September/October 2016

Page 1





September/October 2016 Volume 32, No. 5 — Published by Adventure Publishing Group

Jonathan Samet Publisher

DEPARTMENTS 18 Editor’s Viewpoint 20 TIA Happenings

New TOTY Categories Reflect Millennials & Play Patterns

22 Industry Update 24 Toy Insider 2016

Announcing the 11th Annual Holiday Gift Guide

25 Sweet Suite 2016 28 TIA Perspectives

What’s in Store for Holiday 2016

48 Talkin’ Toys: Auldey

The Toy Book catches up with Auldey Toys North America President Adrian Roche.

62 Talkin’ Toys: Yvolution

The Toy Book chats with Yvolution’s Global CEO, Thomas O’Connell.

76 Talkin’ Toys: Schleich

Schleich North America President Michael Keaton explains how the company thrives in a tech-focused world.

96 Talking SEO

106 Compliance and Regulations

Addressing the Dangers of Noncompliant Toys

108 Outside the Box

Why Unboxing Videos Matter

30 A Positive Outlook

Sean McGowan predicts the toy industry is poised for its strongest growth in 20 years.

The Impact of Britain’s Exit from the EU on the Toy Industry

90 Spielwarenmesse What’s in Store for 2017

112 Industry Marketplace

Stephanie Grassullo Assistant Editor

Examining the Risks of Comparative Advertising

114 Flashback: September/October 1996

Anne Marie Kehoe, WIT Retailer of the Year

92 Halloween & Party Expo The Show That Fulfills Your Year-Round Halloween Needs

94 A Competitive Playground for Toy M&A Activity

A Look at What’s Ahead in the Coming Year.

Thunderstompers, by Snaptoys

specialty toys & gifts: 97 Using Omnichannel Retailing to Strengthen Sales

100 The Amazon Disruption How to Survive in the World of E-Commerce

Bill Reese Production Director Lori Rubin Controller/Office Manager U.S. Corporate Headquarters Laurie Schacht President Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® 307 7th Avenue, #1601, New York, NY 10001 Phone: (212) 575-4510 • Fax: (212) 575-4521

32 2017 Toy Preview

98 ASTRA’s Insights: Get Your Customers out of Bed and into Your Store:

Maddie Michalik Assistant Editor Joe Ibraham Assistant Visual Media Editor

Why Private Equity Is Aggressively Pursuing Acquisition Targets

86 WIT Member Spotlight

Marissa DiBartolo Senior Editor

110 Raising the Bar

FEATURES 88 Brexit and the Toy Industry

Jackie Breyer Editor-in-Chief

Ali Mierzejewski Senior Editor

Target Key Consumers Using GeoFencing

26 U.S. Toy Industry Sales Continue to Rise


104 Predict. Prove. Play. Science Toys Pave the Way for Educational Play

102 How the Other Half Lives Wendy Smolen explains why millennial dads matter to your bottom line.

On the Cover: American Plastic Toys’ My Very Own Ice Cream Cart and Gigantic Auto Hauler, DGL Toys’ Knolly Nibbles Play Set, dreamGEAR’s GameStation Wireless, Identity Games’ Elmo Hide & Seek, Intek’s Crunch Mania Niamy Penguin, Learning Resources’ Puzzle Globe, Magformers’ Space Wow 22Pc Set, Sakar’s My Little Pony Kid-Safe Headphones, Thames & Kosmos’ Happy Atoms Introductory Set, The Bridge Direct’s Mini Arcade Games Q*bert, Bearington Collection’s Original Whiffer Sniffers Willy B. Chilly, Winning Moves’ Cranium Cadoo, Wonder Forge’s PJ Masks Night Sight Game, Zuru’s Robo Alive Junior Duck and Lifelike Lizard

The Toy Book Volume 32, No. 5 THE TOY BOOK (ISSN-0885-3991) is published bimonthly by Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® Editorial and advertising offices are located at 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, NY 10001, Phone (212) 575-4510. Periodicals Postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Copyright © 2016 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.

Member, International Toy Magazine Association

editor’s viewpoint

TOY PREVIEW MONTH High Expectations for 2017 by JACKIE BREYER, Editor-in-Chief ANOTHER YEAR HAS COME AND GONE— almost. Everyone is in holiday mode and shelves are stocked for the big fourth quarter shopping season. We’ve put our Toy Insider Holiday Gift Guide to bed, and while we will wear our consumer-facing hats through Christmas, talking about the hottest trends and toys for the holidays, The Toy Book is always looking ahead to what’s new and what’s next. The Toy Industry Association (TIA) has deemed September “Toy Preview Month,” and it’s really my favorite time of year. North American International Toy Fair in February has the flash and media presence, but by the time we, as trade media, get there, we’ve got a pretty good idea of the upcoming trends and new product launches. It’s now—in September—that we get that early look at what’s to come. And with the U.S. toy industry experiencing its fastest growth this century (see page 26), my expectations for innovation are pretty high. This year, we saw the advent of toy drones that basically fly themselves, a smart Barbie Dreamhouse that I wish I could live in, robotic pets that seem more lifelike than ever, and STEM toys up the wazoo. For 2017, I expect to see innovation in the areas of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). We’ve seen a taste from a few manufacturers, such as Spin Master with its Mission Connect Drone, and Microsoft’s HTC Vive. As Sean McGowan points out in his forward-looking column (page 30), while we’ve seen unsuccessful attempts at toys that mesh the physical and virtual worlds in the past, Pokémon Go has shown us that AR could provide a window of opportunity for toy manufacturers to give this realm another shot. Another—perhaps less obvious—area to watch is the outdoor and sports category. NPD notes that this sector is up 10 percent over last year, amplified by the fact that Memorial Day toy sales were up 20 percent

“Uh... heh, heh. It’s a prototype!” over 2015. This seems to indicate that there is an opportunity for manufacturers of products serving active families and promoting outdoor play to innovate beyond the usual. Seeing that Zuru’s Bunch O Balloons was the key driver in that category, it seems that consumers are eager for new and fresh ideas to get their kids outside and active. I’d love to see the industry take advantage of this opportunity to drive sales outside of Q4. Check out our 2017 Toy Preview showcase, beginning on page 32, to get a little more insight into what’s to come next year.

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There’s a lot more inside! Enjoy this issue of The Toy Book, and let us know what you think. Tweet @toybook and @jackiebreyer, or email me at We’d love to hear from you! » Jackie Breyer is editor-in-chief of The Toy Book and the Toy Insider, and editorial director at Adventure Publishing. She has been reporting on new products and toy industry trends for 14 years. Contact her at

tia happenings

NEW TOTY CATEGORIES REFLECT MILLENNIAL SHOPPING HABITS & PLAY PATTERNS THE TOY OF THE YEAR (TOTY) AWARDS will be especially exciting next year as the Toy Industry Association (TIA) has unveiled several new categories and a new judging process. Toy companies, inventors, and industry representatives have until Sept. 30 to submit their favorite picks in 14 TOTY categories, including several new ones, such as Action Figure of the Year, Collectible of the Year, Construction Toy of the Year, Doll of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and Vehicle of the Year. TIA has also implemented a more efficient and transparent judging system to help determine the award finalists. “With the introduction of new categories, we are ensuring that the awards program reflects the current marketplace and parents’ shopping habits,” says Ken Seiter, TIA vice president of marketing communications. “A more straightforward judging process enables the outcome of the event to remain relevant and representative of the ingenious creations that originate from toy companies of all sizes.” Twenty-five judges, including toy and play experts, retailers, academics, and journalists, will use an online form to review, comment on, and rank hundreds of products submitted in specific categories that are relevant to their areas of expertise. Aspects they will consider include the product’s creativity, originality, and innovation; its design and promotion; excellence; and marketplace acceptance. Finally, the judges will participate in a live discussion to debate any categories that did not draw an undisputed roster of finalists during the online judging period. The TOTY finalists will be announced in November, and five ballots will open for consumers, retailers (one each for mass and specialty), media, and TIA members. Public voting will also start and remain open online through mid-January 2017 at One winner in each category—as well as the overall Toy of the Year and the People’s

Choice Award categories (the latter based solely on votes from the general public)— will be announced at the Toy of the Year Awards ceremony on February 17, 2017 at The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in Manhattan. This event will kick off New York Toy Fair week with a celebration to honor the

most outstanding new toy products to hit the marketplace, salute the industry icons being inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame, and support the inspiring work of the Toy Industry Foundation. For more information, visit the TOTY website or email »

2017 TOTY CATEGORIES ACTION FIGURE OF THE YEAR (NEW) • Toys that include action figures and their play sets/accessories ACTIVE/OUTDOOR TOY OF THE YEAR (FORMERLY OUTDOOR) • Toys designed for active, outdoor play ACTIVITY TOY OF THE YEAR Arts and crafts, construction, and other indoor toys that inspire creative play through various forms of activity COLLECTIBLE OF THE YEAR (NEW) • Toys that compose a set; can include novelty playthings, miniature versions of existing lines, licensed collectibles, etc.

INNOVATIVE TOY OF THE YEAR Toys that utilize innovative design, technology, or manufacturing processes to enhance play value LICENSE OF THE YEAR (FORMERLY PROPERTY) • Character or property that has had success spreading its brand throughout the industry ROOKIE OF THE YEAR (NEW) • A new company (created within the past two years) that has brought to market an outstanding toy SPECIALTY TOY OF THE YEAR Toys that are primarily distributed through specialty retailers

CONSTRUCTION TOY OF THE YEAR (NEW) • TECH TOY OF THE YEAR Toys that include building and engineer(FORMERLY E-CONNECTED) • ing sets Physical toys that are electronic or interact with a smartphone, tablet, or gaming device DOLL OF THE YEAR (NEW) • Toys that include fashion and plush dolls and their play sets/accessories VEHICLE OF THE YEAR (NEW) • Powered or non-powered vehicles and their play sets/accessories GAME OF THE YEAR Children’s board, card, electronic, or other physical game formats and puzzles (does PEOPLE’S CHOICE TOY OF THE YEAR not include video games or apps) Toy decided by consumers who vote at INFANT/PRESCHOOL TOY OF THE YEAR TOY OF THE YEAR (FORMERLY TWO SEPARATE CATEGORIES) • Overall best toy of the year decided by reToys that are developed for infants/pretailers, consumers, media, and TIA members schoolers (kids up to age 5)

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INDUSTRY UPDATE FANS REVEAL STAR WARS ROGUE ONE TOY LINE A team of Star Wars superfans revealed the new toy line for the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story movie with a series of animated shorts launching on the Star Wars YouTube channel. As part of a competition in collaboration with creative network Tongal, the team wrote, directed, and produced stop-motion shorts starring key toys from the new line. The series also kicked off a global user-generated content contest that asked fans to share their own “Rogue Stories.” The stories follow the adventures of toys from Hasbro, Lego, Funko, Jakks Pacific, Mattel, and Disney Store toy lines. Fans can pre-order select items seen in the “Rogue Stories” at mass retailers, Disney Store locations, and disneystore. com. The full collection will be available globally on Sept. 30. »

AMERICAN GIRL SIGNS EXCLUSIVE PARTNERSHIP WITH TOYS “R” US Toys “R” Us will be the first and only U.S.-based retailer to feature American Girl shop-in-shops in select stores, and the exclusive retail partner to carry American Girl’s Truly Me line of contemporary 18-inch dolls, doll outfits, and accessories. This marks the first time American Girl has extended its doll products outside of its existing channels. American Girls’ new WellieWishers product line will begin hitting shelves at Toys “R” Us stores nationwide. Toys “R” Us will debut an American Girl shop-in-shop in 97 select locations across the country. Each shop-in-shop will range in size up to 700 square feet and feature an exclusive selection of American Girl’s Truly Me 18-inch dolls, doll outfits, and doll accessories, and WellieWishers. Additional Toys “R” Us stores will open more shop-in-shops next year. »

SNAPTOYS NAMED MASTER TOY LICENSEE FOR WORD PARTY The Jim Henson Co. has named Snaptoys as the master toy licensee for its new ani-

Word Party

mated Netflix original interactive preschool series, Word Party. The show premiered on July 8 and is currently in its first season with 14 episodes. The second season will roll out on Oct. 12 with an additional 12 episodes. Snaptoys has the rights to manufacture Word Party plush, figures, play sets, and electronics, with a targeted launch date of next fall or sooner. »

NINTENDO 3DS BECOMES NO. 1 VIDEO GAME SYSTEM THANKS TO POKÉMON GO The Nintendo 3DS platform topped the hardware and software sales charts for July, according to the The NPD Group. Nintendo says the strong performance is due to the


release of the Monster Hunter Generations game, continued momentum from the Nintendo 2DS price drop, and positive public reception for Pokémon Go, which has renewed interest in core Pokémon games. The Nintendo 3DS family of systems sold nearly 80 percent more units in July compared to the same time period last year. Capcom’s Monster Hunter Generations became the best-selling game for any system. July sales of the Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire games for Nintendo 3DS were more than 80 percent higher than July 2015. The games launched in November 2014. In addition, July sales of the Pokémon X and Pokémon Y games for Nintendo 3DS were almost 200 percent higher than a year ago. The games launched in October 2013 and finished No. 16 and No. 22 on July’s best-sellers list, respectively. The Nintendo 2DS system has crossed the 2 million lifetime sales mark in the U.S. Games playable on Nintendo systems claimed five of the top 11 spots on the July best-sellers list. » STAY CONNECTED!


The toy insider




The Source for the Hot test Toys and Gifts for the


OF THE YEAR The Toy Insider Launches 11th Annual Holiday Gift Guide

ADVENTURE PUBLISHING GROUP INC., PUBLISHER OF THE Toy Book and The Licensing Book, brings consumers the Toy Insider, the ultimate holiday gift guide featuring the hottest toys and gifts for the holiday season. The 11th annual edition of the Toy Insider will appear in the November issue of Family Circle magazine and online at 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 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 175 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: infants and toddlers (0-2), preschoolers (3-5), grade schoolers (6-8), and tweens and teens (9+). Each section in the guide also features the developmental benefits of each toy to assist gift-givers in making the best selections for the kids in their lives. 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, featuring the most innovative tech toys, and the STEM 10, encapsulating toys that enhance kids’ understanding of science, technology, engineering, and math. Garnering millions of consumer impressions last year, appearing in outlets such as the Today show, the Wendy Williams show, the Steve Harvey show, ABC World News Now, Fox & Friends, Bloomberg News, the Huffington Post, and more, 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 holiday gift guide, consumers can find full product reviews, exciting giveaways, and gift-giving tips year-round 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 from the Toy Insider, follow @thetoyinsider on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. »

24  THE TOY BOOK | september/october 2016 | TOYBOOK.COM




FROM SNIFFING SWEET SCENTED PLUSH, TO DRESSING UP LIKE FAIRIES, TO TAKING photos with Peppa Pig, digital influencers rocked the boat in New York City. The Toy Insider’s Seventh Annual Sweet Suite event took place on July 13 aboard the Majesty Yacht, docked in Manhattan. Known as The Biggest Night of Play, the premiere toy party of the year welcomed more than 400 influential bloggers and vloggers and more than 100 members of traditional media to connect with toy companies in advance of the holiday shopping season. And for the first time ever, 18 of the top influencers under the age of 18 joined in on the festivities, including babyteeth4, KittiesMama, KidToyTesters, and MommyandGracieShow. Sweet Suite was the feature event at the third annual Blogger Bash, a two-day conference for experienced digital influencers featuring parties, exhibitions, and speed pitching sessions. Blogger Bash welcomed attendees into high-energy party atmospheres, giving them a chance to have fun while mingling with brands in a professional yet inviting setting. This year at Sweet Suite, bloggers enjoyed one-on-one time with representatives from more than 80 of the hottest kids’ brands and properties on the market, including VTech, Activision, Jakks Pacific, LeapFrog, Hasbro, Spin Master, Lego, Warner Bros., Fisher-Price, and more. #SweetSuite16 generated more than 185 million Twitter impressions, more than 2.6 million Instagram impressions, and dozens of YouTube videos and blog posts. Sweet Suite 2016 gave digital influencers and members of the press a chance to meet old and new friends while sipping on cocktails, feasting on scrumptious snacks, and—best of all—playing with the hottest toys of the holiday season before they hit the market. Enormous swag boxes were shipped directly to attendees’ homes after the event, sparking a resurgence in social media impressions and ensuring bloggers and journalists have products onhand to review and share with their followers. On September 21, 2016, the Toy Insider team hosted its fifth annual HoliDAY of Play event in New York City, where 150 members of the media were the first to see the Toy Insider’s Hot 20, Top Tech 12, and STEM 10 hot holiday toy picks, as well as meet with top manufacturers before the holiday season. » If you’re interested in learning more about these events, contact Laurie Schacht at

THE TOY INDUSTRY CONTINUES ITS ASCENT Outdoor and Sports Toys Make a Big Play in the Toy Industry by JULI LENNETT, U.S. toys industry analyst, The NPD Group THROUGH JULY 2016, U.S. TOY industry sales reached $8.0 billion*, a 7.3 percent increase over the $7.5 billion generated over the same time period in 2015. NPD estimates the industry will be up approximately 7 percent, or $1.4 billion, for full-year 2016. This would mark the fastest growth for the U.S. toy market since 1999. The big question on everyone’s mind is, why is the toy industry experiencing such tremendous growth? As is usually the case, there are a number of influencers, but topping the list is Star Wars. Dollar sales for Star Wars toys grew 186 percent in the first seven months of the year, making it the biggest contributor to the industry’s (year-to-date) growth. The second biggest contributor is the impressive growth coming from the outdoor and sports toys supercategory, with YTD sales up 10 percent, or $176 million. Last year at this time, outdoor and sports

grew $122 million, which was the most of any supercategory. This year, that growth is nearly 50 percent greater, and outdoor and sports toys growth represented nearly onethird of the total toy industry growth for the year so far. The strongest growth within this supercategory is coming from water and sand toys, which is driven by Bunch-OBalloons. Other important influencers include collectibles, specifically those within the playset, dolls and collectibles, and action figure collectibles subclasses, as well as occasions including Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Memorial Day, which are all holidays that are rising in importance for the toy industry. Sales during the Valentine’s Day period** grew by 11 percent, and sales during Easter** grew by 8 percent, compared to 2015. Memorial Day 2016** grew a whopping 20 percent over 2015, with outdoor and sports toys sales rising 33

percent during this week, underscoring the trend that families are looking to share outdoor play experiences. Finally, no list is complete without mentioning the importance of content. All of the top growth properties have some type of media behind them, whether it be in the form of movies, TV, video games, or even YouTube, as is the case with Shopkins, X-Shot, and Nerf. It is becoming rare, even for established brands, not to have a media presence backing them up. Looking at the YTD results, the top 10 toy properties comprised 20 percent of total industry dollars. Eight of the 10 are familiar faces on the list, but two new properties reached the top 10 compared to the same period last year: Shopkins and Lego Star Wars. Ranking the properties by dollar growth, total Star Wars grew $215 million, almost twice as much as the next highest growth property, which is Shopkins.

Star Wars



Star Wars








Lego Star Wars




Batman v Superman





Lego Star Wars



Paw Patrol

Little Tikes



Funko Pop!

Disney Frozen




Hot Wheels



Finding Dory

Disney Princess



January - July 2016


Tsum Tsum



Outdoor and sports toys maintains its spot as the largest supercategory based on dollar volume, $2.0 billion (Jan. 2016 –July 2016), nearly double infant, toddler, and preschool toys in the second-largest spot at $1.1 billion. Action figures and games/puzzles were the two to grow the fastest—action figures driven by Star Wars and games and puzzles driven by Pie Face and Pokémon. Two supercategories saw declines YTD July versus last year: youth electronics, which was the fastest-growing supercategory YTD as of July 2015, and arts and crafts, which experienced a softer decline this year compared to last year. In both cases there are pockets of positive news, which may help these supercategories grow by the close of this year. » Juli Lennett, senior vice president, industry analyst for The NPD Group’s U.S. toys division, has spent the past 11 years at NPD managing client relationships and consulting to a variety of manufacturers, licensors, and retailers within the toy industry.

U.S. Toys Supercategory Performance Dollar Change, (January—July 2016) Outdoor & Sports Toys Dolls Action Figures & Accessories Games/Puzzles Infant/Toddler/Preschool Toys Plush Vehicles Building Sets All Other Toys Arts & Crafts Youth Electronics ($50)






Dollar Change ($MM)

Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Retail Tracking Service, 30 weeks ending July 30, 2016 *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 for toys. **Valentine’s Day (2/1/15-2/14/15 versus 2/7/16-2/20/16) Easter (3/22/15-4/4/15 versus 3/13/16-3/26/16) Memorial Day (5/24/15-5/30/15 versus 5/29/16-6/4/16)


tia perspectives

WHAT’S IN STORE FOR HOLIDAY 2016 by KRISTIN MORENCY GOLDMAN, Toy Industry Association THE TOY INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION (TIA) reached out to toy and retail experts for a sneak peek at what’s in store for the holidays—our industry’s busiest season of the year. We asked the experts for insight into trending toys and games for the fourth quarter, as well as overall categories to watch. PRELIMINARY FORECASTING The toy industry is forecasted to grow about 7 percent for full-year 2016, with outdoor and sports, dolls, action figures, and games and puzzles expected to lead the way, according to Juli Lennett, The NPD Group’s senior vice president of U.S. Toys. “The downward sales trend in arts and crafts should turn around and show growth by the end of the year, while toys that incorporate technology to enhance playtime will

Hasbro’s Love2Learn Elmo

continue to gain traction in the market,” adds Lennett. “TV, over-the-top, and other content providers, like YouTube and social media, will also drive growth.” Fourth quarter sales will also depend on movies released in both 2015 and 2016. “The first half of this year benefitted from incremental sales of Star Wars, a December 2015 movie,” says Gerrick Johnson, toy analyst at BMO Capital Markets. “In the back half, of course, there is a difficult Star Wars comparison.” Johnson says that Trolls will likely be the movie property with

“the most incremental impact on the industry this year,” and that overall sales for the second half of the year should grow at a rate of about 3 percent. Retailers are already gearing up for a busy holiday shopping season, using innovative technologies and strategies to drive consumer spending on toys. Parents will begin their holiday shopping as early as September, and most will have checked off all the items on their lists by November, says Ana Smith, senior director of media relations at the National Retail Federation (NRF). “Based on what we are learning now for back-to-school season, we are seeing retailers being very aggressive with their promotions to encourage parents to shop at their stores. This trend will more than likely continue throughout the holiday season,” says Smith. She added that many stores are incorporating virtual reality and other new technologies, such as those used in Pokémon Go, to drive engagement with customers. FOURTH QUARTER TRENDS From classic toys to cutting edge drones, the holiday shopping period will bring to market an exciting array of toys that encourage kids to explore, create, and connect through play. Family Matters Back-to-basics toys and games are expected to appeal to millennial parents who are trying to limit their children’s screen time, says Johnson. “We see categories like outdoor, construction, and games doing well. And those categories fit the narrative, ‘Get off the phone [and] tablet and let’s build Legos, play a board game, or go outside and play,’” he says. Johnson attributes the pushback against screen-based activities to “a larger theme centered around family-based activities”

tia perspectives

Skyrocket Toys’ Sky Viper Hover Racer drone

seen in other areas of the economy. “Recreational vehicle demand is booming, and millennial parents are the fastest growing category,” Johnson says. “This is a rather amazing statistic. It seems to be the parents who grew up with technology are the ones encouraging their kids to get away from it.” At the North American International Toy Fair held in February, TIA announced that Family Matters was one of the hottest trends to watch for this year, thanks to a rise in family-friendly toys that encourage face-to-face interaction. Data from The NPD Group supports the trend—U.S. sales for the games and puzzles category grew an impressive 11 percent last year and “the industry should experience sustained growth” from games and puzzles this holiday season, says NPD’s Lennett. “Kids, parents, and grandparents now have more opportunities than ever to play together after school, around the dinner table, or on the weekends, thanks to a variety of back-to-basics toys and games that have multi-generational appeal,” says Adrienne Appell, TIA’s in-house trend specialist. Batman v Superman Glow in the Dark Puzzle (Buffalo Games), Props in a Box (Theatric Toys), Spicy Games (Goliath Games), and Camera Roll (Endless Games) are among the many classic toys that will make great gifts for kids—and adults who are kids at heart. Brain Boosters Brain Boosters, a term coined by TIA to describe educational toys across several categories, is another trend that is predicted to lead the way in the coming months. According to a statement from Toys “R” Us (TRU), STEM toys “have emerged as a leading trend, including customizable items that teach kids coding, problem-solving, and more.” The retailer expects toys that promote learning through play will be hot for the holidays, including Love2Learn Elmo (Hasbro), Think & Learn Code-A-Pillar (Fisher-Price),

and a variety of products from Thames & Kosmos and Edu Science. “This trend continues to evolve with each passing year, as more and more parents and caregivers are reaching for multi-faceted toys that will inspire their kids to learn and grow through play,” notes Appell. Cutting Edge Drones Young techies who are looking for a challenge will be excited by a new wave of innovative toy drones. The Lumi Gaming Drone (WowWee Toys), Inverted Stunt Drone (Cobra RC Toys), Proto-X Drone (Hobbico), and Heli Transbot (Silverlit Toys) are just a few examples that will inspire kids to hone their flying skills and perform tricks and feats, while also putting cognitive and coding skills to work. “The latest toy drones are challenging and fun because their capabilities engage kids beyond the flight,” says Appell. “Many new drones are sure to inspire hours of play because they are programmable, come with games, incorporate virtual and augmented realities, and put hand-eye coordination to the test.” TRU stated that drones with “built-in cameras, live-streaming capabilities, and more that allow kids to record, share, and engage beyond traditional play” will stimulate fourth quarter sales, including the Air Hogs Connect line (Spin Master) and the Sky Viper Hover Racer (Skyrocket Toys). LOOKING BEYOND THE HOLIDAYS Next year looks bright for the toy industry, as toy companies “have seemingly cracked the code in entertainment, helping to extend life cycles and fill valleys in a stable, yet

cyclical, industry,” says Johnson. “Innovation is better with more collaboration between technology, entertainment, and inventors. Thus a good 2016 holiday season should set the stage with continued momentum into what should be an even stronger 2017.” Toy sellers and buyers will kick off the new year at the North American International Toy Fair, which is expected to draw more than 30,000 global toy professionals to New York City. An upbeat and energetic show generally leads to a successful year for toys and games. “The innovative and fun products seen at Toy Fair year after year underscore the vitality of the toy industry,” says Steve Pasierb, TIA’s president and CEO. “We look forward to seeing an impressive lineup of toys this February that will captivate shoppers throughout 2017, bringing joy to the lives of millions of children and families.” More information on toy trends and annual sales data can be found in the Industry Facts section of the Toy Industry Association’s website: »

As TIA’s communications specialist and editor of its Toy News Tuesday e-newsletter, Kristin Morency Goldman stays abreast of the latest economic data, safety standards, trends, and toy-, play-, and youth entertainment-related news.

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A POSTIVE OUTLOOK FOR 2017 Toy Industry Poised for Strongest Growth in 20 Years by SEAN MCGOWAN, managing director, Liolios Group THESE ARE TRULY EXTRAORDINARY times for the U.S. toy industry. The NPD Group reported that U.S. toy retail sales rose 7.5 percent in the first half of this year, even faster than the 7 percent growth posted in the first half of last year. This is the strongest two-year year-over-year growth that the industry has posted in more than 20 years. I will discuss some of the factors driving the sales increase, the outlook for some of the stronger categories, and the lessons to be learned from the runaway success of Pokémon Go. CONTINUED STRENGTH The most surprising aspect of this year’s growth is the fact that it comes on top of last year’s rise in sales. Often in recent years, if a specific product or brand drove growth, the comparisons would be difficult the following year, and the product (and, by extension, the category or the whole industry) would see a decline. It’s apparent that a single category or brand is not driving the industry growth. One obvious source of growth in the first half of the year is a huge increase in sales of Star Wars toys and action figures. Indeed, Star Wars was the brand that contributed the most to the growth, but bigger dollar gains were also posted in the super-categories of outdoor and sports (Nerf, etc.) and dolls (Shopkins, Barbie, and others). This year’s growth is unique in that the success of some toys is not necessarily coming at the expense of others. Kids don’t always have to choose one toy over another—they can like and ask for more than one, or none, for that matter. Whatever the marketing folks in the toy industry are doing, it’s working. Another interesting factor in the industry’s growth is that multiple retailers are reporting strong sales. We believe that Amazon’s growth is outstripping that of its main competitors, but the others are also seeing increases. For example, Toys “R” Us reported modest increases in U.S. samestore-sales through the first 21 weeks of the year, compared to declines of 2 to 3 percent

last year, but the performance—excluding the entertainment category, which includes video games—was much stronger. We believe Walmart and Target are holding their own as well. Just like toy categories are growing without stealing from other categories, retailers are also growing without necessarily taking all the sales from other retailers. This type of scenario has not been seen in the industry since the early 1990s. It is due to a combination of strong licenses, creative use of those licenses with toy innovation, stronger consumer purchasing power (aided by low inflation, especially in gasoline prices), and the continued rise in online shopping, which makes the buying experience easier. In theory, a strengthening economy should help lots of product categories, but the toy sector is doing much better than other areas of consumer discretionary spending. The industry is offering compelling play patterns backed by attractive licenses in an environment where parents are happy to spend money on their kids. But can these licenses sustain the torrid pace? History suggests that trees don’t grow to the sky, and some of the properties that have seen the biggest increases may have difficulty anniversary-ing these growth rates.

This is the strongest two-year yearover-year growth that the industry has posted in more than 20 years.

THE SUCCESS OF POKÉMON GO Now, let’s turn our attention to a property that pretty much nobody at last year’s Dallas Fall Toy Preview, or even this year’s North American International Toy Fair, predicted would sweep the nation: Pokémon Go. By now, unless you’ve been living under a cairn, you know that Pokémon Go, a mobile game launched in the U.S. on July 6, has become one of the most downloaded mobile games in history (more than 100 million downloads in early August), and is rapidly becoming one of the strongest players in terms of separating gamers from their money. Why is Pokémon Go a hit and why did nobody see it coming? Second question first: The engine of the game is based on an earlier game called Ingress, which was developed by Niantic when it was still part of Google. Ingress also featured augmented reality (AR), and required players to wander around the “real world” capturing AR images that would pop up on-screen depending on their location. Ingress was reasonably successful for

Star Wars is up big in the first half of this year because there wasn’t much driving it in the first half of last year. In the second half of this year, we will see continued demand for products tied to The Force Awakens, but it will be up against last year’s surge, which began with Force Friday. The launch of Rogue One around the holidays will help this year’s growth, which means two relatively recent films will drive demand. However, next year, the comparison is likely to be more difficult, especially if carryover demand for Rogue One toys is less than the demand for Force

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Awakens toys in the wake of that film’s launch last December. But Star Wars isn’t the only factor driving licensed toy sales. Next year, there will be an impressive array of films that could drive and sustain strong toy demand: Beauty and the Beast, The Lego Batman Movie, The Lego Ninjago Movie, Wonder Woman, Justice League, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Power Rangers, Cars 3, My Little Pony: The Movie, Transformers: The Last Knight, Smurfs: The Lost Village, Barbie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Captain Underpants, Ferdinand, Wolverine 3, Despicable Me 3, and others. While some of the properties that have made for strong toy sales during the past 18 months may lose some steam over the next 18 months, there will be plenty of new entertainment content coming in strong. If growth in toy sales doesn’t sustain at current levels next year, it won’t be because of a lack of licenses.

what it was, but nowhere near the top of the charts. The game was conceived as a “proof of concept” for the idea of AR-based games, and didn’t feature in-app purchases (IAP) until it had been out for almost three years. In other words, Ingress‘ success would not have predicted the success of Pokémon Go. It is safe to conclude that a very large part of its success is due to the popularity of the original Pokémon trading card games and related toys and video games. A substantial portion of the active users of Pokémon Go are millennials who constituted the core market for the original Pokémon. This is not to say that the originality of the gameplay or the novelty of the technology don’t also contribute to the app’s popularity, but surely its success owes at least as much to the strength of the intellectual property (IP). In this way, the game is similar to Kim Kardashian: Hollywood by Glu Mobile, which was released first as Stardom: Hollywood without the Kardashian connection, and met with limited success. Other celebrity-based mobile games have failed, but the combination of good gameplay and a pop icon worked to make it a blockbuster. Pokémon Go is one of the best

marriages of the real and the digital worlds. It may be the smartest app on your smartphone in terms of what it “knows” about the user and his or her environment. Over the course of the next year, we will see all kinds of companies unveiling games and other apps that merge AR technology with GPS and powerful pop icons. The potential goes far beyond how much money can be made from IAP. Already, companies, such as McDonald’s, are using Pokémon Go to drive traffic to their stores by having their locations virtually seeded with Pokémon Go Pokéstops. We’ve seen real estate listings advertising that a home or an apartment is near a Poké Gym. If you look up a business on Yelp, the app will tell you what Pokéstops are nearby. The game is proving to be a powerful tool for bringing people together, driving foot traffic (good for commerce), and building communities (good for a host of marketing reasons). The game has been credited with increasing awareness of public places and landmarks to which users would normally not pay attention. And let’s face it: A mobile game that actually requires players to be physically active and out of the house has

got to be better than one that rewards couch potatoes for inactivity. Of course, there is a dark side. Lures can be used for good and bad, and there have been reports of people luring victims to a spot for the purpose of robbing them. There is the risk of injury from players not paying attention, whether they are walking or, worse, driving while playing. There is the inevitable concern about user data, made far worse by the fact that a coding error in the initial launch inadvertently gave Niantic access to the user’s entire Google account. And let’s not overstate the degree to which the game encourages physical activity. It’s not like people are getting a cardio workout, and they’re still staring down at their screens. The game has turned out to be more than a “proof of concept” for AR—it also shows the power of Social Local Mobile (SoLoMo), harnessing social media, GPS-powered localization, and mobile phones. IP holders with strong popular brands now know that it is possible to marry SoLoMo technology with a strong IP and drive results. The success of the game is very encouraging for emerging technologies, such as virtual reality and wearable AR devices, including Google Glass and Microsoft’s Hololens. It is important to note that in developing Pokémon Go, Niantic had been gathering metadata for years on geographic locations. It will be difficult for a newcomer to offer an AR experience to rival Pokémon Go without that metadata. Let me finish with another analogy from the toy world. The unexpected blockbuster success of MGA’s Bratz not only made that company rich, but it also awoke the entire toy industry to the possibility that Mattel’s Barbie wasn’t invincible. Similarly, Pokémon Go shows everybody that the much-vaunted AR and the previously disappointing promise of merging the physical and the virtual might not need to be discarded after all. Stay tuned for the avalanche. » Sean McGowan is managing director at Liolios Group. He has been following the toy industry for 30 years, analyzing product trends, cost changes, marketing practices, and other aspects of how products and companies succeed (or don’t). He also follows digital gaming, sporting goods, and juvenile products. McGowan started SMG Leisure in January 2016 to continue this work beyond the parameters of Wall Street.

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PREVIEW THAMES & KOSMOS Thames & Kosmos will introduce the Happy Atoms Introductory Set. The Complete Set, announced earlier this year, includes 50 atoms representing 16 different elements. The Introductory Set is a new, smaller set that comes with 17 atoms representing six different elements: Hydrogen, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Sodium, and Chlorine. With the 17-atom set, kids can build cool molecules such as propane, acetone, formaldehyde, and table salt. Happy Atoms is a molecular modeling system that bridges the analog and digital worlds, allowing kids to discover the world of molecules in an intuitive, hands-on way. The atoms stick together easily Happy Atoms Introductory Set with magnets: metal tips on the ends of rubbery arms, which represent free electrons, snap onto magnetic bonding sites on the atom spheres, which represent empty spots for electrons in the atom’s outermost electron shell. Kids can use the included iOS app to snap a photo of the model, and the app uses image recognition technology to identify the molecule. The app recognizes tens of thousands of molecules and presents kids with detailed information about 120 of the most important molecules, such as a molecule’s usage, properties, hazards, formula, and structure.

MADAME ALEXANDER SpacePOP: Not Your Average Princesses is licensed and manufactured by Madame Alexander Doll Co. The line consists of five different 11-inch fashion dolls: Athena, Hera, Luna, Juno, and Rhea. Each princess comes with a different 2.5-inch SpacePet: Mykie, Roxie, Adora, Skitter, and Springle. Each doll also includes an exclusive sneak peek chapter from the graphic novel SpacePOP: Not Your Average Princesses.

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THE BRIDGE DIRECT The Mini Arcade Games line, from The Bridge Direct, features classic arcade games in a miniature size. Originally launched with Pac-Man and Space Invaders, the line will expand next year with new titles, including Q*Bert, Centipede, and Asteroids. Players ages 8 and up can dodge obstacles and blast away targets with the mini joystick and fire buttons on these real-working mini games.


CJ Products will add Paw Patrol’s Everest and Rubble characters to its folding plush lines, Pillow Pets and Dream Lites. Pillow Pet Dream Lites are night-lights that turns kids’ rooms into a starry scene at the press of a button. A built-in timer shuts the Dream Lite off after 20 minutes. All of the Dream Lites come with four light options: steady blue, amber, green, or all three colors transitioning every four seconds continually in a loop. Rubble and Everest’s paw prints will project along with the stars.

CREATIVITY FOR KIDS With Creativity for Kids’ new Hot Air Balloon Lantern, for kids ages 7 and up, kids can decorate, layer, and collage to create their own light-up hot air balloon. The kit includes a Fabric Lantern with LED Light, four sheets of printed tracing paper, two sticker sheets, a basket, glue, a paintbrush, string, mini flag stickers, and a black mini marker. The String Art Star Light, for kids ages 9 and up, combines glittery string, LED lights, and a glow-in-the-dark cord to decorate bedrooms and playrooms. The glow of the star can act as a night-light when it’s time for bed. The set includes a string art glaze, an inflatable star, crafting gloves, metallic and glow string, and batteries.


Mixxie Mopsie Mermaid

In February, Adora will add five new items to its product offerings. The Mixxie Mopsie Mermaid and Mixxie Mopsie Pet Kitty are extensions of the Mixxie Mopsie line and combine the concept of a rag doll with interchangeable sleeves, leggings, hair accessories, and outfits that kids can mix and match in a variety of ways. Designed for kids ages 4 and up, the buttons help kids practice fine motor skills. Mixxie Mopsie Mermaid includes a shimmery pink mermaid tail, a starfish hair tie, a purple jewel necklace, a tutu, and more. In addition, her legs and tail button on and off so she can go from sea to shore instantly. The Mixxie Mopsie Pet Kitty includes four interchangeable legs, four decorative leg bands, a tutu, a crown headband, a flower necklace, and a tail accessory. In February, the Adora Fairy will make its publishing debut in a baby book. Each of the eight pages in the Baby Activity Book include something different for a baby to touch, see, listen to, and explore. Features such as mirrors, crinkle sounds, zippers, colors, plush, embroidered surfaces, and moveable parts help a baby use these different senses. The TravelTime Fairy Play Set will let kids take their Adora Fairy on an adventure. While closed, the play set is a pink camper with a handle and soft foam. When kids unzip it, it opens to a living room for the fairy. The TravelTime Fairy Play Set features a trailer with handles, two multi-purpose wheels, and a plush fairy doll. The Zippity Hug ‘n Hide plush dolls will also be available in February. Each 20-inch doll has magnetic hands and a zipper pocket for kids to hide little treasures. The dolls will be available in three styles: Celeste the Unicorn, Wispurr the Cat, and Giselle the Giraffe.

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Folkmanis will introduce a new collaboration with Disney. The joint venture will include four classic Disney character puppets: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Pluto. Kids and adults alike can reminisce and re-create scenes from vintage cartoons. Additionally, Folkmanis will add new styles to its menagerie of animal puppets. Standing Bear, Capybara, White Dove, Brown Hen, Black Poodle, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and Toad puppets join the new lineup of full body hand puppets.

UNCLE MILTON Uncle Milton will expand its new Virtual Explorer line of products, where real and virtual play connect. The entire line, which features space, dinosaur, and ant themes, is part of a STEM-based educational program. This interactive four-in-one experience combines virtual and augmented reality technologies with hands-on activities and STEM learning. Next year, the line will include expansion packs that will allow kids to build their own mini space, dinosaur, and ant models, as well as encounter several new virtual and augmented reality experiences. Additionally, Uncle Milton will add a new undersea-themed Virtual Explorer adventure to its line, with which kids are able to explore deep sea journeys.

PLAYMATES TOYS With more than eight points of articulation, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Basic Figures, from Playmates Toys, are detailed and articulated action figures. Each figure ranges in height from 4.25 to 5.25 inches to capture the individual personalities of the characters from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV show. Next spring, season five of the Nickelodeon TV series kicks off with new themes represented in the figure line, including Super Ninja, ‘80s Gear, and more. The new Build N Battle role-play line gives kids a new way to play with the Turtles’ signature weapons. The Build N Battle Roleplay Assortment features Leonardo’s Katana Sword Set, Donatello’s Bo Staff Set, Michelangelo’s Nunchuk Set, and Raphael’s Twin Sai Set. Each set comes with the Turtle’s signature weapon, a bandana, and extra accessories so kids can customize and build their own ultimate ninja Turtle to Playset: Raph’s weapon. For even more Ninja power, kids can mix, match, and customize parts across all four sets to create Train & Battle Playset their own unique ultimate Ninja Turtles weapon. The new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Micro Mutants line contains 1.15-inch fully articulated figures with accessories, powerful Turtles-themed vehicles, and play sets loaded with features. The Micro Mutant Sweeper Ops Vehicle is a deluxe 2-in-1 Micro Mutant vehicle play set with a spiral sweeper feature that sweeps up Ninja Turtles micro action figures and vehicles by rolling over them and pulling them into the trash bin. Once kids collect the trash, they can remove the internal bin and transform the Sweeper vehicle into a multi-level Operational Headquarters play set featuring multiple rooms, multiple levels of play, and tons of play features. The 9.5-inch Turtle to Playset action figures of Leo and Raph transform into themed play sets with multiple levels and have more than 20 different features, including battle platforms, work out areas, jails, false floors, elevators, and more. Each set comes with two fully articulated micro action figures and multiple accessories, and is compatible with all micro figures. Next year, the Half Shell Heroes line, designed for preschoolers ages 3 and up, is taking ninja skills on a safari. The new Half Shell Heroes Safari line includes articulated safari-style Turtle figures, each with a sidekick animal. The basic figure packs include the Turtles and their animals, while the vehicle assortment includes the signature Turtle and animals that they can ride.

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PREVIEW ZURU Zuru will expand and consolidate its line of robotic toys with Robo Alive, a range of creatures with robotic technology. The items will feature true-to-life movements designed to spark children’s imaginations. Zuru will launch three categories under the Robo Alive brand: Robo Alive Junior is a preschool line of creatures including a duck, a fish, and a crocodile, made for kids ages 0 to 3. Robo Alive Lifelike will feature ocean and reptilian creatures including a lizard and a snake, along with a line of fish, turtles, and jellyfish, designed for kids ages 4 to 9; and Robo Alive Mystical includes mystical creatures, such as angelfish, mermaids, and seahorses, also designed for kids ages 4 to 9.

WINNING MOVES GAMES Winning Moves Games will introduce family games, including Game of the States, which challenges kids to race their trucks across the country while they buy and sell goods. This board game includes facts about each state, and will familiarize kids with the 50 states and their locations, capital cities, top products, and more. This game is designed for two to four players ages 8 and up. Cranium Cadoo challenges kids to act, puzzle, sketch, sculpt, or crack secret codes to try to get four tokens in a row to win. This game is designed for two or more players ages 7 and up. Rubik’s Triamid challenges players to manipulate the puzzle until all the sides are uniform in color—but unlike the Rubik’s Cube, the Triamid is a triangular pyramid with four sides. The puzzle is comprised of 10 individual pieces and four joining sections for an added challenge. Designed for single-player gameplay, Triamid is suitable for kids ages 8 and up.

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Robo Alive Junior Duck

AMERICAN PLASTIC TOYS American Plastic Toys will introduce My Very Own Ice Cream Cart, designed for kids ages 2 and up. Kids can play the role of their favorite ice cream server with the 24-piece set. The set features bowls, ice cream, cones, scoopers, serving spoons, coins, and a credit card. It also has wheels so it can move easily. Also from American Plastic Toys is the Gigantic Fire Truck and Gigantic Auto Hauler. The super-sized fire truck is a 2-foot-long red engine with which kids can play out the action using the moveable boom bucket and extension ladders. The Auto Hauler comes with a sports car and a large tilting bed, which makes it easy to load.


BRIO Brio Village is a new theme within the Brio World. The Village encourages social role play and invites kids ages 3 and up to play together by telling stories of their everyday life. It consists of several modular toys, such as a house, a school, a singing stage, and an ice cream store. All pieces within the Village theme can be connected to the rest of the Brio World, allowing kids to connect and expand as they collect them all.

BLUE ORANGE GAMES Blue Orange Games’ GoGo Gelato is a race to see who can fill customers’ orders the fastest. Players ages 7 and up must pass the scoops back and forth between the cones, careful not to drop any. If an order is not made the same way it appears on the card, the player loses the customer and the race. The fastest and most careful gelato maker wins the game. Kids ages 6 and up can play Tricky Trunks alone or with up to four other players. Players use their handheld trunk to capture the fruit balls according to the pattern on the challenge card to feed the elephants. If kids move too fast, the fruit balls will spill before the elephants can eat them. When kids ages 8 and up play Flying Kiwi, they must help the kiwi birds go undercover so that they can go on their vacations. Players must try to launch the birds into the crate using the ramp. The first player to line up four birds of his or her color in a row or in a square wins. Dr. Microbes challenges two to four players ages 7 and up to help Dr. Microbe complete her research. Kids sort the microbes into their petri dishes with their tweezers and figure out the missing microbes and superbugs. The player that finds the missing element and retrieves it the fastest is the winner of the game.

TUCKER TOYS Tucker Toys will introduce Trick Shot Sports, a line of sports figure characters with powerful snap action performance that lets kids perform tabletop stunts and freestyle play with Trick Shot combinations. Tucker also introduced a special website and video channel for kids to share their best shots online. Kids can collect all five teams.

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PREVIEW THE ORB FACTORY With The Orb Factory’s PlushCraft Sea Life kit, kids can use the stylus to punch in fabric pieces to make this trio of fishy friends. This new PlushCraft kit features colorful and cute creatures ready for an underwater adventure. The set includes three separate crafts so multiple kids can create together.

SUPER IMPULSE Super Impulse will introduce the Eos, an entry-level launcher in its Precision RBS line. It is designed to be ultra compact and launch six No. 8-sized rubber bands, either as single shots or as an all-in-one burst. The new Proteus, a mid-level Precision RBS launcher, brings the accuracy and range of the larger models into a smaller body. The Proteus can fire two rubber band sizes and hold up to six bands each. The launcher is swift with pinpoint accuracy up to 35 feet. World’s Smallest toys are designed with the same working functions as the original classic toys, but in the smallest sizes ever created. There are six new toys set to launch next year. The World’s Smallest Barbie features two iconic Barbie looks: the 1959 signature black and white swimsuit and 1971’s Malibu Barbie with her forever tan and sunglasses. Both feature moveable arms and legs and are less than 3 inches tall. The World’s Smallest Hot Wheels Cars are tiny, die-cast Hot Wheels that are small enough to fit onto a quarter and available in the classic styles of Bone Crusher, Twin Mill, and Roger Dodger. The cars include a unique carrying and display case. Gumby, the original claymation little green guy, is available as the fully posable World’s Smallest Gumby, along with his pony pal. Also new for next year is World’s Smallest Stretch Gumby. Kids can pull and expand him and he’ll slowly return to his original shape. World’s Smallest Thomas the Tank Engine features Thomas and his friends that are compatible with the iconic Thomas Minis. It includes a key chain for back-pack clipping. The World’s Smallest Silly Putty is packed in the iconic Silly Putty egg, just like the original. The set includes two eggs, each filled with authentic Silly Putty. The first officially licensed mini PEZ dispenser is now available as part of the World’s Smallest line. It has original PEZ designs, including Peter PEZ and PEZ Boy, and includes real PEZ candy. The World's Coolest Tiny Turntable features a moving tone arm, a spinning platter, and a light-up strobe. It even includes a little faux vinyl record. Mattel Electronic Handhelds are pocket-sized versions of the original Electronic Football, Electronic Baseball, and Electronic Basketball. They each include a key chain so kids can take them anywhere. Super Impulse will also reintroduce the Original Wiz-z-zer, originally launched in 1970. The Wiz-z-zer will be available in two styles, Rounder and Wedge, with eight new graphics. Wiz-z-zer spins at 10,000 RPMs, and features balance and stability thanks to the internal gyro. Kids can play for speed and battle against other Wiz-z-zers, or learn to master tricks. New to the Wiz-z-zer family, Wiz-z-zer Wheelz-z-z are cars that go into wild spins when they make contact. Kids can race them, battle them, stack them, and crash them. Wiz-z-zer Wheelz-z-z are sold in a single pack, a two pack, and a Battle Arena set. Precision RBS Eos

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PREVIEW KAHOOTZ TOYS Spirograph Shapes, from Kahootz Toys, features 12 shaped gears and three rings that allow aspiring artists to create new Spirograph designs. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, this set’s pieces work with all other Spirograph design sets. Spirograph Jr. makes it easy for young artists to create Spirograph designs. Made for kids ages 3 and up, the portable design station features a built-in Spirograph ring that works with the included wheels. The chunky designs make it easy for young kids to move the pieces, and the built-in storSpirograph Jr. age makes clean up easy. Rotodraw is a classic dial-a-doodle drawing toy. The secret stencil wheels create surprise pictures as kids trace. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, the Fashion Plates Superstar Deluxe Set lets kids expand creative possibilities with more than 30 pieces. Kids can mix and match the plates, then rub with a crayon to create their own fashion designs. The Travel Fashion Plates design set is a portable set that features mix and match travel-themed Fashion Plates. The take-along set also includes crayons, paper, and a built-in storage compartment. Kids can create unique fashion combinations with the Fashion Plates Mega Set. This four-in-one set features four themes of Fashion Plates—sports, glamour, campus, and casual—and 50 pieces for fashionistas to mix and match designs.

WICKED COOL TOYS Alchemy II Inc. has named Wicked Cool Toys master toy partner for Teddy Ruxpin, a best-selling toy from the ‘80s. The relaunch will include a comprehensive toy line with episodic content, merchandising, and licensing for next fall. The new Teddy Ruxpin will have its original features and play pattern with modern enhancements designed for preschoolers. Ruxpin will read stories to kids with a motorized mouth. Additionally, it will feature Bluetooth technology, LCD eyes with multiple expressions that are synched to the stories, and touch sensors in its hands that allow kids to start, pause, and fast-forward through the stories. At launch, Ruxpin will include 10 stories, three of which are included with the purchase of the plush while the rest are digitally downloadFPO— able. There are two play modes—with image is not final or without the free app. The app allows kids to read along with the story Teddy is telling in-sync with the bear, flipping the pages as he reads. The built-in stories allow kids to play with Teddy without the app.

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PLASMART PlaSmart’s Messmatz Ultimate Creativity Mats are nontoxic, food-grade silicone creativity mats that protect surfaces while confining kids’ messes, spills, crayons, and small items such as beads. Measuring 24 by 18 inches, Messmatz protect surfaces and hold up to 32 ounces of spills. They are firm enough for kids to write or draw, with flexible soft edges that offer comfort and less slip. With PL-UG Build Your Own Fort Kits, kids can attach the PL-UG to walls, furniture, windows, and trees to build a fort. The kits are available in three versions: the introductory Fort Kit, the mid-range Canopy Kit, and the Ultimate Kit.


This winter, Playmobil will expand its product offering with the fully furnished Camping Lodge, featuring a cooking area with food, pots, pans, dishes, and more. The set also includes an outdoor shower, a bathroom, and a zipline. Other accessories include an adult figure, three child figures, an archery target with a bow and arrow, a communal table with benches, a campfire, a violin, a soccer ball, and more. The Camping Lodge is designed for kids ages 4 and up. Kids can step up to the Ice Cream Truck window to order a sweet treat, available in a dish or cone. The window door lowers when it’s time to close the shop for the day. Designed for kids ages 4 and up, the set includes an adult figure, three child figures, a table, ice cream, cones, dishes, an ice scream scooper, beverages, and other accessories. My Take Along Farm has a colorful design and large, round pieces. Toddlers can feed the animals and store all the supplies in the loft, as well as pay close attention to which shapes fit in the specific holes. The farm closes up and all the pieces fit inside when playtime is over. The set includes a character figure, a cow, a pig, a dog, a car, a bird, and other accessories. Kids can browse the showroom and enjoy the luxury of a sports car with the Porsche 911 Targa 4S. The Porsche has functioning front, rear, and dashboard lights, and a removable roof. The Porsche comes with two figures, a showroom wall, a seating area, a car jack, tools, and other accessories. Camping Lodge

EDUSHAPE The Edushape Marbulous Marble Run is a marble track set that allows kids to build their own tracks and load marbles for fun with lots of twists and turns. Kids can construct the colorful plastic tracks in multiple ways, which develops motor skills, spatial relations, and logic, and is great for solo or social play. Designed for kids ages 4 and up, each set includes 80 building pieces and 20 marbles. The Edushape Gummy Ball Teether is a toy and teether all in one. Infants can learn to grasp and hold while chewing on the multi-textured Gummy Ball Teether. The durable, soft, and safe teether comes three to a pack and features nine different nubs for nibbling.

Marbulous Marble Run

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REDWOOD VENTURES RedwoodVentures introduces IDO3D Vertical sets with color-changing ink. Kids can use the pen to create 3-D works of art that change color when cooled below 62 degrees. Kids ages 8 and up can use the included guidebooks or their own imaginations to create masterpieces. Artists just place the clear flat sheet over the template, hold the pen light to dry and harden the ink, dip the creations in cool water or put them in the freezer, and watch them change color.


Q&A WITH AULDEY The Toy Book caught up with Adiran Roche, president, Auldey Toys North America. Tell us about The Alpha Group and how it has grown over the last 10 years. The Alpha Group originated as a toy company under the Auldey brand name in 1993. At the time, Auldey toys were distributed solely in the China market and quickly became a top toy brand known for its highquality, innovative toys. With the chairman’s foresight and understanding of the relationship between entertainment and toys, Auldey established the animation side of the business and the company was renamed Alpha Animation and Toys. Today, operating as The Alpha Group, we are one of the largest animation companies in the world and a multi-dimensional entertainment enterprise. Our animation capabilities paired with our toy design and manufacturing expertise have allowed us to become a one-stop shop for the creation of content and corresponding toys. Our toy division still operates under the Auldey brand and is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Alpha Group, which has a global presence and a diverse portfolio of brands. In the North American market, we recently launched our Super Wings toy line based on the animated preschool series on NBC’s Sprout network, and we continue to innovate in the boys’ space with our Sky Rover and Wave Racers brands.

new adventures of their own. Similarly, children’s beloved toys can be crafted into storylines and come to life through original animated content, which is something we’re also exploring for future toy lines.

Can you share an example of how this business model of creating entertainment and toys in a synergistic way is working in the North American market? We’ve seen great success with this model in North America with the Super Wings brand. Super Wings has been a top-rated show since its 2015 North American premiere and the toy sales have since exceeded expectations. We believe the success comes from an understanding that “play” is often an expression of story-telling and vice versa. Toys that feature characters and settings from popular TV shows or video games enable children to re-enact their favorite scenes from the programming or use their imagination and creativity to develop

solid foundation for entertainment-based products spanning mass media, toys, education, and theme parks. We own more than 10 animation studios, allowing us to develop our brands with a multi-dimensional approach. Beyond our episodic properties such as Super Wings, Alpha has also entered into a strategic partnership with New Regency Productions, investing in movies such as Assassin’s Creed, The Revenant, and Splinter Cell. Additionally, Alpha has made a significant investment in director Michael Bay’s 451 Media Group in order to continue its growth as an entertainment enterprise. We continue to explore new ways to strengthen our position in the entertainment business.

The link between the entertainment business and toys seems to be something many major toy companies are building on. Can you talk more about how Alpha has immersed itself in the entertainment category? Alpha is a mega-producer of content across all mediums, such as comics, animation, TV, and film, which provides a

The recent acquisition of Baby Trend opens up an entirly new category for Alpha in North America and beyond. How does this factor into Alpha’s growth strategy? Acquiring Baby Trend extends the relationship lifecycle with our core consumer— parents. With our acquisition of Baby Trend, a leading juvenile and baby gear company, we can start engaging with the prenatal mom and have a conversation that will last through the first decade of her toy-buying years. It has been the catalyst for Alpha’s global development plan for our juvenile business and allows us to extend beyond toys and bring our innovative technologies and existing creative properties to a wider array of products. Alpha recently established a presence in the Los Angeles (LA) area. What are your plans for this new location? The new LA location will serve as Alpha’s international design headquarters. It’s the perfect hub as it’s at the crossroads of the entertainment and toy industries. We’ve been lucky enough to enlist some of the top design talent in our industry, who are already having an incredible impact on our product lines after just a few months and ensuring we continue to deliver superior play experiences and innovation in everything we create.

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What can we expect to see from Auldey in the future? In 2017, you will see new innovations in all of our signature brands. In the flight category, you can expect breakthrough new products in our Sky Rover line, taking R/C helicopters and drones in a whole new direction. For preschoolers, we’ll be expanding our Super Wings toy line, building on its current strong momentum in the marketplace. We’ve recently partnered with Rainbow, one of the most sophisticated animation companies with worldwide presence, on its new girl-focused animated TV series Regal Academy, which begins airing in the U.S. this summer on Nickelodeon. Stay tuned for a few more surprises to come in 2017 and beyond. »


PREVIEW SCHLEICH Schleich will offer a variety of new play sets this spring. The Wild Life Starter Playset and Farm World Starter Playset introduce kids to wild and farm animals. Each set comes with four hand-painted animal figures. The Dog Kennel is a six-piece set that comes with figures and accessories for kids to add to their Farm World collection. Schleich will also add to its Horse Club play sets, with the Rider with Icelandic Ponies Playset and the Stablehand with Shetland Ponies Playset. Each set comes with figures, hand-painted figurines, and accessories. New to the dinosaurs collection is the Feathered Raptors Playset. The hand-painted, three-piece set includes three feathered raptor dinosaurs: Utahraptor, Microraptor, and Deinonychus.

Stablehand with Shetland Ponies Playset


WONDER FORGE With Wonder Forge’s PJ Masks Night Sight Game, kids can work together as the PJ Masks attempt to stop Romeo from stealing the city’s toys. Kids will flip from daytime to nighttime as they gather and uncover clues, and use their memory and teamwork to win the game. Peppa Pig Surprise Slides allows kids to hurry along a colorful path with Peppa Pig and her friends in an effort to make it to school on time. With shortcut slides constantly changing, it’s a different game every time kids play.

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The Haywire Group’s Box of Rocks, for kids ages 12 and up, is a game in which players must answer a series of trivia questions that have the correct answer of 0, 1, or 2. After the player gives an answer, he or she shakes the box of rocks and opens it to see the rock’s answer. Pizza Party Supreme is now available in a four-player version. In this adaptation of the game made for kids ages 6 and up, players draw a pizza slice card, roll their pizza topping dice, and try to match the toppings from the dice to the toppings on their cards. The first player to complete six slices—a full pizza—wins the game.


EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS Illumicraft, from Educational Insights, lights up creativity and science with art projects designed for kids ages 8 and up. Illumicraft teaches basic circuitry and encourages the creation of light-up imagination-fueled crafts. Each kit includes a unique craft activity, decorative craft materials, and electronic components including LED lights. Peekaboo Barn Game gets kids to work together in a game based on Peekaboo Barn, an app designed for preschoolers. Kids take turns with the barnyard spinner to see which sleepy animal needs help to hit the hay. Players say the animal sound out loud and Illumicraft Speaker move their animal to the barn for bedtime. If players spin the rooster, all the sleepy animals may wake up. The game is designed for kids ages 2 and up. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, the solar-powered, kid-controlled GeoSafari STEM Solar Rover lets kids harness the power of the sun and hand-casted shadows to move the Rover. Kids alternate sunlight and shadows onto the pivoting solar cells to power the rear Rover wheels and turn the vehicle left or right. Kids can set up the three training course cones to create custom Rover challenges. The GeoSafari Jr. Critter Habitat lets kids collect and observe bugs, frogs, fish, rocks, leaves, and flowers. The container includes air holes for dry and wet habitats. Created for kids ages 3 to 6, the habitat has a rotating feeder to make feeding easy and avoid animal escape. Kanoodle Jr. helps kids develop spatial reasoning skills. Designed for kids ages 4 to 7, Kanoodle Jr. includes 60 puzzle challenges. The large puzzle pieces slide into the Kanoodle Jr. board for solo play. Word on the Street Junior challenges players to draw a category card and set the timer to think of the best possible word to fit the selected category. Players must move all the letters in their chosen word to their side of the street before time runs out. The first player to move a letter all the way off the street keeps the tile. The first team with eight tiles across the street wins. Made for kids ages 10 and up, this game helps to develop vocabulary skills, creative thinking skills, and teamwork. Kids can practice making letters, numbers, and more with two new Playfoam sets: Playfoam Shape and Learn Numbers Set. Each set includes four different colored Playfoam bricks and 13 double-sided cards. Preschoolers place their Playfoam on top of the letter or number card to practice making the shapes themselves. For kids ages 3 and up, these sets provide tactile and sensory stimulation, help develop fine motor skills, and spark creativity and self-expression.

ALEX BRANDS Alex Brands will introduce Lil Lockitz Mini Mystery Lockets blind bags for kids to collect and try to find the rare metallic locket. Lil Lockitz allows kids to create their own lockets filled with charms, gems, or a selfie. For tweens, Alex will add Alex Weave & Wear Metallic Cuffs to its line. The colorful and metallic threads loomed onto metal designs allow kids to create handmade cuff-style bracelets. Alex Paint & Wear Enamel Pins lets kids decorate hats, bags, and other accessories with custom painted pins. The metal designs can be embellished with quick dry paint, gems, and glitter. With Shrinky Dinks 3D Heart Jewelry, kids can link 3-D Shrinky Dinks to create unique bracelets and necklaces. A special mold allows the pre-cut strips of plastic to color and shrink in the shape of hearts. With licensing partner Universal Studios, Alex will introduce Secret Life of Pets characters to its Knot-A-Pillow crafts. Nickelodeon’s Shimmer and Shine will also be featured in several new crafts, including Decorate-A-Purse, which is an activity for young girls. New to Alex’s Buzz Bee Toys brand is the Ultra-Tek Night Tek, a new pop-up light scope. This compact blaster sends darts flying up to 72 feet, and the pop-up night vision scope allows kids to play in the dark. The blaster includes six darts and is designed for kids ages 6 and up. Alex will also expand the Kaloo Rouge collection with Rouge Kaloo Prestige. Janod’s collection will include more than 100 new products in categories such as role play, games, arts and crafts, construction, and preschool.

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SAKAR INTERNATIONAL Sakar International’s line of compact discs plus graphics (CD+G) will include a variety of brands, such as DC Super Hero Girls, The Powerpuff Girls, Disney Frozen, Disney Descendants, Disney Princesses, Shopkins, Dreamworks’ Trolls, and Miraculous Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir, the new TV series from ZAG/Zagtoon that will debut next year. The karaoke machine is compatible with portable music players and devices, has built-in viewing screens, and a microphone. Each karaoke machine comes with a CD+G showcasing two bonus hits and lights up to the beat of the music. Additionally, Sakar’s kid-safe headphones include volume-limiting technology, customizable straps, and over-the-ear cups for quality sound. The kid-safe headphones come in a variety of brands, including DC Super Hero Girls, The Powerpuff Girls, Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir, Hello Kitty, and more. Sakar will also offer DC Super Hero Girls, The Powerpuff Girls, and Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir walkie talkies, flashlights, glow pads, microphones, and blue tooth speakers.

BERG Kids can experience a unique way of moving with the Berg Street-X. Designed for kids ages 4 to 12, the new lime green cart allows for smooth turns as kids keep themselves balanced. Kids can swing with their bodies at high speeds through curves and maneuver their way along difficult trails. Riders can pedal forward, backward, and use the brake while they hold the handles. The Berg Buzzy Bloom is a blue and pink ride-on that features a pink basket and a set of stickers for kids to customize their ride. The seat and handlebars are adjustable, and the four EVA tires ensure kids’ stability. Kids can ride in forward or reverse. The Berg Buzzy Nitro will teach kids how to pedal. The Nitro features bright orange mini monster truck wheels and royal blue suspension.

CD&G Karaoke Machines


Berg Buzzy Nitro

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Auldey Toys will introduce more than 15 new items to its Super Wings line. The second season of the TV series will premiere next spring on NBC Sprout, featuring new characters and adventures. The line will include new transforming vehicles, play sets, and more. Auldey will also unveil a full line of fashion dolls and play sets based on Regal Academy, an original animated TV show created by Rainbow and airing on Nickelodeon. The toy line is set to launch next summer and is a collaboration between Auldey and Rainbow. The storyline follows Rose Cinderella, the granddaughter of Cinderella, as she enters the Regal Academy and embarks on magical adventures with her classmates, who also have fairytale heritage and belong to the school’s founding families. Designed for kids ages 5 and up, the toy line incorporates the colors and magical elements that can be seen throughout each episode.

PREVIEW MUKIKIM The Rock and Roll It Piano and the Rock and Roll It Drum, from MukikiM, are made from a soft and flexible silicone. These portable toys can utilize batteries or USB power, letting kids play on the go. The piano features 49 standard keys, a built-in speaker with volume control, multiple keyboard tones and demo songs, record and playback functionality, echo/sustain capabilities, and an audio output jack to allow kids to connect an external speaker or headphones. The drum comes with two drum sticks and two foot pedals for the bass drum and hi-hat. It features professional demos, multiple instrumental tracks, record and playback funcionality, numerous sound styles, audio input and output, and MP3 connectability.

Rock and Roll It Piano

IDENTITY GAMES Identity Games will debut new editions of Find It. Sesame Street Jr. Find It, designed for kids ages 3 to 5, contains bigger items, fun activities, and engaging gameplay. Where’s Waldo Find It challenges players to search for Waldo and his fellow adventurers, as well as other hidden objects and icons. Animal Jam Find It features characters from the online game, as well as objects representing the various adventures. Captain Underpants Find It is based on the book series and the movie that will launch next summer, and features heroes, villains, and well-known icons. Crystal Find It is the hardest Find It game yet and is designed for an older age group. It features clear pellets and transparent items. Designed for preschoolers, Elmo Hide & Seek features a talking Elmo that calls out, “Come find me!” and other phrases. The playing cards give kids hints on where to hide and find the talking Elmo. Mouthguard Challenge is based on vlogger Alex Mendel’s YouTube sensation. He was one of the first vloggers to record this challenge on YouTube, and he will be featured on the packaging and promotions. Mendel hand-selected the challenges and phrases to make this family-friendly version of the game. Crozzit is a new two-player strategy game in which players flip from offense to defense on every move, working to create a direct path from one side of the board to the other. Crozzit offers 20 to 30 minutes of brain-stretching gameplay. Dodgeball is a live-action game in which players work to complete tasks and dethrone the “thrower” in the middle of the board while balls spin around at random, threatening to knock each player’s piece over. Mouse Party is a kids’ and family game that requires quick reflexes. Little mice sit on top of mouse traps, while players hold them by the tail. Pieces of cheese are removed from the board one at a time. Players don’t know which piece will make the traps snap, but they must be fast enough to pull their mouse out of danger. Who’s the Dude? is a new party game, designed for players ages 14 and up. Players work with “The Dude”—a life-sized inflatable buddy—to act out phrases while the rest of the group races to guess the correct answer. Brainspot identifies the five main parts of the brain, and players have to answer questions and challenges that rely on specific areas of the brain. Each player wears a brain cap, which acts as a scoreboard. Once a player fills all five areas of the brain, he or she wins.

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PREVIEW DGL TOYS DGL Toys will expand the Gemlins brand to feature more than 50 new characters, at least three new play sets, and an expanded website. The current character roster allows kids to collect each Gem family—rubies, sapphires, amethysts—and build necklaces or bracelets. Kids can then go to to learn their gems’ personalities and educational fun facts about gems, or download activity pages. The new gems feature styles such as ‘80s, clown, nerdy, and more. DGL Toys will expand its Call of Duty drone line to feature more interactive gamelike play on some drones and new R/C vehicles. DGL Toys’ Knolly Nibbles line features R/C vehicles, vinyl dolls, and plush, all designed for preschoolers. The Knolly Nibbles toy line will grow next year with the introduction of four new play sets that feature a mini Knolly in each set. DGL will also launch R/C vehicles, talking banks, flying toys, and more for its Yo-Kai Watch toy line next year.

FABER–CASTELL Faber-Castell adds to its line of children’s art products with Paint by Number Unicorn Foil Fun. Kids can add colors to the unicorn with the Faber-Castell Watercolor Pencils. The illustration board has a unicorn design with a shimmering holographic foil. The set includes seven watercolor pencils, an illustration board, numbered color glue, a foam mounting board, sticky tabs, and a hanger. With the Neon and Metallic Color Palettes, kids can choose from six neon or sparkling metallic colors, all of which come in a plastic carry case. The Deluxe Paint by Number Museum Series featuring The Scream is based on Edvard Munch’s The Scream. The paint-by-number set includes oil pastels, a canvas, seven paints, two brushes, five oil pastels, a color mixing guide, and an online tutorial.

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RAVENSBURGER Kids can create a classic sneaker in a modern design with Ravensburger’s 3D Sneaker USA. The puzzle comes with 108 plastic puzzle pieces; once it’s constructed, kids can use it as a container for brushes, pencils, pens, and more. Ravensburger’s 3D Disney Castle is decorated with details of Ariel, Aurora, Cinderella, Jasmine, Merida, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Tiana. The Easyclick technology helps kids assemble the plastic puzzle, which has 216 pieces and 75 construction parts. The 40k Disney Puzzle has 40,000 puzzle pieces that depict scenes and characters from some of Disney’s most iconic films, including Snow White, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi, Cinderella, Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King. Once all of the pieces are together, the puzzle measures more than 22 feet long and more than 6 feet tall.


Next year, K’NEX will introduce K’NEX Thrills: Lunar Launch Roller Coaster Building Set. This coaster features 515 to 525 K’NEX parts and pieces, a stomp rocket launching mechanism, and a rocket ship coaster car. Kids can also download instructions for a second coaster online. The K’NEX Thrills: 25th Anniversary Classic Roller Coaster Building Set has been pulled from the K’NEX vault. The original K’NEX coaster features a motorized chain lift and 2,362 classic K’NEX parts and pieces. The K’NEX Flying: Quad Copter 3-in-1 Building Set lets kids build three R/C models: a quadcopter, a hovercraft, and a car. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, this R/C features fully controlled, four-way flight. The Tinkertoy Deluxe 100-piece Wood Set features 100 real wood Tinkertoy parts and pieces. With 15 building ideas included, it also features nostalgic tube packaging. New to the Mighty Makers line is Amazing Amusements, which lets kids explore physics with the two Mighty Makers figures: Jess and Devon. With 530 K’NEX parts and pieces, including a motor, a roller coaster car, chairs, graphics, and more, kids can build their own amusement park. There are additional building ideas available online. The K’NEX K-Force Build and Blast: Hammerhead lets kids build their own blaster with a lever-action RotoShot Chamber. They can build and rebuild this set into five different models. K'NEX Thrills: Lunar Launch Roller Coaster The K’NEX Education Maker Kit: Large and STEM Explorations: Vehicles sets join the K’NEX Education Building Set line. The Maker Kit features more than 800 parts for four to six students to build. It includes 100 building ideas and a storage bin with dividers. The STEM Explorations: Vehicles set lets kids build seven vehicle models with different power sources. The set includes five experiments.

DREAMGEAR My Arcade is a line of portable, handheld, mini arcade plug-and-play gaming devices with accessories that are reminiscent of all-time classic handhelds and traditional arcade cabinets. Next year, dreamGEAR will add three new products to the My Arcade line. The Gamer Max Portable is a new handheld that comes with 220 high-resolution 16-bit video games. It is designed to look and play like classic gaming handhelds. Kids can play at home, in the car, or on the go. With its small, lightweight design, it fits easily in a pocket. The GameStation Wireless is a plug-and-play console that plugs into a TV and has 220 preloaded games. With the inclusion of two ergonomic wireless controllers, it includes many games for the whole family, such as racing, adventure, sports, puzzles, and more. The My Arcade Learning Pad sparks imagination and takes kids on adventures. The Pad comes with 70 learning games and more than 200 arcade-style games, including puzzles, story time, singalong, coloring, and more. It is lightweight and thin, which makes it easy for tiny hands to hold and features large, colorful buttons for effortless play. It also has a color screen that encourages interactive learning and play. GameStation Wireless

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MOOSE TOYS Moose Toys will introduce The Grossery Gang Horrid Hot Dog Playset, where Grossery Gang characters can roll into fun and fast food nastiness. This spring, Moose will also introduce The Grossery Gang Season 2, with new teams and characters, such as Gutter Butter and Mucus Milk. Poppit lets kids create a miniature world of clay when they load the popper with clay, pop out their piece, and add designs to make mini creations. This spring, Poppit Season 2 will hit shelves with new designs such as mini cookies, chocolates, smoothies, and more. Twozies Season 2 will launch new characters with fresh finishes and a new limited-edition team. Kids will also be able to display their Twozies characters in two new play sets.


Q&A WITH The Toy Book caught up with Thomas O’Connell, Global CEO, Yvolution. Tell us about Yvolution’s background and how the company was founded. I began selling scooters all around Ireland when I was 21 and, in the 10 years after that, I had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the toy industry. When I first spotted the Fliker, our three-wheeled scooter, I knew it was radically different from anything else in the marketplace and looked insanely cool. I got in touch with the maker and it wasn’t long before they gave me global distribution rights. Then, in 2012, I co-founded Yvolution with Shane Connaughton and soon after, the Fliker hit shelves at Toys “R” Us in the U.S. and sold out. These days, we’re continuing to design and manufacture cuttingedge products to keep families active and healthy. From balance bikes to performance scooters, we’re leading the pack in innovative outdoor toys that benefit overall well-being. What kind of growth has Yvolution seen since its inception? In 2013, we had a 4-foot space in Toys “R” Us and this year we are up to 32 feet, and we’re also in all major retailers. In fact, we are in more than 12,000 stores in the U.S. market, and our products are available in more than 50 countries worldwide. We are growing at an accelerated rate rarely seen in the industry. Customer satisfaction is at an all-time high and demand for new Yvolution products increases annually.

Yvolution Y Flyer

How has the wheeled goods category changed over the years? And how has Yvolution kept up with the changes? Other than character licensing, I feel there wasn’t much change for many years. A scooter was a scooter; a bike was a bike. Yvolution changed that, and in three

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short years it has become one of the leading brands in the wheeled goods category. We’ve pushed this category to new heights in innovation with the likes of our patented lean-to-steer scooters, Fliker scooters, and balance bikes. What are your plans for later this year and next year? We plan to continue the innovation that consumers have come to expect from Yvolution with a terrific fall line. Our Strolly brand will lead us into the baby category with strollers that convert to trikes and balance bikes, offering a tremendous value to parents as the product line grows with the child from baby to toddler. New for older kids, we will introduce the Flyer, a stepper scooter that propels riders forward as they step up and down. Our Neon line of light-up scooters and skateboards will also showcase the diversity and talents of our designers and engineers. Yvolution has been known for its balance bikes and self-propelling scooters, but you mentioned expanding into other categories. What prompted the change and what types of products will you offer in this line? We are constantly reviewing trends and looking for gaps in the marketplace that we feel we can fill, as innovation is at the core of Yvolution. Our strength comes in being able to move quickly to bring new high-quality and innovative items to our retail partners. They trust us and know that we provide excellent product and value to their consumers. What trends are you seeing in the wheeled goods category? How does Yvolution fit in with those trends? The trend is moving away from regular two-wheeled scooters and moving more toward the lean-to-steer type scooters like our Y Gliders. Since 2013, our lean-to-steer scooters have seen an increase in market share. The light-up category is also trending, and we are on point with our plans to launch Neon light-up scooters and skateboards. »

PREVIEW LEARNING RESOURCES Learning Resources will showcase new educational toys for kids ages 3 and up. The Pretend & Play Teaching ATM Bank will be available this spring. The electronic ATM bank features coin recognition and a bill feeder. Kids can keep track of savings and learn valuable money skills. It has a fingerprint button to turn the machine on and off and an ATM screen that keeps track of savings. The Pretend & Play Teaching ATM Bank bank comes with pretend money and an ATM card that kids can personalize with a four-digit pin. The Latch & Learn School House is an interactive set that includes a teacher and four student figures. The schoolhouse features two ways to play—upright or flat—and a handle for on-the-go play. The set helps strengthen number-, color-, and shape-recognition skills. The Latch & Learn School House will be available this winter. Kids will learn about geography as they play with the Puzzle Globe, which will be available this winter. Each removable continent features a different-shaped post that fits only one area of the globe to allow for easy use and simple self-correction. The continents also include colorful animals and famous landmarks for extended learning. The globe rotates and has a base, six continent puzzle pieces, six plastic continent labels, and blank label stickers. With 1-2-3 Build It!, kids can learn how things move, as well as enhance early engineering and design skills. The easy-to-assemble mix-and-match pieces can create a car, an airplane, and a boat. 1-2-3 Build It! also comes with a screwdriver for kids to tighten up their projects and pieces to build different kinds of vehicles. The set will be available this winter.

RUBIE'S COSTUME CO. Rubie’s Costume Co. will launch the new DC Super Hero Girls Collection, part of the Imagine by Rubie’s line of dress-up costumes and accessories. Harley Quinn includes red and black lamé leggings with attached shorts, a short-sleeved shirt with red and black glitter accents, and a black eye mask. Supergirl features a short-sleeved red and blue lamé dress with the Superman logo, an attached red cape, two wrist bands, and a blue head band. Batgirl has a purple long-sleeved shirt with an attached hood, a pair of gold gauntlets, a gold belt, black bat wings, black leggings with a gold side pinstripe, and an eye mask. Wonder Woman features a short-sleeved red and white DC Super Hero Girls: Batgirl shirt with gold accents, silver gauntlets, blue leggings, a lasso, and a gold tiara with a red star.


Space Wow 22Pc Set

With the Magformers Shimmer and Shine 22Pc Set, kids can click their Magformers together to create genie lamps, gondolas, and more. They can add inserts, or follow along with the four idea mats to take their creations from 2-D to 3-D. The set also includes 14 magnetic shapes, four inserts, four Shimmer and Shine double-sided character cards, two diamond jewels, and four double-sided play cards. The Blaze and the Monster Machines 22Pc Set lets Blaze transform into almost anything, including moon rovers and go karts. Kids can click and connect the Magformers to match colors, characters, and shapes in order to build eight different monster machines. Then, they can add Blaze Wheels to transform their ideas into race cars and dune buggies. The set includes 14 magnetic shapes, two Blaze Wheels, six inserts, six double-sided character cards, and four double-sided play cards. With the Space Wow 22Pc Set, kids can build spaceships and rockets while learning about cube nets, patterns, shapes, and colors. They can also add an antenna and wheels to create a space buggy or construct a space station.

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Kids can make their entire world a laser tag arena with Discovery Kids’ Galactic Wrist Blasters Laser Tag, from NKOK. Featuring a grip that sits on a wrist, these blasters shoot invisible infrared beams of light that can bounce off of walls. There are three dynamic firing modes, each of which does different levels of damage. There are also three teams to choose from with infinite players that can join. A larger and more powerful Galactic 4-Team Infrared Space Blaster Laser Tag game will also be introduced. Also capable Discovery Kids’ Galactic of infinite players, these dynamic blasters feature sounds and vibrations with each hit Wrist Blaster Laser Tag and a reload button on the bottom of the blaster. NKOK adds six quadcopters to the refreshed Air Banditz line with a mini Astro-X that features throw launch and one-key return, and is small enough to fit in the palm of a hand. Air Banditz will also feature the Recon Raptor Drone, which comes with a built-in camera for photos, videos, and first-person-view live streaming (FPV) with a smartphone. Junior Racers is NKOK’s core preschool line, with items such as the Mini Pull Back Pocket Racers and licensed My First RC vehicles, such as a Ford Mustang GT and a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. A new fleet of licensed friction-powered vehicles will roll onto shelves next year, including Dodge Viper, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, Ram Rebel, and Ford Mustang. Each addition features a powerful friction motor with artwork and a custom body, capturing the essence of the licensed vehicle with no batteries required. NKOK will also introduce its RealTree plush line. The line features cuddly plush buddies in various sizes, soft animal theme slippers, plush backpacks with blankets made from the actual RealTree fabric, and more. The RealTree brand will add a new 1/18 Competition Rock Crawler that will include the RealTree print and logo. NKOK also adds to the Mean Machines Rock Crawlers line with Venom, a radio-control 1/18 crawler with a suspension system that allows unparalleled rock-crawling abilities. The motors are powerful with tons of torque, making them capable to power through tough terrain.

NEAT-OH! Neat-Oh! adds new additions to its Everyday Princess line with new toys designed for kids ages 3 and older. Julia, the newest Everyday Princess is available in the Julia—The Artist Doll & Accessories set. The Latina doll comes with an artist easel, an apron, a painter’s palette, and stickers. Lucky the Pony is a nearly 5-inch doll that comes with long hair and tiny accessories to inspire imaginative play. The Buddy & Dottie set features two Everyday Princesses’ pets and accessories. The Everyday Princess Bianca Doll Outdoor Activity Set will be available in November. The set comes with a Bianca figure, a Charlie figure, a dog bowl, a purse, reading glasses, a soccer ball, and a seesaw. The Haley Ballerina Doll & Purse provides enough room for four dolls. The long straps allow kids to wear their bag on their shoulder or cross-body style. Neat-Oh! also adds to its fairytale-themed ZipBin storage line. The ZipBin Everyday Princess 40-Doll-Dollhouse Backpack w/ 1 Doll unzips into a two-story, castle-themed dollhouse with a slide and a swimming pool. When playtime is over, the castle zips into a backpack, with all the dolls and accessories inside. The ZipBin Everyday Princess 5-Doll Mini Manson w/ 1 Doll opens into a play mat with a decorative interior for imaginative play. The carry-case is lightweight, zips up from the sides, and is easy to clean with a wipe. The ZipBin Everyday Princess 40-Pony Playset w/ 1 Pony is decorated with animals and also unzips into a play mat. The ZipBin Everyday Princess 40-Pony Rainbow Park w/ 1 Pony unzips into a play mat with flowers, gardens, a picnic, and more to create the perfect setting during playtime. The mini play set also includes a travel-size pony. The Everyday Princess 4 Doll Princess Purse w/ 1 Doll comes with a 4.5inch Haley Ballerina Doll and has enough room to store four princess dolls. The purse unzips and opens into a ballet studio for playtime. Julia–The Artist Doll & Accessories

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PREVIEW INTEK Intek will introduce Crunch Mania, a line of mischievous collectible plush animals that accidentally got stuck inside of food packs. Tired of always eating the same tasteless flavors, they raided kitchens in search delicious snacks. Each of the six available animals has its own personality and favorite food. The characters include Zzupy, a little bird fond of fruit rings; Oinky, a loyal cookie-loving pig; Niamy, a sweet penguin that got stuck inside an ice-cream bucket; Berpy, a brave bear with a weakness for honey; Yummy, an optimistic turtle that loves to eat one potato chip at a time; and Gluppy, which sips its way through a milk carton.

Niamy penguin plush and pack


My First Safari elephant

SMART TOYS & GAMES The new SmartMax Discovery line, from Smart Toys and Games, will be available early next year. Designed for kids ages 1 and up, the two new products in the line feature animals and trains that inspire kids to explore magnetism. As with many SmartMax sets, the large pieces are ideal for little hands. Kids can drive the train and its conductor around, as well as easily combine the different carriages with magnetic clicks to make all kinds of trains with Smartmax My First Train. Kids can explore magnetism in a new way with Smartmax My First Safari. The safari animals include a a crocodile, a lion, an elephant, a giraffe, a hippo, and a rhino. The large animal parts easily click on the bars.

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Lil’ Butters, from Snaptoys, are collectible 4-inch butterflies with oversized wings and trendy graphics. The first series and the newly launched second series are now available. Furbelles are clip-on pom-pom accessories for kids’ backpacks or purses. The 4-inch key chain plush come in four vibrant colors— white, black, purple, and pink. Thunder Stompers are 12-inch plush dinosaurs designed for kids ages 1 and up. These prehistoric dinosaurs have signature oversized feet, vibrant personalities, and feature roars and thundering stomping sounds.

PREVIEW PACIFIC PLAY TENTS The Buttons and Blooms Interchangeable TeePee and Traffic Jam Interchangeable TeePee are new to Pacific Play Tent’s Interchangeable Multi-Panel Cotton TeePee series. They feature four interchangeable graphic or solid color panels. Each panel is attached by buttons and can easily be changed. The teepees are constructed with four wooden poles and cotton fabric, making them sturdy and durable. Kids can use their imaginations with the 5-foot School Bus D-Tunnel. This school bus tunnel features vibrant graphics, a waterproof floor, mesh windows, and two ends that Velcro together, so kids are guaranteed plenty of air ventilation and options to play either indoors or outdoors. The tunnel is lightweight and easy to set up and take down. The Quads-of-Fun Junction Set folds compactly in only seconds—and sets up just as easily—for hours of explorative and inventive fun. The tunnel junction connects any four standard-sized Pacific Play Tents tunnels for instant hide-and-seek fun. It can be used inside or outdoors. Kids can wiggle and squiggle though the Fun Tube 6-foot Tunnel. The sturdy spring steel construction and fine mesh see-though design allow for imaginative and creative playtime. The tunnel collapses down for easy storage and carrying. The Natural Linen A-Frame features a star on each front door panel, a simple design, and a pocket for kids to store their items. There is also a roll-up window for ample ventilation and visibility. Constructed with sturdy wooden poles, the tent can also be folded together for storage.

Buttons and Blooms Interchangeable TeePee

BEARINGTON COLLECTION Bearington Collection’s Original Whiffer Sniffers expands with series three, featuring 10 new scented plush characters that have personalities to match their scents. The characters include Meatball Paul, a loyal friend who tells a good story; Georgia, a peach who knows all about southern hospitality; Willy B. Chilly, who loves summer and is always the center of attention at the neighborhood pool; Ivana Pucker Up, who hangs out with her friends and makes lemonade; Ivana B. Bitsy, the pair to Ivana Pucker Up; Katie Cotton, the popular one who loves getting her hair done; Slipper Sam, a salesman who sells slip ‘n slides; Chunky Chuck, a sweet guy with an even sweeter tooth; Huey Gooey, the biggest fan of the carnival scene; and Huey Dippins, who has a melt-proof chocolate coating. In addition to series three, two holiday-themed Whiffer Sniffers will debut: Ken D. Corn during Halloween and Doughy Dave during the holiday season. All Whiffer Sniffers plush are available in a collectible backpack clip, a larger size, and nostalgic scratch ‘n sniff stickers. Each series has exclusive characters only found inside specially marked mystery packs.

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PREVIEW King Pig Castle Playset

SPIN MASTER Spin Master will introduce two products based on Rovio’s The Angry Birds Movie. The King Pig Castle Playset allows kids to re-create the final battle against the Pigs. The set’s play pattern fits with the game, movie, and brand, and comes with three figures. Kids can use Squirters bath toys to re-create the Lake of Wisdom scene from The Angry Birds Movie in the tub.

DUNECRAFT Pullback Rally Car 8-in-1

LASER PEGS Laser Pegs will introduce Laser Pegs Junior, designed for kids ages 4 to 7, using larger parts for smaller hands and simpler assembly. Laser Pegs Junior kits are compatible with all Laser Pegs kits and other brick toys, have multiple builds within each kit, are STEM-inspired, and light up. The line will initially launch with five SKUs, with a long-term plan to add additional products to the collection. Every product will be a three-in-one and will have a try-me feature. The Pullback Rally Car 8-in-1 features a light-up, pullback motor. Kids can build a dune buggy, rally car, sand racer, and more. The creations also light up for play in the dark or at night.

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DuneCraft will extend its offerings of themed terrariums, habitats, science kits and more this fall, including the Mosquito Beater Mini Domes, a new combination of plants that repel mosquitoes. The Mini Domes line will also include the Money Plant and Winter Wonderland sets. The Self-Watering Planter line will also expand with the Spectacular Sedum style; the Glass Terranium line will now have a Flytrap theme; and Fairy Seed Stones will be added to the Seed Stone line. In addition to its line extensions, DuneCraft will launch the Triple Bubble line. The glass terrarium designed by Grant Cleveland is open in the middle, allowing it to function as a decorative item, a learning experience, and an air-cleaning apparatus. The Triple Bubble is available in four styles, including Carnivorous Wonders, Fairy Wonderland, Hawaii Rain Forest, and Simply Flowers.

PREVIEW 4KIDZ 4Kidz introduces King String, a handheld toy that generates wind, shapes, and images in neon-colored rainbows. The KingString climbs up walls and walks across floors.

GOLIATH GAMES Catch the Fox is the newest addition to Goliath Games’ line of skill and action games. Kids take turns putting chickens into the Fox’s pants pocket and pushing his head. But watch out for fowl play—when his pants disappear, players must race to grab the chickens and put them back into their coops. Catch the Fox is for kids ages 4 and up. Zoomball is Goliath’s latest addition to its sporting goods line. Each player grabs a pair of Zoomball handles and pulls them apart to start zooming. Another water-themed version of Zoomball that holds water balloons will also be available. Players never know when the balloons will pop and send water splashing everywhere.

SMARTLAB TOYS SmartLab Toys extends its line of science-themed toys. Mac Makerson and the Inter-Dimensional Locker is a STEAM kit that investigates optical physics, LED science, and virtual images. The included 32-page comic book illustrates Mac and his friend Maya’s adventure to capture a thief with the infinity mirror they created. After kids read the book, they can build their own mirror with the included parts and instructions. When kids switch on the mirror, the infinity effect creates an inter-dimensional portal. The set is designed for kids ages 8 and up. Also for kids ages 8 and up, Mission Critical: Mars! lets kids work together as a team of astronauts embarking on a journey to Mars. The young astronauts will face dangerous emergencies and have to solve problems together as the electronic Command Computer narrates their adventure. Using teamwork, strategy, and luck, the spacecraft will successfully land on the Red Planet. SmartLab Toy’s Sniffer Academy is a game for kids ages 4 and up in which players must sniff out the thief at the amusement park. The first to smell all the clues and declare the phrase, “My nose knows where the bad guy goes!” wins the game. When kids play Splice, they must use their cards strategically in order to add, remove, and rotate the DNA pieces to create a scoring sequence. Players may scramble their opponents before they have a chance to strike.

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Q&A WITH The Toy Book chats with Michael Keaton, president, Schleich North America, about how the company thrives in a tech-focused world. Tell me about Schleich’s history and how the company was founded. Schleich was founded in Germany by Friedrich Schleich in 1935. One of the first important milestones was when Schleich brought its first toy (Jopo, a series-produced flexible doll with long legs, a pointed nose, and a hat) to market, which became extremely popular. When the world-famous Schleich figurines first came on the market in the 1950s, few people realized that the toys’ realistic design and exquisite hand-painting process would make them a favorite of both children and collectors in more than 50 countries around the world. How has the company changed in recent years? Schleich’s core mission—creating the best figurines—remains at the center of the company’s value proposition. Furthermore, investing to create new playworlds that give our natural and realistic figures an environment, creates a unique and inspiring play experience for children of all age groups. It sparks their imagination and makes our figurines really come to life. The most impactful change however, was the decision to place

Dirk Engehausen as CEO in January 2015. With more than 20 years of experience as a senior executive in the toy industry, Dirk brought to Schleich a new energy and vision for how to improve our product offerings, optimize our business, and grow the brand. In a world of tech-savvy kids, how do you explain Schleich’s success? Today’s children have more play options, and this includes a vast array of tech offerings. And while it’s important that kids grow up tech-savvy, there is still a great demand from parents and children for traditional toys and the rich, imaginative play patterns that can evolve from simple materials. Furthermore, kids need and call for haptic experiences for their development. This is a tangible sensation that no digital device can provide. Schleich’s realistic figurines provide the basis for this kind of play—no instructions necessary. As I’ve heard it said, “play is a trick of nature for learning” and it is integral for children across cultures and geographic boundaries. Parents appreciate when traditional toy manufacturers find ways to provide a “balanced diet of play” for their kids, and Schleich’s simple but rich offering hits the spot. What is Horse Club? Horse Club is Schleich’s new theme that expands upon the success of our realistic

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horse figurines, and adds new environments to expand children’s imaginations. Whether practicing for a horse show at the riding center, transporting horses to a show in the horse trailer, or just showing care by washing and feeding, children can imagine caring for their horses and at the same time learn about the different horse breeds and what makes them unique. Horse Club by Schleich is our fastest-growing franchise and is a great example of creating a play world for children. What are Schleich’s plans for growth and expansion in the future? Our research has shown that parents and kids love figurines, both for collecting and for imaginative play. We plan to continue our core business of creating the highest quality and most realistic figurines in this space, and also expanding our franchise offerings with relevant story starters. To add relevance, we are planning more story content for the franchises, both to educate and to inspire children around the world. In North America, we also intend to significantly increase our share of voice through traditional and digital media to ensure our value proposition is more well-known. This includes, simply enough, teaching people how to pronounce our brand name. Remember, “I like Schleich!” »

PREVIEW JUPITER CREATIONS B Buddieez, from Jupiter Creations Inc., are small characters for kids to collect, play with, and wear. Designed for kids ages 5 and up, each toy has a small slit between the eyes and bellies to grasp onto one of the included wristbands. They also can attach to hair, a backpack, a jacket loop, shoelaces, and pens to make a fun fashion statement. The theme of the first series is Around the World, which allows kids to learn while they play. Their round shape makes them perfect for marble-style games, and the wristband is designed to rest on its side to become a goal post, which encourages kids to get creative and make up new games.

TECH 4 KIDS Tech 4 Kids will introduce Gemmies: Dazzling Jewelry. Available this spring, kids can create wearable accessories. This pack will include more than 300 pieces and a variety of colored gems, gem rings, and gem spacers. Gemmies allows kids to make their own 3-D sparkling creations, jewelry, and accessories. Also available this spring, Fright Factory: Glow in the Dark Refills will include two glow-in-the-dark EwGoo gels. Kids can use the special light-curing EwGoo gel to fill creepy molds and then flash them with the eerie light from the Fright Factory Creature Creator, creating centipedes, scorpions, spiders, and more. Fright Factory uses a safe LED light for kids to develop their creations, with no need for heat or glue. The gels are quick curing and non-toxic.

AURORA WORLD Aurora World’s Lots of Love Elephant returns next year in new colors. The plush features the signature “I Love You” ears and super-soft tipped fabric. You’re Special Panda features a special head tilt along with black, white, and red colors. The panda is available in three sizes. Aurora will also launch six whimsical characters for Valentine’s day. The Cupid Gnomlin is one of 11 new Gnomlin styles to collect.

Cupid Gnomlin

SCENTCO Scentco will add three new lines of scented squeezable toys: Disney Tsum Tsum Squeezables, Marvel Avengers Squeezables, and Marvel Spider-Man Squeezables. Every squeezable character emits a scent when kids squeeze it. Designed for kids ages 3 and up, the scents are guaranteed to last for two years. Each line has six different characters from which to choose. Scentco will also have new Smillows this winter. The pillows come in blackberry, cupcake, jelly doughnut, pineapple, and s’mores scents. Lastly, new Smanimal Backpack Buddies will be available this winter. The keychain-scented stuffed animals will come in six styles, each with a unique scent. The new Smanimals will include a cotton candy-scented bunny, a peanut butter and jelly-scented elephant, a banana-scented monkey, a cupcake-scented puppy dog, a strawberry-scented Teddy bear, and a tutti-frutti-scented unicorn.

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Micro Missiles Target Set

Diggin Active will expand its Slimeball line with the introduction of Slimeball Flinger Darts, finger balls that shoot more than 30 feet and leave no mess when they stick to their target. The Slimeball flingers have a built-in launch mechanism that makes them easy to shoot from kids’ fingertips. The Slimeball Flinger 5 Pack includes one flinger and five slimeballs. With the new Micro Missiles line, kids can launch missiles from their fingertips. Kids can stretch the launcher between their thumb and index finger, slide the launcher through the groove in the Micro missile, pull it back, and watch it fly more than 75 feet. Suction cup tips allow each missile to stick to most smooth surfaces. The Micro Missiles Target Set comes with 12 Micro Missiles, two launchers, and one hanging dartboard. The Black Max Light Up Football is the latest version of Diggin’s original Black Max football. The newest iteration features high performance flight and is soft enough to catch. The Smart LED system inside knows when kids catch it and throw it, and a weighted spiral ring helps kids throw tighter spirals over longer distances.

GREEN TOYS Green Toys’ House Play Set features an expansive multilevel house, bright yellow convertible, two mouse characters, a staircase, a bathtub, a bed, a table, and two chairs for creative play. The moveable stairs can be placed anywhere along the second level, and the bathtub, bed, table, and chairs can be set up in any room. A fully open back makes arranging and rearranging accessories easy, and all pieces fit inside the house for cleanup convenience.

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PREVIEW PREVIEW UNDERGROUND TOYS The Star Wars: BB-8 Talking Action Plush is ready to be kids’ newest robotic companion. Featuring original beeps and sounds from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this 16-inch plush features a rotating dome head, lights, sounds, and movie-accurate actions.

THE GOLDBERGER CO. The Goldberger Co. will introduce Baby’s First Let’s Play Dress-up this spring. Kids can bring paper doll play into a new dimension with this soft doll. The 14 reusable fashion charms are sized for little hands and are designed with fabric grip-strips on the back, making them easy to move around and decorate the doll. The doll is made for kids ages 3 and up. The Goldberger Co. will relaunch Baby’s First Kewpie Baby, originally created more than a century ago. Made for kids ages 18 months and up, the 14-inch soft body baby doll features the distinctive Kewpie facial expressions and hairstyle.


SMART ZONE SmartZone will reintroduce doll brand Kenya. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Kenya Doll. Next year, WNBA player Aerial Powers will join the brand on the “I Can Do It” team. Kenya is the cheerleader, Korina plays soccer, and SuperStar Aerial plays basketball. A full sports line will be a part of the “I Can Do It” team. The new Gold-N-Glitzy Kenya doll line will feature Kenya, Korina, Kenzy, and Baby Keyara dolls.

GETTA1GAMES Piggy Pile Up, from Getta1Games, is a balancing game for preschoolers that uses real wooden game pieces. Kids race to be the first player to place their last piggy without their stack falling down. The set includes 12 wooden piggy pieces, a cardboard mud puddle base, and a set of rules.

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BEARS FOR HUMANITY Bears for Humanity’s 16-inch plush bears, designed for kids ages 2 and up, are made with 100-percent Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)-certified organic materials and global fair trade practices. With every purchase, another bear is donated to a child in need.

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PAINTING LULU New to Painting Lulu from FlyCatcher’s line of physical and digital coloring books is the My Little Pony Coloring Book Set & Digital Crayon Stylus. Thanks to Magic Ink, kids can color normally on the paper coloring books, download the app, and scan one or more colored paper pages. In the app, the color around their artwork will show various shapes that were not visible on the paper pages. Kids can then use the crayon stylus to color these bonus shapes in the app, and hunt for the next hidden shape. The stylus is made to prevent damage to touch screens and feels natural in kids’ hands. The Painting Lulu app is available on iOS and Android devices.

2017 toy preview

PAPER PUNK Paper Punk will fuse its patented origami-meets-Lego play pattern with markers in its new Color-N-Build kits. Each will have its own all-inclusive kit containing all the ingredients to complete a project from start to finish. There will be two Color-N-Build kits released next spring. The Graffiti Blocks Happy Kit includes 13 color and build blocks, more than 150 stickers, two display backdrops, one bonus graffiti poster, and 12 markers. Kids can color, fold, and build with the My Life (As A) Fashion Designer Kit, which comes with 30 color and build shapes, more than 150 stickers, two display backdrops, one bonus life planner, and 12 color markers.

TARA TOY Design a Vinyl Activity Kits, from Tara Toy, let kids ages 3 and up create their own works of art. Each kit contains a character with a background scene in a plain white vinyl finish, colorful permanent markers, and stickers. Once kids add color to their characters, they can display them. Design a Vinyl Kits will be available in Disney Princess, Frozen, Doc McStuffins, Minnie Mouse, Tsum Tsum, Elena of Avalor, Pixar’s Finding Dory, Moana, and more.

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Anne Marie Kehoe, vice president of toys, Walmart; WIT 2016 Retailer of the Year WHETHER YOU CALL THEM WONDER women, girl heroes, girls action stars, or girls with power, each corner of the toy industry is filled with powerful women knocking down barriers, pushing through walls, and empowering those around them. They support, promote, and inspire each other through connections, purpose, and empowerment. Providing opportunities to women economically is smart business, and no one knows that better than this industry’s own superhero, Anne Marie Kehoe, vice president, toys at Walmart and recipient of the 2016 Women in Toys Retailer of the Year Award. She is a reallife action hero in the toy world, committed to providing opportunities for women-owned businesses at Walmart. The Toy Book recently had the opportunity to sit down with Kehoe and discuss the role women are playing in the toy industry, Walmart’s commitment to source from women-owned companies, and what it’s like to be a bonafide Wonder Woman. Why is it important for Walmart to source from women-owned businesses? The short answer is that empowering women economically is smart business. Our women’s empowerment work is a step

Two of WIT’s youngest members and co-creators of Poketti pitch their plush toys to Walmart.

forward in our commitment to help people live better and a defining issue for our business and the world. For Walmart, empowering women helps us better understand and serve our customers, find the best talent, and promote economic growth in the communities we serve. Walmart’s Women’s Economic Empowerment program has the potential to be a game-changer for women and for economic growth. By tapping its core competencies as a global retailer, Walmart will empower more women to access markets and develop careers in the global supply chain, transforming their lives and the lives of their families. Through its Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative, Walmart is paving the way for women-owned companies. How do toys and WIT fit into the overall mission? Through Walmart’s Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative, we’ve set goals and we are taking practical steps to help change the lives of countless women around the world. We are committed to sourcing $20 billion from women-owned businesses for our U.S. business and double sourcing from women suppliers in international countries where we do business. Additionally, we have set goals to empower nearly 1 million women through training and promote diversity and inclusion representation within our suppliers. Through its annual Empowerment Day held each year at the Dallas Toy Fair, WIT has been an incredible pipeline to women-owned business leaders. Our buyers are able to network with companies they may not have access to, and manufacturers can pitch their products to Walmart, participate in learning sessions and panels, and empower women to reach their goals. WIT is an important partner in this endeavor, and the event works as a two-way street. WIT members provide us with a robust pipeline to mine for new and innovative products we can provide to our consumers, and we provide WIT members


an opportunity to meet with buying teams to which they may not normally have access. What does it mean to be recognized as a WIT Wonder Woman? It was really an honor to be recognized. But with the honor comes great responsibility, which I take very seriously. Throughout my career, I’ve strived to create pathways for women from all areas and WIT gives me an opportunity to do just that. I strongly believe in WIT’s objective—and am a member of the Empowerment Committee and advisory board. I am committed to the organization’s mission of providing a collaborative, supportive environment and unparalleled opportunities that foster relationship building and innovation, all designed to help them advance women in their careers and succeed in business.

What is the story behind the “Women Owned” logo that Walmart helped develop? Women are our biggest customer base by far, and when given the opportunity, many women will buy from women-owned companies. In partnership with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and WEConnect International, we developed the “Women Owned” logo to help customers easily identify products made by womenowned businesses sold through any retailer, not just Walmart. All women-owned businesses that are WBENC and/or WEConnect certified are eligible to display the logo on their product packaging. Can you give an example of a success story that came as a result of Walmart’s Women Economic Empowerment initiative? During the very first WIT Women Empowerment Day, our buyers met Jodi Norgaard

social-emotional growth through sport, and encourage girls to dream big. In another example, we are currently selling doll clothes made by apparel merchandising students from the University of Arkansas. A few years ago, through our Women’s Empowerment Initiative, we reached out to students at Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas to design a doll clothing line for My Life As dolls in Walmart. The program allows students to interact directly with professionals in the apparel industry, build their resumes and portfolios with hands-on experiences, and showcase their work in a national retail arena.

from Dream Big Toys. She had a line of dolls, books, and apps called Go, Go Sports Girls that promote self-appreciation and healthy life skills. When our team met with Norgaard, we saw something unique and wanted more, so we gave her some suggestions and agreed to a test in 50 stores. Within two years, her product was in 162 stores and we are proud to provide her products, which support creative play and

What’s next for Walmart and its Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative? As a company, we don’t believe that we have to choose between being a successful business and a responsible one. We have a model for making a difference that works. And when we combine the Walmart model with women’s empowerment, we have an incredible opportunity to make a difference on the big challenges facing our world. »

Kehoe accepts her Wonder Woman 2016 Retailer of the Year award.

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International toy industry


THE IMPACT OF BRITAIN’S EXIT FROM THE EU ON THE TOY INDUSTRY by STEVE REECE, CEO, Kids Brand Insight THE RESULT OF BRITAIN’S EUROPEAN Union (EU) referendum sent shockwaves around the world. The European Union—with all its flaws—helped to bring Europe together out of the ashes of World War II. Recently, it has been the primary apparatus of cooperation in a continent where there are 51 independent states. More relevant for the toy industry, the EU hugely simplifies trading across Europe. Open borders may be contentious in terms of immigration and security, but in terms of creating a largescale simplified trading bloc, the impact can’t be underestimated. By choosing to exit the EU, Britain takes a giant leap into the unknown. For more than 40 years, the UK’s law has developed in conjunction with and under the overarching jurisdiction of European law. That being said, the complexity of the reality of Brexit is truly baffling. DEVALUED CURRENCY There are some very clear implications for the toy industry. First, the Great Britain pound (£GBP) currency has been significantly devalued against the U.S. dollar ($USD). Before the referendum, one pound bought an individual $1.47 USD. Currently, one pound buys about $1.30 USD, with predictions that this may dip further to $1.20 USD and to £1GBP once Brexit is formally triggered. I’ll leave the economic analysis to the experts, but it’s clear that the implications for the UK toy industry are not great. Since the UK toy companies are overwhelmingly buying from China in $USD, this means that in £GBP, products that were set to be profitable will effectively cost more than 10 percent more than was planned at the point of sell in. As you would expect, conversations about price increases with retailers could be summarized as contentious.

Retailers buying free on board (FOB) direct from China will also take a hit. Overall, either consumer prices will need to go up this fall and into the future, or someone will be taking a margin hit. SHIPPING SIDE EFFECTS There is a lot of uncertainty for toy companies shipping product from the UK to Europe or from Europe to the UK. The great

big question is whether Britain will still be able to access the European free market having left the EU. The reality is that nobody knows the answer to that question. Yet, if tariffs and bureaucracy become heavier, the complexity and costs of managing a toy business in Europe will be implicated. CHANGES TO RETAIL One of the major factors in the UK as a vote for Brexit is the question of immigration. Under the EU freedom of movement regulations, any EU citizen can live in and work in any other EU country. Many in Britain hope that Brexit will reduce the influx of people from Eastern Europe in particular into the UK, which has led to tension. I am very dubious about the reality of this scenario, as the UK economy relies heavily on lower paid EU mi-

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grants for more menial jobs, including shop workers and logistics and warehouse workers. There is potential for rising wages at the retail level to have a further negative impact on retail profitability post Brexit if free movement is ended. One thing that doesn’t seem like it’s going to change—at least in the short term—is the €uro currency being the standard European trading currency. Because Britain retained its own currency and did not adopt the €uro, Brexit is unlikely to further complicate the status of the €uro. For those of us who had to calculate European pricing in multiple national currencies pre€uro, this is a good thing. Getting the French Franc, German mark, Italian Lira, Spanish peseta, and £GBP to align was an absolute nightmare, so at least we won’t be going back to those dark days. In conclusion, yes, Brexit could have very significant consequences for the toy industry’s future, but the industry is strong and will be able to adapt, survive, and prosper. For now, all we can do is wait to see what the new normal brings. »

Steve Reece is the CEO of Kids Brand Insight, a consultancy to the global toy industry offering export sales; factory finding in China, India, and beyond; and consumer testing on toys and games.



THE CASTLE, THE CHRISTMAS MARKET— or Christkindlesmarkt—and mouth-watering delicacies such as bratwurst and lebkuchen are all closely associated with the beautiful city of Nuremberg, Germany. And, from February 1 to 6, Nuremberg’s Spielwarenmesse will become the stomping ground for the international toy industry for the 68th time. The exhibition center is the perfect place to gain insight into the global market, forge new contacts, and get a glimpse at new trends. With more than 75,000 new items unveiled there every year, no other toy fair in the world showcases as many products. With everything from traditional toys such as dolls, plush, and wooden toys, to products from the worlds of sport, leisure, and outdoor, to lifestyle products for toddlers, there’s something for everyone.

product segment, they unveil their new toys for 2017 across 18 compact and fully booked halls. The exhibition area stretches more than 1.82 million square feet, which equates to more than 30 football fields. The TrendGallery in Hall 3A, which was recently given a facelift, features pioneering new ideas and emerging trends in a 10,800-square-foot area. The international TrendComittee for the Spielwarenmesse tracks and identifies the most promising trends across the world throughout the year. The TrendComitee’s members, including U.S. trend expert Reyne Rice, provide attendees with insights into the market in compact presentations held at the integral Toy Business Forum. The featured topics tackle issues currently impacting specialty retailers:

TRENDS AT A GLANCE More than 2,800 exhibitors from more than 60 countries showcase their products at the Spielwarenmesse. Divided by

Wednesday: Trends in Retailing—setting sights on the future Thursday: Let’s License—keeping business moving and shaking all year long Friday: Viewing the Bigger Picture—smart product range policies in the toy trade


Saturday: Toy Business Academy—getting your sales in shape Sunday: You Snooze, You Lose—retail success with new ideas The TrendGallery also spotlights the nominees and winners of the ToyAwards, presented once a year by the Spielwarenmesse to outstanding innovative products. A panel consisting of 11 trend and toy experts, education specialists, and social scientists, judges the entries in terms of their originality, play value, safety, workmanship, quality, accessibility of the toy concept, and sales potential at retail. The prize is awarded in four age-specific categories, which have been adjusted slightly this year in response to market changes. The 10+ age group, for example, has been modified from Teenager & Family to Teenager & Adult in a move to open it up to new product groups. The winners of the ToyAwards 2017 will be revealed on January 31 at the Opening Ceremony of the Spielwarenmesse. Another highlight is the Special Tech2Play Show in Hall 4A, which covers hybrid play worlds, electronic education, and artificial intelligence. Be it multi-copters, 3-D printers, or augmented reality, this segment embraces spectacular developments from all over the world. The technological developments of recent years have long since taken root in the children’s realm, with major


players and start-ups unveiling their latest ideas at this show. “Coming to the Spielwarenmesse, trade buyers receive the stimulus they need and find inspirational ways to improve their businesses,” says Ernst Kick, CEO. “We’ve struck the right balance between quantity and quality, which is something our buyers really value.” LICENSES IN THE SPOTLIGHT Star Wars, Disney Frozen, and Minions can all be found at the Spielwarenmesse. In some toy markets, licenses have clinched a 25 percent share of total annual sales. It is without doubt a lucrative and coveted segment among consumers, and one that is still experiencing growth. Major licensors and licensees grace the fair with their presence every year to show their latest products and to discuss existing and emerging trends. This year, licenses are more visible at the show than ever before. The Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA) will appear at the Spielwarenmesse for the first time as well. And, of course, nothing would be the same without the Disney Lounge, which is

always teeming with popular themes, such as Star Wars and the Avengers, while also offering quiet zones for rest and relaxation. NEW FACES AT THE SPIELWARENMESSE If you’re going to the Spielwarenmesse to look for innovations, new ideas, and creative people who think outside of the box, then Hall 3A is most definitely the place to go. The New Exhibitor Center and the Young Innovative Companies, whose appearance is sponsored by the state, host an abundance of first-time exhibitors. Among them are young start-ups, which bring a breath of fresh air to the industry with their youthful exuberance. This is a perfect opportunity for visitors to extend their product ranges and to forge new contacts. Buyers, trend scouts, and retailers who want to gain an insight into new markets are also well advised to pay a visit to the National Pavilions at the show. Up to 12 different countries will present their toy markets, offering advice on distribution channels, cultural and market-specific interests, and shipping options. “At the last Spielwarenmesse, we welcomed 153 exhibitors from the U.S.,” says

Kick. “We’re looking forward to seeing them again in 2017.” A CITY THAT’S CRAZY ABOUT TOYS Every year, the whole of Nuremberg comes together to celebrate the Spielwarenmesse. When the exhibition halls finally close in the evening, the city center opens its doors to greet its national and international guests. For generations, the traditional City of Toys has been deeply rooted in the local community and is renowned throughout Germany, continuing to play a pivotal role in the toy industry to the present day. The Toy Museum (Spielzeugmuseum), the Toy Collection at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, and the German Games Archive (Deutsches Spielearchiv) are all located in Nuremberg. Additionally, a Toy Trail reveals the city’s treasures, including museums, shops, and traditional toymakers. Boasting a host of beautiful sights, the medieval city center is filled with restaurants, bars, and the aroma of delicious food. After all, there’s no better way to bring a day at the fair to an enjoyable close than over a tasty meal with colleagues and a drink or two—perhaps even this year’s official toy cocktail! »

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The Big Show That Fulfills Your Year-Round Halloween Needs THE HALLOWEEN & PARTY EXPO IS MORE than you expect. For years, this annual event has been the No. 1 stop for retailers and

Left: Princess Cynthia with Wand costume. Right: Princess Amanda costume. Photos courtesy of Princess Paradise

buyers alike to fill their stores with the hottest trends in everything Halloween, party, and celebration year-round. From kids’ costumes to makeup, masks, party novelties, and the newest toys, the Halloween & Party Expo has all things Halloween—but it doesn’t stop there. The Halloween & Party Expo, which will be held in New Orleans from January 14 to 17, 2017, is the leading industry event showcasing the best new products and unique and fun styles for all ages. Retailers looking to see new and exclusive items for Halloween, dress-up, the seasonal party category, and more are sure to be at this event. ONE STOP SHOPPING FOR ALL YOUR COSTUMING & DRESS-UP ACCESSORY NEEDS Every year, the Halloween & Party Expo enhances its experience. This isn’t an average four-day show walking up and down the aisles. In fact, this is just the opposite. Attendees will find aisles


of exhibitors showcasing hot new products, trends, party and dress up accessories, décor, and more, but that’s what’s already expected. It’s the unexpected pieces that set this show apart. Look here to find the latest, hottest costumes and accessories that are sure to fly off your shelves. If you’re looking for unique and creative ways to merchandise your retail store, searching for specialty costume pieces and accessories, or on the hunt for kids’ costumes for upcoming themed events, then look no further. Halloween & Party Expo 2017 is where you’ll find a variety of popular costumes inspired by TV shows and movies, as well as all the accessories needed to make the perfect costume complete. There will be tiaras for a princess, wings for a fairy, a sword for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and even a Proton Pack Backpack for the newest Ghostbusters­­—the Halloween & Party Expo has it all in one place. You can expect big toy exhibitors such as US Toy, Franklin Sports, Melissa & Doug, and more to display the biggest, best, and most in-demand kids’ costumes, toys, and collectibles for the upcoming Halloween season. Specialty items that will complete your display, such as Arman Prosper’s The Skeleton in the Closet, will be sure to put your display above your competition. WHAT ELSE CAN YOU EXPECT? With more than 350 domestic and international exhibitors, you are guaranteed to find


new networking experiences and new buyers to help expand your merchandising reach and have fun. New events are being added every year and crowd favorites are always being brought back. New to this year’s show is the Haunted Trends Runway and Stage. This event will feature exhibitor tutorials, mini fashion shows displaying the hottest costumes and accessories for all ages, party displays, unique makeup demonstrations, and more. This addition will scare up some new ideas, techniques, and networking relationships that are crucial to

staying ahead of the pack for this Halloween season and all year long. Another fun networking event returning this year is the Brewing Boos and Booze Networking Reception. This is a spooktacular costume ball that allows for the entire industry to come together and celebrate with music, dancing, drinks, and more. The Halloween & Party Expo is not only dedicated to growing your bottom line, but also to providing opportunities to network and engage with both buyers and attendees for new retail connections for your business.

For more information about the exhibits, events, or to plan your visit, contact John Motondo, buyer relations director, at (312) 470-1167 or

CELEBRATE NEW ORLEANS The city of New Orleans is known for its rich culture, excellent cuisine, eclectic music experiences, and vibrant nightlife. Not only is New Orleans a worldly destination, but it is also an experience. Concierge services will make the city easy for attendees to experience, from planning a night on the town to locating the best restaurants, Mardi Gras celebrations, and music. Full of history and excitement, New Orleans is the perfect destination for a show that encompasses the same feelings and emotions. »

For more information on exhibiting, contact Mike Weiner, sales and business development manager, at (203) 242-8712 or; or visit TOYBOOK.COM | SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 | THE TOY BOOK  93


Why Private Equity Is Aggressively Pursuing Acquisition Targets by BRIAN LEVIN, vice president, Intrepid Investment Bankers; head of the Toys & Giftware practice AFTER YEARS OF LIMITED ACTIVITY IN the toy sector, private equity (PE) firms are aggressively pursuing acquisition targets again. Toy sales in the U.S. increased 7 percent in 2015, fueled by an increase in personal disposable income and a rise in U.S. annual birth rates. In the past, PE investors shied away from investments in the toy space due to its riskiness and the “age compression phenomenon." However, the industry’s resilience to economic downturns and its steady growth has brought PE interest back to the sector. Since the beginning of 2015, there have been at least nine successful investments by PE groups in the toy industry, with the educational toy and pop culture toy categories being two of the most active verticals. WHY PE PLAYERS ARE ROLLING UP SMALLER TOY BRANDS Recent noteworthy acquisitions include ACON Investments’ (manages approximately $4.6 billion of assets) acquisition of Funko, a provider of branded pop culture products—most notably its large-headed POP! Collectibles; Irving Place Capital’s (the firm has invested in more than 60 portfolio companies since its founding) acquisition of Bendon, a leading provider of children’s coloring and activity products; and Balmoral Funds’ (manages funds with more than $200 million of assets under management) acquisition of Enesco, a leader in gift, plush toy, and home and garden décor industries. These acquisitions reflect two strong trends in the market: First, educational toys and pop culture toys are attracting strong interest in the toy space,

and second, PE firms are once again investing strongly in the toy space. We believe that merger and acquisition (M&A) activity will remain strong this year as the favorable industry trends continue and PE investors continue to roll up smaller brands to form larger platforms for future acquisitions. One of the more well-known investments in the space had been Propel Equity’s acquisition of Alex Brands back in 2013. Alex Brands strives to encourage children’s imagination and creativity. The PE firm combined Alex with its existing investment in Poof-Slinky, which already included the brands Slinky, Poof, Ideal, Scientific Explorer and Fundex. Since then, Propel Equity has successfully completed multiple add-on acquisitions to enhance its portfolio of educational toys. Select acquisitions include Buzz Bee Toys, a diverse line of active play toys, and Juratoys, a provider of wooden and plush toys under the Janod and Kaloo brands, in 2015. Alex Brands has been a great platform for Propel Equity to build on. Other PE groups, such as Topspin Partners, have followed suit. Topspin is focused on lower middle market companies with favorable growth dynamics. Its strategy is focused on seeking companies with defensible business models and differentiated approaches to serving existing market needs. Topspin has made several add-on investments to its portfolio company, PlayMonster, expanding the company’s product line. Acquisitions include Onaroo, a marketer of night lights and alarm clocks for children, in 2014,


and its acquisition of Roominate, a marketer of dollhouse building toys, in 2015. We expect to continue to see a large M&A appetite for these highly focused toy companies for the foreseeable future. Given the highly fragmented and extremely competitive nature of the toy industry, smaller players often find themselves in need of capital in order to roll out their expansion strategies. Fortunately, there is currently an abundant amount of unallocated capital in the marketplace. When looking for targets, financial players are looking for companies with well-known brands, defensible market positions, and runway for growth. With the acquisition appetite growing for both financial buyers and strategic buyers, we expect the toy industry to remain an active playground for M&A activity in the coming year. » Brian Levin has nearly a decade of experience focusing on mergers and acquisitions and leverage finance. His selected transaction experience includes the sale of substantially all of Wild Planet Entertainment Inc.’s assets to Spin Master Ltd. To learn more about M&A transactions, valuation trends, and other newsworthy items relevant to companies and investors in the toys and giftware space, contact Intrepid Investment Bankers at (310) 478-9000.



What You Are Not Doing Could Result in Lost Opportunities by LYNDSI STAFFORD, founder, eLuminate Marketing WHEN I SHOW BUSINESS OWNERS THE back end of Facebook advertising, I feel as if I am a magician revealing the secrets behind my marketing tricks. The truth is anybody can participate in Facebook advertising and get business from it—it’s simply learning how to do it and taking the time to master the craft. Facebook advertising has come a long way since the social media platform first launched. There are so many different ways for businesses to get in front of their ideal clientele. You can target audiences based on a variety of categories, including: • Location • Demographics • Interests • Behavior • Financial resources • Industry or occupation • Homeownership or living status • Education and academic degree • Ethnic affinities • Generation (e.g. Baby boomers, Generation X, or millennial) • Political beliefs • Celebrating a milestone (e.g. birthday, anniversary, or moving) • Relationship status Facebook has partnered with data companies to learn more about you. As a result, advertisers are able to get products or services on users’ newsfeeds that truly interest them. In addition to marketing based on the aforementioned categories, business owners can utilize other methods such as Lookalike Audiences and Custom Audiences. The Lookalike Audiences option provides a way to reach new people that are created based on current or existing markets. For example, you can create an audience that mirrors the same demographics, interests, and behaviors of people who currently like

your Facebook business page. You can even create a Lookalike Audience to mirror people who have visited your website. You can set up your Lookalike Audience in Ad Manager or Power Editor. In Ads Manager, click on Audiences. Where it says “Create Audience,” go to “Lookalike Audience” in the dropdown options. Then, choose the source. This can be people who visited your website, liked your

that content and place it right in front of your prospects. It’s a subliminal, easy way to stay in front of potential business. To set up a custom audience, go to Audiences once again. Click Create Audience > Custom Audience > Customer File. From here, you can upload a document such as a .csv or .txt file that contains up to 14 identifiers. This can include information such as an email, a phone number, a first and last name, a zip code, and more. The more identifiers you have on your .csv or .txt file, the more likely Facebook can find that particular consumer. Simply click next and follow the steps to upload the document. It could take up to 30 minutes for your Custom Audience to upload to Facebook, and you will be notified as soon as the upload is complete. As you create these new Lookalike and Custom Audiences, you may have noticed myriad other ways to develop new audiences. My biggest advice is to take baby steps. Learn how to optimize your current lists and continue to add as you move forward. »

The truth is anybody can participate in Facebook advertising and get business from it—it’s simply learning how to do it and taking the time to master the craft.” business page, or even downloaded your app. After that, choose a country where you would like to find a similar set of people. Once that is set, decide how big you wish your audience to be. The smaller the audience, the more similar they are to your existing audiences. It can take up to 24 hours for Facebook to develop this audience. Once it is set up, you can use this audience as another means of acquiring new business. The Custom Audiences method allows you to upload a document of emails or phones numbers into Facebook, which then matches that information to the person’s Facebook account. Now, your business is able to show up on their newsfeeds. For example, if you have a list of prospects, you can upload those emails into Facebook. Then, generate helpful and educational content surrounding your industry. You can now take

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Lyndsi Stafford is the founder and president of eLuminate Marketing, which helps businesses grow through creative and innovative online strategies. In two years, she has grown her business to more than 25 clients, leading a team of six. Prior to eLuminate Marketing, she worked in sales and marketing at Carnival Cruise Lines, OfficeMax, and On the Ball Marketing.




Specialty toys & gifts I Astra’s insights

GET YOUR CUSTOMERS OUT OF BED AND INTO YOUR STORE: USING OMNICHANNEL RETAILING TO STRENGTHEN SALES by KIMBERLY MOSLEY, president, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association IT’S 2016. DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR customers are? According to a survey earlier this year by marketing consultants Kelton Global in collaboration with BigCommerce, 43 percent of customers are in bed, checking out potential purchases online. Another 20 percent are doing the same from the bathroom, and about 23 percent slip in some shopping while at work. OPTIMIZE “BRICKS AND CLICKS” It may come as a surprise, but this isn’t necessarily bad news for your brick-andmortar store. A recent report on shopping preferences by consulting firm A.T. Kearney found that in an era where many believe e-commerce is driving the retail sector, brickand-mortar stores still land 90 percent of retail sales. When you add in online sales by retailers with both an internet and physical option for purchasing products, you find that 95 percent of all sales are going to retailers that have a brick-and-mortar store. In fact, even with today’s ubiquitous smartphones and mobile apps, more online sales are made by retailers that offer both “bricks and clicks” than the total of all online sales by online-only retailers.

This is where omnichannel marketing comes in. Many specialty toy retailers that are members of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) support their physical stores with their websites, their topnotch customer service—which includes taking phone orders—and their presence in the community at events and in the media. They offer shoppers a path through what Kearney calls the “shopping journey,” which begins with product discovery and proceeds through trial and test, purchase, delivery or pickup, and in some cases, returns. While it’s simply good business practice, it’s also the new world of enrichened outreach, that keeps customers coming to your brick-and-mortar store by offering them ways to take part of the “shopping journey” outside your store. Miya Knights, senior research analyst from the International Data Corporation (IDC), says, “Consumers don’t distinguish between channels. They are channel-blind; therefore, they expect the same service, products, offers, and pricing online as they do in-store and on mobile.” STAY PROGRESSIVE It’s time to get your customers out of bed and into your store. Here are some tips for creating value around your physical store by maximizing the return on your store’s omnichannel outreach and making it consistent across channels: 1. Provide a website for your store and make sure that your staff uses it to its advantage. • Make sure your store staff is fully aware of how your website works. Note any differences on what you sell through the website versus what is available in the store. • Give customers multiple options for how they can pick up their online purchases. You can ship the products directly to the customer or offer in-store pick up. 2. Enhance sales through positive customer service experiences on the phone.

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•Train your staff to offer the store’s amazing customer service not just in-store, but over the phone. They can offer services such as setting aside a product that a customer is looking for or recommending a similar item that is available in store. • Provide staff training for selling products over the phone. Once the sale has been made, staff members can wrap the purchases and have them ready for the customers to simply stop in or pick it up curbside. 3. Take your business beyond its four walls. • Attend consumer shows outside your store or promote your store by speaking at parenting groups, school functions, and other community group events. • Bring items to sell and have a mobile payment app to ring up charges on the spot. • Keep your staff in the know. Communicate which outside events you will attend, what will be available to purchase, and any coupons you will distribute. • Print flyers or cards that include your store information and website address. You can also include a calendar of upcoming events or a special coupon. ASTRA members and Marketplace & Academy attendees have access to lots of ideas for effective marketing—including recordings such as The Power of Relationship Sales and Social Media Strategy: Your Digital Playbook from the 2016 ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Join us today and look for tips in the resources you can find in the ASTRA Academy section of »

Kimberly Mosley, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, is an experienced, award-winning, results-oriented association executive with a long track record of success in managing association operations, developing innovative programs, and growing revenue.


THE AMAZON DISRUPTION How to Survive in the World of E-Commerce

by RONALD SOLOMON, president/CEO, MAPP Trap IMAGINE FOR A MOMENT THAT THE year is 1875. You make a comfortable living by running your own Western Union store. You send thousands of telegrams for people and businesses. Then along comes Alexander Graham Bell with a newfangled invention called the telephone. Just like the rest of the owners of Western Union, you pay it no mind. Flash forward to 1904: There are more than 3 million telephones in the U.S. and you are out of business because of what Western Union’s president deemed “a toy.” This is an example of “disruptive technology.” The term was first described by Clayten Christensen in his 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail. Christensen defined a disruptive innovation as “an innovation that creates a new market and value network that will eventually disrupt an existing market and replace an existing product.” For the purpose of this article, the value market is e-commerce. The existing market being replaced is brick-andmortar retail, mail-order catalogs, and others. As a prime example of the disruption caused by electronic commerce (aka e-commerce), Amazon has lowered the barriers and costs to entry for retailers. Before Amazon and eBay’s third-party marketplaces came along, online sellers had to buy shopping cart systems, stock inventory, and fulfill orders. They even had to charge, collect, and report sales tax. But with Amazon, these functions can be outsourced. Many online merchants never even see or touch the products they sell. It may seem like this disruption has only affected the brick-and-mortar retailers of the world. After all, with the lower cost models that online sellers enjoy, the physical stores live on the bottom edge of an unbalanced playing field. Their costs are comparatively much higher, thanks to retail rent, sales fixtures, inventory, insurance, POS systems, sales people, and more. Because online sellers enjoy lower costs of doing business, they can charge less money for the products they’ve purchased for the same wholesale price and still make similar profits. Some manufacturers have looked at these market changes and declared themselves

immune from any negative effects. They believe that as long as they still get the same wholesale price for their product, retailers (online or offline) can do what they please. Unfortunately for them, many of the brick-andmortar retailers are fighting back. Like their customers, they look at the online prices of products. Clinging to what is perhaps an obsolete model called “key-stoning” (doubling a product’s wholesale cost to determine its retail price), they demand a lower wholesale price. If extended to its logical end, this hints at a deflationary future. Savvy manufacturers realize the disruption is not only affecting their brick-and-mortar customers. It has a direct impact on their businesses, too. Because of the unfettered and uncontrolled distribution of their products online, they no longer know who is selling them (there are more than 2 million third-party sellers on Amazon). They no longer have control of brand messaging, images, or product descriptions. Most importantly, because the only true distinguishing factor of a product online is its price, brands are suffering intense degradation to perceived value. This disrupted MSRP model causes brand erosion, decreased profits, and upside-down sales channels. But brick-and-mortar specialty retailers are still alive. Last year, online sales only accounted for about 10 percent of all U.S. retail sales, though this percentage continues to grow. Brick-and-mortar retailers are employing omnichannel practices that incorporate and enhance their physical locations with their e-commerce stores. They are learning how to use mobile technology to pull customers into their stores. They are learning that a hybrid model is the best and only chance they have to not only remain in business, but to thrive due to unparalleled access to millions of consumers. Manufacturers are adopting new business practices as well. Companies that want to get a better handle on their distribution are bringing that aspect of their business in-house. To help them create a more level playing field and gain some control over counterfeiting, hyper-discounting, over-distribution, and an eroding brick-and-mortar population, they have created new kinds of

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policies. Other manufacturers are letting go of their distributors and selling directly to their retail customers. Some are creating authorized reseller agreements and strict buyback policies. Some have even gone as far as opening online stores themselves and are now in direct competition with their retail customers. Those who are more concerned with the decline in their brand’s perceived value due to hyper discounting are adopting and enforcing policies that include authorized use of intellectual property, such as copyrighted images and product descriptions. Others are employing a somewhat controversial strategy known as a Minimum Advertised Pricing Policy (MAPP), which imposes restrictions on the price at which a product or service may be advertised. It does not restrict the actual sale price. Contrary to what some may believe, MAPP is not an illegal practice. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the issue of MAPP in Leegin Creative Leather Products Inc. v. PSKS Inc. (127 S. Ct. 2705 (2007)). In that case, the court overturned a century-old rule automatically prohibiting as unlawful all “vertical” price fixing arrangements in favor of a “Rule of Reason” test. MAPP is not a contract that must be signed, it is a company policy. With MAPP there is no negotiation whatsoever. They are unilateral statements that treat each retailer equally and set forth the rules under which a retailer may purchase their products. No matter who you are, or what your business is, there will continue to be more market disruptions as time goes on. It’s Darwinian. And, as the theory of evolution states, it’s all about the survival of the fittest. In the case of the Amazon disruption, the fittest will be those businesses that take it seriously, study it, understand it, and then adopt whatever new business practices are necessary to stay alive. »

Ronald Solomon has created products and services including toys, games, and IT. He started The Creditors Network in 2006 to help vendors exchange credit information on their shared customers. In 2012, the company added MAPP Trap to its portfolio to help companies keep track of how their brands are represented by online merchants.

Specialty toys & gifts

How the other half lives Why Millennial Dads Matter

by WENDY SMOLEN, senior vice president, Sandbox Events, and playpublisher, PlayScience IT’S OFFICIAL: THE BATON HAS BEEN PASSED. IN APRIL, THE millennials (18 to 34 year olds) overtook the baby boomers (51 to 69 year olds) as the nation’s largest living generation, according to population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Gen-Xers (35 to 50 year olds) are on target to pass the boomers in population by 2028. Millennials now account for more than 80 percent of new parents. This should be a wake-up call for smart marketers of kids and family products. Millennials view the world—and its goods—in their own way. In particular, the millennial dad has been a sadly neglected consumer and it’s time to readjust our thinking. At the recent Sandbox@MIT idea forum, Simon Isaacs, co-founder of Fatherly—a parenting website for dads— expanded on the ways the quiet rise of millennial dads into traditionally mommy-centric spaces is reflected in pop culture. Gone are the straight-laced

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Ward Cleavers and bumbling Homer Simpsons. Take note of the neodads on TV shows such as Parenthood, Modern Family, and Blackish. Today’s fathers are active participants in raising kids. Isaacs cited an impressive array of stats to support this thesis: • 75 PERCENT of millennial dads wanted to spend more time with their kids. • 49 PERCENT of these dads are mainly responsible for planning dates and other activities with their kids outside of the home. • 43 PERCENT are the primary decision makers for child and baby products. According to a 2012 study by Cone Communications, 52 percent of men say that they are the primary grocery shopper for their family—the food traditional mommies bought, cooked, and put on the table. The idea of women controlling most of the purchases today is no longer a valid marketing tenet. “Dads have been around for a long time,” says Isaacs. Yet only recently—and only sometimes—are fathers getting their fair share of attention as engaged parents. Two new children’s books illustrate just how far (or not) we have come in depicting the new dad. Mommy, Pick Me Up, by Soledad Bravi (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), tells the tale of a young child calling “Mommy” across multiple situations: I’m cold; I can’t find my pajamas; I’m hungry; I had a nightmare. Each page pictures the child calling, and a part of the mother being there, but never really answering. (Perfect response of a multi-tasking mom!) At the end, the child calls, “Daddy,” and asks, “Where’s Mommy?” Sure, the illustrations and examples are charming, but the story assumes only moms can parent effectively. Another book, Tell Me a Tattoo Story, by Alison McGhee (Chronicle Books), shows a dad totally engaged with his son, telling him the stories behind each of his tattoos (another typical millennial feature). Of course, the most special one is the heart that has the child’s birth date inscribed. Even better, the mom is also shown in several of the illustrations. These stories and actions, like all aspects of play, affect the way kids learn and develop. If engaged dads are the new norm, we need to portray and promote it. Research has shown that the way dads play, talk, and interact with their kids is different than the way moms do—often being more physical and using different tones of voice and less familiar vocabulary words. A 2015 study by PlayScience for TIA’s Genius

Specialty toys & gifts

TIPS FOR REACHING MILLENNIAL DADS 1. Make information snackable. Time is precious, and mobile is king. Every dad knows how to reach in his back pocket for a phone. Give dads quick answers to keep them coming back for more. 2. Use influencers. Men relate to experts. Fatherly featured lessons in skiing taught by Olympic skier Daron Rahlves and Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousalzai discussed how to raise a Nobel Prize winner. We should all have such accomplished tutors. 3. Have a sense of humor. Dads like to play. A 2015 study by PlayScience for TIA’s Genius of Play initiative found that dads value play more than moms, tending to play longer with their kids at a single stretch. Be playful in the type of messages you deliver. 4. Be innovative. Sixty-four percent of dads look for innovation in products. This willingness to try new ideas is a boon to marketers. 5. Build a community. Millennials share information. Dads have few places to go online to share in a meaningful way.

of Play initiative found that dads also value play more than moms, tending to play longer with their kids at a single stretch. In addition, the kinds of toys dads opt for are more action-oriented or electronics, while moms gravitate to creative toys. Old habits die-hard, and STEAM is a relatively new concept. But at this point, no one seems better suited to advance it than millennial dads. To reach dads, we need to engage digital media. The electronic bent is a vital part of the millennial DNA. Fatherly was originally conceived because millennials in general turn to digital resources for answers. Isaacs explains that men are excited about fatherhood, but he found that there were no sites where dads could find expert parenting advice geared toward them. Videos, social media, and influencers speak to millennials— and especially dads—where they live. Increasingly, analytics can drive and improve the effectiveness of whatever digital performance we choose. As each of us rethinks strategies for the coming year, be they in kids and family media, products, or activities, we should remember that both our message and our messaging need to be in sync with the times. The examples we set, and the “normalcy” we project, will affect both bottom lines and future generations. Millennial parents rule—and dads are half of that equation. Embrace them. » Wendy Smolen co-founded Sandbox Summit, an idea forum focused on the intersection of play, learning, and technology. She currently works with companies and organizations to create playful solutions that engage kids and families in innovative and impactful ways.


specialty toys & gifts



Science Toys Pave the Way for Educational Play


WITH NEW ADVANCEMENTS IN TECHNOLOGY HAPPENING DAILY, WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE “impossible” is just a temporary state of mind. That being said, the next innovative scientist or groundbreaking inventor may already have his or her thinking hat on during playtime. From personalized labs to cutting-edge chemistry kits and toys that take science to the next level, kids have all the tools they need to take their curiosity one step further. While they learn through play, kids will test theories and challenge their ideas. Check out some of our favorite new science toys below.

EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS extends the Nancy B’s Science Club line with the Nancy B’s Science Club Mighty Microbes Lab & Germ Journal. The kit, designed for kids ages 8 and up, teaches kids about germs as they grow different types of bacteria. The Mighty Microbes Lab includes a spreader for spreading bacteria, tweezers, gloves, a nutrient agar packet, and other tools to help explore how microbes affect everyday life.

The Ultimate Secret Formula Lab, from SMARTLAB TOYS, includes 40 experiments that use a pressurized valve and plunger system to transport and mix liquids. Made for kids ages 8 and up, the kit allows kids to observe different chemical reactions. The set also comes with a 32-page book that includes instructions for experiments on topics that cover chemistry, fluid dynamics, and pressure.

BLUE ORANGE GAMES will extend its collection of science-themed games with Dr. Microbes. In this game designed for kids ages 7 and up, two to four players must race to help Dr. Microbe complete her research. Young scientists must sort the microbes into their petri dish with their tweezers and figure out the missing microbes and superbugs. Whichever player is the fastest to find the missing element and retrieve it is the winner of the game. Dr. Microbes will be available in February.

ALEX BRANDS’ Project MC² We Heart Chemistry Kit, designed for kids ages 6 and up, comes with 10 chemistry experiments that allow kids to create a color-changing mixture, a rolling wave, a glowin-the-dark test tube, and other chemical reactions. The set will be available this fall and comes with two test tubes with caps, a pipette, two color tablets, and more tools that kids need to complete the educational and fun experiments.

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specialty toys & gifts i science toys

RECHARGE LABS’ new solar power kit, the Solar Scavenger Hunt, lets kids explore which light sources and conditions generate the most solar power. Kids can test different light sources, gather data, measure solar power output, and discuss the variables that impact the output. The kit comes with a multimeter, a solar panel, and different light sources to test.

BACKYARD BRAINS adds to its neuroscience products with The Claw! Bundle, a robotic gripper that lets kids explore the world of brain machine interface. The “claw” allows a child to control the device with his or her own body’s electrical signals. The degree of movement and gripping strength depends on how much or how little the tester flexes his or her muscles. Kids will be able to learn about the field of neuroprosthetics, experience brain machine learning through biofeedback, and come up with their own projects and experiments.

WONDER FORGE’s Disney•Pixar Finding Dory Imagicademy Bubble Science lets kids ages 4 and up explore the world of science with seven experiments inspired by Disney•Pixar Finding Dory characters. With step-by-step instructions, kids will learn the basics of surface tension, air pressure, and diffusion. While they work on basic experiment principles, they will also create bubble structures, learn how to juggle a bubble, and perform other fun projects.

UNCLE MILTON’s new Virtual Explorer line, for kids ages 8 and up, features three different versions, including Ant Farm Antopia Adventure, Dino X Team Prehistoric Safari, and In My Room Space Expedition. All three sets include a themed toy, Virtual Explorer goggles, an activity guide, and a free downloadable augmented reality app. The Virtual Reality experience requires a smartphone with a standard size screen that fits securely into the goggles.

THAMES AND KOSMOS’ Happy Atoms lets kids ages 8 and up make their own atoms with a physical and digital kit, which will be available this November. With a set of 50 atom models that represent 16 different elements, kids can assemble their own molecular models and atoms that stick together easily with magnets. After kids snap together a molecule, they can take a picture with the downloadable iOS app to identify the molecule and learn information about thousands molecules.

Virtual Explorer In My Room Space Expedition

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compliance & Regulations

ADDRESSING THE DANGERS OF NONCOMPLIANT TOYS by PAUL CHEN, founder and principal consultant, PC Squared Consultants YOU ARE IN POST-PRODUCTION WITH A movie-branded toy. It’s 4:30 p.m. on Friday and everything is going smoothly. Demos are done, signage is hot off the press, and the toy will be ready to launch in two weeks. Then, the phone rings and a change in U.S. policies on paint regulations more than 6 months old disqualifies your toy from distribution. Now, you must determine what to do with 10,000 worthless units already halfway across the Pacific Ocean on their way to you. Welcome to a compliance nightmare. “Compliance” commonly refers to aspects of product safety and quality requirements. The definition of compliance varies, based on which authority is enforcing the regulation. Here are some common regulatory bodies: • Retail customers • Federal government • State and local governments • Certification bodies • Voluntary standards organizations MAKING COMPLIANCE A PRIORITY The regulations add up quickly. Regardless of what you must do to have a compliant toy, compliance is 100 percent necessary if you want to sell successfully— without recalls, fines, or lawsuits. Because requirements are always changing, the question should not be, “Are we compliant?” Instead, ask, “How do we remain compliant with all local, state, federal, retail, and other regulatory bodies?” It’s critical to stay up-to-date so that your company produces toys that retailers will sell and kids will love. Such imperative details need to be sorted out before the first batch is off the production line, if not earlier in the product development cycle. Compliance needs to be a factor every step of the way, including: • Product concept and design • Risk assessments

• Product qualification • Supplier qualification audits • Incoming raw materials • Quality assurance process and controls • Proper documentation for Customer Border Protection (CBP) inspection Sometimes a retailer’s programs, policies, processes, and expectations for compliance are hard to find. Keep in mind that they may still exist. If you’re not sure where you stand, you may not be asking the right people the right questions. It’s better to be diligent and ask questions upfront than to take the risk of losing business, paying the costly penalties for shipping delays and store fees to remove toys off the shelves, or—even worse—damaging the reputation and branding of your company. Without even factoring the initial costs, the long-term negative impact on your business will be crippling. KEY COMPLIANCE CONCEPTS Compliance can be overwhelming, so here are 10 hard-hitting questions to always keep in mind: 1. Can you provide a General Certificate of Conformity (GCC) or Children’s Product Certificate (CPC), as required by law for certain consumer products, within 48 hours of the request by the CBP or your customer? 2. Do you know how California Proposition 65 impacts the products that will be shipped to California? Do you know your customer’s expectations for California Proposition 65? 3. Do you know which products require third-party laboratory tests by law? 4. Are you familiar with which toys require testing, and the frequency of these tests? 5. Do you know what actions you should take if you receive a failing test report from a third-party laboratory? 6. Do you have all the relevant and most up-to-date testing protocols and product specifications for your customers?

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7. Do you know what a sample seal is and when it’s required or most appropriate? How do you know for sure that the sample sent to the third-party laboratory is representative of what is/will be on the market? 8. Do you know the most cost-efficient way to ensure your toys are in compliance? 9. How can you ensure that your contracted factory continues to do a good job? Is your own staff a third party conducting pre-in-line and/or final production inspection? 10. Are you taking measures to ensure that your toys continue to be in compliance until at least the end of the product lifecycle? If you are unsure or unable to answer any of these questions, then there is a good chance you need to do more to protect the best interests of your company. The cost of noncompliance is devastating, but the benefit of proper compliance is priceless. »

Paul Chen is the founder and principal consultant of PC Squared Consultants. After 13 years in the consumer products industry, Chen saw a need in the retail supplier community for independent and confidential compliance consulting. He protects the interests of companies and offers guidance on product regulatory compliance, quality assurance, and laboratory testing.



A THEATER ON SOCIAL MEDIA by TED MININNI, president and creative director, Design Force UNBOXING IS AN EVENT THAT PUTS ­packaging center stage, proven by YouTube unboxing videos with millions of hits. This unboxing trend was in the making ever since the birth of YouTube, and it’s not going away anytime soon. WHY UNBOXING VIDEOS MATTER Since 2010, the number of YouTube videos in the “unboxing” category has increased by 871 percent. According to CNN, 2,370 days—or 6.5 years—worth of unboxing footage was uploaded on YouTube in 2014 alone. In December 2015, The New York Times reported: “This year, according to YouTube, people have watched videos unveiling items like toys, sneakers, and iPhones more than 1.1 billion times for a total of 60 million hours.” Unboxing video watch-time increased by 57 percent during 2015, and there were more than 20 million YouTube searches for unboxing vidoes. A Google consumer survey reported that one in five consumers has viewed unboxing videos before purchasing products. That translates to a staggering 20 percent of consumers. Unboxing is brand marketing that doesn’t cost much but is worth its weight in gold. A picture is worth a thousand words. People are visual and when they see great packaging being opened—every aspect of the experience is worth more than all the advertising spends in the world. YouTube videos that show unwrapping of toys brings kids the excitement and anticipation of Christmas morning and birthdays all rolled into one. And adults love unboxing videos as much as kids. Parents catch onto the excitement as they watch unboxing videos themselves and then purchase those products. Toys are a natural fit for unboxing videos. This hasn’t escaped the notice of Toys “R” Us. Last October, the retailer started to air short, stop-action animated videos, within which toys unboxed other toys on its YouTube channel. Last fall, the Walt Disney

Melissa and Gracie Hunter from the YouTube channel Mommy and Gracie Show unbox Mattel’s new Barbie dolls

Co. hosted a live, 18-hour YouTube event that featured the unboxing of toys and other licensed consumer products tied to the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It makes sense that unboxing videos of this nature would precede the holiday gift buying season or herald a new entertainment blockbuster, but this marketing tactic is a year-round endeavor by many brand owners. Of course there are a couple of dangers here. Videos of brands with inferior product packaging being unboxed on YouTube will turn viewers off. Packaging that looks drab or shoddy, has poor graphics and imagery, or is hard to open will not inspire any confidence in the brand. In fact, it will do the opposite. Poor package design does a great deal of damage to any brand—on shelf and in any advertising or public relations setting, but consumer interaction with packaging is the most telling of all. Then there is customer turn-off because of suspected self-promotion. When unboxing videos are uploaded by brand owners that are blatantly promotional, consumers might tune out. The best approach is not to

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advertise, but to use the tenets of PR. That is, to let third-party candidates in the form of consumers do the unboxing and give brands and packaging their seal of approval. They can create a lot of buzz and bring fans to the brand. To that end, many brands identify YouTubers with a major following in their product categories, and send them complimentary products to unbox—smart! HEIGHTENING THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE In light of the huge potential for unpaid publicity, brand managers ought to consider how to make their consumer product packaging look unique and inventive. Think: how can you create package design that will make consumers want to share the unboxing experience with their friends online? How can you create anticipation and enjoyment for the consumer? Take a page from the best in the business. We all savor the experience of unboxing Apple products: our new iPhone, iPad, or smartwatch. Many of us even keep the packaging—it’s just too beautiful to throw away.


Members of the YouTube Channel FamilyFunUK unbox a Thunderbird 2 vehicle and Mini Thunderbird 4

Apple fans are a virtual cult around their brand and the ritual of unwrapping packaging is a brand focal point that is shared with millions around the world. But they are not alone. Fans of Mattel’s Hot Wheels and Barbie brands share and view unboxing videos in large numbers. The same goes for the fans of Marvel’s Superheroes, Hasbro’s My Little Pony and Nerf Rebelle brands and a large number of Disney properties. When brands inspire ritual behavior and huge followings like this, it’s truly significant. In order for this to happen, package design can’t be an afterthought. It has to be a major consideration and it has to be developed from a strategic point of view, preferably at the same time that products are being developed. If a package refresh is needed for an existing product, then thought has to be given as to how to engage its target audience by creating a captivating experience in the unwrapping process for consumers. When the pleasure of peeling back layers of packaging is shared within a community as an event, something great has been achieved for that brand, and goes to the heart of customer experience. Each aspect of interaction should reinforce the brand and provide value, including opening and ongoing interaction with packaging for some kinds of products. Attention should be paid to package design, structure and architecture, to unique substrates that invite touch, and to powerful

graphics and visuals all leveraged to fit the unique personality of the brand. Everything about packaging should pleasure the senses. PACKAGING AS THEATER We all love something shiny and new— something that promises enjoyment. It might come as no surprise that one of the most viewed YouTube unboxing channels belongs to an anonymous woman dubbed DisneyCollectorBR. Only her hands are depicted as she unboxes Disney toys and her ad revenues totaled $4.9 million last year. According to Yahoo Finance, “YouTube allows certain content creators to monetize their videos through their ‘YouTube Partner Program,’ which means ads will play before or around a video, and the content creator will be paid through an AdSense account.” According to HelloGiggles blog, “She (the DisneyCollectorBR unboxing maven) uploads about one video per day, and her highest performing video (more than 178 million views) involved her opening a box of Frozen-themed Play-Doh.” I’m sure that did wonders for Hasbro’s Play-Doh sales! In our own consultancy, we see packaging as theater because we specialize in package design and licensing program design for the toy and entertainment industries, which invite fanciful, humorous, and theatrical brand packaging. And it’s obvious to us that brand leaders in different categories do the

same. Delivering all the enjoyment and values associated with brands into fans’ hands sets the stage for enduring relationships. Research proves that the content that is most shared by fans involves enjoyment, humor, and fantasy, so leveraging those aspects of a brand creates an immediate connection and an emotive response, which in turn leads to deep relationships. Perfect case in point: the licensed product packaging program that we created for ITV Studios’ Thunderbirds Are Go brings all of the cues forward that fans of the animated series enjoy most. The brand’s own YouTube channel features great entertainment fare depicting the five Tracy brothers, their mysterious Tracy Island home, and their various craft that are standing ready to save mankind from danger. Unboxing and reviews appear on the Thunderbirds Are Go channel, and there are also fan-generated videos populating YouTube as they interact with the toys and toy packaging. There’s deep enjoyment here of a kind that engages consumers of all ages, from those who remember and enjoyed the brand in their youth to a whole new generation of budding fans, as evidenced by those who are doing the unboxing. More importantly, this brand packaging will be a significant contributor to the development of a new cult following for the brand itself. We witness this time and again when fans upload unboxing videos for products featuring brand packaging and licensed consumer product packaging that we have helped create. It is as much fun for us as it is for them. But behind all of this enjoyment is the conviction that package design that is visually appealing and is easy to open helps create superstars of the brands and products they represent. » Ted Mininni is president and creative director at Design Force Inc., a package and licensing program design consultancy to the consumer product and entertainment industries. The goal of Design Force is to establish strong emotional connections with consumers and create powerful visual brand experiences that engage, excite, entertain, inspire, and influence consumers’ decision to buy. Mininni can be reached at 856-810-2277. Visit for more information.

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The Risks of Comparative Advertising by HOWARD N. ARONSON, managing director, Lackenbach Siegel LLC YOUR COMPANY MAY HAVE LOOKED AT cheeky ads that name competitor toys and make claims of superiority and wondered if you can do this, too. Sprint got attention when the character known as the “Test Man” in Verizon commercials appeared in Sprint ads to tout Sprint’s advantages: “I used to ask if you ‘can hear me now’ with Verizon. Not anymore. I’m with Sprint now, because guess what? It’s 2016 and every network is great. In fact Sprint’s reliability is now within 1 percent of Verizon and Sprint saves you 50 percent over Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile’s rates.” Comparison advertising can be tricky. Federal and state laws allow competitors to sue if the competitor’s trademark is used incorrectly, even if the ad is true. Consumers have brought class-action lawsuits based on faulty comparative advertising claims. But, the law also strongly protects comparative advertising: under the federal Trademark Law, trademark dilution excludes “advertising or promotion that permits consumers to compare goods or services.” ARE THEY PAYING ATTENTION? Research has shown that comparative advertising works only when claims about a product make a real difference to customers and when data proves the claims true. (“Aspirin can irritate the stomach lining… Fortunately, there is Tylenol”) or when the ad is humorous (“So some smartphones are smarter than other smartphones?”). WHAT’S THE RISK? Seek legal review of promotions to avoid being subject to liability for false advertising or unfair competition. Even sophisticated ad agencies provide incorrect advice about what comparative advertising allows, so consult your Intellectual Property counsel before claiming that your product is superior to the other guy’s. You may have to defend your ad in court if it uses a competitor’s name, mark, logo, or likeness and contains disparaging, unfair, baseless, incomplete, or false comments and comparisons of competitors’

products, or if it makes a false or misleading claim about its own or a competitor’s products, ratings, benefits, services, or other characteristics. Damages for false advertising can include the defendant’s profits, the plaintiff’s actual damages, and the costs of the action. In exceptional cases (where the infringement is intentional) the court may award attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party or, in some cases, a court has the discretion to award up to three times the amount of actual damages. In addition to federal claims for false advertising, a competitor can assert various state law and common law claims to challenge another’s advertising. Such claims could include unfair competition, fraud, commercial disparagement, or violation of right of publicity. Consumer protection laws that mirror the scope of the Federal Trade Commission Act may allow state attorneys general and individual consumers to sue for false advertising. The Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (ASRC) of the Better Business Bureau receives and attempts to resolve complaints about comparative advertising. (The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) isn’t bound by decisions of the ASRC, however, as an ASRC decision can be anti-competitive.) GO AHEAD, NAME NAMES You can lawfully use a competitor’s trademark to compare a competing brand with yours—on price or other factors—claiming superiority, or just parity with the competition. You can identify a competing brand by its name, or by illustrations, for example. You can truthfully highlight your strengths and the weaknesses of your competition without exposing your company to liability. The law encourages comparison advertising because it allows consumers to evaluate products and services. The FTC stated that comparative advertising “when truthful and non-deceptive, is a source of important information to consumers and assists them in making rational purchase decisions.” Before 1979, when the FTC issued its statement,

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advertising that compared by name (as opposed to as “Brand X”) was discouraged by broadcasting companies and the advertising industry’s self-regulation bodies. Furthermore, the federal dilution statute exempts from liability “advertising or promotion that permits consumers to compare goods or services.” STICK TO THE TRUTH Comparative advertising—whether in ads or on packaging—must be truthful and non-deceptive. Comparative advertising that is false or misleading can violate the false advertising provisions of federal Trademark Law. An advertiser must be able to substantiate all claims, whether or not the claims directly refer to the competition. Use of a third party’s trademark must be for comparison purposes only. A company can’t use its competitor’s trademark in a way that suggests affiliation with the competitor. A comparative ad can’t misrepresent the competitor’s trademark, or its products or services. A plaintiff can establish a false advertising claim under Trademark Law by proving either that an ad is false on its face or that the ad is true or ambiguous, but likely to mislead and confuse customers. For example, in a case involving The Clorox Co., Proctor & Gamble’s ads for a detergent claiming that “whiter is not possible,” Clorox sued, asserting that the advertisements were false and misleading. Tests proved that chlorine bleach whitens better than detergent used alone. Proctor & Gamble claimed that the ads were mere puffery and not likely to be taken literally by the public. But, the Court of Appeals found that the ads could reasonably be interpreted as making a claim of superiority over chlorine bleach, a claim that was false on its face and therefore, not mere puffing. In another case, Avon Products sued S.C. Johnson for ads, including one that stated, “Avon Skin-So-Soft is not registered with the E.P.A. as an insect repellant.” The Court found that the ad was false, because the product was registered with the E.P.A. But S.C. Johnson’s claim that its brand was “100


Papa John’s packaging displaying its ad slogan

times better” did qualify as puffery, because the claim was so exaggerated that consumers wouldn’t think it was verifiable. BRAGGING MAY BE OK Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between actual claims and “mere puffery.” Stover Seed Co.’s advertising slogan “Less Is More” for grass seed was found to be generalized boasting upon which no reasonable buyer would rely and thus, puffery. But, Stover also claimed that its grass required “50 Percent Less Mowing”—a claim of measurable superiority. In another case, Pizza Hut sued Papa John’s based on Papa John’s ad slogan “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.” The Court of Appeals, however, found that the slogan by itself was not an “objectifiable statement of fact upon which consumers would be justified in relying.” COMPARE, BUT DON’T CONFUSE Some statements cross the line from puffery to falsehood. Announcing that your toy outperforms another company’s in some measurable way (contrary to evidence) violates trademark law. Thus, to win a false advertising claim under the law, it must be shown that the offending ad contained a false or misleading representation of fact that was likely to cause confusion about the defendant’s products or services and that injured the company that was identified in the ad. An example is the Advil v. Tylenol ad, in which the claim for Advil was, “Like Tylenol, Advil doesn’t upset my stomach,” where the court wrote, “If it were not for their ‘like Tylenol’ claim, the Advil commercials would probably fall within the acceptable range of commercial puffery. But, Advil is not ‘like Tylenol’ in the respect of its effect on

the stomach.” In the earlier dispute between the two companies, the Court stated: A misleading comparison to a specific competing product necessarily diminishes that product’s value in the minds of the consumer. AHP (the maker of Tylenol) was deprived of a legitimate advantage and reduced consumers’ incentive to select Tylenol rather than Advil when it falsely implied that Advil is as safe as Tylenol in all respects. As a federal Court of Appeals judge recently wrote of comparative advertising in a case involving two steel companies, in which one company claimed falsely that it offered features in its steel products that its competitor did not offer: Most everyone expects a little audacity—maybe even a little mendacity—in their advertising. Sometimes it can even prove amusing. Like the local greasy spoon’s boast that it pours the “world’s best cup of coffee.” Or the weight loss company’s promise that its miracle pill will “literally melt the pounds away.” But sometimes advertising crosses the line from harmless hyperbole into underhanded deception with material commercial consequences. That’s when laws like the federal Lanham Act step in, allowing those harmed by false advertising to recover for their injuries. As always in trademark law, the test is likelihood of confusion on the part of the consumer—as to sponsorship, affiliation, or source. If the ad is not likely to confuse potential customers, a company can lawfully incorporate a competitor’s trademark in its ad or packaging. So if you’re going to use your competitor’s trademark to compare your goods or services to those of your competitor, the purpose of using the competing trademark must be to convey information, and not to confuse consumers about the source of your toys. To avoid liability for infringement or misleading or deceptive ads, consult trademark counsel early in the creative process. With assistance, your company can properly use a competitor’s trademark in its promotions. » Howard N. Aronson has provided legal counsel to toy companies for the past 30 years. He is the managing partner of Lackenbach Siegel LLP, an intellectual property law firm recognized for its nine decades of handling toy companies. Grateful acknowledgement is extended to Eileen DeVries, counsel at Lackenbach Siegel.

THE RULES OF COMPARISON • Comparative advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive. The intent, as well as the connotation of the ad must be informational only. Hence, the ad can’t be used to discredit or to attack unfairly a competing product or service. • The purpose of the comparative advertisement must be an actual comparison of goods or services not a veiled attempt to form an association between a product or service and that of the competitor. Hence, the product named in the ad has to be one that actually is in competition with the goods or services of your company. Make sure that if you make a comparison with the goods or services of a competitor, the comparison is a legitimate one, not just a pretext for using your mark together with the mark of the competitor. • A comparative ad should identify the competing product or service, as well as the company that provides that product or service, in a way that is fair and proper. The comparison of the products and/or services should be made between similar properties and the comparison should be made on a feature-to-feature basis. The comparison should be truthful and factual and not be made in a manner that degrades the product or the competing company. • Any comparisons made should be factual in nature. Any testing needed to make the comparison should be done by an objective testing source, preferably an independent testing source. Ambiguous or subjective comparisons should be avoided. IP counsel can help decide whether or not there is an adequate factual basis for the comparison advertising. • All the trademarks in the ad should be used in the same manner. The competitor’s trademark should not appear more prominently than your own, as this could lead to confusion. Only the competitor’s word mark should be used. There is no comparative purpose in the use of a competitor’s logo or slogans.

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Classifieds Playtime Sales & Marketing Co. LLC A Toy Manufacturers Sales Representative Corporate Office 331 Piermont Road Norwood, New Jersey 07648 TEL: 201-784-7727 FAX: 201-784-1912 E-MAIL:

The Playtime Sales & Marketing Company, LLC. is a Toy and Electronics Manufacturers sales representative organization. Our prime focus is to represent Toy and Electronics Manufacturers to the Mass Market Retailers. The principals of our Company are Len Soyka and Murray Bass. Our only vocation has been in the Toy Industry. We are dedicated toy professionals. Our geographical areas of sales coverage and accounts include: • NEW ENGLAND…Connecticut North to Maine and Upstate N.Y. Accounts… CVS Drug, BJ’s Whle Club, Benny’s and TJ Maxx, • N.Y. METRO…N.Y. City and New Jersey. Accounts… Toys R Us and their DOTCOM and Global Divisions, 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 • CHINA…We maintain a full time Hong Kong sourcing Office We employ a staff of 5 toy sales specialists. Our contact information is listed on our above shown letterhead. We welcome your inquiries.


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To place a classified ad, please contact Bill Reese 212-575-4510 x2322




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ABC Video, in conjuction with Hasbro, introduces a new home video series based on Hasbro’s successful Cool Tools and Easy-Bake Oven toy lines. Cool Tools Adventures brings a sense of fun and play to tools, and allows children to discover how easy and fun it is to make the world a better place. Easy-Bake Club allows children to learn about cooking as they create home-baked treats for friends, family, and themselves.





spider-man figures TOY BIZ

pound puppies


polly pocket MATTEL

beast wars transformers HASBRO





With hundreds of cards containing thousands of dates and events throughout history, Great American Puzzle Factory’s Chronology is a history timeline game for kids and adults ages 12 and up. The game’s slogan is, “You place events in time and put time in its place.”


At Nesson Sales Co., a toy-and-hobby distributor servicing the East Coast, puzzles are steady, constant sellers. Vice President of Sales Lew Goldsticker belives that “hot licenses are important” for kids and notes that the Hunchback of Notre Dame is the only popular children’s license for the company right now. Playskool’s line of Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame Woodboard Puzzles features colorful pieces. Each puzzle has between seven and 10 pieces and is designed for ages 2 to 5.