September/October 2015

Page 1

Vol. 31, No. 5

September/October 2015


uring the first seven months of this year, sales for the U.S. toy industry reached $7.85 billion, a 7 percent increase over the $7.34 billion generated over the same time period last year. The NPD Group estimates the industry will be up 6 percent, or $1.16 billion, for the full year. What is driving this growth? Several factors are in play, the most notable being retailer ingenuity and the healthy gains of licensed toys. The combination of these two could easily make 2015 one of the best years the U.S. toy industry has seen in more than a decade.

page 79

Emerging Toy Trends for 2016

Featuring: Science Toys

From left to right: i-loom, Wooky Entertainment; Nerf ReconDrone, Sakar; Emojibot, WowWee; Stealth, Laser Pegs; SteelWorks, Schylling Toys; Adora Fairy, Adora

in this issue September/October 2015

D 18 20 22 23 24 26 28 96 98

112 114


F eatures

Licensed Toys Will Soar in Q4


Toy Sales Continue to Climb

Editor’s Viewpoint Industry Update

Licensed toys continue to experience healthy gains.


The Toy Insider’s Sweet Suite 15

Emerging Toy Trends for 2016

Announcing the 2015 Toy Insider Gift Guide

Reyne Rice offers a snapshot of what we can expect as 2016 approaches.


TIA Perspectives

Fall Toy Preview TIA Happenings Stat Shot


A look at what’s on display at the TIA’s long-lead trade show

These toy services bring fun by the boxful to subscribers.

Talking Social Media

Celebrating 75 Years of the Creative Arts Marketplace

Raising the Bar

CHA MEGA show turns innovations and inventiveness into business opportunities.

Industry Marketplace Flashback: September 1995



The big show that fulfills your yearround Halloween and party needs

Specialty Toys & Gifts


A Conversation with Kathleen McHugh, Outgoing President of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association


Spielwarenmesse 2016


More than just toys

Halloween & Party Expo


Toying with Convenience

Finding the Right Factories


Published by Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.®

Volume 31, Number 5 P UBLISHER Jonathan Samet E DITOR - IN -C HIEF Jackie Breyer S ENIOR E DITORS Marissa DiBartolo Ali Mierzejewski A SSOCIATE E DITOR Phil Guie A SSISTANT E DITOR Varuni Sinha A SSISTANT V ISUAL M EDIA E DITOR Joe Ibraham E DITORIAL A SSISTANT Magdalene Michalik P RODUCTION D IRECTOR Bill Reese C ONTROLLER /O FFICE M ANAGER Lori Rubin E DITORIAL I NTERN Melanie Rainone U.S. Corporate Headquarters Laurie Schacht, President

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

Seven steps to help you find the right supplier



Member, International Toy Magazine Association The Toy Book Volume 31, Number 5 THE TOY BOOK (ISSN-0885-3991) is published bi-monthly by Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® Editorial and advertising offices are located at 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, NY 10001, Phone (212) 575-4510. Periodicals Postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Copyright © 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.



Looking Ahead

to 2016


he NPD Group, among other toy analyst groups, is predicting a healthier than usual year for the toy industry, with sales more than 6 percent higher than last year. This seems to be due in part to a healthy licensed product category, with everyone eager for Star Wars: Episode VII and the associated licensed consumer products. As we embark on a busy—and hopefully more profitable than usual—fourth quarter, we must simultaneously look ahead to 2016. While all signs indicate that Star Wars will bump up toy sales this season, we’re predicting an arc similar to that of Disney Frozen, meaning that 2016 will be a pretty good one for Star Wars as well. With key products from Hasbro, Thinkway Toys, and Sphero leading the charge, it looks like the Force will be with the toy industry for quite awhile. However, there’s more to toys than Star Wars (gasp!). We’ve seen some hot trends move to the forefront this year, and they will continue to be important in 2016. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) products have emerged as key items of interest this year, and will continue to play a lead role as consumers place increased emphasis on educational play. As we’ve noted throughout the year, a special emphasis on STEM toys for girls has stolen the spotlight, particularly in the construction, science, and engineering categories. This year also saw an emphasis on breaking down gender barriers in the toy aisle, despite some outspoken consumers saying they couldn’t possibly decide which toys to buy for a girl unless the aisles were colored pink. Target was a leader in this movement, and stands by its choice. The Toy Book, along with our consumer toy outlet, the Toy Insider, are fully supportive of this movement. As a mother of a son who will push a baby doll in a stroller as eagerly as he will crash trucks, and a daughter who loves bugs and building




blocks as much as she does Shopkins, I’m certain of my stance that kids should be treated as individuals, not as classified beings of a particular gender or stereotype. Other trends we expect to carry into 2016 include continued strength in the toys-to-life category, even smarter toys that can talk back and respond to kids’ words and actions, and more toys that allow for customization and creativity. For more trends coming our way next year, check out Reyne Rice’s article on page 32. Tweet me @JackieBreyer with your feedback. I’d love to hear from you! ■

“It just doesn’t seem as though the Force is with this Yoda bobblehead doll.” ©2015 Jonny Hawkins




TIA AND LEFTFIELD MEDIA TO PRODUCE CONSUMER EVENT DURING NEW YORK TOY FAIR Play Fair—“a celebration of play and entertainment for all ages”—will bring new and beloved toy and pop culture brands together under one roof this February for an interactive live event open to families, collectors, and media. Powered by the Toy Industry Association (TIA) and LeftField Media, Play Fair will take place Saturday, February 13 and Sunday, February 14 at New York City’s Javits Center North. At the heart of Play Fair will be immersive, rewarding experiences, allowing the public to touch, feel, and interact with their favorite toys, games, and entertainment brands. Fans of all ages will experience toy reveals, photo ops, character interactions, stage performances, author readings, celebrity signings, live music, and giveaways. Retail areas will allow attendees to purchase show exclusives, limited-edition products, and rare variants of beloved toys and games. The inaugural Play Fair is timed and co-located with the 113th edition of TIA’s North American International Toy Fair. Play Fair will be headquartered inside New York’s Javits Center and will turn all of Manhattan into a giant “game board,” encouraging attendees to visit various iconic New York institutions and landmarks and unlock Play Fair discounts, exclusives, and rewards. For more information, visit


ASTRA NAMES KIMBERLY MOSLEY PRESIDENT Kimberly Mosley, MBA, CAE has been appointed president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), its board of directors announced. ASTRA conducted a nationwide search to fill the position that was held by previous president, Kathleen McHugh. Mosley comes to ASTRA from the American College of Healthcare Executives. She will assume the role of president on September 28.

BANANAGRAMS NAMED NORTH AMERICAN DISTRIBUTOR FOR CROWD-SOURCED TRIVIA GAME, LINKEE Bananagrams Inc. will handle North American distribution for Linkee, a crowd-sourced tabletop trivia game for families. Linkee challenges players to answer four questions and spot the link between the answers faster than the opposing teams. Teams that get it right win a letter, and whoever collects enough letters to spell “Linkee” wins the game. More than one-third of the cards are user-generated, with contributors getting their name on the card, as well as a free game in the mail. There is a question on every card that someone can answer, regardless of their age or generation. A Linkee app is also available for download for iPhone and Android users online at

JAKKS PACIFIC SIGNS ON FOR MAKE IT POP Through a deal with DHX Brands, Jakks Pacific will serve as the master toy licensee for the TV show Make It Pop for all territories outside of Europe. Jakks Pacific’s licensed products will include dolls, plush, dress-up, role-play, girls’ electronic toys, and Halloween costumes, which are expected to launch next year. Make It Pop

Get the latest toy industry news delivered straight to your inbox each week for free! Subscribe to The Toy Book’s Toy Report. Send an email request to, and add that address to your address book to ensure delivery. For up-to-the-minute news, follow The Toy Book on Twitter:, and like The Toy Book on Facebook: Visit our blog at


sweet suite 15 Takes Over NYC


he Toy Insider’s sixth annual Sweet Suite event took place on July 16 at Pier Sixty in New York City. Known as The

Biggest Night of Play, the event welcomed more than 400 influential bloggers and vloggers and more than 100 members

of traditional media to connect with the best toy companies in advance of the hol-

iday shopping season. Sweet Suite was the feature event at the second annual Blogger Bash, a two-day conference for experienced digital influencers featuring parties, exhibitions, and speed pitching sessions. Blogger Bash attendees were welcomed into high-energy party atmospheres, giving them a chance to have fun while mingling with brands in a professional yet inviting setting. During 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. Robotic pets zoomed around the floor, streams of bubbles filled the air, and LED lights winked throughout the venue as the sun set on the Hudson River. The night gave digital influencers and members of the press a chance to meet old and new friends while sipping on strawberry mojitos, feasting on chocolate covered bacon, and—best of all—playing with toys before they even hit the market. Enormous swag boxes were shipped directly to attendees’ homes after the event, sparking a resurgance in social media impressions, and ensuring bloggers and journalists had products readily on-hand to review and share with their followers. #SweetSuite15 generated more than 95 million Twitter impressions, more than 8,000 original Instagram photos, and hundreds of blog post recaps. The Toy Insider will return to New York City on October 16 for the HoliDAY of Play, and plans are already underway for Sweet Suite 16. If you’re interested in learning more about these events, contact Laurie Schacht at




10 YEARS! The Toy Insider Returns for Tenth Annual Holiday Gift Guide


dventure Publishing Group Inc., publisher of The Toy Book and The Licensing Book, has once again partnered with Woman’s Day magazine to bring consumers the Toy Insider, a holiday gift guide featuring the hottest toys and gifts for the holiday season. The tenth annual edition of the Toy Insider will appear in the November issue of Woman’s Day. The Toy Insider features expert toy and gift recommendations at all price points, making it easy for gift-givers to find the perfect product for every child on their list. The Toy Insider team has spent the past year reviewing and evaluating all of the latest toys to identify the most compelling and hottest new products to help gift-givers get an early start on their holiday shopping. Jam-packed with more than 140 toy recommendations from more than 80 different manufacturers, the Toy Insider is a convenient and user-friendly guide that includes gift ideas broken down by age group (0-2 years old, 3-5 years old, 6-8 years old, and 9-plus). Each section features a description of the developmental needs and interests for that specific age group to assist busy parents and grandparents in finding the perfect gift. In addition to the annual Hot 20 list of the hottest toys that will top wish lists nationwide, the Toy Insider also released the Top Tech 12, and the first-ever STEM 10, which is a list of the best educational toys teaching kids the basics of science, technology, engineering, and math. Garnering millions of consumer impressions last year, in outlets such as the Today show, the Wendy Williams show, ABC News Now, Fox News, Bloomberg News, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, AOL, and BusinessWeek, the Toy Insider is again poised to make a splash with national and local print, broadcast, and online media outlets this holiday season. In addition to the print guide, consumers can find full product reviews, exciting giveaways, and gift-giving tips on For more information about the Toy Insider, including how to participate in next year’s guide, please contact Jonathan Samet or Laurie Schacht at (212) 575-4510. For updates on the Toy Insider, follow @thetoyinsider on Twitter, like the Toy Insider on, and visit ■

as seen on




Toy Industry Association

TIA President

A Note from the by:


President & CEO, Toy Industry Association


ith the summer months behind us, we at the Toy Industry Association are focusing our attention on ensuring a productive and energetic Fall Toy Preview event in Dallas, and ramping up efforts to support our members’ success as we enter the crucial fourth quarter.

Fall Toy Preview First, on the topic of Fall Toy Preview: Over the past several years, this event has sparked considerable discussion among many in the industry. With the 2015 show now upon us, I thought it would be an opportune time to give you some insight into the future of the event. In 2014, TIA’s Tradeshow Committee, comprised of executives from a range of member sizes and types, was tasked with a 10-year review of Fall Toy Preview to determine whether the current timing, location, and event strategy position the show for success in the short- and long-term. A series of oneon-one and broader participant surveys were conducted, subcommittee members were presented with alternate sites, and date options were explored at hotels, gift marts, and convention centers, along with rental fees and ancillary costs. There was significant discussion, productive debate, and calls to weigh options and find the best fit. As a result, the committee


narrowed its analysis to Dallas and Los Angeles. Finding available venues in LA for 2016 and 2017 became an insurmountable challenge, along with concerns about the ability to successfully co-exist with the California-based toy preview activity that already takes place. In April, the Tradeshow Committee came to a consensus proposal. The TIA Board supported the committee’s recommendation that the event remain in Dallas—with a commitment to strengthen the show based on what we learned from our members. We learned that TIA’s Fall Toy Preview does indeed work well for a large segment of the toy industry. Certainly, it can and will be strengthened, but it became equally clear that it’s not a onesize-fits-all event that’s right for each and every member— and that’s okay. Dallas skyline at night Fall Toy Preview Photo credit: Matt Pasant provides selling opportunities for more than 300 lines. First and foremost, we must continue to deliver great value by connecting key buyers with these vendors in the most efficient, timely, and economical manner possible. That was the guidance when we first launched this event 10 years ago and that commitment remains today. Rather than moving out of Dallas, we’ve learned that a refreshed strategy focused on delivering value to all stakehold-


ers will better serve this concentrated group of vendors. There are major and minor changes that will allow us to do just that. Attendees have spoken and they say: “Show us what you’ve got!” In response, we are continuing to de-emphasize the “closed booth” format. We’re encouraging exhibitors to keep a portion of their space visible for window shopping to let buyers know that walk-ins are welcome. We are also incorporating value-added activities to the event, such as programs, speakers, and workshops. Garnering enhanced media coverage is another priority and an opportunity to highlight the current selling season and fourth quarter timing of Fall Toy Preview. I write this on the eve of Fall Toy Preview ’15, knowing that we’ve made moves to strengthen the show. We’ve added more open booth designs, have actively solicited buyers across a broader spectrum of retail outlets, and enhanced the event with more opportunities to sell, learn, and network. We’re excited that Mark Cuban will give a keynote address at the Women in Toys Empowerment Day on Monday, October 5. On October 6, the toy associations of Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. will meet to discuss ways to work together more strategically to capitalize on the opportunities valuable to the North American toy industry. Then, on the morning of Wednesday, October 7, Martyn Tipping, CEO of StoryScore, will deliver Fall Toy Preview’s keynote address: “How to Tell if Your Toy/Game Brand’s Social Media Strategy is Really Working.” (For an overview on this topic, see Tipping’s article on page 96.) And our annual Opening Night Party, to benefit the Toy Industry Foundation, will give buyers, licensors, exhibitors, and the whole range of Fall Toy Preview attendees a chance to unwind and mingle in a fun-filled atmosphere. It will certainly be a busy time in Dallas. To all, I send best wishes for a successful show.

Safety And now I’ll turn to the ongoing discussion of safety. I have been impressed by our members’ unrelenting commitment to product safety and responsible business practices. There are simply no margins in unsafe toys. However, year after year, our industry must battle against an onslaught of untrue and sensationalized media statements and accusations about the safety of toys, especially during the holiday season. These false reports about toy safety have even sparked a number of needless new regulatory laws in states and counties across the nation. Over the past few years, TIA has increased its efforts to educate journalists, government officials, and consumers about


the rigorous safety standards and tests that all toys must undergo before being placed on store shelves. I’d like to share with you a few of our activities in this area. We recently launched a new consumer website,, to educate families on safe play and help them understand the difference between toy safety facts and toy safety myths. This site is an important resource not only for parents, but also for any consumer or reporter who might have questions about the safety of our industry’s products. We have also taken it upon ourselves to review, analyze, and/or test the toys named in supposed “toy safety reports” that consumer groups release, including the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) and Clean and Healthy New York. In the case of PIRG, we thoroughly studied their report and found that none of the listed toys were recalled by the CPSC as a result of PIRG’s findings. In reviewing Clean and Healthy New York’s report, we used an accredited third-party testing lab to test the identified toys and found that they all complied with federal toy safety standards and laws. We also discovered that some of the products named in both reports were misclassified as “toys” and, therefore, are not subject to the same tough standards as toys. We shared our findings with the media, as part of our efforts to continuously chip away at such falsehoods and educate the public about our industry’s steadfast commitment to safety. We will continue to analyze and debunk the dubious claims made in “toy safety reports” going forward. As the holiday season approaches, we will continue to aggressively promote all of the hard work that your companies put into creating safe, innovative, and wonderful products for kids. If you find your company or product(s) named in any type of consumer report or in the media, please do not hesitate to reach out to TIA’s director of strategic communications, Adrienne Appell (, for assistance. Our team can provide counsel regarding the appropriate action to take and can speak with the media directly on your behalf. The daily work at TIA never stops. Whether we are working to revamp our go-to-market events or advocating on behalf of our members, our goal is to ensure safe play for all kids and a healthy industry. I’d like to wish you all a happy and successful fourth quarter—and look forward to connecting with many of you in Dallas! ■



Toy Industry Association




Communications Specialist/Content Developer, Toy Industry Association


he Toy Industry Association (TIA) got its start on Friday, June 9, 1916, when 46 toy manufacturers gathered at the Hotel McAlpin in New York City to discuss the establishment of a trade association that would support U.S. toymakers, promote American-made products, and encourage the sale of toys year-round. They named it the Toy Manufacturers of America (TMA). Nearly 100 years later, as TIA approaches its centenary anniversary, the Association is collating and celebrating the history of TIA and the industry it has served for a century—a rich story deeply intertwined with American economics, politics, and culture. And while a lot has changed over the years, the organization’s commitment to member service, education, and philanthropy is just as strong today. TMA was formed during a time when American industry was booming, the middle-class was growing, and New York was emerging as the epicenter of the toy industry. To support the swelling domestic toy market, TMA undertook efforts following the First World War to promote American-made toys. As TMA member A.C. Gilbert said in 1919, “The word ‘toys’ does not mean ‘made in Germany.’” In the wake of World War II, TMA partnered with the American Red Cross to provide toys for impacted children, a precursor to the Toy Industry Foundation’s modern-day mission of bringing the gift of play to kids in need. In 1948, the Associ-

This fall, TIA launched its centenary celebrations with a tribute to those who contributed to the toy industry’s evolution and success. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on September 17 for the Toy Halls of Fame—an interactive exhibit of the Toy Industry Hall of Fame alongside the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong museum in Rochester, N.Y. 26 • THE TOY BOOK

ation established the American Toy Institute, which long served as TMA’s first meeting minutes from 1916 the charitable and educational arm of the industry. Through ads and annual catalogs in Life Magazine over the next decade, the Toy Institute emphasized the importance of toys and play in child development—a key message that TIA’s Genius of Play initiative closely echoes today. Over the years, TMA worked closely with government officials, medical experts, and other stakeholders to ensure toy safety and consumer protection. During the 1950s, TMA identified a need for a code of ethics in manufacturing and advertising, especially given the new marketing opportunities presented by TV. The Association celebrated in 1969 as President Nixon signed the Toy Safety Act—the first legislation specifically addressing toy safety—and in 1976 TMA led the development of the world’s first comprehensive toy safety standard. This standard (ASTM F963) became mandatory under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. In 2001, to reflect its diversifying membership base and reinforce its growing emphasis on all areas of the toy business, TMA was renamed the Toy Industry Association. “TIA has certainly evolved since its founding nearly 100 years ago, continually adapting to the changing times and its members’ business needs,” says TIA President and CEO Steve Pasierb. “We are an organization dedicated to creating membership excellence, ensuring toy safety, educating families about the essential value of play, and brightening the lives of children in need through the joy and comfort of toys.” ■ TIA will share more about the history of the Association and the toy industry throughout its centenary year through digital timelines, videos, and a special commemorative book slated for release in February—so stay tuned!




SOAR Q4 Why Licensed Toys Will IN


icensing was one of the key factors to shape toy and game sales last year, as licensed toys grew by 11 percent in the top 32 global markets. And while this growth reflects a long-term shift in the industry toward licensed products, a combination of factors made last year one of the strongest years of licensed growth to date, and will likely lead to even more profound growth in the fourth quarter. One of the biggest factors behind the robust growth of licensed toys was the number of blockbuster movies that became very popular in late 2013 through 2014. Disney Frozen, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier were some of the highest grossing movie franchises in 2013 and 2014, and created a strong base for toy sales. Toys based on this December’s highly anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens are expected to be top sellers this holiday season. Movies were not the only source of popular licenses, as TV also played a very big roll. Shows such as Adventure Time and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles remain very popular among children in many Western markets. In Japan, there was an especially strong effect from the Yo-Kai Watch franchise. Yo-Kai Watch had both TV programs and a popular video game behind it, and it quickly became the biggest selling toy brand in



MATTHEW HUDAK Research Analyst, Euromonitor International

the country. Aside from the incredible amount of available content, the growth of smartphones and tablet devices globally in the past five years has been a huge contributing factor to the rise in licensed toy sales, as these devices allow children to continually access entertainment media content and become more enthusiastic about their favorite characters. In 2014, tablets and other portable computer and smartphone unit sales posted a global growth of 53 percent and 42 percent, respectively. These current trends are expected to keep licensing very relevant to toy sales in the next few years and likely grow its influence even further. Major films are expected from the Marvel, Transformers, Disney, and DC Comics franchises. At the same time, smartphone and tablet ownership is expected to grow, especially among tech-savvy children and teenagers, making licensed characters more accessible than ever. â–

Matthew Hudak is a U.S. research analyst for Euromonitor International. He researches a variety of packaged goods industries and gathers market sizes and brand and company share data for toys and games.




Executive Director, The NPD Group


uring the first seven months of this year, sales for the U.S. toy industry reached $7.85 billion*, a 7 percent increase over the $7.34 billion generated over the same time period last year. As stated previously, NPD estimates the industry will be up 6 percent, or $1.16 billion, for the full year. What is driving this growth? Several factors are in play, the most notable being retailer ingenuity and the healthy gains of licensed toys. The combination of these two could easily make 2015 one of the best years the U.S. toy industry has seen in more than a decade. Retailer events such as Amazon Prime Day and Disney’s Force Friday Star Wars celebration are helping to redefine the industry’s marketing strategies (a healthy move for all). Sales of licensed toys are never disappointing, and this year has been no different, particularly


among movie-licensed toys. Given the lineup of family-friendly movie releases through the end of the year and continued momentum from Jurassic World, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and others, licensed toys are going to continue to invigorate toy sales. Case in point: Although Star Wars: The Force Awakens won’t release until December in the U.S., we are already seeing double-digit growth in classic Star Wars toys. Outdoor & Sports Toys maintains its spot as the largest super-category based on dollar volume ($2.2 billion from January 2015 to July 2015), and had the most significant dollar gains during the first half of the year, while Youth Electronics enjoyed the fastest growth. The two more notable year-to-date changes were in the Infant/Preschool Toys and Arts & Crafts categories. In 2014, Infant/Preschool Toys experienced the largest dollar declines, but is now experiencing gains; and while

YTD July (January to July 2015)


Arts & Crafts ended last year on the plus side, it is currently the only super-category to experience year-to-date sales declines. At the sub-category level, while not enough to help bring Arts & Crafts into the black, Clay/Dough/Sand toys experienced growth of 29 percent. All Games/Puzzles categories saw growth, led by Strategic Trading Card Games, which increased by 16 percent. Battling Toys & Playsets saw the biggest decline, dropping 79 percent to $5 million versus the previous year’s $23.2 million. Other highlights include Playset Themed Figures & Accessories at +50 percent, Education/Music/Science Toys at +26 percent, and Preschool Figures/Playsets & Accessories at +27 percent. ■ Source: The NPD Group, Inc./Retail Tracking Service, January to July 2015

*U.S. data is representative of retailers that participate in The NPD Group's Retail Tracking Service. NPD’s current estimate is that the Retail Tracking Service represents approximately 80 percent of the U.S. retail market. YTD July (January to July 2015)



Emerging Toy Trends for 2016

Trend Hunter, Toy Industry and Kids Tech Expert, Industry Analyst, and Keynote Speaker


s 2015 comes to an end, it’s time to turn our focus toward toy industry trends for the year ahead. Here is a snapshot of a few of the emerging trends for 2016. With Dallas Fall Toy Preview, various preview events in Southern California, and China Toy Expo in Shanghai all taking place this month, I expect to see even more products that confirm and build on the trends below, as well as the acceleration of new trends as we speed through the fourth quarter. Please note that many of the new products I’ve seen for 2016 are currently under embargo, so while it’s still too early to share specific product details, below is an overview of key trends.


Connected Play: Adding new industry players,

branching into new categories of play, and offering uniquely engaging experiences allows the Connected Play segment of the toy industry to continue to evolve. This category is now promoted through video game-connected play action figures, add-on experiences, and more. There are also toy manufacturers promoting their products with digital apps that have an off-line physical play component. Sometimes these features combine for a third, hybrid play experience, which utilizes both digital and physical play products, presenting kids with challenges and missions. The newer players are entering this play category through toy manufacturers, entertainment studio partnerships, crowdfunded campaigns, and the tech industry. Connected Play opens doors to a wide age spectrum that includes kids, teens, adult players, and entire families across multiple generations. Entertainment and licensing also play a big role in this segment of the business.


Maker Movement Evolution: The little scientists/little scholars trend will extend with new categories and manufacturers as we approach next year. Not all categories are learning or education-based, although many do involve science, coding, robotics, engineering, or construction. Other products involve craft or creative categories, such as modeling with 3-D objects, creating musical scores, and inspiring collaborative play with others to design, create, and build with open-ended results. The most successful products have a built-in element of surprise and fun. The Maker Movement is growing worldwide, with many school systems now incorporating making into their curriculums. Maker Faires still draw a wide audience of engaged tinkerers and doers, and the movement will continue to gain steam both domestically and internationally, offering manufacturers much wider distribution channel opportunities. This is also a product category that offers year-round and counter-seasonal volume, which helps to balance out the toy and game industry’s typical heavy reliance on fourth quarter sales. 2.


Social Good: The Social Good trend incorporates

areas that society in general is embracing, and that parents are encouraging the youngest generation of consumers to learn and emulate in their lives. This trend focuses on social and emotional intelligence, charitable giving, and paying forward. By promoting children’s awareness of these concepts, and offering ways that children can participate, product tie-ins turn the idea of giving into something much more tangible. Kids get to understand creating, sell their creations, and donate the proceeds to a good cause—and kids are continued on page 106




he Bridge Direct will preview its new line of Shopkins-licensed toys at Fall Toy Preview. The new products, which are set for release next fall, include activity and construction toys. “We are delighted to be a part of Shopkins, the hottest toy line in the market today, and we are excited to see it quickly transform from a toy line into a full blown entertainment property,” says Jay Foreman, CEO, The Bridge Direct. The Bridge Direct’s Inkoos line will expand with Shopkins plush in three sizes. Kids can decorate, design, and color in the plush Shopkins using the included washable markers, then wash and redesign them. Because every Shopkins fan needs a place to put their Shopkins for on-the-go fun, The Bridge Direct will also launch designable activity purses and bags that put a fashion-forward twist on the brand, allowing kids to decorate and customize their own Shopkins accessories. These kid-sized versions of the iconic Shopkins tote bags will play up the brand’s shopping theme while encouraging kids to express their own unique style. In addition to the activity toys, The Bridge Direct will let kids build the world of


Shopkins with the new Shopkins C3 Kinstruction line. Shopkins fans can build their own Shopville Town Center, from the Shopkins Bakery to the Beauty Salon, with sets ranging from 32 to 394 pieces. These construction sets, complete with Shopkins character figures, are compatible with all other major construction brands. “This is the perfect brand for the girls’ construction category,” says Foreman. “It lets girls use their skills and imagination to recreate the environments from the Shopkins world, as well as create mashup concepts by mixing and matching the figures.” The first wave of product will begin to hit shelves on a limited basis this December and will continue to roll out next spring. The Bridge will preview additional line extensions for next fall in Dallas. ■ Top left: Color ’n Create Activity Plush Kooky Cookie; Top right: C3 Kinstruction Shopville Town Center; Bottom left: Color ’n Fashion Activity Purse Strawberry Kiss; Bottom right: Color ’n Fashion Activity Messenger Bag


ADORA Adora introduces Adora Fairies, which are ultra soft, microfiber plush available in three cheerful colors. Joining the Adora Fairies family is the Baby Fairy. Baby Fairies are available in two colors and can hook to a stroller or a car seat. Each features a rattle inside the body, and crinkle material in the feet, body, and wings. Baby Fairies are machine washable and safe for infants. My 1st Adora Baby Boy is the first male gender My 1st Adora. All My 1st Adora babies have soft squeezable bodies, removable clothes, and a pacifier to encourage little ones to nurture and role-play with their babies. Adora’s BathTime Babies line of dolls for the bath, pool, or any water activity BathTime Kitty will expand with BathTime Kitty. The doll comes with its own washcloth and removable animal-themed bathrobe and a swimsuit-printed Quikdri body, which dries fast for continuous play. GiggleTime babies giggle when kids give them a hug, and weighing a little bit more than 16 ounces, they are easy to take along in a baby carrier. Each handmade doll features open and close eyes and a baby powder-scented body made from Gentle Touch vinyl. The Enchanted doll has brown hair, dark eyes, and an empire waist dress with touches of pink, while Cutie Patootie is summer ready with her bright pink matching sandals and pigtail. In addition to its new doll releases, Adora’s four-in-one Combo Set serves as a high chair, a swing, a carrier, and a seat for any 12- to 20-inch dolls.

SAKAR INTERNATIONAL Sakar will release a new line of molded selfie sticks, featuring licenses such as Peanuts, Disney Frozen, Marvel’s Avengers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, SpongeBob SquarePants, and My Little Pony. The selfie sticks will be available with auxiliary connections, Bluetooth-enabled connections, and Bluetooth connectivity with a remote control. Built to record video from the sky, Sakar’s Nerf drones are multi-directional, featuring 16 MP cameras that capture video and still imagery in HD. They are Wi-Fi-enabled to stream video footage directly to smartphones. The drones are available in two models: the light and compact ReconDrone, which measures 5.25 by 5.25 by 1.6 inches; and the larger Air Defender X, which measures 13 by 13 by 2 inches. Kids can operate each rechargeable drone via remote control up to 200 meters away. Sakar’s expanded line of licensed action cameras feature Nerf, Nerf Rebelle, Bratz, My Little Pony, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Disney Frozen, and more. Each one comes with a durable, waterproof case, as well as mounting accessories. Kids can attach the camera to a helmet or bicycle, and then capture a first-person point-of-view of events as they happen. Nerf ReconDrone



JAZWARES As master toy licensee for eOne’s Peppa Pig, Jazwares will expand its offerings to include construction toys featuring Peppa and her family and friends. Peppa’s House Construction Set allows kids to harness their creativity while piecing together the three-story home, complete with Peppa, George, Mummy, Daddy, and 107 additional pieces. Peppa Pig and George’s Pirate Ship Construction Set brings Peppa’s imagination to life, and kids everywhere can join her as she embarks on a journey at sea with her brother George. The 82-piece set includes Peppa and George figures and a large, powerful-looking ship complete with a spring-loaded cannon. Both sets are designed for kids ages 2 to 5.

Peppa’s House Construction Set

NKOK NKOK will release R/C versions of vehicles featured in the Skylanders SuperChargers toys-to-life video game. Spitfire’s vehicle Hot Streak will feature blue flame tires and will emit an internal glow from grill to turbines. Fiesta’s vehicle Crypt Crusher will feature a single light-up monster tire in the back, as well as wheels in the front for stability and maneuverability. With practice, it can perform stunts, sidewall ski, and more. NKOK will premiere two new Rock Crawlers in its Mean Machines line of R/C vehicles, each capable of scaling intimidating terrain. The Rock Crawlers will be available in a 1970 Ford Bronco or a 2015 Jeep Wrangler body. Another addition to the Mean Machines line is the 1:8-scale Extreme Terrain monster truck, equipped with tires large enough for driving in and out of water. It can also perform on nearly any terrain, do donuts with ease, and go downstairs, up curbs, and over obstacles. The Extreme Terrain will be available as a 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, a 2015 Ford F-150, a Ford F-150 Raptor, and a RAM 2500 Power Wagon. New from the RealTree R/C line is the R/C Bass Boat, featuring high-definition camouflage, a custom boat stand, and bonus propellers. The RealTree will also expand with a 1:10-scale 2015 Ford F150, an R/C monster truck equipped with oversized wheels, real suspension, a high torque motor, and a high-resolution camouflage treatment. Junior Explorers is a new line of toys for kids ages 1 and up, launching with Explorer-Train, a play set that includes a train, tracks, a stop sign, an engine, a car, and character figures. As the train moves, the characters riding along spin in circles and make unique sounds. NKOK’s Junior Racers line of preschool toys will premiere Animal Racers, new animated friction-powered toys. The line will include an elephant, a cow, a giraffe, and a horse. There will also be a new Junior Racers line of 9-inch friction-powered construction vehicles, and 4-inch pullback vehicles including a garbage truck, a dump truck, and more. 1970 Ford Bronco Rock Crawler



BLUE ORANGE GAMES In Ring It!, from Blue Orange Games, players race to ring the bell first when a winning combination shows up on the table. During each round, players must perform new actions before ringing the bell, which leads to silly sounds and gestures. With enough cards for up to nine players and each round lasting just a few minutes, Ring It! is an ideal party game. Designed for players ages 5 and up, it also works on visual perception, processing speed, and math. In Dr. Eureka, players pick a challenge card, three test tubes, and six colorful balls, then solve the scientific formulas by moving their materials from tube to tube without touching them with their bare hands. Designed for one to four players ages 6 and up, this game is a brainteaser that promotes visual perception, fine motor skills, problem solving, and processing speed.

K’NEX K’NEX will reinvent a classic next fall with the K’NEX Thrills: Classic Ferris Wheel building set. This Ferris wheel stands more than 3 feet tall and features motorized rotation. Kids can build the entire structure with more than 740 K’NEX parts and pieces. K’NEX will expand its K-Force Build & Blast line to include the Flash Fire Rapid Shot Blaster, which features new motorized action that allows kids to fire 10 shots as fast as they can pull the trigger. It includes one new rapid fire blaster chamber, a 10 dart magazine, 10 foam darts, and a quick fit grip. Kids can build up to six different blasters and targets with the kit. New to its Mighty Makers line is the Lights, Camera, Action building set. Kids can learn about filmmaking with the interactive instructions and use 320 parts, including a toy camera, stand, and theater seats, to construct the perfect movie theater. This new set incorporates artistic eleK’NEX Thrills: ments into the STEM-based learning line. Classic Ferris Wheel The Build & Learn: Roller Coaster will expand K’NEX’s Education line next year. Kids can build a working roller coaster plus two additional models, and learn about time, distance, and speed while they play. The set includes more than 500 parts and three experiments. Mighty Makers: Lights, Camera, Action



PACIFIC PLAY TENTS WOOKY ENTERTAINMENT With the i-loom, from Wooky Entertainment, kids can pair an iPad with the i-loom device and app to turn their ideas into finished accessories. Kids can follow step-by-step animated instructions, watch in-app tutorials, and complete projects ranging from simple to complex with the Pattern Creator, Bracelet Maker, and more. A wide and growing selection of i-Patterns is available, and creations can be shared with the online community for a complete i-loom experience. Recommended for ages 8 and up, the i-loom Starter Pack, part of the Style Me Up line, comes with a device for setting up and keeping materials organized for effective knotting. The downloadable premium i-loom app helps kids learn various techniques, and features five unlockable i-Patterns such as Always Chevron and Jagged Arrowhead. There is a constantly expanding library of bracelet i-Patterns available for kids to make new creations. The set comes with six spools of colored string, numbered spool tags, and three basic and two deluxe locks to help complete creations. Accessories for the i-loom include the Tote Case set, which can be used to carry materials such as spools of colored string, bracelet locks, and numbered spool tags.

Pacific Play Tents has four new models set to arrive next spring. The Wild Flowers Teepee is made of durable cotton canvas and features a pink polka-dot cotton lining on the inside. The Teepee includes vibrantly colored flowers and butterflies, a roll-up window, poles made from real bamboo, and four small flags at the top. The orange, white, and blue Vintage Teepee boasts chic graphics and comes with an inside cotton lining with stars. Sized for a child’s playroom, it has a large entryway, a window for extra air ventilation, four sturdy poles, and four hanging flags at the top. Both the Wild Flowers Teepee and the Vintage Teepee can fit a small table, chairs, or sleeping bag inside. The Enchanted Forest Teepee is meant to inspire children with friendly animals and glittery, snowy trees. Sized to fit in a living room, playroom, bedroom, or outside, it is made of durable cotton canvas and real bamboo poles. It features ties on the doorway, which make the teepee easy to open and keep closed, and the mesh window allows for air ventilation. A small table or chair may fit inside. The spacious Rocket Ship features wings and large mesh windows as well as a Velcro door, which allows for easy access. The built-in waterproof floor makes it suitable for outside play. Vintage Teepee




PILLOW PETS CRA-Z-ART Cra-Z-Art is set to expand its line of craft and activity products with new paint-bynumbers kits, activity fun packs, velvet posters, makeyour-own and color-yourown activity sets, a coloring and activity backpack, a transfer tattoo maker, stickers, and more. The company will also bring Peppa Pig into the activity category with the Peppa Pig Mold n’ Play 3D Figure Maker. Designed for kids ages 3 and up, the creativity set includes Softee Dough modeling compound in seven colors; four 3-D figure molds of Peppa, George, Mummy Pig, and Daddy Pig; and punch-out accessories.

CJ Products will release Sweet Scentz Pillow Pets, a sweet-smelling new foldable plush line. Each of the three introductory styles will feature a long-lasting scent patch. CookiePup will smell of home-baked chocolate chip cookies, GummiPup will have a fruity scent similar to colorful gummy candies, and PupCake will feature the aroma of a sweet cupcake with hints of sugary vanilla frosting. In addition, CJ Products has expanded its licensing agreement with Nickelodeon Consumer Products to include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Pillow Pets plush, in preparation for the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 next summer. The agreement extends to foldable plush characters Raphael, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Donatello.

Sweet Scentz Pillow Pets CookiePup

INTERNATIONAL PLAYTHINGS International Playthings will expand the Aquabeads line with the Artist Carry Case, featuring more than 1,200 classic and jewel beads in an assortment of colors. The carry case includes a mini case that holds the rainbow pen and sprayer. Kids can select a design template, slide it into place under the template lid, create bead art, and spray it with water to complete the creation. Kids can use the storage bin to keep everything in one place. The Earlyears Puppy Ball Pit includes 10 colorful balls for baby to discover and move, with soft mesh sides that gently spring into shape. Easy set up and fast break down makes the ball pit travel-friendly. Kidoozie King Size Medieval Castle Tent features more than 37 cubic feet of space and is made of sturdy material that can withstand hours of play.



ALEX BRANDS Alex Brands will expand its Buzz Bee Toys line with the Extreme Range Master, a bolt action dart blaster that can hit a target up to 60 feet away using Extreme darts. Another new product is GunSmoke, which delivers a puff of Project MC2 assortment smoke with every dart launched. New additions to Alex Toys’ spa category include body tattoos, hair chalk, fashions, and nail polish and décor. Recommended for young children and tweens, the latest spa items will arrive this fall. Alex has partnered with MGA Entertainment on a new science collection for the Project MC2 brand. The assortment will complement MGA’s Project MC2 dolls and science and spy-inspired experiment kits, which offer a geek chic lifestyle approach through science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM)-inspired play. The Zoob brand will expand to include BuilderZ and RacerZ, which feature open-ended building play sets as well as pull-back motion, R/C race car sets. From Jura Toys, the Kaloo and Janod brands feature contemporary design elements and unique materials. Kaloo will debut Petite Rose, a collection full of love, poetry, and tenderness. A wooden toy brand in France, Janod will introduce more than 130 new products before the end of this year, including building sets, role-play toys, games, and puzzles.

TOY STATE The Cat Machine Maker-Junior Operator, from Toy State, is a construction set that comes with a chunky screwdriver, a machine operator figure, and pieces for kids to build their own Cat machine. For added safety, the bolts always remain attached to their machine pieces, making this construction set safe enough for the smallest of Cat operators. Kids can collect them all and mix and match pieces to create their own machines. The set comes in a reusable carrying case for easy storage. Cat Buildin’ Crew Take-a-Part Buddies feature classic take-apart play and cute Cat Buildin’ Crew characters. Each vehicle includes a motorized hand drill for easy assembly and removal of parts. Road Rippers Moto Motions have animated hood displays that bring the cars to life. The viper strikes and the mustang gallops as the cars take off to the music. The motorized cars have forward drive, realistic engine sounds, music, and light effects. With Hot Wheels Stretch FX, kids can stretch the car and watch it Cat Buildin’ Crew Take-a-Part go. As it expands, it reveals a light-up engine, music, and driving Buddies sounds, then comes back together as it drives away.



TUCKER TOYS Tucker Toys will get kids active next spring with new outdoor toys. The E-Z Grip Ball Jr. offers the same high bounces and clingy grip as the original E-Z Grip Ball. Capable of inflating to 4.25 inches, it can bounce on sand, water, and grass. The tough outer web combines with a durable, inflatable inner ball to provide higher bounces, while the textured surface allows for easy throwing, catching, and kicking. The E-Z Grip Football also boasts a combination of tough outer skin and an inflatable inner ball, delivering superior catching and kicking performance. Capable of inflating up to 9 inches in length, the E-Z Grip Football is soft, durable, and waterproof for active play on grass, mud, wet yards, and at the beach or swimming pool. Aspiring kickers’ feet will not slip on the ball’s surface when they attempt a field goal or punt, while young football receivers will find the E-Z Grip Football to be highly catchable. The E-Z Grip Soccer Ball also has a textured grip for easy throwing, catching, and kicking. Capable of being inflated up to 8.25 inches in diameter, it bounces on sand, water, and grass. The inflatable inner ball allows for higher bounces and farther travel, and feet will not slip on the ball’s surface when kicking. The easier grip makes the E-Z Grip Soccer Ball a young goalie’s dream. A streamlined, more aerodynamic version of Tucker Toys’ Phlat Ball, the AeroFlyt carries and floats through the air for greater play and more distance. The AeroFlyt’s new design makes it fly like never before, while also allowing users to catch with ease.

E-Z Grip Football


UNIVERSITY GAMES University Games will add Puremco’s dominoes and domino accessories to its family of toys and games this fall. New additions include Spinner, ChickenFoot, and SuperTrain. University Games will also introduce new games to get kids thinking and imagining. The Briarpatch brand will expand with I Spy Spooky Mansion, a learning game based on the Scholastic book series, in which children discover an I Spy adventure inside a spooky old house. The game includes a 3-D game board, in which kids can spot objects amidst the mysterious contents and collect keys to escape. Another new Briarpatch game, Crayons on the Town, is a crayon-based game in which children create their own masterpieces and then tell imaginative stories about the scenes they have created. The game aids in the enhancement of social skills and creative thinking. Chicken Charades is a new family game with simple rules: Players have 10 seconds to act out charades with a squeaky chicken. The team with the most points at the end of the game rules the roost. Launching under the BePuzzled brand, 2Layer Smart Egg Labyrinth Puzzles are brain teasers based on the Smart Egg series. The line features three increasingly challenging levels of difficulty with puzzles in which one labyrinth moves inside of another one.


BERG AMLOID Amloid’s new Crayola Building Blocks line includes tons of blocks in an iconic Crayola-style crayon container. The Crayola Building Blocks line is part of a new partnership between Crayola and Amloid’s new Kids@Work brand. This line will feature play patterns designed to help kids develop dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and motor skills, as well as additional play experiences that will unlock their creativity and assist in color and shape recognition.

Berg will introduce the new Choppy, featuring a metallic orange and tribal design. This new ride-on is equipped with a BFR hub allowing the rider to pedal forward, in reverse, and brake. Suitable for kids ages 3 to 8, it also has an adjustable seat and steering column. The Berg Buzzy Racing is designed for younger riders and boasts stability and durability. The four wheels with EVA solid tires can help kids ages 2 to 5 learn how to cycle safely.

Berg Buzzy Racing

WINNING MOVES GAMES Pass the Pigs: Big Pigs, from Winning Moves Games, features larger versions of the poseable pig-dice from the original Pass the Pigs game. Made from durable, soft, and safe foam, they are fit for play inside or outside. Recommended for kids ages 7 and up, each set contains two oversized foam pigs, a scoring pencil, an oversized scorepad, a drawstring Pig Pouch, and instructions that include “The History of Pass the Pigs.” Brainspin is a creativity game in which two to 10 players challenge themselves to create a new perspective on the same old lines. Players take one minute to write down all of the things they see on the face-up card, and then get to see how one another’s brains work. Recommended for kids ages 7 and up, each set contains a deck of 54 cards.



WOWWEE Next year, WowWee will introduce new robotic and high-tech playthings for techloving kids. CHiP is an artificially intelligent dog that offers physical, digital, and tactile play. He recognizes his master, responds to commands, and even knows to go to his dog bed and recharge when the lights are out. With Emojibot, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education come together to turn simple texting into robotic commands. Kids can program their very own Emojibot, and then observe the surprising reactions that are triggered via robotic emojis. EmoEmojibot jibot features an LCD screen, more than 10,000 animations, and different language options. The newest addition to WowWee’s Robotic Enhanced Vehicles (REV) line, the REV Omnicycle + Turret features a full range of motion capabilities, as well as a stationary oscillating weapon that tracks enemy vehicles and delivers attacks. The Omnicycle comes equipped with futuristic designs, games, and the option of fighting an artificially intelligent (AI) enemy or a human opponent.

PLAYMOBIL Playmobil’s Large City Zoo play set will debut next year. The set lets kids explore animal species from around the world and features a rocky arch entrance topped with decorative animal cutouts and a colorful zoo sign. The penguin habitat features both adult and baby penguins, and the lion enclosure houses two adult lions and one lion cub. There is also a souvenir shop, which sells a stuffed animal and a penguin balloon. The set includes seven figures, two adult and four baby penguins, a peacock, a wheelbarrow with meat, and other accessories. The Adventure Tree House play set features a house with a grass platform. It is located in the heart of a forest and is surrounded by different kinds of wildlife. It includes two adventurer figures, a mother bear and her cub, a fox, a bald eagle, an owl, and more. Kids can use the pulley sysLarge City Zoo tem to lift heavier supplies up to the house, and at the end of the day, they can pull up the stairs to keep wild visitors out. Both sets are recommended for kids ages 4 to 10.



EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS 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. The Once Upon a Craft line features eight 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. Educational Insights will add three new Power Play Vehicles to its Design & Drill line. Kids can put the pedal to the metal with moveable vehicle parts, a mini-motorized drill, stickers, and imagination-fueled design fun. Little engineers and junior pilots can snap together and power-drill their own vehicles, as well as personalize their creations with colorful stickers and 15 bolts. Available vehicles include Helicopter, Race Car, and Monster Truck.

ZING TOYS Stikbot, from Zing Toys, turns kids into creative moviemakers using easy-topose figurines with suction-cup hands and feet that can stick to almost any flat surface. The free iOS and Android mobile app, Stikbot Studios, allows kids to snap individual photos and then stitches them together into a film, complete with builtin music and sound effects options. Kids can turn anywhere into a stage, and then upload and share their creations with the rest of the world on social media using #Stikbot. Recommended for kids ages 4 and up, Stikbot is available in a Stikbot Single Pack or Stikbot Studio Pack.

WONDER FORGE The Disney Imagicademy—Mickey Mouse Animals Activity Book, from Wonder Forge, lets kids roam through the animal kingdom with Mickey Mouse and other favorite Disney characters. Through a collection of creative activities, kids can explore the lives of insects, learn how animals adapt to their surroundings, discover the reason behind animal conservation, and more. Designed for kids ages 4 and up, this activity book promotes imagination, creativity, active play, discovery, and exploration while keeping kids entertained. The Disney Imagicademy—Disney Frozen Science Activity Book features kids’ favorite characters from Disney Frozen, who will guide kids through creative activities, fun puzzles, and surprising experiments. Designed for kids ages 4 and up, this book teaches kids the beauty of snowflakes, why we have four seasons, how we see rainbows, and more.



SCHYLLING TOYS Next year, Schylling Toys will introduce a broad new product line, including an expansion of its Schylling Classics line. Along with new games, musical instruments, pretend play, and novelties, there will be SteelWorks a new tin line featuring vehicles, robots, and animals with wind-up and friction motors. These toys are intended to let kids unplug, engage, and have lots of fun. Schylling will make headway into the construction toys category with the classic construction toy SteelWorks, which tests the design and construction prowess of builders. The new line will feature sets that include tools, working gears, tractor treads, and more. Kids can use SteelWorks to assemble real working toys limited only by their imaginations. For the specialty market, Schylling will introduce Scentos, a line of scented markers, pens, and pencils featuring wacky collectible characters and vibrant colors. Designed to be easy to hold and control, they come with durable tips and savory aromas. The line will also include Scentos Dough, a super-soft modeling compound available in different colors and scents, as well as various assortments. The TX Juice Ai Drone boasts artificial intelligence technology that allows for auto-hover and auto-land options, as well as proximity sensors that detect and help the R/C drone avoid obstacles. Frustrating take-off and landing crashes are now a thing of the past, and the TX Juice Ai Drone can even be flown one-handed. Schylling will also produce an innovative line of new Lava Lamps in celebration of the brand’s 50th anniversary. New additions include Lava Sand, Lava Ooze, and more.

PLASMART Cut, connect, and create with PlaSmart’s Smart Noodles Link’Ems, pool noodles that link themselves laterally when kids slide them together. Kids can make a raft or an air mattress, or slice them with a plastic knife and use their imaginations to create interesting critters or other objects. They can play with them as traditional pool noodles or opt for other play possibilities in the water, yard, or indoors. PlaSmart also encourages kids to get moving with its PlasmaCar, a car powered by the most inexhaustible form of energy: kid power. PlasmaCar has no batteries, gears, or pedals and can support up to 220 pounds. It can turn and navigate in small spaces indoors, as well as ride outdoors on sidewalks, pathways, and any other safe, smooth, flat surface. Also new from PlaSmart is its Kick Flippers. It teaches kids the basic movements essential for skateboarding, snowboarding, and surfboarding but in the safety of a front yard or on a carpet. Users will get some exercise, increase their levels of balance and skill, build muscle tone and cardio strength, and engage their imaginations as they develop and practice their own tricks.


Kick Flippers


AMERICAN PLASTIC TOYS The Beauty Salon, from American Plastic Toys, will give budding stylists everything they need to play out their salon fantasies. The salon features a large, heartshaped mirror with working lights, a pink and purple workspace and built-in sink, and 15 salon essential accessories, including a hairdryer and a pair of scissors. Trail Biters are funny, rugged vehicles with big, knobby tires that make it easy for push-and-play action. The alligator and shark character vehicles feature mouths that open and close. The Gigantic Dump Truck and Gigantic Loader are nearly 2 feet long and feature strong steel axles. With a working dump bed and loader arm, kids can take on any construction site.

Beauty Salon



The African Lion Cub puppet, from Folkmanis, is new to the pride and full of playful energy. Soulful eyes and big ears highlight its face, which comes to life magically through kids’ imaginations. Whether pretending to roam the savanna or playfully hiding in the bush, kids will have a fun time with this big baby cat.

Uncle Milton will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its Ant Farm brand next year with new products depicting the underground world of ants. The toymaker will also launch a number of new toys and activity items inspired by science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-inspired education under its licensed and proprietary brands. The In My Room brand will expand with new ways for kids to bring their rooms to life, while the Fireworks Lightshow brand will offer creative new light and sound experiences. Just in time for Halloween, Uncle Milton will introduce fun, new ways to scare friends and family through its Scare Factor brand.




LASER PEGS Laser Pegs launches the Lava Peg Power Base and the Light Up Pull Back Motor. The Lava Peg is a power base and building set that has a light-up tube with colorful and bubbly child-safe liquid at its core. It is compatible with all other Laser Pegs kits and major brick construction brands, and has a rechargeable USB battery. The Lava Peg Power Base will launch as part of Stealth, a four-in-one kit. Following the initial release of the Stealth kit, the Lava Peg will be available as a standalone power base in various colors for toy retailers worldwide. The Light Up Pull Back Motor is included with the Rally Cars Pull Back Runner kit, and will zoom across the room when the model is pulled back and let go. Laser Pegs will also expand its product lines to include 17 additional kits. There will be nine new kits in the Zippy Do collection, including animals, jets, and a helicopter. Additional core product line expansions include 4-in-1 Mini Trucks, 6-in-1 Copters, 8-in-1 Motorcycles, and more.



Minion Mania is back thanks to this summer’s theatrical release of Minions, and Rubie’s Costume Co. has incorporated the Minions into its newest line. The Female Minion costume includes a dress, knee socks, gloves, and goggles, and is available in extra-small, small, medium, and large sizes. The Minion Kevin set includes a jumpsuit, gloves, a headpiece, and goggles, and is also available in extra-small, small, medium, and large sizes. Rubie’s will also debut the Deluxe Ant-Man costume, which includes a muscle chest jumpsuit with boot tops, a belt, and a mask. It will be available in sizes small, medium, and large. New costumes from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Collection bring a galaxy far, far away to life. The Super Deluxe Stormtrooper includes a jumpsuit with foam armor, a twopiece helmet, and a belt. The Deluxe Rey costume includes a jumpsuit with an attached sash, detached sleeves, a belt with a pouch, and a cuff. Both costumes are available in child sizes small, medium, and large. The collection also includes Finn, Kylo Ren, Captain Phasma, and Flametrooper. Rubie’s will expand its Imagine by Rubie’s line with DC Comics Superhero Dress-Up Sets. The Batgirl ensemble includes a black tutu dress, a mask, a matching cape, and gauntlets. Robin, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Green Lantern are also available in the collection.

Top: Female Minion; Bottom left: Deluxe Ant-Man; Bottom right: Star Wars: The Force Awakens Kylo Ren


REDWOOD VENTURES With the IDO3D 5-Pen 3D Art Studio, from Redwood Ventures, kids can create 3-D art by drawing, connecting, and constructing designs using IDO3D’s 3-D printing technology. These specially crafted drawing pens contain 3-D printing ink that transforms liquid into solid in seconds; kids just have to shine the IDO3D spotlight on their creations. Kids can use the familiar form factor of a pen to draw numerous designs from their imaginations or from the 3-D guidebooks included in each set.

TCG With the Peppa Pig Mega Mat Jump, from TCG, kids can laugh and snort with Peppa Pig and her little brother George as they ride around the neighborhood. Printed on a durable, EVA foambacked play mat with finished borders, this fullcolor mat measures more than 5 feet and lets kids have a picnic in the park, make sandcastles on the beach, and join Peppa’s friends in the bouncy castle. After playtime, the mat wipes clean and rolls away for easy storage. Designed for kids ages 3 and up, the set also features two Peppa Pig vehicles.

Hi-Tech Walking Robot 45-piece Set

MAGFORMERS Magformers is expanding its line with 50 new products. Expanding to 28 shapes and adding 21 new accessories, the Hi-Tech Walking Robot 45-piece Set and the Dino Walking Dinosaur 81piece Set will both include a walking accessory. The Vehicle Heavy Duty 73-piece Set will include new sliders and spinners. All of the sets can be combined in the Deluxe S.T.E.A.M. Master 300piece Set and S.T.E.A.M. Basic 200-piece Set. The Deluxe, Hi-Tech, and Dino lines will also feature a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) engine block, which produces four-way motion when a variety of accessories are added. In the new My First Magformers line, young construction lovers can create in pastel colors with the Ice World 30-piece Set, My First Buggy 14-piece Set, and Tiny Friends 20-piece Set. New additions to the Standard Rainbow line include Solid, Clear, and Opaque 14-piece, 30-piece, and 40piece Sets. The Princess 56-piece Set and Clear Solid 14-piece, 30-piece, and 40-piece Sets will be added to the Inspire Girls Line. Magformers will add the Creative 90-piece and Creator 6-piece Editorial Set to the Creator Line. The sets feature fold out play mats that teach kids how to build 2-D nets and then pull them up to create 3-D designs. Opaque colors will be added to the Magic Pop 25-piece Set. The Unique 30- and 40-piece Sets will feature new curved shapes, including a cone, sphere, triangle, and half arch.



THE ORB FACTORY Kids can dive right into a sewing lesson with Sew Softies Sea Creatures, from The Orb Factory. With easy illustrated instructions and kidfriendly components, it’s easy to make a cute crab, a funky fish, or an eightarmed octopus.

GOLIATH GAMES Giggle Wiggle is a moving, grooving caterpillar who loves to dance. Kids race to place their colored marbles on Giggle’s hand while he is dancing to the music. When he wiggles, the balls fly everywhere, and the first player to get colored marbles on all of Giggle’s hands wins the game. In the Magic Carpet Game, one of two new additions to Goliath’s skill-and-action game line, players carefully place secret treasures on a flying carpet that is magically suspended in mid-air. The object of the game is to keep the carpet hovering, and the last player who keeps him flying wins. The Magic Carpet Game is designed for 2 or more players ages 4 and up. It’s a race to escape in Wrist Race, a new active game by Goliath. Players take turns transforming their opponent’s cuffs into a tangled web using the ball and string. Players then race each other using only flicks of their wrists to see who can escape first. Spicy Games are big-value games in small packages. Each spice jar includes its own game; titles include Chili Cheat, Spicy Dice, Salt and Pepper, and Café Café.

SMART TOYS AND GAMES SmartMax Click & Roll is the newest addition to the SmartMax line of magnetic construction sets from Smart Toys and Games. The set includes large silver-colored magnetic balls and colorful tubes that can connect and stack in multiple ways using the magnetic bars. Future engineers can create endless building options, including vertical or horizontal ball runs. SmartMax Click & Roll allows kids ages 3 and up to experience the wonders of magnetism and the fascinating world of construction in a safe way.





Little bakers can practice colors and counting, develop fine motor skills, and host make-believe parties for their stuffed animals and friends with the Green Toys Cupcake Set. This 16-piece mix-and-match set includes frosting, cakes, and cupcake liners for five complete cupcakes, plus a cake stand display. The cake stand can be used for presentation and storage, and even to serve actual cupcakes. It is made from 100-percent recycled plastic with no BPA, phthalates, or PVC, and is dishwasher safe.

Switch-A-Rooz are Wild Republic’s new two-in-one reversible stuffed animals. The line consists of 24 combinations of 48 animal characters, including a fox that becomes an owl, a tiger that becomes an elephant, and a racooon that becomes a skunk.



ELF MAGIC The 25th Anniversary Workshop Elves, from Elf Magic, come with everything they need to make a home away from home. The set comes with 12 play accessories including the limited-edition 25th anniversary workshop Elf, a workshop apron, a North Pole passport and Elf Express boarding pass, a hardback storybook, and more. Next year, the Elf Magic fashion designers will introduce the new Deer Santa Elfit. Kids can now make more than 100 combinations from all of the pieces in the Forever Elf Fashion Collection, creating a new look for every outing. Deer Santa Elfit

THE HAYWIRE GROUP The Haywire Group brings back the popular card game, Jukem, for next year. In addition to a new, improved version of Jukem Football, The Haywire Group will introduce Jukem Basketball and Jukem Soccer. These card games are fun to play on family game nights, reinforce math skills, and provide sports fans with new ways to play their favorite games.


Slime Dodgetag


Slimeball, the new active role-play line from Diggin Active, will expand next year with tons of slime fun and no mess. Slimeballs stick to Diggin’s materials, but won’t stick to anything else or leave marks behind. Slime Dodgetag is the ultimate game of dodgeball. Each player wears a vest and picks three slimeballs to try to throw and stick to their opponents’ vests. If the ball sticks, it’s a hit. It comes with two adjustable vests and six slimeballs. Kids can perfect their aim with Slimeball Target Practice. The target features a special interlocking technology so multiple targets can link together to create larger targets. The Slimeball Slinger shoots slimeballs up to 30 feet. The Slinger features a gel grip and a unique, easy-to-use aiming system. Slimeball Slinger comes with one slinger and two slimeballs. The Slimeball Battle Pack includes six no-mess slimeballs for the ultimate fight. More Slimeball extensions will also be revealed for next year.


R&R GAMES Gobblestones, from R&R Games, is a family strategy game in which players are hungry goblins trying to eat as many valuable stones as possible to score points. Eat up the most stones to win, but be careful, as a stuffed goblin is a slow goblin. Gobblestones is designed for two to four players ages 10 and up. Flipping Flags is a face-paced, educational card game in which players simultaneously flip up a flag card and shout the country if it matches another card. Whoever captures the most cards wins. This travel-friendly game is designed for kids ages 7 and up. Panda Head is the trick-taking card game in which the winning panda is the one who stays awake the longest using logic and deduction skills to score the fewest points. Panda Head is designed for two to five players ages 7 and up. Face Chase challenges players to flex their recall muscles in a mad dash to match facial features on their cards to quickly changing faces on the board. Match features such as hair, eyes, noses, and mouths, and then drop your card fast. The first to get rid of all of their cards wins. Face Chase is designed for two to five players ages 7 and up.

FASHION ANGELS Fashion Angels is set to expand on its preexisting platforms, as well as welcome new products and brands to its lineup. It will expand on Sketch Portfolios, Head Case, Darn Yarn, Pixel Loom, Tapeffiti, Bracelet and Accessory Craft Kits, and Chox’d. Fashion Angels will add four new activities to its beauty kits for tweens to style their hair with the hottest trends. The Hair Tapestry Kit lets girls create woven tapestry designs in their hair. The new beauty kits also include an Ultimate Braiding Kit and a Bobby Pin Design Kit. Fashion Angels is also debuting its take on the sand art hair trend in which girls can create a temporary, colorful rainbow hairstyle. Fashion Angels also has new back-to-school additions to its tween lifestyle and accessory line, Style.Lab. This brand includes accessories featuring LED watches, room décor, natural beauty care, and more. Fashion Angels will also expand the product offerings of its licensed brands, including American Girl, Monster High, Ever After High, Barbie, and Project Runway. The company will welcome two new brands to its licensed products for 2016—Crayola and DC Super Hero Girls.



Sweet Sophistication Milene Monkey


DEMDACO will add to its Nat & Jules line with plush, sleeping bags, soft books, and more. Princess of Beverley Hills is every girl’s new best friend. This plush pooch and her accessories are inspired by a real-life Beverly Hills Maltipoo. The plush features upscale, brushable hair and toy accessories providing creative imaginative play. The small plush comes with a comb, and the Palace & Plush Play Set includes a plush, a palace play set, a comb, a pillow, a blanket, and a bone. The new Comfort of Plush sleeping bags feature playful animal characters that roll up and tuck inside the animal head to carry. Available in styles such as Damien Dog, Meekie Monkey, Daddles Duck, and Belina Bunny, these bags also double as fun pillows. Love to Play interactive soft books with sound encourage reading out loud, interactive play, and parent-and-me time. Touch the activator to the silver buttons throughout the book to hear different sounds. New titles include Barnyard Friends, Friends on the Go, and Jungle Friends. Cuddle Corner Hand Puppets are personality-packed animal characters that come to life and encourage imaginative play. They are available in eight animal styles and fit any hand, from child to adult. Sweet Sophistication offers new fabrics and classic baby hues accented with grey and white neutrals. New items include the Milene Monkey 12-inch plush.


AURORA WORLD Aurora’s octopus, Winks, is cute, cuddly, and soft. Winks features playful legs and a sweet smile, and comes in five styles Winks in various sizes from 7 to 13 inches. Aurora’s colorful and loveable So Sweet owls measure 6.5 inches tall. The assortment features soothing color shades and a soft heart embroidered with sayings such as “LOVE,” “XOXO,” and “BFF.”

KAHOOTZ TOYS The 50th Anniversary Spirograph Die-Cast Collector’s Set, from Kahootz Toys, features the iconic Spirograph drawing wheels, upgraded for the first time in die-cast metal. With the nine golden die-cast wheels and a golden die-cast ring, kids can create designs with machine-like precision. The set includes two ballpoint pens, and works with most standard pens, markers, and pencils. The full-color design explains the fundamentals and gives step-by-step instructions for designs. This set comes in a collectible display tin. Kids can create spiral designs with the My Little Pony Spirograph collectible tin design set to decorate Pony-themed greeting cards, notes, and pictures with the included My Little Pony 24-page stationery pad, design guide, and Spirograph drawing set. The set also includes a My Little Pony Spirograph ring and six precision Spirograph wheels. It works with the included markers as well as with most standard pens, markers, and pencils. The My Little Pony set features a travel-friendly storage tin to hold all of the pieces. With the Action Plates Rub & Color Design Set, kids can create and color combinations of comic-style characters. Kids can choose and combine the different plates together into the Action Plates tablet, and with a few passes of the rubbing crayon, the design transfers to the paper. Each of the 18 double-sided rubbing plates features actionpacked poses, super gear, gadgets, and more. The Play-Doh Classic Style Fun Factory is a vintagestyle storage box with eight cans of real Play-Doh, along with a Classic Play-Doh Fun Factory, modeled after the original version first introduced in 1960. The set pumps out Play-Doh in fun shapes such as spaghetti noodles and I-beams for constructing buildings. With the Play-Doh Classic Style Fun Tools, kids can pop open the nostalgic jumbo Play-Doh can to find eight cans of real Play-Doh and a complete set of classic-style Fun Tools, each modeled after traditional clay- and dough-play tools of the past.



SUPER IMPULSE TOYS Super Impulse Toys will introduce Precision RBS, a new Rubber Band System, with three models to choose from. Talos is lightweight and holds up to 20 rubber bands, launches up to 30 feet, and includes a built-in extender. Chiron has a quick-loading design and storage for up to 100 rubber bands. Hyperion boasts pinpoint accuracy from 50 feet and can launch up to 14 bands at once. World’s Smallest toys are designed with the same working functions as the original classic toys, but in the smallest sizes ever created. The brand will release Fisher-Price’s Chatter Telephone and Rock-a-Stack, as well as Doodletop and Sock Monkey. The Dragon Tamer allows children to bring a magical dragon to life with the help of invisible strings. It includes one dragon and one tamer kit, and is available in three different colors. Unlike bubbles that pop on impact, Tap Bubbles lets kids blow thousands of little bubbles that they can touch, catch, and stack. Precision RBS Chiron cJax are miniature figurines that clip directly onto earbud or headphone cords, allowing users to personalize their electronic devices. cJax fit right into the headphone jacks of iPhones, Androids, iPads, tablets, iPods, MP3 players, and laptop computers. When not in use, cJax comes with a base so they can be displayed by themselves or connected to other bases.

RUBBA DUCKS Rubba Ducks will expand to include iconic Rubba Tags (luggage tags), Rubba Frames (picture frames), Rubba Bands (charm accessories), and Rubba Ducks in larger (Rubba Ducklets) and smaller (Rubba Duckees) sizes. In addition, the ProDucks assortment allows fans of football, basketball, baseball, golf, soccer, wrestling, and auto racing to get a themed Rubba Duck adorned with a tattoo on its tail. The new official Cheesehead-licensed Dairy Duck and Cheesehead Duckskins Rubba Ducks will be available at specialty shops, mass retailers, and online.

SMARTLAB SmartLab inspires kids to learn about science, engineering, and more through a range of new kits, available early next year for kids ages 8 and up. All-Natural Lip Smoothies is a beauty-based chemistry kit that includes beeswax and custom molds for creating lip salves and moisturizing mini-lotion bars. It includes candy-colored lip smoothie pods, recipes for creating homemade lip balms and lotion bars, and more. Bing Bang Bounce is an action-reaction toy that teaches kids about trajectories, angles, force, and momentum. It features five pong launchers and targets for kids to set up as an obstacle course and try to make all five cannons fire in a sequence. With the Crash Test Lab, kids can build a crash cart and send the crash test dummy, Impact Jack, on a course to achieve maximum impact with minimum injury. Crash Test Lab comes with an Impact Jack electronic action figure, a crash cart, and more. The MotorBlox Vehicle Lab comes with everything needed to create a dragster, a bulldozer, and a dune buggy, and teaches kids how to design their own vehicle with all-wheel drive. The MotorBlox Robot Lab lets kids build three different robots out of a motorized chassis, a reversible helmet, a robot head and neck, and other parts. Kids can customize their creations with construction blocks in both labs. From the Sew Science line, Cuddly Critters and GloBots are crafty, do-it-yourself electronics kits that contain everything kids need to create a family of light-up felt plushies. These animal and robot plushies glow when holding another’s hands and completing a circuit. With the Smart Circuits Electronics Lab, kids create electronic games and gadgets including a quiz show game, a motion-sensing room alarm, and more. Recommended for kids ages 8 and up, the lab utilizes 10 smart modules and a powerful microprocessor module, and comes with a base board and real electronic components. The Ultimate Secret Formula Lab lets kids use pressurized valves to transport and mix liquids, observe chemical reactions, and more. The lab comes with a base station, a hand pump, valves, test tubes, a 32-page lab instruction book to conduct more than 40 experiments, and more.



The Justice League Set

SCHLEICH Schleich introduces Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice figurines in time for the anticipated theatrical release. The characters are crafted and packaged to match the styling of the movie. The DC Comics Justice League gains new members with the addition of Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg. Fans can build onto their existing collections, or can start a collection with The Justice League Set. The set will feature seven characters including Batman, Superman, and The Flash. Kids can go on an under-the-sea adventure with the Treasure Hunt Diver Playset, which features a diver, a shark, an octopus, plants, and a treasure chest for little ones to create their own underwater fun. Schleich also offers four new rodeo-themed play sets. Each of the sets features popular rodeo events, such as bull riding, barrel racing, and team roping.



PRESSMAN TOY Pressman Toy, a division of Goliath Games, has welcomed the newest addition to its successful family game line. Ink in a Blink adds a whole new dimension to drawing games: time. Players race to draw images that the other players must guess, but as they draw, the tip of the pen retracts. When the tip disappears, they pass the pen to the next player, who continues the same drawing. Players score points when they guess correctly, and when their drawing spurs the correct guess. Spotography is a new twist on the ever-popular “spot the difference� activity. One player secretly makes changes to one side of an image, and the other player must spot all the changes that were made. It sounds easy, but the players only get 90 seconds to spot all 10 changes.

CARRERA Carrera will expand its line at the end of this year with quadrocopters, including the Quadrocopter Video Next, designed for kids ages 14 and up. The 2.4 GHz-controlled copter has a 14-inch span with looping and rolling ability. The built-in video camera streams live video to a smartphone during flight.

WICKED COOL TOYS Wicked Cool Toys has signed with Bagdasarian Productions and PGS as the master toy licensee for Alvinnn!!! and the Chipmunks, the new CG-animated show on Nickelodeon. The show, co-produced with OuiDo! Productions, offers a fresh look at the classic adventures of Alvin, Simon, Theodore, and the Chipettes. Wicked Cool will develop a line of diverse toys, including a Voice Changer Singing Microphone, fully articulated figures, play sets, R/C, plush, feature plush, and more.



HOG WILD Hog Wild will expand its Poppers line next fall with officially licensed Major League Baseball (MLB) Poppers, featuring team mascots decorated in full uniform that shoot the foam ball up to 20 feet.

DUNECRAFT Add character to any windowsill with DuneCraft’s new line of Character Mini Domes. Choose from eight new character-themed gardens, such as Franki Fly Trap and Robert Radish. DuneCraft will also release the newest addition to its habitat line, The Flowing River Habitat. Decorative accessories, plants, and a water pump, which generates a flowing river, create the proper environment for any small creature. Kids will love to watch their pets move from dry land to water while learning how to create and maintain an ecosystem. Build a comfortable habitat for raising tree frogs, hermit crabs, newts, lizards, turtles, or other choice of pet, while fostering scientific skill sets. The Double Bubble Glass Terrariums contain a mixture of exciting, flamboyant, and interesting plant seeds. These terrariums require minimal watering and care: plant, place on the windowsill, and watch them sprout to life. Bring nature indoors with one of the five different themed terrariums, such as the Exotic Escape, Desert Oasis, Color Explosion, Fragrant Flowers, and Tropical Trees.


RAVENSBURGER Ravensburger’s new Disney•Pixar Inside Out range includes puzzles that capture all of the emotions from the movie, featuring Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness in full color. The puzzles in the range include Inside Out: Emotions, an extra-large 200piece panoramic puzzle; Inside Out: Mixed Emotions, a large 100-piece puzzle featuring the five main characters against a rainbow background filled with icons from the movie; and Inside Out: Emotional Adventure, a collection of 49-piece puzzles with different scenes for puzzlers to assemble.

HANDSTAND KIDS Handstand Kids Cooking Co. is releasing its Deluxe Bake Shoppe Kit. This 25-piece baking set allows little chefs to use everything from a spatula to a cake mold, and to work off of recipe cards for confections such as Chunky Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies and Tea Time Biscuits. The company will also introduce Chocolate Making Kits, available in Santa, Gingerbread, and Tea Party varieties. Each set includes four recipe cards and shaped molds to make chocolates at home. Most components of the kits are made from food grade silicone and are meant for real use for kids ages 6 and up.









A Conversation Kathleen McHugh with

Outgoing President of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association

athleen McHugh served as the President of the American Specialty staff and office, we worked together to make that happen. Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) for more than 15 years, and I was thrilled that the board hired me to lead ASTRA. Deciding to leave finished her long and productive tenure with ASTRA in late Sep- the role is one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. Working tember. ASTRA has seen remarkable growth under McHugh’s leadership. with our members and supporting their entrepreneurship dreams with effecToday, it enjoys the largest membership in its history; a thriving, not to be tive ASTRA programs has been my joy. I am deeply grateful for the oppormissed Marketplace & Acadtunity I have had to emy each Jue; and collaboracontribute to the suctions that help ASTRA make cess of the organizaan impact on public policy tion, as well as to the issues affecting its members. sustainability of the Members have access to specialty toy industry. more services and programs to support their businesses What are some imthan ever before, including portant ways in the new ASTRA Exclusives which ASTRA has program and year-round proevolved as an orfessional education for reganization? tailers, sales reps, and What’s so special manufacturers. In addition, about ASTRA is the ASTRA is the strongest fissense of community. cally and programmatically Trade associations can The 2015 ASTRA Marketplace & Academy show floor it has ever been. feel like they are all A long-time contributor to the pages of this magazine, McHugh has pro- about business, but ASTRA is so much more than that. Owning and managvided counsel to our readers in her regular articles. The Toy Book caught up ing a successful small business is hugely demanding, and ASTRA is a place where members can go to get that extra something—advice, encouragement, with her as she prepared to leave her ASTRA role. and even emotional support—when days are long and times are tough. We work together to support one another and support the stability and growth of How did you first get involved with ASTRA? My training and experience center on association management. A key the entire industry. What has impressed me along the way is that members have never been purpose of a trade association, of course, is to aggregate certain business functions of the members so the costs are shared and the impact is increased. afraid to talk about the important issues that affect the industry. We were the Like many newer and smaller associations, ASTRA hired an association first to commission a white paper on the issue of Internet sales and MAP management company to run their operations in its early years. I first worked policies that could help brick-and-mortar stores stay vibrant. We are a tirewith ASTRA when I was an employee of a management company hired by less supporter and promoter of the Shop Local movement through our work ASTRA. When the ASTRA Board recognized that the association could in- as charter member of the Advocates for Independent Business (AIB) as well crease its effectiveness and expand its services to members if it had its own as through our own creation of Neighborhood Toy Store Day. Our new ed-




ucation and certification program is responsive to the fact that we expect to see many ownership transitions in the next few years, and we have to help potential new owners get ready. If I were to sum up the evolution over the past 15 years, I would say that when I started, ASTRA was mostly about basic member services and networking. We are still about that today, but we also have much more capacity to address important industry and public affairs infrastructure issues that impact our members’ short-term and long-term business interests.

What were some of the major challenges you faced during your time leading ASTRA?

Let’s start with the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and the aftermath. This happened shortly after I established independent offices for ASTRA in 2000, and it changed everything in a moment. We all remember the confusion and anxiety like it was yesterday. The already shaky economy took a big downturn and our members, of course, were looking at a very uncertain fourth quarter and beyond. ASTRA was like many associations during the post-9/11 challenges. Should we go forward with planning our annual meeting or cancel it? What do our members need most right now to make it through this unprecedented series of events? So, we rallied. We talked each other through it, we supported one another, we empathized, and we made exceptions. We met the turmoil with strength and consistent optimism. It was a terrible time, but we were stronger afterward because we had shared so much together. During my time at ASTRA, I watched as several industries imploded around us because they were stuck in the woe-is-me syndrome and didn’t break through to take action. ASTRA and its members took action and continue fighting to maintain a strong, supportive industry. While less tragic, in 2008 the toy world was struck again by events that required us to address problems with strength and shared purpose. A series of high-profile mass-market toy recalls for high lead levels hit just before the holiday season, and the entire industry was impacted. This provided an opportunity for advocacy groups to demand immediate Congressional action to ensure that toys being made and brought into the U.S. were safe from lead contamination. It resulted in the landmark Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)—legislation that called for the strictest testing stan-

Kathleen McHugh at the 2015 ASTRA Marketplace & Academy

dards the toy and children’s industries ever faced. The CPSIA was complicated, it was extensive, and it was frightening to everyone who sold toys because it wasn’t easy to understand the meaning and consequences of all its provisions. We quickly became educated about the issues surrounding the new legislation only to find out that states were also trying to enact their own legislative “remedies,” which would create a patchwork of different regulations around the country with many unintended consequences. We hired an expert to help us navigate what the new regulations meant to manufacturers and retailers alike. There was a lot of confusion about where the responsibility for testing lay. We hosted regular update webinars with ASTRA experts and kept the flow of information constant and steady. When nongovernmental organizations approached retailers to test products in their stores (hoping to create more sensational press), we advised against it. When reporters came to stores asking retailers questions about the standards and their toys, we were there to advise them along the way. We put out regular press bulletins with advice on how to handle questions and how to respond to the press as well as customers. We worked with the Toy Industry Association at the national level to rally our members to support a national standard, which would override state standards that were not in sync with the national standards in place. It was a very busy time for all of us in the toy industry. We had never faced a crisis that challenged our core belief that the toys we sell are safe, but we rose above it and thrived.

“Owning and managing a successful small business is hugely demanding, and ASTRA is a place where members can go to get that extra something—advice, encouragement, and even emotional support—when days are long and times are tough. We work together to support one another and support the stability of the entire industry.”




The number of ASTRA-sponsored programs for retailers expanded for today’s specialty toy retailers to educate themselves? under your watch. Which programs are you most proud of? The Certified Master Retailer credential is another way ASTRA sup-

I am proud that the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy has come to be the place where the specialty toy industry meets every year for business, education, and friendship. When I think about the “Marketplace” part of our first Marketplace & Academy in a small hotel ballroom and compare it to today’s large exhibit hall full of quality specialty toy vendors who quickly buy up all our exhibit space every year, I see a reflection of our commitment to differentiate specialty toys and increase the impact of the specialty side of the industry. Marketplace & Academy has become an institution and a place for commerce, learning, inspiration, and commitment to the future of the specialty toy industry. It is a place for all parts of the industry—manufacturers, retailers, and sales representatives—to embrace their important roles in making it a robust place to do business. I am also very proud of the tools we provide members that support the value of play for children. Publications like ASTRA’s Make Way for Play and Toys for Children with Special Needs books leverage the role of locally owned retailers as neighborhood play experts. Not only do resources like these provide a way for store owners to differentiate their businesses and products from mass-market competitors, their message is important to families and early childhood educators. Many years of research has confirmed the essential role of healthy, productive play in raising creative, independent, and socially responsible children with the social and emotional skills that increase their chances for success in school. Play is so simple and so natural. I argue that ASTRA retailers are on the frontlines of helping families learn about the importance of play, and it is gratifying that we have been getting resources to retailers to support that role.

What are some of the big changes you’ve seen take place in the specialty toy retailing landscape?

I am excited to see that the industry attracts talented new people every day. They bring with them an unbridled enthusiasm and spirit that the industry needs at this time. Many of them embrace technologies that are important to their customers as well as to their business. We are currently talking with many of them to learn what attracts them to the industry, what the industry can do to support them, and how we can learn from them. Many of our long-time members are nearing retirement or other career changes, and this influx of talent is essential to the health of the specialty toy industry. ASTRA’s challenge is to help ensure the healthy transition of stores to the next generation of store owners so that the industry grows more robust.

ASTRA recently launched a Certified Master Retailer program to help store owners strengthen their businesses. How important is it SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS


ports the health and growth of the specialty toy industry. This was done in recognition of the need for stronger succession plans and more professionalism in specialty toy retailing. It is a way to promote career paths and best practices in retail store management so stores will be positioned to remain viable over the long-term. Staff at retail stores can access the course content through convenient on-demand webinars and earn them by demonstrating their mastery of the material. Related to the Certified Master Retailer credential is the Certified Play Expert designation, which will provide a highly credible way to support a store’s positioning as the community’s play experts—and by doing so, reposition the competition.

What kind of effect has social media had on specialty toy retailers? Social media gives store owners a new tool to connect with their communities and their customers. A hallmark of a locally owned store is that it is unique not only in its neighborhood but it is also unique among other toy stores. Social media is a wonderful way to highlight character and perhaps even quirkiness in a way that supports the relationship with moms, dads, grandparents, and other toy buyers. Of course, it also is a great tool for personalizing experiences and for expressing the passion for good toys and play that specialty toy retailers share with their customers.

What would you say are the biggest obstacles that today’s specialty toy retailers face?

Perhaps we can make this a simple answer and say this: competition. It is a constant, it is a condition of doing business, it will never go away, and it is to be embraced and worked around. At the end of the day, almost every problem that a retailer needs to solve—staffing, training, merchandising, marketing, you name it—is about making your store more attractive than the other choices your customer might have for buying toys.

If you could offer a single piece of advice to your successor at ASTRA, what would it be?

ASTRA is a trade association but more importantly, it is a community. Its members must be nurtured and supported. Its board and volunteers are the lifeblood of the organization and should be encouraged to stay focused and deliver high-quality programs with value. There will always be distractions and obstacles but staying true to ASTRA’s mission to support the specialty toy industry will keep them moving forward. ●

Kimberly Mosely, MBA, CAE, has been appointed as the new president of ASTRA, coming from the American College of Healthcare Executives. She began her tenure on September 28.





VARUNI SINHA hildren, forever curious about the world, can bank on a new age of science toys and digital technology to help them investigate, inquire, and experiment. Science toys allow kids to build their own robots, monitor them using apps, learn the basics of coding, use water to fuel cars, run a personalized lab, and explore without limitation. These digitally enhanced playthings also allow kids to explore other fields, such as history, music, and art. They encourage a problem-solving attitude in young scientists, and allow kids to use their smartphones in a meaningful way. Check out some of our favorite new science toys below.

The Air Power Racer, from OWI INC., is a car that can run on air. Recommended for kids ages 10 and up, the car propels itself forward using compressed air. Kids pump air into the chamber until it’s full and then release it, causing the car to zoom up to 50 meters in 35 seconds. The kit can be assembled easily and includes a safety device, which helps release excess air when the air chamber is full. The air chamber is made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a recyclable material that gives kids a chance to learn about clean energy.

The Robotics: Smart Machines Kit, from THAMES & KOSMOS, is an ideal way for kids ages 8 and up to learn about intelligent machines. Using this kit, young engineers can code programs on their tablets or smartphones with an easy visual programming app, and monitor their robot’s movements through a Bluetooth device. Kids will also learn about ultrasonic sensors, which allow the robot to jump obstacles and walk forward or backward. Kids can also assemble a walking stag beetle model that can open and close its pincers; a funny crocodile that opens its jaws when an object approaches; a cool, dual-rotor drone model that can rotate blades 90 degrees; or a spy-bot that can stream live video back to the tablet screen.

The Flowing River Habitat and the Double Bubble Glass Terrariums from DUNECRAFT bring the outdoors inside. The Flowing River Habitat, with its plants, water pumps, flowing river, and varied landscape, creates an entire ecosystem for pet frogs and turtles. The glass terrariums are ideal for windowsills, and are themed on a desert oasis, a tropical forest, a flowerbed, or whatever a child may choose. They teach kids the importance of plants, and how to nurture them with the right amount of water and sunshine.



Double Bubble Glass Terrarium


The Mysterious Ancient Egypt Kit, from RAVENSBURGER, combines science and history for children ages 8 and up, allowing them to learn about ancient kings, queens, biology, chemistry, archaeology, and more. Children can learn the science behind building a pyramid and casting a mummy, the mysteries surrounding the mask of Tutankhamun, and how to grow holy onions. Other tasks include building ancient instruments, excavating treasures, and writing in hieroglyphics.

The Crash Test Lab, from SMARTLAB TOYS, turns crashing electronic toys into an insightful science lesson. With this kit, kids ages 8 and up can learn about car safety through Newton’s Laws of Motion. The test kit comes with a removable roll cage, two types of bumpers, a safety harness, and an activity book, providing ideas to help kids get started. Just build a crash cart and send the crash test dummy, Impact Jack, on a course to achieve maximum impact with minimum injury. Impact Jack comes equipped with electronic sensors that respond to impacts, allowing kids to set up different crash scenarios.

The Snap Circuit Beginner Kit, from ELENCO, allows young engineers to grasp the basics of electricity, engineering, and circuitry. Recommended for kids ages 5 and up, the kit is fully equipped with a beginner project manual offering nonverbal, step-by-step, 3-D instructions. The kit also has color-coded parts and 20 simple steps for kids to follow.

Young chemists ages 10 and up can explore the world around them using EASTCOLIGHT’s new lineup of lab kits. The Fun Fruit Science Lab allows kids to perform 26 experiments on fruits. Kids can use a fruit to make a battery, learn its food properties, and study chemical reactions, diffusion, evaporation, density, and other cool concepts. The Fun Chemistry Lab offers 37 fun chemistry experiments on acids and alkalis, freezing and melting, making mixtures, sorting out mixtures, creating crystals, invisible creatures, and concepts such as surface tension. The set includes more than 30 tools for exploring the world. The Volcanic Eruption and Rocket Chemistry Lab teaches kids how to construct an erupting volcano, how to blast off a chemically-powered rocket, and how to build a rocket car. Kids can also get a chance to learn the science behind action and reaction, and about acids and alkalis. The All in One Crystal Lab offers 15 exciting crystal experiments, allowing kids to learn the structure and geometry of crystals. Kids can then grow dozens of dazzling crystals in a variety of custom colors.


The Sound Science Kit, from SCIENCEWIZ, allows children ages 8 and up to record, play, and explore sound vibrations, as well as build a complete working Edison Phonograph. The kit comes with a 48-page manual with 20 fun activities. Children can learn how their ears work, discover whether fish have ears, visualize their voiceprint, and more.



WHAT’S NEW Jelly Jam Entertainment has partnered with KIDS PREFERRED to launch The Moodsters, a new line of educational toys and books designed to teach children the fundamentals of feelings. The stories and toys teach simple strategies to build social and emotional intelligence skills in kids. The initial launch of the line features three products, each with an accompanying full-color storybook. The line includes the Moodster Meter and Storybook, an electronics “feeling thermometer” with character voices to help little ones learn a vocabulary for their feelings so they can express their emotions; the Feelings Flashlight and Storybook, an electronic flashlight that features The Moodsters character images with voice affirmations and fun play activities so kids can explore their feelings; and the Moodster Mirror and Storybook, an electronic mirror with character voices to help kids recognize their feelings and non-verbal cues.

LITTLE COSMETICS introduces the Little Cosmetics Little Makeup Artist Set, featuring fake pretend makeup that does not transfer or apply to skin. Intended for creative play, the set features all of the essentials for kids to feel like real makeup artists. Made for kids ages 3 and up, the makeup looks and feels realistic with vibrant shades and soft, smooth textures. The set includes a pretend compact with a shatterproof mirror, pretend contour kit, pretend glitter pot, pretend eye shadow palette, pretend lipstick, pretend blush, and real mini makeup brush bundle. The pretend compact comes in a fair shade, and more shades and colors are available for purchase separately. All of the items fit in the set’s portable makeup bag.

For kids ages 6 and up, the BILD + AnimateIt! Studio Kit, from OGOSPORT, gives kids the opportunity to explore the world of animation with the creation of their own stop-motion movies. This construction toy promotes open-ended play and stimulates a child’s imagination. Each studio kit includes 103 OgoBILD Interchangeable Pieces, a flexible HD steady-mount web cam, a guidebook for introducing stop-motion animation, and a certificate to download Aardman’s AnimateIt! Express software. In addition, the recently launched OgoBILD Shorts is an online platform that gives kids an opportunity to showcase stop-motion animation movies they create with the BILD + Animate kits. The website pulls videos from YouTube that use the keyword hashtag #OgoBildShorts, and displays them for other community members to see.

CREATIVE EDUCATION OF CANADA has expanded into the infant toy market to introduce The Meiya & Alvin Collection, toys that combine soft textiles and natural rubber. The collection is based on the two characters from the storybook, A Day at the Park with Meiya & Alvin, and was designed to promote infant development while combining natural, sustainable materials with recycled packaging. The toys are easy to grip, ideal for teething, and have soft textures that provide emotional comfort and reassurance. The rattle and squeaker toys promote understanding of cause and effect relationships and provide auditory stimulation, while the puppet toys develop socialization skills and promote attentive listening and speech.





The Peppa Pig: Cold Winter Day DVD, from ENTERTAINMENT ONE, features 10 snowy, fun-filled “peppasodes” in a winter wonderland with Peppa and her friends. The new release will produce lots of snorts and laughter all season long, and will be available for purchase in November. The Peppa Pig: School Bus Trip DVD features 10 school-themed episodes and a mini-book from Scholastic. Peppa and her school friends have a picnic, sing their favorite tune on the bus ride home, go on a trip to the mountains, attend gym classes, act in the school play, participate in sports day, and more. In addition, preschoolers will be writing with Peppa with Peppa’s Chalk ABCs. The chalk book has sturdy writeon/wipe-off board pages and includes a pack of chalk and an eraser, so kids can practice their ABCs with Peppa.

DHX MEDIA introduces the Caillou Waits for Santa Storybook for kids ages 3 to 5. In the story, Caillou can’t wait for nighttime because it’s finally Christmas Eve. The holiday storybook features an advent calendar and stickers that will have little ones excited for Santa’s arrival and get them in the holiday spirit. The book will be available on Amazon,, and independent bookstores. Kids can also celebrate the season with Caillou in Caillou’s Holiday Movie. When winter comes to Caillou’s house, the curious 4 year old tackles all kinds of adventures such as helping Daddy shovel snow, making holiday presents for his family, and discovering how other little boys and girls around the world celebrate the season.




Toying with convenience These toy services bring fun by the boxful to subscribers. STEPHANIE CHAN

co-founder, Please and Carrots

With toy store shelves offering greater selection, and parents’ schedules being busier than ever, there is a growing demand for subscription-based services that take much of the stress out of buying toys. The companies behind these services curate toys and ship them to subscribers’ homes by mail. The Toy Book’s Phil Guie interviewed representatives of four subscription-based toy providers, who discussed their selection process, the challenges they face, and more. Where did you get the idea of offering a subscription-based toy service? Chan: We created Please and Carrots because we saw a real need for it in the marketplace. Busy parents rarely have the time to research and shop for the right products to enhance their baby’s early—and most important—milestones, so Please and Carrots does the work for them by delivering developmentally appropriate toys and books right to their doorstep.


CEO, Pley

Lachman: My children are the biggest inspirations in my life. After spending thousands of dollars buying new Lego sets for them, I wanted to find a better way to build Lego creations without breaking the bank. When I discovered there was no service to rent and exchange Lego sets and toys, I decided to start my own, and now there’s Pley! Smaglick: We knew we wanted to create a service that helps busy parents have great moments with their kids. Toys and activity projects are a way for parent and child to explore the greater world together, share a common interest, and travel back to Mom or Dad’s childhood through nostalgic toys.

Please and Carrots box


Khalife: The idea came to us from watching kids today spend so much time immersed in

gadgets. We wanted to deliver a unique experience that got kids to put away the electronics and dive back into the real world to families. After months of brainsouling—a term we coined that fuses brainstorming and soul-searching— we decided a recurring model was crucial to delivering long-term value and making a real impact on kids. Why do you think subscription toy services are becoming increasingly popular? Chan: They’re convenient and make life so much easier for the consumer. That’s precisely why they have subscription-based services for everything these days: groceries, makeup, food products— you name it. Lachman: Technology as a whole is pushing the boundaries and making transactions cheaper, so getting products such as toys, clothing, etc., delivered to your door has become more affordable and convenient. I also think subscription services provide freedom for busy parents: At Pley, our users want the option of not having to go to the toy store with fussy kids, while keeping clutter out of their homes and actively choosing to be eco-friendly. Smaglick: People are busy, and there are so many choices in our times of plenty, so they want to be introduced to new, relevant products and experiences from someone whom they trust in an


Our team—composed of adults and little ones— tests out each product and how it fits the activity and theme. It also needs to fit our shipping box and budget. [As far as partners,] customer experience is No. 1. Suppliers will ask to be put into our kits, and if the product is a good fit for our customer base, we may even design an entire kit around a great product! Bees box, from Surprise Ride

easy, “set-it-and-forget-it” way. Most of all, people want a surprise. In a day when instant gratification is everywhere, anticipation and surprises are hard to come by. Khalife: People are craving experiences rather than material items now more than ever. With subscription-based toys, kids consume the product every month and are eager to receive the next. Along the way, they create memories that last a lifetime. These products also provide a convenient way for parents to offer enrichment to their kids. Tell me about the curating process for the kinds of toys you offer, including how you decide with whom to partner. Chan: The toys and books in our boxes are handpicked in collaboration with a child psychologist, and are specifically chosen to enhance the development of children ages 0 to 3. We look carefully at product construction, durability, and whether it will grow with the child as they learn new skills. Currently, we offer toys from Melissa and Doug, Hape, and Lamaze, along with a few smaller companies. Lachman: We look to align ourselves with companies that share our values and mission. Our process for identifying the right toys revolves around how well it fits into our rental model. If it can be cleaned, sanitized, and shipped in an efficient manner while providing repeated enjoyment for many children, then it is a toy we consider. Smaglick: We compile a list of product options for each activity in the kit and then get samples.


Khalife: We work with experts, educators, parents, and kid testers to ensure our themed packages are fun and enriching beyond what kids learn in the classroom. At Surprise Ride, we think kids are brilliant, so some of the best ideas have come from interviewing kids. We’re also huge advocates of research and development, so our workshop is constantly filled with new themes and activities we’re testing. Our top priority for what gets included in our monthly packages is always quality. We scour the country—and even the world—to find unique items that will bring themes to life. For example, our Ancient Egypt Surprise Ride includes real papyrus paper imported from Egypt! With more and more subscription-based toy services popping up, how does yours stand out from the pack? Chan: Each time you receive a box from Please and Carrots, you know you’re getting the best products to aid in your child’s development at any given stage. In addition, we match our handpicked toys and books with exclusive, subscriber-only content from experts on enhancing development of children ages 0 to 3. We are also constantly reaching out to our consumers for feedback to learn what their children have really liked, as well as taking suggestions for new products. Lachman: For more than two years, Pley has been providing developmental and educational toys for children and families. Over that time, we have been able to perfect our quality control and deliver


CEO and Founder, Cooper & Kidl


Wilderness Box, from Cooper & Kid


a reliable and delightful experience each time someone exchanges a toy. Our members are also highly involved in decisions regarding site changes, brand development, and of course, testing new toys. Smaglick: Rather than providing solely toys or product, we craft and curate an experience for a very niche market. Khalife: Surprise Ride focuses on enrichment rather than simply occupying a child’s time. You won’t get standard paper crafts. Our packages are fun for the entire family and cover everything from art projects and science experiments to chocolate-making and building a homemade volcano. What is the biggest challenge to running a mailbased toy business, logistically or otherwise? Chan: Our boxes are shaped and designed to look like giant wooden blocks, and are 12 by 12 by 12 inches. It is a puzzle to fit together toys that match developmental skills, feel comprehensive together, and are of great value to our customers inside our boxes. It takes a lot of time, research, and experimentation! Lachman: It can be constraining to rely so heavily on shipping providers who might encounter a logistical shipping error, causing a package to go undelivered or returned to us. While we can always replace a shipment, it is difficult to replace that initial moment of joy if our shipment doesn’t arrive on time. Smaglick: We need to get all the various components of our kits ready for kitting at the same time. Any hiccup with one supplier can delay shipping to our entire customer base. Khalife: As founders of a young start-up, our biggest challenge is working with limited resources. We don’t have a huge company behind us like other toy brands. We have to be scrappy and innovative to capture people’s attention. Since you rely on the federal post office, how closely do you keep an eye on the postal rate or legislation that could affect interstate commerce? Smaglick: A postal rate increase would be huge. Massive. Big. Ginormous. We have just begun to offer free shipping on all our kits, because people expect it. Our goal is to lower our prices over time as our customer base grows. We will not raise our prices even if a postal rate change increases our cost.


Frankly, I’d welcome a federal e-commerce sales tax. Using affiliates creates nexus in many states and abiding by the quagmire of individual sales tax requirements is prohibitive for a small to mid-sized e-commerce business. Khalife: We offer free shipping on all of our products, so a postal rate increase would certainly cut into margins. It’s important to us to continue delivering an experience that lands right at your doorstep, so we would have to change our operations in other ways to make up the difference. This could be anything from more efficient packaging to opening other distribution centers in key locations. We follow news on increases in shipping costs, but don’t spend too much time on it. If our business was to rely solely on this one line item, we would be in trouble. We manage shipping costs like any other line item, always looking for ways to optimize it and ready to react to any changes in the landscape as they arise. When you don’t have a physical storefront, how do you spread word about your business? What have you found to be the most successful methods? Chan: We try to spread the word as much as possible through public relations campaigns, email marketing, trade shows, and social media. We test a lot of different channels to see what will stick. Lachman: We’ve gained much of our business through word of mouth. We do advertise ourselves through our social media channels and we’re looking to do more types of advertising down the road, but right now we mostly rely on people who are excited about our service to tell their friends. Smaglick: There are two great ways that we have found to spread the word: 1) Going big with press mentions, and, 2) Going small with live events and demonstrations at familyfriendly establishments. One does not replace the other. Khalife: Ultimately, our customers have been our best advocates. We spend a lot of time making sure we’re building a product for them, and then we empower them with easy tools to tell others. Every day, we hear from parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles raving about how much they love being part of Surprise Ride and how they’ve told all their friends about it. ■


Celebrating 75 Years of the

Creative Arts Marketplace CHA MEGA Show Turns Innovations and Inventiveness into Business Opportunities


t’s an exciting time in the kids’ craft category. Activity trends, such as do it yourself (DIY), are allowing children to exhibit their individuality with craft projects, and more psychologists are advocating for open-ended playtime as a means for children to express creativity on their own terms. The CHA MEGA Conference & Trade Show (CHA MEGA Show), celebrating its 75th anniversary, will have plenty of inspiration and on-trend products for toy retailers and craft and hobby manufacturers. Taking place from January 7 to 12 next year at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif., the CHA MEGA Show is the largest global craft, DIY, and modern makers’ marketplace. The entire industry will come together for six days of education, innovation, and community building. Here are some of the highlights you can expect to see at the CHA MEGA Show’s diamond jubilee:

enlighten attendees on the importance of the creative consumers—DIYers and makers—being ever-more involved in the personalization process: using collages, knits, prints, technology, and more to formulate a unique vocabulary for tomorrow. After his presentation, a panel of industry experts will interpret how they are seeing these trends impact specific areas of business and the creative arts industry as a whole. With more than 400 exhibitors showcasing 12,000 new products representing more than 55 countries, the CHA MEGA Show is the discovery zone for the next retail sensation. Rainbow Loom launched at the CHA MEGA show—so what will be the “Rainbow Loom” of 2016? The answer may be found in the Hot Product Showcase, where all the newest and most innovative products will be displayed. The Hot Product Sneak Peek is a unique opportunity for retailers to view the nominated hot new products of 2016 up close and speak with the innovators and trendsetters who are shaping the craft industry. Children’s crafts are poised to be an exciting category along with crafting projects that also strengthen family bonds.

“With more than 400 exhibitors showcasing 12,000 new products representing more than 55 countries, the CHA MEGA Show is the discovery zone for the next retail sensation.”

Trends, Trends Everywhere From the keynote presentation to the classrooms at the far end of the exhibit hall, the event will be brimming with what’s hot and what’s next. On Saturday, January 8, the keynote address, “A World of Craft,” by Philip Fimmano of Trend Union, will explore international trends in craft, art, fashion, and décor, and will investigate the styles, colors, materials, and techniques that will be influential in the upcoming years. Fimmano will


Best Education in the Business With a highly rated conference (95 percent were satisfied with overall value and quality), the CHA MEGA Show offers something for everyone through its educational programming, including a new, extra day of learning on January 7.


The comprehensive program will channel enthusiasm, sharpen business skills, and expand attendees’ knowledge base in the creative arts and crafting industries. Types of classes include: • Workshops: Serious, hands-on product training that will empower retail buyers to introduce new products and move them off store shelves. All product categories will be covered, and topics include Artisans Workshops, led by skilled artists who are masters in their crafts, and the latest in mixed media, colors, painting, and more. • Business Seminars: Front-row lectures, interactive presentations, and panel sessions led by experts, CHA members, and authors whose expertise will help streamline operations, enhance revenue, and drive success.

• Hands-On Labs will be sprinkled throughout the educational program, which will take place January 7 to 11. These will offer step-by-step training on a particular use of a software program, social media, or specialized subject matter from a private instructor. The Feed Your Brain business-strengthening boot camps will take a deep drive into important disciplines, including marketing, finance, and regulatory issues.

Interactive, Informational, and Resource-Rich Exhibit Floor When the exhibit floor is open from January 9 to 12, attendees will have the opportunity to source from more than 400 exhibitors from all over the world, showcasing thousands

The show floor at last year’s CHA Mega Show



of product lines. The CHA MEGA Show exhibit floor provides Buyer Power Hours, which will give key retail channels exclusive access to the show floor on Sunday, January 10, and Monday, January 11. Other features of the dynamic and engaging show floor at this year’s CHA MEGA Show will include: • Designers in Action: Spotlighting CHA Designer members’ 3-D portfolio displays of their creative designs and services, ranging from online marketing and social media to licensed properties and product development. • Bead Pavilion: Trendy products from leading bead and jewelry manufacturers with jewelry design make-n-takes. • Art & Paint Pavilion: An exclusive area for art material suppliers where live demos of new products and unique techniques by Society of Decorative Painters and more will take place. • New Exhibitor Section: The newest suppliers and distributors in the creative arts industry that are creating industry excitement. • International Exhibitors: A global shop of products from all around the world that may include the next crafting sensation. • Free Show Floor Education: Including the Independent Retailers Conference (IRC) that is dedicated to the unique lifestyle and operational needs of independent retail business owners and entrepreneurs.

A view from the show floor at CHA MEGA Show 2014


CHA Mega Show attendees represent major big box and small- to medium-size independent retailers and distributors from the craft, home improvement, DIY, toy, and hobby industries, including: • • • • • • • •

A.C. Moore Amazon Barnes and Noble Ben Franklin Crafts Crafter’s Home Hobby Lobby Home Depot Home Shopping Network

• • • • • • • •

Michaels Notions Marketing Corp. Paper Source Shutterfly Sierra Pacific Target Toys “R” Us Wal-Mart (Canada)

Connecting the Creative Arts Community The CHA MEGA Show is not all work and no play. There will be ample networking opportunities, chapter and section meetings, and special events to relax, unwind, and connect with peers from all over the world. The MEGA Block Party on Friday, January 8 is open to all attendees and is a chance to have some fun before the CHA exhibit opens on Saturday. The CHA Foundation Gala is an inspiring tribute to 75 years of creativity. The Hall of Fame induction will recognize and honor the pioneers and industry legends, and is where the Exhibiting with Excellence, Best Booth, and 2016 Hot Product Awards will be revealed. “The CHA Show is invaluable to me as a retailer,” says Allison Pauls of Scrap Yard Scrapbooking. “I gain product knowledge, class ideas, and most importantly, I am re-charged and re-motivated to work hard to make my store better.” Registration is now open for the 2016 CHA MEGA Show at Use promo code TOYMEGA16 for a free buyer attendee badge valued at $200. There are discounted hotel rates and airfare for advanced bookings, which includes accommodations within walking distance or free shuttle service to the Anaheim Convention Center. For more information about exhibiting, contact Nadine Schwartz by email at or by phone at (201) 835-1203. ■ The CHA MEGA Show is the place to be to for up-to-the-minute exposure to all the latest trends and new product forecasts. Don’t miss this important business-building event.


social media




CEO, StoryScore




hen you have a name that promises to do two things, it’s important that your product delivers on both fronts. On a hot summer day, you have to be able to “slip” as well as “slide,” your oven has to “bake” and be “easy,” and your robots have to both “rock ’em” and “sock ’em.” But when it comes to social media, too many toy brands get stuck on the “social” side of the equation and they forget about the “media” side. In a recent study by the Association of National Advertisers, 80 percent of marketers said they rely on popularity-based measures such as likes, shares, etc. to measure the effectiveness of their social media sites. In other words, they’re measuring content by how social it is, and not by how well it works as a form of media. The problem with relying on vanity measures like popularity is that they’re not really indicators of the quality of social content, or how well the content is aligned with a brand’s core themes and goals. For example, posts such as “We’re heading into the #weekend! #TGIF” or “Use Code SAVE10 to #save $10 off orders of $60 or More” typically score highly in terms of likes and shares, but do very little to drive brand awareness. Many toy brands have become skilled at using other forms of media—digital, print, video, etc.—to tell powerful stories, but these same brands frequently overlook social media as a powerful storytelling channel. In the pursuit of popularity, they lose sight of creativity, strategy, and story, and the “media” becomes less important than the “social.” Companies that are serious about social media should supplement traditional metrics with an analysis of their social narrative, which is the story created by the cumulative impact of all social media posts over a period of time. When brands manage this effectively, social media can become a powerful tool to drive brand equity. Here are five ways that toy brands can create a more compelling social brand narrative:


StoryScore conducted an analysis of toy brands’ social media effectiveness in the fourth quarter of last year, examining nearly 1,000 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest posts and crunching social media data to measure how well each brand’s social media narrative aligned with its broader brand strategy. See how some of the top toy companies scored.


Creativity and education are the dominant themes for Lego, which has multiple dedicated social media accounts for its brands. Lego posted more videos to YouTube than any other brand in the StoryScore study.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE StoryScore’s analysis of social content in the fourth quarter of last year found that more than 50 percent of content from Mattel’s Hot Wheels social channels was targeted at collectors and attendees of an automotive specialty show. This adult-oriented content sat side-by-side with content targeted at moms and children, which creates a confusing impression. A brand like Hot Wheels would never run an automotive specialty ad in Parenting magazine, so why would they blur these audiences on social media? On the other hand, Lego (the top brand in StoryScore’s study) does an excellent job of segmenting audiences, with different Twitter accounts for academics (@LegoAcademics), educators (@Lego_Education), as well as individual properties within the Lego family.

STICK TO YOUR STORY Treat your brand themes as valuable assets and create fresh content to support those themes every month. When core themes are neglected in favor of one-off coupons and random questions like, “How is your family spending this Saturday?” the result is a less distinctive, weaker brand presence. Alex


The Voice Reaching Both Trade and Consumers

Contact: Jonathan Samet or Laurie Schacht Adventure Publishing Group 307 7th Avenue, Suite 1601 New York, NY 10001 Tel: 212-575-4510 Fax: 212-575-4521

the bar



when laches bar the courtroom door


Managing Partner, Lackenbach Siegel LLP


leep may keep you healthy, but sleeping on your intellectual property (IP) rights—or any legal rights, for that matter—can often be fatal to your company.

What is “Laches”?

The technical word for unreasonable delay in bringing a lawsuit is “laches” (rhymes with “matches”). Just as it sounds, it’s related to the word “lax”—something you don’t want to be when you’re trying to enforce your legal rights. A defendant can use laches as a defense if it can show that the plaintiff waited too long to sue (“unreasonable delay”—meaning the length of the delay and whether or not there was a good reason for the delay) and that the defendant was harmed by the delay.

Fitbug v. Fitbit

That’s what the plaintiff, a producer of electronic fitness tracking devices, learned recently. In Fitbug v. Fitbit, the plaintiff, Fitbug, a UK company founded in 2004, was one of the first companies in the portable electronic fitness tracker market. The competitor and defendant, Fitbit, was founded in California in 2007 and later said that the name Fitbit was chosen before anyone at the company became aware of Fitbug. In 2013, Fitbug sued Fitbit for trademark infringement, but the court never decided whether or not there was a likelihood of confusion between the two trademarks because Fitbug’s claims were barred by laches. Here’s a summary of what happened—and why—to Fitbug in that case, so that your company may avoid a similar fate:

Laches can bar a claim.

Laches is a defense. That means that the alleged trademark, patent, or copyright infringer doesn’t have to prove that


it doesn’t infringe. The defendant has to show only that the plaintiff waited too long to sue and that the defendant was potentially harmed by the delay. What the plaintiff did: Fitbug spent time and resources investigating the possible infringement by Fitbit, the new company making electronic fitness tracking devices. The longer the investigation dragged on, the more evidence the rival company had that the plaintiff was waiting too long, regardless of whether or not there was actual infringement. What your company can do: With the assistance of IP counsel, conduct a thorough pre-filing investigation and determine as soon as practicable whether or not you will bring an infringement claim.

Too much information...

A major factor in a court’s decision about whether a claim is barred by laches is the length of the delay. So the court will look at correspondence, including emails, that show how long a plaintiff knew or should have known about its potential claim. What the plaintiff did: Fitbug conducted correspondence within and without the company about the issue of the potential infringement. Some of the correspondence referred to the potential infringer as a “ripoff,” “another competitor,” and “thieving.” “Heads-up” letters from individuals and company employees only served to prove that the plaintiff was aware, or should have been aware, of the competitor’s products more than four years before the plaintiff filed suit. What your company can do: Limit or eliminate speculative correspondence about legal issues, and confine brainstorming to phone conversations or in-person meetings—though it’s not always possible to limit correspon-


dence from outside the company, as occurred in this case. Consult IP counsel promptly for assistance in resolving issues such as potential infringement.

...or not enough?

Not only will the court look at actual knowledge of a potential infringement claim, but it will also consider constructive knowledge. That means that if your company should have known about the potential claim, a court will hold your company responsible—as if you had actually known the relevant facts. For example, Fitbit publicly announced its products a full year before it actually sold any products. So, Fitbug was charged with knowing about the competitor from the time of the announcement, regardless of whether or not Fitbug actually was aware of the Fitbit announcement. What the plaintiff did: Fitbug ignored or minimized the importance of information, such as the “heads-up” letters discussed above, that should have triggered action. What your company can do: Police your company’s IP through a watch service or another reliable system. Act promptly, with the advice of counsel, on information about possible infringement, and organize a follow-up in doubtful cases.

Watch your back.

An effective policing effort will inform IP owners of potentially infringing applications before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The owner of a trademark registration can then oppose that new application before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. If the Opposition proceeding is successful, the new application will be refused registration. In addition, the successful Opposition may make it possible to prevail in a lawsuit against the competitor. For example, in the Fitbug v. Fitbit case, Fitbit filed a trademark application just before its product announcement. The application covered goods similar to Fitbug’s. What the plaintiff did: Apparently, Fitbug either remained unaware of or took no action to oppose Fitbit’s trademark application, even though Fitbit’s application was published for opposition in January 2009. As a result, Fitbit sailed through the 30-day opposition period and received a Certificate of Registration in December 2009. So, when Fitbug finally sued Fitbit in March 2013, Fitbit had already been holding a federal registration for more than three years. What your company can do: Retain a watch service or other system for policing your company’s trademarks to keep


your company informed of trademark applications before the Trademark Office, as well as in other countries, for marks that may infringe your company’s marks. For example, your company would receive notice that a potentially infringing mark will be published for Opposition, so that your company can then decide whether or not to oppose the application. Even though a favorable decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board will not necessarily block an infringement because a competitor could theoretically continue to use the mark without a federal registration, the Opposition would indicate to a court that your company was conducting an effective policing effort. In addition, the Opposition may lead to a settlement agreement that will resolve the issue in a timely fashion.

Do your homework.

Even if every single factor showing infringement isn’t obvious from the entry of a potentially infringing competitor into a market, the courts expect IP holders to connect the dots. As the court said in the Fitbug case, “While Fitbit was not yet shipping its products, at that time, Fitbit was selling similar devices ‘in the same geographic area under [a] remarkably similar name...’ As a result, a prudent business person should have recognized the likelihood of confusion at that point.” What the plaintiff did: Fitbug argued that it wasn’t responsible for knowledge of a potential infringement until actual sale of the competing products. What your company can do: Pay attention to the results of IP policing efforts even if the competitor isn’t actually selling products or offering services yet, because your company will be charged with awareness of a likelihood of confusion from the time your company knew or should have known of that likelihood—not when your company is completely satisfied that confusion is likely. Seek advice from IP counsel, so that your company doesn’t find itself arguing the equivalent of “The dog ate my homework” before a court if your company does decide to bring a lawsuit.

Look ahead.

Gradual expansion of a competitor into an IP holder’s area of business can sometimes indicate that infringement isn’t ev-


“When it comes to IP and other legal rights, ‘You snooze; you lose’ is a fact of life.” ident until the expansion has actually resulted in direct competition between the IP holder and the new company. But courts often charge IP holders with understanding that the conflict between the two businesses is inevitable. For example, in the Fitbug case, Fitbug argued that at first Fitbit sold only to individuals, and not to businesses, so there was no likelihood of confusion until Fitbit began selling to businesses. But the court said, “While Fitbug points out that Fitbit’s sales in the business-to-business-to-consumer market have grown substantially, it is also undisputed that Fitbit had sales in that market since its inception.” What the plaintiff did: Fitbug decided that the infringement was so minimal at first that it could wait until the competitor’s sales were at a level that actually threatened Fitbug. What your company can do: In assessing a potential infringement, consider, with the assistance of IP counsel, whether or not the competitor is either actually selling or planning to sell in your market—or will logically be doing so as its business expands. If so, your company will be charged with knowledge of potential infringement even before that expansion actually occurs.

Don’t just hope the problem will go away.

In deciding whether a claim is barred by laches, courts don’t accept the argument that the plaintiff waited to sue until it was sure the new company would not go out of business. In the words of a leading trademark authority, as quoted by the Fitbug court, “[T]he plaintiff ‘cannot simply wait without explanation to see how successful the defendant’s business will be and then ask for an injunction to take away good will developed by defendant in the interim.’” What the plaintiff did: Fitbug delayed action while it

waited and watched its competitor invest in the new business. What your company can do: Use your business sense— and your IP lawyer’s advice—to evaluate the threat imposed by the potential infringer. Don’t count on a competitor’s possible business failure to resolve the infringement issue.

If you see something, do something.

The greater the harm to the junior (second) use by the delay of the senior (first) user in bringing suit, the more likely it is that an infringement claim will be barred by laches. For example, in the Fitbug case, the court explained that “Fitbit has provided substantial evidence detailing its efforts through the period of Fitbug’s delay to build its business, generating substantial sales, hiring large numbers of employees, and developing products, all of which it offers under the well known Fitbit mark. Those efforts, and Fitbit’s products, have garnered awards and substantial media coverage. The economic prejudice would be severe if Fitbit were to now lose the rights to the Fitbit name.” What the plaintiff did: As the court saw it, Fitbug thought that “it should be permitted to wait and watch, with full knowledge of Fitbit’s allegedly infringing use, as Fitbit invested substantial sums of money in advertising and building up goodwill in its allegedly infringing brand, only to intervene once those investments panned out.” So the court ruled that such delay created the potential harm to Fitbit by Fitbug’s tardy lawsuit, supporting Fitbit’s defense of laches. What your company can do: Consider possible infringements when you learn of them, and reject a “wait-and-see” approach, to avoid being responsible for your competitor’s lost investment if you bring suit.

Know thy limitations period.

Courts will decide whether a plaintiff’s delay was unreasonable based on statutes of limitations—either for infringement, as some states have provided, or by analogy to another type of claim, such as a similar civil wrong. But a court can decide that laches bars a claim, even if an analogous statute of limitations hasn’t yet been reached. As the U.S. Supreme Court stated in 1892, “[L]aches is not, like limitation, a mere


continued on page 113


more than just toys


pielwarenmesse 2016 will take place from January 27 to February 1 in Nuremburg, Germany. The annual toy fair connects members of the toy industry and offers them a preview of the year’s newest products to market, while also providing business tips, new marketing opportunities, and networking connections.

more than just toys Spielwarenmesse will showcase a range of products from the toy, hobby, and leisure categories that expand well beyond classic and technical toys. The extended product range accommodates growing dealer interest in supplementary assortments. One place where this is especially apparent is in

the growing numbers of exhibitors in the baby and infant category. More baby toys, textiles, furniture, and accessories can be seen in Halls 1, 2, and 3 this year. The lifestyle and trend product group is also showing significant growth. At these booths, attendees will find suppliers of fashion and accessories, living and decoration, paper items, and fan, souvenir, and licensed products. Hall 9 will also boast the largest selection of manufacturers of party, carnival, and fireworks products. This exhibit space has grown significantly due to the trend of themed parties, and their effect of giving boosting year-round sales outside of Halloween.

matchmaker, matchmaker An important part of Spielwarenmesse is the business connections. More than 2,800 exhibitors meet with more than 70,000 trade visitors hoping to engage in mutually beneficial business exchanges. With such a large presence at the show, those contacts may be hard to maintain—or even seek out in the first place. Spielwarenmesse’s new matchmaking feature helps exhibitors and industry visitors find the right contacts for establishing these business relationships. Exhibitors can set up an account and book appointments and receive contact suggestions that are individually tailored to their profile. This allows exhibitors to not only maintain and manage existing relationships, but also to find new partners. With a ticket purchase, trade visitors can activate a premium account at no extra charge. By participating in matchmaking, an exhibitor increases his



or her likelihood of making good business contacts. The matchmaking service links scheduling with the online catalogue and organizer together with watchlist options, making it a helpful planning tool. Spielwarenmesse will also offer a webinar series designed to show how making initial contacts and maintaining these contacts are at the heart of visitors’ trade show presence.

trends, business tips, and more The biggest trends in the toy industry will be presented in the TrendGallery at Spielwarenmesse. The special area in Hall 3A presents all important trends and the corresponding product innovations. The forecasts are based on the finds of an international TrendCommittee, comprised of 10 experts who research trends from all over the world. Once a day, a member of the TrendCommittee will explain all of the details of the individual trends. At the Toy Business Forum, retailers learn about the latest findings with regard to consumer behavior, sales promotion, and accompanying online activities. In a variety of 30-minute presentations, experts show participants how the consumer goods industry is developing and provide them with tips on how to achieve successful business activities in the future.

toyaward 2016 All Spielwarenmesse exhibitors can register their products free of charge for the ToyAward 2016. The toy fair presents the award in four age group-specific categories: baby and infant, preschool, school kids, and teenager and family. An 11-person expert panel, made up of educators, market researchers, and trade representatives, will rate the registered products based on game enjoyment, novelty, safety, finishing and quality, and clarity of the product concept, as well as their potential commercial success. Three products in each category will be announced as nominees in a January 21 press conference. The ToyAward 2016 presentation ceremony will take place during Spielwarenmesse’s launch party. Participating products must come to market before September 16, 2016. ■



CONTINUED FROM 96 Toys, for example, does a great job of reinforcing its creative credentials by posting links to other creative projects and activities for children.

STAND FOR SOMETHING Brands that support a cause or have a distinctive world view will always do a better job of storytelling than brands that are just promoting products. That’s because a worthwhile cause inspires passion, authenticity, and caring, which in turn makes for strong, engaging content. GoldieBlox, for example, has a fraction of the number of social media followers as Barbie, but has a higher StoryScore, and after only two years on the market was invited to participate in last year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. GoldieBlox is passionate about encouraging girls to get more involved in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and this passion drives smart, engaging content with a strong narrative.


Monster High has a very distinctive tone of voice that makes liberal use of scare-raising puns. The brand posted more user-generated content, and made more use of Instagram, than any other brand in the StoryScore study.

GIVE YOUR CONSUMER A VOICE Toys inspire children’s imaginations and creativity, so toy brands should use social media channels as a forum for celebrating this creativity and building meaningful connections with consumers. Monster High does a great job of featuring user-generated content, including artwork, photography, and product reviews across all of its social media channels. The content is presented with commentary from Monster High written in the brand’s distinctive tone of voice, which is the main reason why Monster High also performed so well in the StoryScore study.

TAKE CONSUMERS BEHIND THE SCENES Giving consumers a peek behind the curtain and sharing exclusive content is a great way to drive engagement and reinforce your brand’s social narrative. Fisher-Price does a great job posting “FP Insider” videos about toy design, manufacturing, and testing. Similarly, Lego invites consumers behind the scenes for sneak previews of upcoming kits and innovations. As brands look to develop more robust social content strategies, storytelling will only become more important across social media. For many toy brands there is still an opportunity to strengthen the storytelling—or “media”—component of their social media in the same way they’ve mastered other forms of expression, such as advertising, packaging, and promotions. ■ Martyn Tipping is the CEO of StoryScore, a social media metric and division of brand consultancy, TippingGardner. You can reach him at



GoldieBlox posted more content than any other brand in the study with an average of 7.5 posts per day, primarily across Facebook and Twitter. GoldieBlox had strong, engaging content with dominant themes focused on girls and STEM. For a relatively young brand with 90 percent fewer followers than any other Top 5 brand in the study, GoldieBlox is doing a great job of getting its story across in social media.


Suggestions for arts & crafts activities are one of the main themes for Alex’s content, and the brand makes great use of Pinterest boards to showcase these ideas. The holidays were another major theme for Alex, with content including promotions, wishlists, gift ideas, coupons, and printable activities. Alex posted more to Twitter than any other brand in the study (an average of 4.2 posts a day).


continued from page 32 much more passionately involved when they can choose the charity. Social good also investigates and promotes concepts of kid-preneurship and empowerment, and teaches kids that heroes are role-models, in the cases of both superheroes and everyday heroes. Ecological and environmentally conscious products are also a part of this trend. Kids can emulate these character traits and sustainable practices in their lives and learn at an early age that they, too, can be part of the solution for creating and sustaining a better world. Manufacturers and retailers who promote these social good aspects resonate deeply with Millennial and Gen X parents, as well as with Baby Boomer grandparents.


Sports, Skill-Building Challenges, and Outdoor Activities: This trend is

gaining traction worldwide as countries, communities, and individual families are becoming more involved in encouraging and role-modeling active lifestyles and healthy choices. There are so many examples of this trend, including ride-ons for preschoolers, sports products, skill-building tools, active games, and outdoor products across all youth demographics. Some of the newer activities within this segment are the skill-building Kendama products, which are originally from Japan; ice-sailing from the Nordic and Netherlands; kite-surfing; paddle-boarding; snow sports; watersports; wheeled sports; and team sports. The focus can be divided by indoor and outdoor activities for various levels of fitness, ages, and competencies. Candidates included in this key growth area are newer forms of skates, scooters, bikes, and ride-ons; team sports; individual sports; and competitions—either for fun or on teams.

Smart Technology:

This trend continues to expand and morph into revolutionary segments, as the influence of technology constantly offers new ways to play (For a list of these smart tech-fueled categories—as well as more details on holiday products fitting this trend, see my article in the May/June 2015 issue of The Toy Book). Smart technology offers engaging and explorative play patterns spanning a wide range of categories. These technologies encompass GPS tracking and gyroscope functions, near-field technologies, and motion-sense and wireless activations. Some



companies are building in newer augmented reality and artificial intelligence options at an affordable price point. Three-dimensional printing and modeling are being explored through alliances between toy and game manufacturers and the top technology and computer expert manufacturers. Adding a personalized creativity component to the mix, kids as young as age 8 can now create their own digital movies, wearable technology, apps, and virtual fashion designs, and even code their own programs and build Minecraft mods. While many adults cannot boast competency in these areas, kids are learning and mastering them because their toys are encouraging them to do so. This article touches upon some of the top new segments that are emerging as we approach 2016. Manufacturers and retailers are advised to keep their product mix varied and fresh, so that kids—and adult-sized kids—continue coming back for more. Stay tuned for more insights on these trends in the coming months. ■ Reyne Rice is a key industry analyst, a trend hunter, and a media spokesperson with more than 30 years of experience in marketing, researching, and analyzing the toy and game, kids’ technology, entertainment, licensing, and youth market industries. She is an international trade journalist and a frequent keynote speaker at conferences spanning Asia, Europe, and North America. She has owned her own consultancy, ToyTrends, since 2003, and can be reached at


January 22 to 25, 2016 in New Orleans The Big Show That Fulfills Your Year-Round Halloween and Party Needs


he Halloween industry is a $6.9 billion industry, and “Retailers need to keep their inventory fresh and one-third of Halloween consumers start shopping showcase new product offerings to keep their customers well before October 31, according to data from coming back,” says Doug Miller of Urban Expositions. the National Retail Federation. Add to that the sea“At Halloween & Party Expo, we work with our sonal party and gift needs that buyers have throughsuppliers, launching new products and new prodout the year, and it’s looking even more uct lines to make it convenient for the retailer to important than ever to stay up-to-date on see what’s new and what’s going to be the next the latest trends and fashions for Halhot product in the industry. This year we are loween and parties in general. thrilled to bring in even more new suppliers, givThe Halloween & Party Expo—which will ing retailers opportunities for new connections be held January 22 to 25 in New Orleans—is at the show.” the event with the most new product launches, New features this year include a product unique styles, and hottest trends for retailers’ display that allows attendees to cast their vote merchandising needs. Sponsored by Urban for the best new products, happy hours deExpositions and the Halloween Industry signed for relaxing and enjoying the camaAssociation (HIA), Halloween & Party Expo raderie of industry colleagues and friends, offers retailers access to 350 domestic and and opportunities to network and intermix with industry experts. ■ international exhibitors in the costume, accessories, party supplies, décor, and Photo courtesy of InCharacter Costumes candy industries. Retailers looking to see what’s new and unique for Halloween, dress-up costumes, and the seasonal party category will have an opportunity to do so at New Orleans, known for its rich culture, culinary excelthis event. lence, and vibrant music, is a destination people are eager to visit. Experience cuisine that delights your palate and introduces newcomers to the history, fabric, and culture of New Orleans. Enjoy live music and celebrate all the city has The four-day event not only showcases new and unique to offer. New Orleans is the perfect backdrop for the event merchandise for retailers of specialty stores, but also connects that’s all about celebration! attendees with new suppliers and companies not seen at other trade shows.

Celebrate in the City of Carnival

The Premier Halloween Industry Event



Halloween & Party Expo offers retailers access to 350 domestic and international exhibitors in the costume, accessories, party supplies, décor, and candy industries.

For more information about the exhibitors, events, and educational sessions at the Halloween & Party Expo—or to plan your trip and book your hotel in New Orleans at an exclusively negotiated rate—visit

The Can’ t Miss Halloween & Party Expo Experience The Brewing Boos and Booze: This late night gathering (open to all badge holders) provides the opportunity for the industry to celebrate together. It will be hosted in the Generations Hall with music, dancing, drinks, and more. Independent Retailer Conference: A one-stop destination for attendees to engage, learn, and connect with industry leaders, retail experts, and trusted merchant resources. Offered free as part of registration, these 15-minute educational sessions are designed with guests’ busy agendas in mind. Bloody Mary Mixer: Join in on this lively, fun cocktail hour on the show floor. It is a great way to unwind and relax at the end of the day. New Product Awards: It’s the viewer’s choice: You decide the best new products at the 2016 event!




FACTORIES Finding the Right 7 Steps to Help You Select the Right Supplier

by Steve Reece, brand marketing and product development consultant


oy and game companies generally have no bigger expense than manufacturing costs. Even for companies buying directly from factories in China, total spend on manufacturing costs are significant, with some toy companies spending three to five times their profits on production costs. Because of ratios like this, many toy companies have a “lowest cost” mentality when it comes to sourcing, which can ultimately be disastrous. There is little that will damage a toy company’s ongoing prospects more than supply, quality, safety standard, or recall infractions. Aside from the weighty fines a company would get slapped with from angry consumers if a recall arises, that company’s reputation and future business are also put in jeopardy. All of this—and more—is what can happen simply by letting the wrong kind of supplier into your supply chain, so it’s important to commit to the right supplier. That said, supplier selection criteria should include more than just a cheap price tag. While competitive pricing is important, there are other factors to consider. Try following these steps before making a decision on a supplier:

from proven, trusted suppliers eventually becomes a habit, so watch for price creep on future orders.

Any sourcing person can supply a request for quote (RFQ), but the trick is to get quotes for several different types of products to ensure that new vendors have the same cost effectiveness across all the product types that you may want them to supply. Processes, material sources, and machinery can vary between different toy categories quite significantly. Also be aware that many factories will underquote on first orders to win the business, because they know that ordering

There are some companies that delight in finding that one unknown gem of a supplier, but that’s not necessarily the best approach. Why take the risk of working with a supplier that doesn’t have an established reputation in the toy business, when there are so many that do? Instead, look at suppliers that have existing business with other established and reputable toy companies, especially those with long-standing supply relationships.




This is an unexciting—but nevertheless critical—area that can be as important as any other factor if you work with big brands and mass-market retailers. Corporate brand owners and corporate retailers have a reputation to be protective, so independent audits are necessary to satisfy them that your products are sourced from factories that will not damage their reputations. Always make sure you get copies of audit certificates, and make sure the certificates match the company name of the people with whom you are in contact.


It could be risky to allow a new supplier into your supply chain without having visited their manufacturing location. Ideally, you should visit each new factory location to ensure against any obvious issues or defects in the approach and production of your potential new suppliers.




Utilize your relationships or contacts within other companies. It can be very useful to validate your interest in a potential new supplier with people who already have experience working with the vendor in question. Think of it like a serious relationship: There’s a difference between dating someone sporadically and living with them every day. Get the inside scoop on how a vendor really functions from people who already work with them. Recommendations are easily given at the various bars, coffee shops, and cafés around annual toy industry trade shows.


Use the same approach to bringing on a new vendor as you would when buying another company. Comb through everything you can in as much detail as you can. If a vendor claims to supply a particular company, find out for sure that’s the case. If they claim to have been audited by a particular retailer/licensor, make sure you get documentation to prove that. Remember: Cutting corners can increase risk.


There are lots of individuals and companies that can help you find the right toy and game factories, whether you’re looking for a Hong Kong factory or a U.S. domestic outlet. If you have any doubts, there’s little harm and a lot to gain by seeking professional help. Most professionals that can assist you in this area are paid by the supplier, so the cost is built into the price you pay. If the price is not right, you don’t proceed with that person or company. Factory finding services will often pay for themselves, saving you costs by opening up access to a broad vendor base or pointing you toward specific vendors, depending on what you’re looking for. My company was asked to help find a new board games supplier for a leading games company that had too great a workload for too few staff members. We met with the potential candidates, got quotes, and helped the company choose the new supplier. Aside from reducing the stress and leg work for the client, we also saved them an average of 14 percent per product in costs. On another project, the owner of a multicategory toy company needed to secure a new supplier for several different product categories at short notice due to a


Think of it like a serious relationship: There’s a difference between dating someone sporadically and living with them every day. Get the inside scoop on how a vendor really functions from people who already work with them.” supplier audit failure. We introduced the company to five or six leading factories (with squeaky clean audit bills of health). The company then selected two factories, which are now supplying and hitting all the required standards.


Even with all of these steps, there are still a few other things to consider. Due to the slide in value of the Euro currency versus the value of the U.S. dollar (which is the currency overwhelmingly used to buy stock from Chinese factories), more European toy and game companies will be forced to manufacture within the Euro-zone this year. As countries within this area are likely to account for roughly 15 percent of global toy sales this year, this may open up capacity and appetite from high-quality vendors in China. That said, many people view China as a toy manufacturing base that has lost a certain degree of its price competitiveness in recent years, with a general trend toward opening additional manufacturing facilities where labor costs are lower, such as Vietnam. This doesn’t necessarily need to affect your approach in the short term, but it could be prudent to have local manufacturing options validated, should exchange rate fluctuations or labor issues threaten to restrict price competitive supply from the heartland of toy manufacturing in southern China. ■ Steve Reece runs Kids Brand Insight, a leading global consultancy to toy and game companies. For more details, visit




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: //

BUSINESS DIRECTORIES 2015 Trade Show Directory $39.95 Independent Sales Rep Directory $69.95 Toy Wholesalers & Manufacturers $29.95 We carry Salesman’s Guides to Find Buyers and Trade Show Exhibitor Lists for Toy Fair and others! 1-800-635-7654 • Free Magazine:

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

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continued from page 100 matter of time; but principally a question of the inequity of permitting the claim to be enforced—an inequity founded upon some change in the condition or relations of the property or the parties.” What the plaintiff did: Fitbug calculated that it had four years to bring suit, based on a statute of limitations covering other civil wrongs, and used the beginning of its competitor’s sales to determine when the limitations period started to run. But the court could have considered a shorter limitations period—three years or two years, depending upon what rule courts in that state applied in similar cases. Even four years wasn’t long enough for Fitbug’s claim, because the court ruled that the time period began when the plaintiff should have known about the potential infringement—a year earlier than sales started, the date on which Fitbug relied. What your company can do: Seek the advice of IP counsel to determine what limitations period will apply to your potential claim, and time your actions accordingly.

Seek counsel.

IP counsels are experienced and knowledgeable in evalu-

Adora Doll............................................61 ALEX Toys.........................................8–9 American Plastic Toys..........................31 Amloid..................................................75 Bananagrams ........................................63 BERG USA ..........................................74 Blue Orange Games .............................71 The Bridge Direct...............................4–5 Craft & Hobby Association ..................95 Eastcolight......................................14–15 Elf Magic..............................................57 Folkmanis .............................................51 HANSA Creation .................................83 The Haywire Group..............................68 HEXBUG ...........................................1–2 Hong Kong Trade Development Council.........................101

ating potential IP infringement and can guide a company in deciding how to react to the potential infringement. What the plaintiff did: Fitbug took no action when advised by attorneys as early as a month after the public announcement of the competing product—and again when the competitor began selling its product—that there might be trademark infringement. What your company can do: Consult with IP counsel whenever IP infringement is suspected and make sure your company understands counsel’s reasons for recommending or not recommending action, before your company makes a final decision. And remember, as the old saying goes, “Laches is a penalty for sleeping on one’s rights.” When it comes to IP and other legal rights, “You snooze; you lose” is a fact of life. ■ Howard N. Aronson has provided legal counsel to toy industry companies for the past 35 years. He is the managing partner of Lackenbach Siegel LLP, an intellectual property law firm recognized for its nine decades of handling toy company issues. Contact Aronson at

Advertiser Index

International Playthings .......................59 Intrepid Investment Bankers LLC........91 Kahootz Toys........................................69 Laser Pegs ............................................35 Magformers LLC .................................65 Maisto/Bburago ..............................10–11 NKOK ................................................6–7 The NPD Group .................................107 The Orb Factory Ltd.............................76 Odyssey Toys .......................................43 Pacific Play Tents .................................55 Pillow Pets............................................67 PlaSmart .........................................17, 19 Playmobil USA ....................................39 R&R Games .........................................53 Redwood Ventures Ltd. ........................37

Rubba Ducks ........................................78 Rubie’s Costume Company ................116 Sakar International ...............................49 Smart Toys and Games.........................77 Spielwarenmesse ..................................21 Tangle Creations...................................47 Thames & Kosmos ...............................45 Toy Industry Association....................105 Toy State.........................................12–13 UL ........................................................27 Urban Expositions/ Halloween & Party Expo....................115 Wicked Cool Toys ................................33 Wild Republic.......................................73 Wooky Entertainment...........................41 WTHRA ...............................................87




Flashback_SO15_NEW TEMPLATE 10/5/15 1:56 PM Page 1

Flashback: September 1995 What’s Hot! TV Promoted Toys


1. Mighy Morphin’ Power Rangers Movie Figures (Bandai America) 2. Pocahontas Doll (Mattel) 3. Batman Figures (Hasbro) 4. Sky Dancers (Lewis Galoob Toys) 5. X-Men Figures (Toy Biz) 6. Butterfly Barbie (Mattel) 7. Gargoyles Figures (Hasbro) 8. Polly Pocket (Mattel) 9. Barbie’s Baby Sister Kelly (Mattel)



10. Star Wars Micro Machines (Lewis Galoob Toys)

Non-TV Promoted Toys

1. Pocahontas Figures (Argo) 2. Playballs (Hedstrom) 3. Inflatable Pools (Intex) 4. Noodles (Kid Power) 5. Hot Wheels (Mattel) 6. Uno (Mattel) 7. Wooden Trains (Brio) 8. Bubbles (Imperial Toys) 9. Water Balloons (National Latex) 10. Bubbles (Strombecker)


1. Cardinal Industries has introduced the Are You Afraid of the Dark? game, based on the hit Nickelodeon TV show. The game takes players on a trip into the world of The Midnight Society. 2. The World POG Federation offers a wide range of POG milk caps. Pictured [top, left to right] Haleakala Dairy, where POG milk caps have their roots; Coca-Cola/Wayne Gretzky; [middle] Daffy Duck Looney Tunes, from Warner Bros.; [bottom left to right] WPF Limited Edition Easter at the White House; and Walt Disney World on Ice: Beauty and the Beast. 3. Atmosfear, from International Games, pairs an interactive video timer with a board game. Using elements of role-playing games, Atmosfear is different every time it is played and never lasts longer than an hour. It is designed for three to six players, ages 12 to adult.