May/June 2015

Page 1

Vol. 31, No. 3

May/June 2015

Smart Technology Spans ASTRA’s New Categories Marketplace mart tech for kids is no longer buzzword lingo. It has become a reality and has grown to encompass so much more than just technology added to toys to make them interesting or “tech-y.” Today, kids’ technology-enhanced products offer engaging and explorative play patterns that span a wide spectrum of categories. And while there are new technologies being used in these toys, the thrill is in the play experience, not in the technology itself.


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2015 page 21 Top Tips for Differentiating Your Store Chatting with the Industry

Clockwise from top left: Babblebaby Little Sister, from Madame Alexander Doll Co.; Jumbo Jamboree, from Tomy; 3D Head Case, from Fashion Angels; Buzzy Fiat 500, from Berg; Dinosaur Series T-Rex, from Eitech

in this issue May/June 2015

D 06 08 10 11 12 13 71 82 84 86 89 90


Editor’s Viewpoint Industry Update

Smart Tech Spans New Categories

Trend expert Reyne Rice investigates the evolving scene of kids technology and what that means for companies developing products in this sphere.

F eatures

Talking SEO The Toy Insider’s Sweet Suite `15 Q&A with Hoho Entertainment


New Takes on Classic Toys

Ali Mierzejewski

Innovative toys that don’t require microchips— or even batteries.


A SSOCIATE E DITORS Christine Duhaime Phil Guie

Barnes & Noble The great American bookstore makes room for a great American toy store.



eOne: Not Toying Around with Counterfeiters

Raising the Bar

Nick Gawne of eOne talks about the logistical challenges of battling toy counterfeiting around the world.

Outside the Box

Licensing Expo 2015



A look at kid-friendly licenses and entertainment properties on display at the annual show.


Flashback: June 1995





E DITORIAL A SSISTANT Magdalene Michalik P RODUCTION D IRECTOR Bill Reese C ONTROLLER /O FFICE M ANAGER Lori Rubin U.S. Corporate Headquarters Laurie Schacht, President

Specialty Toys & Gifts

Stand Out from the Retail Crowd: Differentiate Your Specialty Toy Store with ASTRA Programs

P UBLISHER Jonathan Samet

S ENIOR E DITORS Marissa DiBartolo

TIA Perspectives

Industry Marketplace

Volume 31, Number 3

E DITOR - IN -C HIEF Jackie Breyer

Stat Shot TIA Happenings

Published by Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.®

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

Member, International Toy Magazine Association



Licensed Toys

for Specialty Retailers


icensing and specialty toy stores aren’t exactly the next peanut butter and jelly. But every year around this time, both the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) Marketplace & Academy and Licensing Expo take place. In fact, the timing overlaps, causing companies whose businesses are invested in both the specialty toy and licensing industries (such as Adventure Publishing, publisher of The Toy Book and The Licensing Book) to divide their staff to make sure they have a presence at both important events. While independent toy retailers may think that licensed products are not a fit for their shelves, in most cases, this is not true. At North American International Toy Fair in February, I was a speaker—along with Nick Tarzia, owner of Stamford Toys—on a panel called Using Licenses Creatively in an Independent Environment, moderated by Marty Brochstein of the Licensing Industry Merchandiser’s Association. The panel focused on the ways in which specialty toy retailers can successfully incorporate licensed products into their mix to enhance their offerings and increase sales. Considering licensed products represent nearly a third of toy sales, it’s a topic that can’t be ignored. Tarzia discussed how he has thoughtfully incorporated licensed toys into his store to great success, despite his initial wariness. My presentation focused on the types of consumers retailers must consider when selecting licensed products for their stores—parents, grandparents, kids, and collectors—and the types of licensed products that make sense on specialty retail shelves—nostalgic toys, educational products, and heirloom-quality toys and gifts. I also gave examples of each of these types of licensed products, such as Aurora’s Raggedy Ann 100th Anniversary dolls, Just Play’s Care Bears beanie plush, and Laser Pegs’ National Geo-


Jackie Breyer editor-in-chief

graphic construction line. I also highlighted the fact that specialty toy retailers don’t have to (and shouldn’t!) miss out on the hottest toy licenses either. Licensed Frozen products from High IntenCity and Blue Orange Games, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys from Paper Punk and Funko, and Star Wars science kits from Uncle Milton can be a part of any specialty toy retailer’s product mix. Which licensed toys work for your store? Email me at, or tweet at me: @JackieBreyer. ■

“I’m getting SpongeBob covers for when my waterbed leaks.” MAY/JUNE 2015



LEGO DIMENSIONS ADDS CHARACTERS FROM DC COMICS, BACK TO THE FUTURE, AND LEGO NINJAGO Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has unveiled details about upcoming properties coming to Lego Dimensions, which merges physical Lego brick building with interactive console gameplay. In addition to Lego Batman, Lego Gandalf, and Lego Wyldstyle, the three minifigure heroes used to start the experience, Lego Dimensions will allow gamers to customize their experience post-launch and throughout the first half of next year with expansion packs, including DC Comics Team Pack, featuring Lego Joker and Lego Harley Quinn minifigures; three additional DC Comics Fun Packs, featuring Lego Superman, Lego Aquaman, and Lego Bane minifigures; the Back to the Future Fun Pack with a Lego Doc Brown minifigure; and two Lego Ninjago Fun Packs with Lego Sensei Wu and Lego Lloyd minifigures. These collectible Team Packs and Fun Packs will provide new buildable characters, vehicles, tools, gadgets, and special in-game abilities. Players can bring up to seven characters, vehicles, and weapons into the Lego Dimensions game all at once by placing them on the Lego Toy Pad to create gameplay crossovers, such as Lego Superman piloting the Lego DeLorean Time Machine through Hill Valley. Future expansion pack purchases will continue to work with the Lego Dimensions Starter Pack, even into the fall of next year. Lego Dimensions launches on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and Wii U consoles on September 27. DC Comics Fun Pack


featuring Lego Superman

FAO SCHWARZ TO CLOSE ITS FLAGSHIP LOCATION IN NEW YORK CITY FAO Schwarz, the oldest toy store in the U.S., is closing its iconic Fifth Ave. flagship store in Manhattan, citing rising rent prices. The store will shut its doors on July 15, exiting early from its lease. The three-level, 45,000 square-foot space is a popular tourist destination that has made cameos in multiple movies, most memorably in 1988’s Big, starring Tom Hanks. FAO Schwarz, which was acquired by Toys “R” Us Inc. in 2009, is actively searching for a new space in Midtown Manhattan to re-open its flagship store. The toy retailer began occupying the General Motors Building on Fifth Ave. in 1986.


In partnership with Go Baby Toy State/Go Baby Go workshop Go, a research-based, national at Tommy Baldwin Racing program that provides modified ride-on toy cars to young children with disabilities, Toy State is sponsoring four workshops in four cities across the country. Each car will be outfitted to model the Toy State Nikko R/C No. 7 car currently driven by Alex Bowman on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit. The first workshop took place in Mooresville, N.C., at the Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) shop. Bowman, along with fellow NASCAR drivers Kasey Kahne, Michael McDowell, Blake Koch, and Cale Conley, were in attendance, along with other members of the NASCAR community. Toy State is currently in the middle of an 11-race

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partnership with TBR as the primary sponsor of the No. 7 car. The next workshop is planned for June 25 in Chicago, Ill.

PEPPA PIG TO LAUNCH FIRST-EVER U.S. LIVE THEATRICAL TOUR Entertainment One’s Peppa Pig is hitting the road for her first U.S. theatrical tour, Peppa Pig’s Big Splash. The live stage show will visit 23 cities on the East Coast this November and December, including Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, and Boston. A second leg will take Peppa to additional U.S. cities next year. Peppa Pig’s Big Splash is a fully immersive musical production based on the popular Peppa Pig TV series.




This fall, the Star Wars universe will join Disney, Disney•Pixar, and Marvel in Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition, from Disney Interactive. Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition will include new Play Sets, new Toy Box expansion games, and fan-favorite characters from the Walt Disney Co. The three Star Wars Play Sets include the Star Wars: Twilight of the Republic Play Set, which takes place during the timeline of Episodes I to III; the Star Wars: Rise Against the Empire Play Set, which takes place during the original trilogy, Episodes IV to VI; and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Additional Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition Play Sets include a Disney•Pixar Play Set based on the upcoming film Inside Out, and a Marvel Play Set featuring Hulkbuster Iron Man and Ultron from Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron film. The Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition Starter Pack will be available this fall.

Rise Against the Empire Play Set


U.S. Toy Industry Supercategory* Q1 Performance


Q1 2014

Q1 2015

Percent Change

Outdoor and Sports Toys

$526.6 million

$634.4 million

21 percent


$326.5 million

$366.0 million

12 percent

Infant/Preschool Toys

$408.3 million $315.0 million

Building Sets Plush

Games and Puzzles

Action Figures and Role-Play


$251.3 million $231.6 million $197.4 million $167.6 million $180.9 million

Arts and Crafts

$216.7 million

All Other Toys

$2.9 billion

Grand Total

$457.6 million $360.1 million $300.7 million $279.1 million $225.9 million $184.0 million $164.5 million $254.9 million $3.3 billion

12 percent

14 percent

20 percent

21 percent

15 percent

10 percent -9 percent

18 percent

14 percent

Source: The NPD Group Inc./Retail Tracking Service, January to March 2014 vs. January to March 2015 *80 percent estimated toys universe coverage

Top U.S. Toy Licenses





1 3

Lego Minecraft Creative Adventures Crafting Box


Q1, 2015 Ranked on Dollars

4 5

Disney Frozen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Disney Princess Star Wars

Source: The NPD Group Inc./Retail Tracking Service, January to March 2015



Toy Industry Association


Spreading Comfort, Joy, & the Benefits of Play by Kristin Morency Goldman, communications specialist, Toy Industry Association


he Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) is gearing up for a busy few months filled with national toy distributions, the development of a ground-breaking new program to help children in hospitals, and plenty of donation opportunities for big-hearted toy companies and individuals looking to bring comfort and joy to children in need with the healing power of play. Here’s a breakdown of the latest news from the TIF—and details about how you can give back to children who need your love and support the most:

THE SUMMER TOY DRIVE – JUNE 1 TO AUGUST 31, 2015 As TIF’s largest toy drive of the year, the Summer Toy Drive collects toys, games, books, DVDs, and similar items from manufacturers, distributors, retailers, licensors, PR firms, entertainment companies, and others in the toy and youth entertainment industry. With a goal of delivering playthings to more than 5 million children this year, TIF is calling on companies to give whatever they can—no donation is too small, and every single toy will impact the life of a child in need. Playthings donated during the Summer Toy Drive will be given to children who are in foster care, living in low-income households, and living on U.S. military bases, including U.S. Coast Guard kids and families in Cape Cod, Mass., who will enjoy an upcoming toy giveaway on June 26. Donors may choose for which meaningful cause they would like to provide toys. To donate or learn more, visit or contact Program Manager Elizabeth Max at Free donation pick-ups are possible in many cases.

TIF’S PRESCRIPTION2PLAY PILOT PROGRAM The Foundation is currently developing a pilot version of a


new program called Prescription2Play, set to be announced late this year. Child Life Services in hospitals utilize play to help children cope emotionally and psychologically as they undergo medical treatment. Under the initiative, TIF hopes to fund a Child Life staff position at participating hospitals, and also to develop a themed therapeutic play program to be implemented in multiple areas of the hospitals, including at bedside for those patients who are not able to move around. “Child Life Services often use play to help ease the confusion, fear, and anxiety experienced by children and families faced with life-threatening medical conditions,” says Jean Butler, TIF executive director. “Unfortunately, many facilities across the country are lacking Child Life Services staff and resources, so it is our goal to ensure that play—and its vital therapeutic benefits—is well-integrated into pediatric patient care in children’s hospitals.” The pilot program will initially target three children’s hospitals, with a future goal of impacting hospitals nationwide. In addition, TIF hopes to launch a landmark research study to empirically measure the impact that therapeutic play has on the healing and recovery process of pediatric patients.

LEND A HAND TIF relies on year-round donations of toys and funding from companies and individuals in order to deliver its programming to children in need. There are several ways to get involved and give back: You can donate toys, funds, or time, or help spread the word on social media. Visit,, and to lend a hand, or contact TIF Manager Marisa Medina at to learn more about TIF. ■





New Consumers Using Search Engines by Jeremy Pound, co-founder, CEO, Juicy Results


t’s no secret that consumers use the Internet to discover and purchase new products, and while social media and mobile apps seem to be getting most of the media attention, search engines are still responsible for generating the lion’s share of online traffic. A recent study by Conductor, a web presence management company, shows that search engines are responsible for more than 60 percent of online traffic. Most entrepreneurs and inventors assume that a better search engine presence will put their products in the hands of more people who would benefit from it, but they are often unclear about how to expand their search presence and have common misconceptions about how search engines work. For example, a manufacturer envisions a scenario where parents will type in “toys” and find their products, but Google doesn’t show individual toys for that query. Instead, Google assumes that the consumer is looking for toy stores in their area, news about toys, or articles about toys. To further punctuate the ambiguity of the “toys” keyword, Google cannot determine if the consumer is looking for pet toys, baby toys, or other types of toys too risqué to mention here. If you’re looking to reach more consumers, “toys” is not a realistic search term to target unless you are one of the largest toy websites or big box retailers on the planet. Search terms are known as keywords, and it’s extremely important to select the right ones. So, if not “toys,” what are they? Effective keywords vary from product to product. Ask yourself these questions: ● What problems does your toy or game solve? ● Who is it designed for? ● How is it different from other toys or games? ● What are the unique benefits of playing with it? Successful search engine marketing is a game of specialization. The more specialized you position your toy website or product, the easier it will be for you to attract search engine traffic. Online niche websites that serve a specific need or de-


mographic actually have an edge over more general e-commerce websites, just as producers of toys or games that are hyper specialized can more easily attract their ideal customers. Consumers use search engines to discover answers to their problems and solutions to their needs and desires. The keywords that will likely bring you new customers are queries such as: ● toys that build self-esteem ● games for large families ● historical children’s toys ● toys by faith-based companies ● pet-friendly toys for children ● help children learn new languages ● getting kids to like baths ● gifts for children who love camping Your success with search engines starts with identifying and focusing on the keywords that will bring you new customers, and you do that by being specific about the needs you are trying to meet. Always ask yourself, “Is this the language the consumer would use?” This may require you to have extensive conversations with your current audience to understand what drew them to your products in the first place. Remember the last time you had a specific need or question and turned to Google? Chances are that you ended up discovering a new product or service that you didn’t even know existed. This same path can lead your future customers to your front door. Only invest time and resources in search engine optimization (SEO) after you have identified the keywords that you believe will bring you new business. More on that next time. ■ Jeremy Pound is the co-founder and CEO of Juicy Results, the Internet marketing agency for the Fortune Five Million. He is also the author of The Bootstrapper’s Guide to SEO, which can help people understand how to build their page one rankings.



he sixth annual Sweet Suite event will be held on July 16 at Pier Sixty in New York City.

Known as The Biggest Night of Play, the event will welcome more than 400 digital influencers from around the country and more than 100 members of traditional media to connect with

the best toy companies and the hottest new products and properties in advance of the holiday shopping season. Sweet Suite is the feature event at Blogger Bash, a two-day conference for experienced bloggers featuring parties, exhibitions, and speed dating sessions, giving brands the chance to connect with the most influential consumers. Now in its second year, Blogger Bash provides influencers and brands with a new type of conference. Eliminating hotels, convention centers, and exhausting speeches, Blogger Bash instead welcomes attendees into a high-energy atmosphere, giving them a chance to have fun while mingling with brands in a professional yet inviting setting. During Sweet Suite, bloggers enjoy one-on-one time with some of the hottest kids’ brands and products in modern lounge areas. The night gives bloggers a chance to meet old and new friends while they sip on martinis, feast on delicious sweet treats, and—best of all—play. After hours of kid-free toy time, bloggers are invited to kick back and dance it out at the Sweet Suite after party. Once the fun is over, enormous swag boxes are shipped directly to attendees’ homes, sparking a resurgance of excitement and social media impressions, and ensuring bloggers and journalists have products readily on-hand to review and share. For those who can’t attend the event, the entire four-hour party streams online, so consumers at home can get in on the fun and brands can get in front of even more people. The Toy Insider, co-host of the event, also posts highlight videos to YouTube, so everyone can see each company’s top priority items hitting shelves in the fall. Last year, Sweet Suite generated more than 88 million Twitter impressions, more than 1,580 original Instagram photos, and hundreds of blog post recaps. This year, Sweet Suite will be bigger and better than ever before, welcoming more bloggers, more brands, and more press. There are sponsorship levels available for every budget, so don’t miss your opportunity to connect with digital influencers before the holiday shopping season is in full swing. If you’re interested in learning more about these events, contact Laurie Schacht at



Smart Technology Spans N E W Categories by Reyne Rice, trend hunter, toy trend expert, industry analyst, and consultant


mart tech for kids is no longer buzzword lingo. It has become a reality and has grown to encompass so much more than just technology added to toys to make them interesting or “tech-y.” Today, kids’ technology-enhanced products offer engaging and explorative play patterns that span a wide spectrum of categories. And while there are new technologies being used in these toys, the thrill is in the play experience, not in the technology itself. New technology enhances and extends play patterns way beyond how kids were playing in past decades. Plus, parents, older siblings, caregivers, and educators are all using new technology that companies are translating into toys and tech products for kids’ worldwide. Here is a review of the top new segments that are emerging within the tech space, and some of the players that are leading the charge. Get excited, and get in on the fun. The best way to learn about new technology is to play right alongside kids as they use it.

GPS Tracking & Built-in GPS Technology Cars Kids love their remote-control vehicles, whether they are ground or flight racers. Newer technologies enhance this classic play pattern with even more options. Anki Overdrive Supercars are high-tech, intelligent vehicles that have built-in computers and use visual sensors to stay on the modular track system, even when they reach top speeds. WowWee’s REVs use BeaconSense technology and artificial intelligence (AI), so kids can race two cars at a time—the kid can control one car while the AI drive powers the other. Carrera has taken slot car racing to new levels with wireless 2.4GHz controls, and exclusive Ferrari and Porsche model vehicles. At the recent Star Wars Celebration convention, Sphero’s newest Star Wars-themed


Sphero BB-8 Droid was unveiled, for the highly anticipated fourth quarter release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. More details on the Droid will follow closer to the film’s release.

GPS TRACKING & BUILT-IN GPS TECHNOLOGY CARS • WowWee REV • Sphero BB-8 Droid • Carrera Digital 132 Hybrid Power Race Set • Anki Overdrive modular racing

Wearable Tech Lately, the Apple Watch has been the most highly promoted product in the adult wearable tech segment, and the GoPro camera has changed the way action sports are filmed. Kids


want to role-play these options, too, but with real working technology. Toy manufacturers have created kid-sized and parentaffordable options to fulfill this need. Following the success of its Kidizoom Smartwatch, VTech extends its wearable segment with the Kidizoom Action Cam. Designed for kids ages 4 and up, it can be mounted to a skateboard or a helmet, or can be used underwater to capture kids’ active life moments. The new wristband by Nabi, NabiGo, will launch this summer, offering a variety of activity tracking features designed just for kids. Moff Smartbands, introduced to the U.S. market at the North American International Toy Fair in February, are wristbands that use an app to activate sounds for an imaginative and fun role-play experience. Expect this segment to expand even more by the fall.

WEARABLE TECH • VTech Kidizoom Action Cam • Nabi NabiGo fitness band • Moff Smartbands

and Silverlit models that fit in the palm of your hand. Most of the smaller, quicker, and sturdier drones also have 3-D and even 4-D camera capabilities. Newer robots and drones have intelligence features built in, such as GPS tracking technology, internal gyroscopes, accelerometers, and motion- and gesture-sense technology. WowWee’s MiPosaur dinosaur uses BeaconSense tracking technology for a richer user experience, offering more varied valueadded play. Kids can build and program Spin Master’s Meccanoid G15 KS robot, which stands almost 4 feet tall. The Sky Rover, from Auldey Toys, is an innovative voice-activated helicopter. The Zano drone, from Torquing UK, can be programmed to hold steady in flight to take selfies of groups or action shots of a sports enthusiast’s daring feats. Expect more news in this segment as the holiday season approaches.

DRONES & ROBOTS • Spin Master Meccanoid G15 KS robot • WowWee MiPosaur • Silverlit Sky Copter • Evollve Ozobot • Zano drone (Torquing UK) • Auldey Toys Sky Rover

Drones and Robots This segment of the business was one of the top five trends identified at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, and the trend continued across toy fair trade shows worldwide. There are now affordable options under $100 and more advanced models selling for $500 or more. Some smaller robots and drones are available for $50, such as the Ozobot


Maker Movement & 3-D Printing Although Maker Fairs have been in the news for nearly a decade thanks to do-it-yourself (DIY) tech enthusiasts and hackers, they have gained in mainstream popularity with fam-


ilies and educators over the past few years. The focus is on tinkering, science, and technology, and there is a celebration of doers across all segments, embracing creativity and exploration. MakerBot, 3D Systems, and other major 3-D printer manufacturers have been working with toy and game manufacturers such as Mattel and Hasbro to bring their products to life, pairing 3-D expertise and toy expertise into incredible new licensed products for fans. Other manufacturers have chosen to create their own proprietary product lines to engage the hands-on maker. Jakks Pacific and Tech 4 Kids will each offer 3-D printing products for less than $100 this fall. ThinkFun, the classic brain games manufacturer, has a new line called Maker Studio. The Creativity Hub uses sketching and brainstorming to begin the creative thinking process with its new Extraordinaires Design Studio products.

oping technology. Mattel transformed the newest ViewMaster re-launch with stunning 3-D technology, in partnership with Google, offering a more animated and surround-viewing experience. Qualcomm has worked with many manufacturers to bring products to life with its Vuforia platform. One of the newest alliance partnerships is with Qualcomm, Activision, and Crayola, bringing Skylanders characters to life with Color Alive drawing products. Many other manufacturers are working with Qualcomm to bring their products to life this fall as well.

3-D & 4-D PRODUCTS • Mattel and Google View-Master • Quallcomm, Activision, and Crayola Skylanders Color Alive

Crafts & Creativity

MAKER MOVEMENT & 3-D PRINTING • Tech 4 Kids 3D Magic 3D Creation Maker • Jakks Pacific 3D Character Creator • ThinkFun Maker Studio • The Creativity Hub Extraordinaires Design Studio

3-D & 4-D Products With the adult tech world embracing the 3-D and 4-D trends through TVs, and GoPro cameras and drones available with on-the-go 3-D viewing capabilities, it is no surprise that kids’ products are now incorporating this continuously devel-


Even the usually less-connected craft category has added components of technology to its portfolio of products, embracing the DIY kid, who wants to be engaged through personalization of crafts and creativity, and then share, store, or capture their crafts online. Fashion Angels has extended its She-E-O-focused It’s My Biz range with more career business choices, a video how-to network, and an app for tracking sales, taking orders, and showcasing products and services with a smartphone. Wooky Entertainment has enhanced the collectibility factor of its Charmazing line of charm bracelets by adding a mobile app for kids to track charm collections, trade with friends, and connect with other fans on their way to becoming Charm-Masters. RoseArt has added new products at a variety of price ranges to its Graphic Skinz line of customizable art products. The vacuum chamber provides hundreds of options for customizing and creating unique art projects, and then offers an online gallery for kids to visit and be inspired to create new ideas, taking the urban vinyl style


trend to new levels. The Crayola Color Alive Easy Animation Studio brings kids’ drawings to life in an app through the company’s Color Alive technology, and includes a motion-capture mannequin, so kids can easily create animated videos with their new creations.

CRAFTS & CREATIVITY • Crayola Color Alive Easy Animation Studio • Wooky Entertainment Charmazing app • Fashion Angels It’s My Biz app • Rose Art Graphic Skinz Chamber and kits

Toys That Talk Although some controversy has been voiced over toys that use the Internet to deliver information to kids, these products push the boundaries of technology in new ways. Mattel’s Hello Barbie uses voice-recognition technology to talk with kids, remember details of conversations, and recall them in later conversations. ToyQuest’s My Friend Cayla uses technology to have real-time two-way conversations with kids and access a database to answer their questions. CloudPets are soft, cuddly friends that can send messages to and from a parent-approved list, speak directly to a child, and provide comfort and delight from parents, grandparents, or military family members, who may be in distant locations. ToyMail offers a similar theme, with messages sent via a cute animal-themed toy mailbox friend. Expect more products to emerge in this newer segment of the business in the coming months.


TOYS THAT TALK • Mattel Hello Barbie • Spiral Toys CloudPets (distributed by Jay@Play) • ToyMail • ToyQuest/Genesis My Friend Cayla With smart technology available across such a broad spectrum of toy categories, retailers will need to focus and decide which segments are the most lucrative options for their own business models. Carrying products that offer the best return for their customers and for their bottom line is a decision that is critical to ensuring that those products fly off shelves. With a variety of manufacturers and price point options, technology ■ is a segment that is extremely appealing. Reyne Rice is a toy industry consultant, trend hunter, and media spokesperson with 30 years of experience in marketing, researching, and analyzing the toy and game industry, children’s technology, entertainment and licensing, and the youth market. She is an international trade journalist and a frequent keynote speaker at conferences spanning Asia, Europe, and the U.S. Rice has owned her own consultancy, ToyTrends, since 2003, and can be reached at


HT G I L T O SP by Marissa DiBartolo



ech toys that make you feel cooler than Marty McFly are taking over toy store shelves, but not all of the coolest new toys are reminiscent of what Captain Kirk probably played with as a child. Classic play is not dead, and not all quality toys require a microchip. Some of the most innovative new products for kids feature little to no tech at all. Here’s a handful of my favorite new low-tech toys that promote classic tech-free play with exciting new twists.






1. Bunchems, from Spin Master, are tiny little spore-like plastic spheres that easily cling together, allowing kids to create vibrant 3-D models. They are flexible so kids can move and pose their creations. This new line is entirely unique, fusing creative construction with arts and crafts. 2. While action figures have been marketed toward boys since G.I. Joe’s combat boots hit toy store shelves in 1964, I Am Elemental is a new line of amazingly detailed 4-inch articulated figures designed to empower girls. And no—these ladies are not sparkly princesses that turn into superheroes. On the contrary, they are strong and vibrant examples of superpowers personified, including Courage, Enthusiam, Industry, and more. 3. With Crayola’s new Cling Creator, kids can make their own sticky little window clings using the included molds—but that’s not all. This new activity set also allows kids to mix their own gel colors and even create their own unique molds using clay and a smoother tool. It’s the best of Crayola for the last three years all rolled up into one set. 4. Now kids can blast away the competition with K-Force: Build and Blast, from K’NEX. The line includes eight different kinds of buildable foam dart blasters that each shoot up to 75 feet, fusing STEM learning with the excitement of blaster play. 5. Tomy’s Chuggington Wooden Railway line gets a makeover this year with the new 1-2-3 Track System, which allows kids to flip and flop track pieces without ever taking them apart. Each track piece is connected by hinges that flip, flex, and rotate 360 degrees. Kids don’t need to worry about track pieces coming apart, and the design allows kids ages 2 and up to creatively design tracks with ease. ■















Effective October 6, Kathleen McHugh will resign as president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA). She has been a member of ASTRA for more than 15 years, helping to create its annual trade show, ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy, and grow the organization in both size and importance. “It will be difficult to leave an organization with such an important mission and so full of many valued friends, colleagues, and mentors,” says McHugh. “However, ASTRA is well positioned to continue growing and to bring to fruition the businessstrengthening programs we have worked together to create. I see my departure as a leave-at-the-top-of-your-game proposition, and I’d like to thank all of you who supported me with your wise counsel, your fresh ideas, and your unwavering commitment to ASTRA’s work.” The ASTRA board will have an opportunity at its next meeting to discuss the direction, skills, and traits for new leadership to inform a search committee headed up by ASTRA Board Chair Michael Levins and Chair-Elect Dean May.





Propel Equity Partners, a private equity firm, has acquired Buzz Bee Toys, which specializes in active play toys. The acquisition marks the eighth by Propel Equity since August of 2012 on behalf of Alex Brands.




During the annual Western Toy and Hobby Representatives Association (WTHRA) membership meeting in March, the WTHRA board voted to adopt the following revised schedule for ToyFest West 2016, which will take place at the South Point Hotel Casino & Spa in Las Vegas: Sunday, March 6, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Monday, March 7, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Tuesday, March 8, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. In addition, the annual Gala will be moved to the last night of the show in celebration and appreciation of the buyers, vendors, and representatives.


Stand Out from the Retail Crowd


Differentiate Your Specialty Toy Store with ASTRA Programs


by Kathleen McHugh, president, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) o doubt about it: Retail is a highly competitive business, and if you are an independent toy store owner, the challenges come from all directions. While big box stores have the volume to undercut you on price, online retailers can have a large assortment and may use you as an unpaid, involuntary showroom while they enjoy the freedom of collecting sales tax on their customers’ purchases. Your own customers can be a huge boon to your store via social media, or just the opposite—a bad review (deserved or not) will have a bigger impact on a small local business than on a huge national operation. To succeed, you must differentiate your store through the products and the experiences that you offer. Independent toy stores have traditionally distinguished their brands by superior products and service. The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) is focused on supporting its retail members with industry-wide programs that highlight the specialty toy store advantage. Here are two examples of ASTRA programs that support the differentiation of its member stores:

ASTRA Exclusives Program

One strategy for making an ASTRA store a destination in its community is to offer top quality products with exceptional play value that customers cannot find anywhere else. The ASTRA exclusive program invites proposals from manufacturers for products to be sold only in ASTRA stores for a set period of time. Proposals are reviewed by a committee of ASTRA retailers, which selects manufacturers based on the uniqueness of the products and their fit with a “typical” specialty toy store brand. The first round of ASTRA Exclusives—by Snapo, PlanToys, and Outset Media—was announced earlier this year, and the products will be



exhibited at ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy in Charlotte, N.C. from June 7 to 10. The next round of ASTRA exclusives will be announced this fall.

Neighborhood Toy Store Day

Two ways that independent brick-and-mortar retailers have an advantage over big box and online retailers are: 1. The appealing, unique customer experience they can offer in their communities, and 2. Their alignment with the shop local movement that many parents embrace. These points of differentiation can be amplified each year when specialty toy retailers mark Neighborhood Toy Store Day, an ASTRA program that is held annually on the second Saturday in November. ASTRA provides its members with complimentary promotional resources—including press release templates, in-store signage and stickers, and professionally designed flyers featuring Best Toys for Kids award winners. Many manufacturers support the event with play day items and specials. The event offers storeowners a way to highlight their expertise on play, top quality products, attentive service, and commitment to the community. ASTRA’s priorities are established by its board of directors, which consists of retailers, sales representatives, and manufacturers who have a deep understanding of the challenges that independent toy stores face. Looking ahead, the specialty toy industry can expect to see additional initiatives that are designed to help retailers differentiate their stores. Watch for ASTRA’s new professional education program, which will help retailers promote their roles as the play experts in their markets—a mantle that no other retailer will be qualified to claim. ●


Chatting with the Industry

Specialty Toys & Gifts spoke with specialty manufacturers and retailers about trends, product mix, holiday expectations, and strategies for success. Jon Capriola founder and lead designer, Laser Pegs Ventures

Mark Carson co-founder, Fat Brain Toys

Doug Cass co-founder, Kahootz Toys


What are the biggest trends you’re noticing this year? Capriola: I believe there is a huge shift in the way people are shopping for toys. The Internet allows users to see videos about an item, read others’ reviews, read all descriptions of how and why the product works the way it does, and see images of the toy being used. The way toys in general are purchased seems less impulsive and more strategic. My belief is that if stores want to compete against the online mania, they need a greater in-store experience, which also needs to be memorable. It needs to be engaging and the way stores can compete is through amazing customer service and demonstration of products. The “I want it now” mentality will always be the human response to something they are emotionally connected with and if the retailer gets this correct, the customer will buy into this and return for a consistent purchase. Also, it helps if retailers set up their own online site to support the in-store shopping experience. Carson: From a product perspective, I continue to see real promise in the growing STEM and maker movements. Without question, the jobs of the future will require heavy doses of skills derived directly from science, technology, engineering, and math. But more than anything, the STEM movement has really just sparked a renewed interest in many of the products we’ve been focused on for over a decade.


Cass: Retailers are excited about toys that have tactile interactive components. Toys that allow children to make something are really on the rise and retailers are finding these to be their best sellers. Brands that have longstanding history with consumers are also helping to drive sales. Derr: There are trends and then there are fads. Currently, the trends are collectibles (Ty Beanie Boos, Pokémon, Shopkins), tween categories, jewelry, and products tied to movie launches. The other trend for us in the last two years has been a large uptick in book sales, both activity and learning. Fads involve hot items, but for a measured amount of time, and this year we are seeing Beados, and other collectibles such as Whiffer Sniffers and Bun Buns. Sommer: We continue to see the new buzz on STEM and STEAM growing. We are beginning to see a plethora of dinosaur- and Star Wars-related sell sheets coming across our desks daily. Our business model was founded on not following trends, just engaging our customers with our vision of what we think a great specialty toy store should be. Every time we have bought into a mandated trend, we have been disappointed. It has just never worked for us. Instead, we prefer to create our own trends. We find a toy we think is cool and has value and we run with it. This year we are going to promote a great game called Spikeball. You can play it


inside or outside. We will hire kids to play it in the park and donate the game to local schools’ physical education departments. We will sponsor the best teams to go to the regional and national competitions. This is just one example of how you make a trend. Do we always get it right? No, but we have had more successes than failures. In 2013, we got into the Kendama craze before anyone else had it on his or her radar and sold thousands of that one single item that year. Right now, the economy here in North Idaho is lagging behind the rest of the country in recovery. We are noticing anything over a $20 price point is tougher to sell than it used to be. As manufacturers have continued to raise their prices and shipping charges are through the roof, we have begun to have to analyze which companies we can move forward with. Striking the balance is becoming more challenging every day. Weingard: We’re seeing a consumer movement toward traditional, high-value toys. Parents are encouraging their kids to unplug from their electronic devices and interact with the world. There is an increasing awareness of the developmental value of play and the positive effects of toys that offer open-ended play, promote imagination and creativity, and provide a more social experience. Traditional play patterns are resurgent: the role-playing fun of a tin tea set, the simple delights of a jack-in-the-box, and the inherent joys of making music and playing games. We’re also seeing dramatic changes in consumer buying behavior. Today’s toy buyer is very discriminating. They seek out lasting value—toys that will stand the test of time— and they are increasingly educated and informed about what they are buying. Through social media they are reading reviews, seek-


ing opinions, and evaluating real world experiences before they make their buying decisions. It’s a very positive trend. How are you engaging customers to drive sales? Sommer: Community involvement! That’s the real mom-and-pop advantage. Educational support in our community is our primary focus. We donate to many educational programs and the parents and students respond. From donating books to school libraries to supplying the toys that kids buy in the school store for a work program, we never pass up a chance to talk about the hidden educational benefits of the toys we carry. The programs that we support get great regional and local press, so you could say that we are advertising with each program we support. But let me say, we don’t support these programs for the press! It’s what we need to do in a state that ranks 49th in state funding per student. They are our future employees. Also, we believe in what we call “experiential toy stores.” My kids grew up going to FAO Schwarz in New York City and the “wow” factor can never be underestimated. We have an amazing Garden of Readin’ with grass and trees with 80,000 LED lights and a real fountain. We have a real German carousel that kids, parents, and teens love to ride. “If you build it, they will come.” Derr: We do this every day by interacting with customers through our TPW (team, product, wow) strategy. Every day, every customer, every transaction. Our complimentary services of gift wrap, personalization, birthday registry, frequent buyer, demos/classes, and marketing/sales offers help make shopping in our stores easy, fun, and enjoyable. We talk with them over social media, email,


Rick Derr owner, Learning Express Toys Lake Zurich, Ill.

Susan & Brett Sommer owners, Figpickels

Cour d’Alene, Idaho

Paul Weingard president, Schylling


Chatting with the Industry and text message to communicate daily special information to those who really want the best value from Learning Express Toys. We add a product mix of the best items (many exclusives) and make our stores fun to be in with interactive displays, daily demos, and allowing the customer to open and play with any toy before they buy.

Figpickels’ Garden of Readin’

What is your distribution strategy for the specialty market? Cass: Our first focus is to have an active program whereby we are able to get product in front of retailers. For example, an aggressive participation in ASTRA’s annual trade show allows us to have our products in front of a large portion of the specialty retailers. Additionally, we work closely with buying groups, such as The Good Toy Group, Toy Collections, Brilliant Sky Toys, and Learning Express, and assure that they know our programs and that we work with them on in-store demos and circulars, and come up with an overall marketing strategy that grows the business. We also have continued success launching product into specialty—like our Fashion Plates program—and sales have been fantastic. Weingard: Schylling is committed to the specialty toy market and having our products available where our customers expect to find us. We have the best rep organization in the industry and have exceptional coverage in the toy and gift channels. We are working hard to help our accounts be



successful with our products. In addition to putting together the strongest line possible (with updates at Toy Fair and ASTRA), we’re being more aggressive with our merchandising tools, display and assortment options, and other in-store programs. Our terms are some of the best in the industry, helping our specialty retailers be financially successful with our line. For Schylling, customer service is paramount. Our inhouse team of professionals is there to make sure our store owners have what they need, can get their problems solved quickly, and take care of any issues that may arise. When you call Schylling you get a real person on the other end of the phone. We’re active in e-commerce, participating with Shopatron and the other major players, including Amazon. Some estimates show e-commerce is now more than 20 percent of the toy business. Our customers expect to find us there. However, we need to be there without negatively affecting our traditional retailers. Central to our e-commerce strategy is our MAP pricing policies. We feel it is incumbent on us to maintain retail price integrity on our products. We are very aggressive in enforcing MAP so that our brick-and-mortar stores don’t have to compete with deep discount online sellers. Carson: The specialty market IS our distribution strategy! We believe strongly that it’s the independent stores that take the time to really appreciate a product, understand its unique benefits, and know how to properly sell it. As such, we’ve implemented a number of mechanisms to support the specialty market, such as strict price controls and selective distribution. In our experience, if you give specialty retailers the framework to compete, they’ll do their part by embracing your products. Capriola: I think the one thing the specialty market has going for them is consumers love to get out of the house and shop—another human trait that isn’t going away anytime soon. I also believe it’s up to the manufacturer to provide specialty stores with a completely different value than found online and in a mass retailer. Though that statement is written easier than performed, it’s still a vital way to stay true to a long-term brand. Quality, delivery, and cost play a huge role in making retailers successful! What are your expectations for the upcoming holiday season? Derr: Bullish. The last two years have seen double-digit gains and this year will be no different. Our growth strategy allows new products to flow


Chatting with the Industry in, Lego is still growing double digits, and toy vendors have been surprising us with great new products at good price points. The season will come late again, but it will be strong. Carson: It’s definitely still early, but I would say that most of the trends point to a solid holiday selling season. While there are a number of positive industry trends, I rely upon our own internal efforts to meet our performance objectives. So from that perspective, I’m very optimistic!

Cass: Last year was only our second here at Kahootz, and it proved to be a terrific one from many aspects, including our coverage in the market and the resulting sell-through. This year, sales are up again, the general mood in the market is upbeat, and orders are trending ahead of last year. We feel that consumers overwhelmingly will shop at specialty for unique toys that make a difference in kids’ lives, and we see that trend on the rise. How do you prepare for the holidays to ensure you’ll have the right merchandise mix to meet your customers’ needs? Derr: We buy early and often. Starting in June we will buy about 60 percent of our product needs based on our sales forecast, and then by September add another 20 percent. We keep some open to buy to jump on last-minute trends or “surprise” products. This, I can guarantee, will always happen. We will order right through December to be ready for January, which for us is an above average month in sales.

Learning Express Toys of Lake Zurich, Ill.

Weingard: We are very optimistic about the upcoming season. Macroeconomic indicators are trending positive, consumer confidence is growing, and spending is up—all encouraging trends. We also see increasing strength and stability in our account base as they emerge from the challenging retail environment of the last several years. Schylling is having a strong year and anticipates a very good holiday season. This year, we’ve introduced the most expansive and aggressive line in our 40-year history and the reaction has been very positive. We’re following up a great Toy Fair with a new products program for ASTRA that is our broadest mid-year introduction ever. We’ve developed a line of Schylling brand and distributor lines that will meet the needs of our retailers and provide a compelling selection for our consumers. Capriola: [We expect] to stock shelf velocity items at the best value in


construction toys because we now have Kevin Harrington on our advisory board and assisting in all our marketing efforts. It’s my belief Laser Pegs has never been marketed to consumers correctly. That’s about to change forever! We have an all-time world-renowned legend about to make Laser Pegs a household name.


Sommer: We start in January (after catching our breath) to analyze our data on what our strongest departments/vendors were for the previous season. We decide if we want to continue building those departments/vendors or if we want or need to introduce new lines. We love to find diamonds in the rough and help them succeed. This becomes our framework for attending the trade shows. We also take note of whether a product starts popping up everywhere in town (Main Street in Coeur d’Alene is seven blocks). If a product line we have introduced starts popping up in every store on the street, we will look for something new to promote. Once the winter shows are over and we’ve determined our line lists, we carefully look at the numbers sold last year and then place orders with a 10- to 15-percent increase so that we can accommodate our growing gift certificate clients in January. We are fortunate to have a warehouse next to our store that is as large as our store (2,800 square feet) and try to keep it full most of the year.


Chatting with the Industry How do you maintain customer loyalty? Sommer: Loving our customers. I mean REALLY loving our customers. They are our friends, our colleagues, and our fellow citizens—our fellow Americans. They know we care! We happily accept all nationalities, all alternative lifestyles, and all religions. As long as you respect our store and the people in it, you are happily welcome. Our guests have included John Travolta, John Elway, Wayne Gretsky, etc. But everyone is treated like a superstar at Figpickels. We offer something for every demographic, whether they have 25 cents to spend or $25,000 to spend. Is it easy? Not really, but that’s what keeps them coming back—no matter what their income bracket, we’ll have something for them. Derr: Deliver a “wow” experience in-store and with all we do. Our customers feel comfortable and know we strive to make their children happy. Making Mom’s life easy with our Birthday Box Registry also helps. How do you utilize consumer feedback in product development? Cass: A good product development process should always be structured to anticipate consumer feedback and be focused on delivering the very best end product to the consumer. In today’s retail environment, consumers have easy access to a tremendous amount of information about the products they are considering purchasing. Whether delivered through a knowledgeable sales associate or an online review, consumer feedback is critical in determining a purchase and consequently the success or failure of a product. If a product development process is not focused on creating products that will garner the very best customer feedback, then it will never deliver successful products and sales results for you. Weingard: We listen. We constantly monitor social media and pay close attention to what people are saying about our products and make changes as appropriate. We read reviews, monitor blog posts, and encourage direct feedback though our social media efforts. Parents are passionate about toys for their kids and we tap into that energy and incorporate it into our development efforts. We also spend a lot of time talking to store owners and our reps. They are the experts on the frontlines of this business. Their input is invaluable and helps us identify trends and opportunities that are translated into new products. Capriola: Simple—I listen and take action immediately. Laser Pegs is still around because of our current customer base and their suggestions. Manufacturers that don’t listen won’t be around a long time.


Carson: We utilize consumer feedback in a couple of different ways. Direct feedback, such as play testing during the development phase, is always helpful, but often the sampling size is so small and subjective that it’s difficult to get an accurate read. But thanks to the direct retail component of our business, we gather a tremendous amount of aggregate data that we utilize to evaluate product-specific likes and dislikes. We use this data early and often to better our products and discover new categories. How do you leverage social media to maintain a relationship with your customers? Derr: Absolutely a must and most of our marketing budget has moved to social on mobile. This is where our customers and prospects are, so you must relate to them in an easy, fun, and quick interaction. Our 26,500 Facebook fans have a regular conversation with us, and we work hard to provide them with toy news, new products, special services/events, and great offers too. We also have fun by always highlighting funny content or local content that can help moms get through their busy days. What are your top-selling toys right now? Derr: Vendors: Lego (Minecraft, Disney), The Orb Factory (Plushcraft), Toysmith (Chalkie, 4M Science, Beamos), Ty (all styles), and Melissa & Doug (Mess-Free Glitter) Brands: Shopkins, Fablossom (local vendor but strong in the arts/crafts category), Beados, Logo Loop headbands Categories: arts and crafts, construction, and books Sommer: Games, puzzles, little things, outdoor toys, and books. Our games department has become our No. 1 selling department. Within that category, our customers love family games from Winning Moves, Back Alley Traders, Blue Orange Games, Days of Wonder, and of course, Tenzi. We have become known for our puzzle selection. We love Piatnik, Educa, Eurographics, Clementoni, and Ravensburger for their quality, and are introducing new puzzle lines all the time. We have a section called Little Things (nothing is over $10), which makes up our No. 2 spot. In the summer, outdoor toys from Ogo, rubber band blasters from Magnum, and Uncle Bubble products rule our universe. Those who think that technology is the be-all and end-all have never visited an amazing independent toy store! We love introducing the plugged-in generation to primitive toys like Slinky, Simon, and Newton’s Cradle. We don’t carry many technology items and haven’t missed a thing. ●






& ACADEMY Memory Mix Up, from MINDWARE, is a fast-paced family game that tests players’ memories and rattles their brains. Designed for 2 to 4 players ages 3 and up, the goal is to quickly memorize the picture tokens in the shaker paddle, because one player will have to turn the paddle over, give it a shake, flip it back over, and race to identify which token went missing through the handle’s exit slot. Players can make the game more challenging by adding more tokens into the paddle, or easier by loading fewer tokens. Kids ages 6 and up can create magical snow globe scenes with the Make Your Own Glitter Snow Globes kit. With a little imagination, 12 clay colors, micro glitter, a sculpting tool, and glue dots, kids can shape the clay and design their snow globes any way they like and then oven-bake for a permanent finish. With the Q-BA-MAZE Ultimate Stunt Set, kids ages 6 and up can experiment with this marble maze, which includes more than 170 pieces. With a full spectrum of colors and a complete range of stunts, kids can have endless fun watching their marbles swirl through the spiral sphere, fly on the pivot trampoline, and more. Kids can take fun story puzzles on the go with Mindware’s set of three books: Tangram Tales: Blue Surprises, Tangram Tales: Yellow Wonders, and Tangram Tales: Red Discoveries. Each book contains three puzzle pieces, which encourage kids to work with tangrams to help them identify shapes, understand basic principles of geometry, and develop problem-solving and spatial skills. Leaps and Ledges is a strategic card game for two to four players ages 8 and up. The goal is for players to maneuver all four of their pawns into the tower’s crown, using the game’s twists and turns to their advantage along the way.

The newest Polar Bear Cub, from FOLKMANIS, features an heirloom design with soft plush fur, padded paws, and a workable mouth. Kids can create their own fairytales with the Winged Dragon puppet. The mouth and wings of the fierce and bold flying reptile can be animated. The enchanting Sea Serpent puppet features scaly-looking, midnight blue skin, and a feathery, three-humped spine highlighted with bright blue accents on its movable head and tail. Polar Bear Cub

HOG WILD’s new AquaPod launches a two-liter soda bottle up to 100 feet in the air. Designed for kids ages 14 and up, the AquaPod comes assembled—kids just need a soda bottle, an ordinary bike pump, and water. They can fill the bottle half way with water, affix it over the launch tube, and pressurize the bike pump up to 50 PSI. Once kids pull the string, the soda bottle blasts off. The new Sea Life Poppers are ocean-inspired Poppers, including Orca, Octopus, and AquaPod Sea Horse. Kids ages 4 and up place the ball into the popper’s mouth, squeeze the belly, and shoot out the soft foam ball up to 20 feet. Each character includes six soft foam balls. Hog Wild will also introduce Brobo, a new nightlight buddy for toddlers.








BANANAGRAMS’ Zip It is compact enough to play on an airplane tray table and other places on the go. Featuring 24 high-quality letter cubes, the game challenges players to take 12 cubes and race against their opponent to create an intersecting word grid. Each round lasts just a few seconds, so gameplay is fast-paced and fun. Players track their points with scoring zippers on the unique travel pouch. This game is designed for two players ages 7 and up.

THAMES & KOSMOS introduces four new items that meld arts and crafts with science and imaginative play. In Dohdles!, kids sculpt a Dohdle—the approximate shape of an object or a living thing—out of modeling clay, making sure their opponents cannot immediately recognize what the sculpture is supposed to represent. The sculptor receives points if his or her solution is neither too easy nor too difficult, while his or her opponents receive points if they guess the exact word that the Dohdle represents. If a player thinks they can identify a Dohdle, he or she throws his or her guessing cube into the sorting funnel, and whoever’s cube comes out first can guess. Correct guesses move players around the game board, and whoever makes it around first wins. The Kids First Amusement Park Engineer features the story of two inquisitive kids who build, fix, and enjoy various amusement park rides. As kids follow along in real life, they can build and experiment with models of the 20 structures and machines in the story, including a Ferris wheel, a pirate ship pendulum, and a log flume ride. There is also a roller coaster with 10 different configurations of track pieces, and kids can vary the weight of the car causing the roller coaster car to behave differently in each setup. This 101-piece science kit teaches simple engineering concepts to preschool-age kids, and lays the groundwork for STEM-related skills and comprehension. It comes in a durable storage case for clean-up and transport. With Remote-Control Machines: Space Explorers, kids can build an R/C model of a robotic rover resembling the ones used to explore Mars. The remote controls up to three motors, which move the rover back and forth, turn its wheels to steer, and manipulate its robotic arm to pick up objects. The 237-piece construction set builds the rover, as well as nine additional space-themed models including a space shuttle with opening and closing cargo bay doors. It comes with a full-color, 64-page step-by-step illustrated manual for assembling all of the models, and teaches kids about Mars exploration, robots in satellites, and other space-related facts. The TK1 Telescope & Astronomy Kit is an entry-level kit that includes a high-quality refractor telescope with coated glass optics and lots of accessories. The instruction book provides enough guidance so that beginners can quickly find the moon, constellations, and planets in the night sky.








PACIFIC PLAY TENTS’ Tick Tock Clock 12 Foot Parachute teaches kids about shapes, numbers, and time, helping them develop perceptual, cognitive, motor, and academic skills. It is ideal for cooperative group play. To assemble the Presto Cabana Tent, adults simply remove the tent from the carry bag and pull the string upward. Perfect for setting up at the beach, in a backyard, or at the park, this tent has the structural stability to withstand wind and protects from harmful UV rays. To take it down, just touch the center. Kids can hop away in the polyester Jumping Sacks. Packaged in a set of four, these jumping bags offer children both physical and cognitive challenges. With the Fairy Blossom Gigantic Dome Tent, a fairy appears to fly over the sky with her wand in hand. The design features pastel colors and adorable little fairies. This six-sided tent has printed mesh panels for ventilation and comes with three color-coordinated shock-corded poles. The poles are to be combined with matching colored pole sleeves, making setup easy. Kids can wiggle their way through the Tie Dye Tunnel. There is interior padding around the wires to provide added safety and comfort. The tunnels are flexible and can always return to their original form, and kids can connect multiple tunnels to make the journey even longer.

Manufactured and distributed by ART’S IDEAS, Jenga Giant is the only licensed, giant wooden Jenga game. Weighing a total of 17 pounds, Jenga Giant lets kids stack a tower up to 4 feet high. The game uses the same rules as Classic Jenga, and comes with 54 large, precision-cut, high-quality, polished hardwood blocks. Designed for one or more players ages 10 and up, Jenga Giant also has an accessory kit (sold separately), including a carrying case designed to take it along to outdoor celebrations, the beach, and more.

Exploration is the final frontier with the galaxy-spanning 8 in 1 National Geographic Interstellar Rover kit, from LASER PEGS. Kids can use the fully loaded Rover to collect samples from any system, mine for precious minerals with the Subterrene, or chart alien waters with the Mini Submersible and Hydrofoil. Kids can own the skies with the 8 in 1 Scout Helicopter kit. Kids can build a Scout Helicopter kit, bring in the troops with the Chinook, and make sure nobody is left behind with the Rescue Chopper. Other buildable models include the Air Falcon, the Dolphin Tail, and the Twin Tail. With the 12 in 1 Formula Racer kit, kids can build a Modified Racer, a Convertible, a Street Racer, and many more. The 30 in 1 Super Copter kit offers kids a wide variety of models to build, including a Robotic Helper, a Solar Voyager, an F14 Tomcat, and a Light Infantry Tank. Each of these creations lights up with the Laser Pegs light-up bricks. Each kit includes a Power Block Power base; and the Power Base for the 30 in 1 Super Copter kit is also sound activated.

Tick Tock Clock 12 Foot Parachute


8 in 1 Scout Helicopter—Dolphin Tail







ADORA’s BabyTime Dolls are dressed in newborn embroidered onesies and have weighted bodies made to feel just like a real baby. Each doll comes with a soft polka-dot blankie and a feeding bottle.

INTERNATIONAL PLAYTHINGS has new offerings for kids in categories ranging from crafts and activities to games. In its Earlyears line for babies, the Link ’n Lovey Elephant is suitable for ages 0 to 1. With tons of textures for baby to explore, there’s a link that easily attaches to the crib, car seat, stroller, and more for on-the-go fun. For babies ages 6 months to 2 years, the Deluxe Fill ’n Fun Water Mat allows kids to engage in water play while staying dry, and the Feed ’n Roll Froggy is a fun ball game for kids. New to the Kidoozie line for toddlers and preschoolers is the Playtime Parachute, which encourages outdoor play, teamwork, and sharing; the Pirate Ship Sand & Water Table, which is a two-in-one, 20-piece set that allows for both sand and water play; and a Decorate Your Own Princess Fairy Wings set, which allows kids ages 3 and up to style their own princess fairy wings with glitter stickers. International Playthings will continue to expand its Aquabeads line with the Aquabeads Beginners Studio for kids ages 6 and up. This set includes 800 jewel and classic beads, a storage bin with a lid, a sprayer, four design templates, and a bead pen. In the Games Zone line, Buddy’s Balloon Launch is a game for two to four players ages 3 and up. Players take turns rolling the die and cranking Buddy’s fin. The first player to make Buddy’s balloon launch is the winner. In Dash Hounds, two to four players ages 4 and up race to be the first to cross the finish line with their tail to win.

WIGGLES 3D’s Bellz magnetic game features a travelready pouch that opens to become the game arena and 40 custom bells in four different colors and three different sizes. Players use the magnet wand to pick up bells of only one color. They can make a string off the end of the wand or create a cluster, but they can’t pick up any bells of another color or their turn is over. Each player must decide how far to push his or her luck on every turn. The first player to collect all 10 bells of one color is the winner. Eye Know—Trivia for Your Eyes has a new booster pack to expand the game with new content. The new 100card pack gives players the opportunity to expand their kit to 500 cards. Bellz

Deluxe Fill ‘n Fun Water Mat








Made in the U.S. from 100-percent recycled plastic milk containers, GREEN TOYS’ line of environmentally friendly toys expands with Mini Construction Vehicles, for kids ages 2 months and up. The set includes a front loader with a moveable scooper, a cement mixer with a revolving drum, and a dump truck with a classic open box bed. Each vehicle comes with its own bulldog construction worker, which kids can interchange between the three vehicles. They do not contain any BPA, PVC, phthalates, or external coatings, and are packaged using recycled and recyclable materials and are printed with soy inks.

Magic Moves RainbowJam


PLAY VISIONS’ Sands Alive! line grows (and glows) with new Sands Alive! Glow, which is playful sand with a customizable glow feature. Now kids can make creations that glow in the dark using the two included tools: the Sands Alive! Glow Tool and the Sand-Charging Glasses. The Sands Alive! Glow Tool is a light pointer kids use to doodle in the sand. Kids can highlight a cool feature of their structure, practice the alphabet, or draw a funny face. The Sands Alive! Sand-Charging Glasses transforms the sand as kids build and play. Different movements cause different glowing reactions.

EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS introduces Magic Moves RainbowJam. Kids can touch a color to hear a musical note, or touch multiple colors to compose their own masterpieces. They can sing along to nine color songs with different musical styles, including rock and jazz. It also recognizes colors from any flat surface. RiddleCube is a game that encourages outside-of-the-box thinking. Players must draw a challenge card, and then fold, twist, and stretch their RiddleCube to recreate the picture or word challenge depicted on the card. The first player to complete five challenges wins. Parents can make bedtime stories interactive and memorable with the Pete the Cat Puppet-on-a-Stick. It can be used to bring any of the 20 published Pete the Cat storybooks to life, or kids can use it for imaginative puppet shows. In the Koala Capers game, players roll dice to find a pattern and search cards for an outfit with the matching pattern to help the Koala family find their outfits. The first player to collect five outfits wins, but one bad roll can put a wrinkle in his or her plans. Players can cross train their brains with Kanoodle Extreme, which features a sliding game board and more than 300 2-D, 3-D, and sliding 2-D puzzles. Kids can pick one of the 12 puzzle pieces, set up the challenge, and place the remaining pieces to solve the puzzle.







The Eitech

EITECH will introduce Dinosaur Series T-Rex The Eitech Dinosaur Series. The series will launch with three dinosaurs—Triceratops, Brachiosaurus, and T-Rex—that kids can build with the Eitech steel. Each set develops 3-D thinking and promotes creativity, learning skills, and fun. Kids can tap into their imaginations to design and engineer a dino structure with autentic details, including the lifelike building tools, metal building pieces, and illustrated instructions.

WONDER FORGE’s Care Bears Matching Game is a picturematching game featuring kids’ favorite Team Care-a-Lot characters. Players try to flip over brightly colored tiles to match pictures of Wonderheart Bear, Cheer Bear, Tenderheart Bear, Funshine Bear, and more.

KAHOOTZ gets kids designing with the Action Plates set, which lets young artists create their own action hero characters through mixing and matching. Kids combine different rubbing plates together in the Action Plates tablet, and then pass the rubbing tool across a few times to see the design transfer onto the included sketch paper. Kids can add colors and details using the textures built into the back of each Action Plate. Each set includes the drawing tablet, double-sided plates, crayons, a storage tray, and more. With the Fashion Plates Design Set, kids create their own stylish designs by combining the different rubbing plates together in the Fashion Plates tablet, and then passing the rubbing tool across, transferring the design onto the sketch paper. The set includes the drawing tablet, doublesided plates, colored pencils, a carry-along portfolio, and more. New Fashion Plates expansion sets include the Glamour Collection, which lets kids create designer gowns and dresses with 10 new plates, and the Sports Collection, which introduces sporty styles and fitness fashions through 10 new plates. For both sets, fashion textures are built into the backs of each plate. All Fashion Plates expansion sets utilize the drawing tablet found in the Fashion Plates Design Set, and they can be mixed and matched to create more unique styles. Play-Doh Classic Style Fun Tools features a vintage-style reusable storage can, eight cans of Play-Doh, and a set of classic-style tools with the look of real wood, but the durability and safety of plastic. It also comes with a laminated, double-sided play mat with picture-based building recipes. The Play-Doh Classic Style Fun Factory includes a vintage-style storage box, eight cans of Play-Doh, 12 shape plates, and the Fun Factory itself, modeled after the version first introduced in 1960. The plates slide onto the factory chute and pump out unique Play-Doh forms, while the laminated play mat features picture-based building recipes. Just in time for the 50th anniversary of Spirograph, the Spirograph Die-Cast Collector’s Set is upgraded for the first time ever in diecast metal. Each set includes golden die-cast metal wheels, a golden die-cast metal ring, ballpoint pens, reusable spiro-putty, a collector’sedition display tin, and more.








Elf Magic will celebrate 25 years of Christmas tradition with the limited release of its original boy and girl elves. The 25th Anniversary Workshop Elves come with everything kids need to make a home for the elves. Kids can play with their elves all day and discover their magical nighttime adventures each morning. The set includes a limited-edition elf, a Santa’s Workshop apron, a storybook, magic snowflakes, a bed/workbench, and more.

THE ORB FACTORY’s PlushCraft kits require no sewing to create. Kids ages 5 and up can build a 3-D Hedgehog or Raccoon by following a numbered legend and using the stylus to punch out pretty fabric pieces. The Pixel Pops Pug is a pixilated Pug that kids create using the stylus to pick up and stick small squishy cubes onto a base, and then building up the base and layering colored squares to create an 8-bit-inspired pet. The Pixel Pops Pug is recommended for ages 7 and up. Kids ages 7 and up can create Sew Softies Sea Creatures available in Crab, Fish, and Octopus styles. This sea creature collection doubles as a sewing lesson. The Curiosity Kits Sonic Powerballs kit lets kids create different Sonic Balls in two sizes. Recommended for ages 8 and up, kids place a sound chip into their mold for a ball that makes crazy sound effects when bounced. Each kit creates up to five noise-making balls that fly up to 70 feet. Sticky Mosaics Princess is a new take on the classic kit in which kids prep for the Royal Ball. Recommended for ages 5 and up, kids decorate five princess dresses with the gems included in the kit.

GUND will introduce the 14-inch Curious George Astronaut plush. George is dressed as an astronaut complete with shiny gloves, boots, a jetpack, and a removable helmet. The plush is surface-washable and suitable for kids ages 1 and up. The My Little Garden Playset is a five-piece play set that includes an embroidered green watering can complete with touch-and-close fasteners for secure storage. This play set features a flower squeak toy, a seed packet rattle, a shovel crinkle toy, and a plush garden gnome sound toy. A bonus coloring sheet is included. The My Little Garden Playset is appropriate for all ages. Rexton is a mighty green T-Rex with scaly green plush fabric and realistic details. Rexton is 23 inches tall, surface-washable, and recommended for kids ages 1 and up. Huggins Hippo is a cuddly, grape-colored plush with floppy arms and a soft belly. It is surface-washable and appropriate for kids ages 1 and up. Gund will also introduce collectible Beanbag Pals to its line of Sesame Street products. Each item features accurate embroidered character details. The plush can be squeezed and stacked, as well as safely tossed, thrown, kicked, and juggled. The Beanbag Pals are surface-washable and appropriate for ages 1 and up.



Curious George Astronaut plush






SET ENTERPRISES launches Mini Round versions of its card games, including Set, Quiddler, Five Crowns, and Karma. All four pocket-size games arrive just in time for the start of the summer travel season, and each shorter, faster version of the original game can be played by just a few people in 10 to 15 minutes. Both Set Enterprises and the Set game celebrate 25 years with Set Mini Round, which can be played solo or in a group. Quiddler Mini Round is word-based fun that travels well, while Five Crowns Mini Round is a fivesuited, rummy-style game. Karma Mini Round is unpredictable, with a subtle strategy designed to get competitive juices flowing. All Mini Round games are recommended for kids ages 8 and up, and each comes in a playful tin.

MADAME ALEXANDER DOLL CO. introduces the Babblebaby Little Sister doll, which babbles, coos, and giggles back to kids. Suitable for ages 3 and up, Babblebaby will engage kids to connect with and care for her. Madame Alexander has also partnered with Crayola for Pixie Doodle Doll sets, allowing girls to decorate their own dolls to express themselves and use their imaginations. Designed for kids ages 3 and up, the new line includes five fairy dolls for decorating, coloring, and playing. They are fashioned with playful, colorful hair inspired by Crayola color names and popular color fashion trends for girls. Each set comes with a 9-inch Pixie Doodle fairy doll, a fairy dress kids can color and doodle on, detachable glitter-edged wings to decorate, sparkling colored gem stickers, Crayola Babblebaby markers, and inspiration Little Sister for young decorators.

In Ring It!, from BLUE ORANGE GAMES, players continuously flip their cards until a combination is found. The first person to find a combination must clap his or her hands and ring a bell. Hesitation will cost a player first place, but acting too quickly will result in a penalty. Super Genius is a collection of educational matching games developed for parents and teachers to help little ones practice important academic concepts in engaging ways. The line comes in five different versions to learn reading and math skills. There will always be one match between any two cards. Gobblet Gobblers challenges each player to line up three pieces in a row. The game plays like tic-tac-toe with a twist, where an opponent’s piece can be Ring It! gobbled up if it’s smaller than the playing piece. In Thumbs Up, the goal is to be the first to stack different colored rings on a thumb, based on the order shown on a challenge card. In Rally Up!, 110 exotically illustrated cards are shuffled, distributed, and then rhythmically turned face up on a table. Players must race to rally up two or more images belonging to the same family.








UNCLE MILTON introduces the My Sign! Light-up Sign Activity Kit, a light-up sign that kids can customize with their name, nickname, or favorite word. Kids can decorate it, display it on their wall, and enjoy a colorful light show. Recommended for ages 5 and up, the My Sign! Light-up Sign Activity Kit is available in boy and girl versions.

JC TOYS will continue to offer the Berenguer Boutique Collection of Classic Dolls made in Spain. The Nonis and Carla collections are soft body dolls featuring soft hair and sculpted faces. Each doll has its own unique expression.

FAT BRAIN TOY CO.’s Swingy Thing has colorful spinning flippers and dippers that send kids into crazy chaos as 52 challenges get their hands and brains moving together. The levels vary by changing the number of flippers and dippers players spin, creating a challenging and fun experience for adults and kids alike. The new game WOO! challenges players to gain points by spelling out the numbers “one” through “ten” using the letter tiles. Players earn as many points as the number that they spell out—for example S-I-X earns six points. The first player to reach 21 or more points wins this easy-to-learn game that introduces addition and spelling concepts. In Neck of the Woods, the giraffes are hungry and need to eat. Players roll the die to determine which blocks they have to use, and try to stack the blocks so the giraffes can reach the reward. The higher the leaves are in the tree, the more points they are worth. ModMobiles turn vehicular playtime into creative mix-and-match fun. Each ModMobile is made of a wooden chassis with rubber wheels, two removable plastic runners, and three uniquely shaped foam body pieces, all of which can be switched out and mixed up. Each set of ModMobiles comes with three vehicles. Mini Squigz—40 percent smaller than original Squigz—is Fat Brain’s newest member of the Squigz family. The set is packed with more pieces, and features a new shape and new colors. Kids can stick them to any flat surface to build them up, out, sideways, and around. Kids can pull them apart to hear the popping sound. Rolligo consists of 10 multi-colored spheres that kids can stack inside the special Rolligo rack. Then they give it a little push and watch as the colors spin in all directions. Rolligo encourages gross motor, fine motor, and imaginative play skills.




The Boogie Board Jot 8.5 eWriter, from KENT DISPLAYS, is a paperless memo pad that features an ultra-bright reflective LCD surface that is 50 percent brighter than previous models. It is also ultra-thick and ultralight, making it ideal for use in the home or office, at school, or on the go. The Boogie Board Play ’n Trace Paperless Doodle Pad is specifically designed for the toy market and is the first Boogie Board e-writer with a translucent LCD writing surface. The toy’s form is similar to an artist’s palette, making it comfortable to hold for hands of all sizes. The translucent writing screen allows two- and three-dimensional objects to be traced. A free Play ’n Trace activity center mobile app includes learning exercises, games, and drawing templates.

MOONJAR introduces new moneyboxes to help teach kids about financial intelligence. The Classic Moonjar Moneybox is a tin, three-part moneybox with a guide and a passbook to encourage setting family goals and having discussions about saving, spending, and sharing. The International Moonjar Moneybox celebrates the Moonjar’s 10th anniversary. Each metallic section of this box is wrapped in the words “Save,” “Spend,” and “Share” in different languages from around the world.

Boogie Board Play ’n Trace Paperless Doodle Pad








AEROMAX expands its Get Real Gear dress-up line for kids with police officer, fighter pilot, firefighter, and dolphin trainer costumes. In addition, Firefighter and Police Accessory Packs have all the tools pretend first responders will need to come to the rescue. The Firefighter Accessory Pack includes a crowbar, an ax, a badge, and a fire extinguisher that squirts water, and the Police Accessory Pack includes handcuffs, a radio, a baton, and a badge. The Sky Blaster rocket soars up to 120 feet, whistling as it flies through the air. It is completely kid-powered, and doesn’t require any batteries. With the Aerobatic Foam Flyer, kids can grip and toss the plane up to 100 feet in the air, or they can use it to perform stunts, such as dives and loops.

BUILD & IMAGINE will debut two new playsets—Fairytale Theater and Pet Portrait Studio. These magnetic building sets aim to help kids develop fundamental STEM skills as they build scenes for their stories. These sets are designed to serve as a launch pad for imaginative play for both boys and girls.

WINNING MOVES GAMES introduces Fish, Fish, Squish!, in which players ages 5 and up mold five fish out of dough, and then flip cards until a player gets three matches in a row. Then, that player gets a free squish of any opponent’s fish. The last player with an un-squished fish is the winner. A twist on the classic game of Connect 4, Connect 4 Twist & Turn features a layered playing tower with layers that twist. Recommended for kids ages 6 and up, players must choose whether to drop a disc of their color into the tower or twist a layer to switch up the game play. In Guess Who, there’s a mystery person on one player’s card, and the other player must try to find the matching face in the crowd. Players ask one yes or no question at a time, and then take a guess. Guess Who is recommended for ages 6 and up. Hi-Ho! Cherry-O helps children develop and practice math skills such as counting, addition, and subtraction by picking fruit from the trees to fill their buckets. Recommended for kids ages 3 and up, each set contains a plastic game board with four trees and buckets, plastic cherries, a fully assembled spinner, and more. The classic edition of Candy Land features the same graphics and components from the game’s early days. Each game contains a game board, plastic gingerbread men movers, a deck of cards, and instructions featuring “The Story of Candy Land.” The game is designed for kids ages 4 and up.




UNIVERSITY GAMES expands this year with new crafting products, brainteasers, and games. With Bloom Pops, kids ages 5 to 12 can express their creativity while making customized and scented flower fashion accessories, bouquets, jewelry, and charms. With the Flower Design Studio, girls can create Bloom Pops with Poppi and display their customized creations on Poppi’s Display Tree. Each kit includes more than 30 petals and more than 40 gems. The My Studio Girl line delivers new sew-and-go craft play opportunities with Tiny Town Buddies and Rescue Pets. Each kit provides girls ages 8 and up with a step-by-step, safe-sewing experience. The BePuzzled brand introduces the latest in its lineup of brainteasers, Cubix Tube, which doubles as the first moveable marble maze. Players must solve the brightly colored cube puzzle and then navigate a marble through an internal tube maze. The company’s Briarpatch brand will launch the Bob Books Happy Hats Game for kids ages 4 and up, introducing beginning readers to letter names, letter sounds, and simple words through a word-building game based on the Bob Books series. In Let’s Feed the Very Hungry Caterpillar Game, a board game for ages 3 and up, children practice number and color recognition, as well as counting and building skills as they collect butterfly puzzle pieces. The game is based on Eric Carle’s best-selling book The Very Hungry Caterpillar.





BRER RABBIT TOYS has a range of new outdoor toys, starting with the Lightning Football, also available in a mini version, which can fly up to 100 feet because of its lightweight construction and a special tail design. The 7-foot and 14-foot Jump Ropes are sturdy, vibrantly colored jump ropes designed to endure hours of play. Each jump rope has soft foam grip handles to support kids’ hands. The 14-foot Jump Rope is ideal for Double Dutch play and more. Kids can practice their bowling skills on any level surface with the Bowling Set. It comes with sturdy pins and a ball with a finger hole, which provides durability and dexterity. The set also has a carry-all design for active use. The Soccer Set includes a ball and four cones, and teaches kids the basics of soccer, while the Golf Set provides kids with toy versions of a golf bag, clubs, and balls, as well as a lightweight cloth bag. For baseball fans, the Bat & Ball Set provides six balls for extensive swinging and hitting practice, and a lightweight foam bat with an easy-grip handle. The Badminton Set features a large-face racket, two shuttle cocks, and foam grip handles. The Bonus Birdies pack includes two extra large birdies as an add-on for the Badminton Set. In addition, the Catcher’s Set includes a tennis ball that sticks to the two Velcro paddles for a throw-and-catch game and a unique mesh carry bag that helps store and carry the paddles and ball.

Jumbo Jamboree

TOMY’s Jumbo Jamboree becomes a one-man band when kids push it along. Kids can also separate the instrument pieces that make up its body to play each one by itself, remove its nose and toot a little tune with the saxophone, or shake the elephant’s ears and create a gentle melody with jingle bells. When kids pull out the top handle, the orange section becomes a drum, the green section is a harmonica, and the yellow section is a xylophone. When kids want to put Jumbo Jamboree back together again, they can match his colors into the correct sections and pop his ears and nose back on. The Push Me Pull Me Puppy is a combination pull-and-push toy. The puppy will follow babies along no matter which way they push or pull its leash. Featuring a happy song and realistic walking movements, babies can press its nose and hear its bark and pant. The puppy is designed for kids ages 1 and up and includes a bone and dog dish for role-play. Sort ’n Pop Farmyard Friends encourage toddlers to learn shapes, numbers, and animal sounds. As each animal is placed into its properly shaped spot in the truck, the corresponding animal sound plays. Once the truck is full, it zooms off until the animals pop out, all ready to be re-sorted. The Lamaze Flip Flap Dragon, intended for kids ages 0 to 2, has a clip that kids can pull to make its wings flap up and down to trigger a click-clack sound. Its crinkly feet, satin hands, and squeaker nose provide sensory play for babies. The clip allows the Flip Flap Dragon to hook onto strollers, car seats, and diaper bags for convenient travel. The Chuggington Wooden Railway 1-2-3 Track Wilson Rides the Rails Set includes a Wilson Wood engine, as well as three feet of track connected with hinges that flex up and down and rotate 360 degrees. This starter set is recommended for kids ages 2 and up.




Kids can load the cargo onto SMARTLAB TOYS’ Drop Zone Cargo Release Glider, set the timer to release the payload, and let it fly. When the time is up, the cargo bay door opens and the payload drops. Kids can use the target flags to practice hitting the mark while learning how to master timing, calculate angles, measure wind speed, and more. This easy-to-assemble EPO glider has a 28-inch wingspan and comes with decal stickers to customize the body, a 24-page book, and three Stanley the Pig stuntman payloads. Kids can build an abandoned schoolhouse or mix and match pieces to create a unique structure with the Demolition Lab Wrecking Ball + Abandoned Schoolhouse. Then, kids can knock down what they built using the wrecking ball while they learn the science of energy, momentum, and gravity. Kids can combine multiple Demolition Lab kits for more construction and destruction fun. The Girls Only! Secret Message Lab comes with two cases and everything needed to create codes and write secret messages. Girls will discover 25 ways to share secrets, including how to make invisible ink, how to reveal mysterious messages using UV light waves, how to write custom secret codes, and sneaky methods for passing notes. The 24-page book includes activity instructions, science information, and facts about how codes have been used throughout history. With the All Natural Spa Soaps kit, kids can make more than 25 melt-and-pour soaps while learning about molecules, emulsifiers, and botanicals. In addition to chemistry lessons, the 16-page booklet is filled with recipes using all-natural ingredients from the kitchen and the garden, such as flowershaped Flower Power Garden Bars, which calls for lavender or rose petals, and seashell-shaped Island Dream Bars, which calls for coconut oil.





DIGGIN ACTIVE is set to launch Slimeball, a new active role-play line that combines the fun of slime without the mess. Slimeballs will only stick to other products in the line and won’t stick to any other surface or leave any marks behind. Slimeball Dodgetag is the ultimate game of dodgeball, where each player wears a vest and throws the soft, squishy Slimeballs at their opponents’ vests. With Slimeball Target Practice, kids try to shoot the targets, which feature special interlocking technology that lets kids link multiple targets together. The Slimeball Slinger shoots Slimeballs up to 30 feet using the included slinger, which has a gel grip and a unique, easy-to-use aiming system. Kids can have the ultimate fight with the Slimeball Battle Pack, which includes six Slimeballs.

SCHYLLING TOYS will launch a new preschool line based on The Jester, made famous in the classic Jack-in-the-Box toy. The line includes a kaleidoscope, an activity Dress-up Jester, a Jester Humming Top, and a High Wire Rider. Schylling will also introduce the Scoot and Ride, a twoin-one ride-on scooter and balance bike that transforms back and forth with the press of a button. It’s made of durable aluminum and steel with high-performance EVA tires. StyleModel expands with new sets for the aspiring fashionista to dream, design, and draw. StyleModel adds two new sets: Hand Designer and Shoe Designer to let kids create the perfect accessories. For a younger audience, the new StylePrincess brings fashion coloring fun to girls ages 3 and up. With Horses Dreams, the youngest equestrians can let their imaginations run wild with spiralbound coloring and sticker books.

Slimeball Dodgetag Schylling’s toy line based on The Jester

CREATIVITY FOR KIDS, a Faber-Castell company, introduces the Make Your Own Sweet Dreams Catcher, which lets kids create their own personalized dream catchers with beads and feathers for happy thoughts, bells and charms for good luck, and rhinestones and silver wings for special wishes. Kids can also create, wear, and share their own dream catcher friendship bracelets with the Dream Catcher Bracelets set. The set includes enough materials to make up to four bracelets, including embroidery thread, beads, and metal rings. Designed for preschoolers, Fun Felt Dinosaurs and Fun Felt Forest Pals each include stickers and wiggly eyes for kids to build and decorate three soft and sturdy animals. The no-mess kits allow kids to practice fine motor skills with peel-and-press stickers, while letting their imaginations run wild through a pretend forest or prehistoric times.




The 3D 2 in 1 Puzzles, from PLASMART, let kids use all the included pieces to create a traditional, flat jigsaw puzzle, or use select puzzle pieces to build a 3-D toy. The brightly colored landscape that decorates the inside of each box provides a background for kids to engage in imaginative play. There are three puzzles to choose from: Airplane, Fire Truck, and Digger. PlaSmart’s Kick Flipper enhances balance, footwork, and coordination skills—essential basics for skateboarding, snowboarding, and surfing—in kids ages 3 and up. Kids can use the Kick Flipper on carpet, grass, sand, or snow. They can learn the basics through the Kick Flippers Boarding Basics step-by-step instructional video, which will be mobilefriendly and available online. Kick Flippers are lightweight and can support up to 200 pounds. Kids can fill the Magic Canvas’ stylus with water and draw to bring out the colors hidden in the canvas. Then, they can watch as the pictures slowly disappear and dry back into a blank canvas, ready for a new creation. The dual-sided canvas lets little artists keep drawing on one side while the other side dries. The Smart Mat has a new design for this year: Traintown. Kids can engage in imaginative play using their own trains and figures with the farms, work sites, circus tents, and train station that are pictured on the mat. Smart Mat multi-purpose mats are ideal for indoor or outdoor play, and are easy to clean, travel with, and store. Travel Bingo will entertain kids and help road trips speed by. Kids can slide the windows shut as they spot roadside attractions. Travel Bingo comes with a set of two cards, so kids can play alone or with a travel buddy.






FASHION ANGELS will add the Pixel Loom to its lineup this year, allowing kids ages 8 and up to create their own bracelet designs. Kids can use the designs provided, or create unique pixel image bracelets. 3D Head Case kits allow kids to make a unique piece of 3-D wall décor for their rooms by punching out the pieces and sliding them together to form animal puzzles. Kids can then use the decorative stickers, gems, puffy glitter applique, and more to decorate in their own way. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, these kits come in different styles, including a deer, a dog, a cat, and a bunny. Customizable room décor expands with the Chox’d Chalkboard Peace Sign Wall Art Kit. Kids use the bright, colorful chalk to design the chalkboard-finish peace sign. When they’re ready for a new design, they simply erase the board and start all over. With the Hair Tattoo Kit, kids can show off a trendy hair stencil look and top it off with dazzling gems and a star-shaped bow. The color washes out with shampoo. The Fashion Angels Weaving Loom lets kids weave unlimited lengths of knitted items. Kids ages 8 and up can create unique scarves, shawls, ponchos, and more. Once the included yarn is finished, kids can continue the fun with any yarn from their local craft store.

DOUGLAS CO. introduces Baby Gift Sets, coordinated gift ensembles that feature a variety of baby accessories. Each set includes a Plumpie, a Bedtime Book, a Lil’ Snuggler, and a Sshlumpie in zonkey, lamb, fox, bunny, monkey, or giraffe versions. Douglas has also added six plush Pudgies to the Wildlife collection: Rollo the Wolf, Gaston the Frog, Bonita the Raccoon, Minty the Moose, Vixen the Fox, and Bjorn the Black Bear. Each 16-inch plush is fashioned in its natural coloring with realistic features, and is made of soft, faux fur of various lengths and textures. Douglas also expands its Dreamy DressUp line with new Fairy Tutus, Fairy Glitter Wings, and Fairy Hair Wraps. Designed for kids ages 2 and up, these items are intended to inspire imagination and get kids moving. Zonkey Lil’ Snuggler



Hansel & Gretel

PEBBLE introduces new pirate, mermaid, and cowboy rattles, which are colorful, themed rattles hand-crocheted with soft, cotton yarn. Their soft rattling sound helps to stimulate and entertain babies. Hansel & Gretel are the newest members of Pebble’s Once Upon a Time Collection, while the new robot rattles have plenty of quirky appendages for little ones to grip onto. All of Pebble’s rattles are machine-washable, fair trade products.



SKULLDUGGERY introduces the new Max Traxxx Tracer Racers R/C Sets with glow-in-the-dark track and two remote-control Tracer Racers. Kids can set up their own customized racing circuit and watch the Tracer Racers utilize Light Trail Technology as they blaze streaks of light on patented glow-in-the-dark track. Each Tracer Racer beams purple light rays down from its undercarriage onto specially engineered track that emits glow remnants after the racer passes. The Twin Loop Set features more than 36 feet of track, two loops, and four dual corners; the Infinity Loop Set features more than 46 feet of track, a dual loop, and six dual corners.


The TRUNKI line of hand luggage for kids gains two new members to its family: Bluebell and Bronco. Kids can pack Trunki cases with their favorite belongings while parents keep them in tow. Recommended for kids ages 3 and up, the cases are made from the same lightweight, yet durable plastic as adult suitcases, and are tested for kid-inflicted wear and tear.







The educational Dinosaur Find It Game, from IDENTITY GAMES, features a clear tube filled with recycled, earthtone plastic pellets. Hidden inside are various dinosaur figurines, such as a pterodactyl, a plesiosaurus, and a T-Rex. Other new versions of Find It include Discover America, Pirates, NFL Players Association, and Bible, so that kids can explore landmarks, pirate worlds, the world of the NFL, and biblical times. Find It To-Go games are travel-friendly editions of various Find It games. Tiny World is Identity Games’ new series of micro-environments for kids to explore. They can use the powerful XPlorescope to find more than 300 hidden objects scattered around the Tiny World cards. Each Tiny World game contains a 45x magnifying microscope with an attached LED light. Kids can also use the microscope to explore other objects outdoors and around the house. Each edition comes with a number of missions for various ways to play. Tiny World games are available in different versions, including Wildlife and Dinosaur.

LYLA TOV MONSTERS, designed by 3-year-old Lyla Black, are protectors of a good night’s sleep. Each Lyla Tov (which means “good night” in Hebrew) Monster has a unique personality and attitude, but they all have the ability to scare off the monsters in kids’ lives by making them feel safe and secure before they fall asleep. Charlotte has a happy, smiling face, bowed pigtails, and a purple and pink color palette. She can lighten kids’ spirits and calm their nerves before bedtime. Forrest is always on guard in case there’s a bump in the night or a scary shadow. He protects kids day and night and has a vibrant color palette. Madeline, a very spunky monster, is always ready to play and have fun. She’s covered in lots of fun patterns from stripes to polka dots and has blond hair. Squonk is a kids’ best friend who is always ready to play and cuddle when kids are in need. He’s decked out in blue and features a quirky smile. Charlotte



The BERG USA Buzzy Fiat 500 is designed for kids ages 2 to 5 to have their first pedaling experience. Kids’ feet can easily and comfortably reach the pedals with the adjustable seat and steering wheel. The frame is made from powder-coated metal for a five-year guarantee. The four wheels allow kids to easily move forward, backward, straight, or around curves. The tires are made of quiet and non-toxic EVA. This officially licensed product features the Fiat logo on the front fender and on the steering wheel plate.

ZING BRAND TOYS introduces new products for active, outdoor fun. Recommended for kids ages 6 and up, the Helix play set offers paddle play that includes the new Flyers, which are aerodynamically designed for stable flight, accuracy, and exceptional control by the players. Each set include two paddles, one Helix Pro Flyer, which can fly up to 45 feet, and one Helix Fun Flyer, which can travel up to 30 feet. The Helix is intended for all skill levels, and requires very little physical strength to play. Putting its own spin on outdoor play, the Zyclone ZingRing Blaster fires flying foam rings. Kids ages 6 and up can load the Zing-Ring Flyers onto the handheld launcher, pull back, twist, and watch them travel up to 100 feet. Each Flyer is made of soft, durable foam for a safe spin and accurate catches. Each Zyclone Zing-Ring Blaster set includes one Flyer. Helix play set

PATCH PRODUCTS will introduce a new line of Onaroo nightlights and alarm clocks. The OK to Wake! Clock features a nightlight and wake-up indicator. The Teach Me Time game features the OK to Wake! features, plus a fun time-teaching game. The line also includes a plush OK to Wake! Owl sleep buddy nightlight with music and a portable nightlight with OK to Wake! functions. Patch will bring France’s popular game, Chrono Bomb, to the U.S. this year. Chrono Bomb is a secret spy mission where kids use the included clamps and 27.5-foot string to create a “laser” field to crawl through. Bumping the wire makes the time bomb tick faster. Patch will also add to its infant/toddler toy line, Mirari. Each of the clear Flip Flop ABC Blocks represents a letter, with a letter or character that starts with that letter suspended inside the block with hidden magnets. Kids can wave the magical wand over the blocks and watch them move. The myPad Touch is a 9.5-inch, durable kids’ play tablet featuring a touchscreen with 30 new light-up icons that offer engaging phrases, stories, songs, and more. Patch Products’ new Smart Start games are designed for preschoolers to have fun while learning shapes, colors, numbers, and spelling. Sparky is a series of Bingo-like games, featuring an electronic lightning bug that says the names of shapes and lights up in different colors. Cheese Dip is a spelling game in which kids use the mice’s tails to hook cheesy letters to spell the words on the cards. Puppy Up is a counting and early math game with multiple levels of play. New party games for older age groups will join Patch’s lineup of games, including All In. A player reads a card with a statement on it while the others decide whether they will bet on it being true or false. The Game of Things… Peggable Version is a smaller version of the who-said-what game.







FlipStir, from ENLIVENZE, is a new twist in 3-D puzzle gaming. Players pull back the wand, shake the puzzle to scramble the pieces, then use the wand, gravity, and ingenuity to solve the puzzle and reveal the artwork. Designed for kids ages 7 and up, FlipStir is self-contained, making it easy to clean up without losing any pieces. FlipStir aids in the development of hand-eye coordination and motor skills. It comes in two levels of difficulty—the first level has simple puzzle images and rectangular pieces, and the second is slightly more difficult with more complex images and curvy pieces.


With Three Little Piggies, from SMARTGAMES, players ages 3 to 6 try to fit large pieces on the Three Little Piggies game board so that the piggies are either playing outside or hiding in their houses when the wolf shows up. There are 48 challenges, and kids can use the game pieces for some imaginative fun even when they aren’t playing the game. SmartGames builds on its IQ line of brain-teasing puzzles with two new additons this year. IQ Blox features 120 challenges, designed for kids ages 6 and up. Kids set up the game board by placing the four included white pieces according to the challenge. Players must fill in the game board with seven colorful pieces without overlapping the white pieces. The compact board and transparent lid make IQ Blox convenient for travel. IQ Candy includes 60 challenges for players ages 7 and up. Players must try to fit the seven candy-colored pieces on the game board, taking into account the raised areas of the board that must fit into the candy-colored pieces. SmartMax Build & Connect allows kids to use screws to attach new curved red pieces to other toys around the house. They can be attached to any structure with a thickness of up to 6 cm, allowing both “up” and “down” building. In addition, the two accompanying expandable bars use the screws to provide more length. Future engineers will love SmartMax Playground and its brightly colored tubes and magnetic bars. Endless creative playground designs can be made, and then the metallic balls can be dropped through the tubes.


THINKFUN tests kids’ mental prowess with Rush Hour Shift, a two-player sliding block logic game designed for kids ages 8 and up. Every move counts as players draw cards and strategize their way across traffic. Players must choose whether to advance their own hero car or block an opponent. The traffic grid adds a new dimension to play, as a single shift can change the game. The new Maker Studio line is designed for budding makers ages 7 and up. Maker Studio Gears lets kids construct a racecar, a cable car, a three-wheeler, and a motorcycle; while Maker Studio Propellers lets kids build a chopper, a bi-plane, a windmill, and a plane. Every build also has Engineering Challenges that require experimenting with friction, torque, and propulsion. After mastering all the builds included with the sets, kids can design something creative and all their own.



A new collection of Disney Princesses-themed puzzles, from RAVENSBURGER, includes Princesses in Garden and Castle, two 12piece puzzles featuring Ariel, Belle, and Cinderella, each dressed in her own distinctive ball gown; Disney Princesses, a 72-piece shaped puzzle showcasing eight Disney Princess characters in their royal attire; and Princess Portraits, a 100-piece, extra large puzzle featuring eight Disney Princess characters in familiar ball gowns. The line also includes Everyone Loves Ariel, a 150-piece, extra-large puzzle featuring Ariel in an underwater scene with her best pals; and a set of 4 Large Shaped Puzzles of Ariel, Cinderella, Jasmine, and Rapunzel available in 10-, 12-, 14-, and 16-piece varieties.

TEGU introduces its new Stunt Team collection, which centers on a family of adventurers flying high or driving fast in a different vehicle, including cars, planes, and more. Each member of Stunt Team has his or her own signature vehicle, and the line is intended to inspire imaginative, open-ended, and wooden block play. The line includes the Daredevil, Looper, Skyhook, and Jumper vehicles.








INROAD TOYS, in partnership with BACHMANN TRAINS, introduces the Thomas and Friends Track PlayTape, which lets little engineers instantly create their own Thomas-themed railroad play area for kid-powered toy trains. PlayTape sticks to any flat surface and is easy-to-tear, repositionable, easily peeled up without residue, easily transported and stored, and recyclable. PlayTape Curves augment PlayTape worlds with curved pieces that peel off and perfectly adjoin with straight PlayTape roads and tracks, and Mud Madness PlayTape lets kids play off-road as well with fourwheel drive fun.


ARKLU introduces two new dolls to its specialedition Gold Collection Lottie doll line. Made in collaboration with the European Space Agency, Stargazer Lottie wears a dark blue velvet bomber jacket over cerise-colored dungarees, a long-sleeve T-shirt with pale blue arms, and brown boots. Other accessories include a hat, a scarf, a telescope, a tripod, a set of solar system collector cards, and an information sheet about notable women in astronomy. Fossil Hunter Lottie comes with accessories including a magnifying glass, a trowel, a geology hammer, a rucksack, and ammonite fossils. Additional new dolls include Rockabilly Lottie, who marches to the beat of her own drum, and is dressed in a vintagestyle Varsity jacket featuring “Be Bold Be Stargazer Lottie Brave Be You,” printed on the back; Muddy Puddles Lottie, who is ready for rainy weather and puddle jumping; and Pony Club Lottie, outfitted with everything she needs for riding and befriending horses. Kite Flyer Finn is a doll designed for young boys and has a realistic and healthy body shape. He wears cargo shorts, a star-themed long-sleeve T-shirt, a puffer gilet, and sneakers. With his diamondshaped kite accessory, Finn promotes wholesome, gun- and violence-free play. Lottie dolls are distributed by SCHYLLING TOYS.

BEGINAGAIN introduces the Don’t Dump Dumpty Game, a family game for players ages 2 and up. It can be played alone, in pairs, or with teams. Players stack the numbered bricks to create a wall, set the twopiece Dumpty on top, and take turns removing bricks until he falls and “cracks.” The numbers help to develop basic math skills or challenge older players to accumulate points. The Color ’n Eggs Matching Game combines the classic theme of chicken and eggs with the fun of puzzles and matching. It teaches colors in both English and Spanish. Each of the six chickens is designed to fit only in its matching egg, developing both primary color learning and cognitive skills. Little ones can learn animal names and sounds with the Sounds Around the Farm Story Box play set. Each of the eight animals is labeled with its name on one side and the sound the animal makes on the other side. The two-sided, paperboard barn stands up inside the wood storage tray for imaginative play. Each character in the What I Like Safari Story Box play set is labeled with its name on one side and what the animal likes to do on the other side. Kids can arrange the animals in pairs to create a rhyming, Safari-themed poem. Don’t Dump Dumpty Game




Throws the Book at Toy Retail The Great American Bookstore Makes Room for a Great American Toy Store by Phil Guie


arnes & Noble is the largest retail bookseller in the U.S., with nearly 650 stores nationwide, as well as a thriving web presence. But in recent years, the bookstore chain has also been expanding its non-book offerings, balancing out shelves of New York Times bestsellers with educational toys, games, and collectibles. So far, the strategy has been beneficial. According to Barnes & Noble’s reported sales and earnings for the fiscal quarter ended January 31, growth in educational toys and games helped carry the company to an increase in comparable sales year-over-year. Last year, the retailer began rolling out Science Centers for toys that facilitate science, technology, engineering, art and design, and math (STEAM) education—further investing in a reputation for selling toys that help kids learn. Barnes & Noble’s educational toy department grew out of the retail chain’s weekly Storytime sessions in its children’s book section. According to Kathleen Campisano, vice president of toys and games, the department evolved organically from a question that the company began asking itself five years ago: Once kids learn to read, and after they begin developing their intellectual curiosity, what is the next logical step? “We have these avid little readers who come and love Storytime,” she says. “They themselves become readers, and then they’re reading to learn things about their worlds and their lives. So, we thought, ‘What is the physical manifestation of that?’” From its inception, Barnes & Noble offered children of all ages a highly curated educational assortment. The retailer also noticed that parents’ definition of what constitutes an educational toy or game was often different from


Barnes & Noble, West Paterson, N.J.

the manufacturers’. For example, while the toy industry views arts and crafts as its own category, some parents consider these toys as educational tools. “Parents would say arts and crafts are fundamental to the early learning experience, and would even argue that they are a formative type of self-expression for a tween or teen,” says Campisano. “What we had to do was strip away our industry understanding and really start to craft the space as it related to our customers’ experience.” After half a decade of this sort of interplay, Barnes & Noble’s toy sections continue to evolve. An Educational Toys & Games section can be found in more than 450 Barnes & Noble stores, and following their introduction in 32 stores last year, the Science Centers will expand to more than 100 Barnes & Noble stores this year. The growth of these departments results in a careful tightrope-walking act that sometimes exists in meeting both the industry’s and parents’ expectations.


Barnes & Noble, Union Square, N.Y.

“When you have the school system telling you, ‘Reading, Science, Math,’ you have an obligation—in addition to giving mom her definition of what an educational toy is—to also be credible, and to serve up the country’s definition of what is educational,” says Campisano. “Bringing that to the forefront of children at the age-appropriate time is of critical concern.”

Opinionated Staff, Synergistic Partnerships

Campisano manages two departments across the Barnes & Noble chain—Educational Toys & Games, for kids ages 12 and under, and Specialty Hobbies & Collectibles, targeted at consumers ages 13 and up—and she sees these spaces as unique opportunities to take on the feel and the shape of the communities they serve. The reason, she says, is that each bookstore’s toy sections are a reflection of its local community. Whenever a new toy section is being mapped out, the layout is carefully considered, and depending on the store’s overall size, the community it serves, and its customer demographics, space is allocated accordingly. For example, in locations with lots of families in the community—and where the kids’ book department also tends to be large—the toy department footprint can end up being as much as 2,500 square feet. In addition, Barnes & Noble is fortunate that some of its best customers are employees, which further maintains the community-friendly vibe. Those in the toy department tend to start out as booksellers, only to discover an enthusiasm for toys and games, which in turn, leads to their becoming educated on the subject and developing expert guidance. “A lot of people come to work at Barnes & Noble because


they want to make an impact on children’s lives by providing play with a purpose,” says Campisano. “Some even want to influence the direction the strategy games business is going, or they want to have a voice at Comic-Con. They become almost compelled to fight the good fight on behalf of our customers about what merchandise we should be carrying, and what brands deserve to expand.” When it comes to the products lining its shelves, Barnes & Noble’s partners include companies that are well-established in the specialty toy trade, such as Lego, Thames & Kosmos, Ravensburger, ThinkFun, and more. All of these manufacturers have performed their due diligence, and have determined that their main customer also happens to be a Barnes & Noble shopper. Campisano described these companies as knowing the strength of their respective brands and categories, and scoring well on post-purchase satisfaction among customers. “They’re the kind of companies that tend to really thrive in our environment,” she says.

Competitive Advantages

Like most specialty toy retailers, Barnes & Noble differentiates itself from its mass-market counterparts, according to Campisano, through informed customer service and by allowing the customer to shop in three distinct ways: by brand, by category, and by age. Another way in which it sets itself apart is by providing down time, or what she refers to as “breathing time” and “space time.” While the average mass-market, toy-buying visit can be a harried, rush-in-and-get-out experience, a shopper at Barnes & Noble is more likely to sit at the café, browse the bookstore shelves, and otherwise take their time. “When you are in a bookstore, it is inherent, almost instinctive, that you are going to browse the aisle,” says Campisano. “This creates a completely different kind of shopping experience that affords the customer [the chance] to mull over and really check out the merchandise.” Barnes & Noble also has a strong web presence that works in tandem with the brick-and-mortar stores. Describing it as retail table tennis, Campisano says any of the in-store toy categories can be further expanded online. “I think our customers know that,” she says. “I know our booksellers are informed by it and feel very confident that they can be solution-based with their recommendations because of it, so that’s our big benefit from it.”

You Can’t Judge a… Toy by Its Cover?

Alongside construction toys, science kits, and arts and


What we had to do was strip away our industry understanding and really start to craft the space as it related to our customers’ experience.”—Kathleen Campisano, vice president of toys and games, Barnes & Noble

crafts, Barnes & Noble also carries certain dolls from major toy manufacturers, as well as a wide range of outdoor toys. While these might seem more recreational than educational, to Campisano, they are all part of the same mission, which is fostering children’s intellectual development. In the case of dolls, such as Mattel’s Monster High line, she points out that it started as a book property, so the dolls are considered a physical manifestation of an existing literary franchise. “We are a unique toy retail experience, because we are also a bookstore,” she says, citing the company’s “basket report,” which tells her what kids are reading at different age groups—and serves as an invaluable tool for deciphering trends and topics that are most interesting to children. This inevitably helps inform and shape which toys to stock. With outdoor toys, Barnes & Noble’s official stance is that physical development is an important part of educational development. As such, the retailer intends to be present in anything that offers an opportunity to digest rules and learn cooperative play. “Mom would tell you that’s an important part of being a kid,” says Campisano. “The reality is, I have to ask mom, I have to ask gift-givers, I have to ask educators what they

Barnes & Noble, Cherry Hill, N.J.


think constitutes an educational toy. They are what fuels the business.”

The Future Is Tech-ing Shape

Along with growing its Science Centers, the retailer is keeping its eye on such cutting-edge educational trends as coding and programming, 3-D printing, and the maker movement. According to Campisano, Barnes & Noble sees tremendous opportunity to expand on these categories—either in-store, or online via full presentations at “We’re going to be careful and curate it,” she says. “But I love the idea that some of these toys, in purposeful and playful ways, can really intellectually catapult a child into thinking about different possibilities.” Among new partners for this year, Campisano pointed to Orange Tree for boutique arts and crafts, littleBits for electronics, Makery for do-it-yourself projects aimed at tweens and teens, among others. She credited Barnes & Noble’s buying team—which brings back an offering that, by design, is between 60 to 65 percent specialty and nonmass—for the unique mix. “[This is] so we can still bring something special, though curated through our educational filter,” she says. “We are constantly on the lookout for new content, as well as new educational partners and new category development.” Indeed, Campisano described Barnes & Noble’s toy departments as being on a significant growth trajectory, and her own role as being in constant pursuit of bettering the space she occupies. “As long as the interest of our customers is there, Barnes & Noble is very committed to serving it,” she says. “Our customers’ insights are intrinsic to how we define and mature the space. We’re five years old and growing, and we believe we haven’t even scratched the surface of all we can become.” ■


eOne: Not Toying Around with Counterfeiters In January, Brazilian customs authorities seized an estimated 1 million counterfeit Peppa Pig toys at local ports, brought into the country by a number of separate importers. The seizures were orchestrated by Entertainment One Licensing (eOne) working in conjunction with a Brazilian law firm, customs authorities, and police. Following the events, Nick Gawne, finance director and head of business development, eOne Family, spoke to The Toy Book’s Phil Guie about the seizures, as well as the logistical challenges of battling toy counterfeiting around the world. How do you find out there are counterfeit goods in a given market? One of the things that has really changed in recent years is there are so many online auction sites, or business-to-business (B2B) websites where you can buy in bulk, that you can go onto one of those websites quite quickly and see which of your properties is popular among the copyright-infringing community. We also work very closely with our licensing agents in the local territories and our licensees; in effect, they are our eyes on the ground. We get a lot of tip-offs from our agents and licensees, and then we work with local partners to confirm the tip-offs. What happens after the confirmation? In our contracts, we try to restrict channels of sale, so it’s very rare that we would have a site where you could find a lot of counterfeit items as an authorized channel of sale. That allows us to take the approach that it’s either a counterfeit or an unauthorized item if it appears on those sites. Obviously, the way we deal with either of those situations is different. If it’s a licensee that’s using one of those platforms to sell and they shouldn’t be, then we would just have a conversation with that licensee and work it out, as partners would do. But often we can tell visually from the product that it’s unauthorized. In that case, we work with a company called MarkMonitor to monitor those online auction sites, and they work closely with the owners of those sites, highlighting listings that they think are counterfeit products, and those are taken down.


In Brazil, you worked with a local law firm and a local law enforcement authority. Is that the standard procedure when another country is involved? The problem is, there is no standard procedure, because the legal framework of all the countries in which we operate is different. In some markets, you can register your trademarks and your copyrights with the local customs and border authorities, and they will use that to make seizures, and they will send us notifications asking if these counterfeits are real. We tell them that they’re real and they destroy them on that basis. In other markets, you need people on the ground to actually help you, to give you contact with the local customs and the local police. So in certain markets, it’s important to have a legal partner that has very good communications with the customs and the local police. That way, the police and customs know who to call when they find a container of counterfeit goods. In the Brazil seizure, we worked with a local law firm, David do Nascimento, and they have fantastic contacts with the police and local customs. You need your local lawyers to work closely with customs and almost train them to understand that if they see counterfeit Peppa Pig items, then they need to call. That training is part and parcel of working with those firms. It also works for the customs authorities because they know that you’ll act on their hard work, rather than turning a blind eye. Besides not having local connections, what are the largest hurdles to fighting counterfeits? The cost is a hurdle, because in some markets, customs will seize the goods and will destroy the goods. But in other markets, lawyers need to make filings to make good on that seizure and to have those goods held. Then there are more filings to destroy the goods, and you may need to pay for the storage of those goods during that time. So the financial cost can be prohibitive, and sometimes you’re put in a position where maybe it’s a smaller market where you don’t have high hopes of having a strong licensing program, where you think, “We’re going to have to let seizures below a certain amount of units go, but we’re


going to attack everything over a bigger number of units.” At the end of day, the biggest challenge is attacking counterfeiting at its root cause, which is the factories where these goods are being made. What we try to do is look at the value chain of counterfeiting. In the same way that in order to make authorized goods, there are manufacturers, distributors, and retailers in the chain, for counterfeit goods there’s a manufacturer and a distributor to get goods from country “A,” where they’re manufactured, to country “B,” where they’re sold. There’s also often a distributor in country “B,” and a retailer. So we need to attack each part of that value chain in order to make a dent in it, but the hardest part to attack is at the manufacturing level, because it’s the area where we have the least visibility. It won’t be surprising to anyone that a lot of those manufacturers are in China, and it is very difficult to get transparency within that Chinese market. So we can try to disrupt the flow of goods coming out of China, but it’s very difficult to actually go into China and pinpoint where a huge volume of these goods are being made and to stop them, especially when you have such a variety of licensed products. What we try and do is make it as difficult as possible to make money from counterfeiting Peppa Pig items. We try to damage the manufacturers economically so they might turn their attentions elsewhere. We’ve done raids in Brazil with the police where goods were seized, which sends a message to the local retail community that we’re a company that protects its brands. We’ll also do customs actions such as seizing goods going into the country, in which the counterfeits are seized and destroyed, so now the distributors are out of pocket. And then we think, “Where do those distributors buy the product?” They often do it through the online auction sites and online B2B sales houses. So we remove those listings, and the more you remove them, the more difficult it is for the distributor, and the manufacturers in China, to make a market for these goods. With the rise of the Internet, is counterfeiting now a more sophisticated business than in the past? I think the value chain of counterfeiting hasn’t changed, as there have always been manufacturers, distributors, importers, and retailers. But perhaps what has changed is the ability for people in Brazil, for example, to buy counterfeit goods in quan-


tity from people in China. Perhaps 20 years ago, your Brazilian importer would need to go to China and negotiate in person with a Chinese manufacturer and distributor, whereas now they can go onto many websites and order those goods. So it takes out the complexity of that kind of negotiation. What about the sophistication of the counterfeit goods? For the market we are in, the distinctiveness of how our characters are drawn makes counterfeits very easy to spot. You will hear of certain brands that have unusual elements in their designs that you and I, as consumers, cannot see, but the [brand owners] always see. We don’t go to that level, but there is a repeating pattern of images used in counterfeit goods, and we know those images are unauthorized. We also have a very strict product approval process, and the sales team that does the anti-counterfeiting work with me is in the same office as the product approval team. So we’ll have a picture coming in from our Brazilian lawyers, and it will take us roughly five minutes to find out if it’s counterfeit. One of the great things about eOne is that we’re a very nimble organization; there aren’t layers of bureaucracy. We don’t have the lawyers in Office “X,” and the product reviewers in Office “Y.” In general, I’m sure there are very sophisticated products in which it’s difficult to tell they’re counterfeit. But in our market, where the unit values of the products tend to be quite low, I would think that level of sophistication would damage the counterfeiters’ profitability. Is it possible to estimate the financial damage caused by counterfeit? It’s very difficult, to be honest, because counterfeiting has been here for a long time, and I don’t think we’re naive enough to think that we’re solving a problem. What we need to do is make it as difficult as possible for counterfeiters and the whole value chain of the counterfeiters to operate. We try and catch the big fish, or disrupt the channels into the market in the hopes that we send a clear message to the infringing community there. It’s very difficult, and at the end of the day, what’s important to us is to create properties and brands that are here for the long term. On that basis, we don’t look to guarantee a return on investment on dollars spent acting on infringement. The return on investment is the opportunity for your brand to be around in five years. ■




ubie’s Costume Co. expands its Imagine by Rubie’s line of dress-up and role-play offerings with Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. The Hulk Window Box Set includes a fiber-fill muscle chest shirt with a matching mask. Also from the Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron line, the Iron Man Window Box Set includes a fiber-fill muscle chest shirt with a matching mask. Both products are available in child size small.

Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron Iron Man Window Box Set



ith Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, from Warner Bros. Pictures, set for release next March, Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP) is gearing up with a full lineup of global licensees. In addition, new animated content titled Batman Unlimited has support from master toy partner Mattel, as well as Thinkway Toys and Rubie’s Costume Co. Preschool partner FisherPrice will expand its Imaginext DC Super Friends toy line, and WBCP will continue to grow its DC Comics series, including The Flash, Arrow, and Gotham, with new licensee support. DC Super Hero Girls, the new girl-targeted Super Hero universe from Warner Bros. Animation (WBA), WBCP, and DC Entertainment (DCE), in partnership with Mattel, launches this fall. Toys, apparel, books, digital content, and other products will roll out next year. Currently in production between Warner Bros. Entertainment and J.K. Rowling, the new film series Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, is inspired by the Harry Potter series. WBCP will fully support Rowling’s screenwriting debut with a global licensing and merchandising program. Scooby-Doo is building excitement at retail with licensing support from The Lego Group. The construction toy company created five new Lego sets featuring Scooby-Doo and the Gang, which is supported by never-before-seen Scooby-Doo animated content in Lego form. Looney Tunes has also signed new deals, such as Hare Jordan for Nike, and haute couture apparel and accessories with Moschino. In addition, WBA’s Wabbit—A Looney Tunes Production, Be Cool ScoobyDoo!, and The Tom and Jerry Show will partner with toptier licensees.



The Toy Book chats with Helen Howells, joint managing director, Hoho Entertainment Tell us about Hoho Entertainment's background. How did the company get started and how has it evolved? My business partner Oliver Ellis and I set up Hoho over four years ago, initially to get Cloudbabies into production. We both have many years of experience in the kids’ TV and licensing business, so setting up Hoho Rights to manage the commercial exploitation of Cloudbabies was a natural extension to the business. Hoho Rights now operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of Hoho Entertainment, managing the commercial rights for our in-house produced shows, as well as several other animated series and brands that we represent on behalf of third-party producers and licensors. How is Hoho's approach to children's entertainment different from the typical content distribution company? Unlike other typical distribution companies that represent many hours of children’s programs, we operate a “boutique” approach to our content distribution, which means that programming (be it ours or a third party’s) doesn’t get lost. And, of course, we offer a full service across TV distribution, digital, and consumer products, which is an attractive proposition for a producer or licensor wishing to keep all rights in one place. For Hoho, being in control of all rights allows us to develop and implement strategic brand roll-outs territory by territory. What types of content do you create, and how are you gaining exposure for this content? Our main focus is developing and creating programs for


kids that can been seen and experienced on all media platforms. While traditional broadcast platforms are still key for us in terms of gaining exposure for our content, we are increasingly gaining a lot more visibility by way of video on demand and other digital platforms. This, of course, has a natural impact on the type of content we are developing. For example, with our girls’ project Mimi and Bibi, we are developing a series of 26 x 2-minute animated video blogs that we plan to launch via digital and mobile platforms as a means of seeding the brand with girls before hopefully moving to a longform series, which we have also developed. What are your plans for licensing your various brands? Our plans are not unlike those of most other licensors wishing to gain further exposure of their brand beyond the screen, but we want to make sure that we do this in partnership with retailers and licensees that are as passionate about our brands as we are. Cloudbabies in particular is charming, whimsical, colorful, and—above all—has very high production values, and we want to make sure that this charm and quality is reflected in our licensed products. What are your plans for later this year and into 2016? We will continue to develop and implement 360-degree exploitation strategies for the programs and brands that we currently represent. But we are also putting a particular emphasis this year and next on grassroots marketing campaigns and really ramping up our social media activities to further support and build consumer awareness off-screen. ■




quare Enix and Taito have released a new guide to assist licensees in developing fashion and trend product across different categories based on the video game Space Invaders. Square Enix commissioned the design agency Watermelon to look at future trends, and together with the licensing agency CPLG, Square Enix identified three strong design directions. New art will feature Space Invaders imagery with a twist intended to engage fans and broaden the brand’s appeal to new consumers. Three themes—Coin-Op Classics, Pixelism, and Point & Shoot—are available now, with further themes set for release later this year. In addition, the guide includes packaging and brand guidelines to give the items a more cohesive presence at retail. CPLG is an entertainment, sport, and brand licensing agency with offices in the UK, Benelux, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.S. Owned by DHX Media, CPLG has more than 40 years of experience in the licensing industry, and provides its clients with dedicated licensing and marketing industry professionals, as well as a fully integrated product development, legal, and accounting service.



ower Rangers’ newest series, Power Rangers Dino Charge, currently airs on Nickelodeon in the U.S. and will roll out globally this year. The series is supported by a dinosaurthemed product line from global master toy licensee Bandai America Inc., with products including the Deluxe Morpher, the Dino Charger 3-Pack, the Deluxe Megazord, and a new line of collectible figures. On the digital front, Power Rangers launched a new kid-friendly website, which features action-packed online games, downloadable activities, character profiles, sneak-peek episode clips, and more. Power Rangers: Unite, a free-to-play mobile card game, is avail- Popples able on iTunes and is coming soon to Google Play. Popples, a high-energy comedy series based on the Popples characters from the toy line and TV series from the 1980s, is set to launch on Netflix as an original series for kids this fall. Tied to the new launch, leading global master toy licensee, Spin Master, will release a full range of kids’ toys, including small dolls, collectible figures, play sets, and plush to hit the U.S. market in December, followed by a global rollout across multiple channels next year. In partnership with Jakks Pacific, Saban Brands will also soon launch the multi-platform property Emojiville. The kids’ series will follow the adventures of three emoji friends and will be supported by a full consumer products and toy line from Jakks Pacific, along with mobile and online digital extensions, and digital apps and games.




elta Children introduces new licensed furnishings featuring Paw Patrol and Minnie Mouse. The Paw Patrol Plastic 3D Toddler Bed brings kids’ favorite crime-fighting canines to life, boasting a sturdy steel and plastic frame, sleep rails on both sides, and 3-D graphics at the footboard. The Paw Patrol Plastic Toddler Bed has a sturdy steel and plastic frame, sleep rails on both sides, and decals on both the headboard and the footboard. Both beds are recommended for kids ages 15 months and up. The Paw Patrol Deluxe Multi-Bin Toy Organizer features nine fabric bins in large, medium, and small sizes. Easy to assemble, the organizer is finished with colorful illustrations of the key characters. The Disney Minnie Mouse Twin Bedroom Collection in white and pink is a four-piece set that includes a twin bed, a wall mirror, a combo dresser, and a nightstand. It boasts pink accents, numerous bows, and polka dots. The centerpiece of the collection is a twin bed featuring an upholstered headboard, while both the combination dresser and the nightstand feature Minnie Mouse-shaped knobs. The wall mirror is topped with Minnie’s signature polka dot bow. All items are made of strong and sturdy wood, and the smooth metal glide system with a safety stop prevents the dresser drawers from pulling out.


Paw Patrol Room featuring 3D Toddler Bed


enius Brands International (GBI) is re-launching the Baby Genius brand with bold new designs, new partnerships, new entertainment, new music, a new website, and a new retail program to launch this September. New partners for the re-launch include Manhattan Toy for soft toys; PBS Distribution for Baby Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab Genius content across a multitude of platforms, including DVD, CD, and digital; Zak Designs, for mealtime products; LeapFrog Enterprises for Baby Genius content available on LeapPad learning tablets; Winfat for early educational electronic toys; DGL for non-electronic musical instruments, headphones, dance mats, and karaoke machines; and Cupcake Digital and Black Lantern for apps. Children’s animated adventure series Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab premieres on Netflix in July, followed by debuts on PBS stations and on GBI’s new Kid Genius channel on Comcast in September. NCircle will widely distribute Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab digitally (VOD, SVOD, EST, DTO) and on DVD at major retail outlets nationwide and online. The company is currently developing a broad consumer products program including toys from master toy partner Wicked Cool Toys to debut next fall, as well as mobile, apps, games, activity kits, apparel, publishing, and more. Additionally, GBI partnered with Penguin Young Readers for the worldwide expansion of New York Times best-selling book franchise, Llama Llama.




reamWorks Animation offers a portfolio of new and classic properties for film, TV, and online across multiple categories. Highlighted properties include the upcoming Trolls and DinoTrux, as well as DreamWorks Dragons, Kung Fu Panda, and Voltron. DreamWorks Classics will continue to engage fans with initiatives built around Felix, Noddy, Lassie, and Waldo. Franchise favorites Shrek and Madagascar, along with the recent film Home are also top-of-mind. DinoTrux This year will also see the debut of AwesomenessTV as a standalone presence on the show floor.


oy State’s Nikko brand has signed with World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE) for a line of R/C products, with distribution throughout North America. Designed for kids ages 6 and up, the line will feature five top WWE superstars: John Cena, Sheamus, Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns, and The Rock. Globally, Toy State has also entered into a new race team sponsorship and licensing agreement with Sébastien Loeb Racing for vehicles in the R/C and lights and sound vehicle categories.


ntertainment One (eOne) Licensing’s international preschool series Peppa Pig will expand its U.S. footprint with seven new partners. A host of new licensed merchandise will roll out from licensees including Baby Boom, a division of The Betesh Group; Idea Nuova; Spin Master; The Bridge Direct; Handcraft; and Esquire Footwear. With bedding, underwear, furniture, footwear, and more, the new Peppa Pig lineup will launch at major mass-market retailers nationwide this fall. In addition, eOne has appointed Oasis Productions as its costume character partner. For home décor, Spin Master will launch Marshmallow foam furniture, including the Just My Size chair, and The Bridge Direct will feature Peppa Pig on Inkoos Color ’n Create draw, wash, and redo activity plush that kids can decorate with washable markers. The new Peppa Pig product ranges are part of a major mass-market rollout of Peppa licensed merchandise in the U.S., with retail partners including Toys “R” Us, Wal-Mart, and Target. Peppa Pig is now on track to exceed $1 billion in worldwide retail sales this year. Peppa Pig

The Rock R/C





ctivision Licensing & Partnerships will have numerous tent pole video game franchises heading into Licensing Expo. Skylanders is in the third consecutive year of its partnership with McDonald’s for Happy Meals, which appear in more than 40 countries worldwide. Fathead will introduce life-size wall decals featuring Skylanders fan favorites, such as Eruptor, Spyro, Kaos, and Stealth Elf. NKOK will have two fully functional R/C cars featuring working headlights at retail. In support of the new game, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Activision will launch the largest licensing program for the franchise to date. New and returning partners include Mega Brands for collectible construction sets, BioWorld for apparel and accessories, Fathead for wall decals, and Surreal for bar ware, beach towels, and throws. Additionally, Power A and KontrolFreek will provide gamers with themed accessories and gifts, as well as controller accessories, respectively. BradyGames will release a comprehensive strategy guidebook with intricate details for Call of Duty: Black Ops III players.



et to hit theaters in May of next year, the first full-length Angry Birds movie is currently in production from Rovio Entertainment. Sony Pictures Entertainment is managing film distribution and marketing and a raft of top-tier licensees have already signed on for the movie’s licensing program for the UK, including Aykroyds/TDP, Fashion UK, VMC Accessories, Spearmark, Character World, and Roy Lowe & Sons and Grosvenor, with additional partners to be announced at a later date At just 5 years old, the game has more than 2.8 billion downloads, making it the most downloaded game of all time. The brand continues to engage its fans through physical, digital, physical-digi products, and unique partnerships. In addition, Rovio recently released new games including Jolly Jam and Angry Birds Stella Pop.


idz Bop is on the road again for its Make Some Noise tour, featuring The Kidz Bop Kids performing kid-friendly versions of today’s biggest hits. This new, high-energy, interactive show kicked off in March, and will hit more than 50 cities throughout the year. Kidz Bop 28 released in March, and Kidz Bop continues to roll out its content across LeapFrog, VTech, and Nabi platforms, as well as produce musical toothbrushes with Church & Dwight Co. Inc. Next year, Kidz Bop will celebrate its 15th anniversary with several new marketing and promotional partnerships.




rad Animation and 41 Entertainment are resurrecting King Kong in a new animated series, Kong: King of the Apes. The film’s licensing program will include master toy partner MGA Entertainment Inc. (MGAE) for action figures, plush, play sets, and more. The toy line will include both traditional and digital products, with Kong and his robot dinosaur foes at its center. Currently, Arad Entertainment and 41 Entertainment are exploring opportunities in flying toys, mobile games, and other play categories. In the realm of back-to-school, they see the potential to feature Kong and the dinosaurs on a variety of offerings. The initial wave of licensed Kong: King of the Apes products is scheduled for release next fall.



prout has greenlit Terrific Trucks, the newest addition to its portfolio of original series. Produced by Breakthrough Entertainment, Terrific Trucks is a live-action series that celebrates preschoolers’ fascination with big construction vehicles. The stars of the new series are life-size trucks, each with its own unique personality, including a dump truck, a front-end loader, a digger, a semi, and a mini front-end loader. Sprout has ordered 26 half-hour episodes of Terrific Trucks, and each episode follows the five truck friends from their morning meeting at the quarry home base to grading highways, digging tunnels, moving houses, and more. Important lessons are shared as the trucks overcome obstacles and work together as a team on tough projects. As Sprout celebrates its 10th birthday this year, the network will finish out the year doubling its current volume of original programming. Mandy Patinkin and Rita Moreno have joined the cast of Nina’s World, another original Sprout series. Patinkin will voice the friendly community librarian, Mr. Lambert, and Moreno will voice the main character’s grandmother, Abuelita. Nina’s World tells the story of 6-year-old Nina, based on the childhood of the imaginative character from Sprout’s The Good Night Show. Nina invites viewers to join her and her best friend, Star, for a day of fun in her vibrant and colorful neighborhood. Every day transforms into a new excursion around the neighborhood to celebrate family, community, diversity, and wonder. The show will take a multilingual approach that incorporates English, Spanish, and American Sign Language. Sprout is working with Pipeline Studios on the new series which will premiere on Sprout in September.



iscovery Channel is the flagship brand for Discovery Communications, and the consumer products program translates top series into merchandise worldwide. The brand can be found in the publishing, apparel, gifts, novelties, home, and toys and games categories, and continues to seek new opportunities to bring the Discovery brand and its TV-based properties to retailers. Discovery Kids seeks to create a more cohesive and recognizable licensing program for kids ages 6 to 12. The brand will continue to grow across the toys and interactive games, youth electronics, outdoor activity, apparel, and publishing categories. Animal Planet consumer products encourage consumers to celebrate and explore their connection to the animal world. A 15-year-old partnership with Toys “R” Us in North America drives a robust Animal Planet toy line featured across 20-foot spaces. This year, the line will expand to include a full range of monster-themed toys, including Bigfoot, Yeti, and Giant Squid play sets. Last year, the partnership expanded to Australia and continues to grow worldwide.


ince Sesame Street’s original broadcast in 1969, it has expanded from an educational TV show into a fully integrated brand for kids, adults, and everyone in between. A raft of licensed consumer products, a 14-acre theme park, and an enormous social media presence ensure the brand reaches its audience in every possible way. Collectibles is an integral segment of the brand for adults. Sesame Workshop partnered with Funko last year on a line of Pop! Vinyl collectible figures based on popular characters, including Super Grover, Cookie Monster, Bert, Ernie, Oscar the Grouch, and Snuffleupagus. The line debuted at New York Comic Con last October, and new additions to the line will debut this fall, including a Big Bird figure. Hasbro is the lead toy manufacturer for Sesame Street products and will introduce the tech-enhanced Play All Day Elmo this year. Gund will introduce Sesame Street Beanbag Pals—pill-shaped stackable plush that kids can toss, kick, throw, or juggle—to the specialty market.

Gund Sesame Street Bean Bag Pals



conix Entertainment will expand its Strawberry Shortcake brand with a fourth season of Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Bitty Adventures, as well as new apps, toys, books, DVDs, and more. The Bridge Direct will continue its line of Strawberry Shortcake core dolls and play sets this fall, and will add new, celebration-themed toys for Strawberry Shortcake’s 35th birthday. The line will include surprise party-themed dolls and accessory packs, Strawberry Shortcake’s scooter, and a house play set. The toys will be available at Toys “R” Us and Rite Aid brick-and-mortar retailers, and online at and The line will also feature a classic-themed doll directed at millennial moms who grew up with the brand, available at Target.

The Bridge Direct Strawberry Shortcake House Playset



Toy Industry Association

Summer TOY trends FROM THE GREAT OUTDOORS TO RAINY DAY PLAY by Kristin Morency Goldman, communications specialist, Toy Industry Association


he holiday season is the most critical time of year for the toy and youth-entertainment product industry, but in the warm-weather months, what drives consumer spending on toys and games? The Toy Industry Association (TIA) reached out to industry experts to gain insight into the latest innovations in outdoor play, the types of indoor toys that foster hands-on learning, and the super-hot licenses that are expected to impact toy sales through to back-toschool season.

The Great Outdoors Beloved by children for generations, playthings designed for the great outdoors remain a childhood favorite. In fact, The NPD Group reported that the Outdoor & Sports Toys category increased 3 percent last year, growing to $3.61 billion. “It’s been proven that kids who engage in unstructured, outdoor play exhibit lower levels of stress and anxiety,” says Ken Seiter, vice president of marketing communications at TIA. “Outdoor play allows children to explore new environments, reconnect with nature, and build important physical skills through play, whether they are playing hopscotch, riding a scooter, or enjoying a game of tag with friends.” While outdoor play Activity trackers and wearables, patterns have remained such as the Moff largely the same over Band, encourage kids to get active. time—kids still love to run,


swim, bike, and skip—innovations in the outdoor toy category have helped keep spring and summer play fresh and exciting. “Technology is now infused into so many toys, including classics such as jump ropes and bubble makers,” says Wendy Smolen, senior vice president, Sandbox Events and PlayPublisher, PlayScience. “This doesn’t make jumping or blowing more fun—just different.” Smolen adds that kids’ activity trackers and wearables are a “great way to encourage more activity, especially when kids are playing outside.” When it comes to balancing traditional outdoor with techinfused play, Smolen says that parents can take advantage of how seamlessly children move between online and offline environments. “[Find] outdoor summer activities that take place in the real world, but tap into virtual research and storytelling. Stargazing is a perfect example,” she says.

Rainy Day Play When the weather turns from hot and humid to wet and cool, indoor play is a terrific way for kids to engage in artistic and educational activities that build their creative and cognitive abilities. From “Maker Movement” toys that encourage kids to customize and create, to toys that teach science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM), these playthings focus on “play with a purpose” and produce tangible results. “Especially in the spring and summer months between school terms, it’s vital that children continue to learn and develop skills in a very hands-on way through complete start-tofinish play experiences,” notes Seiter. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and STEAM toys are expected to be hot sellers this summer, ac-


cording to Richard Barry, executive vice president, CMO at Toys “R” Us Inc. “We’re seeing increased interest from teachers, gift-givers, and parents who shop in our stores for products that hone in on science, technology, engineering, arts, and math,” says Barry. “Brands such as GoldieBlox, Thames & Kosmos, and our private-label Imaginarium line help spur strategic and creative thinking and engage kids to learn and explore while having fun.” In addition to STEAM products, specialty toy shops are seeing a growing demand for back-to-basics toys and games that foster interactive and developmentally beneficial play, says Sue Warfield, director of member relations at American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA). These include classic toys such as blocks, finger-paints, and puzzles that build causeand-effect, problem-solving, and other cognitive skills. “As more research comes out, parents are realizing that their children might be missing out on some important developmental milestones,” says Warfield. “It’s not that they will take away electronics—they are still a part of our culture and will grow—but [parents are seeing] a need for basic play patterns that require kids to think on their own, create things, and interact with other children.”

Licensing Trends Summer wouldn’t be complete without a few trips to the local movie theater, and this season’s hottest blockbusters will spawn an invasion of licensed toys and games to keep toy sales strong through to the fourth quarter. “Many eyes are on the Star Wars juggernaut coming in the fall, but there will be plenty to push Thinkway Toys’ Tumblin’ Stuart is one of the sales in the meanmany products on shelves this summer celebrating big summer blockbuster movies. time, including the


Thames & Kosmos’ Wind Power 3.0 kit helps teach kids basic STEM concepts through play.

long-awaited Jurassic Park sequel, a new installment of [Marvel’s] Fantastic Four, and a new Avengers chapter,” says Sean McGowan, managing director, equity research at Needham & Co. Other family-friendly summer blockbusters slated for release include Inside Out, Minions, and Ant-Man. “Licensed toys have the ability to elevate playtime by bringing transmedia storytelling into the mix,” says Seiter. “The category has fared so well—now capturing more than 30 percent of total toy sales—because children love to bring their favorite characters and storylines to life through play.” ■

TIA tracks trends on a year-round basis to provide industry stakeholders with insight into what’s new and what’s on the horizon in the toy and youth-entertainment product industry. Visit for more information. THE TOY BOOK •


the bar


What You Don’t Know About Your Suppliers Can Hurt You Stolen Intellectual Property in Supply Chains Can Have Serious Repercussions by Howard N. Aronson


ou don’t expect to see an online pirate wearing an eye patch, or Internet counterfeiters with inkstained hands. But when theft of intellectual property (IP) occurs by one of your suppliers, you become vulnerable to business risks and legal liability. Businesses are now protecting their IP with new weapons against electronic thieves. Unfair state competition laws in Louisiana and Washington target manufacturers that either steal copyrighted programs to make products, or integrate products manufactured with stolen IP—specifically, information technology—into their supply chains. The Louisiana and Washington laws add to an arsenal that already includes federal government and industry group efforts to fight IP theft. In addition, several other states have proposed similar unfair competition statutes. Is It an Earthquake, a Flood, or a Supplier Using Stolen IP? The magnitude of IP theft is eye opening: A 2007 estimate by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) set a figure of $250 billion on crossborder trade in physical counterfeits and pirated products, and on top of that is the supply-chain IP theft that the recent laws target. While companies readily see how earthquakes and dangerous work

A 2007 estimate by [the OECD] set a figure of $250 billion on cross-border trade in physical counterfeits and pirated products. 84 • THE TOY BOOK

conditions threaten their supply chains, the hazards of stolen IP are less obvious. But in fact, there’s a long list of products that are designed, produced, promoted, and sold using stolen IP. Companies can use unauthorized software, for example, in production, marketing, or sales. The list of such products includes machinery, electrical equipment, metal and chemical products, plastic, rubber, wood, online movies and music, and toys. The piracy rate for software, for example, is estimated at more than 80 percent in some countries, according to “Shadow Market,” a 2012 global piracy study by the Business Software Alliance, an advocacy group. Thus, it is likely that pirated software is used somewhere in your supply chain. States Take Aim at IP Theft in the Supply Chains American University Washington College of Law Professor Andrew F. Popper calls the new state laws “one of the recent shining lights” in IP enforcement. Popper cites the warning of Andrew Hupert of Best Practices China, a consulting firm: “If … technology is any good, someone in [the] supply chain is going to try to access it ... if someone doesn’t try to steal [the] designs and ideas, then something is wrong with [the] product or process.” Explaining the need for greater protection for IP, the American Association of Attorneys General, in a 2011 letter to the Federal Trade Commission, gave the example of a, “Washington-based paper mill [that] must compete with a Mexican paper manufacturer that uses over U.S. $10 million in stolen software.” This stolen IP, if used somewhere in your supply chain, may subject you to legal liability. The Washington statute is called the “Stolen or Misap-


propriated Information Technology Law,” and the Louisiana law is captioned, “Stolen or Misappropriated Computer Software.” The laws make it unlawful to offer for sale in those states a product manufactured using stolen or misappropriated information technology. The statutes do not require that the stolen IP be incorporated into the product sold in the state; instead, a company can be liable for IP theft if stolen IP is used in any of its business operations. Those operations could include sales, marketing, distribution, and even internal operations such as accounting and inventory. Thus, the laws target not only the supplier that illegally uses software in its business operations, but also any company that relies on that supplier in its supply chain. So for toy manufacturers, it means that a company could be sued in Washington for suppliers’ IP theft. If your company sells products manufactured using stolen IP, your products could be seized, your sales could be enjoined, and you could be subject to treble damages if the infringement is willful.

company, Guangdong Canbo Electrical Appliance Co. Ltd.— the manufacturer of Char-Broil and Char-Grill barbecue grills—threatening a lawsuit under Louisiana’s Unfair Trade Practices law. The attorney general reported that Canbo ran company functions for years using stolen business software, and reported that the Louisiana law “is among the first and most powerful of its kind in the U.S. to address software piracy as a form of unfair trade practices.”

What the Washington Law Does The Washington law provides a new civil cause of action against businesses that use stolen or misappropriated information technology to manufacture products sold in Washington in competition with products that do not use stolen or misappropriated information technology (subject to some exemptions). It also allows a court to either order that a product made using stolen or misappropriated information technology not be sold in Washington, or to award damages. The Louisiana law is similar.

How to Protect Your Company from Liability You may be integrating parts into your toy products that were manufactured using stolen IP. If you do so, you may have to pay the price. To avoid liability, you can do the following: 1. Monitor your suppliers’ practices as well as your own. 2. Ensure that your contracts with suppliers provide that no products or components will include unauthorized IP. 3. Educate your employees and suppliers about the need to comply with unfair competition laws, particularly with regard to IP. Your IP counsel can provide further guidance on protecting you from liability for IP theft in a supply chain. ■

Enforcement Is Working As an example of the Washington law’s effectiveness, the state’s attorney general settled a dispute over Microsoft software licensing issues with Embraer, the world’s fourth largest aircraft manufacturer. Embraer agreed to properly license the software without the state bringing a civil action. As the Washington attorney general stated, “Foreign manufacturers are increasingly engaging in IT theft and software piracy to unfairly compete against U.S. manufacturers.” In Louisiana, a settlement was reached with a foreign manufacturer after the state’s attorney general wrote to the


Howard N. Aronson has provided legal counsel to toy industry companies for the past 35 years. He is the managing partner of Lackenbach Siegel LLP, an intellectual property law firm recognized for its nine decades of handling toy company issues. Contact Aronson at


the box


by Ted Mininni, president, Design Force Inc.


aybe it’s because we work with licensed entertainment properties and toy brands a great deal that we’re not only not only drawn to their unique brands, but also to the separate universes they create. Kids and adults find their imaginations fueled by characters with unique personalities and backstories. Ongoing storylines filled with colorful protagonists and antagonists have the power to become sagas, supported by huge fan bases. There’s something emotionally powerful about fantasy.


Hence the rise of mythopoeic storytelling that appeals to kids and adults alike. Consider the enduring popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings tales for adults; J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories for kids; and the Twilight and The Hunger Games tales for young adults. Some sagas such as Star Wars appeal to everyone, regardless of age group. Modern TV series such as Grimm and Sleepy Hollow bring fairytales to life, as supernatural beings mingle with actual people. These aren’t tales for children, yet they recall lurking, sinister characters from fairytales and the heroes who must vanquish them. Game of Thrones spins a saga based on tales as old as primeval human history in the vein of classics such as those of King Arthur, embedded deeply within our culture and our consciousness. The power of these stories lies in their ability to make a significant cultural impact by actually drawing inspiration from mythologies and heroes of the past, and making them relevant for today’s culture. Stan Lee understood this intuitively. He took his inspiration from the Norse gods of ancient mythology and repopulated them in comic books, while creating a pantheon of new superheroes: Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Captain America, among others, all becoming blockbuster properties for Marvel in the 1960s. These superheroes have captivated generations of kids ever since, and remain relevant due to evolving storylines. Entertainment brands offer the ultimate fantasies because they have woven rich tapestries filled with details, creating new worlds and connecting with fans on a deeply


emotional level, becoming part of their lifestyles.

Successful storytelling delivers fantasy with underlying truths

Favorite toy brands have become highly interactive, using transmedia to offer seamless entertainment and more engaging experiences to children. Is it any wonder that brands that made the leap to the big screen, such as Hasbro’s Transformers and G.I. Joe, and The Lego Movie were such hits with kids? It is not surprising that these films helped to refocus attention on these multi-generational toys. Strong toy brands have slowly turned into entertainment brands, bringing their properties to kids in a continuous manner. Nothing brought the magic and fantasy of toys to life more than Disney•Pixar’s Toy Story animated movies. Kids from multiple generations always weave their own stories around favorite toys such as Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Rex, Slinky Dog, Barbie, and the molded toy soldiers. A cowboy like Woody becoming buddies with an astronaut like Buzz Lightyear is totally believable. Their adventures, along with a toy box full of classic favorites, were filled with both poignant and comedic moments delivering wonderful entertainment for kids and their parents. The storyline was based on Pixar’s vision: “Toys deeply want children to play with them, and this desire drives their hopes, fears, and actions.” Kids see their favorite toys as friends, so this message is endearing to them, and it turns another generation’s attention to the magic of classic toy brands. Mattel’s Monster High brand broke new ground for the toymaker, going beyond fashion dolls to create pop culture icons. Taking a cue from the vampires and werewolves of Twilight fame and the monsters of childhood nightmares such as Frankenstein, The Mummy, and zombies, the brand presents teens and tweens with a whole lot of fun and fantasy to which they can relate. These ghoul friends form an unusual high school clique; their adventures are, well, hair-raising. More than anything, the brand tagline, “freaky just got fabulous,” resonates with young girls. As Tim Kilpin, now Mattel’s President and Chief Commercial Officer, told The New York Times before the 2010 brand launch: “There’s a universal truth behind Monster High. Who doesn’t feel like a freak in high school?” With a mantra that it’s okay not to be perfect, the ap-


pearance, backstory, and persona of each Monster High character leads girls into a fantasy world that reinforces the message that it’s cool to be who you are.

How to Capture and Package Fantasy

Between them, Marvel and DC Comics own some of the world’s most beloved superhero properties. Marvel is clearly the leader, and there is one property that stands head and shoulders above the rest: Spider-Man. The Hollywood Reporter recently cited figures published in The Licensing Letter, showing that Marvel’s Spider-Man earned $1.3 billion in global sales in 2013, and Avengers earned $325 million versus DC Comics’ top properties; Batman came in at $494 million in sales and Superman at $277 million. As of last year, The NPD Group stated that Avengers and Spider-Man drove more than a billion dollars each in global retail sales, showing a staggering increase in licensed consumer product sales for The Avengers, and those numbers will likely go considerably higher due to new film releases and aggressive licensing plans. Correspondingly, Marvel’s toy sales also grew by nearly 13 percent in the U.S. in 2014 versus 2013. So what is it about Spidey that makes him so irresistible? We could argue that Marvel works with far more licensing partners and that gives Spider-Man an awesome presence at retail; that’s true. But there is also something unique about the web slinger himself that resonates with fans in a deep manner. There’s the vulnerability of a high school boy with the ubiquitous name Peter Parker who isn’t sure of himself; it’s some-


thing to which every human being can relate. Then, through a twist of fate, a radioactive spider bites him, giving him great powers of strength, balance, agility, and a sixth sense for danger. Being a nerdy, scientifically oriented kid, Peter Parker then develops the technology to create and deploy powerful webs that he can swing from and use to entrap criminals to protect the innocent. In a recent interview with Collider, Kevin Feige, film producer and president of Marvel Studios, obviously concurs. “We want to play with Spider-Man in the high school years because frankly, there’ve been five Spider-Man films and the amazing thing about it is … there are so many things from the comics that we haven’t done yet. Not just characters or villains or supporting characters, but sides to his character. The most obvious being the ‘young, doesn’t quite fit in’ kid before his powers, and then the fella that puts on a mask and swings around and fights bad guys and doesn’t shut up, which is something we want to play with and we’re excited about.” Unlike Batman’s Robin or Captain America’s Bucky, Spider-Man doesn’t have an adult mentor; he isn’t a sidekick, but is very much on his own. As such, Spider-Man has become a galvanizing figure for teens from his creation, as he deals with feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy while learning that “with great power there must also come great responsibility.” Adults who grew up idolizing Spider-Man still do, fascinated by his personality, internal conflicts, love interests, and prowess in


fighting the bad guys; they also respond to his mantra. Marvel Entertainment is constantly updating the licensing program for the fan-favorite wall crawler. Our design team is intimately familiar with Spidey’s backstory and ongoing adventures. This has helped us to leverage the key visual assets associated with the property in diverse styles, inspired by current design trends that are relevant to today’s fans. We’ve also incorporated imagery of characters from The Amazing Spider-Man storyline to help licensees capture the essence of the film, for example. The key is to ensure consistent representations at retail while allowing licensees some latitude to interpret visual and verbal design elements in a manner that works best for their products and packaging needs for toys, apparel, home décor, and countless other product categories. Depicting the superhero in poses that leave no doubt as to who is represented in licensed consumer products and packaging, whether he’s crouched down, swinging from a web or crawling up a wall, helps fans to easily spot Spidey. Even from a distance in retail stores, fans can hone in on the outline of Spider-Man. Background imagery of spiders and webbing, as well as imaginative ways to suggest these elements, capture the visual assets associated with Spider-Man that are unique to this character. Bold splashes of color and well-chosen fonts do the rest of the work of imparting the magic and fantasy of this comic book folk hero. Given the power of fantasy and the blurring of the lines between toy and entertainment brands, the future is filled with infinite possibilities. More consumer product brands might take a page from these industries to ignite consumers’ imaginations to turn them into fans—and to make the brand an in■ dispensable part of their lives.

Ted Mininni is president of Design Force Inc., a leading package and licensing program design consultancy in the consumer product and entertainment industries. Mininni blogs about packaging and licensing program design at He can be reached at (856) 810-2277.




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

BUSINESS DIRECTORIES 2015 Trade Show Directory $39.95 Independent Sales Rep Directory $69.95 Toy Wholesalers & Manufacturers $29.95 We carry Salesman’s Guides to Find Buyers and Trade Show Exhibitor Lists for Toy Fair and others! 1-800-635-7654 • Free Magazine: The Toy Book Volume 31, Number 3 THE TOY BOOK (ISSN-0885-3991) is published bi-monthly by Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® Editorial and advertising offices are located at 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, NY 10001, Phone (212) 575-4510. Periodicals Postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Copyright © 2015 Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. Printed in U.S.A. Subscription rates: $48 one year, foreign $200. The Toy Book is a trademark of Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® Registered in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Postmaster: Send address changes to: The Toy Book, c/o Adventure Publishing Group, 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, NY 10001. Opinions and comments expressed in this publication by editors, contributing writers, or solicited or unsolicited documents are not necessarily those of the management of The Toy Book.


The Playtime Sales & Marketing Company, LLC. is a Toy and Electronics Manufacturers sales representative organization. Our prime focus is to represent Toy and Electronics Manufacturers to the Mass Market Retailers. The principals of our Company are Len Soyka and Murray Bass. Our only vocation has been in the Toy Industry. We are dedicated toy professionals.

Our geographical areas of sales coverage and accounts include: • NEW ENGLAND…Connecticut North to Maine and Upstate N.Y. Accounts… CVS Drug, BJ’s Whle Club, Benny’s and TJ Maxx, • N.Y. METRO…N.Y. City and New Jersey. Accounts… Toys R Us and their DOTCOM and Global Divisions, FAO Schwarz, Xmas Tree Shops, Shepher Distributors, Burlington Coat Factory, Buy Buy Baby, Marlon Creations, Party City, National Wholesale, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Steven’s Intl., TRU Express and NY area Supermarket Chains. • MID-LANTIC…Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Western Ohio. Accounts…Rite Aid Drug, Group Sales, Boscov’s, Omni Global, 5 Below, Dollar Tree, Variety Wholesale and Big Lots. • K mart USA // JC Penney Catalog // Universal Studios Orlando // Gordman’s // Target and Walmart • CANADA…Walmart, Toys R Us, Canadian Tire and Costco

We employ a staff of 5 toy sales specialists. Our contact information is listed on our above shown letterhead. We welcome your inquiries.



Flashback: June 1995 1.


What’s Hot! TV Promoted Toys 1. Sky Dancers (Lewis Galoob Toys) 2. Batman Figures (Kenner) 3. X-Men Figures (Toy Biz) 4. Ultra Spawn Figures (Todd Toys)


5. Butterfly Barbie (Mattel) 6. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers


Figures (Bandai) 7. Polly Pocket (Mattel) 8. Barbie Bubble Fairy (Mattel) 9. Gargoyles Figures (Kenner) 10. Bubble Toons (Cap Toys)




Izzy, the mascot of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, will be featured in two animated TV shows to air on Turner Network Television. Atlanta Centennial Olympic Properties has also announced that 38 companies have signed on to produce Izzy-related merchandise, ranging from toys and playing cards to numerous lines of casual sportswear for children and adults. 2. Strategy Licensing is representing The Puzzle Place, the newest addition to the PBS daily preschool programming block. The show espouses the values of multicultural diversity, tolerance, and self-esteem using puppet characters to educate preschoolers in a playful and entertaining way. 3. Barney will become a permanent attraction at Universal Studios Florida this summer. “A Day in the Park with Barney” will bring to life Barney’s make-believe preschool play world in an imaginatively interactive musical show and hands-on educational playground. 4. Zombie Dinos: From the Planet Zeltoid combines entertainment with education in this multifaceted game, from MacPlay. The host, Dexter the Talking Dinodroid, encourages children in their learning adventures, giving game-control instructions, game-play tips, and positive feedback. 5. Abrams & Gentile Entertainment is building a licensing program around the Sky Dancers brand. The doll went national in February, and the brand is going to be an animated TV series in 1996.