on tables to play with. In 2014 O.P. Taylor’s was the LEGO retailer of the year. “We have built a top-class LEGO experience for our customers by carrying all the popular sets and the hard-to-find items, too.” Other top sellers are games and puzzles, models and kits “We sell a ton of Scrabble games and Ravensburger puzzles,” reports Taylor. “Plastic models, along with the glue, paints, and brushes, are big, too, because nobody else is selling them. “I like to see kids building things,” he adds. “At Toy Fair this year, I found a great workshop product called The Cool Tool made by an Austrian company. It’s not available in the U.S., but I was able to work out a deal to carry them at O.P. Taylor’s.” The product is similar to a Kenner toy he played with as a boy. “Nostalgia is selling,” says Taylor. “Baby boomers are looking for toys they remember playing with. We’ve sold a ton
of Slinkys, Magic 8 Balls, Rubix Cubes, and Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots.” A few years ago, a customer came into the Brevard location and told Taylor that he heard the store was on a list of the top 10 toy stores in the world. “I said, ‘Wow! That’s great! But who is #1 and where did you read that?” The story, published December 4, 2014, was a photo montage by Lydia Schrandt, photo editor and Readers’ Choice Production Manager for USA TODAY’s “10Best” series. Among the likes of Hamleys in London, the former FAO Schwarz in New York, and The LEGO Store in downtown Disney, O.P. Taylor’s appeared, along with another American independent, Lark Toys in Minnesota. The stores weren’t ranked, just grouped as the 10Best. Taylor says he doesn’t pay a lot of attention to the media or those kinds of lists, but he works hard to make his store #1 in shoppers’ hearts. “My goal has always been to be known as the friendly store on the corner,” he says. “I would rather lose money than have a customer walk out unhappy.”
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A Classic Swing
A Classic S wAi n g Classic Swing EPY_MarApr_2018.indd 11
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Toy Fair By the Numbers
ore than 26,000 toy professionals traveled to New York’s Jacob Javits Convention Center in February for the 115th North American International Toy Fair. While toy industry professionals continue to rehash the event in terms of booth traffic, products displayed and excitement generated, here are some hard numbers from the Toy Association that point to the annual event’s success. There were – 8,775 buyers from mass market and specialty toy stores in attendance who represented nearly 4,000 unique retail outlets; 1,049 exhibiting companies; licensing executives from NBCUniversal Brand Development, Netflix, Nickelodeon Consumer
Seven-year-old Abby Emory from Carmel, California led the parade of costumed characters to Toy Fair’s ribbon cutting.
Products, Paramount Pictures, Sesame Workshop, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros. Consumer Products, and others scouting out new trends and forging licensing agreements with toymakers; 3,802 international visitors traveled to New York – an increase of 26 percent – including 1,589 global buyers; exhibits in 442,700 net square feet of space, the equivalent of about seven football fields; 97 countries represented. The top five, not including the U.S. and Canada, were China, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Mexico and Japan; and 974 global print journalists, broadcast reporters, and bloggers
who covered the event. On opening day, Toy Fair was a trending topic on Twitter and #TFNY had 6.4 million impressions and #ToyFair2018 had 4.8 million impressions; and on Instagram, #TFNY and related hashtags were used 26,838 times.
What’s Trending? During the past year, The
Toy Association’s leading trend specialist Adrienne Appell and her team met with hundreds of global toy companies to track the latest developments in toys and youth entertainment. Then, at Toy Fair, they combed through thousands of products on display before announcing their findings during the second day of the show. Here is a summary of the trends they spotted for 2018.
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Toys that Teach
The “Big Reveal”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that STEM jobs will increase to more than 9 million by 2022, so parents are eager to get their children interested in STEM at a very young age. And while STEM/STEAM toys have been a mainstay in the past few years, they are now engaging kids in different ways and incorporating new technologies and licenses to get them excited about learning. Today, we’re seeing toys that teach toddlers everything, including counting, the alphabet, opposites, and even coding. Toys for school-age kids teach high-level topics once reserved for the classroom only. The “Toys that Teach” trend also encompasses the increasing number of toys that teach kids how to make the world a better place – by being responsible citizens, kind to their friends, and open-minded about different cultures.
The toy industry has capitalized on the social media phenomenon of unboxing to introduce a variety of toys across several different categories. One version combines unboxing with the mounting popularity of collectible toys. (Sales of collectible playthings grew 14 percent globally in 2017.) Mini collectibles in blind bags surprise kids with a reveal that’s often as fun as the toy itself. Blind bags come with the added bonus of being affordable, making them attractive to parents and easy for kids to buy with their own pocket money. Another form of unboxing includes larger toys that focus on the tactile aspect of opening and putting together the toy as part of the play experience. Both versions get kids excited about the reveal – to discover what they got, how it feels in their hands, and what the toy can do.
Playing with pretend pets – whether they are furry plush or digitally interactive – is a growing trend, especially among children who are eager to care for their own pets, but not yet ready for a real, live animal. Pet toys run the gamut from fantastical creatures (like unicorns, dinosaurs, or other made-up animals) to cats, dogs, horses, and other pet toys that feature realistic details, grooming and food accessories, and online worlds that bring them to life. Included are “anti-virtual pets” that interact with kids in a funny way by being grumpy or gross; and collectible or wearable pets that are fun to trade and display.
2018 will see the release of the movies “Aquaman,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” “The Incredibles 2,” “Wreck-It Ralph 2,” “Duck Duck Goose,” “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Madagascar 4,” and many more family-friendly blockbusters that will influence the toy aisle. New TV shows are also expected to result in creative new toy lines. In terms of tech, the Toy Association team expects to see more affordable and user-friendly virtual and augmented reality toys, interactive and buildable robots with new features, and RC fliers (like drones) that are easier to handle and fly.
Games Galore Growing interest in board games over the past few years has led to phenomenal growth in the Games & Puzzles category. Game play appeals to people of all ages no matter what their interest, thanks to niche games, licensed games, cooperative games, quick games, new takes on old classics, and innovative board games. Social media is also giving game sales a boost, as laugh-out-loud, silly, and gross-out games continue to inspire social media sharing by teens and adults – with some even going viral. Most importantly, games of all kinds are fostering face-to-face play and getting families excited about playing together.
Moms and dads born between 1981 and 1997 make up the majority of young parents in the U.S. today. Though the generation has been defined by its obsession with technology, Millennial parents also believe it’s important to engage with their kids on an unplugged level. To do that, they are turning to classic toys and retro brands; toys that are nostalgic and offer tried-and-true play value for a new generation of kids to enjoy with their parents. (Classic toy categories continue to perform very well. In 2017, U.S. plush sales grew 8 percent and doll sales were up 4 percent.)
Inspiring Imaginations There are more and more options and opportunities today to help children create and build lifelong skills through play, from dress-up items to open-ended building kits, and from larger-thanlife playsets to arts & crafts.
Tech & Entertainment
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Making Money Without Margin
by Phil Wrzesinski
hen you spend your entire life in the toy industry, you watch a lot of companies come and go, including some big names like Coleco (anyone remember when they were on top of the world with the Cabbage Patch Doll?) and Marx. (I still have my Johnny West action figures including horses and a covered wagon.) When you have that kind of history with certain companies it is hard not to have favorites. Two of my favorite product lines to buy and sell were Little Tikes and Step2, the large plastic
playgrounds, houses, and kitchens. We had a big-enough store with a big-enough warehouse to bring in an entire truckload at a time. At one point we were a full-line dealer for both companies. We added a 3,000square-foot warehouse onto the back of our building just to make room for those truckloads of product. The margin wasn’t great. With Little Tikes, we were lucky to make 30- to 35-percent margin. With Step2 it, was closer to a 40 to 42-percent margin. Those products took up a lot of space compared to a typical product, and more manpower was needed to haul one out to a customer’s car. Plus, we gift-wrapped most of the kitchens and toy boxes. It takes a lot of gift wrap to cover a Grand Kitchen.
It broke my heart when these companies began making decisions that made it impossible for us to continue carrying their lines, such as selling direct to customers at cost. But prior to that, I made a lot of money selling two lines that weren’t anywhere near keystone and had a lot of other expenses associated with them. There were three powerful reasons I carried them and other lower-than-keystone lines. Exclusivity We were the only full-line dealer in the state of Michigan at the time, so we got traffic from hours away. People wanted to see the product in person. Everyone was driving an SUV or had a friend with a pickup truck, so they would see it and buy it. Of course, this was before the Internet and free shipping, but there is still something to be said about the need to touch and feel before you buy. People still want to do that. If Step2 had maintained decent pricing on its own website, we would have sold its merchandise right up to the end.
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Having exclusive products drives traffic to your store. Having products people want to see before they buy drives traffic to your store. Having products people don’t see in other stores makes you stand out in their mind, and keeps you on the cutting edge. “Splash” The items were big. They looked great on a back shelf and drew customers’ eyes to the back of the store. Often, we would see kids drag their parents all the way through the store to the Little Tikes and Step2 display pieces. The houses were displayed on the floor where kids and parents alike could climb inside. The level of comfort a customer has with your store goes through the roof when daddy climbs inside a playhouse with his daughter. The pictures mom posts to Facebook of the two of them playing together are worth far more than your entire advertising budget. Splash items don’t have to be humongous, but they do have to be share-worthy. For instance, we always bought the Ravensburger 32,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. We never expected to sell it; we just used it to get people to talk. Rarely a week would go by without at least one person tagging us with a picture of themselves standing next to the box. Surprisingly, we did sell it. Three times. One customer sent us pictures when she finished and we used it on our own social media feed. You can imagine the number of likes and shares it received. The word-of-mouth benefits were worth far more than the cost of the item or the loss of profit margin. Profit dollars per square foot While the margin wasn’t great on Step2 (or LEGO or Playmobil for that matter), there were other monetary benefits and other ways we measured their worth. One of those ways is profit-dollars-per-squarefoot, or how much we made in actual dollars in the space taken up by the product. For instance, if you have a section of LEGO that’s 8 feet wide and 2 feet deep, that’s 16 square feet of selling space. At a height of 4 feet, the space holds 60 to 75 pieces of LEGO, or about $2,400 worth of merchandise. If you turn that over five times, making $840 per turn (35 percent), you’ve made $4,200 in true profit dollars, or $262.50 per square foot. If you have a lesser-known line of product in that same space at keystone, you’ll have $3,000 worth of product (same cost, higher price). You will have to turn that over 2.7 times just to earn the same dollars as
LEGO per square foot. While I could always count on five or more turns from LEGO, I never expected more than two turns from new lines without a name. Another way to look at it is by units. A large plastic kitchen might only make us $75 for each $200 sale. I figured that if we sold six kitchens from that spot, we would make the same dollars we might have made selling lesser-known merchandise at keystone in the same spot. Sometimes selling six large items instead of 45 $20 items was a better use of our cash.
Margin doesn’t pay the bills, cash does. As you look at your summer lineup, you might notice that items like NERF and other sporting goods often have lower-than-keystone margins. Sometimes lower-margin lines are to your advantage. You know they are worthwhile when they • increase word-of-mouth, get people to talk about you, take pictures at your store for social media, and tell their friends about what they saw; • have their own following that draws traffic to your store, gives you legitimacy and a reputation for having “the cool stuff,” and makes your store look like the place to be; • turn over quickly; selling at a higher rate than the average for your store; and • make more profit-dollars-per-square-foot than other items. If you see a product that meets any of these criteria, you should consider the item. If you see two a product that meets two or more – especially either of those last two bullet points – you can make a lot of cash from the line. At ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy, June 10 through 13 in New Orleans, Phil will conduct a presentation on this topic that features more examples, and more reasons why lower-margin lines should not be automatically excluded from your product lineup. In addition to discussing how to use loss-leaders to your advantage, “I’ll also show you three other ways to make money that have nothing to do with profit margin,” Phil says. “I look forward to seeing you in New Orleans.” march/april 2018 • • • • • edplay.com 15
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Create Unique and Cost–Effective LIVE Content by Tina Manzer and Rebecca Carlson
f your Facebook feed seems to be filled with friends and acquaintances advertising pearls, leggings, or essential oils, it’s because people have discovered the direct-selling effectiveness of Facebook Live. LuLaRoe is an example. The four-year-old direct-sales clothier sells knit shirts, skirts, dresses and leggings, but not in stores. Its “consultants” buy inventory and sell it to friends and contacts through parties they organize, or
on Facebook Live. “Remarkably, half the company’s sales are coming from social media,” reported Forbes last October. Here’s how it works: First, the consultants create a private group on Facebook for the sole purpose of sharing information about their inventory. Women who want to buy the merchandise join the groups to access the product because they can’t buy it in stores. The consultants announce “sale hours” in their groups and
during those times they live stream a presentation of the products. “Standing in front of their webcam or iPad camera lens, consultants hold up each new item one by one and describe the adorable print, soft texture and cute style. Each product has its own unique number for reference. When customers see something they want, they type in that number along with ‘Sold’ in the comments,” explained Forbes. We’re not recommending that
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you do that, necessarily, but it proves how well live video can be for connecting with customers. It can be a great tool for specialty toy retailers who want to get more foot traffic into their stores. Everyone today is loving video. More than one-third of all online activity is spent watching video, and 45 percent of people watch more than an hour of Facebook videos each week. According to Shutterstock, a global provider of licensed images, videos, and music, the marketers who use video grow their revenue 49 percent faster than non-video marketers. If you think you’re getting the job done with images and text, studies show that social video generates 1,200 percent more shares than text and image posts combined. Facebook joins the field Introduced in 2015, Facebook Live is a feature that offers users live-streaming video capabilities. When you tap the live-stream icon, you can broadcast live for up to four hours from your smartphone or laptop, and any of your followers can tune in to your “show.” When you’re done and tap “finish,” a video of your broadcast is posted permanently on your timeline, and can be retrieved at any time. Before there was Facebook Live there was Periscope, launched by Twitter a short five months earlier. Unlike Facebook Live, which is designed to deepen your existing online connections, Periscope is more focused on establishing connections with people you don’t know. It also has the benefit of being its own app, and is incredibly quick to get on the air, explains technology writer Christine Chan on makeuseof.com. “However, Twitter, has neglected the app for awhile, so it’s not as active as it used to be,” she notes. Users of Periscope are limited to streaming through mobile devices only, she adds, while Facebook Live users can broadcast from a desktop, in addition to their smart phones. “Plus, there are a ton of filters and effects to liven up your stream,” writes Christine. “With the potential to reach 1.71 billion monthly active users on Facebook Live alone, there is absolutely no good reason to avoid using live video to market your business,” reports an article on Duct Tape Marketing. The marketing agency specifically designed to help small businesses offers these practical ways to make the best live videos you can.
Invest in some equipment “Shakily holding your iPhone for more than 10 minutes at a time might seem like a good idea at first, but your audience will not feel the same,” writes Eugenie, who recommends purchasing a sturdy tripod and a decent microphone. “The quality of your audio makes a huge different in live streaming.” You could also broadcast from your computer if you need to stabilize the video, but you’re restricted to staying in one spot. Let there be light Make sure you aren’t streaming as a shadowy figure in a dimly lit room. Broadcasting outside during the day is one light-filled option, or go inside and film in natural sunlight from a reasonably-sized window. The ideal is three different light sources, says digital marketer Kim Garst. They can range from household lamps to professional LED blocks. The industry standard is to light up these areas: your subject (you!), the area behind you (backlight), and the area opposite your subject (fill light). Choose an interesting setting Take a minute to consider what your viewers will be looking at in the background. Will it be your shelves full of new arrivals from Toy Fair or your handwritten return policy with the torn corners? Engage with your audience The beauty of live streaming is that it allows you to have personalized interactions with your viewers. Instead of a pushy promoter, you’ll come off as a solutions provider – someone interested in learning about customers and meeting their needs. “A great way to interact with a live audience is through an AMA (Ask Me Anything),” suggests Eugenie. “Every once in a while, do a live stream where you take questions from your viewers and answer them in a casual light-hearted manner.” Be prepared to • g ive some details about your personal life; • offer something of value, like a demo of a new science kit, game, or a set of marker; • respond to comments in between, • play a game; • share the results of a poll, or • t ell a story. It helps build trust and brand
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loyalty. (Plus, people remember information better if it’s told as a story.) Aim for 20 minutes It’s enough time for people to join in, and gives you a chance to engage with them effectively. Train for lag time With live video, there is a lag between the broadcaster and the audience – something that often gets overlooked, says Eugenie. In other words, what you say and what your viewers hear won’t always be in sync. It can make asking a question a little more difficult, for instance, because you may not receive any answers for a short period of time. But that’s when you add context for the question, or offer a relevant anecdote. Slow Wi-Fi can spoil your broadcast so before you go live, check your speed. Using the device you will stream from, visit speedtest.net, a web Wikki_EdPlay_ACTIVITYBookPRNT.pdf
service that provides free analysis of Internet access performance metrics. For a flawless live stream without interruptions, the magic number for an upload speed is 3 Mbps or more. If you don’t have Wi-Fi, make sure your phone has a strong 4G connection – Facebook will actually alert you if your signal is weak by graying out the “go live” button. Be yourself “If there is one thing you take away from this article, let it be this,” writes Eugenie. “If you’re not having fun and staying true to yourself when live streaming, your audience will be able to tell right away.” If you’re having trouble understanding the authentic “you,” consider what bestselling author Seth Godin wrote about the importance of authenticity in business: it’s doing what you promise, not being who you are.
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Number 2 is Number 4
by Sandy Ruben
When I came up with the idea of polling retailers to discover the hottest toy themes, I didn’t realize I would be writing about poop. But here I am.
ne of the fastest growing themes in the toy world is a trend we call “toilet related.” It revolves around poop. When it is combined with today’s current most-popular theme – unicorns – the result is an amazing bestseller. Just ask Toysmith about Unicorn Ooze and Unicorn Poop (“Rare and wondrous, it can melt, stretch and bounce!”), or Hog Wild about Sticky Unicorn Poo (“Throw it against any hard surface and it sticks!”). Unicorn Poop Slime takes it all a step further. Other successful combinations include poop and squishies (Slow Rising Rainbow Poop from Top Trenz); and poop and squeezing (the Caterpillar Poop Squeeze
Keychain from Kawaii). Such a fun article to write! Now we move on to farts. Leading this category is the Fart Zooka from Playvision. The latest poop/fart/ toilet-related items can be found in all categories, even collectibles. SpinMaster’s Flush Forces Number 2-Packs offer “a duo of gross-out Flushies, waiting to escape! Don’t stall – take the plunge!” For fun for the whole family, there is the Who Cut the Cheese? game from Epoch (“It’s a race to get to the finish without a ‘frrrt’!”) and Hasbro’s Toilet Trouble board game (“Which flush will cause the gush?”). (continued on page 20)
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Other, cleaner themes
My most recent survey of 23 retailers from across the country resulted in the loss of elephants, robots, superheroes and sloths from our list. But making the top 10 for the first time are narwhals and llamas. Narwhals had a great year last year, and continue to grow in popularity, but the sales of llama-themed toys are recent and explosive. Currently ranked #6, they have the potential to make the top three very soon. Avocados were a surprise addition. Sales of food-themed items in general seem to be picking up, with avocados leading the charge. Here are the top 10 most popular toy themes, according to our group of wonderful retailers.
Ruled “dead” by our retail group before Christmas, the tiny, spiny mammal trend just won’t go away. Sales are not growing, but consumers are still showing their love.
Down from #3! Like the princess theme, it may not be what it once was, but it continues to be a good seller.
Creative Education of Canada
Down from #5, this category must be on a very slow decline because princess-themed items keep selling.
Learning Zone Xpress
Up from #7!
Special thanks to the wonderful retailers who shared their insight. Big City Toys in Alabama Hollipops Greenville in South Carolina Imagine That in Kansas Island Treasure Toys in Maine Kid Stop in Arizona Learning Express Alpharetta, Georgia Learning Express Ann Arbor, Michigan Learning Express Brookfield, Wisconsin Learning Express Chattanooga, Tennessee Learning Express Durham, North Carolina Learning Express Zurich, Illinois
Nana’s in Florida *Play in Illinois Shenanigans in Virginia Stamford Toys in Connecticut Totally Thomas in California Toy Box in Massachusetts Toy Maven in Texas Toys Unique in Texas Wonder Works in South Carolina World of Mirth in Virginia
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Up a notch from #4!
Holding strong, mermaids sell well not only for beach-related accounts. It’s a “go-to” theme for everyone.
In two consecutive surveys it’s been unicorns by a landslide. Today, we face Unicorns an avalanche of product descending EDC Publishing upon us. Consumers have hundreds of unicorn items to choose from. Will the market be saturated, resulting in a new, favorite theme, or will the huge variety of product propel unicorns even further? I am happy to end this article with a theme that is cute, fun, and filled with fantasy. Go unicorns, go!
Sandy Ruben is the owner of a 10-member rep group in the Southeast. His vanity license plate, “Toy Man,” perfectly communicates his relationship with the industry.
Construct your very own mini golf course!
(480) 789-0429 email@example.com www.noochiegolf.com march/april 2018 • • • • • edplay.com 21
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It’s Time to Get Active by Tina Manzer
t’s been a long, cold, sloppy winter. In March in the Northeast, winter weather continues to keep families inside, the result of early spring bomb cyclones, nor’easters, and “windmeggedon.” Everyone is stir crazy. Being cooped up that long is more than annoying; it can even be a health hazard. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children need at least 60 minutes of active play every day for cardiovascular, muscle and bone health. Winter notwithstanding, active play has been at risk of becoming endangered for decades. In 2011, the American Journal of Play reported that children’s free, unscheduled playtime had been steadily declining for 50 years. It was happening at home, where parents were asserting more control over children’s activities; and it was happening at school, where recess was reduced or eliminated altogether in
Duncan Toys has “launched” two new planes: the F-15 Eagle Fighter and the EX-1 Glider. Each is equipped with a new, built-in G-sensor system that starts the motor with three quick flicks of the wrist. Kids get an hour of motorized fun with each 20-minute USB charge. duncantoys.com
favor of test-preparation time. Last September, though, an article in Time magazine said this: “After years of cutting back on free playtime for children, smart schools and parents are beginning to understand the benefits of letting kids of all ages roam relatively free.” That’s good news for specialty toy retailers whose philosophy is that children should play because they like to, and also because they need to. Play exercises their body, mind and creativity, and stores like yours sell the tools to help them do that, like the outdoor recreation equipment from Adventure Parks (see the ad on page 11). So as children and their parents begin to emerge from hibernation in the next few weeks, show them active-play toys that are age appropriate, enjoyable and offer variety; and that help kids stay healthy. We’ve included a few here; for more, turn to page 38 and 39. With Noochie Golf’s four interchangeable pieces, families can construct their very own mini golf course that they can play together! Twenty-five different combinations make the course as easy or challenging as they like. noochiegolf.com
The safe and kid-friendly bows and arrows from Two Bros Bows were designed by brothers for kids who like creative outdoor adventures. twobrosbows.com
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The Super Spinner from PlayMonster easily connects to an existing swing set or tree and holds up to 200 pounds. playmonster.com
Playing at the beach is more fun when you can fill a truck, dump it out, and do it again! Even though Luke’s Toy Factory trucks are made with 30-percent reclaimed sawdust, they stand up to dirt, sand, and water. lukestoyfactory.com
Screen-Free Week From April 30 to May 6, children and adults alike are being encouraged to unplug and create, think, get active, read and play as part of the annual “screen-free” celebration. It’s all about taking a break from digital entertainment, including watching TV, surfing the web, and playing with apps and video games. Schools, libraries, families, and communities around the world will host events that week that are designed to help children turn off screens and connect with nature, family, and their own creativity. For toy stores, it’s a great theme for a weeklong (month-long?) promotion centered around active toys. (continued on page 46)
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E N I G A M I D N A , Y READ, PLA with
Barbie™ When I Grow Up
Barbie™: Pet-tastic Friends
A CarryAlong Play Book
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Barbie™ Dreamtopia: Storybook and Cell Phone Projector
Barbie™ & Her Sisters in The Great Puppy Adventure
A Sliding Tab Book 978-0-7944-3529-5
Barbie™ Loves Lacey/Adora a Lacey
Barbie™ in Rock ’n Royals
An English/Spanish Book
Storybook with Bracelets
march/april 2018 • • • • • reserved. edplay.com 25 BARBIE and associated trademarks and trade dress owned by, and used under license from Mattel, Inc. © 2018 Mattel, Inc. All rights
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Fabulous Products by Rebecca Carlson
Elisabeth Dahl from The Calico Toy Shoppe on Bainbridge Island, Washington “Coming soon to our shelves is Unstable Unicorns (1), a brand new card game that is fun for children and adults. It is a strategic game that focuses on building an army of seven different unicorns without being sabotaged by the other players. shopcharm-it.com “Bracelet Charms (2) by Charm it! are really popular right now – parents have been buying them as Easter basket stuffers. There are more than 100 different designs. The charms easily clip onto chain-link bracelets. “Lazy Cat Squishies (3) by bcmini are the cutest. They’re small and simple but have grabbed the attention of every customer in our store. The cats can be squeezed and used as a stress reliever or for simple imaginative play. “The ZoomKit (4) by Kids Go Co, a local company here, makes it easier to travel with children. It’s a portable table that includes storage space to keep small toys from getting lost. “Sensory Rollers (5) by Fat Brain Toys have been a hit with our youngest customers. The balls are made of brightly colored silicone. Each ball is imprinted with a different texture and has a chime hidden inside. “Good Luck Minis (6) by Safari always sell well for us. The bcmini.com figurines are inexpensive and come in a variety of different animals that can be collected or played with. “The Nee Doh ball (7) by Schylling is another small stress reliever. It can be squished, thrown, or pulled on. The whole ‘fidget toy’ trend hasn’t quite died down here, so these balls have been selling really well.”
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Ann Kienzle from *Play in Chicago “A bestseller right now is Mudpuppy’s Little Feminist Board Book Set (8). The pages of the four mini books (Pioneers, Artists, Leaders, and Activists) feature brightly colored portraits of real women who have had an impact on the world. “Da Bomb Bath Fizzers (9) have been a huge hit in our store. Each bath bomb has a small surprise inside that varies with each theme: Quote Bomb, Bling Bomb, Party Bomb and more. The company was started by two sisters when they were just 10 and 11 years old, and has continued growing ever since. “We just brought in Original Unicorn Horns (10) by Brooklyn Owl. They’re felt horns that are sewn on a headband for easy-to-wear imaginative play. Plus, they come in four different sizes and a variety of different colors so that all ages can enjoy them. “Vintage lip balms (11) by TINte Cosmetics have us feeling nostalgic. Each balm comes in a small slider tin. It comes in flavors like vanilla, bubble gum, grape, tropical punch, and more.”
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retailers recommend (continued from page 27)
Christine Osborne from Wonder Works Toys in Charleston, South Carolina “The Swurfer Kick (12) from Flybar was engineered to provide more power, stability and range of motion. You control the level of fun: you can slowly sway from side to side or use your legs to power higher and carve through the air. Made from durable plastic, it is for the smallest riders but can accommodate people up to 150 pounds. “The pieces of construction toy BIG (13) from Plus-Plus USA are all one simple shape, but the building possibilities are endless. The new size is perfect for small hands.
“Goblies (14) from Darice are throwable paintballs filled with non-sticky, washable, and biodegradable goo. Like water balloons, they’re painless, and they’re made from plant-based ingredients that won’t hurt your lawn. “Happy the Hedgehog (15) is the first of Faber-Castell’s Sequin Pets line. The weighted plush hedgehog features fur on his front but his back is flippable sequin material that’s fun to pet.
“ITZI (16) from Carma Games is brand new from the creators of TENZI! Players match cards in a burst of quick thinking, card-slapping hilarity.”
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A S T R A 2 0 1 8
M I G H T Y
T O G E T H E R
INSPIRED BY THE POWER OF PLAY
JUNE 10-13, 2018 | NEW ORLEANS, LA
IDEA SHARING. THOUGHT LEADERSHIP. NEW PRODUCT DISCOVERY. Come see why Marketplace & Academy is rated the #1 trade show and conference for independent retailers in the business of play.
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new and true
Baby Paper is launching seven new patterns, including licensed NFL products. Look for the company’s new line of Crinkle Cuddlers. 847-272-5588, babypaper.com
Is that a little boat or a huge ship? A small house or a house being hoisted by a giant crane? Each spread of this interactive die-cut board book from Independent Publishers Group reveals a surprising size opposite. It’s a novel way to teach toddlers about words and concepts. ipgbook.com
includes 18 Learn U.S.A. Map Puzzle Maple Landmark’s Lift and hardwood the on ctly phics printed dire pieces with child-friendly gra under each ed rav eng are ons abbreviati plywood. State boundaries and up. iconography. For ages 2 and piece. A key is included for the maplelandmark.com
The next generation Sippy Cup BOT 2.0 from ZoLi offers two ways to drink: direct connect straw with original Siliflex weighted straw technology, or straw plus disk to leverage the patented buffer chamber and enjoy warm liquids. BPA and Phthalate free. zoli-inc.com
New from Valtech is the Magna-Qubix 19-piece Set of magnetic building blocks. Shapes include square pyramids, triangular prisms, cubes, hexagonal prisms, and rectangular prisms. Block’s are approximately 1 by 1 inch, for kids age 3 and older. magnatiles.com
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The Panelcraft Earth Dream Builder is a 19-piece magnetic building set that includes 9-by-9-inch piece s in brown, tan, green, light blue and gray. It comes with a STEM activity guide including construction ideas. panelcraft.com
The new Learn to Read: Buy One, Gift One! Program from Creative Teaching Press (CTP) is an initiative that promotes literacy and encourages the love of reading worldwide. Each time a Learn to Read book is purchased, either from a retailer or the company website, CTP will gift a book to a deserving child. Books will be donated to accredited, approved organizations working with children in underserved and at-risk communities. giftlearntoread.com
The 64-page adventure, Trailblazers: Tomb Raiders from Printers Row Publishing lets young readers revel in the wonders of the pyramids, temples, and treasures of Ancient Egypt. As they read about pharaohs, gods, and goddesses, young adventurers can also hunt for the book’s hidden button that opens a secret drawer. printersrowpublishinggroup.com
Slide unicorns, mermaids, rainbows, emojis and more onto shoelaces to add some sparkle to your step. Each new CHARM IT! Shoelace Charm Party Set includes four themed charms. charm-it.com
Build Your Own Supe rhero is the latest releas e from Bloco, the award-winning con struction-toy maker. Ac cessories include a Telekinetic Helmet, Cy bertronic Scepter and Me ga Blaster. Bloco toys help stimulate log ical-mathematical intell igence, fine motor skills and spatial aware ness. blocotoys.com
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new and true
The award-winning design of Newmero bricks has proven to be effective and fun for preschoolers, and for school children who need to “get back on track” with math. The bricks provide a different way of understanding math by feeling, building and decomposing numbers. 970-484-7445
The IO Blocks Center collaborative building environment brings movement, simple machines and dramatic play to Guidecraft’s IO Blocks friction-fit, construction-toy platform. The all-in-one table comes with 458 building pieces including gears, slides, IO people and IO Blocks, and encourages social play, problem solving and STEM skills. guidecraft.com
cue Pack allows kids to The new Modarri Delux Res ue-themed cars, and resc design thousands of different ses with the driving cha eed h-sp then make their own hig car has real steering and accessories (included). Each by a finger. suspension mechanics, driven modarri.com
The 18-inch vinyl-and-plush action doll named Mason from Boy Story has a squeezable body and ball joints for extra pose-ability. He comes with a unique story about creativity, patience, and perseverance. Mason’s unique features and modern clothes make him appealing to all kids, and he is the perfect companion toy for boys and girls. boystory.com
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LEGO’s Four-Piece Storage/Organizer Tote and Play Mat features three zip-top containers that are color-coded to organize by size, color or child. The grab handles and oversize zipper pullers are designed for small hands, and clear top windows allow them to peek inside, even when the tote is packed. It transforms into a play mat when you unzip the sides. legobags.com
The gender-neutral Pete the Cat Soft Reading Chair from Kids Preferred is made of supersoft plush material with a soft red corduroy seat. kidspreferred.com
Kids as young as 3 can enjoy remote-control fun – especially in the dark – with Skullduggery’s Max Flex RC 250 Blaze Edition. It includes one remote control Tracer Racer, ramps to build two bridges, and more than 10 feet (250 pieces) of flexible orange and blue glow-in-the-dark track. Skullduggery.com
In Build or Boom from Goliath Games, players race to stack their blocks exactly like the construct ion card. When they finish, they hit the dynamite blast pad and send their opponent’s tower to the ground. Build or Boom tests speed, shape recognition and the ability to stay calm under pressure. goliathgames.us
North Sta r Games h as launch new line o ed a f ga Planet. Jo mes called Happ y ining the TOTY Aw nominate ardd Happy S alm Funky Ch icken card on are The ga funky dan ce moves; me with and Monst Match, th er e sc catching d reaming-fast game o onut-eatin g monsters f northstar . games.co m
SUSIBELLE the crocodile is an enchanting new wooden toy from GOKI. It’s just one example of GOKI’s push-along toy line of cheerful and whimsical characters portrayed in unique colors. 310-899-4400, goki-usa.com
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new and true
Tub Sub, a STEM toy from Edushape, shows children how things float and sink depending upon how the boat is put together. It reinforces age-appropriate small and gross motor skills, logic and reasoning, and cause and effect. 800-404-4744, edushape.com
The six-piece Queen Fairy Natural Play Ma keup Kit from Klee Naturals contains no chemicals, talc or dyes. It includes eye shadow, blush, body shimmer, lip shimmer, water-based peel-off nai l polish, ultra-moisturiz ing hand lotion and all applicato rs. All items are made in North America and are only princess tested, mothe r approved! iloveklee.com
JIGZLE from Magnote is a 3D paper puzzle you can build from specially processed laser-cut paper. The pieces easily pop out from the paper sheet and can be assembled without tools. Available in 13 styles. firstname.lastname@example.org, magnote.com
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. fractiles.com
The machine-washable Color-in Ninja Cape from dress-up company Great Pretenders has a red satin lining, bias cut binding and a Velcro closure at the neck. It comes with six markers. greatpretenders.ca
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led MeeperBOT, a remote-control k blocks come bric es mak T, BO able programm The app also . App alive with a free Controller es. viti acti includes comics and meeperbot.com
The Lil Traveler is the perfect size for a 4-year-old to carry or for Mom to put in her carry-on. It provides just the right amount of Wikki fun to entertain little ones and maintain Mom’s sanity! Still the best travel toys out there, Wikki Stix are clean, quiet and engaging. 800-869-4554
Comfy Cr Group P itters by Infin ity roject a re kind, m ultipurp one-of-aos animals . They e e stuffed asily tra from a nsit wra friend k p or a robe in ion to a ids can hold. 479-46 4-7563 , infinit ypg.com
s take turn Monster e y th la t P e s y p b ot to u Boat n e g th is a in y k ff tr c o Ro hip; s fall f Don’t etering s nd piece te a us, a p p n ti to o t c Players o a s o piece the bo guins, s te n e a e k ir p a p m te g a o pir settin er wh pieces – d older. The play cters and ildren ages 5 an ra balance. a h c e r ch er! Th re fun fo landlubb more – a d n a re treasu ster.com playmon
Tinee Wants a Mudbath by Sylvia Medina is the story of a baby elephant who wanders away from his mother and then is captured for his tusks. Can his friends save him? Green Kids Club has a license with Aurora World Corp. to feature YooHoo and Friends in environmentally inspired stories. greenkidsclub.com
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new and true
With Snap Circuits 3D-MEG (Magnetics, Electronics, Gears), kids can build more than 160 projects with 60-plus parts, including unique stabilizers for amazing 3D structures. Building pieces have snaps for the assembly of electronic circuits on a base grid that functions like a circuit board in electronic products. elenco.com
Scribfolio is a new activity book that enhances creativity and nurtures 21stcentury skills. It starts with a scribble, then kids imagine to add lines and shapes for endless possibilitie s. scribfolio.com
Flip’N’Check dry-erase activity games features 20 oce an-themed puzzles, mazes, crossw ords, word searches and mo re. When the activity game is flip ped over, the answers line up to the child’s work. 917-880-2182, pam@ tebc.info
SPIKE fidget tools from Innobaby have soft and flexible silicone spikes that provide tactile and sensory stimulation that help kids relax and focus. They’re perfect for children with autism, anxiety, and ADD. Available in various shapes, sizes, and colors. innobaby.com
This nine-block set from Uncle Goose features eight dinosaurs plus a bonus reptile, the pterodactyl. An ancient reptile’s name, skull, and footprint are on two debossed sides. Two printed sides reveal an illustration and size. Two more sides show the time period and geographic area. 616-248-4453, unclegoose.com
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LandESCAPES diorama kits are fun, fast and easy projects for kids and parents alike. They are full of materials to whisk them away to the land of dinosaurs or a deserted island. Each one comes with fully-illustrated instructions to ensure success and realism. scenearama.woodlandscenics.com
Project Genius just launched Deblockle, a new casual strategy game of tips and turns for two players. They take turns flipping their blocks and then moving them acro ss the board. The first one to maneuv er all four onto the final square is the winner. For ages 7 an up, can be played in 20 to 25 minutes. projectgeniusinc.com
Hape’s Quadrilla Cliffhanger helps develop spatial thinking and an understanding of STEM principl es. Three gutters make your marbles race around the outsides of the colored blocks on their way down. Set includes 14 distributor blocks, a spiral twist and a handy catcher for easy clean-up, for ages 4 years and up. hapetoys.com The Waff Mini Matt art kit comes beautifully packaged with 800 mini cubes, a 10 by 10-inch silicone mat and an activity booklet with 10 design ideas. The tactile experience of manually affixing the cubes to the mat enhances fine motor skills, fosters the imagination, and inspires creativity. 1-877-817-2640, ilovewaff.com
You can craft each set of TICO Mini Bricks with amazing detail to create realistic miniature models, or works of art. They come in a variety of colors and shapes. 201-771-0039
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new Active Toys and true PunkinPitch is a safe, sensoryfriendly version of paint ball with no mess and no pain thanks to PunkinFutz’s award-winning, patent-pending, next-generation compression vest. The game helps to improve eye-hand coordination and motor/muscle planning while encouraging interactive play. punkinfutz.com
With NightZone Ignit ion, kids can turn on the roc ket and base and light up the nig ht sky with a stomp. The pump action mechanism sho ots the rocket up to 50 fee t; the light illuminates its journey all the way up . toysmith.com
The Noochie Golf set contains four Track Pieces (a green, obstacle, dogleg and fairway), one putter and two Noochie Golf game balls. Child centered, imagination driven and quality assured, the set lets children design their own mini golf set. Made of durable plastic parts, it is engineered to withstand the high demands of active use. noochiegolf.com
va is The Floor is La orating rp co in a family game ation, and in ag im , ity physical activ ody has played pure fun! Everyb game as a child; a version of this r e furniture in thei jumping over th s ou er ng y off the da living room to sta d an r ne in sp with a floor. Play it now nes” that players sto y et af “s foam fety. ss jump acro to sa m .co es am sg endles
PlaSmart’s new Watermelon Ball Jr., the ball you fill with water, is smaller, lighter and brighter than the original for high visibility. Designed to look, feel, and behave like a watermelon in water, players can dribble, kick, bounce, pass, and intercept underwater. plasmarttoys.com 38 edplay.com • • • • • march/april 2018
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The iPogo jr. Interactive Counting Pogo Stick from flybar introduces itself and lets kids know when it is ready to jump! Then, its patented light panel tracks their jumps and motivates them along the way (for ages 5 through 9). flybar.com
It’s made out of what? Luke’s Toy Factory makes its 3D puzzle trucks using 30-percent reclaimed sawdust. That takes away 30 percent of the plastic! 212-598-4500, LukesToyFactory.com
For more on Active Toys, see page 22.
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Bob Wann, Chief Play Monster at PlayMonster LLC, became chairman of the The Toy Association’s board of directors during Toy Fair. Widely recognized as a creative thinker and marketer, Bob has more than 35 years of experience at both Fortune 500 and entrepreneurial/ start-up companies in the U.S and internationally. Through strategic brand and product development combined with creative marketing, he has overseen the creation and growth of some of the most recognized brands in toys and consumer packaged goods. Among the award-winning programs he developed are Family Game Night and Get Together Games. Bob joined The Toy Association’s Board of Directors in 2010. He currently serves on the Executive Committee and on The Toy Foundation’s Board of Directors. He was formerly the association’s secretary-treasurer and served on numerous committees, including the
audit, investment, and PlayCon committees. In addition, four candidates were elected to serve their first terms on the Toy Association board: Michael Keaton, president, Schleich North America; Tim Kilpin, president & CEO, consumer products division of Activision Blizzard; Andrew Quartin, CEO, Thames & Kosmos; and Andrew Weiner, president, Toy’n around. Smith Holland Jr., president and CEO of Crayola, has been elected to his first full term, after joining the Board in 2017 to fill a vacant seat. Jeff Mumford, former VP of operations at Hog Wild Toys, recently bought the Oregon-based company and will serve as its president and CEO. “I’m excited to return Hog Wild to an owner-operator model,” Mumford said. “This is an opportunity to invest in the work I do every day: finding the best way to make great toys.” Hog Wild Toys’ former CEO, Joe Roper, is retiring after 17 years at the helm. He will stay on as a consultant during the transition. Mumford is a toy-industry veteran. He started unloading containers full of slingshots at Monkey Business Sports a decade ago, then after a stint in operations and product development at Zing toys, he joined Hog Wild in 2011. Since then, he has overseen the launch of the company’s Hong Kong office, as well as the debut of 200 new items.
Mastermind Toys, Canada’s largest specialty toy and children’s books retailer, has appointed Scott Nygaard to the newly created role of Special Advisor to The Board of Directors and CEO, effective immediately. In this role, Scott will provide strategic and sustainable business recommendations and assist in the implementation of new practices across multiple business units: purchasing, product procurement, vendor relations, and merchandising. He will report directly to Mastermind Toys Co-Founder and CEO Jon Levy and to the company’s Board of Directors. Nygaard joins Mastermind after spending more than two decades at Target Corporation, where he held various leadership roles. Most recently he was Senior Vice President, Merchandising where he was responsible for more than $10B in revenue across four business units including toys. With 60 Canadian stores, Mastermind Toys will continue to expand its footprint across Canada adding 12 new locations in 2018. The company will open three new stores in the first-quarter: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; St. Albert (Edmonton), Alberta; and Hamilton, Ontario, with additional locations to be announced in the coming months. The company was founded more than 30 years ago by brothers Andy and Jon Levy who wanted to offer shoppers a classic toy store experience.
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requires slow movements strong focus on body control develop proprioceptive sense strengthen concentration
Basic Fun!, the Boca Raton toy and novelty company, has purchased the assets of K’NEX, the Pennsylvania-based construction toy company. K’NEX will join Tech 4 Kids and Uncle Milton as the latest addition to the “new” Basic Fun! K’NEX rods and connectors will continue to be manufactured at an eco-friendly manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania under a long-term agreement with The Rodon Group, and operations will continue at the K’NEX office and distribution center in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. “K’NEX is a great American toy story in every way – from its inception as a toy invention, to its unique manufacturing profile, to being recognized by consumers and the trade as a distinctive construction platform in one of the most challenging categories in the toy industry,” says Jay Foreman, Basic Fun! CEO.
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Michael Araten, CEO of K’NEX, adds, “K’NEX was invented by Joel Glickman, one of the company’s founders, and our family has been operating this business for more than 25 years. It’s time for us to connect with new owners whom we expect will take K’NEX to new heights over the next 25 years.” K’NEX prides itself on connecting Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math with imagination, which it calls STEAMagination. The K’NEX product line has won more than 430 awards. Basic Fun! began 25 years ago as a small novelty company. In 2009, it was purchased from its founder by The Good Stuff Corporation, which in 2013 was acquired by The Bridge Direct. As the growing company began to put its portfolio of brands and companies together, it settled upon the “Basic Fun!” brand name.
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FAO Schwarz is embarking on a global expansion strategy, starting with a brand collaboration this year with Kidsland, China’s largest toy distributor. In addition to a flagship location in Beijing and Shanghai, Kidsland will open 30 smaller FAO Schwarz Products from Popar, Learning Resources, and Teacher Created Materials were honored with Buyer’s Choice Awards at the Educational Supplies Efficient Program Planning Sessions (EPPS) held February 11 through 14 in Florida. The awards, sponsored by Educational Dealer magazine, were chosen by buyers from the 70 or so stores who attended the conference. Popar’s Safari Alive was their top choice. The smart-toy set includes six hand-painted 4-by-7-inch animals (a lion, giraffe, zebra, hippo, elephant and antelope), a book, a 4D app available for free on the App Store and Google Play, plus three adventure cards. The app is designed to work with Apple and Android smartphones, and delivers colorful animation, thought-provoking games, and educational read-alongs.
specialty stores and shop-in-shops in 200 department stores across the country over the next five years, according to a company press release. The announcement comes on the heels of news that the iconic toy retailer is planning a new 20,000-square-foot flagship location at Rockefeller Plaza in New York in time for the 2018 holidays, noted the company. In addition, thanks to a new agreement with travel retail company Hudson Group to open a chain of FAO Schwarz-branded airport shops in the U.S. and Canada, the retailer will serve consumers all over the world. The first store is scheduled to open this year.
Botley the Coding Robot from Learning Resources took the second-place spot. He teaches kids as young as 5 how to code in a hands-on, screen-free, fun and friendly way. Botley is ready to use right out of the box, and no phone or tablet is required. He works on commands transmitted from an easy-to-use remote programmer. Botley can detect objects and move around them, follow looping commands, navigate obstacle courses and follow black lines. Teacher Created Resources won the third-place trophy for Better Than Paper an easy-to-use nonwoven fabric that comes in rolls to create backdrops for classroom bulletin boards. It is available in a variety of colors – teal, royal blue, lime, yellow, hot pink and white – plus patterns like Gold Shimmer, Burlap, Clouds, Chalkboard and White Wood.
Peter Sheahan, award-winning thought leader, best-selling author, and advisor to leading companies will headline ASTRA’s 2018 Marketplace & Academy. The specialty-toy trade show and conference takes place June 10 through 13 in New Orleans. Sheahan will open the third
day of the exhibit hall with a timely keynote titled “FL!P: Proven Strategies for Turning Challenge into Opportunity, and Change into Competitive Advantage!” He will draw on his experience as CEO of a global consulting firm to explore best practices from multiple industries – industries that have experienced transformative change. Sheahan will unpack the key insights from those who profited from the change, compared to those that became victims of it. “Like Peter Sheahan, many ASTRA members share the experience of starting or building businesses at a young age, and weathering many cycles of change in their careers,” said Kimberly Mosley, ASTRA president. “We are eager to hear Peter’s message about embracing change and breaking free from the thinking that made us successful in the past, but could undermine our future success.”
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Spielwarenmesse, the annual toy trade show held in Germany February 1 through 6, hosted 2,902 exhibiting companies from 68 countries – more than ever before according to show organizers. From the U.S., there were 149 exhibitors, the country with the fifth-highest number behind Germany, China, the U.K. and Hong Kong. Exhibitors showcased 120,000 new products in the Nuremberg Exhibition Center, where retailers and other buyers from around the world were enthusiastic about the innovation and strength of the toy industry in all areas, from classic wooden toys to technological toys. More than 70,000 toy professionals were in attendance at the show that ran from January 31 to February 4. Of that number, 43,289 were from 130 countries other than Germany. The largest contingents came from Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Russia, Poland, China and the Czech Republic. Each year, Spielwarenmesse eG presents ToyAwards to outstanding products in four age-specific categories. The Kullerbü Car Park and Play Track from Habermaass (A) was honored in the Baby & Infant category, and the Robo Chameleon from Silverlit Toys (B) claimed victory in the PreSchool category. The Pepper Mint and the Treehouse Adventure experimentation set by Franckh-Kosmos Verlag (C) won the SchoolKids category, and the VW T1 Samba by TAMIYA-CARSON Modellbau (D) garnered the award in the Teenager & adults category.
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industry news Congratulations to the TOTY Award winners! Known as the Oscars of the toy industry, the Toy of the Year Awards are presented annually to the top toys, games, and properties of the year. Administered by The Toy Association, the awards program supports the philanthropic work of the Toy Industry Foundation, which delivers new toys to children in need. A 10-member jury including market researchers, educators, international sales agents and a toy safety expert, chose the winners from 643 entries, up from 635 in 2017. They were judged on
a variety of characteristics: their fun factor, originality, safety, sales potential at retail, workmanship and quality, and accessibility. Here is a list of winners celebrated at a gala that kicked off Toy Fair. Best Toy of the Year: Fingerlings from WowWee (also the Collectible of the Year)
People’s Choice Award: L.O.L. Surprise! from MGA Entertainment, and Mystery Minis from Funko Action Figure of the Year: Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy Dancing Groot Figure from Hasbro Construction Toy of the Year: LEGO Star Wars BB-8 from LEGO Systems Creative Toy of the Year: Droid Inventor Kit from littleBits Doll of the Year: Wonder Crew Superhero Will from PlayMonster
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Game of the Year: Soggy Doggy from Spin Master Infant/ Toddler Toy of the Year: Teddy Ruxpin from Wicked Cool Toys Innovative Toy of the Year: Rubie’s Jurassic World T-Rex Inflatable Costume by Rubie’s Costume Company
Specialty Toy of the Year: LEGO Star Wars Millennium Falcon from LEGO Systems Tech Toy of the Year: LEGO BOOST Creative Toolbox from LEGO Systems
Vehicle of the Year: PAW Patrol Sea Patroller from Spin Master
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Outdoor Toy of the Year: Bunch O Balloons Filler Soaker from Zuru Playset of the Year: Hot Wheels Super Ultimate Garage from Mattel Plush Toy of the Year: Disney Junior Minnie’s Walk and Play Puppy from Just Play Products Preschool Toy of the Year (for ages 3 through 5): PAW Patrol My Size Lookout Tower from Spin Master Ltd. Rookie of the Year: Antsy Pants Build & Play Kits from Beach House Group
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Tell our advertisers you saw their products in edplay magazine Adventure Parks All Baby & Child American Educational Products ASTRA Catalog Solutions Duncan Toys Fat Brain Toy Co. Fractiles Identity Games International Koplow Games Light Stax-The Lazy Dog & Co. Luke’s Toy Factory Noochie Golf PlayMonster LLC SentoSphere USA. Studio Fun International TEDCO Toys Inc. Time Timer LLC Two Bros Bows Wikki Stix Woodland
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It’s Time to Get Active (continued from page 23) “It’s clear that digital entertainment dominates the lives of far too many kids; displacing all sorts of other activities that are integral to childhood,” says a statement from event organizer Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC). “Screen-Free Week is a great way to take a much-needed break from entertainment screen media and rediscover the joys of face-to-face interaction and offline play.” Research shows that children’s screen time exceeds public health recommendations, and that excessive use of digital devices can lead to health and wellness problems. That’s why
Screen-Free Week is endorsed by 47 public health and child advocacy organizations including the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. For this year’s celebration, CCFC has partnered with Every Child A Reader, the organizers of Children’s Book Week, which also takes place April 30 to May 6.
For information on organizing events for Screen-Free Week, visit screenfree.org. For Children’s Book Week visit everychildareader.net/cbw/
46 edplay.com • • • • • march/april 2018
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conference & trade show
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MAY 22 – 24, 2018 Rosen Shingle Creek | Orlando, Florida
What’s new for the ABC Spring Educational Conference in 2018? A new logo, a new location and a renewed commitment to bring the industry together and help juvenile productFLprofessionals stand Rosen Shingle Creek | Orlando, out in an increasingly competitive market. What’s more, we’ll have new products, new business strategies and new event features that What’s new for the ABC Spring Educational Conference in 2018? a new location and a renewed to bring profit the will helpA new youlogo, increase market share commitment and improve margins. industry together and help juvenile product professionals stand out Mark your calendar now. in an increasingly competitive market. What’s more, we’ll have new
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What’s new for the ABC Spring Educational Conference in 2018? A new logo, a new location and a renewed commitment to bring the industry together and help juvenile product professionals stand out in an increasingly competitive market. What’s more, we’ll have new products, new business strategies and new event features that will help you increase market share and improve profit margins. Mark your calendar now.
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3/13/18 10:44 AM