Vol. 30, No. 6
The Toy Book talks to makers of small collectible toys, which are among 2014â€™s biggest successes.
2015 page 10
page 33 Neighborhood Toy Store Day Helps Independent Retailers Shine page S6 Classic Activity Toys Get an Upgrade page S8
Eco-Friendly Toys page S13
page 24 Clockwise from top: Disney Frozen Color â€™n Create Inkoos, from The Bridge Direct; Decorate Your Own Princess Fairy Wings, from International Playthings; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Lair Deluxe Pack Paper Craft, from Jazwares; Beados Glitter, from Moose Toys
in this issue December/January 2015
05 Editor’s Viewpoint 06 Stat Shot 07 TIA Happenings 08 Industry Update 09 The Big Toy Book’s
Western Europe stagnates, while Turkey shines.
Activity Toys Get an Upgrade
20 International Toy Industry Profile: Brio
22 International Toy Industry Profile: Viking Toys
49 Outside the Box 52 Talking Social Media 57 Industry Marketplace 58 Flashback: London Toy Fair
Tiny Collectibles, Big Impact Tiny collectible toys have been among the industry's biggest successes.
While some manufacturers are taking the classic category into the digital world, others are focusing on more traditional play patterns.
HoliDAY of Play
International Toy Industry
Traditional Toys and Games
Toy Fest West
E DITOR - IN -C HIEF Jackie Breyer firstname.lastname@example.org S ENIOR E DITORS Marissa DiBartolo email@example.com
Phil Guie firstname.lastname@example.org
Stericycle shares tips on how to efficiently handle a recall situation.
E DITORIAL A SSISTANT Deanna Atkins email@example.com
License for Lifestyle
P UBLISHER Jonathan Samet firstname.lastname@example.org
A SSOCIATE E DITORS Christine Duhaime email@example.com
Facing a Recall Head On
Spielwarenmesse CEO Ernst Kick discusses the power of licensed brands in the lifestyle sector.
Volume 30, Number 6 www.toybook.com
Ali Mierzejewski firstname.lastname@example.org
This Las Vegas toy show continues to gain popularity among manufacturers and buyers.
Published by Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.®
A by-the-numbers review of last year’s Spielwarenmesse.
An inside look at the trends and happenings of the toy fair in Nuremberg.
Specialty Toys & Gifts ACTIVITY TOY SHOWCASE S8 FRUSTRATION-FREE S12 ASTRA’S INSIGHTS S2 PACKAGING: Reducing Hassle and Increasing NEWS S4 Customer Satisfaction ANATOMY OF A S5 TOY AND GAME INVENTOR
ECO-FRIENDLY S13 TOY SHOWCASE
NEIGHBORHOOD TOY STORE DAY S6 HELPS INDEPENDENT RETAILERS SHINE
WHAT’S NEW S15 MEDIA CENTER S16
E DITORIAL I NTERNS Magdalene Michalik Alexis Willey P RODUCTION D IRECTOR Bill Reese email@example.com C ONTROLLER /O FFICE M ANAGER Lori Rubin firstname.lastname@example.org U.S. Corporate Headquarters Laurie Schacht, President email@example.com
Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® 307 Seventh Ave., #1601 New York, NY 10001 Phone: (212) 575-4510 Fax: (212) 575-4521
Member, International Toy Magazine Association
Jackie Breyer editor-in-chief
A Positive Outlook for the Year Ahead
s we sail into 2015, I’m excited and reinvigorated about the state of the toy industry in general. 2014 was a pretty good year for us, all things considered, and there were a number of “hot toys” for the holidays. What will the new year bring? The Frozen phenomenon is not over just yet, but I expect that it will settle down a bit compared to 2014. Consumers will be able to find the Elsa and Anna products they’re looking for, and Disney and its licensees will work hard to ensure no child shall want for a Frozen toy, or at least not for lack of inventory. Cinderella will be the princess of the year, never mind the fact that we’re subbing in one blond in a blue dress for another. One trend that I expect to flourish in 2015 is collectibles. Kids have always loved to collect things. Over the years, from baseball cards, to pogs, to Squinkies, to Beanie Babies, kids have wanted to collect them all. One of 2014’s biggest collectible phenomenons was Shopkins, from Moose Toys. The line includes collectible figure packs in various themes with coordinating play sets. The Shopkins Small Mart Playset, featuring tiny grocery collectibles, was one of the darlings of the holiday season, and Moose will continue to roll out new Shopkins collections as the year progresses. Seeing that Shopkins was geared more toward girls, Moose has also expanded its offerings to boys in the collectibles arena. While its Trash Pack line is doing well, the company is expanding its distribution of the Mutant Mania line of boys’ collectibles. It was a Toys “R” Us exclusive last year, but will now be available at additional major retailers. To learn more about what makes the collectibles category tick, check out Associate Editor Phil Guie’s article on page 28. In a high-tech world where just about anything can be customized to a consumer’s liking, low-tech activity kits have
been offering kids the opportunity to personalize, customize, and create for years. The activity category is still riding high from the Rainbow Loom craze of 2013, and the offerings are becoming more varied and interesting than ever before. While brands such as Crayola offer everything from the most basic tools for creative play through products that bring kids’ creations to life on a tablet or smartphone, many manufacturers are branching out with new products that let kids express themselves through a variety of mediums. Turn to page 24 to check out some of our favorites! ■
“I don’t know, Mom. It’s kind of a one.” THE TOY BOOK • 5
S TAT S HOT
The Year in Short YTD October 2014
TOTAL TOY INDUSTRY TOP DOLLAR GROWTH SUBCLASSES
Total toy industry increase in dollars (YTD October)
Total toy industry increase in units (YTD October)
BIGGEST GAINERS IN THE U.S.
(YTD OCTOBER) Arts and Crafts
• • • • • • • • •
Building Sets Action Figures Craft Kits Blasters/Shooters Steam Trading Card Games Traditional Plush Reusable Compounds Play Set-themed Figures and Play Sets Fashion-themed Dolls and Figures
Online Reviews: How They Stack Up
Source: The NPD Group
Female consumers who consider e-commerce reviews extremely/very important when making a purchase
67% european market UPDATE
Consumers who say that an online review is more important than input from a salesperson Female consumers who still consider online reviews very influential, even when purchasing a new product from a brand they already know
At press time, the European market feels quite confident that the 2014 “millésime” will be strong. The five largest European markets grew by 4 percent in the first 10 months of the year—quite a turnaround after two years of flat sales. This can be explained by the loom bracelet craze, the passion around the World Cup, and strong performances from movie-related properties. In a mature market such as Europe, growth is not linked to population or nationality, but around crazes and popular intellectual properties. Sales trends go anywhere from -1 percent to 2 percent in any given year, but it takes something major to push retail sales higher than that—and it did. It started with the release of The Lego Movie in February, which immediately boosted building sets sales by double digits. Then, outdoor sales performed well up to the World Cup and the loom bracelet trend. Those trends boosted low price point sales as though Europeans had finally decided to give in after years on a tight budget. Europeans are fond of collectibles. To some extent, we believe that parents also enjoy seeing their kids make something, be it a sticker album collection, bracelets for the entire classroom, or a fantasy spaceship with bricks. There were also a number of high-profile superhero movies released in 2014 and, of course, the Frozen DVD. As a result, movies and licenses were one of the driving forces behind the good performance of the market, growing at twice the market
6 • THE TOY BOOK
Source: Influence Central
growth rate. Like in the U.S., Frozen has seen immense success over the past three months, much after the release of the movie on DVD. The license ranks No. 3 in the all-Disney top five best performers in Europe (YTD October), but is already No. 1 in the U.K. Sales will likely break Toy Story 3’s record from 2010 as the best-ever performing movie license in any given year for the U.K. In the other countries, Frozen is also gaining momentum, rising to No. 1 in Spain for October, No. 3 in Italy, No. 4 in Germany, and No. 6 in France. Looking ahead, we expect building sets to remain very strong. The looms have slowed down in some countries (not all) but have paved the way for a rejuvenated arts and crafts category. A broad range of new arts and crafts products—such as the Sew Cool machine from Spin Master and the Doh Vinci kits from Hasbro—are climbing up the charts. Once again, the spotlight will be on the youth electronics category as a new wave of robotic and e-connected toys are introduced to the market this fall. Equipped with technology never seen before in the toy market, voice recognition, gesture-sense technologies, drones, and lifelike interactive toys will be must-haves for many kids. —Frédérique Tutt, global industry analyst, NPD Eurotoys
Toy Industry Association
Toy Industry Initiatives Celebrate Value, Benefits, and the Magic of Play by Kristin Morency Goldman, communications specialist, Toy Industry Association
id you know that children who have access to a variety of toys reach higher levels of intellectual achievement, regardless of sex, age, or social class? Or that toddlers who play with building bricks have significantly higher language scores? Throughout the holiday season and leading up to North American International Toy Fair, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) has been promoting these and other play-related facts and skill-building toys to increase awareness about our industry’s innovative and educational playthings that positively impact children worldwide. “Our aim is to inform consumers and the media about the tremendous value of play,” says Ken Seiter, TIA vice president of strategic communications. “We invite all members of the toy industry to get involved by opening up a dialogue with their shoppers and social media followers about the critical role of toys in the healthy development of children.” The following is an overview of TIA’s recent initiatives. Toymakers and retailers are encouraged to share this information with parents and caregivers:
“The Genius of Play”
In mid-November, TIA launched www.thegeniusofplay.org to shed light on the various ways in which toys promote the development of lifelong skills in children. The campaign was developed with the input of TIA members, industry professionals, play-focused organizations, and academics. “TheGeniusOfPlay.org—as well as toyinfo.org, TIA’s accompanying consumer website—provides retailers and shoppers with valuable information about the types of toys that build specific skill-sets, in addition to safety tips for families,” says Adrienne Appell, TIA trend expert. “These resources are designed to help parents find the right toy for the child that they’re shopping for, and provide retail staff with the knowledge needed to better assist their customers.
TIA held a press event in November to announce 83 toy, game, and property finalists for the 2015 Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards. Families can visit www.toyawards.org through January 11 to vote for their favorite playthings and enter to win prize packages. TOTY winners will be announced at a ceremony held on February 13 in New York City. Each TOTY nominee has been vetted by a nomination committee comprised of play and toy experts and has been selected based on the following criteria: creativity, originality, and innovation; design and promotion; excellence of product; and marketplace acceptance. Shoppers can easily browse the full roster of TOTY nominees at ToyAwards.org and discover terrific picks for the children in their lives.
Toy Fair 2015
When the gifts are unwrapped and the holidays are behind us, the international toy industry will gather at the North American International Toy Fair in New York City—the largest celebration of toys and play in the Western Hemisphere. Conversations about the value of play are expected to culminate at the show, with about 1,000 reporters from top-tier, global media outlets in attendance. On the second day, TIA will unveil the hottest toy and game trends of 2015. These trends will place an emphasis on toys that promote child development. “Last year, we announced that ‘personalization’ and ‘openended play’ would be the hottest buzzwords of the year and shared with media and buyers product examples that stimulate creativity through child-driven play,” says Appell. “Our top trends for 2015 will once again highlight toys as beneficial ‘tools’ of play in front of reporters and toy industry influencers.” ■ Additional information is available at www.toyassociation.org and www.toyfairny.com.
THE TOY BOOK •
DISNEY DEBUTS NEW APPROACH TO EARLY LEARNING WITH DISNEY IMAGICADEMY Disney Publishing Worldwide has created Disney Imagicademy, a technology-driven learning initiative designed for families with kids ages 3 to 8 that encourages them to learn by creating, doing, and making. The new platform combines Disney characters with a research-driven curriculum developed with top academic and education experts. The integrated program includes more than 30 app-based experiences, a companion app for parents, and books and other physical products. The material covers key subject matters, including math, creative arts, science, language arts, and social and emotional skills. The Disney Imagicademy portfolio launched on December 11 with Mickey’s Magical Math World, an iPad-exclusive app that features five robust math-focused activities in one app: Mickey’s Super Rocket Shapes, Donald’s Number Launcher, Minnie’s Robot Count-Along, Daisy’s Bedtime Countdown, and Goofy’s Silly Sorting. The companion app, Disney Imagicademy Parents, also debuted on December 11. The second suite of digital apps in the Disney Imagicademy lineup is Mickey’s Magical Arts World, which is focused on creative arts. It will be available on the App Store for download in January.
Mickey’s Magical Math World
8 • THE TOY BOOK
TOY FAIR 2015 SELLS OUT
As reported by the Toy Industry Association (TIA), exhibit space for the 112th North American International Toy Fair, scheduled for February 14 to 17, has officially sold out. The show has already surpassed a recordbreaking 419,000 net square feet of exhibit space at New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, and going forward, prospective Toy Fair exhibitors will be placed on a wait list. The expanded show floor, equivalent in size to more than seven football fields, will feature hundreds of thousands of innovative new toys, games, and youth entertainment products. The North American International Toy Fair draws buyers, licensors, entertainment executives, and other play professionals from 100 countries, who will be on-hand scouting toy trends, spotting unique product lines and brands, and writing orders for next year.
MADMOUSE TO UNVEIL FROZEN IMPACT, MYSTIC BREEZE, AND TREEATURES LINES Madmouse will be releasing new products next year, including Frozen Impact, a line of cars made out of real ice. Kids can create their own ice cars, challenge friends, break through ice walls and other obstacles, destroy their cars, and more. Another product, Mystic Breeze, submerges kids in a world where they are able to create, decorate, and hide their own flowers in a magic blossom. There are also Treeatures for Treeatures preschoolers, featuring a community of animals with the power to exchange traits, allowing them to overcome any challenge. Kids can create their own Treeature out of thousands of different combinations. These three toy lines and much more will be presented in January and February at Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair and Spielwarenmesse, respectively, and will be available for distribution all over the world.
Get the latest toy industry news delivered straight to your inbox each week for free! Subscribe to The Toy Book’s Toy Report. Send an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org, and add that address to your address book to ensure delivery. For up-to-the-minute news, follow The Toy Book on Twitter: twitter.com/ToyBook, and like The Toy Book on Facebook: facebook.com/TheToyBook. Visit our blog at www.toybook.com.
hosts third annual
HoliDAY DAY of Play
obots roamed the floor, bananas turned into piano keys, and a 3-foot Ninja Turtle stood tall on the 44th floor of the Hearst Tower at The Big Toy Book’s third annual HoliDAY of Play hot toy event.
On October 29, 140 bloggers and members of the press gathered to meet face-to-face with some of the top companies in the toy industry and get handson experience with the best toys on the market. The Big Toy Book’s event, hosted in partnership with Woman’s Day magazine and the Toy Insider, featured futuristic STEM toys, Japanese-style plush, and everything in between. Toy Insider Mom and Founder of The Big Toy Book, Laurie Schacht, greeted guests with a brief presentation, during which she introduced attendees to the event hosts, articulated some key toy trends for the year, and gave a brief overview of what each sponsor in the room had on-hand. Saving the best for last, Schacht revealed the dates and location for the second annual Blogger Bash, a conference connecting bloggers and press with lifestyle brands. Taking place on July 16 and 17, 2015, Blogger Bash will be held in New York City at Pier Sixty. After the presentation, bloggers and press mingled with toy manufacturer reps, including Hasbro, Funrise, Cloud b, Battat, VTech, Tomy, and more. Some of kids’ favorite brands, including Minecraft, WWE, and Frozen were on display. The Toy Insider team also demoed products from its Hot 20 and Top Tech 12 holiday toy lists, allowing attendees to learn all about the hottest toys for the holiday season, such as VTech’s Kidizoom Smartwatch, eKids’ Disney Frozen Cool Tunes Singalong Boombox, and Skylanders Trap Team. Every attendee went home with an awesome bag of swag to review and enjoy with family and friends, stuffed with products from Crayola, Alex Brands, Rovio, and more. Co-hosts of the event Charlene DeLoach of Charlene Chronicles and Joey Fortman of Real Mom Media were also in attendance, reconnecting with their favorite bloggers and brands and sharing the excitement on social media. The official event hashtag #hottoys14 generated more than 16 million impressions on Twitter, and amassed more than 500 unique photos on Instagram. Trending locally in the Northeast, #hottoys14 had more than 500 contributors. If you’re interested in becoming a sponsor for HoliDAY of Play, Blogger Bash, or Sweet Suite 2015, please email Laurie Schacht at email@example.com.
THE TOY BOOK • 9
by Ernst Kick, CEO, Spielwarenmesse eG
hat perfumes do top models use? Fragrance note: fruity. You can go out and buy the perfume collection that goes with the German TV series, and wannabe models see it as the surefire way of taking their first step onto the catwalks worldwide. But what do Angry Birds actually smell like? The once odor-neutral computer game has made it into the flacon, but if you’re thinking of guano, you’re wide of the mark. Think rather of an Eau de Cologne that the birds Red, Chuck, Bomb, and Pig King were given as their fragrance. Fragrance, fashion, design, music, everyday articles, toys, apps—they are all stylistic means of life, manifestations of various lifestyles. Whether girly, bad boy, punk, rocker, lifestyles of health and sustainability, minimalist, family person, hedonist, or jet-setter, people give their lifestyle a personal note through their own preferences. The art of the license and lifestyle sector is to materialize people’s way of life and to work through the variety of ways in which it is expressed. And as long as individualism is gaining ground, there will be myriad lifestyles. Kids and young adults will experiment in the process of self-discovery until they have found their personal style. The license, toy, and consumer goods industry accompanies them through this process with a huge range of products represented at Spielwarenmesse in Nuremberg. In the stores, these then become the articles that spark impulse buying. It’s precisely these products that catch my eye in a store, and I know immediately I have to have them. Toy retailers can smarten up their product range with fashionable and trendy articles as fast movers. Fads such as the coveted Rainbow Loom bracelets invented by Cheong Choon Ng create an unexpected stream of buyers heading for the toy store. The craze swept over to Europe this year. For
many retailers in Europe, these rubber bands generated the highest footfall of the year. By this past fall, 3 million packs of the original had already been sold. And whenever fashionistas top up their stock at their trusted toy retailer, they also pick up this toy and that toy on their way to the checkout. Licensed articles can have the same suction effect, and if the license’s themes address the lifestyles of both kids and adults equally, it becomes particularly interesting for sales of licensed figures, because the number of people in the potential target group escalates. The properties that span generations—such as Star Wars, Lego, Activision, and Disney Infinity—are moneyspinners that keep the tills ringing. At this year’s Spielwarenmesse, these revenue drivers in the Fashionable and Trendy Articles group are allocated their own show area. You’ll find these products that consumers of all ages use to express their lifestyle located centrally at the Mitte entrance. I can already reveal that the products in this area feature licensed articles. In Nuremberg, you’ll discover which products toy manufacturers worldwide can offer you for your assortment. Ultimately, your mission is to strengthen customer loyalty by means of the best products, and in Nuremberg from January 28 to February 2, we will offer you the finest selection of products to do just that. Come and see for yourself. ■
THE TOY BOOK • 11
The impressive turnout at last yearâ€™s fair provides a good outlook for 2015.
2,748 90.8% 71% International
Exhibitors who plan to exhibit again this year
top international Exhibitors China Hong Kong UK France U.S. Italy The Netherlands Spain Taiwan Czech Republic
243 174 164 142 140 136 115 108 69 57
122 Countries represented by visitors
75,888 56% International
top international visitors
Italy Traders and France buyers who only visit The Netherlands Spielwarenmesse UK Spain Russia Austria Buyers involved in purchasing Poland Exhibitors who decisions Belgium only attend Spielwarenmesse Czech Republic
4,226 3,061 2,346 2,074 2,007 1,949 1,602 1,561 1,554 1,554
Spielwarenmesse: January 28 through February 2 For additional information, visit www.toyfair.de.
12 â€˘ THE TOY BOOK
What’s new at spielwarenmesse SPIELWARENMESSE PRESENTS NEW IDEAS FOR RETAILERS
mall gifts maintain friendships. There are innumerable occasions for gift-giving, such as a birthday, the long-awaited top mark in math, Valentine’s Day, a wedding, a new home, etc. And this is where the problem of what to choose begins for gift-givers. A gift should always be something personal and unique, but product selection is huge and most consumers have little patience. Should it be a game, something to display, or a doit-yourself product? Retailers will find an extensive overview and a large selection of new products to offer their customers at the Spielwarenmesse 2015. More than 2,700 exhibitors at the world’s biggest toy fair will present 1 million products, including 75,000 new items. ■
14 • THE TOY BOOK
SPIELWARENMESSE HIGHLIGHTS KIDS’ TRENDS & LIFESTYLE
t the 66th annual Spielwarenmesse, the new product group Fashionable and Trendy Articles in Entrance Mitte will play a major role. It became a new product group at last year’s Spielwarenmesse, and now the manufacturers of Fashionable and Trendy Articles will have a display area of their own, prominently situated at the Centre Entrance. More than 160 companies will exhibit products relating to Lifestyle and Trend Articles at the Spielwarenmesse. The number of suppliers focusing on this range is constantly on the rise. For the first time, companies such as Samsonite GmbH, the leading brand for luggage, and Italian fashion brand Perletti S.p.a. will exhibit their kids’ collections in Nuremberg. Jonathan Dory, general manager of Samsonite’s kids’ category, looks forward to the importance given to lifestyle products at this year’s Spielwarenmesse: “With our new Disney by Samsonite collection in the kids’ segment, toy retailers can sell vibrant bags, backpacks, and luggage in the most popular Disney designs. That’s why we felt we needed to be present at the Spielwarenmesse with a great booth in the lifestyle area.” Perletti S.p.a.’s international business manager, Roberto Reguzzi, sees the new product group as the key to new customers: “Concentrating the lifestyle products at the Mitte entrance means we meet our exact target group at the Spielwarenmesse, namely retailers who value Italian style and quality. They can extend their range of current licenses with our umbrellas, kids’ accessories, rain coats, and rain boots.” ■
Spielwarenmesse will highlight Fashionable and Trendy Articles, such as StacheTATS.
TRENDGALLERY FEATURES TOP INDUSTRY TRENDS
all 3A at Spielwarenmesse is home to the TrendGallery. This special show will present the most exciting trends and new products together in one area. An international TrendCommittee of nine experts travels worldwide before Spielwarenmesse to track down the latest toy trends for the TrendGallery. The TrendCommittee is composed of John Baulch (publisher, Toy World Magazine, UK); Daniele Caroli (journalist, Giochi & Giocattoli, Italy); Dr. Maria Costa (market researcher, Toy Research Institute, Spain); Axel Dammler (market researcher, iconkids & youth international research GmbH, Germany); Richa Dikshit (blogger, Toy Tasting, India); Philippe Guinaudeau (market researcher, Kidz Global, France/Hong Kong); Marek Jankowski (journalist, Branza Dzieci ca, Poland); Gabriela Kaiser (trend consultant, TRENDagentur, Germany); and Reyne Rice (journalist and trend expert, U.S.).
Beyond Reality: Every industry is subject to change. New findings result in new technologies; and new technologies lead
to new trends. New trends in the entertainment and electronics industry are gaining traction in the toy sector. For example, 2-D drawings are suddenly being brought to life as 3-D objects. Technical elements are adding completely new functions to clothing and accessories, while toys can be controlled using gestures alone. Little Scientists: It’s increasingly important to familiarize children with science, technology, engineering, and math concepts through play, helping give them a successful basis early on for the future. Toys that help children experience and understand scientific phenomena are in high demand. Parents want toys that promote logical and analytical thinking and explain technical relationships, so the toy industry developed new products that promote and support STEM knowledge and skills. The third trend will be presented at the TrendGallery. All further information is available at the Spielwarenmesse website. The TrendGallery passes on tomorrow’s market knowhow in the Toy Business Forum. ■
TOY BUSINESS FORUM EQUIPS TOY INDUSTRY FOR THE FUTURE
rom January 28 to February 1, Spielwarenmesse invites trade visitors to attend the Toy Business Forum. Visitors can bring their knowledge of the industry up to speed at this free forum. Experts explain new, worthwhile aspects of a daily topic in 30-minute presentations. The forum provides everyone interested in the industry with a comprehensive view of current market developments and marketing trends.
Wednesday: Thursday: Friday:
ToyKnowHow: Experiencing future trends & technologies Licenses: Recognizing worldwide trends in 2015 Online Marketing: Understanding strategies on the World Wide Web Marketing: Discovering potentials for the trade Visual Merchandising Creating experience worlds
JANUARY 28 TO FEBRUARY 1 FROM 1 TO 3 P.M. Location: Hall 3A,TrendGallery
For more information on this program, visit www.spielwarenmesse.de/en/toybusinessforum The presentations can be followed in both English and German.
JANUARY 28 TO FEBRUARY 2 Location: Nuremburg exhibition centre in Bavaria
For an overview of ticket prices and additional information, visit www.spielwarenmesse.de/en/buy-tickets To purchase tickets for the Spielwarenmesse 2015, contact Jerry Kallman, Kallman Associates Inc. Tel: +1 (201) 652-7070 or firstname.lastname@example.org
THE TOY BOOK • 15
Traditional Toys and Games Western Europe Stagnates, While Turkey Shines
by Robert Porter, analyst, toys and games, Euromonitor 450
400 350 300 US $
he year 2013 was disappointing for traditional toys and games across Western Europe, with most countries reporting static or declining value sales. Turkey was the marked exception to this rule, however, posting double-digit growth of 11 percent in 2013. Increased prices, disposable income, urbanization, and child population have all been key growth factors. But arguably the most important one is that Turkey is still relatively nascent in its development in comparison to the rest of Western Europe, and so it has much more scope to grow from a low base.
Traditional Toys and Games Spend per Child in Selected Markets: 2008 to 2013
250 200 150 100 50 0
Spain Netherlands Sweden Switzerland Turkey
Developments in Turkey Fuel Growth in Toys and Games In 2013, unit prices registered significant growth in Turkey, resulting in higher value than volume growth. In terms of domestic production, a combination of high production costs resulting from high energy prices, a lack of raw materials, and a weak supporting industry resulted in increased costs for local manufacturers. Disposable income in Turkey is also on the rise, allowing families to purchase these now more expensive toys, and further fueling growth in Turkey. Urbanization has continued to grow, too, with more infrastructures being developed in tier-two cities, allowing distribution channels to flourish and spreading the growth of traditional toys and games outside of tier-one cities. Also, the growing child population in Turkey, with almost 19 million kids under age 14 in the country, has created a huge upward growth pressure on the traditional toys and games market, regardless of category.
16 â€˘ THE TOY BOOK
Turkey Shines in Western Europe 14
Value Sales (rsp) and Growth of Traditional Toys and Games in Western Europe
In Turkey, construction toys, action figures, and accessories are expected to show the strongest growth from 2013 to 2018, both registering 5 percent compound annual growth rate constant value increases. While the growth in action figures is being driven by TV series and film launches, which have a positive effect on the sales of licensed products, the growth in construction toys is mostly due to a growth in sales of Lego, which is very popular among children and their parents. Licensed products featuring characters from Ben 10, Bakugan, Beyblade, and Star Wars are expected to witness a dynamic performance over the forecast period. Action figures and accessories has the highest incidence of licensed products, which will fuel the growth of this category over the forecast period. New film releases will also increase demand for licensed products over the forecast period. Although per capita spend on traditional toys and games is growing in Turkey, it is around 10 times higher in other Western European markets. This highlights the fact that Turkey is a comparatively small market for traditional toys and games and has a long way to go before it reaches the size of its Western European neighbors. Many socioeconomic factors are pointing toward high future growth in Turkey, but when this reaches inflection point, growth will most likely begin to plateau. Until then, Turkey could be the most dynamic market in Western Europe. â– For further insight, please contact Robert Porter, analyst, toys and games, at email@example.com.
International Toy Industry
Celebrating the Child Within Brio Marks Its 130th Anniversary by Encouraging Play for All
by Lena Hedö, editor in chief, Leksaksrevyn, ITMA member from Sweden
n a new office close to the central station in Malmö in Southern Sweden, toy company Brio has found a natural home. The train tracks outside the window relate to the company’s popular train products as well as to an export market that sits only a few train stations away. Here, Brio’s export director Thomas Browall explains how the export venture took full speed in 2011. Since then, the company has doubled its revenues in the export market, with the greatest developments occurring in the U.S. and Canada. “We began in January 2012 and started delivering in early summer. Now we are present in roughly 500—mostly smaller— toy stores. It is a conscious choice; specialty toy retail is our main channel. We also do online sales in the U.S. We will continue to grow in North America, where we see enormous opportunities,” says Browall. The response from consumers has been very positive, despite several years of absence. “We are increasing our product portfolio every season, but consumers demand an ever-greater collection as they find our products on the Internet, blogs, and other social media. It’s something that we naturally are very excited about,” continues Browall. Brio’s biggest export products are the Classic Racecar, the Magnet-Controlled Ringer to the Railway Series, and the Deluxe Railway Set. Today, the company has subsidiaries in Germany, France, and Japan, and a sales office in Hong Kong. In addition to the Nordic countries, distributors are located in 20 other countries, including the U.S. and Canada, the UK, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Efforts are currently
18 • THE TOY BOOK
underway to introduce Brio products in China. The single largest market is Germany and the single largest region is the Nordic region. Succeeding internationally is not to be taken for granted and the most important Racecar thing is finding the right partners. Resources must be available, and the companies must have the right profile and values. “We work with those who are passionate about our brand and products, and who are in it for the long term,” says Browall. Regarding production, Brio manufactures at three factories in China and one in the Czech Republic. All designs are made in Sweden and Malmö. “We work with several years of planning in close dialogue with the market and our customers—that is, parents and children,” says Brio Vice President Sophie Elvefors. She points out that play value, design, safety, and quality are built-in parameters that are matched against the Brio innovation process, where the child’s development is the foundation. “We are very careful to ensure that all products are approved to all current and emerging toy safety standards. We test not only against existing standards, but also against those that will be introduced,” she says. Elvefors notes that the company’s carbon footprint is an important parameter, which different markets’ legislations are
placing increasingly stringent demands upon. “Last year, we conducted a unification of the packaging for our toddler products to create as few sizes as possible. All new materials are evaluated physically and chemically to ensure that they comply with current and future standards. We also look at materials from a sustainability perspective and analyze their future environmental impact.”
Celebrating the Child Within This year, Brio celebrates its 130th anniversary. Instead of emphasizing groundbreaking milestones such as the Labyrinth Game (1946) and miniature railways in wood (1958), the Swedish toy company has decided to pay tribute to play and celebrate the child within each of us. Play has always been the basis of children’s well being and development and has brought people together across generations. It is also the strength and power of play that has allowed the Swedish toy company to develop. “For us, play is vital. For more than 100 years, it has developed us as a company and as humans. Our ambition is not only to make toys that last for several generations, but to enrich people’s childhood, and their lives,” says Elvefors. Around the world there is a growing concern that children aren’t spending enough time playing. Research shows that children have less time for free play and that families are spending less time together. In November of last year, Cambridge researcher Dr. David Whitebread was awarded a Brio scholarship for his report, The Importance of Play. This year, Brio continues its efforts to bring more play into people’s everyday lives. In the campaign “Liberate a friend,” Brio gives adults the chance to awaken their inner child. The winner gets paid to take time off and be a kid for a day. “It is a way for Horse
Deluxe Railway Set
us to, with tongue in cheek, focus on something we think is important. Less and less time is devoted to free play, even though we know that it is central to both children’s and adults’ creativity and development,” says Elvefors. Children often inherit their first Brio toys from their parents and create imaginative worlds as they build up the older toys with newer, modern Brio products. Over the past decade, Brio has launched several innovative concepts. Monorail trains and aircraft roll on the same train track that grandpa played with as a kid. “We have put a lot of energy into increasing the play value and expanding the Railway world. At the same time, we do it in a respectful manner that makes old and new literally fit together,” says Michael Heun, product development manager at Brio. Brio was launched in 1884 in the small town of Osby in southern Sweden and soon became known for toys of high quality. In the 1940s, Brio was named purveyor to the royal court in Sweden, which the company still is today. Brio’s first global success came in 1946, with the Labyrinth game. This unique invention was not only loved by children, but was also used in the rehabilitation of thousands of injured European war pilots after World War II. In 1958, Brio introduced a miniature wooden railway. Today, the railroad trains with all their elements are Brio’s largest export. “The key to Brio’s survival and growth for more than 130 years is that we have always put the child and the play first, while simultaneously being open to change with time. Brio’s history is a part of the company’s identity and strength now, as well as in the future,” says Elvefors. ■
THE TOY BOOK • 19
International Toy Industry
A 40-Year Expedition with Viking Toys Gösta Kjellme, founder and owner of Viking Toys, discusses the company’s 40-year history. by Gunilla Pihlblad, senior writer, Leksaksrevyn, ITMA member from Sweden
t started in 1972 with Galanite, which at that point was the biggest toy factory in Sweden after Brio,” says Gösta Kjellme, founder and owner of Viking Toys. “There I met Gösta Agel and Björn Alskog, who were already very famous names in the toy business in the ’60s. These acquaintances became the reason that I started Viking Toys in the fall of 1974. “At the Nuremberg Trade Fair in 1975, I was sneaking around in the aisles and happened to meet Hym Shapiro from Fun World in South Africa. I knew him from my time at Galanite, and he invited me back to his hotel where the first business deal happened. This was the start of Viking Toys’ export business, which currently includes about 60 countries.” The following year, Viking Toys exhibited in Nuremberg for the first time; thus, 2015 will be the company’s 40th year at the fair. Kjellme guarantees that it will be celebrated with a big party. “Since I did not want to get off on the wrong foot with Galanite during the first few years, I focused on exporting. It was several years before Bert Andersson, purchasing manager at KF and a great authority in the toy industry, came to Nuremberg Trade Fair and asked if I wanted an order from him. And so it happened, but because my interest was in export, I transferred the Swedish sales to my brother, Lars, a few years later.” Much of the company’s success has revolved around the Nuremberg Trade Fair, now known as Spielwarenmesse. In 1977, Kjellme met the American company, International Playthings, which since then has been Viking Toys’ distributor in the U.S. The following year, he got in touch with Australian Modern Teaching Aids, which represents Viking in Australia and New Zealand.
20 • THE TOY BOOK
“We met many of our other distributors there, and most of them are still with us,” says Kjellme. “Viking Toys—made only in Sweden” was the company’s slogan for a long time. But as time passed, it ultimately became too costly to stay in Sweden. “I first began to travel around China in 1966 to evaluate the factories there, but their way of treating employees did not fit with our Swedish quality toys. Then we spent a week in Malaysia visiting a number of plastic factories. But their religion did not fit my beliefs,” says Kjellme. A few months later, Kjellme visited a dozen or so factories in Thailand, where he immediately felt more at home with both the religion and the way they treated their staff. “The decision was fairly easy to make because Thai Toy
already specialized in plastic toys and had a Japanese factory manager. So in the summer of 1997, we moved and Viking Toys stayed there for 18 years. “We had many wonderful years in Thailand, but unfortunately, the same thing happened there as in Sweden 18 years earlier. Wages increased severely, it became difficult to find good workers, and the value of the Thai currency increased significantly.” At the same rate as prices increased, Viking Toys’ sales decreased, and in 2012, Kjellme began the search for a new location in which to manufacture. The choice was Vietnam, and in August 2013, the company moved all of its machinery and tools to a new factory in Saigon. “The start was very difficult and our plans to be in full
production within a few months were far too optimistic,” says Kjellme. “We missed all of our Christmas sales and thus received our first ‘red’ fiscal year.” But since Viking Toys knew the industry, it carried on. However, it took almost 15 months before the company could exhale, and today it is back on its feet. “What we have learned is that Vietnam is still a developing country,” says Kjellme. “Compared to Thailand, Vietnam is 15 to 20 years behind in its industrialization. Nevertheless, today everything is back to normal pace and we are now producing at our normal delivery times and the quality is once again at the very highest level. We can—with full force—focus on increasing our sales and return to the volumes we had four or five years ago.” ■
Forty Years of Fun Memories German Girlfriend Became Fritz “Those of you who have visited our booth in Nuremberg probably know ‘Fritz at the bar.’ For the first two years, my German girlfriend Sigrun helped out at the bar. When Fritz appeared as a visitor in 1977, he offered to help, but on one condition: no ladies messing up his kitchen! This is where the German love ended. But Fritz remains. And which of our customers are not familiar with Blomlöfs smoked salmon and the ‘Fritz special?’” From Torsås to N.Y. “On my first visit to the U.S. in 1977, Beau James invited me to the Players Club in Gramercy Park. Back then he was a marketing manager at International Playthings, a company that we still work with today. Players Club is exactly what it sounds like, a club for actors and movie stars. The first famous faces I saw when I arrived were Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, who at that time were big celebrities. Guess if I felt insignificant!”
Africa, Josse Feltman. It’s times like these that you realize how small the world is.” The First Visit to China in 1992 “In 1992, Bjarne Boie from Denmark introduced me to some Chinese manufacturers. We visited, among others, a factory in Shenzhen. After driving a few hours on non-existent roads, we arrived at something similar to a factory building. There we met the owner and the first thing he said was, ‘I know Viking very well. Fritz always serves good drinks.’ But he did not know me.”
Quality That Lasts “Every now and then we receive old toys from consumers. A few months ago, we received a shipment from the U.S. Someone had found one of our first cars in their sandbox. Their grandchildren had been playing with it and now the grandparents who had purchased it sent it back to us and it is still in great condition. It was manufactured in 1976.” NY Marathon x 10 “Back when Germany still had its D-Mark, I was at a flea market “One of my main interests has always been distance running and at Lake Constance. A group of schoolchildren was selling old toys. I I made it to 10 marathons in New York before my knees could not found some old Viking cars that I bought for 1 D-Mark a piece. When take it anymore. At New York City marathons, everyone warms up in I told the children that I was the manufacturer, their parents came up a large field on Staten Island. I was doing some various warm-up and started talking. They told me that it was their third child who had exercises and a few push-ups to keep warm. I looked to the side, and been playing with our cars, and now they thought that it was time to suddenly I’m staring straight into the face of our distributor in South sell them since they were still in top condition.”
THE TOY BOOK • 21
International Toy Industry
j TOY FAIR TV
Toy Fair TV provides a unique visitor experience at the London Toy Fair
rom January 20 to 22, London will host the UK’s largest and only dedicated toy, games, and hobby trade exhibition. As one of the four major toy trade events in the first quarter, the London Toy Fair offers a unique insight into product launches from the UK market, one of the strongest markets in Europe. In addition to hosting more than 260 exhibiting companies launching thousands of products, the organizer of the event, the British Toy and Hobby Association, will commission the return of Toy Fair TV. 2015 will see the third iteration of Toy Fair TV, a concept that has grown in size year after year. Broadcast live from the show across 24 screens around the hall, the channel interviews exhibitors, searching for the latest gems and biggest launches across the three-day event. Part of Toy Fair TV is the popular Demo Zone. Split into categories ranging from technology to plush, exhibitors are given two minutes to offer an elevator pitch of their products to an audience of kids known as the Toy Fair Titans. For visitors, Toy Fair TV offers a fantastic opportunity and unique experience to discover brand new products from small start-ups to the biggest companies. Adding this to other visitor attractions, such as Toy Fair’s Best New Toys, selected by an independent panel of retailers on what they believe will be the hottest toys throughout the year, and the Relaxation Garden, an area to put your feet up after busy meetings and relax with a massage, the London Toy Fair is a must-attend European destination for toy buyers. To register for a free visitor pass, visit www.toyfair.co.uk. ■
22 • THE TOY BOOK
Activity Toys Get an Upgrade
ctivity toys are a classic play pattern for kids of all ages. From simple coloring books to intricate, needlefree sewing kits, activities provide kids with a way to keep busy, get hands-on, and create something all their own. But in a tech-infused world, the activities category is taking new shape, as companies big and small fuse classic play with the latest digital trends. Last fall, Crayola launched the Virtual Design Pro Fashion Collection, which allows kids to use classic Crayola markers and colored pencils to design unique fashions and bring them to life on a virtual runway using the corresponding app. Similarly, Nintendo launched Pokémon Art Academy, a 3DS game that lets kids design and draw their very own versions of their favorite classic Pokémon characters. While the fusion of tech and activities is apparent, many companies choose to stick to more traditional play styles, producing activity kits that live solely in the physical world. These toys are still making waves, with manufacturers such as Creativity for Kids and Fashion Angels ensuring their lines reflect trends in pop culture, fashion, and kids’ entertainment. This year, kids will have hundreds of options to show off their creativity. Check out some of our favorites below.
For the first time, popular characters will join The Bridge Direct’s Color ’n Create Inkoos line of draw, wash, and redo plush. This spring, kids ages 4 and up can creatively design the two-sided surface of popular characters, including Minions Bob and Stuart, from Despicable Me 2; Disney Princess characters Ariel and Rapunzel; and Elsa, Anna, and Olaf from Disney Frozen. Each Frozen plush character features metallic threading and stick-on gems for extra sparkle. Several characters will also be available in the smaller Color ’n Go size for doodling fun on the go.
Kids can easily knit creations that suit their interests with Spin Master’s new Knits Cool Knitting Studio. Kids ages 6 and up can knit a headband, an infinity scarf, and a phone pouch with this easy-to-use kit. The studio includes three pairs of knit posts, 60 yards of colorful yarn, a sewing needle, four buttons and charms for decoration, and a storage unit.
24 • THE TOY BOOK
Moose Toys will add some sparkle to its classic Beados activity line this year with Beados Glitter. In three simple steps, kids ages 4 and up can create their own dazzling Beados creations with the included templates or create something entirely unique. Once kids spray the beads with water and let them air dry, the beads fuse together. Kids can then place their designs in the enclosed display stands and use the connectable play pads and scene cards to create a sparkling Beados world.
Roseart will expand its line of Sidewalk Chalk Paint this year to include new ways for kids to color on concrete. The Paint Markers allow kids to create line details and help develop their fine motor skills. The Shake â€™n Roll Chalk Paint Rollers feature roller brush caps in different sizes, so kids can simply add water to the paint bottles and roll on the color. Additionally, The Claw Chalk Paint Roller features three foam rollers that easily snap into the easy-grip handle. Kids can pour their favorite colors into the paint tray and roll out cool tri-color patterns. Once creativity time is over, Sidewalk Chalk Paint easily washes away with water.
THE TOY BOOK â€˘ 25
Activity Toys International Playthings is set to add new activity toys to multiple lines this year. Decorate Your Own Princess Fairy Wings, part of the Kidoozie line, allows kids ages 3 and up to customize their own set of wings to wear for pretend play. The stretchy shoulder straps fit kids of all sizes, and the included silver and pink glitter stickers are easy for kids to apply and will securely stay in place. The Aquabeads line will expand to include the Beginner’s Studio, which includes 800 jewel and classic beads in 12 colors for kids to create fun bead art. Kids ages 6 and up can select a design template, slide it into place under the template lid, place their beads, and spray with water. Kids can use the star-shaped palette and storage bin to keep all of the pieces in place when they are finished.
Jazwares will expand its line of licensed paper craft activities to include the heroes in a halfshell, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. With the Turtles Lair Deluxe Pack, kids can use more than 90 pieces to fold and build character cutouts of Michelangelo, Raphael, Metalhead, and Splinter. Each paper character stands 4.5 inches tall and features swinging arms and rotating heads. The set also includes five weapons that fit into the Turtles’ hands, two turtle shells, a training dummy, four skateboards, 12 crates, 14 blocks to build the lair, main lair entrance blocks, and six pizza boxes to create the complete TMNT scene.
Fashion Angels will launch a new line of Upcycling kits for tween girls this year. These new kits take two important tween trends—saving the planet and do-it-yourself projects—to the next level with a fashionable approach. Each kit is themed by the material it reclaims to create the projects: T-shirts, plastic bags, plastic bottles, and toys and games. Each Upcycling kit comes with a design guide featuring step-by-step instructions for up to 10 projects, plus ideas to create variations on those projects, making even more unique items. Each kit also includes basic craft materials, such as earring hooks, chains, beads, bracelet wire, and more. With the Upcycling line, kids can turn plastic grocery bags into a wall hanging or a headband, an old Tshirt will become a pillow or a wrap bracelet, a plastic bottle can be transformed into a purse, and old game board pieces can become a statement necklace.
26 • THE TOY BOOK
The Toy Book talks to makers of small collectible toys, which are among the year’s biggest successes. by Phil Guie
ollecting is a rite of passage for many kids. Whether it’s baseball cards, dolls, or comic books, just about every kid goes through a phase in which they will move heaven and earth to grow or complete their collection. In recent years, the ranks of objects that kids gather, obsess over, and seek out rarities for have grown to include tiny plastic collectible toys featuring bright colors and outsized personalities. Many have quirky and whimsical themes: For example, the popular Shopkins has anthropomorphized groceries and other retail objects. Based on their performance during the past year, Shopkins, The Trash Pack, and Mutant Mania, from Moose Toys; Crashlings, from Wicked Cool Toys; Bungees, from Jazwares; and others will not go away anytime soon. Shopkins, which debuted at retail in June, has already sold out at many stores, and The Trash Pack is still going strong worldwide, even after five series and a spin-off, Trash Pack: Ultimate Fighting Trashies. Then there’s Skylanders, from Activision Publishing Inc., which, despite belonging to the toys-to-life category, is also a popular line among collectors. For the first nine months of 2014, Skylanders figures outsold the top-selling action figures in both North America and Europe.
28 • THE TOY BOOK
Even Collectible Toys Started Small Collectibles with kid appeal date back to the early 1900s and baseball cards, says Bill Graham, vice president of business development at Jazwares. He sees similarities between that all-time favorite collectible and this latest toy trend. He says that in both cases, part of the appeal for kids is being able to own a piece of a brand that they already love. Kids are also drawn to characters— whether they are real-life or imagined— with whom they can identify. “With [collectible toys], it’s a different style of player and a different kind of ability, but I think the appeal is quite similar,” says Graham. Toy executives also point to the play patterns of growing a collection and hunting for rare pieces. In addition, there is the social aspect for kids, who get to show off their collections and trade among their friends. According to Paul Solomon, co-CEO
of Moose Toys, kids also enjoy simply looking at these tiny toys, as each one is its own miniature work of art. “[They] notice the unique details and differentiators of each small character, such as the translucent and glitter finishes that some of the characters may feature,” he says. Experts point to collecting as having dovetailed with toys during the past 15 years. Jeremy Padawer, co-president and partner at Wicked Cool Toys, credits Gogo’s Crazy Bones, which were distributed in the U.S by several companies since the 1990s, for being among the first small toy collectibles to see remarkable success worldwide. Then, in 2010, Blip Toys’ Squinkies paired collectibility with a doe-eyed and baby-like aesthetic, the results of which largely appealed to girls. In 2011, The Trash Pack took the subgenre into the boys’ category with grossout imagery. These tiny collectibles have since evolved in different directions: one
theme-oriented, the other play patternoriented. The former includes lines such as The Trash Pack, Squinkies, and Shopkins, which many kids like to collect and display. Other collectible toy lines, such as Crashlings and Bungees, have an underlying game play aspect: Crashlings, which can be turned inside-out and made to pop, are used to play unique variations on catching, stacking, and bowling games, while Bungees are based around a game that involves flicking small magnetic characters at metal scoring targets. Currently, both types have strong followings. “If you’ve got a great theme or great gameplay, you have a real chance in the collectibles market,” says Padawer.
Making the First Purchase Meaningful Every collection has to start somewhere; however, with starter packs,
companies must walk a very fine line in order to give kids enough that they feel involved with the brand, but not so much that they remove the incentive to
come back. Among the toy companies we spoke to, the general strategy is to make the initial purchase meaningful, though how to do that can vary. For example, Moose Toys sells Shopkins in a variety of packaging options, so the customer can easily buy into the brand at a relatively low price point. Jazwares’ strategy for Bungees involves both an accessible opening price point as well as including a target with each pack, so kids can learn the game right away. “What we love to see is fans—along with being hooked on the game—having a really good experience right out of the gate,” says Graham. “We never want to sacrifice the ability to have fun with the product, and to make sure you are able to have the whole connected experience with it.” Padawer also sees the importance of
“If you’ve got a great theme or great gameplay, you have a real chance in the collectibles market.” —Jeremy Padawer, co-president, Wicked Cool Toys one sets out to amass every single figure in a given line. “With Skylanders, there are quite a few characters and tracks to collect, but you can also—and people do this—collect in various different ways,” says Coyne, noting that some collect all the Skylanders within an element series, while others are interested in minifigures only. Still, in order to get kids interested enough to start collecting, a positive first impression is a must. Skylanders Knight Mare figure
a low buy-in price, especially given how a collectible line can feature hundreds of individual figures. As such, a relatively small per-figure price allows kids to buy into the line more deeply. “Since collecting is about achievement, it’s easier to feel achievement when you’re buying a smaller collectible,” he says. The experts agreed that kids tend to restrict themselves to one collectible line, for reasons that include financial constraints or just a tendency to be incredibly passionate about a single toy brand, in the same way they would root for a favorite sports team. It’s also difficult to predict just how kids are going to collect, says John Coyne, senior vice president of marketing at Activision Publishing Inc. While Skylanders figures have a higher price point than some collectible toys, he points out that not every-
30 • THE TOY BOOK
Standing Tall in a Field Crowded with Little Toys With so much competition, a company that hopes to have the No. 1 collectible needs to step up its game. Graham views success as delivering a consistent experience, with characters
and gameplay developed carefully and in parallel. “We do our best to make sure all the segments add up to one experience,” he says. For other toymakers, the formula for standing out entails figuring the right number of characters for the line, how much rarity to include, the details of the toys themselves, etc. However, even after all the planning, sometimes the proverbial stars simply align. Looking back on the success of Squinkies, Padawer believes it benefited from the combination of a strong design, an appealing play pattern reminiscent of fishing toys out of a gumball machine, a memorable commercial, and a less crowded marketplace. “It’s hard to say, specifically, what it is that’s going to work,” he says. Coyne argues that developing the Bungees, from Jazwares
perfect set of collectible toys has more to do with experience, common sense, and breaking the larger groups of toys into smaller subsets where appropriate. “I don’t know if there’s a magic formula to this, and if there is, no one has shared it with me yet,” he says. Companies must constantly look beyond the current wave toward the goal of keeping kids coming back. That, in turn, means new themes, environments, and characters—including rarities and super-rarities—which continue to drive a line’s collectibility. For Series 2 of Shopkins, which launched in late 2014, Moose Toys has included four new themes and 140 characters. “Ultimately, it is about innovating and creating variety in what we offer,” says Solomon. “Girls love to open blind bags to find new characters and swap them with their friends, so we have to keep it fresh.” Blind-packaged items are considered essential to a collectible’s popularity, due to the mystery and excitement they generate around them, which Graham compares to the experience of playing the lottery. On the face of it, the blind-packed toy might seem
Skylanders Wallop figure
Mutant Mania Mutant Masher, from Moose Toys
A Micro-View the Future
like a risky proposition for collectors, especially if collectors purchase and unbox the toy, only to find a double of one they already own. But, according to Solomon, some young collectors are far from disheartened when this happens, since a double can serve as trade fodder with other kids. “Their level of excitement is just as high, because that character still adds something to their overall collection,” Solomon says. For play pattern-oriented collectibles, another factor considered early on is scalability, or how easily the line can be upgraded or expanded. This was factored into the development of both Crashlings and Bungees; each line can be built up with additional figures or accessories, yet kids can also play them right out of the basic packs. Similarly, in the case of Crashlings, each class of monster has its own designated color, making it easy to add new ones over time. Padawer also points to the larger theme of outer space, allowing Wicked Cool to explore every theme that is relevant to boys and attaching them to Crashlings. “It allows [kids] to say, ‘I know what that is, and I know a particular color of meteor is associated with a particular style of monster,” Padawer says.
Looking at the future of the collectible toy segment, it is expected that companies will continue to bring new brands to market. No one expects the category to go away; however, there will likely be more failures than successes, due to brands and brand launches constantly being pitted against one another. Launching a successful collectible is also more difficult in the present climate, since buyers are constantly inundated with new ideas. According to Padawer, toy companies can no longer go into a buyers meeting with just a basic concept. “You have to go in with a fully fleshed-out idea, and with a commercial in hand and the marketing already defined,” he says. “If you do that, you put yourself ahead of most of the other players who may just be making a design decision.” Padawer adds that the general understanding within the collectibles industry is that brands are viable for a few years at most, and then must make way for the next hot item. As such, retail buyers tend to be cautious, and the lines tend to launch at one or two accounts that truly believe in the brand. Padawer describes the collectibles category as being hit or miss, with the chance to have a phenomenon if the former happens. At the same time, he admits that misses can be disheartening—and inevitable. “What I’ll tell you is, there’s a lot of turnover in this category, there will be a lot of opportunity over the next few years, and it’s just a tremendous category,” he says. “To be involved in it is very exciting, and it often takes a few years to prove out a brand.” ■
THE TOY BOOK • 31
A nnua l
Hosted by The Western Toy and Hobby Representatives Association
hat might have been considered a gamble is continuing to pay off as the Western Toy and Hobby Representatives Association (WTHRA) prepares for its third annual toy show at the South Point Hotel, Casino, and Spa in Las Vegas. With a few years under its belt, it is easy to see why the toy show continues to gain popularity. A unique show designed and produced by local representatives and attended by factory personnel, ToyFest West gives buyers the opportunity to work with their reps while getting valued input from manufacturers. With nearly 700 vendors unveiling their new products for 2015 at the show with dynamic first quarter promotions, this Western venue provides all of the opportunities of Toy Fair in a comfortable and affordable “work, stay, play” atmosphere. The show’s layout is workable and inviting. When buyers come to ToyFest West, they have a great experience thanks to the exciting show floor and the many relaxing accommodations available. Everything is under one roof at a premium hotel with amenities to suit a variety of interests. Buyers, reps, and manufacturers can enjoy world-class restaurants housed in the hotel, the South Point casino, the luxurious spa, a movie theater, a bowling alley, shopping, and more. The WTHRA offers free shuttles to and from The Strip on Monday and Tuesday night, allowing attendees to experience the heart of Las Vegas with ease. Popular ToyFest West events hosted by WTHRA include the Gala Dinner honoring industry leaders, and a lively Game Night. Both events provide attendees with key opportunities to network and enjoy the company. “As a vendor and a buyer, I have to say, the move to
32 • THE TOY BOOK
Las Vegas has made ToyFest West my favorite show of the year, says Mike Banducci, owner of R&M Distributors, “All the lines I need to see are here. I don’t have to battle East Coast winters. The number of customers has increased over previous years. At the end of the show, my numbers are there. I have time to talk to my customers and I also have time to meet with my own vendors. When the show day is over, I enjoy meeting vendors and customers for dinner in the same hotel. Everything is accessible at this venue.” n
ToyFest West Show
Show Dates: March 8 to 11, 2015
Where: South Point Hotel, Casino, and Spa Las Vegas
The first 300 attendees to book a room at the South Point Casino, Hotel, and Spa receive Monday night free when they book to stay Saturday and Sunday night. For more information on ToyFest West, the manufacturers and the representatives who will be present, the special room rate, and the 2015 program, please visit www.toyfestwest.com or call (909) 889-3753. DECEMBER/JANUARY 2015
T HE D EFINITIVE I NFORMATION S OURCE
Classic Activity Toys Get an Upgrade
NEIGHBORHOOD TOY STORE DAY HELPS INDEPENDENT RETAILERS SHINE
G IFT M ERCHANT
Working with Sales Representatives to Grow Your Business
by Kathleen McHugh, president, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA)
pecialty toy retailers have a special place in their communities. Moms, dads, and grandparents expect your store to have the best of the classics plus the latest, greatest toys—the kind of memorable products with high play value that won’t be found in other stores. But with so many toys on the market, who has time to research several different lines and products? Sales reps, that’s who. All successful products have an effective distribution channel, and that’s where sales representatives are essential. Manufacturers know their products really well because they created them, but generally it’s sales reps who know how to get the right products into the right stores to grow both the manufacturer’s and retailer’s businesses. According to Sue Warfield, director of member services at the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) and an experienced sales rep herself, in the toy industry, most sales reps handle at least two to three dozen lines. What all good sales reps share is a deep base of knowledge about their category—in our case, specialty toys—so that they are experts on what is selling where and how different types of stores may be seeing different sales patterns. ASTRA includes manufacturers, sales reps, and retailers in its membership and works to promote the business interests of each. For retailers, sales reps can help grow a store by bringing it the best products and the latest deals. Here are a few tips for working with sales reps to add value:
Reps are invested in building a long-term relationship with you and providing service that grows your business—and theirs. The more your rep knows about your plans and your challenges, the more he or she can respond with products that fit your brand, pricing packages that maximize the value of your order, and industry information that can inform your decisions. If you need to place an order, remember that your price will be the same whether the sales rep places it for you or whether you do it directly with the manufacturer. It is to your advantage to involve the sales rep so you have the latest information about specials or terms, as
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
well as a strong, influential advocate, should there be any type of problem with your order. If you are planning a special event, make sure your rep knows about it so he or she can offer support—possibly through free products or in-store demonstrations.
Ask for Training Support:
One of the best ways to get your staff members excited about promoting a product is to get them to experience the toy. Sales reps can be a quick and easy training resource for you. They can help you grow the product expertise you offer your customers, and all you have to do is get your staff together about half an hour before your store opens to take advantage of free training.
Get Help Solving Problems:
Whether it’s a matter of an incorrect order, damaged goods, or product availability, your sales rep can typically expedite a solution.
Plan Together for Industry Events:
Your reps can help you make trade show attendance more efficient. Before you head out to ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy or North American International Toy Fair, ask for a list of booth locations and the show specials your manufacturers are offering, plus hot new products your rep recommends that you check out. Don’t forget to take advantage of networking opportunities at ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy—the stronger your relationship, the more you can expect your rep to understand your business needs and goals.
Sales reps are part of the full circle of service for toy retailers. “Manufacturers make great new products, but they cannot have feet on the ground in every market,” points out Warfield. “Reps show products, train your staff, place your orders, solve problems, and get you the best deal on reorders. It’s a win-win role because everyone in the channel—manufacturers, sales reps, and retailers—all want the same thing: more business and more profit.” l
ALEX BRANDS ACQUIRES SHRINKY DINKS
ASTRA’S NEIGHBORHOOD TOY STORE DAY SUPPORTS INCREASED SALES FOR RETAILERS
Shrinky Dinks will be part of the Alex Brands family of toys, which includes Alex Toys, Poof, Slinky, Scientific Explorer, and more. Invented in 1973, Shrinky Dinks consist of large, flexible sheets, which, when heated in an oven, shrink to small hard plates without changing their color or shape. Alex Brands historically licensed the Shrinky Dinks brand for use in the Alex Toys product line. It also joins Alex Brands’ growing collection of Made in the U.S. products, including Poof foam balls and Slinky products.
MASTERPIECES, SMART PLAY SIGN ON FOR ANIMAL PLANET AND SHARK WEEK MERCHANDISE
MasterPieces Puzzle Company has signed a deal with Discovery Consumer Products to produce Animal Planet and Shark Week puzzles and craft sets. It will also create Animal Planet-branded dinosaur and safari products, as well as Shark Week-branded 3D puzzles with a paint component and buildable craft kits made of wood. Smart Play will develop children’s educational toys offering different ways to discover the world of animals. The line includes 3-D flashcards and puzzles, puzzle cubes, alphabet floor puzzles, a lighted click-and-see toy projector, and an electronic learning pad. The new items will be available next year.
LINCOLN LOGS PRODUCTION RETURNS
Next year’s entire line of Lincoln Logs, part of the K’NEX family of brands, will be manufactured in the U.S. by Pride Manufacturing in Burnham, Maine. Following industry trends, Lincoln Logs production was moved overseas during the mid-20th century. K’NEX, which licenses the brand from Hasbro, has been manufacturing Lincoln Logs since 1999. Pride Manufacturing, the world’s leading supplier of wooden golf tees and related golf accessories, met K’NEX’s requirements for a wood manufacturing facility that could match the precision and detail required for Lincoln Logs. New sets will include the Horseshoe Hill Station, the Country Meadow Cottage, the Oak Creek Lodge, the 100th Anniversary Tin, the Collector’s Edition Village, and more. All sets come with a storage container for clean-up, are intended for kids ages 3 and up, and will be available next fall.
ON THE COVER: THE ORIGINAL SUPER SPIROGRAPH IS BACK AND BETTER THAN THE CLASSIC INTERCHANGEABLE SPIRO-TRACKS LET KIDS CREATE THEIR OWN UNIQUE PATTERN SHAPES, TAKING THEIR DESIGNS TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL. FOR MORE FROM KAHOOTZ TOYS, TURN TO PAGE S11.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
According to the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), nearly two-thirds of ASTRA stores participating in Neighborhood Toy Store Day on Saturday, November 8, reported an increase in their yearover-year same store sales. An estimated 25 percent posted growth of 20 percent or more. ASTRA retailers reached out to several hundred media outlets around the country and across multiple platforms, including print, radio, broadcast, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Of the ASTRA retailers who reached out to the media in their markets, 82 percent reported that they were successful in using the event to secure local media and blogger coverage. ASTRA supports participation of its retailer members in Neighborhood Toy Store Day by offering free planning guides, templates for media outreach, Best Toys for Kids award program flyers, and more.
SPIELWARENMESSE EG TAKES TOY MANUFACTURERS TO ASIA WITH WORLD OF TOYS PROGRAM
Twenty-six toy manufacturers from 12 countries are using Spielwarenmesse eG’s World of Toys program, which supports exhibitors wanting to develop business relationships in the Asian market, to exhibit at the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair 2015. The companies to exhibit in the World of Toys pavilion include Banbao Europe BV and SES Nederland BV from the Netherlands; Bruder Spielwaren GmbH + Co. KG, Dusyma, fischerwerke GmbH & Co. KG, Haba–Habermaass GmbH, Mertens GmbH, Spielwarenmesse eG, and SPM Schäfer Promotion Marketing from Germany; Ebulobo, Jouets Ecoiffier, Vulli S.A.S, and Petitcollin & Vilac from France; Furkan ITH. IHR. ve SIN. MAM. PAZ. LTD. STI., Perre Group Co., Ucar Oyuncak San. Tic. Ltd. Sti., and Pilsan Plastik from Turkey; Green Rubber Toys from Australia; Guidecraft and Kettler International Inc. from the U.S.; James Galt & Co. Ltd from the U.K.; Lilliputiens from Belgium; Micro Mobility Systems AG from Switzerland; Science4you SA from Portugal; and Taf Toys from Israel.
Anatomy of A TOY AND GAME INVENTOR
by Richard C. Levy, president, Richard C. Levy & Associates, LLC
oy and game inventors are people to whom elves still whisper. Their vividness of impression allows them to live in a nevernever land where pumpkins turn into coaches and mice into horses, where cows jump over the moon, and glass dishes run away with the spoons. In an industry where product is king, inventors are as close to the throne as anyone. Their imaginations are fired not only by compensation and commendation, but as much or more by curiosity and challenge. Independent idea people work outside the confines of any single toy or game manufacturer, yet rely totally on the companies to take their creations to market. The independent inventing community survives on its ability to generate the sparks for new forms, fantasies, and fun that often turn up on children’s wish lists. The terms inventor, developer, and creator are used interchangeably by the industry to signify one or more of the creative forces behind a product, usually a signatory to the license agreement between inventor (licensor) and manufacturer (licensee) and, as such, a participant in advances, guarantees, and royalty stream. While most of the biggest hits were created by independent inventors, there is no lack of creativity or inventiveness at the corporate level. Many outstanding products originate in-house. And the contributions made by corporate research and development (R&D) and marketing executives to outside submissions can often be the difference between success and failure. It is the cross-pollination and synergism of forces that produce a successful product. And the path between idea, product development, and eventual retail sales is a delicate, complex, and serpentine chain of egos, talents, events, whims, timing, technologies, designs, and marketing skills. If any link breaks, an entire project could flag. In the end, the whole is more powerful than any of the parts. It takes teamwork. It is rare that one person has an idea, prototypes
it alone, pitches it, and walks away with 100 percent of a deal. It is rare that a company does not impact an outside submission. If you scratch beneath the headlines of any product, there is a cast of characters as certain as the credit crawl that follows every feature film and TV show. People that create toys and games are not all formally educated in engineering or design. Some come from places far removed from the world of playthings. Among the professional inventors interviewed for or discussed in The Toy and Game Inventor’s Handbook are a former barber, stock brokers, newspaper editors, a registered nurse, psychologists, MBAs, teachers, social workers, real estate developers, TV producers, advertising executives, a biologist, and a former priest and nun. Only in the seasoned professional are creativity and imagination guided and tempered by business instincts and historical perspective. While toy and game inventing is not brain surgery, it is quite far from child’s play. The best product creators not only posses great vision, but they have the ability to make people fall in love with their ideas before the concepts even exist. They can fan hot ideas into flames that illuminate. And like all artists, they speak to the human capacity for amusement and amazement. As Alan G. Hassenfeld said, “The elixir of our industry is creativity. Whether from independent inventors or internal magic, this is a life force which must be nurtured forever.” l Richard C. Levy, president, Richard C. Levy & Associates LLC, specializes in collaborative invention, product development, design, and licensing. In business for more than 35 years, Levy’s licensed products include one of the best-known and successful toys of all time, Furby (Hasbro). Levy and co-author Ron Weingartner have updated their critically acclaimed, seminal work, The Toy and Game Inventor’s Handbook as an e-Book for Amazon’s Kindle.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
Neighborhood Toy Store Day
Helps Independent Retailers Shine
laytime was on at mom-and-pop toy shops everywhere. November 8 marked the fifth annual Neighborhood Toy Store Day (NTSD), an event started by the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association to support locally owned toy retailers. Community members were encouraged to visit the independent toy stores in their midst, and in return, participating retailers hosted in-store arts and crafts, games, and other activities that appealed to families. In honor of NTSD, The Toy Book’s editorial assistant Deanna Atkins and associate editor Phil Guie interviewed owners of several neighborhood toy stores in their home communities. In their responses below, the store owners touched on their NTSD plans, the support they give and receive from their neighborhoods, the reasons why shopping at a locally owned toy store is a great experience, and more. stores, and I concentrate on products that are learning tools as well as for play, and on special needs products.
Specialty Toys & Gifts speaks to:
McGowan: Teich Toys & Books specializes in imaginative and engaging toys and gifts. Also, we put a strong emphasis on handmade, local, and small manufacturing, as well as products made in the U.S.
• Inna Trinidad, co-owner, Kaleidoscope in Brooklyn, N.Y. • Avi Kravitz, co-owner, Norman & Jules in Brooklyn, N.Y. • Patricia Porco, owner, Funni Business in Oyster Bay, N.Y. • Allison McGowan, owner, Teich Toys & Books in New York City What makes your toy store unique? Trinidad: Aside from carrying the best specialty and educational toys, we focus on community support through Friday Movie Nights, and, of course, our daily riddle. The Riddle of the Day is put out on an easel board, as well as on Facebook and Twitter every day. It has become a community staple as customers, pedestrians, kids, and adults make guessing the riddle part of their daily routine.
Can you tell us a little bit about the community that you serve? McGowan: We’re located in the heart of the West Village neighborhood of New York City, so our customers are locals and tourists alike. More and more families are settling down in the West Village and there is a need for this type of store to serve their needs. Our customers are looking for fun ways to engage with their kids, and we aim to provide an alternative to bleeping gadgets and plastic junk. We have board games, puzzles, and arts and crafts projects that encourage interaction and creativity. We sell toys that everyone can relate to, young and old, such as Silly Putty, juggling balls, and Slinky. The neighborhood has responded extremely positively. Every day, at least one person thanks us for opening!
Kravitz: Aside from carrying wellcrafted, imaginative toys made from sustainable materials, we’ve created an environment that makes it peaceful to be in a toy shop. We carefully curate the shop so that it is easier on the eyes—as opposed to many mass-market toy stores.
Porco: I purchase toys and gifts that are not found in large commercial retail toy
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Teich Toys & Books
Trinidad: Bay Ridge has grown into a melting pot serving a variety of big and small families. The majority of the community are middle-income working class people, who do their best to support local businesses. From time to time, we participate in fundraisers to help local not-for-profits drive awareness for their causes.
were donated to the not-for-profit Bay Ridge Cares, and every person who shopped on November 8 received a coupon that could be applied toward their next purchase as a thank you for their support. There were also apple balloons and a Kinetic Sand station for kids of all ages.
Funni Business owner Patricia Porco
Kravitz: Our customers are incredible. In our two years, we have had the pleasure of learning how creative and awe-inspiring our community is. It’s been exciting to trade stories and learn more about many of the individuals that visit our store. We have even forged many new friendships. It’s been a wonderful experience for both Courtney [Ebner, co-owner] and I to become a larger part of our community. What kind of promotions did you have planned for Neighborhood Toy Store Day? Porco: We offered arts and crafts along with free giveaways.
McGowan: I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t know about it! We’ve only been open five months so there’s a lot to learn. We do plan to start a regular story time at the shop, as well as host author readings and book signings. We recently participated in the Bleecker Playground Halloween Festival, which was held in the park across the street from our store. We had a pumpkin patch game where kids could win stickers, as well as chocolate provided by our neighbors Li-Lac Chocolates. Trinidad: A portion of the day’s proceeds
Most importantly, what are the advantages of shopping at a locally owned toy store? Trinidad: There are endless benefits to customers and the community. Local toy stores offer an after-school experience designed for exploring, playing, and promoting social skills. Smaller spaces really give you the opportunity to stock the best toys in the industry, because we just don’t have the real estate to waste on items that are not as great. A fast, easy, and convenient shopping experience is key, as well as free gift wrapping and hands-on customer service. We know what we sell and have a very low return rate. Local toy stores eliminate the feeling of not knowing what to buy, and the inventory instills confidence in our customers that the items they are purchasing have real value.
Kravitz: We were attracted to the beauty, creativity, and the feeling of community. We very much enjoy shopping in small shops. We love to engage and hear people’s stories. This is the main reason that we enjoy shopping locally owned
Norman & Jules owners Courtney Ebner and Avi Kravitz
stores. The other reason is that mom-and-pop stores tend to have passion about their products and are chock-full of knowledge. It is so much nicer than wandering around a big chain store, feeling uninspired and ignored.
Porco: Shopping locally is a great advantage as the products offered are original. At Funni Business, I hand pick each and every product sold at my store, in addition to feeling and seeing the quality prior to purchase. Each product must pass the utmost standard of quality, and every product gets free and unique gift wrapping. The atmosphere at Funni Business is inviting to both children and adults, and the store is a happy stop along the fast-paced world that we live in. I also offer personal shopping where customers call and shop before and after hours, as well as sidewalk service where customers call in their gift item, and I have it wrapped and waiting for them to pick-up curbside.
McGowan: Shopping locally supports the businesses that are helping preserve the neighborhood’s character, while serving the community’s needs. We are fortunate to be in a neighborhood that really understands how important that is. ●
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Activity Toys PAINTING LULU is a traditional coloring book that bridges the gap between the physical and digital worlds. Kids color in the included activity book and then scan their creation into a smart device using the free Painting Lulu app. The coloring page instantly appears on the device and kids can continue coloring where they left off using the Digital Crayon. With a tap of the Digital Crayon, kids can easily retouch, save, and print their creations. The Digital Crayon features a smooth touch and thick grip to ergonomically fit in a child’s hand while making it feel natural and easy to hold. The one-click share feature on the app also makes it easy for kids to share their artwork with their loved ones. With a commitment to conservation of the environment, all of the Painting Lulu activity books are made with 100-percent recycled paper. Additionally, all 10 Painting Lulu characters resemble recyclable consumer goods, including Milky the milk carton, Toby the plastic water bottle, and Max the broken calculator.
Expanding on its line of Jean Tats, PEACEABLE KINGDOM is set to launch T-Shirt Tats this spring. Kids ages 5 and up can apply temporary tattoos to their T-shirts using the bright, vibrant tats and the included wooden stick. With no heat or ironing required, the tats come off easily in the wash. Kids can choose from multiple design packs, including shark, T-Rex, pink fairy, unicorn, pocket pal bugs, and pocket pal kitty and puppy. The company will also release Glow-in-the-Dark Jean Tats, bringing the tattooing fun into the dark. Kids can choose from fairies, outer space, sweet kitties, and creeping bugs.
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Flower Crowns, a new accessory kit from CREATIVITY FOR KIDS, a Faber-Castell company, allows kids ages 7 and up to make a style statement. Kids can twist realistic paper roses, berry bunches, and ribbon ivy around the included twig bases. Then, they can add some bling with the golden shimmer accent paint. The kit includes enough materials to create four adjustable and unique crowns. The creativity doesn’t stop with the new Bright Bead Boutique, designed for kids ages 7 and up. Kids can stand out in style by using the included uniquely shaped flower beads to craft multiple pieces of jewelry. With more than 800 beads—including golden accents—and ring bases, elastic cord, bead threaders, and glue, kids can create enough jewelry to wear and share with friends.
THE ORB FACTORY will expand its line of no-sew plush this year with the Plush Craft Penguin Pillow. Kids ages 5 and up can create this adorable plush friend that also doubles as a piece of room dĂŠcor using the included stylus and following the fabric-by-number guide. The kit also includes the pillow, eye pieces, a nose piece, and sparkling fabric pieces to give the penguin some glam. With Make Your Own Puzzles, from MIND-
WARE, kids ages 5 and up can turn photos, artwork,
and other paper keepsakes into puzzles. Kids attach the image to the kitâ€™s special adhesive foam boards, then slide them through the puzzle-making machine to safely create perfect puzzle pieces. The kit includes 10 4- by 6-inch adhesive sheets and 10 mailing envelopes with sticker seals.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
Activity Toys ALEX TOYS will continue to target the tween sector this year, with the Sketch It Nail Pen Salon. Kids ages 8 and up can sketch and paint their nails with two-tip nail pens in five colors. The pens contain professional grade nail polish so kids can create long-lasting designs. The included appliquĂŠs allow kids to make intricate designs by just peeling, sticking, and filling in with the pens. The 190-piece set also includes gems
to glam up any manicure. With Shrinky Dinks Bake & Shape 3D Jewelry, kids ages 8 and up can use the silicon mold to bake thin, flexible, flat Shrinky Dinks shapes into thick, sturdy plastic cuffs. The kit also includes earring and ring molds for more jewelry-making fun. Kids can design, color, and slide the Shrinky Dinks into the molds, then bake them in the oven to create up to 26 pieces of jewelry.
ANN WILLIAMS is set to launch its Craft-tastic line of simple crafting toys that help kids foster creativity by allowing them to experiment with stylish colors, modern patterns, and quality materials. Included in the line is the Paper Bowl Kit, which lets children create decorative bowls made with paper and glue. Kids ages 8 and up can glue the patterned paper circles together using the bowl molds, let the project dry, and display their creations. The kit includes three different shapes and sizes, all of which are perfect for storing trinkets and treasures. Also part of the line is the Finger Crochet Kit. Kids ages 8 and up can learn to crochet and create handmade fashion using only their fingers. The kit includes premium yarns and threads in an assortment of colors, precut to economical lengths. Kid can create three stylish headbands and three fashion-forward bracelets.
Classic Travel Spirograph, from KAHOOTZ TOYS, allows kids to easily create intricate and unique spiral designs on the go. This portable Spirograph studio has a built-in design ring, work surface, and storage compartment for holding wheels, pens, paper, the design guide, and finished artwork. The set includes six precision wheels, two design pens, a 24-page design pad, and the design guide.
TARA TOY is putting a licensing spin on the classic latch hook activity. This spring, kids can create soft and shaggy projects themed to Disney Frozen and Mattelâ€™s Monster High. Each kit includes a picture frame that kids can decorate with gem stickers for display, as well as more than 100 meters of colorful yarn. The licensed Latch Hook Design Activity kits are designed for kids ages 6 and up.
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easing r c n I d n a Hassle g n i c u d e R ction a f s i t a S r Custome
by Daniel Strechay, manager of stakeholder relations, Asia Pulp & Paper Canada kid’s birthday party offers some of life’s most uninhibited moments of happiness. For the kids who are old enough to understand, it can be the culmination of a year’s worth of anticipation, the equivalent of or greater than the joys of Christmas. It also includes many of life’s great ingredients: friends, family, games, cake, and—most importantly to many of those children celebrating—presents. At my son’s recent birthday bash—he turned 5 years old—he tore through the wrapping paper on his gifts like it was, well, paper. In mere seconds, he found the new set of building blocks and the outer spacethemed puzzle. He was able to open some gifts pretty quickly and share moments of “oooh,” “aaah,” and, “This is awesome!” with friends and family. But there were other gifts that remained in their boxes, strapped in with plastic ties, or visible through a fortress of clear hard plastic— in particular, a certain fire truck that transformed into a robot, which was his No. 1 request. Why had it gone unopened? It’s because we didn’t have scissors, pliers, or any sharp cutting objects readily on hand. Even if we did, then it would have been us, the parents, opening the gifts, and not the birthday boy. And that’s no fun. Where was the frustration-free packaging that brings instant consumer satisfaction? In my son’s case, he got that from some of his gifts, but not all of them. To top it off, when the party was over, I was left with multiple plastic bags, as well as hard plastic parts that had to be unscrewed from a small toy bulldozer and disposed of, either in the garbage or recycling bin. Reducing the volume of packaging—and the types of materials used—has been the goal of many companies worldwide. It not only makes sense from a business standpoint, but also from a sustainability and customer relations perspective. Large companies, such as Amazon, have taken great effort to ensure that its packages are easy to open, while still providing protection for the product. It is evident that Amazon wants
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
reducing—or even eliminating—wrap rage to be a pillar of its business. Companies are discovering that one way to ensure and build customer loyalty is to prevent situations that may cause a delay in opening their packages. One of the simplest solutions is to utilize packaging that can be easily opened, with no tools required. At this point, paper-related products are not only the most frustration-free type of packaging, but also one of the most recyclable and sustainable. The pulp and paper industry continuously innovates, from making strong, lightweight packaging to increasing the proportional use of postconsumer content. The industry is also responding to brand and consumer demand for renewable packaging materials that are responsibly grown and sourced. For example, paper and board packaging can be made from recycled paper and board or virgin fiber that is sustainably sourced from renewable tree plantations. Paper packaging from gifts can also be repurposed; that is, to ship gifts and holiday gift packages, or for in-person giving. It can even be reused for off-season storage of items received. Hopefully, more manufacturers will get on board the growing trend of simple, hassle-free packaging. It makes great sense from sustainability, economic, and customer relations standpoints. If consumers do their part and demand frustration-free and sustainable packaging, companies should follow suit. And maybe, for my son’s future birthdays, he’ll be able to open all of his gifts by himself and with his own hands. ● Daniel Strechay is the manager of stakeholder relations for Asia Pulp & Paper Canada, part of the Asia Pulp & Paper Group, the world’s second largest pulp and paper company. To learn more about APP Canada, visit www.appcanada.ca.
f the past year has taught us anything, it’s that eco-friendly toys are not going anywhere. On the contrary, the number of manufacturers in the category is getting bigger, as the type of playthings that are deemed green continues to expand. Most interestingly, whereas past years saw eco-friendly toys mostly aimed at especially young children, this year’s showcase includes an item for older kids, and even one suitable for teenagers and adults. Is the category of eco-friendly toys growing up? Only time will tell. ●
With the Crumple Bear Kit, from UNCOMMON GOODS, the most basic of materials become the “bear” essentials for an upcycled teddy bear. The DIY kit comes with a custom pattern, detailed instructions for users ages 14 and up, and all the materials needed to craft a bear, including the craft paper from the packaging, as well as the decorative accent paper from the instructions. The kit also works with any paper that is sturdy, but not too thick.
UNCLE GOOSE will add a spacethemed range, the Odd Galaxy Space Collection, to its line of handcrafted alphabet blocks. Available this January, products will include Cosmo Kid, Moon Rover, and Lunar Rocket. All of Uncle Goose’s blocks are made from sustainable basswood sourced in the Midwest, predominantly in Michigan, with non-toxic inks. Lunar Rocket
The Wishbone Bike, from WISHBONE, is now available in the eco-friendly Recycled Edition. This bike is made from 100-percent recycled plastic, taken from preloved, residential carpet, which has been collected and shaved to remove the backing. After being shredded, the carpet is turned into little resin pellets, which are molded into a bike frame. The Wishbone Bike is recommended for kids ages 1 to 6.
The Jungle Fun Activity Cart is the latest eco-friendly toddler toy from ALEX TOYS. Intended for early walkers ages 1 and up (adult assembly required), it features spinning gears, a peek-a-boo mirror, turning tiles, a curvy maze, a xylophone, a wooden mat, and more. All of the cart’s wooden pieces are grown through sustainable practices, while the final product incorporates water-based varnish and soy ink.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
Eco-Friendly Toys Eco Plant Pals, from DUNECRAFT INC., come in 18 varieties, including Basil Bob, Chris Catnip, and Sandy Sunflower. In addition, each planter is made from biodegradable corn. Along with fostering an interest in plant and garden life, as well as teaching kids about different kinds of plants, Eco Plant Pals promote an understanding of alternative materials that are less impactful on the environment.
The Future Collection, from TEGU, is a theme-based set featuring 14 new, original shapes that combine evocative print graphics with sustainably sourced, FSC-certified Honduran hardwoods. Designed for kids ages 1 and up, these wooden blocks are naturally safe, containing neither lead nor plastic. The colors and clear coats are composed of a non-toxic, water-based lacquer finish. The Future Collection includes Robo, Magbot, Circuit Racer, and Magentron block sets.
The Eco-Bonk Real Hero Series, from PUERI ELEMENTAL, features role models intended to empower kids ages 2 and up. The line includes Doctor Sophia, Soldier Ethan, and Fireman Mason. Each super-soft toy cover is made from 100percent recycled plastic. The Eco-Bonk vinyl inflatables themselves are non-phthalate based and contain no traceable Bisphenol A (BPA).
GREEN TOYS’ Watering Can is made from 100-percent recycled plastic milk jugs, with no BPA, phthalates, PVC, or external coatings. Intended for kids ages 18 months and up, it features an easy-topour spout and a cotton rope carrying handle. Doctor Sophia
Among the newest animals to join SWEATERTOYS’ line is one cuddly critter: the Fox, made from repurposed lambswool and cashmere sweaters. Its eyes are handstitched with wool yarn and its body is stuffed with hypoallergenic polyfil.
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MAGICFOREST’s Organic Farm is an eco-friendly, 145piece wooden construction set that includes a solar panel for generating electricity, as well as a windmill that uses the power from the panel. The wooden pieces, which hail from managed forests in the Jura region of Eastern France, are all tinted with kidfriendly dyes.
WHAT’S NEW The Multiples, from REALTIMES PRODUCTS, is a line of children’s educational tableware based on 12 multinational characters, each with a favorite number. The characters, their associated numbers, and several mathematical methodologies are featured on plates, bowls, and tumblers to encourage kids to learn numbers and to improve their instant recall of basic facts. The Multiples line is also designed to engage children with their peers and families during mealtimes. The company has also released its first book, by David Clancy, which is based on the characters and encourages emotional literacy. The singalong chapters follow the adventures of the 12 Multiples as they rescue their friend and use their Multiple Powers to do so. THE STORYBOOK TEA CO. introduces The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Emerald City Tea Party Kit, based on the classic story by L. Frank Baum. Each Storybook Keepsake Treasure Book Tea Kit is hand-wrapped to replicate the book binding artistry of the early 20th century through an aged leather material look and a raised spine. The replica book also features emerald accents and a hidden magnetic closure. The kit comes with a Stash Herbal Peppermint tea bag located in the Emerald City Gate Pouch; certified Kosher Dairy frosted cookies in the shape of Dorothy’s hot air balloon, the Tin Woodman’s heart, and the Scarecrow’s thinking cap; a Cowardly Lion liquid courage bottle; a two-chapter flip booklet featuring original text by L. Frank Baum; and a golden cap. With a focus on STEM techniques, BRACKITZ is a construction toy system that helps lay the foundation for high-level cognitive thinking, reasoning, and problem solving for children. The line teaches mathematics using geometry, fractions, and measurement and spatial awareness, and encourages role playing, problem-solving, and both team-building and selfdirected play. Kids also learn about planning when building larger structures such as a bridge or a life-size tower. There are three sets in the line, including The Creator Set, which has 50 pieces; The Architect Set, with 100 pieces; and The Master Bulder Set, with 200 pieces. Standard sets include interlocking 4-inch wooden planks, and 90- and 120-degree angle connectors, which can be pieced together to form a wide variety of models and architectural structures.
Modarri, from THOUGHTFULL TOYS, is a new line of miniature toy cars that kids can drive with a finger using realistic steering and suspension. After securing more than 300 percent of the funds sought during its Kickstarter campaign, Modarri launched at Toy Fair in New York City last year, and the modular car line is now hitting retail stores. The line will launch with the Street Car S1, Dirt Car X1, and Track Car T1. In addition, the do-it-yourself model allows kids to create custom vehicles and give them their own paint jobs. Each modular car set includes a chassis, a hood, a windshield, a seat pan, a seat, fenders and frame, a hex tool that allows users to take apart and reconfigure their vehicles, four wheels, and front and rear suspension.
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With the help of loveable animals, the Little Books About Important Things book set from THE MOTHER CO. helps kids understand, and parents talk about, difficult subjects. Each of the three books gently propose advice to readers, such as why it is important for kids to check in with a “safe adult” before going anywhere unsupervised, how to express and understand the universality of feelings, and how to resolve a conflict between friends by putting aside their differences. The set includes A Little Book About Safety, A Little Book About Feelings, and A Little Book About Friendship. The colorful books are a fun way for kids to pick up on some of life’s most important lessons at early ages without feeling badgered.
The fun and eclectic style of Jefrey Siler comes to life in his latest kids release, Jefrey Au-GoGo!. The album is Siler’s first composition as JEFREY AU-GOGO the performer, but not his first tryst as a musician. The indie performer with decades of song-writing experience takes his musical talents for an upbeat and playful whirl in this album, which is full of silly accents and hilarious imagery. The album’s first track, “Peter the Pushy Puppy,” uses aliteration to tell the story of Peter’s bad behavior toward his friends. It’s a perfectly zany introduction to what’s to come in the rest of the album. The CD spans musical styles and locations just as sporadically as Siler’s vocals span regions and languages, but it all comes together for an enjoyably silly listening experience.
Classic Bedtime Stories from GREENWICH WORKSHOP PRESS is a new take on classic tales such as Jack and the Beanstalk and Sleeping Beauty. Illustrated by Scott Gustafson, this enchanting storybook doubles as a piece of artwork. His artistic retelling of eight classic tales is reminiscent of Gustafson’s past best sellers, which include classic nursery rhymes and holiday tales. The professional artwork is not just for children, as art enthusiasts of any age will enjoy the dreamy illustrations. Classic Bedtime Stories takes readers into the magical world of talking mice and cunning billy goats from bedtimes past. Gustafson’s oil painting illustrations offer a new look at familiar and timeless stories kids will want to hear again and again.
The latest release from “kindie” artist KIRA WILLEY, How to be a Cloud: Yoga Songs for Kids Vol. 3 helps parents and teachers encourage kids to get moving. The 22-track album includes nine bonus yoga tracks, which talk kids through simple yoga movements. The album emphasizes simultaneous movement and tranquility while encouraging kids to find joy in everyday life. The title track, a soothing piano piece with imaginative lyrics, follows the upbeat and cheery song “Bloom,” which helps kids to recognize the beauty of nature. As a mother of three and an experienced kids’ yoga expert, Wiley combines sweet melodies and cheerful vocals in a relaxing yet motivating album perfect for any classroom or after-school wind down.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
Leveraging the Right Visual Assets to Create Successful Licensing Programs by Ted Mininni, president, Design Force Inc.
t goes without saying: Not all licensed consumer products are successful at retail—even for hot properties. In many cases, this is due to the lack of a cohesive package design system that leverages the licensed property’s most equitable assets. However, thorough research helps to uncover and identify these assets. Insights from brand owners as well as information from leading retailers are also important, and consumers who are fans of the property can divulge the most valuable insights of all. Once the proper research is complete, the key visual and verbal assets of the property can then be leveraged for consumer products and packaging and be standardized within a style guide. A strong packaging program is driven by prominent, distinctive package design architecture unique to the licensed property. It is modular in nature, providing enough flexibility to accommodate a variety of packaging formats for diverse consumer products. It provides standardization and instructional guidelines that are easy for licensees to implement. Hitting these marks not only reinforces the relationship between licensor and licensee, but also assures greater brand recognition and sell-through for licensed consumer products. Let’s take a look at the beginning of this process: how visual assets are leveraged in the most compelling manner.
Leveraging the Most Equitable Assets
Conducting the research to uncover the assets associated with the brand sometimes leads to package design concepts that try to do too much. It’s important to hone in on the most important visual and verbal associations with the brand and omit the rest. Consumers see plenty of busy packaging on retail shelves and they skip over it. If package design isn’t fo-
cused and doesn’t effectively showcase the property, how can consumers be expected to focus in on it? As is the case with all packaging, licensed package design isn’t about selling features and benefits of the product; it’s about leveraging key visual brand communication that generates instantaneous recognition and an emotional response from its fans. There are specific associations and personas attached to each licensed property, whether it’s a character-based brand, such as Hello Kitty; a famous athlete or star, such as LeBron James or Salma Hayek; or a consumer product brand, such as Jack Daniels. Even properties that aren’t based on a character or a real person benefit from personification. Research shows that consumers respond to human elements on packaging in an emotive manner, especially faces. It’s even more compelling if the faces they see emit personality, energy, and playfulness. They should be inviting and capture the essence of the property in the manner that has the most meaning for their fans. That’s why researching the favorite expressions or poses central to the identity and persona of each character is important before developing package design visuals. This is about embodying the essence—the soul of the property—in a relevant manner; otherwise visuals can appear lifeless. Doing this creates the magic, the emotional connection between brand and consumers. Supporting these equitable visual assets with just the right verbal cues reinforces the brand values that resonate with its fans. Combining the most prominent visual and verbal assets creates a high-level emotional response and a sense of immediacy leading to purchase. Most people have more than one favorite entertainment
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property. What will induce consumers to purchase licensed products aligned with one property over another?
Fans of an evergreen brand will quickly recognize consumer products meant for them when the package design not only leverages the visual and verbal assets that it should, but does it in the right manner. Kids’ entertainment properties are a perfect example. Although kids may recognize a favorite character’s face on packaging, is that recognition alone sufficient to elicit an emotional response? Or is something else needed to trigger emotions on a deeper level? New Sesame Street plush packaging hones in on the fuzzy characters completely; they are fully visible within the packaging. So do many other toys, licensed or not, right? But what’s important in this case is that the toys are posed with outstretched arms inviting kids to hug them. Young children see these Sesame Street characters as their friends, and the packaging elicits immediate emotional response; kids want to embrace them back. The key visual on the packaging doesn’t even show the full faces of the characters—just parts of faces peek out in a playful manner just as kids do. But there is no doubt who these googly-eyed characters are. Fans making eye contact with these teasing faces will respond to them on packaging, not only for plush, but for products in many diverse categories. Verbal cues? “Let’s Cuddle.” What else needs to be said?
Creating a New Classic and a Licensing Juggernaut
As kids get older, properties must be relevant to their lives and values, so cultural context becomes more important. That, too, must be factored into a licensing program design, as well as leveraging the most equitable visual assets of the property itself. The story is important if it’s relevant to today’s kids and if it is delivered in a manner to which they can relate. That story must be presented in the consumer products as well as the packaging. Disney’s Frozen presents a good example. The storyline, based loosely on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen, brings comedy, drama, and fantasy together in a timeless manner that resonates with kids. Interestingly, Disney Studios wanted to bring this story to the silver screen on and off since 1943, but the complexities of the tale and its characters made them shelf it until releasing its animated film version
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of the story in the fall of 2013. Two young sisters, Elsa and Anna, who happen to be princesses of Arendelle, are growing up in a close and affectionate way until elder sister Elsa, fearful of her own secret powers to turn everything into ice, distances herself from Anna. This leads to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and a sense of isolation for each sister. When Elsa becomes queen of Arendelle, she accidentally plunges the kingdom into an eternal winter. Anna sets out to find Elsa, who has fled, to save her sister and their kingdom with the help of friends, after becoming disillusioned by a young prince whom she thought loved her and whom she loved, only to find out that he only wanted to marry her to seize control of Arendelle. Both sisters have to learn life lessons about love and hurt, disillusionment, patience, and endurance during many trials until they ultimately triumph, saving Arendelle and becoming close again. Properly capturing the essence of this entertainment property and its main characters, especially Disney’s winsome sisters, for consumer product and package design, was accomplished not only by using the visual cues unique to the Frozen brand, but the personalities of Elsa and Anna. Artwork depicts the wide-eyed, naïve, sometimes impulsive Anna and the more worldly-wise, secret-bearing Elsa. On some consumer product packaging, Elsa looks every part the Snow Queen in her ice blue gown that sparkles with ice crystals and snowflakes. In many depictions, the train of her gown becomes part of a frozen landscape and snowflakes emanate from Elsa’s cast-spelling fingertips. Backgrounds are icy blues and whites and often depict a frozen landscape or the mountain to which Elsa has fled. Some packaging features the supporting cast to leverage emotions from kids who remember the love, humor, and fantasy they bring to the story. Sven, the loveable reindeer; Olaf, the friendly snowman; Marshmallow, Elsa’s giant snowman bodyguard; Prince Hans of the Southern Isles, who schemes to rule Arendelle by marrying Anna; and Kristoff, the outdoorsman, help kids recall many themes from the film and add dimension to consumer products and packaging—without clutter. Verbal communication is very limited on Frozen licensed products and packaging, and on many there aren’t any verbal cues at all—only the brand identity appears with the visuals.
Outside The Frozen brand identity, with its distinctively shaped cartouche in deep blue with lighter blue flowers and equally distinctive typography in white, refer to the property eloquently: it speaks of ice, cold, snow, and of course, fantasy. While each has its own distinct story, being part of the stable of Disney Princesses is important. It is apparent that Disney and its licensees are capitalizing on the formula that has created so much success for the Princess franchise. According to adage.com, Frozen licensing sales are expected to hit the $1 billion mark this year, mere months after the all-time, highest grossing animated movie pulled in $1.2 billion at box offices worldwide. In a recent interview, Walt Disney Co. chairman Bob Iger stated that Frozen has become one of the company’s top five properties, one that the company would be “taking full advantage of over the next few years.” Frozen has all of the makings of an enduring Disney classic and with adept licensing management, it has the potential
to have true staying power. By intelligently licensing the Frozen brand and leveraging its most powerful visual assets for consumer products and packaging in a consistent, one-of-a-kind manner, Disney demonstrates once again why the company continues to create classic, endearing properties and magic for millions of fans. Take a page from these examples and think about how to leverage the optimal visual cues for licensed properties. When it comes to verbal cues, choose wisely and remember: less is more. And in some cases, none may be necessary at all. ■
Ted Mininni is president of Design Force Inc., the leading package and licensing program design consultancy to the consumer product and entertainment industries. Mininni blogs about package and licensing program design at www.designforceinc.com. He can be reached at (856) 810-2277.
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Toy Retailers Can Boost Sales by Connecting with Millennial Parents on Social Media Four Ways That Toy Retailers Can Benefit Through Strategic Social Media Campaigns by Kevin Bobowski, vice president, Offerpop
emember five years ago when Facebook was simply the Internet plaything of teenagers and college students? Those days are long gone. Today, social media is a maturing medium with a maturing audience, and because of that it has become a vital marketing tool for all retailers, whether they are selling teen clothing, luxury automobiles, or anything in between. Toy retailers targeting parents as their audience can use social media as an influential marketing tool that is tightly integrated into a larger marketing strategy. That trend will continue to produce results as technology-savvy millennial parents become increasingly influenced by social media when selecting toys to purchase for their children. Toy retailers that understand that millennial parents are sophisticated social media users can influence them by doing more than writing status updates or posting photos. In a social media environment where the reach of Facebook’s status updates is declining as the network has become crowded with more than a billion users, campaigns must be strategic, integrated, and creative. They must also focus on concrete marketing objectives, such as collecting contact information, gathering usergenerated content, and directly influencing online sales. Recently, Offerpop saw the
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effects of a strategic toy retailer campaign when Mega Bloks used Offerpop’s platform in an overall engagement strategy that increased its fan base by nearly 150,000 members. It also captured contact information from approximately 7,500 social media users and collected almost 1,000 photos submitted on social media. Here are four ways that toy retailers can increase sales, generate content, and build their brand through strategic social media campaigns:
1. Unlock User-Generated Content (UGC) Millennials spend more than five hours per day consuming user-generated content, according to a study conducted by Ipsos and Crowdtap. Whether it’s Instagram photos from friends, Facebook updates from co-workers, or design suggestions on Pinterest, the attention of millennials is shifting to information that is generated by friends, family, and acquaintances. Unsurprisingly, this content is highly influential. The Ipsos study showed that usergenerated content is 20 percent more influential on millennials’ purchasing decisions than any other type of media, with an average of 59 percent of millennials trusting user-generated content. Toy retailers can unlock the power of this content by requesting that consumers and social media users post photos of their toys for a
chance to win prizes or to be entered into contests. Such campaigns put product photography into the social media feeds of thousands of shoppers, and can even be collected and re-used for other marketing purposes if proper permission is granted during the contest. Mega Bloks’ Spartan Strike photo contest engaged passionate toy collectors and allowed them to showcase their work through photos. The photo contest prompted nearly 1,000 toy lovers to post high-quality images of Mega Bloks, attracted new fans, and gave Mega Bloks new email contacts for a targeted demographic consisting of toy lovers.
2. Harness Hashtags Hashtags increase a campaign’s reach, can spark participation, and can also unify a campaign around a theme. By using a branded hashtag—#TeachingwithToys, for example—you can generate photo submissions from multiple networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. This creates a single, unified campaign that spreads your message across multiple networks. Think of the hashtag as a way to aggregate participation across multiple social networks, unifying an audience that might otherwise be divided across many different favorites.
“Whether it is Instagram photos from friends, Facebook updates from coworkers, or design suggestions on Pinterest, the attention of millennials is shifting to information that is generated by friends, family, and acquaintances.”
4. Collect Contacts One of the easiest ways to make sure a social media campaign lives long after the photo contest or voting ends is to collect the email addresses of participants. These types of contacts are valuable for reconnecting with social media users who have already expressed interest in your brand, extending coupons or sales offers by email, or simply signing up for your regular newsletter. Mega Bloks made email signups one of the chief goals of its campaign, and in a week, collected more than 7,500 email addresses along with more than a thousand new fans. ■
3. Create Competition Nothing sparks social media participation like a little competition. Mega Bloks found success using both a polling and a contest platform to have fans vote on their favorite toys. The voting not only engages consumers and builds your brand’s visibility on social media, it also gives company executives vital, real-time customer feedback on products that can be valuable for marketing, product development, and management teams.
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Kevin Bobowki is a social media, branding, and marketing expert who serves as a vice president of Offerpop, a digital marketing platform that reaches mobile and social consumers. Bobowski has designed hundreds of go-to-market strategy and product launches, and has served for more than seven years in executive-level marketing positions. He serves as a strategic thinker for Offerpop, as well as the hundreds of brands that are Offerpop’s customers.
HEAD ON FACING RECALLS
by Mike Rozembajgier, vice president, Stericycle
here comes a time for many organizations when they must, unfortunately, initiate a product recall. It’s a tough situation for any company, but it doesn’t have to be the crippling roadblock that many perceive to be. Fear of the unknown causes many toy manufacturers to avoid the subject altogether, and in doing so, put themselves in a bad position should a recall happen. Without proper knowledge, a recall can quickly turn from a bump in the road to a company’s full-fledged nightmare. Unfortunately, many organizations learn this lesson the hard way as they try to learn the basics during the recall itself, losing valuable time and money along the way. But by being prepared and understanding the general steps of a recall, an organization will be ready to confront a potential recall situation and position itself for long-term success. Here are some best practices for preparing for and facing a recall:
The first and most crucial step in a recall is preparation. The unpredictable nature of recalls means that this can start years before an actual recall event, or maybe this will be the only step an organization ever takes. Regardless, it’s a step no organization can afford to skip, whether they end up going through a recall or not. A solid preparation plan assesses recall readiness, and lays out a detailed recall plan by answering questions such as: • Who is in charge of the recall? • Which role is assigned to each key employee? • Which regulatory agencies will be involved? • What kind of information do they need and when? Looking at how an organization records and compiles data is also a key part of the preparation process. A system needs to be in place that will enable 24/7 access to web-based reports. This will ensure that the data is always accessible for everyone who might need it. It’s also important to get ahead of the game
and determine the type of information needed in the event of a recall and how it will be collected. When the phone starts ringing off the hook and truckloads of product start streaming in, things can get messy. If the necessary data isn’t collected along the way, there is often no way to go back and obtain it. In some instances, companies might spend thousands of unnecessary man-hours sifting through product and other communications in order to get pertinent information in a useable format.
Once a recall starts, it’s time to augment the recall plan with the details specific to the event. That leads us to step two, which is to identify who needs to be notified. Depending on the recall, end customers, retailers, distributors, and regulatory agencies could all need notification. It’s important to be able to distinguish the affected parties to ensure there is a comprehensive notification process with minimal disruption to the supply chain. This goes back to the previous point on data capture. Records and contact lists need to be kept up to date and accessible to ensure the recall gets started on the right foot.
Once an organization has determined who needs to be notified, it’s time to begin informing the affected parties of the recall. This leads us to the third step: notification management. There are a variety of ways to contact impacted parties—mail, phone, mass media, social media, and the list goes on. The avenue of communication, or the combination of avenues, that is ideal will vary depending on the level of the recall and supply chain logistics. However, no matter how this process is handled, its complex nature means that the process needs to be organized and documented so that real-time or near real-time updates are readily available. This data can be vital in potential litigation or issues with the media.
THE TOY BOOK • 55
Once the appropriate parties have been notified, manufacturers need to be ready to handle responses. The two main avenues of response in the toy industry are requests for information and product returns. Is the organization ready to field the amount of inbound calls that will likely occur? Is there enough staff to process incoming documents and products? Where will the recalled product go? The surge of inbound products and communications often overwhelms organizations that have not planned for it ahead of time. Asking these questions before a recall occurs allows an organization to formulate a contingency plan that will ensure they are able to handle the surge. This may mean reallocating staff to help with the additional communications or it could mean having an external partner at the ready to help. In either case, it will ensure that the recall process doesn’t come to a screeching halt during this step. Response management also entails direct communication with suppliers or end customers so any mistakes or shortcomings cannot escalate quickly. If the organization is ready and this process goes smoothly, the organization can instantly start to rebuild customer trust.
Once the affected parties have been notified and the products start streaming back in, it’s time for product processing. Again, there needs to be a system in place to ensure all of the products are documented in a way that up-to-date information is readily available on the status of the recall. Requirements for disclosure of this data will vary with different governing bodies, so it’s important to know what these requirements are ahead of time to ensure they are met. If related product is still on store shelves, this can also be a
good time to carry out on-site effectiveness checks to ensure that none of the recalled product is still making its way into the hands of consumers.
Once the product has made it to the processing location, it’s time for remedy management. Speed and efficiency are crucial to this process as consumers tend to be very impatient. Reimbursements or replacement products must be delivered in a timely fashion, meaning communication between product processing and remedy management is a key driver for success. Once the affected product is in, the resolution needs to be imminent, especially in a world where the consumer has such a powerful voice. If they are made to wait too long, organizations can quickly find themselves consumed by issues on social media that can spread to news outlets and other channels of communication. At this point, call center effectiveness checks are also a good idea.
The final step in the recall process is resolution management, where all of the loose ends are tied up: • Logistics for destruction or storage are finalized and carried out • Documentation that has happened along the way is stored safely and made readily available • All of the appropriate materials and data are communicated to any regulatory agencies involved The importance of preparation cannot be stressed enough. It is often the difference between lingering brand damage and a mere speed bump on the road to success. It seems like a daunting process to prepare for something that might never happen. Third-party consultants can be a great resource to help ease that burden and provide peace of mind that an organization is well prepared for any recall situation that might arise. But regardless of how prepared an organization is, following these steps will help to move past the recall as quickly and efficiently as possible. ■
As the vice president of recalls for Stericycle, Mike Rozembajgier has managed thousands of recalls across a wide variety of industries including pharmaceuticals, medical devices, consumer products, and food and beverage. From recall planning and regulatory reporting to supply chain logistics strategies and business partner relationships, Mike has led the implementation and delivery of recall solutions for hundreds of companies.
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BUSINESS DIRECTORIES 2015 Trade Show Directory $39.95 Independent Sales Rep Directory $69.95 Toy Wholesalers & Manufacturers $29.95 We carry Salesman's Guides to Find Buyers and Trade Show Exhibitor Lists for Toy Fair and others! 1-800-635-7654 • firstname.lastname@example.org www.Forum123.com Free Magazine: www.RFmagazine.com
The Toy Book Volume 30, Number 6 THE TOY BOOK (ISSN-0885-3991) is published bi-monthly by Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® Editorial and advertising offices are located at 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, NY 10001, Phone (212) 575-4510. Periodicals Postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Copyright © 2014 Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. Printed in U.S.A. Subscription rates: $48 one year, foreign $200. The Toy Book is a trademark of Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® Registered in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Postmaster: Send address changes to: The Toy Book, c/o Adventure Publishing Group, 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, NY 10001. Opinions and comments expressed in this publication by editors, contributing writers, or solicited or unsolicited documents are not necessarily those of the management of The Toy Book.
Classifieds Playtime Sales & Marketing Co. LLC A Toy Manufacturers Sales Representative Corporate Office 331 Piermont Road Norwood, New Jersey 07648 TEL: 201-784-7727 FAX: 201-784-1912 E Mail: email@example.com // firstname.lastname@example.org
The Playtime Sales & Marketing Company, LLC. is a Toy and Electronics Manufacturers sales representative organization. Our prime focus is to represent Toy and Electronics Manufacturers to the Mass Market Retailers. The principals of our Company are Len Soyka and Murray Bass. Our only vocation has been in the Toy Industry. We are dedicated toy professionals.
Our geographical areas of sales coverage and accounts include: • NEW ENGLAND…Connecticut North to Maine and Upstate N.Y. Accounts… CVS Drug, BJ’s Whle Club, Benny’s, TJ Maxx, I Party and CW Price. • N.Y. METRO…N.Y. City and New Jersey. Accounts… Toys R Us and their DOTCOM and Global Divisions, FAO Schwarz, Xmas Tree Shops, Shepher Distributors, Burlington Coat Factory, Buy Buy Baby, Marlon Creations, ToyZam, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Steven’s Intl.,TRU Express and NY area Supermarket Chains. • MID-LANTIC…Pennsylvania, Wash D.C., Northern Virginia and Western Ohio. Accounts…Rite Aid Drug, Group Sales, Boscov’s, Liss Bros, 5 Below and Big Lots. • K mart USA // JC Penney Catalog // Universal Studios Orlando // Gordman’s // Duckwall // Pamida // AAFES • CANADA…Walmart, Toys R Us, Canadian Tire and Big Lots. We employ a staff of 5 toy sales specialists. Our contact information is listed on our above shown letterhead. We welcome your inquiries.
THE TOY BOOK •
Flashback: January 1995 1.
The Adventures of Dudley the Dragon chronicles the adventures of Dudley after he awakens from a 100-year-long nap. In the show, two 10year-old kids, Matt and Sally, help Dudley solve mysteries, observe the wonders of nature, and discover what they can do to protect the environment. Several licensees are set to debut product, ranging from plush to athletic shoes. The character will be a spokescharacter for a national reading promotion campaign for the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress; will appear in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City; and have Dudley centers created at Macy’s, FAO Schwarz, JCPenney, and Toys “R” Us stores in his honor. 2. Puppy In My Pocket is a line of miniature, collectible, and realistic-looking puppies, each with its own name, personality, and story. Additional lines of animals will be available, including Kitty In My Pocket and Pony In My Pocket. 3. The Great Heroes of Time is a new line of action figure sets that come with detailed figures and a full-color 24-page booklet, which recounts the stories of the heroes’ historical pasts. Parents can introduce positive values with historical accuracy into their children’s playtime.
News Briefs WBCP Has New Wave of Free Willy Licenses Warner Bros. Consumer Products has announced a new wave of Free Willy licenses, seeking to capitalize on the summer 1995 release of Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home and the debut of Free Willy, the animated television series. The licenses are for apparel, accessories, domestic goods, housewares, gifts, novelties, adhesive bandages, books, paper goods, stationery, toys, and games.
Federal Judge Decides Nintendo Case The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a judgment in favor of Nintendo against an importer of counterfeit video game software. In a precedent-setting decision, the court held that Nintendo was entitled to monetary damages for both copyright and trademark infringement resulting from the sale of counterfeit video game cartridges. Nintendo will recover more than $450,000 from the decision.
Acclaim Develops Chip That Replaces ROM Cartridge Battery Back-up
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Acclaim has announced that it has developed a memory chip that replaces higher-priced, conventional ROM cartridge battery back-up systems. The new technology will be used in its NFL Quarterback Club Sega Genesis video game.
The Voice Reaching Both Trade and Consumers
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If you are traveling to the Spielwarenmesse trade show in Nuremberg beginning on January 28 (or even if you’re not), you’ll want to check ou...