December/January 2016

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december/january 2016 Volume 31, No. 6 — Published by Adventure Publishing Group

DEPARTMENTS 11 Sweet Suite 2016

6 Stat Shot

38 Talking Social Media: A Nightmare on Tweet Street

8 Industry Update 10 TIA Happenings: Toy Fair 2016

44 Raising the Bar

Important guidelines for intent-touse trademark applications

Keeping your Twitter feed from turning into a customer service nightmare

46 International Toy Industry • India as a toy manufacturing hub • A look at China Toy Expo

42 What’s New

49 Industry Marketplace 50 Flashback

An inside look at everything that Spielwarenmesse 2016 has to offer, from the TrendGallery to the Toy Business Forum

34 New Collectible Toys Stack Up

40 Outside the Box

Top trends in collectible toys

Ali Mierzejewski Senior Editor Maddie Michalik Assistant Editor Varuni Sinha Assistant Editor

Christopher Braun Editorial Assistant Bill Reese Production Director Lori Rubin Controller/Office Manager

18 Coloring Outside the Age Lines

U.S. Corporate Headquarters

Adult Coloring Books Go Viral

Laurie Schacht President

26 The New Flavor of Activities

Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® 307 7th Avenue, #1601, New York, NY 10001 Phone: (212) 575-4510 • Fax: (212) 575-4521

Cooking and food-play toys take over the activities aisle 28 Property Profile: Disney’s The Lion Guard MasterChef Junior by Wicked Cool Toys

specialty toys & gifts 30 ASTRA’s Insights: Your Toy Store University

Marissa DiBartolo Senior Editor

Joe Ibraham Assistant Visual Media Editor

FEATURES 12 At Spielwarenmesse 2016, Toy Retailers Are Spoiled for Choice

Jonathan Samet Publisher Jackie Breyer Editor-in-Chief

5 Editor’s Viewpoint

7 TIA Happenings: PlayFair


32 ST&G What’s New

The Toy Book Volume 31, No. 6 THE TOY BOOK (ISSN-0885-3991) is published bimonthly 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 © 2015 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.

Tips to get the most out of the ASTRA network Member, International Toy Magazine Association

editor’s viewpoint

new year, new look at ®

by JACKIE BREYER, Editor-in-Chief THE TOY INDUSTRY CLOSED OUT 2015 ON a high note, and all signs point to another strong year in 2016. I can’t recall the last time I felt so much positivity and enthusiasm—and innovation!—at Fall Toy Preview in Dallas, and I’m looking forward to seeing that momentum continue at North American International Toy Fair next month in New York. I expect to see robotics, STEM toys, drones, and smart/interactive toys continue to dominate and evolve. Speaking of dominating and evolving, after more than a decade with the same look, we decided to give The Toy Book logo a well-deserved update. Then we took a look at the rest of the magazine and said to ourselves, “If not now, when?” and being the go-getters that we are, we redesigned the entire look of the magazine. So now we’re sitting here with our fingers crossed, hoping that you like it. The redesign was done entirely in-house, with special thanks to Bill Reese, production manager, and Joe Ibraham, assistant visual media editor. The goal of the redesign was to reflect the youthful, creative energy of the company, and make it more enjoyable to read, with bigger pictures and clean, modern text. We promise to continue our mission of bringing you the newest product introductions and covering the hottest trends, keeping you in the loop with what’s new both behind the scenes in the toy industry and on shelves at retail. In this issue, we take a look at adult coloring books and cooking toys, two of the top trends in the arts and crafts/activities category. Both of these areas exploded in 2015, and we expect these trends to continue in a big way this year. We also take a look at key players in another category that’s growing by leaps and bounds: collectible toys. Shopkins continue to dominate the girls’ collectible toys category, but with the return of Squinkies from Blip Toys this year, along with MGA’s Num Noms and

I made it myself, Mom! It combines two of your favorite things—birds and string. other players joining the pack, it will be interesting to see how the category shakes out by the fourth quarter. Another key topic for this issue is Spielwarenmesse. The international toy industry’s biggest show of the year is expanding in several areas, with a key focus on infant and toddler toys. Because this category has been experiencing year-round growth, manufacturers worldwide have been jumping into the category to take advantage of climbing sales. We hope you enjoy this issue of The Toy Book. Tweet @toybook to let us know what you think! If there’s a topic you’d like to see us

cover, please send me an email at, or tweet @jackiebreyer. Here’s to a healthy, prosperous, and playful New Year! » Jackie Breyer is editor-in-chief of The Toy Book and the Toy Insider and editorial director at Adventure Publishing. She has been reporting on new products and toy industry trends for 14 years. Contact her at









Kids Engaged in During Typical Week

% Among Moms with Kids Ages 0-14

Traditional Play/Activities 87%

in the Past Year

Technology Play/Activities 85% Mobile Device Play/Activities 73% Hobbies/Interests 51%

% Among Purchasers of Toys Age and gender are key influencers as to which toys moms purchase.


Building/Construction Toys


Board Games/Puzzles

Sports/Outdoor Recreation 49%


Plush/Stuffed Toys


Outdoor Items





Educational Learning Toys/ Youth Electronics



Playing with toys will make them more well-rounded.



There is always something else I want to buy.








% Among Purchasers Who Spent More on Toys This Year Than a Year Ago

I have more money to spend.

I’m buying more items on impulse.





I reward my child for doing well in school or sports.



SPENDING ey Did Than Th

My child wants more toys than last year.


Why Purchasers Are



Infant/Preschool Toys




of kids participate in more traditional activities such as playing with toys and reading.


I want to make my child happy.






Action Figures

of kids watch TV or movies at home on a weekly basis, making it the No. 1 activity.

All stats provided by: The NPD Group Inc./ Kids Share of Time and Wallet 2015

I just can’t say no.


tia happenings



IMAGINE AN EVENT WHERE TOY lovers both young and old could interact with their favorite toy and entertainment brands, play with never-before-seen exclusives, and be among the first to glimpse the toys of tomorrow. In February, this experience will become a reality when Play Fair—“a celebration of play and entertainment for all ages”—opens its doors in New York City during Toy Fair week. Hosted by the Toy Industry Association (TIA) and LeftField Media, alongside presenting sponsors Nickelodeon and Lego, Play Fair will take place Saturday, February 13 and Sunday, February 14 at Javits Center North. “Play Fair is TIA’s first-ever major consumer event,” says Marian Bossard, TIA senior vice president of global market events. “Unlike Toy Fair, which is open to trade guests

and media only, Play Fair will allow children, parents, and collectors to play and interact with new and nostalgic toys and brands in a family-friendly setting. It’s also an important opportunity for toymakers to bring beloved products to life and engage with their end user—the child and their family.” At the heart of Play Fair will be immersive experiences, including toy reveals, photo ops, character interactions, stage performances, author readings, celebrity signings, live music, and giveaways, along with special activities to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Retail areas will allow attendees to purchase show exclusives, limited-edition products, and rare variants of beloved toys and games. Through the Play Fair Ambassador Program, key influencers—including

vloggers, YouTubers, bloggers, and toy reviewers—have also been invited to participate in panels and meet and greets. As of press time, the event’s impressive lineup of sponsors includes presenting sponsors Lego and Nickelodeon, as well as Mattel, Hasbro, Crayola, Toys “R” Us, Warner Bros., and dozens of additional brands preparing memorable experiences for kids, families, and toy enthusiasts. “We’re thrilled to see how so many major toy brands are sharing our vision for Play Fair,” says Bossard. “These are brands that understand the power in creating engaging, playful experiences for their fans, and we can’t wait to see that vision come to life at this one-of-a-kind show.” While Play Fair will overlap with TIA’s Toy Fair, the two events are entirely separate. Play Fair will be open to the general public, including children, whereas Toy Fair will remain open only to toy industry professionals and approved media, and closed to children under 18. Separate registration is required to attend each event. For more information about Play Fair, including registration fees, visit and follow the event on Twitter (@ playfairny) and Facebook (www.facebook. com/playfairny). » As the TIA’s communications specialist and editor of its Toy News Tuesday e-newsletter, Kristin Morency Goldman stays abreast of the latest economic data, safety standards, trends, and toy-, play-, and youth entertainment-related news.


industry update FANTOYSTIC FACT: Lincoln Logs celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. John Lloyd Wright, son of famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, invented the toy line, and based it on the architecture of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. The 1953 Pioneer Playhouse was one of the first toys to be promoted on TV. In 1999, Lincoln Logs was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. Today, the logs are made out of White Maple in the U.S. Seventy percent of the wood comes from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified forests or other forestry managed timberlands, while 98 percent of that wood comes from Maine. To celebrate the centennial anniversary of the brand, K’NEX, who manufactures the brand under license from Hasbro, will have a life-size Lincoln Logs cabin display in the Crystal Palace at the North American International Toy Fair in February. The final cabin will be approximately 7 feet tall. » An original Lincoln Logs set


From left to right, Rey and Kylo Ren costumes from Rubie's Costume Co.


Rubie’s Costume Co. Inc. has launched costumes and accessories inspired by new characters in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Available in toddler, child, and adult sizes, the new collection includes costumes based on Finn, Rey, Kylo Ren, Captain Phasma, Flametroopers, and Stormtroopers. The seventh installment in the episodic film series is a continuation of the saga created by George Lucas set 30 years after Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. The movie broke several records, made $238 million in the U.S. after its opening weekend, and is expected to be one of the highest grossing films to date.

TOY STATE BECOMES NASCAR LICENSEE Toy State has entered into a global licensing agreement with NASCAR to introduce NASCAR-licensed products specially designed to connect with the next generation of fans. Development of the toy line, which will be co-branded with Toy State’s flagship Nikko and Road Rippers brands, is currently underway. Product is expected to hit retail shelves early next year. The deal is the latest since Toy State’s entry into motorsports after serving as a primary sponsor for Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 7 Chevrolet during the 2015 season. This new licensing deal will allow Toy State to create lights and sound and radio-controlled toy versions of on-track car replicas for distribution across a broad network of retail channels. Toy State’s portfolio of licensing agreements with global properties also includes Caterpillar, Hot Wheels, DC Super Friends, Barbie, and WWE. » STAY CONNECTED!



industry update duce multiple new seasons of content for the properties. Mattel will oversee global brand management and other lines of business. »


Bob the Builder

DHX MEDIA, MATTEL LAUNCH KIDS CONTENT PARTNERSHIP DHX Media Ltd. and Mattel Inc. signed a long-term partnership agreement for the development, production, and distribution of a range of new, multi-platform content inspired by Mattel properties Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam, Little People, and Polly Pocket. Under the terms of the partnership, Mattel and DHX Media will jointly fund, co-develop, and co-produce new episodic, short-form, and long-form content for the Mattel properties, designed for a variety of traditional and digital platforms. With

Mattel’s additional expertise in brand franchise management, strategy, and consumer product licensing, and with DHX’s strength in global content distribution and creation, the companies will drive new production and growth for select Mattel properties. The partnership, which covers multiple revenue streams, takes effect January 1, though Mattel and DHX will begin creative and strategic collaboration immediately. DHX Distribution will manage global sales of existing and new content for Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam, Little People, and Polly Pocket under the partnership, and DHX Studios will collaborate with Mattel to develop and pro-

Paramount Pictures and Hasbro Inc. signed a deal to collaborate on feature films for five of Hasbro’s properties. Under the agreement, Paramount and Allspark Pictures, Hasbro’s film label, will establish a cross-property interconnected onscreen universe, featuring the stories and characters from Hasbro brands G.I. Joe, Micronauts, Visionaries, M.A.S.K. (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand), and ROM. Allspark Pictures will produce the films. Hasbro executives Brian Goldner, Stephen Davis, and Josh Feldman have worked closely with Paramount in shaping the universe for the properties. Hasbro and Paramount will also assemble a writer’s room, which will include some of the most notable creative talent in Hollywood, to develop the creative roadmap for the brands. »


tia happenings

LET THE GAMES BEGIN An Update from the Toy Industry Association

NEARLY 30,000 PLAY PROFESSIONALS from around the world will once again converge this February at the 113th North American International Toy Fair to do business with the world’s top buyers and sellers, enjoy new and enhanced programming, and gain a glimpse of the future of toys and games. That future will look especially bright at Toy Fair 2016, which will take place Saturday, February 13 through Tuesday, February 16 at New York City’s Jacob Javits Convention Center. Building on the industry’s positive growth in 2015, as well as the upbeat forecasts from Fall Toy Preview, this year’s show is positioned to deliver more “wow” moments than ever before. “Coming out of the 2015 Fall Toy Preview, industry analysts raved about the abundance of innovative toys slated for holiday 2016,” says Marian Bossard, senior vice president of global market events at the Toy Industry Association (TIA). “Based on the October show, the Javits Center is sure to be brimming with boundary-pushing products, exciting new tech toys, and highly creative playthings, inspiring robust business deals throughout the four days.” Buyers from more than 7,000 unique retail outlets are expected to attend Toy Fair, eager to browse more than 420,000 net square feet filled with products from more than 1,100 exhibitors. As the show becomes increasingly more global in scope, Toy Fair is matching its growing international attendee base with expanded resources and programs. New for this year, the show is participating in the U.S. De-

partment of Commerce’s (DOC) International Buyer Program Select, aimed at increasing U.S. export sales. Thanks to this program, DOC trade specialists will be on-site at the Javits Center to assist in directing international buyers to U.S. toy companies that are export-ready. They will also present a special educational session called “A Guide to Exporting: The Toy Industry—Challenges and Opportunities,” offering advice on designing an international outreach strategy to support global market entry or expansion. Other educational offerings will include show staples, continually tailored based on attendee feedback to offer targeted insights that help boost business. Those sessions include: • TIA’S LICENSING CONTENT CONNECTION Saturday, February 13 to Sunday, February 14 The program is designed for those active or interested in the world of licensing. • INDEPENDENT THINKING Saturday, February 13 to Sunday, February 14 Free, expert-led sessions for specialty toy store owners will include tips on how to amp up advertising, marketing, and in-store promotion plans. • CREATIVE FACTOR Saturday, February 13 to Monday, February 15 Hosted by Brett Klisch of Peru Meridian Studios, Creative Factor is designed to support Toy Fair’s inventor and designer community. This year’s session speakers hail from littleBits, Roominate, the United Inventors Association, and Kickstarter, among others, and will discuss female entrepreneurship, gender in toy design, successful crowdfunding campaigns, and more. • GLOBAL MARKET RESEARCH Sunday, February 14 Presented by Altios International and Kidz Global, these sessions will reveal research findings on industry trends and consumer behavior within Canada and the UK to help attendees enter or expand activity within


those markets. • TIA’S TOY TRENDS BRIEFING Sunday, February 14 TIA toy trend experts will unveil the Association’s top toy trend predictions for 2016 in this session, free for all attendees. • TOY SAFETY UPDATE Monday, February 15 This session provides industry stakeholders with updates on important changes in state, federal, and international toy safety requirements and introduces emerging issues under consideration by legislators around the globe. Toy Fair offers world-class educational programming and unparalleled deal-making opportunities—as well as a venue to network with key industry players. And one of the best industry networking events of the year is the annual Toy of the Year Awards (TOTY). This year, as TIA celebrates its 100th anniversary, the 2016 Toy Fair week will kick off with a very special TOTY ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History. On February 12, hundreds of toy executives and industry guests will gather to honor the finest toys and games of 2015, salute those who have contributed to the industry’s success over the past century, and celebrate the induction of Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Co., into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame. The black-tie optional event will include a seated dinner in the museum’s renowned Hall of Ocean Life, and will support the Toy Industry Foundation’s work to bring the joy and comfort of play to children in need. To purchase tickets for this year’s TOTY event, visit »

For up-to-the-minute information about Toy Fair registration, special events, educational opportunities, hotel bookings, shuttle schedules, exhibitor floor plans, and more, visit


SWEET SUITE 16 RETURNS TO NYC THE TOY INSIDER’S SEVENTH ANNUAL SWEET SUITE event will take place on July 13 aboard the Majesty Yacht docked in New York City. Known as The Biggest Night of Play, the premiere toy party of the year will welcome more than 400 influential bloggers and vloggers and more than 100 members of traditional media to connect with toy companies in advance of the holiday shopping season. Sweet Suite will be the feature event at the third annual Blogger Bash, a two-day conference for experienced digital influencers featuring parties, exhibitions, and speed pitching sessions. Blogger Bash attendees will be welcomed into high-energy party atmospheres, giving them a chance to have fun while mingling with brands in a professional yet inviting setting. Last year at Sweet Suite, bloggers enjoyed one-on-one time with representatives from more than 75 of the hottest kids’ brands and properties on the market, including VTech, Activision, LeapFrog, Hasbro, Spin Master, Lego, Tomy, Disney, and more. #SweetSuite15 generated more than 95 million Twitter impressions, more than 8,000 original Instagram photos, and hundreds of blog post recaps. This year, Sweet Suite will give digital influencers and members of the press a chance to meet old and new friends while sipping on cocktails, feasting on sweet treats, and— best of all—playing with toys before they even hit the market. Enormous swag boxes will once again be shipped directly to attendees’ homes after the event, sparking a resurgance in social media impressions, and ensuring bloggers and journalists have products readily on-hand to review and share with their followers. If you’re interested in learning more about these events, contact Laurie Schacht at



2016 January 27 to February 1 | Nuremburg





by ERNST KICK, CEO, Spielwarenmesse eG WHEN A BABY SMILES FOR THE FIRST time, it is one of the most beautiful moments for his or her parents. It means that their little bundle of joy feels totally comfortable. For this to stay this way, new parents are likely to

splurge on their little ones—especially if it is their first child. The fact that Mom and Dad—even grandparents and friends—happily spend a little more when buying a gift for infants and toddlers is well known among toy manufacturers. This is why they make sure that their products find a home in the cradle or the playpen. I have observed this trend amongst our exhibitors at the Spielwarenmesse, the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg. After all, products for infants and toddlers zare recording steady growth. This applies to the share in sales in the global toy market, as well as to the demand during the Spielwarenmesse. Last year, products for infants and toddlers took up three halls during the fair. Investing in the smallest kids has become a reliable source of revenue, especially for established manufacturers such as Mattel, Hasbro, Lego, Playmobil, and Ravensburger, all of whom target long-term customer loyalty. Ministeps product segments, such as Lego Duplo, Playmobil 1.2.3, and Ravensburger's My First Puzzles, demonstrate how brand-bonding

Musical Stack and Ball Game, Yellow Elephant, from Tiny Love

works with the youngest target age group. One of the advantages of infant and toddler products is that, by and large, they are not tied to seasons. This means that sales are spread relatively evenly throughout the year. The typical concentration on Christmas as experienced by the toy industry does not apply to this market segment, meaning that purchase frequency is not reliant on the holiday season. A further point to remember: Toys nowadays must fit in with the family’s lifestyle. Products should not only make children’s eyes sparkle, be durable, and be colorful, but also trendy, safe, and sustainable—crucial buying points that toy manufacturers must take into consideration. Additionally, brand loyalty and trust in the brand play a vital role when it comes to extending the brands all the way to the youngest age groups. Consumers hold brands that already successfully make products for kids—and have made a name for themselves as trustworthy in the infant segment—in high esteem. The prospects for infant and toddler products are thus lucrative and many toy manufacturers have understood this. In spite of falling birth rates in most industrial nations, sales of infant and toddler products continue to rise. This is because modern families frequently have one child only—allowing this child to be spoiled royally. Toy manufacturers know that parents are willing to spend a lot of money for their little one. So, what are you waiting for? Go for it! » Ernst Kick was appointed as the CEO of Spielwarenmesse eG in 2003. He has decades of experiences in business, marketing, and exhibition organization.
















Great Britain



Hong Kong








France Spain




Great Britain


Czech Rep.

















EXHIBITORS FROM ALL AROUND THE WORLD 2015 Total: 2,857 2,051 International: Countries: 67 International Share: 71.8 %




of exhibitors are satisfied with their participation.

2,294 30% 43

THE DATA BASIS The surveys of visitors and exhibitors at the fair were conducted on all days of the fair by the independent market research institute Gelszus Messe-Marktforschung GmbH of Dortmund. The surveys were based on the guidelines of FKM (Society for Voluntary Control of Exhibition and Fair Statistics), whose aim is to provide comparable and reliable fair statistics.




70,084 40,420 126 58 %

75,888 42,477 122 56 %

of visitors are involved in buying decisions.


of exhibitors plan to return in 2016.


Total: International: Countries: International Share:

2,748 1,951 61 71 %

90% Total: International Share: Countries:


retailers and buyers only visit Spielwarenmesse.


VISITOR Name: Date:

4.4 % Media

4.3 %

Craft Trades

4.6 %

Department/ Mail Order Store

7.4 % Industry

34.8 %

11.3 %

Retail/ Toy Trade

17.2 %

Wholesale/Foreign Trade

Services/ Freelance/ Institutions

16.0 %

Other Sectors


At Spielwarenmesse 2016, Toy Retailers Are

SPOILED FOR CHOICE TRENDGALLERY: THE INDUSTRY SHOWCASE Spielwarenmesse in Nuremberg is the hotspot for toy trends. The special area in Hall 3 A covers a total area of more than 10,800 square feet and presents important trends and product innovations. Several months before the International Toy Fair, the TrendCommittee, which is comprised of 10 experts, travels around the world to identify the most interesting and promising trends. They come from a total of nine different countries and are experienced toy experts. They are familiar with contemporary tastes and know exactly which products will achieve success in which markets. Each day at the Toy Business Forum at Spielwarenmesse, a TrendCommittee member will explain each of the trends for 2016: Train Your Brain The "Train Your Brain" trend promises a workout for children's brains. Children's brains can be trained like a muscle, and in a


playful manner, too. This trend is not only about the learning of cognitive skills, but it also aims to promote free thought and play. Everyday Hero Who would not like to be a hero of everyday life? From social projects to the realization of a great business idea via empathic interaction, there are many possibilities. What is important is pursuing one's goals and dreams. Children should also be encouraged to do this, and they should be given the skills they need to leave a positive mark on society. Design to Play Toys are made to be played with, but, naturally, they should be visually appealing, too. Design is becoming increasingly important. We are allowing ourselves more and more to be inspired by the art world and designers from other industries that give color and design completely new twists. Thus, a toy can also become a design object.

spielwarenmesse SPIELWARENMESSE OFFERS DEALERS MORE SUPPLEMENTARY ASSORTMENTS While toys are the main focal point of the Spielwarenmesse, the international fair for toys, hobby, and leisure products goes well beyond classic and technical toys. Ernst Kick, CEO of Spielwarenmesse eG, says, “We have extended the product range shown at Spielwarenmesse to accommodate growing dealer interest in supplementary assortments. Designer toys, fashion, and accessories for infants and children now play an integral part in toy retail and toy stores.” Baby toys and accessories—found in Halls 1, 2, and 3—regularly guarantee retailers good sales. Retailers interested in encouraging spontaneous purchases of “must haves” can find what they need in the fashionable and trendy articles product group at the main entrance and in Hall 1. As with many consumer goods, individual lifestyles and current trends are a decisive factor in which toys customers purchase. Elke Brunne, managing director of MuKK, Germany's largest toy stores still managed by the founders and owners, recommends two strategic approaches. “Toy retailers can either expand their product range thematically or they observe new trends,” says Brunne. “Fashionable and trendy articles have proven to be a must in a toyshop as part of a modern merchandise mix and provide an opportunity to expand the product range with attractive items.” These points are important for success: 1. When buying, concentrate on select (financially) interesting areas and subjects. 2. Observe the progress of the trend. It is better to exit early rather than follow the trend to its death. 3. Seasonal themes offer an opportunity to change the product range and constantly create new buying incentives. 4. Choose goods that suit your location and your customers. Not everything you like is necessarily attractive to customers. 5. The pricing must also be suited to the purchasing power of the local customers. TOY BUSINESS FORUM: CONCENTRATED BUSINESS KNOWLEDGE Identifying trends is one thing, but selling trend products is another. At the Toy Business Forum, retailers learn about the latest findings with regard to consumer behavior,

sales promotion, and accompanying online activities. The Toy Business Forum is integrated into the TrendGallery in Hall 3A and offers interested toy professionals compact presentations on current marketing developments and trends. Top-class speakers provide possible toy business solutions to equip you for the challenges of the future. The lectures at the Toy Business Forum are devoted to a specific subject each day. Program of the Toy Business Forum January 27 to 31, 1 to 3 p.m. Location: Hall 3A, TrendGallery Program: Wednesday, January 27: ToyKnowHow Innovations & Trends—a Head Start for Retailers

Thursday, January 28: Licenses




70,000 VISITORS FROM 126

Toys & Licensing—the 2016 Highlights

Friday, January 29: Design

Toys & Shops—Discovering Trends

Saturday, January 30: Marketing

Inspiration & Persuasion—Focusing on Sales

Sunday, January 31: Online Marketing Online & Offline—a Powerful Team

THERE IS MORE TO EXPLORE Hall 3A offers even more inspiration: Everyone who searches for the newest of the new should stop by the pavilion of young entrepreneurs—“Junge Innovative Unternehmen”—and the New Exhibitor Center. There, visitors will find first-time exhibitors and young German start-ups. Overall, there are 12 product groups displayed at Spielwarenmesse covering all of the 1.8 million-square-foot exhibition center. If you have not been to Nuremberg yet, you’re missing the world’s largest toy fair. Spoil yourself and go, and you will be spoiled for choice. »






Date: January 27 to February 1 Location: Nuremberg exhibition center in Bavaria, Germany To purchase tickets for the Spielwarenmesse 2016, contact: Jerry Kallman Jr., Phone: +1 (201) 652-7070, Email: Kallman Associates Inc., 20 Harrison Avenue, Waldwick, NJ 07463-1709 Ticket prices, exhibitor list, travel information, Nuremberg tourism, and more information is available at



COLORING OUTSIDE THE AGE LINES by MARISSA DIBARTOLO, senior editor COLORING BOOKS ARE INTEGRAL TO kids’ creative development, with thousands of titles featuring thick black outlines of cartoon characters, just waiting to be scribbled on, torn out, and hung on the refrigerator. But kids aren’t the only ones showing off their creativity with coloring books. Specialty retailers such as Michaels and Barnes and Noble are stocking the shelves with dozens of titles designed with adults in mind. Instead of simple images of Queen Elsa from Disney Frozen or snuggly puppies with lolling tongues, adult coloring books feature intricate geometric patterns, natural scenery, and even some characters based on mature series they can’t get enough of, such as Game of Thrones.

GOING VIRAL While adult coloring books have been available for more than a decade, Michaels reports that they really took off in 2015, thanks in large part to growing popularity on social media. Adult coloring book author Johanna Basford’s debut book, Secret Garden, has sold more than 2 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 14 languages. The book features 96 pages of elaborate animals, insects, and floral scenes for adults to color in. Basford’s success quickly went viral in March, thanks to featured articles on social sites such as Bored Panda and Buzzfeed, resulting in hundreds of thousands of shares. Basford is tagged in more than 145,000 Instagram photos posted by consumers showing off their completed work from her books. “There is definitely a social element that is fueling the trend with people posting and sharing their creations,” says Idalia Far-


rajota, senior vice president of merchandising at Michaels. Millennials, who are the most plugged-in generation, make up a large group of people who are getting into adult coloring books, and they are showing us that through social media.” Basford has since published two additional titles, Enchanted Forest and Lost Ocean. Michaels carries all three books, along with nearly 100 additional titles, some of which are exclusive to the specialty retailer. “Animal-themed books consistently have been our most popular sellers, but we’re making the coloring book trend accessible to everyone,” says Farrajota. “People can pick from all sorts of designs, from jungle and floral themes to Zen-inspired mandalas.”

THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS Though social media largely fuels the adult coloring book trend, coloring gives adults a great way to relax with some unplugged quiet time. Christa Trivisonno, brand manager of Faber-Castell Premium Children’s Art Products, says coloring is especially therapeutic for women. “Women are [sometimes] balancing work, children, schoolwork, and home life— they just have a lot on their plates. This is a very simplistic throwback to their youth. [Coloring] lets them be creative and spend some quiet time decompressing.” According to Michaels’ Farrajota, women make up the majority of the adult coloring book audience, but more men are getting interested in the trend as it continues to thrive.

EASY ACCESS Coloring books provide adults with an easy way to get creative, and accessible price points are partly to thank for their popularity, with most books ranging in price from $10 to $20. “Back in the days of scrapbooking, you had to have specific cutting tools, different stickers, templates, special markers, special


Crayola Color Escapes, Geometric

papers, and special adhesives,” explains Trivisonno. “With this, you can pick up a colored pencil or a marker and you can choose tools that are readily available to you. It’s kind of like the low-hanging fruit of hobby items— everything is right there in front of you.” While some parents may choose to dig through their son or daughter’s pencil box in pursuit of some crayons to use on their new coloring book, other adults may elect to purchase new tools just for them. From colored pencils to dual-tip fine line markers, manufacturers and retailers alike report rising sales of creative products thanks to an uptick in popularity of adult coloring books. Faber-Castell has multiple product ranges for consumers at all different creativity levels, from products designed for children to those meant for professional artists. Every product is fade-resistant and color-matched across all lines, so whether consumers choose to begin with a set of children’s colored pencils or one from the pro series, they will always be able to find the same colors. “It makes it very easy to transition from one brand to the next,” says Trivisonno. As the trend continues, the books are popping up at unlikely retailers, including clothing and gift store Urban Outfitters. “We’re trying to balance providing service to our customers that have had the product in stores for a long time and serve new busi-

ness as well,” explains Trivisonno. “We’re struggling and trying to keep our inventory robust. It’s taken off far quicker than we ever thought it would, and keeping up with that demand has been crazy.”

EVEN MORE OPTIONS In September, Crayola launched Color Escapes, a line of four coloring kits for adults sold exclusively online. Each of the four kits includes 12 11- by 17-inch prints, a set of colored pencils, and a set of fine line markers or watercolor pencils. Consumers can choose between four themes: geometric, kaleidoscope, nature, or animals. Some prints feature heavy lines and simple patterns, while others are more intricate and detailed, allowing consumers with a range of experience and ability to engage with the product. All kits, however, include classic Crayola products. “They are the same formula that we sell to children, but that’s OK,” says Craig Skinner, director of innovation and business development at Crayola. “Our current Crayola colored pencil performance rivals some ‘fine art’ colored pencils.” Unlike Basford’s books, the Crayola Color Escapes prints are all unbound, free-standing prints. “While books are very portable, we wanted to create something bigger so it could be shared and displayed when done,” Skinner says.


From increased color assortments for crayons, markers, and pencils, to even more coloring book titles, Crayola, Faber-Castell, and Michaels all plan to expand their adult coloring product assortments this year, as long as the trend continues. And it all comes back to creativity and self-expression. “I think there will always be an innate desire to express yourself visually,” says Skinner. “Coloring could be replaced by painting or sketching or sculpting, but that desire to create something in a physical space—as opposed to a virtual space—will always be there.” With millions of books sold worldwide, activity toy sales consistently on the rise, and massive appeal to a wide audience, adult coloring may be more than just a passing fad. “We are predicting that the trend has not even hit its peak yet,” says Michaels’ Farrajota. “There are still so many people that have yet to try it, and we’ve learned that as soon as our customers pick up a book they are hooked.” » Marissa DiBartolo is a senior editor at Adventure Publishing Group and manager of digital and social media content for The Toy Insider. A professional toy reviewer and an industry expert, she consistently reports on the latest toy trends.


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VISIT US AT OUR HONG KONG SHOW ROOM Call 852-39983209 for an appointment

TO ORDER: 800-829-9502

Activities ACTIVITY TOYS ALLOW KIDS TO CREATE UNIQUE WORKS OF ART AND GET THEIR creative juices flowing, while also giving their imaginations a workout. Despite an influx of tech toys across the toy aisles, both parents and kids are still eager to engage in some unplugged playtime, and arts and crafts provide them with the perfect outlet for classic play. Both mass and specialty toy manufacturers are coming up with new, innovative ways for kids to create by introducing new materials, exciting licenses, and even fusing crafts with other play categories such as storytelling and games. Here are some of our favorite new activity toys hitting shelves in 2016.

Fuzzeez Bear, from THE ORB FACTORY, lets kids ages 6 and up stuff, spray, and spin to create their own plush. Kids can fill the reusable mold with wool, spray it with water, snap on the back of the wool, and place it in the dryer. Once it’s dry, kids can pop open the mold to reveal their new Fuzzeez friend, with no sewing required.

THE BRIDGE DIRECT’s new line of Shopkins activity toys feature characters from Moose Toys’ Shopkins collectible figure line recreated as draw, wash, and redo plush toys and take-along fashion bags. Designed for kids ages 5 and up, the activity plush line features three sizes of cotton fabric-stuffed figures that kids can doodle on with washable markers, then wash and color them all over again. The designable line of activity purses and bags puts a fashion-forward twist on the brand and reinforces its shopping theme, while encouraging kids to get creative.


KAHOOTZ TOYS will bring Spirograph to a younger audience this fall with Spirograph Jr. Designed for kids ages 3 and up, the portable design station features a built-in Spirograph ring, which works with the included Spirograph wheels. The chunky designs make it easy for young kids to move the pieces, while the built-in storage makes clean up easy for adults. For kids ages 8 and up, Spirograph Shapes features 12 new shaped gears and three rings that allow aspiring artists to create never-before seen Spirograph designs. Additionaly, all of the new pieces work with all existing Spirograph design sets.

The Real Cotton Candy Maker with Lite Up Wand, from CRA-Z-ART, lets kids make cotton candy out of household sugar. Kids can warm up the unit and slowly pour small amounts of sugar into the spinner, and Cotton Candy floss will collect on the inside of the bowl. Then, kids can grab the special light-up wand to collect and build up their tasty treat.


Kids can take jewelry design and designyour-own room décor to a new dimension with Shrinky Dinks 3D Flower Jewelry, Statement Jewelry, and 3D Butterfly Lights, from ALEX TOYS. Set for release in the spring, kids can use the new kits to color, bake, and shrink wearable 3-D jewelry and 3-D room décor accessories out of the precut plastic sheets. With patent pending silicon bracelet, ring, and flower molds, kids can infuse their own personal style as they creatively color and transform the flat sheets into 3-D works of art.

WONDER FORGE will expand its line of Disney Imagicademy activity toys with Make It & Play It, which fuses creativity and clay with game play for kids ages 4 and up. Kids can mold game pieces of Disney characters with colorful modeling clay and then play 20 different logic-based games and puzzles. The activity and game combo promotes use of imagination and builds logic and math skills.

SPIN MASTER’s Bendaroos activitiy kits let kids bend, shape, and wrap to create 3-D objects. Bendaroos are easy-to-build flexible sticks that can twist and bend without any glue or heat. Each set includes Bendaroos in three different sizes, moldable 3-D wax shapes, decorations, scenes, accessories, and design templates. Theme packs will feature more than 200 pieces, and the Multi Maker Set will have more than 500 pieces. Licensed kits will also be available, featuring The Powerpuff Girls and Spider-Man.

Once Upon a Craft storybook craft kits, from EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS, bring together two activities for parents to enjoy with their preschooler: reading and crafting. Each Once Upon a Craft kit includes a 24-page illustrated storybook and two crafts based on the story, with additional craft and activity extensions available online. There are eight themed sets to choose from: The Gingerbread Man, The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Ugly Duckling, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, The Frog Prince, The Princess and the Pea, and The Twelve Dancing Princesses.


Activities Floof, from PLAY VISIONS, is a new compound that is soft and smooth to the touch. Kids can use this ultra-light, snow-like compound to easily mold shapes, such as snowballs. Six available sets include Mr. & Mrs. Snowman, Polar Babies, Mini Snowball Maker, Sasquatch Target Game, S’mores Party, and Sunny Day Clouds. The 30-piece Mr. & Mrs. Snowman set includes 120 grams of Floof, tools, and a play mat.

THAMES & KOSMOS will expand its line of Geek & Co. activity science kits this year with the Chewing Gum Lab. With this kit, kids ages 8 and up can make their own chewing gum using natural rubber called chicle, which comes from tree sap. Kids can sweeten the gum with sugar, wrap it up, label it, and package it in the included metal tin. Additionally, the Gummy Candy Lab will let kids mold gummy candies using a natural gelatin-like ingredient called carrageenan that comes from seaweed. Kids can add sugar, flavors, and citric acid to make them sour.

Calafant, distributed in the U.S. by THE HAYWIRE GROUP, is a series of cardboard building kits that kids ages 4 and up can assemble and color, including The Palace. Once kids color, paint, and stylize the structure exactly how they want it, they can play with it using their existing toys.


the new of activities

by MARISSA DIBARTOLO, senior editor MOM WAS WRONG: APPARENTLY, IT’S more than OK to play with your food. Since the inception of Kenner Toys’ Easy-Bake Oven in 1963, kids have been expressing their creativity in the kitchen by baking up miniature sweet treats. And while the Easy-Bake Oven is one of the most iconic toys ever made, inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2006, new toys that let kids make and decorate real, edible foods are eating up shelf space like never before.

line launched by Blip Toys in 2015, includes no-bake cooking kits for kids ages 6 and up. ”In some cases, kids do need to use a microwave, but only for 10 or 12 seconds. It’s not a long, drawn-out process,” says Rick Mershon, vice president of sales at Blip Toys. ”Kids want something that’s instant.” Yummy Nummies are marketed toward boys and girls alike, with gender-neutral

CULINARY KIDS In the ’60s, the Easy-Bake Oven was largely marketed toward girls, but with male chefs like Bobby Flay, Michael Simon, and Gordon Ramsey taking center stage on reality TV, both boys and girls are developing an appetite for toys that let them develop their culinary skills. Wicked Cool Toys, maker of the Toy of the Year (TOTY)-nominated Girl Scouts Cookie Oven, also released a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Pizza Oven in late 2015, designed with boys in mind. The green and purple oven includes mixes to let kids cook up the crime-fighting turtles’ favorite dish: pizza, dude. Additionally, Hasbro introduced the Easy-Bake Ultimate Oven in 2013, which is available in a cool blue and black design.

NO BAKING REQUIRED It’s not all about the ovens. Additional new players in the cooking space include companies introducing products that don’t require any baking at all. Yummy Nummies, a

the Chocolate Pen,” says Kristy Burns, vice president of marketing at Skyrocket Toys. ”Kids get excited by the awesome treats they can make and parents who already cook with their kids say it ‘ups their game’ when it comes to baking and decorating.” The Chocolate Pen allows kids to use warm water to melt chocolate encased in plastic and then use the motorized pen to draw freehand or fill in molds to create unique chocolate designs. The pen’s design allows for easy clean up and doesn’t require an electric heat source.


Yummy Nummies Cinna Rolls

packaging designed to appeal to all kids. ”We’ve never endeavored to be just focused on one or the other. What boys would not want cakes and cookies?” explains Mershon, who estimates sales of Yummy Nummies to measure about 60 percent girls and 40 percent boys. Another oven-free food play toy that has enjoyed great success since its inception is Skyrocket Toys’ Candy Craft Chocolate Pen, which topped hot toy lists and also earned a TOTY nomination in 2015. ”Parents and kids love coming together in the kitchen over


Parents’ main criticism with cooking and food-themed toys is that you could get similar results by using standard cooking and baking products, but using tools designed for adults can be challenging for kids. Manufacturers say toys allow kids to get familiar with the concepts of cooking by using tools and mechanisms specifically designed for them. ”Toys like the Chocolate Pen bring fun and accessibility to cooking,” says Burns. ”Even though parents have always cooked with their kids, now we offer new materials, tools, and toys that make it easier for parents, more accessible for kids, and more exciting for everyone.”

AS SEEN ON TV In addition to its kid-friendly ovens, Wicked Cool Toys launched a MasterChef Junior line of cooking accessories at Walmart

Activities in November, complete with recipe cards and plating suggestions. The sets provide kids with tools such as rolling pins and sauce ladles designed for little hands, allowing them to create real foods, including pizza, burgers, and breakfast treats. The line launched in conjunction with the premiere of the fourth season of Fox’s TV series MasterChef Junior, which offers kids ages 8 to 13 the chance to put their cooking skills to the test. The popular TV series reflects an influx of cooking challenge and reality shows, which helps fuel the cooking toy trend. ”Cooking and cable networks are expanding dramatically, and that tends to roll down to the kid level,” says Mershon. ”Overall interest in food and cooking in general has skyrocketed. There are so many cooking channels and shows across multiple networks,” explains Burns. ”Chefs of all ages are becoming celebrities.” As cooking toys continue to heat up, social media proves to be an important factor, with both parents and kids eager to snap close-ups of their food creations and share their creativity with friends and family. YouTube unboxings and demonstration videos also contribute to the

MasterChef Junior Pizza Cooking Set

cooking craze, especially since taste is an important factor in picking the right foodplay toy.

Make-a-Meal Fun Set was the No. 1 selling Yummy Nummies kit during the first four months of the product launch.



While chocolate, cakes, and cookies are standard mix options when it comes to cooking toys, Yummy Nummies kits feature lots of unique savory options, such as chicken nuggets and tacos. ”The buying community appeared to be a little bit more nervous about the savory side, but we knew that we needed to be unique,” explains Blip Toys’ Mershon. With retailers and consumers alike a bit apprehensive about the flavor of these kits, YouTube provided the perfect outlet for real consumers to share their experiences with Yummy Nummies, helping to dispel any wariness. ”The number of views we got in our first month was shocking,” says Mershon. ”Anytime we have a new food, we automatically send new samples to our channels with our greatest viewerships.” Blip’s Best Ever Burger Maker

Mass and specialty retailers alike are carrying an expanded selection of food play toys, but there’s some debate about where to put them on the shelves. Cooking toys are often lumped into the activities section, which includes basic arts and crafts, jewelry makers, and do-it-yourself and design-your-own kits. Some retailers, such as Target, are working to develop food statements that give products like Yummy Nummies, the Chocolate Pen, and Easy-Bake Oven their own 8-foot home separate from classic activity toys. Eva Lorenz, toys and games category leader at, says the online retailer added kitchen toys as a browse category in response to an increase in consumer searches for food-related toys. ”Interactive and educational toys are big hits with kids and parents,” says Lorenz. ”We expect this trend to continue, especially with new toys that produce edible food.” With manufacturers mixing up new products heading into 2016, one thing’s for certain: kids are hungry for more. »

property profile

Kion and Bunga come to life as 14-inch talking, light-up plush with fun sound effects, from JUST PLAY. Both characters have the Mark of the Guard emblem on their arms, and when pressed, Kion roars and Bunga toots. Kids can help Kion protect the Pride Lands with the Pride Land Play Set. They can explore features such as a boulder launcher, a secret leaf trap door, a bone trap, a vine lift, a working waterfall, and more. The set comes with an exclusive Kion figure, with additional figures sold separately.


property profile

Disney’s The Lion Guard has inspired a product line that extends the beloved storytelling from the original movie and new series. We’re looking forward to sharing a selection of products that will be both nostalgic for parents and exciting for preschoolers.”

—John D. Edwards, senior vice president of licensing, Disney Consumer Products

• The epic storytelling of Disney’s The Lion King continues with The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar, a primetime TV movie event that premiered on November 22 on Disney Channel. • The Lion Guard TV series premieres January 15. Both the movie and series will roll out globally through 2017 on Disney Channels and Disney Junior channels. • Set in the African savanna, The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar introduces Kion, the second-born cub of Simba and Nala, as he assumes the role of leader of the Lion Guard, a team of animals tasked with preserving the Pride Lands. • While traditionally the Lion Guard has been comprised of lions known to be the fiercest, bravest, fastest, strongest, and keenest of sight in the Pride Lands, Kion breaks tradition and instead calls upon some of his friends who he believes best exemplify these heroic qualities. They include Bunga, a fearless honey badger; Fuli, a confident cheetah; Beshte, a friendly and good-spirited hippo; and Ono, an intellectual egret. • The voice cast includes Rob Lowe, Gabrielle Union, Max Charles, Atticus Shaffer, and Sarah Hyland. James Earl Jones and Ernie Sabella reprise their roles as Mufasa and Pumbaa, respectively. • Education and science experts at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park serve as consultants, advising on the characteristics, behaviors, and habitats of the African animal species featured and inspiring original stories based on their first-hand experiences. • Author and Swahili expert Sarah Mirza is the language and cultural advisor on both the movie and the series.

PILLOW PETS introduces the Kion Pillow Pet, celebrating the fun-loving and playful leader of The Lion Guard. Plush, cuddly, and foldable, the Kion Pillow Pet bears the Mark of the Guard on its left shoulder to protect the Pride Lands and kids’ bedrooms.

WONDER FORGE’s Disney The Lion Guard Matching Game is a classic game of picture matching that challenges kids to flip over colorful tiles to reveal their favorite characters from The Lion Guard. Protect the Pride Lands challenges players to race to get Kion to the top of Pride Rock to unleash the power of the roar and save the day.


specialty toys & gifts | astra’s insights

YOUR TOY STORE UNIVERSITY Tips to Get the Most out of the ASTRA Network

by KIMBERLY MOSLEY, president, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association “ASTRA HAS BEEN MY TOY STORE university,” Mary Sisson, owner of Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash. said when she was starting out as a speciality toy retailer and became a new member of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA). Over the past few weeks, her quote struck a chord as I immersed myself in the specialty toy business and all the ways that ASTRA works to support locally owned stores. Even as ASTRA ramps up its formal education program with resources such as Webinar Wednesdays and the introduction of the Certified Master Retailer credential—soon to be followed by the Certified Play Expert credential—our informal education is thriving as well. So much of that education takes the form of networking among our members. GETTING ACCESS TO THE BEST IN THE TOY RETAILING BUSINESS One of the most valuable resources an association can give its members is access to other members—experienced professionals who can help each other solve business challenges. Year after year, ASTRA members rank networking opportunities, such as discussion boards and the Marketplace & Academy, as membership benefits they value over all others, and this comes as no surprise. ASTRA works hard to attract the most successful, creative, and promising independent toy retailers in the business. MANY WAYS TO SHARE EXPERTISE We offer multiple opportunities for retailers to share information with each other. The annual Marketplace & Academy­, to be held next year from June 5 to 8 in Denver, Colo., is the year’s largest gathering of the specialty toy industry. Retailers report that its value goes far beyond product discounts and seminars. “The relationship building and infor-

mation sharing are the best part of the entire ASTRA Marketplace & Academy experience,” says Gwen Ottenberg, owner of Imagine That Toys in Wichita, Kan. The North American International Toy Fair is another venue for sharing expertise about the retail business and specific products. ASTRA has institutionalized networking at Toy Fair through its “Share the Fair” event, which gives retailers a quick and easy way to learn from each other about promising new products. ASTRA’s new online community, ASTRA Connect, includes discussion groups as a

2015 ASTRA Marketplace & Academy

forum for gaining insights on how to handle tough business challenges, asking specific how-to business questions, and sharing information about products and manufacturers. Of course, ASTRA’s member directory is a priceless business tool that gives members access to one other via telephone or email. These resources are especially important for the local store owner who is “the boss” and may not have peers with whom he or she can talk freely about the store’s problems, risks, or challenges. TIPS FOR EFFECTIVE NETWORKING Whatever process a retailer uses to get to know fellow ASTRA members, it’s important to understand networking as a two-way exchange. Here are a few tips for effective


information sharing and networking: • Know your objectives: If you ask someone in your network for help or information, make sure you know what you want to know. • Reciprocate: If you expect others to share, be ready to do so yourself. When you have received helpful advice from a colleague, always ask if there is anything you can do to help him or her. When you come across information that might be useful to those in your ASTRA network, such as an article or a web link, use ASTRA Connect to share it with them. • Show your appreciation: If someone helps you, they can never be thanked enough—even if it is an ASTRA friend you have known for years. Be sure to acknowledge everyone who lends you a hand. And then thank them again when you have a chance. “Over the years, I have increased my bottom line by thousands of dollars thanks to ASTRA and friends I have met through ASTRA,” says Jonny Girson, owner of The Learning Tree in Prairie Village, Kan. “Whether you have been in the business for years, or are just getting started, look to your ASTRA colleagues to have the piece of information or advice you need to get you through the tough spots.” » Kimberly Mosley, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, is an experienced, award-winning, results-oriented association executive with a long track record of success in managing association operations, developing innovative programs, and growing revenue. Prior to her work with ASTRA, she served in various roles at the American College of Healthcare Executives, including Chief Information Officer.

specialty toys & gifts | what’s new

REVELL introduces a new generation of model kits for kids ages 6 to 12 that span three skill levels. The initial 26-kit collection was designed to reduce piece counts, build time, and complexity. Revell will expand distribution and continually add new models throughout the year. The new kits include the SnapTite Build & Play, Skill Level 1 for ages 6 to 8; the SnapTite, Skill Level 2 for ages 8 to 10; SnapTite Max, Skill Level 2 for ages 8 to 12; and Skill Level 3 for ages 10 to 12. Each kit, except for Skill Level 3, includes pieces that can be snapped together without glue, paint, or tools. Skill Level 3 models are introductory glue kits that require glue and tools for assembly, but make paint optional.

LITIHOLO has simplified hologram-making technology for kids and hobby enthusiasts to make their own holograms with the Hologram Kit. The kit reinforces STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) concepts, so kids can learn basic science behind how holograms work, and includes everything needed for users to create their first hologram in less than an hour. The self-developing plates create bright, clear holograms that are ready to view immediately, showing the images in full 3-D. One Hologram Kit includes enough materials to make up to 20 different holograms, a laser diode, a battery pack, a black shutter card, a basic concepts guide, and more.


MAGNA-TILES, geometric shapes of different sizes and colors that magnetically adhere on each side, expands to include People Blocks. Specifically designed for the tiny hands of infants and toddlers ages 1 and up, People Blocks include durable, non-toxic plastic shapes adorned with faces and other features. This new line can be used in conjunction with traditional Magna-Tiles pieces.

Flash & Thunder, from INVICTA CHALLENGE, is the first in a series of Leadership Decision Challenge boxed and app-based games based on heroes that built America. Flash & Thunder tells the true story of a Native American paratrooper’s D-Day leadership. The boxed set includes an interactive video game, a graphic novel, two maps, an operations packet with 15 cards, and a 6-inch paratrooper action figure. The game also ties to a free-toplay, downloadable strategy game. Flash & Thunder is also available as an in-app purchase. The digital version includes the operations packet, maps, a graphic novel, and mini-games that challenge kids throughout the storyline. It also offers 30 videos that provide a deeper understanding of the mission, D-Day, and rationale behind right and wrong decisions made throughout the course of the game.

Specialty Toys & Gifts | What’s New SUPER IMPULSE is set to release Precision RBS (Rubber Band System), a twist on traditional foam dart blasters, this spring. Super Impulse says that the line will feature more ammo, power, and accuracy than any other launchers currently on store shelves. The company will launch the brand with various events hosted across North America throughout the year. The Precision RBS line will include the lightweight Talos, which holds up to 20 rubber bands in two sizes, launches up to 30 feet, and includes a built-in extender. The Chiron has storage for up to 100 rubber bands and features a quick-loading design and a release option to separate into two completely different RBS Shooters, including a hand launcher. At the top of the line is the Hyperion. It offers pinpoint accuracy and extended range. It has the capacity to hold three different band sizes, with extra side storage. It also boasts a burst feature, which allows it to launch 14 bands at once. Each of the Precision RBS blasters is recommended for ages 8 and up. HANSA CREATION introduces the Snow Leopard Laying, featuring custom-designed “jacquard” fabric, which is unique in the marketplace. Using this new process, the detailed hide and true-to-life markings of this endangered species are incorporated into the fabric, rather than air brushed onto a white base. Hansa’s new items also feature virgin fiber filling, developed from its Going Green initiative, in which recycled materials are used to give a soft feel and heirloom quality to the products, ensuring years of eco-friendly enjoyment for collectors of all ages.





by VARUNI SINHA, assistant editor WHETHER IT‘S SEASHELLS AT THE BEACH, multi-colored rocks, or big colorful feathers, kids love to collect odds and ends. For more than a decade, toy companies have cashed in on this quirky habit by introducing toy lines with small price points and big collectibility. In 2016, collectible toys are projected to get smaller in size, but larger in variety and number. With many new offerings already lined up, kids will have a lot more to choose from.

Kids will also be on the lookout for Num Noms, from MGA Entertainment, which are miniature food toys with customized scents; Batman and Superman Power Poppers from Imperial Toy, which are foam figurines that can be shot into the sky; and Yo-kai medals, from Hasbro, which Yo-kai Watch fans can use to summon their favorite characters.


Moose Toys, a strong contender in the collectibles category for eight years, is getting ready to make a new introduction in the boys‘ collectible category. The company has seen recent success with Shopkins, a line of grocery-themed micro-collectibles with a whimsical appearance, which the manufacturer will continue to grow in 2016. ”We have an exciting new Shopkins segment lined up, new series of toys will continue to come out, as well as an expansion of the Shoppies dolls, who will be interacting a lot more with the characters in the play set,” says Paul Solomon, CEO of Moose Toys. Blip Toys, on the other hand, is getting ready to flood the market with three collectibles lines, starting with Palace Pets Sweetie Tails, a continuation of the successful Disney Palace Pets inspired by the animal best friends of Disney Princesses. Blip Toys will also launch a brand new collectible line called Sugar Pop in June, and plans to re-launch Squinkies in the fall. ”One of the things that people loved and remembered about Squinkies was their rubbery, tactile nature,” says Rick Mershon, vice president of sales at Blip Toys. ”In 2016 we will differentiate the Squinkies in yet another way. It will be something about the way they play.”



Girls are delving even deeper into collectibles, with toys such as Shopkins, Kitty in My Pocket, and Palace Pets growing in number. ”I feel that collectibles were for a long time action figures like He-Man that targeted boys,” says Ann Kienzle, owner of specialty toy store Play Logan Square. ”This is beginning to change and girl-heavy collectibles are likely to continue in 2016.” Kienzle also forecasts a rise in superhero collectibles with the huge influx of TV shows and movies themed on the caped crusaders. Superhero toys are easily relatable to all age groups and hence strong sellers, she points out. Star Wars collectibles, however, are an anomaly in that regard because of the perennial interest that fans exhibit in the brand.


As new brands join the collector‘s cart, the category is getting bigger, but the size of the physical product is shrinking. ”Size impacts affordability, which makes Shopkins so successful,” says Kienzle. ”The key for collectibles is that kids need to be able to save up money in a short amount of time and buy the toys in bulk, otherwise they begin to lose interest.” However, size is not a sureshot factor for popularity. ”While micro-collectibles are crowding the market, just making a small-sized collectible toy is not a guarantee for success,” says Ali Barajas, vice president of marketing for Moose Toys. Creating an entertaining hook, such as telling a back-story for the toy or brand, is one way to draw an audience to a collectible. ”Size certainly adds to the cute factor of the

Collectibles kins even have fluff. It gives kids something different from hard plastic.” Solomon adds that Shopkins stand out because of their pint-size, their cute getup, their endearing aura, and happy looks, styled after distinct influences from Australia.


Packaging plays an important role with collectibles, according to Kienzle, because it allows the brand to show off its entire range, communicate the idea behind the series, and keep the buyer hooked. ”Blind box is another big packaging trend that prompts kids to buy more,” she says. ”Kids love the element of not knowing what they are going to get. And if packaging adds a layer to the toy like a mini-mall or vending machine, that‘s always a plus.” The blind bag has Kitty in My Pocket Charm Kitties with Bracelet, from Just Play always interested kids with toys like My Little Pony, Shopkins, Care Bears, Shopkins,” says Solomon. ”However, other Hello Kitty, and Palace Pets, according to factors like the everyday characters they are Mershon. ”It‘s the same effect that we wish to styled after, the extensive play pattern that recreate with Squinkies,” he says. ”To make offer role-play opportunities like cooking or visual noise, with just a little tweak in the shopping, and keeping the newness alive, is packaging to make our toy stand out in the what works for Shopkins.” collectibles aisle.” Adding another layer through packaging ARTISTIC VS. PLAY VALUE allows manufacturers to get creative. Hasbro A collectible by definition is a toy that showcases a collecting book and Yo-kai meda child would find attractive enough to buy als in their packaging which allows fans to not repeatedly, build a display of, and trade. only organize their collection, but also sumHence, the way a collectible appears to a mon more Yo-kai characters into the video child is an important marker for the toy‘s sucgame. The Shopkins Scoops Ice Cream Truck cess. The artistic value of the toy also helps is a play set that allows kids to play with the distinguish it from the competition. truck but also allows them to use the vehicle ”With our micro-collectibles we like to to display all their Shopkins characters. focus on styling the eyes in a distinct way,” says Mershon. ” It‘s something that Disney has mastered as a business—creating a look of the eye, the shape and size of the pupil— that can be owned.” Another factor that played into the success of the Squinkies, Power Poppers, and Shopkins is the tactile texture of the toys that kids associate with the brand. ”Kids are tactile by nature so the touching factor creates another way in which they can interact with the toys,” says Barajas. ”Shopkins have a softer texture, and spongy feel. Some Shop-


While packaging allows manufacturers to create visual noise, digital media is a way to reach your target audience, according to Mershon. ”You can see millions of views on YouTube of blind boxes being opened,” he says. ”Kids get excited just watching other people unbox product. Social media has thus become an important marketing strategy in the sale of collectibles.” Apps and TV series are another way to

create great digital content around a toy. One example is the Care Bears & Cousins TV series that recently launched on Netflix, or the free Disney app that allows fans interested in Blip Toys‘ Palace Pets to discover the back-stories of these characters. ”Within two months of the app‘s launch, 2 million copies of the app were downloaded, going to show how focused the target audience for this product is within the Disney fan club,” says Mershon. Social media is also an information source, helping kids understand what a toy or game is about, how it plays, and how many followers it attracts. YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook also allow kids to share their toy collections instantly with others.


Kids are attracted to collectible toys for reasons as varied as the kids themselves. But, collecting starts in the preschool and elementary school stage when kids begin to notice and compare the toys they own to those of their friends. Mershon points out that this age is ripe for collecting. Sometimes there is no definitive way of knowing what kids might like or dislike. ”When we started toying with the idea of Palace Pets, the pets to consider were traditional pets like puppies, kitties, and ponies,” Mershon says. ”However, what sold were exotics like tigers. On the other hand, with another brand called Whimsy Pets in the micro-plush segment, the kitties and ponies were the hot favorites.” Kienzle stresses the social importance of collectibles, because sharing and trading are a part of the process of owning such a toy, while Moose Toys‘ Solomon says the success of collectibles is the success of the idea behind the line, as well as its timely execution, artistic rendition, marketing, packaging, and continued interest in the toy, which works almost like an intricate formula. Trends usually come and go in a threeyear wave. Micro-collectibles might be the new fad of the day, but collectibles always have the potential of becoming classic keepsakes if created and invested in with care. » Varuni Sinha is assistant editor at Adventure Publishing Group. She is a professional toy reviewer for The Toy Insider, The Toy Book, and The Licensing Book.




Shopkins Shoppies, from MOOSE TOYS, are dolls with candy colored hair, bubbly smiles, and a Shopkins-flavored style statement. They have sparkly names—Poppette, Jessicake, and Bubbleisha—to match their unique styles and come with two exclusive Shopkins characters each.



Palace Pets Sweetie Tails, from BLIP TOYS, are inspired by Disney fairytales. The pets reflect the style and qualities of the Disney Princesses and have names like Rouge, Slipper, and Daisy. Kids can learn about their backstories through a free app from Disney Publishing Worldwide.

Kitty in My Pocket, from JUST PLAY, is a line of more than 100 kittens that are tiny enough to fit in a kid's pocket. Package options include glitter bracelets, rings, a fancy purse, and varying quantities of kittens, each styled with a unique stamp.


Yo-kai Watch is a new role-playing game from Nintendo and Level-5 that challenges kids to find invisible Yo-kai spirits. HASBRO will bring the fun to the real world with the Yo-kai Watch and Yokai medals, which kids can slide into the watch to summon Yo-kai characters. Kids can buy Yo-kai Medallium Collection Book, pages, mystery bags, and 2.5-inch tall Yo-kai Medal Moments Figures.





Crystal Surprise Babies, from CRA-Z-ART, are collectible baby versions of Crystal Surprise Pets. The first wave will introduce 13 collectibles in three crystal colors. Each baby offers luck and positivity in the form of imagination, curiosity, hope, or knowledge.

Marvel Power Poppers, from IMPERIAL TOY, are tiny collectible toys made of soft, durable foam that can fly more than 24 times their height. Push the Power Popper into its base to load, and then drop low or high to send them 6 feet into the sky. Release at an angle to send the superhero across the room to hit a target. Superman and Batman will join the line in 2016.


Elektrokideez, from WOWWEE, are unique pencil toppers styled after rock stars, metal heads, pop princesses, dance divas, country crooners, and hip-hop celebrities. This extension of the Elektrokids line includes A-list superstars, B-list celebrities, and C-listers.

Num Noms, from MGA ENTERTAINMENT, are miniature food characters with realistic scents. They can be mixed to create more than 1,000 scent fusions. Num Noms are squishy and soft on the outside and have sealed lip-gloss on the inside.





ON TWEET STREET Tips to Keep Your Twitter Feed from Turning into a Customer Service Hotline

by MARISSA DIBARTOLO, senior editor TWITTER GIVES CONSUMERS A REALLY easy way to directly connect with brands they love—which may not always be a good thing. Consumers will often take to Twitter to complain about a product or service and share their frustration with their followers— and yours. While you should definitely pay attention to these complaints and issues, answering every single tweet with a reply can make your feed look like nothing more than a customer service hotline, and consumers who come to you for other reasons—including to praise you or your products—may be deterred by what they see. Don’t let other people dictate your content, and follow these four easy tips to keep your Twitter timeline from turning into a complaint-ridden nightmare:

POST UNIQUE VISUAL CONTENT Twitter now allows your replies to other tweets to fall into a separate

“Tweets and replies” tab that keeps them off your main timeline, but this only applies to desktop and not mobile devices. If consumers are looking at your Twitter page on a smartphone or tablet, every single tweet you send—including replies—will be on one continuous feed, which doesn’t make for a pretty picture. Videos and photos go a long way on Twitter. Not only are these forms of visual media much more engaging for your followers, but they take up a huge amount of space on your timeline, which leaves less room for one- to two-line responses to consumer issues. Your followers are much more likely to focus on visually stimulating images and videos instead of short replies to consumer complaints, so consistently post engaging, original content that is in-line with your brand to limit the exposure of the formulaic replies to problems.

IGNORE THE CRAZIES While some complaints from consumers may be valid, some will just be completely outlandish and undeserving of a response. For example: “UGH... SO much traffic on the way to @Target today, why can’t you put your stores on less busy streets?!?! #annoyed.” This tweet is #notworthit. Sometimes, consumers’ issues will be irrational and entirely beyond your control, so don’t take responsibility for problems people encounter that you truly can’t do anything about. Only offer responses to legitimate problems, and do so calmly, rationally,


and apologetically (when necessary). The space on your timeline is precious, so treat it as such.

SHARE THE GOOD STUFF If someone sends a compliment your way or posts a creative use of your products or brand, be sure to show your appreciation with a retweet, like, or reply. Flood your feed with positive feedback from consumers who love what you do; it makes them feel connected to you and it will inspire others to tweet fun content your way as well.

BE PERSONABLE Sometimes people blindly complain on Twitter because they see brands, manufacturers, and retailers as faceless corporate entities. Some of the best tweets are those that remind people that there is an actual human on the other end of the screen. Be colloquial, funny, and kind. Let people understand that you are a person too, and you’re really eager to help resolve their issues.

MOVE THE CONVERSATION It’s important for consumers to understand there are other places they can reach you to share negative feedback, such as customer service phone numbers or even email—and these places will allow you to deal with the issues out of the public eye. Of course, sometimes this is unavoidable, so keep in mind that addressing consumers’ issues out in the open will ultimately make you look like the good guy. Keep your Twitter feed full of engaging and exciting content that matches your brand voice, and before you know it, the tweets will almost always be positive! »

UL quality assurance solutions help ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and brand specifications, and mitigate supply chain risk.

Visit UL during the 2016 Toy Fairs‌ Hong Kong JAN 11-14 Booth 3D-C26 London JAN 24-26 Stand B71 New York FEB 13-16 Booth 1366 Contact the for details. UL and the UL logo are trademarks of UL LLC Š 2015.

OUTside the box

CHILD’S PLAY. SERIOUS LEARNING. by TED MININNI, president and director, Design Force

SURVEYS? FOCUS GROUPS? STUDYING consumer decision-making processes is how most companies get their marketing information. But Lego does things differently. It studies what consumers do, not what they say. Lego has a marketing department that functions more like a team of anthropologists under the auspices of the Lego Foundation, the largest private researcher of play that operates on a global scale. The Lego brand has experienced an incredible trajectory of growth, quadrupling its sales over the past decade and bypassing Mattel last year as the No.1 toymaker in the world. Lego has always been known for its operating efficiencies, logistics, and manufacturing capabilities. However, the primary reason for its growth is that the company is a marketing dynamo, deeply tapping into what kids and their parents want and respond to. Lego marketers understand how and why kids play. They go as far as deploying MRI imagery to peek into kids’ brains as they

play to see how different parts of the brain light up as children play with different kinds of toys. Lego marketing sleuths also study kids’ interactions with their parents and the social aspects of their life and culture, giving Lego unique insights that helps the brand build meaningful experiences while developing and enhancing skill sets with their product lines.


Lego found that children are most engaged when they work to master a skill, as they do while learning how to build with Lego bricks. Lego’s philosophy, “The joy of building and the pride of creation,” is embodied in every product the brand creates. Remember being a kid and feeling that sense of accomplishment when you built something and then took it apart to build some-


thing else? Lego also encourages today’s kids to share their creations with their friends in the real world as well as in the virtual world using social media. Lego’s ethos is cleverly manifested in The Lego Movie, inspiring kids to march to the beat of their own drum. Lego encourages kids to build, tear down, and develop their own unique ideas.


Parents are thrilled when their kids learn under the guise of play. Playing with Lego blocks helps kids master social skills and creative skills. Moreover, Lego play doesn’t involve a tablet or smartphone until kids are ready to share their creations with the world. When parents participate in their kids’ building projects, there is great value in that interaction. As children get older, more challenging Lego kits encourage group play. As a result, deeper trust and friendships develop. Children learn social and verbal skills necessary for problem solving, cooperation, and communication. Plus, they learn how to approach tasks and generate new ideas, and because Lego play involves

OUTSIDE THE BOX an understanding of spatial relationships and basic mathematics, they gain core knowledge through hands-on problem solving. Insightful parents see the development of these core skills in their children, making it easy for them to approve of toys and play that make this possible.


The world’s best brands do more than just sell products. The Lego Foundation published an interesting op-ed piece that made a startling observation: “A nation with some of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world houses a college-educated population that significantly underperforms in the areas of literacy, numeracy, and problem solving. Where does the problem start?” This analysis challenges conventional wisdom by questioning whether the rush to teach more at an early age is preventing young children from developing the skills that bolster literacy, numeracy, and problem solving. At the Lego Idea Conference, an annual conference held in Billund (Denmark), exploring solutions that promote a wide range of skills, including working memory, is on the top of the agenda. Working memory refers to the processes that are used to temporarily store, organize, and manipulate information. According to the American Psychological Association, individuals who can retain more information in their minds are equipped to consider different angles of a complex problem simultaneously. Lego collaborates with a global network of academics and experts in the field of child development to study the transformative power of play, which can help develop societies prepared to accommodate technological change and globalization.

improving their language skills. Kids use a writing inspiration wheel and then build minifigures, animals, and accessories using basic bricks and building plates. The Story Visualizer software helps them capture their creations and digitally publish their stories to share it with their friends. After students learn how to use the storyboards that teach a range of educational topics, including history, people and places, and scientists and explorers, kids are encouraged to create their own storyboards for The Lego Movie sequel. There’s plenty to get kids excited while enjoying the


Parents have struggled with keeping older kids excited about learning for years. Then, along came Lego MindStorms Education EV3, a program that uses basic robotics technology to engage middle school students. It controls motors and sensors and provides Wi-Fi and Bluetooth communication. The set improves kids’ STEM skills in a fun way. Collaboration, problem-solving skills, and sharing information are natural elements of the program, as is creative, hands-on work. Teachers report that students’ engagement is far greater with this approach to problem solving than it could ever be with pencil and paper. The Lego set configuration is optimized for use in the classroom, after school programs, and competitions.



Most of us are familiar with Lego’s large collection of consumer-packaged toys, including co-branded sets featuring some of the world’s most loved licensed brands. But Lego is also working with educators to address skills that kids need to acquire in the educational system, beginning with preschool and progressing through high school. One special kit designed for students in grades 2 to 5 is the StoryStarter Core Set, which engages kids to read and write by

the computer will make writing as enjoyable as TV time and free play. Mathematical concepts are often hard for young children to grasp because many of them are conceptual. In order to help kids with the problem-solving process, Lego’s MoreToMath resource utilizes the familiar Lego brick and MathBuilder interactive Whiteboard software to make abstract math tangible and problem solving easier.

Top to Bottom: a scene from The Lego Movie; Lego Chain Reactions, Lego MindStorms Education EV3; using Lego in robotics

process of learning at the same time. Since kids are familiar with Legos and love to play with them, school learning becomes a fun extension of in-home learning. One teacher pointed out how the combination of traditional tactile building and story creation on

Lego continues to pioneer toys that teach and delight. One new product released at the beginning of 2015, Lego Chain Reactions, uses more than 30 essential Lego elements to design and build moving machines. Each machine is awesome by itself, but when put together generates incredible chain reactions. A team of Lego experts worked with educators and 11 year olds to invent the machines. Physics as fun—how cool is that? Lego believes in building the future of kids and not just sales figures. The larger question is, how can the Lego approach inspire more brands to pioneer new ways and products to combine play with learning tools that are necessary for children to be successful in their lives? » As president and creative director of Design Force Inc., Ted Mininni sets the standard for research and design development for the consultancy, while guiding his team to achieve their clients’ goals through expert creative strategies.


what’s new

Cuddle+Kind: Plush Dolls on a Mission to Feed the World Cuddle + Kind are handmade, socially conscious knit dolls on a mission to feed hungry children all over the world. Created by Jennifer and Derek Woodgate, each knit doll is made from non-toxic, natural cotton and hand embroidered with rosy cheeks and smiling faces. The dolls are made by Peruvian artists who receive a sustainable fair trade income. Available in nine stylish varieties, including penguins, mermaids, cats, rabbits, and deer, each Cuddle + Kind purchase gives 10 meals to a child in need through the World Food Program USA and the Children’s Hunger Fund, working toward a goal to provide 1 million meals a year to children in need.

Playmobil, NHL Partner for Hockey-Themed Sets

Laser Pegs Launches New Light-Up Building Concepts

Playmobil has partnered with the National Hockey League for the toy company’s first line of licensed play sets in North America. The NHL-inspired line will first focus on the Original Six franchises, which include the Boston Bruins, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Detroit Red Wings, the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Rangers, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. A full assortment of accompanying play sets, including a full NHL Hockey Arena with a scorekeeper, a Zamboni ice resurfacing machine, NHL referees, and the Stanley Cup Trophy, are sold separately to help kids bring the action of hockey season to life.

Laser Pegs Ventures introduces two new concepts in Laser Pegs toys: The Lava Peg Power Base and the Light Up Pull Back Motor. The Lava Peg Power Base, which is compatible with all major brick construction brands, has a tube filled with colorful, bubbly, child-safe liquid at its core that brings an exciting addition to kids’ favorite brick construction sets. The Lava Peg features a rechargeable USB battery. The Light Up Pull Back Motor is included with the new Rally Cars Pull Back Runner kit. Kids can pull the model back, let it go, and watch it zoom. Laser Pegs also expanded its product line with 17 new kits. Nine kits were added to the Laser Pegs Zippy Do Collection, including a train, a tank, and a space set. Eight kits were added to the Core Line, including mini trucks, motorcycles, and an air show set.




Trademark Law and Intent-to-Use

by HOWARD N. ARANSON, managing director, Lackenbach Siegel LLC WHEN A LIGHT BULB GOES ON and your company comes up with a great idea for a new product or service, whether it’s a video game, a toy tank, or a doll, you may have a name or a trademark in mind long before the product hits the shelves. Trademark law recognizes the need to protect your embryonic idea from competitors at early stages of the product cycle. But you cannot just reserve a trademark— you have to actually use it on a product to secure rights. The trademark law allows for an intent-to-use application. And if your trademark application is successful, you can wait up to three years after you receive notice that the trademark has been allowed before launching that product in the market. However, you may fail to gain trademark protection if it can be shown that your company never intended to sell the trademarked product or service—which recently happened to the company that applied for the trademark iWatch for watches.


What is a bona fide intention to use a trademark? It’s unfortunate that trademark owners and would-be trademark owners don’t get a lot of guidance (other than some general statements) from the Patent and Trademark Office regarding reasons to support extensions of time to file a statement of actual use after the office has allowed the trademark: product or service research or development, market research, manu-

facturing activities, promotional activities, steps to acquire distributors, steps to obtain governmental approval, or other similar activities. Nevertheless, it isn’t clear that any of those activities are required at the time of application. When you file an intent-to-use trademark application, you are asserting that your company is working toward bringing its product or service to market. And, if challenged, you must be able to demonstrate that you intended­— as of the date of the application—to use the mark at a later date.

That means you have to actually do something—probably spend money to take steps such as conduct research, launch marketing, or put manufacturing capability in place— to show that you plan to use the mark in commerce. In other words, you must intend to use the mark and not merely reserve a right to use it. You have to demonstrate work in progress on levels of research, development, manufacturing, or marketing. Even vaporware might qualify: advertised but not yet available to buy, either because it’s just a concept (at least in some demonstrable form such as a drawing or plan) or because it is in the process of being written or designed. No matter what, you cannot register a trademark without intending to use that trademark for a specific product or service.


In the iWatch case, the court found no evidence of a bona fide intent to use the mark on the part of the applicant (Berger &


Co). As a result, the iWatch mark was refused registration. The court affirmed the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB, which decides trademark opposition and cancellation proceedings), which had found for the competitor watch company Swatch, even though the board saw no likelihood of confusion between Swatch’s marks and the iWatch. The court was never confused about the issue because it agreed that Berger Co. never intended to use the iWatch mark. Because the company in the iWatch case apparently did not consult IP counsel before filing its intentto-use application, the company may not have fully understood its legal requirements. The IP counsel reviewing the application could have explained the law and advised the company of its responsibilities. That is probably why the iWatch company’s president and the only witness designated to speak for the company in the case testified,“I think that I came up with the mark because of the advent of technology and information gathering around the globe over the last I guess few years. I thought that if we decided to do either a technology watch or information watch or something that would have that type of characteristics that would be a good mark for it.” Wrong answer! The application should not have been filed until the company had already decided to produce and market a product. Then the issue may have been how and when sales would begin, but not if the company would even decide to begin the process. Reserving a spot for speculative use, and not following up with the proper legal steps, can lead to trouble.


The same result followed a 2009 opposition to an application for the Black Mail trademark for computer software on grounds of likelihood of confusion with the BlackBerry mark—and of the applicant’s lack of bona fide intent to use the mark. The TTAB said, “that applicant’s CEO, believed Black Mail to be a good mark for future use does not establish a bona fide intent to use.” The iWatch application faced another problem—a laundry list of goods, such as watches, clocks, cases, hands, dials for clocks and watches, watch-bands, straps, boxes, clasps, and fobs. That was a tip-off that the company probably didn’t really intend to use the mark on all those goods. The overly broad description of the goods helped open the application to attack. The IP counsel could have advised the company on how to limit its application—to seek protection for the iWatch trademark for products that it was actually contemplating. It may have been unrealistic even to begin rough plans for all the listed goods—whether or not some of the plans may have reached fruition. With the help of IP counsel, the company may have been better able to set business priorities and allocate resources so that the products with the best chance of a launch within a few years would make the list of goods. Instead, when asked during the trademark opposition if there were products other than watches for which the company planned to use the mark iWatch, the owner answered, “No.” Asked specifically whether or not the company expected the iWatch mark to be used for clocks and personal care products, the owner again answered, “No.” In fact, the employee who filed the application testified that the owner had instructed that the application be filed for watches and clocks only. The employee stated that the

application was filed with the lengthy list of related products because it was “standard” and was used “to leave all doors open.” Wrong answer again. A review of the application by IP counsel could have avoided listing goods for which there was clearly no intent to use the applied-for trademark.


Finally, the Berger Co.’s evidence that it was making plans to use the mark for actual products—emails that forwarded the images of watches and a clock bearing the mark— were created only in response to a request from the trademark office. The images had been created only a few days before they were submitted to the trademark office as evidence of intent. So the images weren’t legally acceptable evidence of Berger’s planning process for trademarking its products.


The missteps related to the Berger Co.’s testimony are only symptoms of the underlying problem: lack of legal advice. It’s important to consult IP counsel early in the product development cycle when planning to seek trademark protection. You need to think through the trademark application with legal advice and to formulate a plan, which could be subject to change, and how it will eventually use the trademark on specific products. Then, if you want to register a trademark, you should take the first steps toward executing the plan. Otherwise, you may be deemed to have intended to reserve a trademark, instead of intending to use it. »

Howard N. Aronson has for the past 30 years provided legal counsel to toy industry companies. He is the managing partner of Lackenbach Siegel LLP, an intellectual property law firm recognized for its nine decades of handling toy company.

HOW THE LAW WAS CHANGED Before 1988, trademark law required an applicant to be using the mark in commerce at the time of the application’s filing to qualify for trademark registration. That’s because trademark rights in the U.S. are based on the commerce clause. First use—not filing date—determines who owns the mark. So filing a trademark application alone does not create trademark rights. In fact, you can own a trademark without ever registering it at all, as long as you are using the mark in commerce. (Not a good idea, though. Because it’s usually much more difficult and expensive to enforce an unregistered trademark than a registered trademark.) Under the pre-1988 law, which required evidence of use at the time of the trademark application, application, applicants applicants often often trademark presented token use—a minimal use of presented token use—a minimal use of the trademark for the specific purpose of the trademark for the specific purpose of securing rights before the product or sersecuring rights before the product or service had had entered entered the the market. market. Congress Congress dedevice cided that this system was unfair, because cided that this system was unfair, because for some some industries, industries, such such as as aviation, aviation, token token for use was impossible. In addition, the pracuse was impossible. In addition, the practice of of minimal minimal use use to to secure secure trademark trademark tice rights resulted in the Trademark Office rights resulted in the Trademark Office registering many trademarks that were registering many trademarks that were never used beyond the initial token use. never used beyond the initial token use. In 1988, Congress revised the trademark In 1988, Congress revised the trademark law to to allow allow intent-to-use intent-to-use applications. applications. law Applicants were no longer required to to Applicants were no longer required demonstrate use of the trademark before demonstrate use of the trademark before applying, but but only only had had to to declare declare a a bona bona applying, fide intent to use the trademark. fide intent to use the trademark. As the the 1988 1988 House HouseReport Reportstated, stated,“The As “The use of the term ‘bona fide’ is meant use of the term ‘bona fide’ is meant to to eliminate such ‘token use’ and to eliminate such ‘token use’ and to require, require, on an objective view of based onbased an objective view of the circumthe circumstances, a good faith intenstances, a good faith intention to eventutionuse to eventually theand mark in a real ally the mark inuse a real legitimate and legitimate commercial sense.” commercial sense.” That means that That your means thatintent your company’s intent must company’s must be demonstrable be demonstrable and subjective more thanbelief. a mere and more than a mere subjective belief. Or, as the leading tradeOr, as the leading trademark authority put mark authority put it, “Congress did not it, “Congress did not intend the issue to intend the issue to be resolved simply by be resolved simply by an officer of the apan officer of the applicant later testifying, plicant later testifying, ‘Yes, indeed, at the ‘Yes, indeed, at the time we filed that time we filed that application, I did truly application, I did truly intend to use the intend to use the mark at some time in the mark at some time in the future.’” While future.’” While the trademark examiner will the trademark examiner will not cross-exnot cross-examine your intentions set forth amine your intentions set forth in your in your application, your competitors just application, your competitors just might.


International Toy INDUSTRY

India, a Growing Toy Manufacturing Hub by STEVE REECE, CEO, Kids Brand Insight

THE TOY INDUSTRY HAS A LOOMING, brooding, large-scale challenge ahead. For decades we have relied primarily on China for toy products. China has been very competitive in terms of pricing for a long time, but the ability to offer the lowest price is under threat due to rising labor costs. As the Chinese economy shifts away from a manufacturing base to a services base (as is usual when a market economy matures), the toy industry needs to consider what Plan B might be. The vast amount of knowledge, experience, and capacity in China is a huge strength for the global toy industry, and as such I am certainly not making a ridiculous apocalyptic suggestion relating to future prospects for toy manufacturing in China. China is here to stay as a major part of our supply chain, for decades to come at the very least. The challenge is that we operate in an industry where pricing for long-standing traditional toy formats has hardly increased in decades. When I look at today’s prices for board games or action figures, they are not very different from the prices of these types of products in the 1980s. The reason for this is the tremendous advancement in the manufacturing and design engineering processes, combined with China’s long-standing cost advantage. So if we look forward to a scenario where the “engine” of toy manufacturing is no longer able to supply us at the prices we have become accustomed to for toys and games, what can we do about it? I’m increasingly seeing India as the only possible Plan B. There are several reasons for this. First, India has a huge population with a large number of people for whom factory work would be considered attractive. In fact, of all the other Asian countries currently being considered as potential toy manufacturing hubs, none has the potential scale of

India. I’ve seen commentary on Thailand and Vietnam as potential toy manufacturing hubs, but these countries simply don’t have the potential scale of workforce as India. Thailand has a population of approximately 67 million and Vietnam’s population is approximately 90 million. India’s vast population of 1.25 billion dwarfs that of Thailand and Vietnam, and is not far from China’s 1.35 billion people. Second, India has a vast engineering and manufacturing industry, al-

beit currently focused on other categories such as automotive and raw materials. However, don’t think for a minute that the existing manufacturing industries in India are in any way second rate. Car brands that have manufacturing facilities in India include Ford, Hyundai, Renault, Nissan, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, and General Motors. JCB alone has six manufacturing plants in India. So India is already a massive manufacturing hub, with vast experience and expertise in mass-market manufacturing of products that are much more complicated than toys, and have


equally or more exacting safety standards. In my view, this existing capability need only be pointed in the direction of toys to make a significant contribution to global capacity. Third, as India’s domestic toy market grows, so inevitably will demand for local production and investment in local production. There is no doubt of course that India has many challenges in terms of being a developing country. Infrastructure is not uniformly to the standard we would expect in the West, but my research and travels in India make me firmly of the belief that there are some highend facilities in India manufacturing large quantities of comparatively complicated toy products for leading global and international toy companies, but up to now, this has been a little bit of a secret. There are some Indian factories with ICTI certification and other important certifications. For now, however, the issue is capacity. While in theory you can get high-quality plastic toys manufactured in India right now—and due to lower labor costs (around 50 percent less than China) you should be able to save money—the reality is that there are currently only so many factories with high-end capabilities and certifications. And these factories are already working to the extent of their capacity while investing heavily in expansion. So if your company is considering moving manufacturing facilities to India, you may need to secure capacity sooner rather than later! » Steve Reece is the CEO of Kids Brand Insight, a consultancy to the global toy industry offering export sales; factory finding in China, India, and beyond; and consumer testing on toys and games.

create visibility ITMA Presidents: Lena Hedö Lek & Babyrevyn, Sweden e-mail: Telephone: +46 70 590 77 33 Reyne Rice Toy Trends, USA e-mail: Telephone: +1 631 335 5917

Belgium: Kids Universe China: Toys & Hobby Finland: Lelukauppias Germany: das spielzeug Japan: Weekly Toy News Netherlands: Speelgoed en Hobby Norway: Baby, Hobby & Leketøy Poland: Świat Zabawek Spain: Juguetes B2B Sweden: Lek & Babyrevyn United Kingdom: Toys ‘n’ Playthings USA: The Toy Book

Create Visibility in the Leading Toy Trade Magazines!

International Toy Industry


by EMILI ALSINA, publisher, Juguetes B2B THE 14TH CHINA TOY EXPO TOOK PLACE October 20 to 22 in Shanghai, alongside the China Kids Expo and China Licensing Expo. China Toy & Juvenile Products Association (CTJPA) organized the event, which gave Juguetes B2B professional toy media in Spain and members of the International Toy Magazine Association (ITMA) the opportunity to visit the annual toy fair. More than 200,000 items from more than 1,400 companies were shown at China Toy Expo throughout the event’s seven pavilions. Eighty-seven percent of the companies in attendance were Chinese manufacturers, covering a variety of product categories, including stuffed animals, dolls, wooden toys, remote control toys, hobby items, games, puzzles, sports and outdoor toys, party goods, and more. The two product categories with the most growth in 2015 were stuffed animals and outdoor equipment, which increased

their presence by 60 percent and 30 percent, respectively. International exhibitors included Spanish company Injusa, as well as world toy leaders Mattel, Lego, Hasbro, VTech, Simba Group, Hape, Haba, Maisto, and Jakks Pacific. Licensed products are still emerging in the toy industry in China, with Asian brands such as Doraemon and Hello Kitty leading the way, while global properties such as Peppa Pig and Minions were present across multiple categories at the expo. The Chinese market is completely unique due to its geographical size, volume of consumer input, and socio-cultural characteristics. The amount of competition in the Chinese toy space is dizzying, so having a leading international brand is a valuable asset, granting exclusivity and a great competitive advantage. Despite fierce competition, the Chinese toy market is very attractive and

allows for unparalleled growth compared with other economically mature Western markets. Companies looking to break into China must first decide how to enter the market: with a subsidiary or through a distributor. At China Toy Expo, some toy companies elected to use distributors that represent a variety of manufacturers. Distributors offer deep knowledge of the domestic rules of each country, providing both operational support as well as marketing intelligence, since they are tuned into the consumers’ needs as well as their preferences. Alternatively, some companies elect to create a subsidiary. The introduction of a subsidiary in major provinces and cities, such as Shanghai and Beijing, is a typical method of gaining entry into a new region. Manufacturers must consider a localized branding strategy for the retail and consumer channels. Local socio-cultural aspects and market dimension complexities are added challenges in the development of the regionalized business. One of the first things to consider, however, is obtaining all the certifications that Chinese regulations require. The China toy market requires persistence and patience, as well as a medium spend and a long-term investment if you’re looking to build a business and a brand in this space. China Toy Expo is a great place to learn more about the unique opportunities the Chinese market has to offer. In order to increase its number of exhibitors and exhibition space, the next China Toy Expo, China Kids Expo, and China Licensing Expo will take place October 19 to 21 at the Shanghai New International Expo Center. » Emili Alsina is owner of Ediciones Just, a media company in Barcelona, Spain, which publishes Juguetes B2B, Puericultura Market, and Licencias Actualidad. He founded the company in 1989.

China Toy Expo showfloor



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:

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 and TJ Maxx, • 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, Party City, National Wholesale, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Steven’s Intl., TRU Express and NY area Supermarket Chains. • MID-LANTIC…Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Western Ohio. Accounts…Rite Aid Drug, Group Sales, Boscov’s, Omni Global, 5 Below, Dollar Tree, Variety Wholesale and Big Lots. • K mart USA // JC Penney Catalog // Universal Studios Orlando // Gordman’s // Target and Walmart • CANADA…Walmart, Toys R Us, Canadian Tire and Costco We employ a staff of 5 toy sales specialists. Our contact information is listed on our above shown letterhead. We welcome your inquiries.


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In May of 1995, Nintendo announced the completion of the final chipset for its Nintendo Ultra-64 system. The company plans to launch the 64-bit platform in April of ‘96 in North America and Europe, along with a number of games exclusive to Nintendo.


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