Where High-Tech and STEM Intersect by JACKIE BREYER, Editor-in-Chief AS A MOM OF TWO YOUNG KIDS, OF course I am interested in products that are both educational and fun. As a journalist ingrained in the toy industry, I know that there are a number of options that fit this description, and it’s a rapid-growth category for the industry overall. But when we think of “smart toys,” a number of things come to mind. Are we talking about traditional toys that engage children while promoting educational concepts? Or are we talking about toys that are able to act seemingly intelligent, carrying on conversations and responding to voice commands? For many parents, both of these product categories are pretty tantalizing, but they are very different. Personally, I am most interested in a toy that hones in on a sweet spot that overlaps both of these types of “smart toys,” giving kids an engaging, educational experience with a high-tech twist. A good example of this type of product is Hasbro’s new Love2Learn Elmo. Elmo gives kids as young as 18 months a customized, educational experience while still offering them a cuddly companion for bedtime. In this issue, we take a look at various types of smart toys, from high-tech, Wi-Fi enabled characters that can answer kids’ questions by pulling data from the cloud, to more traditional toys with educational elements being exhibited at ASTRA’s Marketplace June 5 to 8 in Denver. Check out Industry Analyst Sean McGowan’s take on smart toys on page 18, and don’t miss our coverage of ASTRA Marketplace, beginning on page 36. You’ll also find data on the smart toy category on pages 14 and 15. One of my favorite parts of this issue is our annual Chatting with the Industry Q&A. Each year I reach out to a number of specialty toy retailers and manufacturers from around the country to discuss the challenges presented by the specialty toy marketplace. One of the topics mentioned was the challenge of online and digital shopping. As more
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“It does everything on its own so I don’t have to. There’s even a program for driving you up a wall.” consumers turn to the internet and their smartphones and tablets to make purchases, specialty retailers shared some of their strategies for competing for toy sales, and manufacturers talked about the importance of enforcing a minimum advertised pricing (MAP) policy. Retailers and manufacturers need to stand together to keep specialty toy stores top-ofmind for consumers year round. Some manufacturers assist with play days and other in-store events that make a big impact at retail stores. As we head into the summer months, retailers can benefit tremendously by making their stores into destinations for families. There are many manufacturers that offer kits for play day events and activities that retailers can promote within the community. Some manufacturers,
such as Thames & Kosmos, will even send a rep to the store to help run the event. Learn more on page 28. Enjoy this issue of The Toy Book, and let us know what you think! Send me an email, or simply tweet @toybook and @jackiebreyer. We’d love to hear from you! »
Jackie Breyer is editor-in-chief of The Toy Book and the Toy Insider, and editorial director at Adventure Publishing. She has been reporting on new products and toy industry trends for 14 years. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many of us are traveling to Denver for the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA’s) Marketplace & Academy trade show, and in...