Vol. 30, No. 5
On the Hunt
with Jordan Hembrough
Star of the Travel Channel’s Toy Hunter Talks Trends, Collecting, and Unexpected
Toy Trends for 2015
Digital Tips for Independent Retailers page S4 The New Age of Science Toys page S8 Retailer Spotlight: PlayAbility Toys page S12
Clockwise from top: Unicorn Poppers, from Hog Wild; okiedog Wildpack Tiger Suitcase, from Neat-Oh!; K’NEX Education Robotics, from K’NEX; STYLEModel Design Studio, from Schylling; WWE John Cena ATV, from NKOK
in this issue
Top Toy Trends of 2015
Reyne Rice takes a look at what trends will be on top next year.
18 Editor’s Viewpoint
20 Industry Update
Fall Toy Preview
23 Announcing the 2014
A look at what’s on display at the TIA’s long-lead trade show.
24 TIA Perspectives
Toy Insider Gift Guide
Top Mobile Retail Trends
47 Spotlight On:
Imagine by Rubie’s
Raising the Bar
Talking Social Media
Retailers embrace technology to give customers unique experiences.
Steve Reece analyzes the action figure category.
On the Hunt with Jordan Hembrough
Exploring the world of collectible toys with the reality TV host.
Specialty Toys & Gifts
SCIENCE TOYS S8 MEDIA CENTER S14 ON THE COVER: GYROBOT, FROM THAMES & KOSMOS
Why Children Play the Way They Do
Trending Away from Tradition
Spielwarenmesse Gets Trendy
Germany-based trade show focuses on growing industry trends.
How to Prepare for a Recall
ASTRA’S INSIGHTS S3
DIGITAL TIPS FOR RETAILERS S4 Engaging New and Repeat Customers
How the Industry Is Leaving Its Comfort Zone
We Need a Hero
Outside the Box
The Toy Market
Lutz Muller discusses hybrids, brand substitutions, & company acquisitions.
The Big Toy Book’s Sweet Suite Event
26 Stat Shot
WHAT’S NEW S6
PLAYABILITY TOYS REDEFINES SPECIAL NEEDS PLAY S12
Published by Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.®
Volume 30, Number 5 www.toybook.com P UBLISHER Jonathan Samet email@example.com E DITOR - IN -C HIEF Jackie Breyer firstname.lastname@example.org S ENIOR E DITORS Marissa DiBartolo email@example.com Ali Mierzejewski firstname.lastname@example.org A SSOCIATE E DITORS Christine Duhaime email@example.com Phil Guie firstname.lastname@example.org E DITORIAL A SSISTANT Deanna Atkins email@example.com E DITORIAL I NTERNS Magdalene Michalik Alexis Willey P RODUCTION D IRECTOR Anthony K. Guardiola firstname.lastname@example.org C ONTROLLER /O FFICE M ANAGER Lori Rubin email@example.com U.S. Corporate Headquarters Laurie Schacht, President firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Gearing Up FOR 2015 Editor’s
s we wrap up our September/October issue, it already feels like 2015 is here. We’ve been working hard to put together our showcase of some of the new items that will be available next year, and covering some of the biggest trends and tips to carry you into the new year. Many of us will get our first glimpse of what 2015 has to offer in Dallas at the Toy Industry Association’s (TIA) Fall Toy Preview event. The industry may have mixed opinions about this show, but I, for one, enjoy it. Yes, it’s quieter than New York Toy Fair—without all of the media hoopla and giant characters walking around bumping into people. Fall Toy Preview is more subdued. Manufacturers aren’t there for media attention (never mind us trade folks); they are there to write early orders for 2015 and get invaluable feedback on new products from me... er, I mean, retailers. Much of what we see in Dallas will be further developed and land on shelves by next fall. Other products will be scrapped altogether, based on a lack of interest from buyers. I love all of it. This show, mainly taking place behind closed doors, has that “industry insider” feel. It’s a bit of a behindthe-scenes look at what’s to come. Roughshod packaging, prototypes that don’t always do what they’re supposed to do—it’s all part of the magic. Some of what you read in our Fall Toy Preview showcase, beginning on page 32, may not make it to shelves next year—there are always a few that don’t. See if you can predict which toys will be winners next year. Also in this issue, the TIA’s Kristin Morency Goldman takes an in-depth look at the customization trend that took hold this year, and is expected to expand next year (page 24). We also take an early look at toy trends for 2015 with toy trend expert Reyne Rice (page 27). For those more geared to the specialty toy industry, do
18 • THE TOY BOOK
Jackie Breyer editor-in-chief
note that while The Toy Book is for everyone who works and plays in the toy industry, the Specialty Toys & Gifts section is just for you. This issue’s specialty section takes a look at the increased demand for science toys, especially for younger kids, and how manufacturers are addressing this trend with new products. Please enjoy this issue of The Toy Book, featuring an inside look at what the toy industry has to offer in 2015. I’d love to hear your feedback! Email me at email@example.com, and follow me on Twitter (@JackieBreyer). ■
“I do wonder what Teacher does with all the toys he confiscates.” SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014
FanTOYstic Fact Bazooka Candy Brands, the manufacturer of the lollipop/toy hybrid Ring Pop, is a division of The Topps Co. Inc., a leading producer of sports-themed cards. However, Topps did not start out in the sports trading card business. Founded in 1938, The Topps Co.— which at the time was called Topps Chewing Gum—was best known for gum that only cost a penny. After World War II, Topps started to produce Bazooka Bubble Gum. Baseball cards, however, did not join the company’s product line until years later, in 1951. Today, Topps produces trading cards for baseball, football, basketball, hockey, and a host of other sports and non-sports brands. Earlier this year, Bazooka Candy Brands launched its #RockThatRock campaign, which invited Ring Pop fans to share photos and videos of themselves with their Ring Pops. As part of the campaign’s Choose the Next Big Flavor competition, fans could choose from three Ring Pop flavors hand-picked by the pop band R5, with the winning selection slated to hit retail stores this fall. With the most votes on the Ring Pop Facebook page, Cherry Limeade will be available at retail outlets such as Wal-Mart, Target, and Sam’s Club.
20 • THE TOY BOOK
LEGO IS WORLD’S LARGEST TOY MAKER, THANKS TO THE LEGO MOVIE Lego is currently the world’s largest toy maker. Revenue at Lego during the first six months rose 11 percent, boosted by The Lego Movie products. Lego is now the biggest toy company in the world in terms of both revenue and profit, ahead of Mattel Inc. The jump also puts Lego slightly ahead of Mattel in sales for the first six months of the year. The licensing of the movie has not been as significant as sales of The Lego Movie-related construction sets. Overall first-half sales for Lego rose to 11.5 billion Danish kroner, or $2.03 billion, from 10.4 billion kroner in the same period last year, the company stated.
MINECRAFT WILL JOIN MICROSOFT STUDIOS Microsoft Corp. has reached an agreement to acquire Mojang, the Stockholmbased game developer behind the popular Minecraft franchise, for $2.5 billion. Subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory review, the acquisition is expected to close later this year. Minecraft is the most popular online game on Xbox, and the game’s community is among the most active in the industry, with more than 2 billion hours played on Xbox 360 alone in the past two years. Microsoft plans to continue to make Minecraft available across PC, iOS, Android, Xbox, and PlayStation platforms.
PATCH PRODUCTS UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP Patch Products has announced that its founders, Fran and Bryce Patch, have sold the business to Topspin Partners, a private equity firm headquartered in New York City. Founded in 1985, Patch has grown from a small puzzle and game manufacturer to a family entertainment company that designs, manufactures, distributes, and markets games, children’s puzzles, preschool toys, creative activities, and teaching tools. The Patch headquarters and management team, led by CEO Bob Wann, will remain in place. “We are excited to have Topspin as our partner going forward,” Wann states. “It was very apparent from all of our discussions that Topspin shares the same excitement and support for the strategic vision we have for Patch.”
Get the latest toy industry news delivered straight to your inbox each week for free! Subscribe to The Toy Book’s Toy Report. Send an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org, and add that address to your address book to ensure delivery. For up-to-the-minute news, follow The Toy Book on Twitter: twitter.com/ToyBook, and like The Toy Book on Facebook: facebook.com/TheToyBook. Visit our blog at www.toybook.com.
he Big Toy Book’s fifth annual Sweet Suite event on July 17 was the Biggest
Night of Play. Nearly 400 influential bloggers from around the country and nearly 100 members of traditional media connected with more than 50 of the
hottest toy brands at Location 05 in New York City for an evening of fun. Sweet Suite kicked off Blogger Bash, a two-day conference for experienced bloggers featuring 10 themed parties. At the event, exciting lounge areas were created where bloggers enjoyed one-on-one time with some of the hottest kids’ brands and products. The night gave bloggers a chance to meet old and new friends while they sipped Lemonhead martinis and Zipz premium wine and ate delicious sweet treats. They also got hands-on experience with new products, including
LeapFrog’s Leap TV, and new Disney Infinity 2.0 characters from Disney Interactive. Plus, they met Spin Master’s Boomer, Imperial Toy’s Lum Lums, and the newest Lalaloopsy dolls from MGA Entertainment. Enormous swag boxes were shipped directly to attendees’ homes after the event, sparking a resurgance in social media impressions. The night came to a close with an after party hosted by Angry Birds Stella, where bloggers met the first female Angry Bird and her friends, unwound with delicious signature cocktails, and feasted on New York City-themed fare. Sweet
LiveStream, so bloggers could see the action and even win prizes from home. Social media was abuzz with more than 40 million Twitter impressions and more than 1,400 unique Instagram photos. The Big Toy Book will host its third annual holiday event on October 29 at the Hearst building in New York City in partnership with the Toy Insider and Woman’s Day. This Biggest Day of Play will give 120 influential bloggers from Philadelphia to Boston the opportunity to connect with brands as the holiday season approaches. Plans are already underway for next year’s sixth annual Sweet Suite event, with early bird sponsorship packages available. If you’re interested in learning more about these events, contact Laurie Schacht at email@example.com.
22 • THE TOY BOOK
The Toy Insider Returns for the Ninth Annual Holiday Gift Guide
dventure Publishing Group Inc., publisher of The Toy Book and The Licensing Book, has once again partnered with Woman’s Day magazine to bring consumers the Toy Insider, a holiday gift supplement featuring the hottest toys and gifts for the holiday season. The ninth annual edition of the Toy Insider will appear in the November issue of Woman’s Day. The Toy Insider features expert toy and gift recommendations at all price points, making it easy for gift-givers to find the perfect product for every child on their list. The Toy Insider team has spent the past year reviewing and evaluating all of the latest toys to identify the most compelling and hottest new products to help gift-givers get an early start on their holiday shopping. Jam-packed with more than 130 toy recommendations from more than 80 different manufacturers, the Toy Insider is a convenient and user-friendly guide that includes gift ideas broken down by age group (0-2 years old, 3-5 years old, 6-8 years old, and 9-plus). Each section features a description of the developmental needs and interests for that specific age group to assist busy parents and grandparents in finding the perfect gift. In addition to the annual Hot 20 list of the hottest toys that will top wish lists nationwide, the Toy Insider will also release the Top Tech 12, a list of forward-thinking and innovative tech-based products that kids of all ages are sure to love. Garnering millions of consumer impressions last year, in outlets such as the Today show, the Wendy Williams show, ABC News Now, Fox News, Bloomberg News, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, AOL, and BusinessWeek, the Toy Insider is again poised to make a splash with national and local print, broadcast, and online media outlets this holiday season. In addition to the print guide, consumers can find full product reviews, exciting giveaways, and gift-giving tips on toyinsider.com. For more information on the Toy Insider, including how to participate in next year’s guide, please contact Jonathan Samet or Laurie Schacht at (212) 575-4510. For updates on the Toy Insider, follow @thetoyinsider on Twitter and like the Toy Insider at www.facebook.com/toyinsider. Visit www.toyinsider.com for more information. ■
THE TOY BOOK • 23
Toy Industry Association
Customization Trend Sweeps the Toy Industry by Kristin Morency Goldman, communications specialist, Toy Industry Association
he “Custom Built” trend—which includes toys that encourage kids to personalize and create new ways to play—was identified as one of the hottest trends of the year at American International Toy Fair this year. Over the past few months, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) has tracked a number of new technologies and manufacturing methods that have a tremendous impact on this fast-evolving trend. The following is a glimpse of what TIA observed while following both consumer and business developments related to customization:
3-D Printing 3-D printing, an additive process in which a specialized printer lays down thin layers of material to create a 3-D object, is beginning to impact both toy manufacturers and consumers. Companies that are already using the technology say 3-D printing is a quick and inexpensive way to create prototypes of a consumer product before producing large batches via traditional manufacturing methods. “Instead of sending your models off to another company and waiting for [them] to come back, or going four months with a mold to China and coming back … You can iterate on your desk,” says Todd Blatt, vice president of Tinkerine, a company that makes 3-D printers in the $999 to $1,249 price range. 3-D printing also lowers the barrier to entry for startups by allowing inventors and entrepreneurs to design something today and start manufacturing it tomorrow, rather than waiting weeks or months to get to that point. From a consumer standpoint, 3-D printing has the potential to take the customization trend to a whole new level. Sev-
24 • THE TOY BOOK
eral toy companies are already embracing 3-D printing to allow kids to custom-design and order unique playthings, from dolls to action figures and beyond. Hasbro recently launched a new website—superfanart.com—that Makerbot Replicator Z18 3-D printer showcases unique My Little Pony models designed by independent artists, which fans can pay to have 3-D printed via Shapeways. Over time, additional Hasbro brands, such as Transformers, will be added to the site. “We are seeing a growing trend of kids personalizing their playthings to reflect their tastes and imaginations, and 3-D printing offers the potential to amplify those creative possibilities,” says Adrienne Appell, TIA trend specialist. “As 3-D printing continues to become more affordable and user-friendly, we anticipate that toymakers—and kids—will widely embrace it.”
User-Generated Content Recognizing that empowering kids to build worlds and create characters and storylines engages them more in play, some toy companies encourage consumers to submit their own ideas and designs for toys—be it virtual game worlds or phys-
e your furniture to decorate Marvel characters help you mov ’d like in the new Disney Inyou your Avengers tower the way finity 2.0 Toy Boxes.
ical products—that can be downloaded or purchased by others worldwide. For example, kids who visit mymakie.com can design their very own, one-of-a-kind doll. Manufactured in London, these creations are then shipped worldwide to the young designers. Similarly, the Make My Own Monster Design Kit from North American Bear Co. lets kids sketch their own custom plush creature, which is then handmade in the company’s New York design studio. Another opportunity for creation comes from University Games, which is currently holding a National Young Game Inventors Contest (through October 15). The company seeks submissions of original board game ideas, and the winner gets the opportunity to have his or her game manufactured and included in the company’s product line next year. In the digital arena, Disney Infinity 2.0 (set for launch this fall) will include enhancements to its user-generated Toy Box mode, which allow players to search for worlds specifically designed for certain characters and vote on their favorite Boxes. Lego also entered into the digital game space, thanks to the recent launch of Lego Fusion, a game app that prompts kids to build structures out of physical bricks, which they then scan and import into their virtual towns. Kids can then share their customized worlds and interact with others’ via the Lego MyFriend system. “By empowering kids to come up with their own creations, and to have those creations brought to life or shared with others, toymakers are giving kids a tremendous amount of confidence in their ideas and abilities,” says Appell.
Behind the Scenes: Smart Tech for Toy Companies Toy manufacturers and retailers can get in on the “cus-
tomization fun” and streamline their business operations using shoptoyfair365.com (STF365), TIA’s free and innovative e-commerce tool that allows toymakers to easily custom-build virtual showrooms for retail buyers to peruse at any time of day or night, every day of the year. The platform also enables buyers to personalize their own digital “playbooks” of products they are interested in sourcing and place purchase orders online. Buying and selling using STF365 is completely free; however, in order to access the site a company must be registered as an exhibitor or qualified buyer to attend one of TIA’s marketplace events (Toy Fair or Fall Toy Preview). “STF365 reflects contemporary commerce behavior by supporting the needs of play trade professionals—not just leading up to and during Toy Fair, but all day, every day,” says Marian Bossard, TIA vice president of meetings and events. “Buyers who use the tool are never without access to new product options for their shelves, so their inventory is always fresh. The technology also enhances the management of existing relationships and provides easy opportunities to develop new ones. This e-commerce tool is a definite game-changer for our industry.” ■ For more overall industry trends, visit www.toyassociation.org/trends. To learn about STF365, visit www.shoptoyfair365.com.
**Turn to page 124 for a fall 2014 update on TIA’s Toy Industry Foundation.
THE TOY BOOK •
S TAT S HOT
A Look at Tablets and Toys Tablet Gamers per Country in Millions of Kids Ages 6 to 12
Top 10 Tablet Games
Top-Selling Toy Properties by Country
Among Kids Ages 6 to 12
Ranked on January to June 2014 Value Sales France
Heard of (in Percent) Base, 780
Currently Playing (in Percent) Base, 230
Candy Crush Saga
Minecraft Pocket Edition
Bejeweled 2 + Blitz
Temple Run 2
Despicable Me: Minion Rush
Cut the Rope
Disney Princess Little Tikes Barbie
World Cup Soccer Pokemon
Mickey & Friends Lego Duplo
26 â€¢ THE TOY BOOK
Source: The NPD Group Inc./Retail Tracking Service
Top Toy Trends for 2015 by Reyne Rice, trend hunter, media influencer, consultant, and keynote speaker
s the TIA’s annual Fall Toy Preview show has industry retailers and manufacturers looking ahead to next year, here are some of the key toy trends to watch out for:
Connected Play Experiences As technology continues to progress in the adult world, new tech-based toys and games are also in development. Wearables such as fashion technology, smartwatches, activity and fitness bands, and updated and smaller-format motion and gesture sensors are making waves in the kids’ category. New materials, such as flexible glass, and new technologies, such as augmented reality, eye-tracking sensors, 3-D printing and plotting, and energy-efficient powered fabrics, are becoming more affordable, giving toy manufacturers new ways to set their products apart with unique points of differentiation.
STEM, STEAM, and STREAM No matter which acronym you embrace, education has changed the way the toy industry views learning. Newer products in science, technology, robotics, engineering, art, and mathematics (STREAM) categories encourage fun, hands-on, life-long learning both in and out of the classroom. Approaching this segment of the business does not need to be boring. Products in this category range from toys with simple solutions and technological elements to toys featuring sophisticated technology and toys with curriculum-based programs.
Unplugged and Unstructured Play Technology is not the only way to differentiate a product range. Parents, retailers, and kids also look for—and are in need of—unstructured and unplugged playtime. Products that encourage constructive play, imaginative and creative endeavors, and roleplay are all alive and well. These products are decidedly low-tech, but they delve into other creative avenues, allowing kids to have a well-balanced play experience. There is definitely a time and a desire to embrace both ends of the spectrum when
it involves toys and games.
Retail Trends and New Retail Formats As the retail landscape evolves, manufacturers have lots of new options to consider. Ask yourself: are there select products in your range that could benefit from direct-to-consumer, directto-retail, and Internet sales? Also consider entertainment studios, licensing properties, technology manufacturers, and online retailers as alliance partners. Odds are, your competitors are considering these options and selectively entering these retail formats. Keeping abreast of these opportunities is critical as a strategic planning tool.
Crowd Funding and Crowd Sourcing More start-up companies and inventors are using this unconventional funding avenue as a way to get their products off the ground. As new entrants in the competitive field of toys, games, and kids’ technology, those using these platforms are not typically toy and game industry folk. Instead, they are established in a different field, or they could be parents seeking alternative ways for their children to play. These new pioneers have no pre-conceived notions of what has or has not worked in the past. They are forging new ground and reaching into the play arena with fresh new eyes, ideas, and products. Be aware of their presence, and don't be blind-sided by their brilliance—after all, they are competitors to both big and small established manufacturers, and they are hungry for shelf space at retail. ■ With more than 15 years as a trend expert, trend hunter, and trend analyst, Reyne Rice has advised on family and youth trends for toys, games, technology, licensing, and entertainment. A seasoned industry professional, with 30 years of experience in marketing, researching, and analyzing the toy industry, she currently advises trade associations, entertainment studios, consumers, manufacturers, and media on the hottest trends. She can be contacted at Reyne@ReyneRice.com.
THE TOY BOOK •
The Toy Market: Where Is It Going This Year? by Lutz Muller
ob Eckert, then CEO of Mattel, told analysts back in 2008, “As I’ve said during past times of high anxiety, my bet is there will be a Christmas.” This will hold true again this year, but it is probably the only thing that will not change.
The Consumer Migrates Down the Price Scale The recession that set in late 2008 had two major consequences. One was that unemployment began to soar
Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment Rate
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
Apr. 2000 Oct. 2000 Apr. 2001 Oct. 2001 Apr. 2002 Oct. 2002 Apr. 2003 Oct. 2003 Apr. 2004 Oct. 2004 Apr. 2005 Oct. 2005 Apr. 2006 Oct. 2006 Apr. 2007 Oct. 2007 Apr. 2008 Oct. 2008 Apr. 2009 Oct. 2009 Apr. 2010 Oct. 2010 Apr. 2011 Oct. 2011 Apr. 2012 Oct. 2012 Apr. 2013 Oct. 2013
MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME IN THOUSANDS (OCTOBER 2013, SEASONALLY ADJUSTED)
Median Household Income and Unemployment Rate January 2000 to October 2013
MONTH AND YEAR Recessionary Period
Median Household Income (left)
Unemployment Rate (right)
and median household income fell off a cliff a year later. When household income falls, consumers face choices. They can either maintain their living standards and go into debt, or they can cut back on expenses. More than half of U.S. wage earners make less than $30,000 per year and the unemployed make even less—both, typically, are already maxed out in debt. So the first option is not a realistic one, which leaves the second one: cut back. On July 28, Nielsen reported “Intentions to spend are at the highest level in the U.S. since before the Great Recession (49 percent), but 62 percent of Americans continue to deploy strategies to save on food, entertainment, and household expenses.” The shopfloor people at the Klosters Toy Retailer Panel have observed an accelerating trend toward substitution— consumers either go down the price scale for a given range or they seek another lower-priced brand. The most extreme example for this is preschool, where Fisher-Price, the leader in the category, has seen sales decline compared to the preschool category overall, as seen in the chart on the next page. Fisher-Price is not only the leader in the category, it also typically has the highest price points, and preschool toys— particularly for the very young—are very readily substitutable. Young children, especially kids ages 3 and under, do not really care whether they get a toy that costs $100 or $5 as long as they get one with which they can play for a bit before proceeding to the real fun—playing with the pretty box, the ribbons, and the wrapping paper. This trend toward substitution is certain to continue for
Source: John Coder and Gordon Greene, Sentier Research Annapolis 2013
28 • THE TOY BOOK
Fisher-Price U.S. vs. Total Preschool at Retail 4,500 4,000 3,500 U.S. $ MILLION
3,000 2,500 2,000 U.S. Fisher-Price Sales
1,500 1,000 500 0 2008
Source: NPD, SEC Filings and Klosters Retailer Panel
the remainder of the year and is unlikely to reverse itself unless—and until—household income rises significantly. Accelerating Shift in Toy Retailer Market Shares The leading retailers continued to show fairly significant movements in market shares—some lost and some gained— and these trends are accelerating. This is how their positions changed since 2009 according to metrics obtained through the Klosters Retailer Panel:
In Percent of Total
U.S. Toy Retailer Market Shares from 2009 to 2014 35
Toys “R” Us
Others Barnes & Noble Source: Klosters Retailer Panel
The two gainers were Amazon and Dollar Stores. The former did this on the basis of convenience; the latter because of close proximity to the majority of the lower-
income consumers and very good value. You cannot beat online buying—as epitomized by Amazon—for convenience, and you cannot beat the Dollar Stores on price. The major losers were Wal-Mart and the “Others”— mainly specialty stores, including Learning Express, small mom-and-pops, and opportunistic entrants such as Walgreens. In the case of Wal-Mart, these market share losses were clearly self-inflicted. The retailer got caught in the quarterly earnings trap. To satisfy the expectations of the financial industry—hedge funds and banks—they had to show continuous improvements in their earnings and they could only achieve this by equally continuously cutting back on staff. Their stores were hence allowed to deteriorate to a level where consumers began to vote with their feet. This deterioration is most obvious in the half-empty shelves, unmanned cash registers, and disgraceful restrooms. Unless Wal-Mart addresses the underlying problem—people and their pay—the store environment will not improve and the company is likely to continue losing market share. Specialty stores do not have the volume to offer the type of prices the mass retailers do and, as a consequence, they are not really competitive. This, too, is not expected to change and will lead to continued declines in market share. The recent announcement that Dollar Tree will acquire Family Dollar will create a behemoth that threatens not only its direct competitor, Dollar General, but also all other mass retailers, which will likely be reflected in accelerated toy market share changes between now and the end of this year. The Toy Industry Consolidates Mid-level toy companies, particularly those that relied on specialty retailers for the majority of their sales, have increasingly fled into the arms of larger competitors over the past 18 months or so. This is not particularly surprising given the consolidation on the retail level, the increasing trend toward price substitution by consumers, and the continued stagnation of the toy market overall, as seen in the chart on page 100. When you look at the list, a few things stand out. One is that Mattel, Spin Master, Toy State, and Goliath, all wellestablished toy companies, bought smaller manufacturers to enter toy categories in which they had had no position up continued on page 100
30 • THE TOY BOOK
Bananagrams Offers WildTiles to Specialty Retailers
ananagrams WildTiles will be available for specialty retailers next year. WildTiles includes six monkey WildTiles, putting a new spin on the original Bananagrams racing crossword game. As players race to complete their grids, they can pick up a WildTile and play it as many times as needed, standing in for any letter. Everything players need is included in the banana pouch.
Alex Brands’ Latest Toys Glow, Shoot Snow, and More
lex Brands expands multiple established lines with new items. Scientific Explorer Light Up Ice Putty, for kids ages 6 and up, features clear magic putty that changes from clear to frost and back again. Kids can pull it, stretch it, bounce it, and wrap it around the flashing, two-color light-up LED ball inside. The putty also comes with an alien figurine. Ideal Pig Out Dice Slide involves rolling dice and collecting chips with either pigs or chickens on them. Kids ages 8 and up gain points if they roll pigs, but rolling too many chickens ends the turn. Each set contains five dice, 32 chips, and a Dice Slide. With the Ideal Sno-Striker, kids jam snow in the front, pull back the lever, and let it rip for fast and far-ranging snowballs. Zoob Glow Dinos includes 250 moveable Zoob pieces, including pieces that glow-in-the-dark. Kids ages 6 and up can build a Zoobasaurus, a Zoobadactyl, a Z-Rex, and more. Designed for kids ages 3 and up, CitiBlocs 300-piece Natural Building Blocks is a natural color wooden block set. Kids can construct towers, towns, castles, and more through stacking. The blocks are made from eco-friendly pinewood from New Zealand. Kids ages 5 and up can slam the blast chamber of the Poof Strato-Slam Rocket Battle Blast to send the rockets soaring through the air. The set includes six foam-tipped rockets, two launching docks, two air hoses, and two blast chambers. Alex’s Sketch It Nail Pen Salon lets kids ages 8 and up sketch and paint their nails with five two-tip nail pens. Kids can peel, stick, and fill in the included appliqués. Each 190-piece set includes nail gems, appliqués, nail pens, and a nail file. With Infinity Jewelry, kids ages 8 and up can create multi-strand bracelets or necklaces using the easy slide clasp and without using tools or glue. Each set includes 14 metal charms and beads, six faux leather cords, three colors of twine, four easy-slide clasps, four gem stickers, and more.
32 • THE TOY BOOK
PlaSmart Brings Nostalgia to Playtime
mart Mat multi-purpose play mats, from PlaSmart, can be used indoors or outdoors. Made from high-quality, coated, EVA foam, Smart Mats are easy to clean, travel, and store. Giving kids of all ages a giant play surface, the mats measure a minimum of 78 by 46 inches. Travel Bingo is a new and improved version of a classic that will entertain kids and help pass the time during road trips. Slide the windows shut as roadside attractions are spotted. Kids ages 6 and up can play solo or with a partner. The first player to complete one line or an entire card and shout “Bingo!” wins the game. Wonky Wheels Vintage Collection resemble old-time race cars. Designed for kids ages 3 and up, these boxed Wonky Wheels vintage-style race cars will also appeal to adults. Users can steer Wonky Wheels with a finger and watch how the car wobbles, rotates, and creates new moves. High quality and beautifully made, Wonky Wheels also help enhance kids’ fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Blue Orange Games Celebrates 15 Years of Gobblet
ext year, Blue Orange Games will celebrate the 15th anniversary of its strategy game, Gobblet, with the new Gobblet Cube. Blue Orange Games has teamed up with the KID group to revamp Gobblet with a new contemporary look. A state-of-the-art, square-shaped modular box will hold the game and enhance Gobblet’s 3-D features. This stackable box includes enough self storage to hold all required game pieces, and the modular board offers new ways to play and assures a different game every time. Each player’s objective is to line up four pieces in a row. With the 15th anniversary edition of Gobblet, players will continue testing their strategy, memory, visualization, and analysis skills. The Spot It! Splash party game, from Blue Orange Games, consists of plastic cards that are waterproof and sand-proof, so families can take them anywhere. Players race to spot summer symbols and spot matches to win. Designed for players age 7 and up, the game develops visual perception and processing speed, speech and language skills, and focus and attention skills.
Hog Wild Gets Mythical
og Wild’s Unicorn Popper launches a special-edition rainbow-colored, soft foam ball when kids squeeze its belly. The harder kids squeeze, the further it shoots. The Unicorn Popper is air powered and can shoot up to 20 feet. It’s safe for both indoor and outdoor play. This popper comes in sky blue and white, and each one includes six foam balls.
34 • THE TOY BOOK
Take Flight with Silverlitâ€™s Heli Combat
he Heli Combat, from Silverlit, is a helicopter with three stuntaction features: Spin Top Strike, Missile Assault, and Rescue Machine. With Spin Top Strike, kids can drop the Spin Top, which then automatically spins on the ground. Missile Assault allows kids to shoot up to eight missiles, and the transporting gear allows them to transform the copter into a Rescue Machine.
STYLEModel Design Studio
Schylling Extends Brio for Rail Good Times
chylling Toys will expand the Brio Wooden Railway line with new sets and accessories. The Cargo Railway Deluxe Set consists of 54 pieces, including two trains, one of which is motorized. With three mechanical, magnetic cranes, kids can bring in cargo and haul it up and over rock outcroppings and the trestle bridge. Additionally, the three-level Parking Garage Set serves as a space for storing Brio vehicles. It features a working elevator and a vehicle ramp. Brio also expands with a Double Suspension Bridge and a Collapsing Bridge, and new trains include the Freight Battery Engine, the Windmill Truck, the Monorail train, and a classically designed Caboose. Horse Dreams is a new coloring, design, and activity line for horse lovers. The Create Your Happy Horses set features 32 pages of horse scenes, which kids can customize with six pages of stickers to create Horse Dreams worlds in the paddock, training ring, barn, or horse show arena. The Horse Dreams Coloring Book includes 54 8.5- by 11-inch spiral-bound pages with ideas, pre-printed templates, and a sticker sheet for designing and coloring. The Horse Dreams Pocket Coloring Book has inspiration pages and a sticker sheet, and is portable at 6 by 5 inches. The Horse Dreams Jewelry Box is decorated with horse images and a patchwork quilt design, and features a mirror, a removable tray, and a swing out drawer. STYLEModel is a line of 19 creative design sets, which let kids ages 6 and up release their inner creative flair as they dream up and draw fashionable clothing designs, make-up, hairstyles, and trendy accessories. Each set has plenty of sample illustrations and pre-drawn design pages. Both the Design Studio and Glamour Special sets allow for exploring and experimenting with makeup design and hairstyles with the Makeup Studio Folder. It comes with stencils, stickers, pattern-paper and fabric sheets, 12 eye shadows, three lip glosses, brushes, pencils, applicators, and a preprinted sketchbook. The T-Shirt Designer is a spiral bound book that includes stencils, stickers, design ideas, and blank Tshirt pages. Kids can choose from video dance, ballet, and hip-hop dance styles with STYLEModel Dance and create specific fashion looks.
Brio Cargo Railway Deluxe Set
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Magformers Kicks Magnets into Gear
agformers’ newest construction line, Magnets in Motion, allows kids ages 6 and up to use hand cranks and colored spinners to create twirling mechanisms. With Magnets in Motion Power Gear Sets, kids can build with motorized pieces, characters, and magnetic LED lights. The Magnets in Motion sets are available in a variety of sizes, including Small Gear Sets, Large Gear Sets, and accessory packs. All of the sets feature pieces from Magformers’ original Rainbow Set for superior builds.
Magnets in Motion 83-Piece Power Set
The Bridge Direct Expands with Monster Jam
he Bridge Direct will expand its C3 line of licensed construction kits this fall. The C3 Monster Jam line offers construction play based on the Monster Jam experience, featuring the iconic trucks in buildable form. Each truck set comes with more than 80 pieces, as well as stunts and arena environments. The C3 NBA LeBron James vs. Kobe Bryant One on One Set lets kids create their own matchups. The set includes more than 150 pieces, including a hoop, a basketball, courtside seats, rafter jerseys, an NBA trophy, and articulated figures of Bryant and James. Additionally, the C3 WWE StackDown Battle Royale Ring consists of more than 350 pieces, seven collectible C3 figures, real working ring ropes, and other accessories. Next year, The Bridge Direct’s Flying Heroes action figures will expand to include Marvel’s Captain America and Iron Man, as well as Despicable Me’s Minions. C3 NBA LeBron James vs. Light in Flight Iron Man, featuring a light-up chest and launcher, will also arrive next Kobe Bryant One on One Set fall. Popular characters will join the Inkoos draw, wash, and redo plush line, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Minions; Marvel’s Spider-Man and Iron Man; and Elsa, Anna, and Olaf from Disney Frozen. New Color ’n Glow Inkoos will feature glow-in-the-dark eyes and stickers, while Color ’n Create Inkoos come with metallic threading and stickon sparkling gems. The Color ’n Go line will also expand with new characters. Next year, Strawberry Shortcake will celebrate 35 years with the Strawberry Shortcake Celebrations Feature Doll. Debuting next fall, the 11-inch doll will feature a sparkling light-up body, phrases and tunes, a sparkly hair bow that kids can wear in their own hair, and a dress that transforms from long to short. More iconic classics will be reintroduced to a new generation in the Fisher-Price Classics line. Little Snoopy wobbles around, swings his ears, and makes a “yip-yip” sound. The Cash Register comes with brightly colored coins to teach counting and color recognition. The Fisher-Price Musical Ferris Wheel features whimsical music, a knob to wind, and Little People characters. Lite-Brite-licensed refill packs, featuring pegs, reusable templates, costume clings, and a storage container based on popular licenses—including Despicable Me and My Little Pony—will also launch next year.
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Moose Incites Mutant Mania
utant Mania, from Moose Toys, is a series of characters with heads, torsos, and legs that kids can mix and match to create unique-looking wrestlers. Mutant Mania is set to launch in the fall, along with a re-launch of Beados, which allow kids to create designs with beads that stick together in water. Additionally, new mutt characters will join The Ugglys line of burping and farting electronic pet dogs, along with new Ugglys Monkeys. Next spring, Moose will debut a Chocolate Maker, which lets budding chefs create their own chocolate bars. Moose will also extend its Little Live Pets line with new bird styles and a new level of interactivity next year. Little Live Pets
Kahootz Refreshes Nostalgic Arts and Crafts Toys
ahootz is set to introduce new takes on classic arts and crafts toys. The Spirograph Cyclex drawing tool lets kids of all ages create intricate spiral art designs and patterns, thanks to rotating stencil wheels, which automatically advance while tracing. The design wheels are fully encased inside the Cyclex to prevent the gears from slipping. The Cyclex works with the included design markers and any household pens, markers, and crayons. Each Cyclex set features more than 80 different stencil design options, and includes six art markers, a storage tray, a design guide, and 20 sheets of design paper. To commemorate Spirographâ€™s 50th anniversary, the Original Super Spirograph returns with interchangeable Spiro-Tracks, which let kids create unique pattern shapes. Each jumbo set contains more than 75 pieces, including 19 Spirograph Precision Wheels, two Spirograph Precision Rings, two Spirograph Precision Racks, 34 Spiro-Tracks, reusable Spiro-Putty, design pens, a guide book, a real metal die-cast No. 50 Spirograph wheel, and more. In addition, each set comes in a storage case with a built-in work desk. Padzooks Wobble-N-Bobble Heads let kids create moving paper bobble head characters. Each paper craft activity pad is packed with paper bobble heads, which are designed with a curved base to make them rock and nod with just a gentle shake or push. This all-in-one project pad includes 16 pages of full-color punch-outs, one sheet of peel-and-stick tape squares, a storage pocket, and more. No scissors or glue are required, and the pad comes with 36 different bobble head characters to create, including pirates, pets, astronauts, mermaids, and more. With the new Fashion Plates design set, the classic mix-andmatch fashion drawing tool returns. Kids can create different looks by combining the rubbing plates together with the new Fashion Plates tablet. With a few passes of the rubbing tool, designs transfer onto sketch paper, and kids can use the included pencils to add color and detail. The set includes the drawing tablet, 15 double-sided fashion plates, colored pencils, 20 sheets of design paper, a carry-along portfolio and storage case, and more.
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Kids Blast Off with K’NEX
’NEX will introduce a new line, K’Force: Build and Blast, consisting of buildable blasters. The line allows kids ages 8 and up to construct a customized blaster with endless possibilities. The line includes six different types of blasters, buildable targets, and blaster missile packs. K’NEX’s Sky Sprinter Roller Coaster is the tallest K’NEX coaster ever made, built from more than 800 made-in-the-U.S., classic K’NEX pieces. It stands more than 7 feet tall and includes a blaster motor that sends the coaster car on a ride. K’NEX will also bring back the Big Ball Factory 20 years after its first release. The set contains more than 3,000 pieces and includes classic rods and connectors, four balls, and a motorized lift. The new K’NEX Education Robotics set includes 715 K’NEX rods and connectors, a control device, three motors, Ultrasonic, color lights, and touch sensors so that kids can build a programmable dog who follows commands, a car with a smartphone holder, an airplane with retractable landing gear, and more. This set reinforces STEM concepts and encourages mechanical design and programming, linear and critical thinking, and problem solving skills. The Lincoln Logs 100th Anniversary Tin features 102 pieces celebrating the centennial anniversary of the brand. It includes a frontiersman figure, two horses, and more for classic building fun. The Tinkertoy 150 Piece Essentials set includes spools, rods, panels, and fins with 16 building ideas and a sturdy box for storage.
K’NEX Education Robotics Dog
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Tech 4 Kids Gets Tricked Out
ech 4 Kids will launch Nitro Grinders in the U.S. They jump, spin, ride over obstacles without falling over, and perform tricks at the user’s fingertips. The first series includes 56 Nitro Grinders characters to collect, including special sets with customizable wheels and ramps.
Delta Children Is the Cat’s Meow
elta Children will introduce a line of Hello Kitty kids’ furniture. The Hello Kitty Plastic Toddler Bed features fun decals of the iconic feline. The sturdy bed sits low to the ground and features two attached safety rails for added security. The bed holds up to 50 pounds and is for kids ages 15 months and up. The Hello Kitty Multi-Bin Organizer can hold large and small toys. Featuring six uniquely sized fabric bins and a sturdy wood frame, it’s decorated with colorful graphics. The bin is recommended for kids ages 3 to 6. The Hello Kitty Table & Chair Set features a spacious tabletop along with two coordinating chairs that showcase Hello Kitty’s iconic silhouette. The set is recommended for kids ages 3 to 6 and each chair can hold up to 50 pounds. All pieces feature a durable, scratch-resistant, and easy-to-clean finish. Hello Kitty Multi-Bin Organizer
WowWee Introduces New Robotic Friends
iPosaur, from WowWee, is a robotic creature with evolving intelligence and personality. It can sense its own surroundings and environment and interact with them in a lifelike way. In addition to GestureSense technology that lets kids control it with a swipe of their hands, the MiPosaur features MiP balance and comes with an interactive TrackBall. The MiPosaur can play fetch, guard, and chase the ball, and its mood changes depending on the various interactions. The MiPosaur will be fully interactive with the MiP robot, and a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-enabled app will feature games. WowWee will also introduce Snap Pets, a fun and easy-to-use camera that sends photos wirelessly to an app via Bluetooth. It also serves as a remote for the smart device’s camera via the shutter button. Kids can also take selfies by looking into the Snap Pet’s camera and pressing on its ear. WowWee’s Electrokidz Wild series features new designs, patterns, and hair colors, as well as the Electrokidz signature hair that dances to the beat of music.
Diggin Is Pitch Perfect
axSport Lazer Pitch Baseball, from Diggin Active, is a pitching machine that allows kids ages 5 and up to activate the pitch by pressing the button on the bat’s handle. The adjustable pitching angles include normal fast balls, softball lobs, and 90-degree pop-ups for beginners. Lazer Pitch Baseball shoots pitches up to 25 feet, and the red light will confirm that a pitch is coming. For kids who want to use their own bat, the machine also features an auto mode that will shoot pitches every eight seconds.
Speed Stacks Gets Personalized
peed Stacks’ sport-stacking products enable kids to play and train on a beginner or competitive level. Speed Stacks will release a new line of sets that feature cool metallic colors and snap tops. While the StackPacks and Competition Cups sets include everything kids need to get started, the personalization begins with the new Snap Top designs. Kids can choose from Blazing Fast, Atomic Silver, Bandana, and Spiro to change the look of their cups with a simple snap. Also available are new Minis, which are twoand-a-half times smaller than regular Speed Stacks. Minis are available in four colors and come with a quick release carrier. Metallic Orange Competition Cups
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Pacific Play Tents Goes Camo
Enchanted Forest Teepee Playhouse
acific Play Tents’ Enchanted Forest Teepee Playhouse lets imaginations run wild. The playhouse measures nearly 5 feet tall by nearly 4 feet wide, making it large enough for multiple kids to play at once. Made of durable 100-percent cotton canvas, the easy-to-set-up Teepee can be used indoors. The bright walls feature interesting designs and there is an easy-access opening and a mesh window for ventilation. The teepee comes in a carry bag for easy travel and storage. The Green Camo Combo Set includes a tent, a chair, and a sleeping bag. Kids can have fun inside or outside with the easy-to-assemble tent. The set is also available in pink. The Presto Tent features the latest in tent technology. Parents simply remove the tent from the carry bag, unfold it, lift it up, and pull the cord. No more parts or extra hands are needed to enjoy the benefits of an ultra-simple setup. This highquality cabana also has the structural stability to withstand wind and provide protection from harmful UV rays. The tent is UV-treated, SPF-30 rated, and comes with four attached sandbags.
Neat-Oh! Makes Storage Fun and Easy
eat-Oh! will introduce the okiedog Wildpack, a new line of children’s travel products in nine animal styles, including panda, tiger, elephant, rabbit, dog, dragon, hippo, owl, and fox. Each bag has a water-repellent soft shell and 3-D shape. The line includes backpacks, lunch bags, small and large trollies, suitcases, and luggage tags. Each item is easy to clean, lightweight, and features an interior write-on nametag, adjustable straps, and an interior mesh pocket. Another new line from Neat-Oh! is okiedog Tiny Treasures, colorful girl characters designed for girls’ necessities and secrets. Featuring a combination of 3-D design and various fabrics, Tiny Treasure bags are suitable for kids ages 3 to 6. The line includes multiple characters, including fashionista, fairy, ballerina, princess, mermaid, and berry. The bags are easy to clean, lightweight, and water-resistant.
Zing Lights Up the Sky
he new Air Storm Firetek Bow, from Zing Toys, has blazing LED light-up power for an illuminating effect for any type of target practice. Kids ages 8 and up can hook the Zonic Blaze whistlescreaming arrow into the fast-load loops, pull back, and fire the arrows. The Firetek Bow lights up and sends the arrows up to 145 feet in the air. It comes with three Zonic Blaze glowing arrows and is available in green and red.
okiedog Wildpack Tiger
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The Toy Book Chats with David Beige, sales manager, Rubie’s Costume Co. How was the Imagine by Rubie’s division created? Imagine by Rubie’s, the toy division of Rubie’s Costume Co. Inc., originally started as Rubie’s Dress-Up division several years ago. Over the past 10 years, with the growth of Internet shopping and our e-commerce customer base, we have witnessed the increase in demand for costume separates and dress-up year-round. Different than Halloween, dress-up tends to be more casual, and this led us to create the muscle chest shirts and reversible capes that exist today, where a child can wear a “costume” with his favorite pair of blue jeans. In addition, over the past five years kids’ increased interest in the latest superhero character and the increase in popularity of play dates has sky-rocketed the industry as a whole. Imagine by Rubie’s has excelled in finding the best ways to provide the highest quality products, while still ensuring they are safe, fun, and feasible within the busy lifestyles of parents and children today.
censes, which are heavily geared toward boys. Now with both girls’ and boys’ dress-up growing rapidly each year, it will be a continued fight over space at retail. Are licensed or generic dress-up costumes more popular? It depends on the gender of the child; boys tend to gravitate toward their favorite licensed superheroes, whereas girls tend to dress up as generic princesses and fairies. However, we have seen a change in the marketplace over the last few years as “girl power” is definitely taking over. Girls are maturing at a much younger age and are now dressing up as the female versions of their favorite licensed superhero characters. In addition, boys are also interested in emulating various occupational characters, such as SWAT, military, police officers, firefighters, and ninjas.
What trends are you seeing for 2015? 2015 will bring even more excitement to the dress-up category. With blockbuster theatrical Does dress-up tend to be more girlfilm releases and TV shows such as Avengers: oriented? Age of Ultron, Star Wars: Episode VII, Star Wars Children’s dress-up transcends Superman and My Super Best Friends Rebels, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and genders and age groups, but it hasn’t alBatgirl dress-up sets Minions, there will be strong representaways been that way. In the past, girls’ dress-up was more popular, and that was mainly because tion of boys’ dress-up products in the toy aisles. Next year that was what the market had to offer. More recently, boys’ we anticipate more girls dressing up as their favorite sudress-up has come on strong to even out that trend. This perhero characters, such as Batgirl, Supergirl, and Wonder can be attributed to the increased interest in the Marvel, Woman. So, both boys and girls will have plenty to look for■ DC Comics, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and WWE li- ward to in the future!
THE TOY BOOK • 47
1. 1. The John Cena dress-up costume includes a muscle chest shirt (fiber fill), a fabric mask, and a hat. In addition, the WWE Collection includes Roman Reigns, Hulk Hogan, Daniel Bryan, and Sheamus. Available in child size small. 2. Inspired by The Amazing Spider-Man 2 from Marvel, this Spider-Man costume replicates Peter Parker’s alter ego. It includes a muscle chest shirt (fiber fill) and a fabric mask. Available in child size medium. 3. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman from Imagine by Rubie’s! Transform into one of DC Comics’ most popular superheroes and leap tall buildings in a single bound. This two-piece dress-up set includes a muscle chest shirt with Superman logo (fiber fill) and a matching red cape. Available in child size small. 4. Introducing Supergirl, from My Super Best Friends Collection. It includes a tutu skirt, a cape, a matching leotard, glovelettes, and a glitter mask. My Super Best Friends Collection also includes Batgirl and Wonder Girl as well as purses, glitter slipper shoes, hair extensions, nail art strips, and makeup accessory kits. Items are sold separately. 5. From this summer’s blockbuster hit Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the Rocket Raccoon costume from Imagine by Rubie’s is adorable, yet fierce. Based on the character voiced by Bradley Cooper, the dress-up set includes a printed jumpsuit, a fleece hat, and an inflatable weapon. The Guardians of the Galaxy Collection also includes Star-Lord and Drax the Destroyer. Available in child size small.
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6. From a galaxy far, far away, the Darth Vader dress-up costume features one of Star Wars’ most iconic and popular characters. The set includes a deluxe costume top (foam-backed stitched), a molded mask, and a black cape. The Star Wars Collection also includes Darth Maul, Boba Fett, Clone Trooper, and Stormtrooper. 7. From the Imagine by Rubie’s non-licensed line of costumes, the Enchanted Princess is as pretty as a picture. This beautiful outfit includes a dress with puffed sleeves and bow detailing, matching white gloves, and a tiara. The Princess Collection also includes Forest Fairy Queen, Ballroom Beauty, Dreaming Princess, Crystal Princess, Fairest Princess, Golden Princess, Snow Queen, Princess Raffaela, Princess Juliet, and Princess Gisselle. Available in child size small. 8. Kick some shell with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Combat Box Set from Imagine by Rubie’s. This unique dress-up set includes a muscle chest shirt (fiber fill) with an attached shell and four multi-color character eye masks, including Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo. Available in child size small. 9. There’s nothing more magical than dressing up as your favorite everyday superhero. With Imagine by Rubie’s, kids can become a firefighter, a police officer, or an Army soldier. The Firefighter dress-up set includes a muscle chest shirt (fiber fill) with an imprinted badge, a matching hat, and a plastic toy ax. Available in child size small.
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TeleBrands Brings Magic to Playtime
et for release this winter, TeleBrands’ Phantom Saucer is a lightweight, UFO-shaped toy saucer that hovers between kids’ hands seemingly by shaking one’s fingers. Similar to a modern day yo-yo, kids must master the skills necessary to trick audiences into believing the saucer floats in mid-air. Phantom Saucer comes with How’d You Do That?, a DVD that lends tips to aspiring young magicians. Ball Pets are soft, colorful playthings that keep brains and bodies active. Available in six styles, including Puffy the Purple Bear, Berry Blue Kitty, and Sunny the Puppy, each one is about a quarter of the size of a soccer ball. Ball Pets bounce, fly through the air, and roll like a traditional ball. Kids can open the Ball Pets with child-safe hinges and watch as they transform into plush companions. Teddy Tank is a plush animal with a 1-gallon removable fishbowl in the center, giving pets a nice place to call home. Along with teaching care for other living creatures, it serves as decoration and stimulates creativity, as kids can personalize the fishbowl to make it all their own. The Teddy Tank is available in 12 versions, including a Magical Unicorn and a Pearl White Teddy Bear. Ball Pets
Fashion Angels Targets Tweens, Goes Green
ashion Angels will launch a new line of Upcycling kits for tween girls next year. These new kits take two important tween trends—saving the planet and do-it-yourself projects—to the next level with a fashionable approach. Each kit is themed by the material it reclaims to create the projects: T-shirts, plastic bags, plastic bottles, and toys and games. Each Upcycling kit comes with a design guide featuring step-by-step instructions for up to 10 projects, plus ideas to create variations on those projects, making even more unique items. Each kit also includes basic craft materials, such as earring hooks, chains, beads, bracelet wire, and more. With the Upcycling line, kids can turn plastic grocery bags into a wall hanging or a headband, an old T-shirt will become a pillow or a wrap bracelet, a plastic bottle can be transformed into a purse, and old game board pieces can become a statement necklace. Additionally, Fashion Angels will expand the It’s My Biz line of girl entrepreneur kits, as well as the tween lifestyle line Style.Lab. This line includes accessories, room décor, tween-focused natural beauty care, and more. Fashion Angels will also expand the product offerings of its licensed brands, including Monster High, Ever After High, Barbie, My Little Pony, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, Littlest Pet Shop, Hello Kitty, and Project Runway. Fashion Angels will also welcome Mattel brand American Girl to its licensed product line for next year.
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Carnegie Collection Velociraptor, Guardian Dragon, and Wild Safari Wildlife Jaguar
The Orb Factory Is Pixel Perfect
K Safari Ltd. Goes Wild
he latest animal figures from Safari Ltd. are based on creatures from exotic locations, the distant past, and even the imagination. Next yearâ€™s Wild Safari Wildlife Jaguar figure will measure 4.25 inches by 2 inches, and is recommended for kids ages 3 and up (or any fans of the South American, rain forest-dwelling cat). The Velociraptor was a formidable predator during the Cretaceous Period, and the new Carnegie Collection Velociraptor replica captures its most memorable features, including a sharp retractable claw. The figure measures 8 inches by 3.25 inches, and is suitable for kids ages 3 and up. The Guardian Dragon features a scaly hide, sharp teeth, the gift of flight, and silver armor. The figure, set for release next year and recommended for kids ages 3 and up, measures 3.5 inches by 6.25 inches by 5.25 inches. New to the Incredible Creatures line is the Large Mouth Bass, set for release next year and recommended for kids ages 18 months and up. This fish figure measures 6.25 by 3 inches. Safari Ltd. will also expand its Toob line next year with Tools Toob. Consisting of hand-painted tool toys measuring 1.5 inches to 3 inches, the Toob includes a hammer, a saw, two screwdrivers, pliers, a clamp, a wrench, and a drill.
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ids can stick, stack, and squish cubes to make a pixelated pet with PixelPops, from The Orb Factory. Using the special stylus to pick up and stick the cubes onto the base, they can build up and layer colored squares to create a pet and charm. Both girls and boys can enjoy creative play with PixelPops to create a unique collectible animal. A limited number of PixelPops SKUs were released last summer, but a larger selection will be available in February. The Orb Factory is currently developing a larger range of kits, including play sets and more characters.
Worx Toys Adds Scents to Style
orx Toys will triple the number of styles in its Bo-Po line of Brush On-Peel Off nail polish for kids, adding new colors and corresponding fragrances to each color. The line will consist of 27 different colors, tinting shades, glittering sparkle styles, and glow-in-the-dark fun. New Bo-Po colors and fragrances include sour-apple scented Freak of Nature green; caramel-scented Fusion tan; mint-scented Mint Chocolate Chip light green with glitter; bubble gum-scented Confection pink; chocolate-scented Mud brown; peach-scented, glow-in-the-dark Night Glow orange; and vanilla-scented LOL pearl; among others. Worx Toys also offers color changing lip balms. The moisturizing balm comes in two flavors, Mango and Ice Cream, and changes colors when applied.
TCG Defies Gravity
CG will bring the game Linkee from the UK to North America next year. In the game, kids ages 14 and up can play with up to 30 players and reverse-quiz each other along the way. The object is to find the “Linkee”—or what the answers have in common—and once a player does, he or she receives a letter card. The first person whose cards spell out “Linkee” wins. The game includes 360 cards, four pads, and four pencils. Librium will be available in the U.S. and Canada and challenges kids’ strategy, concentration, and balance. Players ages 14 and up must stack cards without collapsing the structure. The set contains 20 cards and a magnetic mount that holds the base card and serves as a storage container for the cards. Once kids start sliding the corners of their cards into the other card’s cut outs, they can watch as the structure defies gravity. TCG will also release a life-sized plush version of the Internet’s grumpiest feline, Grumpy Cat. The Grumpy Cat Life-Size Plush is intended for kids ages 4 and up and features real sounds.
NKOK Rumbles into Dallas
ew to NKOK’s WWE line are Rumble Vans, Tour Buses, and an ATV, all personalized by fans’ favorite WWE superstars. Available in three unique styles, the Rumble Vans will be available in John Cena, Randy Orton, and CM Punk editions. Each will feature lights, sound effects, and the real voice of each wrestler. The die-cast Tour Buses will also be available in three different versions, each featuring a hidden door and an included WWE die-cast racecar. A John Cena R/C ATV will round out the line, equipped with real working headlights. SpongeBob and Patrick are off to the races in the battery-powered SpongeBob SquarePants Hot Rod Boat Race Set. Kids can claim their favorite character and go head-to-head, racing the two vehicles along 8 feet of track. The set includes a lap counter, working lights, two vehicles, two controllers, 16 track pieces, and a Bikini Bottom raceway backdrop complete with jellyfish decals. In addition, a line of Battery Operated Soft Vinyl vehicles will be available in SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward models. Each vehicle is more than 5 inches long and will feature lights and sounds. The vehicles will also be available in smaller versions that feature pull-back action. John Cena R/C ATV NKOK will also add to its Discovery Kids line, bringing in a roaring, 22-inch R/C Tyrannosaurus Rex. The dinosaur features ferocious sound effects, working lights, sharp teeth, realistic skin, an animated neck, and a chomping jaw. In partnership with RealTree, NKOK will develop a line inspired by the brand’s high-definition camouflage. The line will include a Ford F-150 SVT Raptor Truck with full suspension, a high torque motor, full-functioning controls, and authentic RealTree snow camouflage graphics; a Compound Crossbow, which propels suction arrows more than 50 feet and comes with a target to practice on; a RealTree Pistol Crossbow Set; an Archery Set; Walkie Talkies; and a Roleplay Camping Set.
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Jada Toys Speeds into New Licensing Deals
ada Toys Inc. has been granted the vehicle rights for two Universal Pictures films, Jurassic World and Fast & Furious 7, through a licensing agreement with Universal Partnerships & Licensing. Both films are slated for release worldwide next year. For Jurassic World—the long-awaited next installment in the Jurassic Park series—Jada plans to develop highly stylized radio-control vehicles and collectible die-cast for the movie as well as for the other films in the franchise, including Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park: The Lost World, and Jurassic Park III. Fast action and extremely customized vehicles are the inspiration for the Fast & Furious 7 products Jada Toys will produce for the franchise built on speed. Jada will combine its knowledge of producing high-quality radio-control and die-cast vehicles with innovation to make the toys desirable for consumers of all ages.
MasterPieces Puzzle Co. Scores with Sports-Licensed Line
asterPieces Puzzle Co. will celebrate its 20th year in the toy industry next year with a line of sports-licensed products, including a line of Checkers featuring custom playing field boards for more than 40 teams in the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NCAA. Additionally, a new line of 100-piece, foil-pack puzzles featuring hot players such as Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and popular teams from the NFL, MLB, and NCAA are set to launch. MasterPieces will also add 12 new NCAA teams and eight new NHL teams to its line of Panoramic Stadium 1,000-Piece Puzzles, bringing the total to more than 100 sports teams available in this line. In addition to sports, MasterPieces has signed new licensing agreements. Tetris brainteaser puzzles support the company’s growing category of novelty and specialty puzzles for kids and adults. A new partnership with Discovery Channel features puzzles and wood craft kits for Animal Planet, puzzles for Shark Week, and puzzles for the TV show Cake Boss, featuring beautiful and colorful cakes. The company introduces a custom-painted puzzle line featuring the U.S. Army license by artist Dona Gelsinger, as well as 3-D wood puzzles featuring Army vehicles. The Works of Ahhh line of wood crafts sets now includes a Plan Your Project app featuring a 3-D paintable model of the wood and exact paints, stickers, stencils, gems, or other accessories that are included in the real product. Kids can find an instructional video for the app on masterpiecesinc.com. In addition, Plan Your Project allows young crafters to enter a contest to win a free paint kit by submitting a screenshot of the product planned in the Works of Ahhh app and a picture of their real wood kit painted to match. New products to the Works of Ahhh line include a Solar System Mobile, a Jewlery Tree with Charm Bracelets, and a licensed Polar Express Train Set.
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GoldieBlox Goes Big with Survival Kit
oldieBlox Co. will introduce two new sets, one of which takes young builders into Goldie’s home, while the other is a mission to save a local film festival. For kids ages 7 to 12, GoldieBlox and the Builder’s Survival Kit is home to all of Goldie’s notes, blueprints, ideas, and sketches. The set contains more than 190 pieces, and offers kids the opportunity to explore Goldie’s childhood and to meet her family, friends, loyal dog Nacho, and cat Benjamin Cracklin. After exploring Goldie’s world, kids can read how to make her quirky creations. GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine, for kids ages 6 and up, features a story that takes place on the eve of the Bloxtown Film Festival. When the movie theater’s projector breaks down, Goldie must engineer a solution to save the event. As kids read the story, they learn to build their own Zoetrope using the pieces provided in the tool kit.
Odyssey Toys Has a Copter for Everyone
dyssey Toys’ Nanodrone X-6 Quadcopter measures just 1.8 inches wide by 1.8 inches tall and is one of the world’s lightest multi-rotor quadcopters available, weighing just four-tenths of an ounce. Bright, built-in LEDs make it easy to see in low-light conditions, and the 2.4GHz radio not only allows for interference-free flight, but it allows kids to fly multiple quads at once. A 3.7V 100mAh LiPo battery, a USB charge cord, and spare rotor blades are included in the ready-to-fly package. The copter also features a six-axis gyro, which allows it do 360-degree flips. The Sky Ranger is a high-tech, multi-functioning quadcopter. The six-axis gyro helps make the copter’s flight as smooth and stable as possible. With the 2.4GHz remote control, kids can fly the Sky Ranger up to 100 meters. Featuring two different speeds and the capabilty to do 360-degree flips mid-flight, the copter also includes spare blades and a USB charger for the LiPo battery. Air Terminators is a two-player set that enables kids ages 14 and up to engage in air-to-air combat with IR technology. Direct hits will disable the opponent as actual—but replaceable—parts are blown off his or her copter. Each copter is equipped with 7.2V rechargeable batteries, a laser fire force shield, a rapid fire blaster, and built-in sound effects. The set includes two helicopters and two controllers. Odyssey Dragonfly is a 3.5-channel coaxial helicopter with a high-tech look. The chopper features super bright LED lights, a bigger battery, and a 2.4GHz LCD transmitter. The built-in Odyssey Gyrotech Technology locks the heading and prevents continuous rotation of the helicopter’s chassis. Suitable for flying indoors and outdoors, the Dragonfly features both high and low speed functions.
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PPW Launches Minion Novelties
Hexbug Expands Underwater World
exbug will expand its line of Aquabot robotic fish next year with a Hexbug Jellyfish, a Hexbug Seahorse, and a new Remote Control Aquabot. The new additions to the Aquabot school of fish feature LED lights and motion sensors for self-waking activation. Powered by electro-magnetic propulsion and an automatic on and off sensor that activates when submerged in water, the aquatic Hexbug fish propel around to explore their environment swimming at varying depths.
PW Toys, a division of Promotional Partners Worldwide, in partnership with Universal Studios Partnerships & Licensing, will produce a line of novelty and gift products featuring the Despicable Me Minions, including key chains, key caps, molded character bottles and cups, and plastic nesting doll sets.
Hexbug Jellyfish and Seahorse
Hello Kitty Turns 40, Gets Carded
his fall, Upper Deck celebrates Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary with a line of collectible trading card products. The line will include trading card Fun Packs, Blister Packs, and a Carry All Case celebrating the pop icon through the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. Elements such as sticker scene cards, texture cards, foil cards, mini-collector albums, and mini-figures will be included to enhance the collecting experience.
Toy State Kicks into Gear
he Road Rippers Piston Thumper, from Toy State, features an oversized engine. The motorized drive in this licensed vehicle triggers lightup “piston popping” and realistic engine sounds. With flashing lights, fun sounds, and music, the Piston Thumper is designed for kids ages 3 and up. Carry All Case
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Duncan Has a Laugh
Wrebbit 3D Pays Tribute to NYC
inion Giggling Yo-Yos, from Duncan, allow kids to activate four different sound effects by throwing the yo-yo. There are four minions to collect, and each yo-yo features a take-apart design so users can twist it apart for easy string changing.
rebbit 3D will launch the New York Collection, a line of four puzzles featuring different areas of New York City. Midtown-Empire, New York Chrysler, Financial District, and One World Trade Center puzzles will release between the fall of this year and next spring. Each puzzle contains about 875 pieces, and consumers can combine all four to create a New York City 3,300-piece puzzle masterpiece.
Sakar Cools Off with Frozen
akar International’s line of Disney Frozen karaoke systems bring the hit movie to life right at home. Three different styles of karaoke systems will be available under the Frozen brand, each featuring songs from the Disney film. The Frozen Karaoke Machine with Flashing Lights is an easy-to-use karaoke system that allows kids to sing along with their favorite music. Designed with graphics featuring Anna and Elsa, this karaoke machine includes a handheld microphone and features flashing lights and enhanced vocal effects. Kids can connect a smart device or use the built-in CD player to play music. Additionally, Sakar’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lineup brings turtle power to electronics. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Sewer Adventure Kit has everything kids need for their next crime fighting mission, including a compass, a telescope, binoculars, and a camera. Other Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-branded product offerings include: headphones, tablet cases, alarm clocks, TMNT-shaped flashlights, and portable speakers. Sakar’s range of Nerf Rebelle gear offers entertainment for any aspiring spy or adventure seeker. Kids can store secret files in the Password Journal and protect Frozen Karaoke Machine with Flashing Lights their room from intruders with a trip wire. Top secret walkie-talkie pens and walkietalkies in the form of lipstick cases keep mission secrets undisclosed. The Rebelle lineup will also include a durable, waterproof action camera that can be mounted to any bicycle, helmet, or surfboard. The camera comes with a removable protective waterproof case and takes still photos and records video footage.
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ScienceWiz Challenges Kids
ool Circuits Junior, from ScienceWiz, captures the same challenge of the first-generation Cool Circuits with a light-up game board, 3-D puzzle pieces, 40 puzzle challenges, a solution book, and batteries. It is designed for kids ages 5 to 8. With the Sound Science Kit, kids ages 8 and up can build, record, play, and explore sound vibrations. The included step-by-step 3-D directions teach kids how things work through the use of everyday materials. The kit includes 20 activities and a 48-page book of instructions and fun facts.
Educational Insights Helps Kids Get Brighter in the Dark
ext spring, Educational Insights will introduce new products for kids ages 3 and up. Design & Drill BrightWorks lets kids light up their personal designs in the dark, and allows them to use the power drill to create with color and light. Each set features a lighted black activity board, 80 bolts in five translucent colors, an activity guide, a power drill, and drill bits. The Design & Drill Dazzling Creations Studio is a princess-themed set with a star-shaped screwdriver with real sounds and a forward and reverse switch, a star-shaped bit, activity boards, a castle, a unicorn, sparkly bolts, and gem caps. Magic Moves RainbowJam lets kids transform the world around them into music through two modes of play. The first mode plays a note when they touch one of the nine recognized colors, and the second mode sings a song about the color when they touch it. Kids can touch RainbowJam against objects in the real world or the included activity book. The GeoSafari Jr. Science GeoSafari Jr. Science Utility Vehicle helps kids get an Utility Vehicle up-close look at nighttime critters outdoors, or navigate a dark room inside with an LED light for night vision, and a 3x magnifier that provides a closer view of any terrain including grass, dirt, or carpet. The steering wheel and tires turn and both the sides and wheels feature science imagery.
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World Tech Toys Goes Up, Up, and Away
orld Tech Toys has signed an agreement with Marvel to produce R/C flying figures and helicopters for characters including Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, and the Amazing SpiderMan. Guardians of the Galaxy characters, including Star-Lord, Groot, and Rocket Raccoon, will also join the lineup of flying toys. World Tech Toys has also obtained the rights for Sonic and Tails flying R/C figures with jetpacks, based on the characters from Sonic Boom. Lastly, the company will create R/C flying robots based on NFL and NBA players. The line will include NBA stars Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant, as well as 12 NFL players, such as Johnny Manziel and Peyton Manning.
Smithsonian Sees Its Share of Skullduggery
kullduggery Inc. will introduce new Smithsonian Museum Craft Kits, each of which contains activities such as 3-D mold-making, coloring, and bonus educational activity books. Eight themed kits will be available. Kids ages 6 and up can wind up Smithsonian 3D Motorized Puzzles and watch them go. These collectible puzzles range from beginner to moderate to advanced levels of difficulty, and the first series features dinosaur, flight, and vehicle themes.
Tudor Games Kicks Off Fall
FL Deluxe Electric Football is Tudor Games’ NFL tournament model. Great for leagues, it’s the same size used in the TudorCON Electric Football World Championships. The 85-piece set includes two official, painted NFL team action figure sets and all 32 team logos. Players can throw passes; run slants, traps, and sweeps; play zone or man-to-man coverage; and call the blitz on this 32- by 16-inch SpeedTurf vibrating NFL gridiron. NFL Pro Bowl Electric Football is the classic “620” size game designed for Electric Football coaches who want the maximum in playing field size combined with portability for tailgating or travel to weekend tournaments. Great for the game room, Pro Bowl Electric Football measures 36 inches by 18 inches and comes complete with two painted NFL teams, one home and one away.
Smithsonian 3D Motorized Puzzle
Tangle Lights Up Active Play
he Tangle NightBall Football, from Tangle Creations, flies brightly through the air, especially when it spirals. Made from a special material called TPR (latex-free, phthalate-free, and non-toxic) and created with a patented design, kids will never have to fill this ball and worry about it going flat. The Tangle NightBall Football will be available in both small and large sizes. The new Tangle NightBall Soccer Ball lights up upon impact and with movement, such as when kids kick it, as it rolls through the grass, or as it flies through the air. Kids can play during the day or at night on concrete, grass, or even in the water. The Tangle NightBall Softball lights up when kids bounce it, catch it, and throw it around. The softball measures 5 inches in diameter.
NFL Deluxe Electric Football
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Maverix Introduces Electric Skateboards for All Ages
o-founded by NBA star Tony Parker, Maverix electric skateboards are wireless remote-controlled boards built for riders of all levels. The boards are equipped with a progressive three-position accelerator and an ABS braking system to ensure a smooth stop. The California style is the lightest Maverix model, ideal for the youngest riders. This lightweight, easy-touse board is stable with moderate speed variations, topping out at 6 mph. Urban Spirit is a lightweight version that offers moderate speed and power, allowing the rider to tackle inclines and flat surfaces alike with a maximum speed of 12 mph. The Cruiser 600W is the ideal model for long rides on smooth surfaces. The board is curved for maximum flexibility and adhesion. Maverix’s most powerful model is the Boarder X. Boasting a maximum speed of 22 mph and a high motorized battery, this board comes in classic and lithium and allows riders to enjoy trips along dirt roads.
Winning Moves Provides a New Twist on Classic Games
onnect 4 Twist & Turn, from Winning Moves Games, is a new twist on the classic game. Each level of the Connect 4 tower turns to add a new level of gameplay as the two players try to get four discs in a row to win. Hi-Ho! Cherry-O is the classic first counting game for kids. Kids ages 2 to 4 attempt to be the first to pick their cherry trees clean and fill their buckets. A single spin can add up to four cherries to a bucket, but a dog, bird, or spilled bucket can empty it. This game has been helping kids learn to count and practice other math skills for more than 30 years. Winning Moves will also bring back Guess Who, allowing players to ask yes or no questions to try to guess the mystery person on their opponent’s card. Players ask the right questions to eliminate the wrong faces, and be the first to identify their opponent’s mystery person.
Play Visions Brings Dragons to Life
Snowtime Anytime Slingshot
lay Visions has partnered with World Alive to introduce Aqua Dragons Jurassic Time Travel. Aqua Dragons is a line of science toys with animal themes that encourage kids ages 6 and up to hatch and grow their own live aquatic pets. New to the Snowtime Anytime line is the Snowtime Anytime Slingshot, allowing kids to take snowball fights to a whole new level. The set includes a sturdy plastic slingshot and six soft and safe snowballs.
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Watch Over Me 3-in-1 Projector Musical Mobile
B Kids Helps Kids Rest Easy
Kidsâ€™ Watch Over Me Tell Me a Story Bedtime Lamp is a two-in-one night light and Bluetooth speaker that connects with a mobile device to play songs and stories. Other features include an auto-off timer, a USB, a rechargeable battery, light and volume control, and a free bedtime story app. The light color changes in response to built-in melodies. Toddlers can take it on-the-go with the fun-to-hold handle. The Watch Over Me 3-in-1 Projector Musical Mobile is designed to calm and comfort little ones. Stage one features animals floating above, soothing music, and dimming lights. For babies ages 3 to 6 months, stage two offers a light projector that emits sound and starry patterns on the wall. Stage three, for babies ages 6 months and up, allows parents to remove the projector from the crib mount and place it on a tabletop to shine starry patterns on the ceiling. All three stages feature a 30-minute auto-timer, allowing lights and sounds to gradually fade at the end. The bottom of the mobile features baby-safe mirrors.
LexiBook Introduces LexiBox
cheduled for release in July, LexiBox, from LexiBook, is an Android educational entertainment TV console based on a 3-D environment designed for younger users. It includes 26 activities—educational games, interactive books, videos, and more—as well as thousands of others that will be available from the LexiBox Market.
Carrera Adds Video to R/C Fun
arrera has two new R/C products—one for fun on land, the other for the air. Both are controlled by 2.4GHz technology. The Mini Turnator features precise controls, as well as flipping, spinning, and rotating wheels on axles that allow for four-wheel acrobatics. It comes with a controller, rechargeable batteries, and chargers for both. Designed for mid-level skill, the new Carrera R/C Quadcopter can execute both smooth flight and highspeed maneuvers. It features a built-in camera that allows kids to record flights and download them afterward. The Quadcopter comes with a USB charger, batteries, and a charger for the batteries.
Frozen Gets Mobo Wheels
oddlers can reap all the benefits of Mobo Tot and Disney Frozen with an elite, ergonomic three-wheeled cruiser completely decked out in Frozen-themed graphics. The Mobo Tot Disney Frozen has icy blue and white colors and an Anna and Elsa flag. It also has the ability to grow with kids, extending play value for years. While cruising and exploring outdoors, parents can rest assured that their child is experiencing a safe, durable ride with features that include a gripped handlebar on each side of the seat.
Tara Toy Gets Kids Crafting
ara Toy Corp. will continue to expand its product lines for licensed brands, including Disney Frozen, Disney Princess, Disney Jr., Marvel, Barbie, Monster High, and Hot Wheels. Based on Disneyâ€™s animated film, Frozen, Tara Toy will introduce a line of creative arts and crafts toys that will bring kidsâ€™ favorite characters, including Queen Elsa, Princess Anna, and Olaf to life. Sets will encourage activities such as fashion play, design, coloring, and storytelling. For Barbie, Tara Toy will launch a line based on the upcoming movie Barbie in Princess Power. Products will focus on DIY-type crafts for girls that will bring out their inner superhero.
The Creativity Hub Has Designer Fun for Everyone
he Creativity Hub expands The Extraordinaires Design Studio line with new all-in-one studios to inspire kids ages 8 and up. For The Extraordinaires Design Studio (Deluxe), players select an Extraordinaire Character card that features characters such as a rap star, an acrobat, or a ninja, as well as an Object card that describes a product. Acting as the designer, the player devises the object for his or her special character, presenting it to the other players. They can also upload it to The Extraordinaires design gallery. The Extraordinaires Design Studio—Inventions has six Extraordinaire Character cards, including a fairy, a ninja, a pirate, and a spaceman, and six Project cards such as “somewhere to sleep.” The all-in-one studio also features 10 Think cards, an Idea Pad, a drawing pen, and a design case. With The Extraordinaires Design Studio—Buildings, kids can pick from an evil genius, a giant, a robot, and other fantastic characters for their Extraordinaires. For their Project card, the choices include a sports venue and more. This all-in-one studio features six Extraordinaire Character cards, six Project cards, 10 Think cards, an Idea Pad, a drawing pen, and a design case. Finally, The Extraordinaires Design Studio—Introductory Sets offer kids the chance to explore product design, architecture, and other aspects of the world of design. The Extraordinaires Design Studio—Buildings
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The Doc Is in with Wonder Forge
he Disney Doc McStuffins Mix Up Fix Up! game, from Wonder Forge, is a use-yoursmarts guessing game. Two to four players ages 3 and up use deduction to figure out what will help Lambie, Stuffy, Chilly, and Docâ€™s other friends feel better. The player that collects the most bandages wins.
USAopoly Battles It Out with Bowser
n Super Mario TacDex, from USAopoly, Mario, Luigi, and friends duke it out against Bowser, Wario, and their dastardly crew. The powershifting Battle Marker determines if the high or low card wins each battle, and Special Action Cards add new twists to this game for two players ages 8 and up.
The Learning Journey Puzzles Little Minds
uzzle Double Giant Colors and Shapes Train, from The Learning Journey, features two train puzzles, one teaching colors and the other teaching shapes. Each train puzzle is made of 30 puzzle pieces and measures 5 feet long when assembled. This puzzle offers a great way to engage in parentâ€“ child discussions and introduce colors and shapes to kids ages 3 and up. My First Lift and Learn Puzzles are introductory tray puzzles for kids ages 2 and up. Each animated scene features eight large, lift-off pieces in one My First Lift and Learn Ocean Puzzle of four themes: Dino, Ocean, Safari, and Transportation. On the Go Cement Truck is an interactive cement truck with a rotating drum that tilts backward. It also has interactive buttons that play sounds and fun melodies. As kids ages 18 months and up push the cement truck along it plays melodies and has a driver that moves up and down. Match It! Listen and Play Bingo Series is a fun twist on a classic game for kids ages 3 and up. The first player pushes the electronic button, finds the game piece that correlates to that sound, and places it on the board on the matching image. The first player who gets three in a row wins the game. Four different themes are available.
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Madame Alexander Doll Co. Introduces Babblebabies
adame Alexander Doll Co. will introduce its newest nursery of newborns, Babblebabies, this January. Babblebabies are designed to look, feel, and act like real babies, weighing a little more than 3 pounds each and measuring 19 inches long. Each baby makes more than 80 real baby sound combinations and will even squeal and babble as kids speak to their doll. This role-play line allows little girls and boys to experience what it’s like to be a mommy or daddy. There are six dolls to choose from and each differs in eye color, hair color, and skin tone.
Bounce into Play with Galt Toys
ith Galt Toys’ Nursery Trampoline, kids ages 1 and up can enjoy bouncing fun just like the big kids. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, this trampoline features a tubular steel frame, a padded cover, an easy-grip handle, and rubber feet to keep it planted securely in place. The Nursery Trampoline will help develop toddlers’ gross motor skills, coordination, and balance. For kids ages 3 to 7, Galt will reintroduce its award-winning Pirate Pursuit game, which helps kids learn to count while having fun. Players must sail around the island while filling their bags with loot and watching out for the Pirate Galleon. Two to four players can try to collect as many coins as possible. Nursery Trampoline
Dracco Expands Kitty Club, Zombie Zity
racco will display its Kitty Club and Zombie Zity brands in Dallas. From the creators of Filly, Kitty Club first launched last year. Kitty Club houses a world of fashionable kitten friends who love to shop, gossip, and hang out together. Each of the kitten figurines has a cute look and design, with colorful blinking eyes, crystals, and complementary accessories. All the Kitty Club figures come with interchangeable, stylish hats. There is a new Kitty Club series to collect every year with special features, including 21 kitties from the initial launch. Zombie Zity is a wacky city inhabited by wobble-headed zombies. Dracco has reimagined the zombie theme, creating a kid-friendly brand suitable for boys and girls of all ages. Launched last fall, Zombie Zity has grown into categories including toys, gifts, accessories, stationery, confectionary, and more. Zombie Zity Bouncerz are micro-bouncing zombies with 48 characters to collect. Now with play sets, the brand is packed with action-loaded game play and interactivity. Zombie Zity has a rich universe of characters, a storyline, and a digital experience on zombiezity.com, which is integral to the brandâ€™s expression. Kitty Clubhouse
Aurora Debuts Soft Friends
urora introduces new animal toys, including Flumps, which lie on their bellies with feet â€œflumpedâ€? out to the side. The line features eight different animals made of super soft fabric, and each one has a huggable, round body as well as chunky weighted legs. Aurora will also debut L.E. Phants, a new category of elephant-themed plush with different styles and designs made from unique fabrics.
DuneCraft Delights Little Explorers
uneCraft introduces new glass and dome terrariums, a frog habitat, and more for kids to study inside their homes. Kids can grow a tadpole into a Tree Frog in an eco-friendly habitat, which features three planting areas where kids can grow plants for their frog; a multi-depth pool; and sitting ledges. New glass terrariums include Bottle of Luck, the Wildflower Garden, Park in a Bottle, and Beach in a Bowl. Each kit contains everything kids need to create a unique ecosystem and watch it grow. Additionally, DuneCraft adds three exotic domes to its flagship dome terrarium line. Sets include The Zombie Garden, The Love Dome, and The Australian Outback Adventure.
OgoSport Hits a Home Run
et for release next year, the Batapult, from OgoSport, teaches kids to hit balls out of the park with ease. The hinged bat allows for super-power hits. Kids can also use the built-in pitching attachment to throw.
Green Toys at the Construction Site Green Toysâ€™ Mini Construction Vehicles are made in the U.S. from 100-percent recycled plastic milk jugs that save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emission. Chunky, sturdy, and durable, the fleet features a front loader with a moveable scooper, a cement mixer with a revolving drum, and a dump truck with a classic open-box bed. The trucks are just right for little hands and onthe-go fun. Each vehicle comes with a bulldog construction worker that is interchangeable among vehicles. The vehicles are BPA-, phthalate-, and PVC-free; and are dishwasher safe.
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Learning Resources Expands Educational Lines
earning Resources has extended four of its lines with more toys that resemble real-life objects. The Primary Science Big View Telescope has bright colors and a big, grippy focus. Measuring approximately 10 inches in length, it features 20x magnification, a soft rubber eyepiece, and a detachable scope. Kids can enjoy a barbecue with New Sprouts Cookout. The 19-piece set includes grilled hot dogs, fresh vegetables for a side salad, potato chips, and an easy-grip caddy for mustard and ketchup, an ice cream sandwich, plates, forks, and cups. Smart Snacks Sugar Cookie Shapes provide a way for kids to learn color and shape identification. Kids match the iced sugar cookie to the corresponding shape in the inlaid baking sheet. The nine-piece set includes a baking sheet and eight shaped cookies. With Bright Bites Burger Shapes, kids can make their own toy hamburgers while learning shapes. Primary Science Big View Telescope
Beeline Creative Goes to the Movies
eeline Creative, Miramax, and Quentin Tarantino have teamed up to manufacture and distribute a line of talking, collectible action figures based on the classic film Pulp Fiction. The series of 13-inch figures will include signature accessories, custom-tailored clothing, and up to 12 iconic, explicit movie quotes. Thread-Headz is a collectible line of standing, stylized plush measuring about 6.5 inches tall. These officially licensed toys will feature key characters from popular American movies, including Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2. This fall, Beeline Creative will also introduce Signature Steins, a line of character steins that are designed for both drinking and displaying. Each stands 9 inches tall, holds up to 22 ounces, is crafted from ceramic, and features a head-hinged ceramic lid with a pewter thumb lift. Through a partnership with Underground Toys, Beeline Creative will launch with Star Wars Signature Steins, which were designed in collaboration with Lucasfilm Ltd. to faithfully represent iconic characters from the Star Wars franchise.
Star Wars Signature Steins
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Itoys USA Lets Kids Skwoosh
kwooshi, from Itoys USA, introduces new ways to play. The Skwooshi Play Table and Chair allows kids to slide their Skwooshi character creations down the tree house slide, or mold a castle and chase the Skwooshi dragon over the bridge. The table comes with more than 10 molds and a chair. Skwooshi by the Bucket contains 0.5 kilos of Skwooshi to stretch and mold and comes in 16 colors. BuddyPhones are fully adjustable, volume-limiting, kid-sized headphones. BuddyPhones use a built-in, always-on sound-control circuit to cap peak volume levels at those recommended by many auditory health organizations in the U.S. and Eurpoean Union. BuddyPhones come with a built-in BuddyCable audio splitter that allows kids to share music or videos between up to four buddies.
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Why Children PL AY the Way They Do PART 5 Imitation Role Play—At Every Age by Nancy Zwiers, CEO, Funosophy Inc.
ole play is one of the most common play patterns we see in children of all ages. It involves children imagining that they are someone else and mimicking the behavior they associate with that person, whether it’s a real or fictional character. Why is this play pattern so ubiquitous? The answer lies in the recently discovered Mirror Neuron System.
The Mirror Neuron System During the ’90s, an Italian team of scientists in Parma, Italy, were studying the motor cortex in macaque monkeys. Electrodes were wired into the monkeys’ brains, measuring brain activation as the monkeys performed certain motions with their hands, including feeding themselves peanuts and other sundry treats.
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One day, the researchers went out for lunch and left the monkeys wired as per usual. However, when one of the researchers came back eating an ice cream cone, they made an amazing discovery. When the monkey watched the researcher eating the ice cream cone, its brain was activated in the same way as if he had been eating the cone himself. In the ensuing two decades, neuroscientists have rounded out their understanding of the Mirror Neuron System in humans, and the bottom line conclusion is that this brain system is responsible for the leaps in evolutionary progress humans have made as inherently social beings. It turns out that the Mirror Neuron System is how we learn from others without having to wait for information to be encoded in our genome over generations. Consider these findings about mirror neurons: • When we see someone perform an action, our motor strip lights up in the same areas as if we were performing the action ourselves. • Even when we speak about, hear, or imagine an action, our motor strip lights up as if we were performing that action ourselves. • This ability also extends to emotions. When we see someone’s facial expression conveying an emotion such as anger, joy, or fear, the emotion is contagious—we actually process the emotion in our brain as if we were feeling it firsthand. Scientists now believe that mirror neurons are the seat of empathy. Our ability to know what someone else is thinking or feeling is critical to our survival as a social being, and how else do we human beings learn all this? Even as infants, we are wired to observe and imitate; think about the 8-week-old newborn returning
its mother’s smile.
Imitation Role Play at Every Age We begin imitating in early infancy, and in fact, we never stop. While the impulse to imitate is constant, who we imitate changes over time.
Infants and Toddlers Ages 0 to 2 Our first role models are our parents, and so we want to do what we see them do in everyday life: Toddlers want to drive, shop for groceries, hammer a nail, talk on the phone, put on lipstick, and interact with a laptop or tablet. • Implications: What new things are parents doing today, given changing technology and consumer trends? This area of inquiry can lead to innovative role-play toys for toddlers.
Children Ages 3 to 7 As children enter the “magical thinking years,” their desire to imitate shifts from parents to characters that represent idealized gender roles, particularly characters they see on TV and in movies. Characters that help young children tap into their own sense of power are the most popular role models, so most little boys imitate superheroes, construction workers, wrestlers, sports stars, fighter pilots, etc., as a way to access their own budding sense of strength and power. Most little girls imitate characters that personify loving kindness and/or beauty, such as doctors, animal trainers, princesses, fashion doll characters, pop stars, doctors, etc. While fantasy characters dominate, any character or role that implies power is ripe for the picking. Children might be taken with the firefighter they see on a kindergarten field trip or the animal trainer at a visit to Sea World. • Implications: If you are in the market for a license for this age group, look for one that is extremely empowering, especially along traditional gender-specific lines. Without a license, develop toys that allow children to play out iconic real world roles that are empowering in tangible ways.
Children Ages 8 and Up As children outgrow the magical thinking years, their attention turns to discovering and developing their sense of
personal identity; that is, who they are in the real world. At this time, they are paying close attention to pop culture, but sometimes the trendsetters are teens, young adults, or trend-savvy peers. The intense interest in imitating peers or aspirational teens/young adults makes this age group particularly prone to incubate and fuel crazes. Research has suggested that, in general, kids want to be about 3 years older than they really are. In the toy industry, we have the luxury of seeing what is on trend among teens, and having enough time to develop and manufacture the interpretation of that trend for our younger audience as it trickles down. • Implications: Teen trends can be monitored and interpreted for a younger audience. In addition, you can look at hot toys/products/licenses and figure out how to participate with your own version. While kids prefer authenticity, sometimes they may not be able to afford the real thing and would be happy owning less expensive alternatives. Nerf Rebelle is appealing to fans of The Hunger Games’ Katniss without the cost of a license. Similarly, the 18-inch Our Generation dolls, from Battat Inc., are an example of interpreting the American Girl experience in a more affordable way. Finally, to appreciate the power of imitation role play in our lives, think about what we do when we find ourselves in a new situation: We look around at how others are behaving, and adapt accordingly. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. ■
Nancy Zwiers is chief funosopher and CEO of Funosophy Inc., a brand-building and new brand invention firm. For more information on company research or consulting services, call (562) 243-2909 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To read Part 1 of this article, see page 50 in the December/January 2014 issue of The Toy Book. To read Part 2, see page 242 in the February 2014 issue of The Toy Book. To read Part 3, see page 26 in the March/April 2014 issue of The Toy Book. To read Part 4, see page 22 in the May/June 2014 issue of The Toy Book.
THE TOY BOOK •
Top Mobile Retail Trends Retailers embrace technology to give customers the most unique experiences possible.
by Pat Dermody, president, Retale
n the toy industry, retailers are seeking new ways to incorporate mobile technology to determine if consumers are shopping for action figures, board games, or the hottest children’s toys. Retailers want to successfully target consumers and understand their shopping habits in order to create a better shopping experience in today’s hyper-connected world. The Pew Research Center discovered that 91 percent of consumers own a cellphone, giving brands a prime opportunity to connect with mobile consumers virtually anywhere at any time. Here are a few of the top strategies retailers have embraced this year:
Indoor Technology From finding the nearest store location to browsing deals on the go, a great app is worth its weight in gold. Today, retailers are taking them one step further by pairing these mobile tools with innovative indoor location technologies that enable customers to browse in-store maps and locate that elusive video game or doll that they found online (or through the retailer’s app). Indoor location integrations also alert the customer to other great deals or products that might be of interest as they approach a given aisle. Stores such as Nordstrom and Family Dollar have adopted indoor positioning, a technology used to track shoppers while in the store. It not only sees what customers are buying, but makes recommendations based on the contents of their shopping carts, and can even offer savings opportunities. Furthermore, with beacon technology already employed nationwide—including at Hudson Bay Co. and Macy’s—and more than 200 indoor mapping start-ups, according to Opus Research, these new innovations enhance indoor shopping experiences from both a brand and consumer perspective.
The Rise of the Digital Circular For retailers, driving consumers into a store is still one of the biggest tasks they are charged with today—and circulars re-
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main an immensely important tool for doing so. Circulars are not only a time-tested method of getting consumers through the door, but thanks to modern digital innovations, formerly in-print circulars are now being digitized and aggregated across web and mobile. This evolution has become a must for retailers looking to stay relevant in today’s connected world, where an omni-channel marketing mix is increasingly critical. Print circulars still have their place through digitalization; however, retailers are now provided with a way to make the most of the marketing and promotion they already engage in, while exposing a new generation of mobile device-oriented shoppers to their store experiences.
Keeping Consumers’ Privacy in Mind In today’s digital world, privacy is not only a hot-button issue, but is of the utmost importance, particularly when it comes to an industry such as retail, which is built on developing and maintaining long-standing relationships with consumers. Thus, retailers are tasked with tackling privacy concerns head-on, while simultaneously trying to use mobile platforms to better engage and interact with consumers. This is a tall task, but it is certainly a responsibility that retailers take seriously through heightened transparency, delivering opt-in as opposed to opt-out campaigns, and alerting shoppers with instore signage outlining the specifics of their digital programs. Remember: Customers want to receive product information that is personalized and relevant to their interests, but it’s important for retailers to avoid overstepping boundaries as they adapt to the latest mobile trends. ■
Pat Dermody brings more than 20 years of marketing, retail, and leadership experience to her role as president at Retale. As a veteran of both agency and client side marketing, she is skilled in offline and online channels, brand strategy and retail marketing, and mass and targeted interactions.
T HE D EFINITIVE I NFORMATION S OURCE
The New Age of Science Toys
G IFT M ERCHANT
Retailer Spotlight: PlayAbility Redefines Special Needs Play
by Kathleen McHugh, president, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) t’s fall again. The kids are back at school, the weather is changing, and the toy industry is racing to get ready for the all-important fourth quarter. This means November 8, 2014—national Neighborhood Toy Store Day—should be circled in red on your calendar with arrows pointing to it. That’s the day independent toy stores join in a nation-wide celebration of healthy play, top quality toys, and shopping locally. The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) created Neighborhood Toy Store Day to help consumers understand the specialty toy difference and to help drive customers to specialty toy stores. To launch the holiday shopping season with community-minded fun, retailers host special events and bring neighbors together in the spirit of giving. Last year’s programs included crafts, entertainers, scavenger hunts, and charitable donations. Through Neighborhood Toy Store Day, neighbors and customers see that specialty toy retailers are a central part of a vital community. Here are some ideas for creating your store’s special event:
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Some retailers may make Neighborhood Toy Store Day their biggest event of the year with live music, or clowns, or face painting—but you can do whatever fits your store. Focus on what is manageable for you and fun for your customers. The easiest event of all may be to do what you already do: Put out a variety of toys for children to play with.
REACH OUT TO LOCAL MEDIA AND BLOGGERS
Pick three to five local reporters and bloggers who cover family issues and send them the press release ASTRA provides. Follow up with a phone call to invite them to your store on Neighborhood Toy Store Day. Be sure to also send a notice to the calendar listings in your local parent publication or website.
REACH OUT TO YOUR CUSTOMERS
Most retailers have multiple ways to reach their customers: through newsletters, e-blasts, social media, and on their websites. The Neighborhood Toy Store Day message has already been written for ASTRA retailers. Log in at www.astratoy.org and click on “Member Resources,” then “Membership Programs” to find the press releases with wording for various types of media. Remember, the objective is to remind customers about the advantages of shopping at a specialty toy store, so even if they don’t come to your store on Neighborhood Toy Store Day, your outreach means they are still getting the specialty message at a critical time of year.
TIE IN WITH A LOCAL CHARITY
If you don’t already have a local charity you support, call a non-profit preschool or child care center. Agree to give them a percentage of your sales for the day and you can be sure that they will help you promote your Neighborhood Toy Store Day event to the parents they serve.
MOUNT A SIMPLE WINDOW DISPLAY
Your window display for Neighborhood Toy Store Day doesn’t have to be complicated, but think of something that will attract consumers to come in and play. l To support our members’ outreach efforts, ASTRA provides sample press releases, online marketing tools, ad slicks, e-marketing templates, and other resources to help you plan for the big day. Check out what’s available to your store as part of your ASTRA membership at http://www.astratoy.org/ntsd.asp and decide how you want to put Neighborhood Toy Store Day on the map.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
Digital Tips FOR INDEPENDENT TOY RETAILERS: ENGAGING NEW AND REPEAT CUSTOMERS
by Lance Brown, vice president of product development at Huzzah Media
or retailers today, particularly the merchants on Main Street, expanding your presence to connect with your current customers (and new ones) is critical to the growth and success of the store. Huzzah Media, which provides innovative digital solutions for small businesses, recently conducted a survey and found that 70 percent of businesses with fewer than 10 employees say time and cost restraints prohibit them from going digital. As online retailing grows and big box merchants continue to expand into cities and towns nationwide, independent toy retailers need to embrace the change and be where their customers are—online. Although it may seem overwhelming, going digital is not that hard.
Start With Your WebSite
It sounds simple, but don’t neglect your website. Keep it fresh by updating it on a bi-weekly basis. Have someone on your team take ownership of the site, and make it part of his or her regular to-do list. Map content back to what will help your audience—what problems do they have that you can help solve with your content? Build a content calendar to keep you on task with updates.
Make it Mobile
the power of a search
Make sure your website translates well for mobile usage, since studies show most customers are accessing content through their mobile devices. Understand the experience you want your users to have on their phones and reverse engineer your site and mobile platform based on the look and feel of your store. There’s an old adage, “the best place to hide a dead body is page two of Google search results.” While a good website is critical, it’s not
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
enough. Studies show only 28 percent of small businesses are happy with their company’s Google rankings. For many, more control over the power of search can not only have a big impact on reaching your customers, it can help you track insight about how they are finding you and what other stores/terms they’re looking for that lead them to your business. Get started by getting a free Google analytics account to understand traffic patterns to your site.
The best way to get customers coming back is to reward them. Consider this: What happens if one of your competitors finds a way to show your customers how much he or she appreciates their business? You could possibly have created an opportunity for him or her to move in on your revenue if he or she beats you to the punch. If your top priorities are word of mouth and repeat customers, a loyalty program directly and positively affects both of those for your business. Businesses with loyalty programs are more profitable, and loyalty customers are 70 percent more likely to make repeat visits. Establish and maintain your key social network platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Customers want to engage with brands beyond where they are being sold, so social media is a great way to show your store’s personality and hold onto their business. Remember to keep up with your pages, or you risk losing the momentum you had when you set them up. l Lance Brown oversees the developmental strategy for Huzzah Media. He began his career in sales and marketing for large retail brands before transitioning to positions on the small business side.
WHATâ€™S NEW Jade Stars, from MINI MAGELLAN, is a collection of colorful characters based on the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac. Each animal is available in boy and girl versions that feature a modern look, feel, and contemporary art style. Based on these characters, The Great Race: How the Chinese Zodiac Came to Be puts a modern spin on an age-old Asian tale. Written by parents, this book is educational and entertaining for kids. Companion Jade Stars plush toys will be available later this year for fans to collect and find the character that matches their birth year. The Year of the Horse was the first of 12 limited-edition plush animals to release, followed by Year of the Snake, Ram, Rabbit, and Dragon, which are now available on the Mini Magellan website for a limited time. FLIP2BFIT is a fitness board game that lets kids and their families twist, jump, and stretch their way to a healthier lifestyle. The game introduces players to the basic concepts of yoga, cardio, stretching, and strength activities using aspects of play. Kids can make informed choices while developing motor skills, coordination, and muscle memory through carefully chosen mental and physical challenges. The game lasts about 30 minutes, and players learn about nutrition, make healthy choices, and perform various exercises featured on different playing cards. Flip2BFit has partnered with Fitness for Africa, a New York-based non-profit that battles obesity in the U.S. and malnutrition in Africa, to introduce the game to Ugandan school children. The kids have demonstrated improved grades, better sleep, stronger muscles, a growth in self-esteem, and greater focus.
ANN WILLIAMS introduces the Loopdeloom and Craft-Tastic line for shipment to begin this fall. The Loopdeloom is a weaving loom kit designed to speed up and simplify the weaving process. Kids can make a range of items from basic to complex, such as purses, cell phone cases, scarves, baskets, and more. Weave one loom up to 7-inches wide or connect two or more looms together to weave wider items with no seams. The Craft-tastic line employs simple crafting techniques that foster creativity by encouraging kids to experiment with stylish colors, modern patterns, and quality yarns. The full line includes the String Art Kit, Pom Pom Kit, Finger Crochet Kit, and Paper Bowl Kit. KIDS PREFERRED will launch a new line of toys based on the Splat the Cat books written by Rob Scotton. The line will include the Splat the Cat Beanbag, which allows little ones to take their favorite cat with them everywhere they go; Splat the Cat, a fuzzy plush; Seymour the Mouse Beanbag, Splatâ€™s tiny but mighty favorite friend who has a big nose, curious ears, and a fun-to-touch tummy; and the Splat the Cat hardcover book, with which readers can join Splat the Cat and Seymour in their story about the first day of school. The line will be sold at specialty toy and book retailers this fall.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
The New Age of Science Toys As technology pushes forward, a younger generation demands new types of learning toys.
by Christine Duhaime n the past, the term “science toy” commonly elicited thoughts of volwhat they’re getting. “There are so many cano kits, magnifying glasses, and telescopes—and not much else. toys out there with a huge perceived value, However, times have changed. Kids and parents today have a and very little real value. We want to balbroad range of options to choose from in the science category, from ance the two, and if anything, we want the toys that teach kids about outer space to kits that help them learn real value to be greater than the perceived computer programming. With all the options available today, the value so parents and children are pleased industry is seeing new trends in the science toy space, and kids with the purchase after they’ve taken it are reaping the benefits. home,” says Quartin. “A good example is Demand has grown if a kid sees a box with a Gyrobot on it, for toys geared toward some will want it and some won’t. But if kids as young as 3 and you show the child the actual Gyrobot 4 years old. Andrew walking on a tightrope in the store, the Quartin, CEO of child’s going to want to take it home. Science has a sort of Smart Car Robotics, Thames & Kosmos, magical aspect to it, and if you can show that magic in acfrom Thames & Kosmos says, “I visit a lot of retail stores, and more times than not, I tion, children become fascinated by it.” get requests for things specifically for 4 year olds, and sometimes for 3 Among its new offerings, science kit topics from Thames & Kosmos year olds. This presents specific challenges, because the way kids ages 3 will include space, robotics, computer programming, and, of course, the and 4 learn is very different from the way kids ages 6, 8, 10, or 12 learn.” classics. Recent years saw a spike in interest in apps and computer toys, alThe key to creating a successful product for this age demographic lies in though that initial hype has seemingly quieted down. Quartin suspects that how easy it is to play with. “One of the strongest assets of our kits are the this is due to oversaturation in the market without a clear vision as to how manuals and the ease-of-use we create with them. How do you do that for to use this new technology efficiently. “From my perspective, I see the app a 3 year old that hasn’t learned to read yet? Our thought is that we’re going trend as a pendulum that maybe swung a little too far and now it’s kind of to model our manuals after picture books, so it’ll be very image-driven and swinging back the other way. I don’t think apps are going anywhere, but I will tackle topics that they’re interested in.” think people are trying to figure out the right way to use them. In our inGetting parents on board can also present a challenge, as the very na- dustry—education and teaching kids science—there are so many great uses ture of science kits can intimidate parents for whom science is not their for them and I think trying to bridge the analog to digital world is someforte. Thames & Kosmos aims to take that hesitation out of the equation. thing that everyone’s trying to deal with right now.” Technology has become a race to arrive at the next big thing—and these “I think one of the most overwhelming things for parents with science kits is, ‘Am I going to be able to do this with them?’” says Quartin. So we try advances have found their way into the toy market. The science toy space has never been broader, but as kids learn to use smartphones, tablets, and comto make it so the parent can do it and get satisfaction from it.” In-store demonstrations not only alleviate parents’ concerns about puters at younger and younger ages, manufacturers must keep up with the ● the ease of use, they can also help drive sales by showing the customer times and engage kids in science—in ways that make sense to them.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
With the 3D Digital Microscope, from EASTkids can get a close-up view of the world around them. The 360-degree all-direction microscope features multi-angle objective viewing, convenient control, a two-way light source, a big depth of field, rotation speed control, 2D/3-D image and video capture, a 2 megapixel image sensor, 35x to 100x magnification, and a USB interface. COLIGHT,
Snap Circuits Light, from ELENCO, offers kids 175 projects and 55 parts, along with a colorful picture manual. Kids can make projects that feature a strobe light, a color changing LED, and lighted and glow-in-the dark fans. Kids can also make an iPod or other MP3 player play music with Snap Circuits Light.
Science—Not Just for Scientists!, from GRYPHON HOUSE INC., teaches kids about the world of scientific discovery. The book features more than 40 pages of hands-on activities, reproducible handouts, and colorful photos that empower children to question, experiment, and develop abstract reasoning skills. With the help of step-by-step instructions and lists of easy-tofind materials, children ages 3 to 6 will explore the water cycle, simple machines, energy paths, and more.
The Scientific Explorer Tornado Maker kit, from ALEX BRANDS, lets kids ages 6 and up build their own spinning, twirling, whirling tornado. Kids can look right into the eye of the storm using the bird’s eye view. The kit lets kids create different types of tornadoes by combining different objects and liquids and adjusting the wind velocity in the storm simulator. The included 29-page manual teaches kids about the different types of tornadoes and tornado structures, how tornadoes dissipate, how to forecast tornadoes, fun facts, and more. The kit includes a tornado maker, a storm cloud lid, and a foam tractor, pig, and cow.
With the Glowing Chemistry kit from THAMES & KOSMOS, kids can explore the world of chemiluminescence. Kids can use the glowing chemical luminol and other substances to mix up a magical blue light in a test tube. Some cool chemical reactions even cause coins and radishes to glow. The kit shows kids how the natural world is full of luminous mysteries—bright spots on bananas, fluorescent chestnut bark, and glowing creatures in the sea. Experiment with the ultraviolet lamp to reveal things that would otherwise be invisible; learn about the electromagnetic spectrum, including visible and invisible light; and experiment with glow-in-the-dark plastic. Kids can build a glowing puppet theater to play with glowing pigments and discover real-world applications for glowing chemistry. The kit includes a 48page, full-color manual that guides kids through 22 experiments in light chemistry and provides scientific explanations and examples.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
SCIENCE TOYS What Do You Know Bingo, from EEBOO, includes facts that teach kids ages 5 and up about flora, fauna, and more. What Do You Know Bingo plays like regular bingo, and includes six game boards with 48 bingo cards illustrated by Melissa Sweet. The game is printed on high-quality, 90-percent recycled greyboard. eeBooâ€™s Natural & Earth Science Flash Cards include 48 illustrated flash cards featuring fun facts about mammals, marsupials, birds, bugs, sea creatures, and more. Each category is color-coded by a border design resembling marble, making it easy for kids ages 5 and up and their parents to focus on one category at a time.
Discover Electronics Kit, from SPARKLE LABS, includes everything kids need to learn the basics of electronics and make their own projects. It contains the most common electronics components as well as a prototyping breadboard so kids can get started right away. Easy, full-color diagrams teach kids how to bring their own ideas to life. The Discover Electronics Kit utilizes standard components, all of which can be used by beginner or advanced users. As kids learn, all of the parts in the kit are still useful in more advanced projects and can be expanded upon.
Science X Fueling Future Cars, from RAVENSBURGER, is a new automotive engineering kit that will get kidsâ€™ minds racing. It comes with all the tools kids ages 8 and up need to build their own electric MercedesBenz and steer their way through nine science-based activities. Young scientists will learn about fuel cells and other alternative energy sources for powering vehicles, as well as automotive engineering. Young archaeologists ages 8 and up can create their own fossils, excavate a Megalosaurus tooth, build a T-Rex skeleton, and more with the Science X Dinosaurs kit. This dino discovery adventure activity set includes the supplies needed to complete six science-centered adventures.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
Kids ages 3 and up can explore the world around them with the Clifford Animal Science Kit, from THE YOUNG SCIENTISTS CLUB. Emily Elizabeth, the narrator of the 20-page manual, guides young scientists through versatile experiments such as Animal Habitats, Edible Play Dough, Animal Track Cast, Animal Scavenger Hunt, Animal Fossils, Bug House, Camouflaged Animals, Animal Life Cycle, What Is in an Egg?, What Do Animals Eat?, Bird Feeder, and Habitat Diorama. This kit comes with reusable habitat stickers, a scavenger hunt chart with stickers, a bug house, 12 miniature animals, and more. Kids will feel like real scientists when they use the colorful lab tray, the measuring cup, and the magnifying glass to perform their experiments.
PlayAbility Redefines Special Needs Play
Manufacturer and Distributor Tackles the Specialty Toy Industry
by Magdalene Michalik
lay is one of the essential foundations of development in all chil- without eyes. According to Small, the friend’s son was frustrated when he dren. With toys, kids learn how to socially interact, develop emo- would drop a normal, everyday ball because he couldn’t hear where it tional intelligence, define motor skills, increase physical went and couldn’t grab it easily. “He needed a ball with no batteries, had awareness, and support skills learned in the classroom. For kids with spe- sound, and was easy to grab,” says Small. This scenario inspired Fraze to cial needs, the challenges they face may discourage or avert them from develop the Rib It Ball, which is a sleeve that goes on a beach-sized ball. having fun while playing with traditional toys. PlayAbility Toys, a spe- It has vibrant colors, ribs all the way around, and a crinkly material inside cialty manufacturer and retailer, designs and produces products for chil- of it—so when it drops, it doesn’t roll very far. According to Small, this dren in the special needs community to alleviate this issue. product has been a massive success in the visually impaired community. Twelve years since its inception, the company’s mission still Fraze saw the demand for this product and continued to produce these holds strong, and consumers both with and without special types of toys. needs are interested in what PlayAbility has to offer. The company relocated to Tuscon, Ariz. in 2009, turned into According to Adam Small, CEO of PlayAbility Toys, PlayAbility Toys, and got involved with local investment group there is a lot of evidence that suggests sensory toys that enDesert Angels. gage sight, sound, and touch at a young age help with cog“A number of our shareholders are really big into social nitive development. enterprise, which is essentially for-profit businesses that “If your 1 year old is playing with a Buddy Dog, a have a philanthropic goal. We make toys, but we make toy that has bumps, crinkles, and vibrates when you pull toys specifically for children who need a little bit of on its tail, all these little features help their synapses and extra in those toys,” Small explains. brain connect,” says Small. “This means their minds enPlayAbility Toys is unique in that it is both a mangage more with this toy than they would with just an ufacturer and distributor. Once the toys are manufaceveryday toy. Our toys are meant for the special needs tured, they are stored in a warehouse in Tucson. They community, but they’re also showing a lot of success in the are then distributed through the company’s retail website, as well as various wholesalers that it works with. general community because of all the qualities we put into The company’s website allows customers to browse them.” through its toys by special need or by toy category. The physPlayAbility Toys originally started as Build ’n Bud in ical challenges category includes Cerebral Palsy, Down syn2002. The founder and lead engineer, Bud Fraze, was apdrome, Muscular Dystrophy, Muscular Sclerosis, paralysis, proached by a friend whose son was born with Bilateral Rheumatoid Arthritis, Spina Bifida, and traumatic Anophthalmia. This disease causes a child to be born Boy with Buddy Dog
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brain injury. The special needs categories include the Autism spectrum, blind or visually impaired, cognitive challenges, deaf and hard of hearing, and speech impairments. PlayAbility works with experts, parents, and the community to create a wide variety of toys based on each of these specific needs. The lead toy designer, Joyce Lopez, is a Child of a Deaf Adult (CODA). According to Small, Lopez has lived her entire life in the hearing impaired community and has been in the toy industry for more than 20 years. Lopez helps the company connect with therapists and educators who are specifically in the niche of special needs. They give the toy designers insight as to how kids with each specific need would benefit most from a toy, as well as suggestions and advice. “Then we come up with products that aren’t your everyday toy, but they’re toys that are fun, and that offer these additional therapeutic benefits,” says Small. In addition to professionals in the field, PlayAblity works with child life specialists. According to Small, child life specialists work with children in hospitals to promote their well-being and happiness during their stay. Since they work with kids who often need to return for multiple hospital stays, they offer the company insight as to what toys these kids like most. For example, child life specialists gave the company inspiration for a toy for visually impaired children. “They love to color, but can’t feel the pictures,” says Small. “So that’s when we made our Color SENSEation, where all of the images have raised lines so the children can feel the images that they’re coloring.” In addition to providing consumers with toys for a wide scope of special needs, the toys are designed for a wide range of ages. The vast majority of PlayAbility products are meant for young children, but the whole concept of a developmental toy doesn’t have to do with age—it has to do with cognitive development. Therefore, many of PlayAbility’s toys are used by people of all ages and are found in a wide variety of places, such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and clinics. “We’ve actually seen that in our Rib It Ball, which is sold through one of our retailers specifically to the senior citizen community,” says Small. “Senior citizens who have dementia and Alzheimer’s need toys and devices that are stimulating to their brains.”
See It and Sign It games
Since the Rib It Balls are light and easy to hold, they have contrasting colors, and they make crinkly sounds, someone sitting in a wheel chair can engage with it far more than just an average rubber ball. In addition to the Rib It Balls, other sensory toys that PlayAbility offers are very popular because they implement tactile, auditory, and visual stimulation that makes them more than just a toy. The plush toys Buddy Dog and Echo the Elephant have different textures and crinkly vests, they make noises, and they each have squeaky hands. Both plush animals also have a Velcro patch on the back. “Children with Autism tend to be drawn to Buddy Dog and Echo Elephant because if they’re having a meltdown, they typically need to focus on one thing to soothe themselves. Repetitive motions like attaching and detaching something is very popular,” says Small. PlayAbility’s toys like Buddy Dog, Echo the Elephant, and the Rib It Ball also sell well in the general toy market for typically developing children, according to Small. The See It and Sign It Level 1 and Level 2 games, which teach American Sign Language, have become popular items in the general market as well, due to the trendiness of parents teaching their infants sign language. “We want the concept of offering these toys to be not such a niche anymore,” Small explains. “With the number of kids with autism, this is something that’s growing. You probably know someone who has a sibling, aunt, uncle, or child who is affected by a disability or cognitive disability in general.” As PlayAbility Toys continues to design and manufacture toys for the special needs community, it hopes to send a message to other companies in the toy business to support all those who are dedicated to helping special needs children. It strives to continue to improve the quality of ● play for all developing kids.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
LITTLE MAGIC BOOKS puts a twist on classic kids’ picture books with its first title, If You Owned a Zoo, created and written by David Fahrer and illustrated by Alicja Gapinska. Combining the physicality of a printed book with the interactivity of a smartphone app, Little Magic Books works with iPhones and Android phones to bring modern magic to traditional books. Written in two-part rhyme, If You Owned a Zoo takes kids on an exciting journey through a zoo filled with hungry lions, dancing penguins, ticklish giraffes, and thirsty elephants. Once kids place a smartphone into the back of the book, the screen shows through cut-outs on each page, allowing the app’s animations to integrate seamlessly with the illustrations.
The Great Bear, from VERTICAL ENTERTAINMENT, is a direct-toDVD film that takes families on an enchanted journey following main character Jonathan and his kid sister Sophie, whom he can’t help but be annoyed by. The brother-sister duo has a hard time getting along, but once Sophie is kidnapped by a 1,000year-old bear the size of a mountain, it’s up to her 11-year-old big brother to venture into the depths of a perilous forest to try to rescue her. This PG-rated, animated film is filled with mythical creatures, crazy characters, whimsical wonders, and some very valuable lessons for kids. With a runtime of 77 minutes, The Great Bear is a big, hairy adventure that shows the power and importance of family and friendship.
WILDFIRE STORIES and SUPPERTIME ENTERTAINMENT have partnered to launch Pinkaboos, a new publishing brand for girls ages 6 to 9. The Pinkaboos: Bitterly and the Giant Problem will be the first in a series of chapter books available in both e-book and print formats. Written by Jake and Laura Gosselin and illustrated by Billy Kelly, the Pinkaboos characters are on a mission to help young girls overcome normal childhood fears. In this book, best friends Bitterly, Abyssma, and Belladonna begin a new school year at Fright School, but what they hoped would be the “best year ever” ends up being sabotaged by a bully. In order to stand up to this challenge and overcome her fears, Bitterly learns that she must first embrace the help of others.
SECRET MOUNTAIN’s new release, I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, is a storybook and music CD package based on the children’s song written by Canadian folk legend Alan Mills more than 50 years ago. The title song, sung by Thomas Hellman and Emilie Clepper, is a quirky and up-beat rendition of the popular nursery rhyme that tells the tale of an old lady who swallows way too many animals, which leads to her detriment. Hellman and Clepper add “Animal Alphabet Song,” “Twelve Kittens,” “My Father’s in the City,” and more to the album, which goes hand-in-hand with the picture book illustrated by Pishier. Each song is simple, allowing kids to sing along to the fun lyrics spanning interests such as numbers, letters, and funny animals.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
Toy Research from Euromonitor International:
How the Industry Is Leaving Its Comfort Zone by Matthew Hudak, research analyst, Euromonitor International
he U.S. toy industry saw relatively flat growth last year, as a shortened holiday shopping season had an adverse effect on what might have been an otherwise comfortable year of toy sales. While the overall picture for toys was not altogether impressive, there were still some key areas of growth during the year pointing toward some very important trends. First, there was a clear rise in parents becoming more focused on making sure that the products their children play with challenge them both creatively and intellectually. This is starting to translate into new growth areas in traditional toys and games, as arts and crafts toys and scientific toys both saw better than average growth last year. There was also enormous growth from children’s tablets such as InnoTab and Nabi, which comes as parents start to view playtime as something that can entertain and occupy their children’s attention, while also stimulating the creative and problem-solving areas of their brains. In addition to creative toys, games and puzzles in the U.S. experienced growth last year, even among traditional brands, which in recent years have mostly been a drag on the category. Hasbro is the dominant player in games and puzzles by a wide margin. While its Magic: The Gathering card games continue to be an immensely important area of growth, it was not the only brand that saw strength, as Jenga co-branded with Angry Birds Star Wars, helping it to grow during the year. New games from independent toy and game makers—such as Ticket to Ride from Days of Wonder and Bananagrams—are swiftly becoming an important growth area as well. These games, while still accessible to younger consumers, have been helped by interest among millennials who enjoy these games as a party activity. Construction toys, action figures, and dolls are some of the largest areas of toy sales within the U.S., and their overall growth was fairly weak last year. In the case of construction toys, this was largely due to years of incredibly high growth previously, which appeared to level out somewhat last year. Dolls saw
growth in some brands, but was largely offset by a continued decline in Barbie sales. One of the most license-dependent areas in toys and games, action figures declined last year due to a weaker Bananagrams WildTiles overall licensing environment. In terms of distribution, online continued to outshine almost every other area within the U.S. last year, and this distribution channel has become an incredible threat to many brick-andmortar establishments, as consumers have begun going to stores to look at toys, but will order them online for a lower price. This practice, commonly referred to as showrooming, led to very competitive Christmas sales by numerous brick-and-mortar retailers, in an attempt to get parents to buy at their stores. Besides a shortened shopping season hurting sales, video games started to put serious pressure on traditional toy and game sales. The new consoles from Sony and Microsoft are family-friendly, all-in-one entertainment centers, which likely encouraged some parents to purchase them for their younger children. Free-to-play mobile gaming on tablets and smartphones, on the other hand, continued to be a cheap and effective way for children to keep themselves entertained. Overall, traditional toys and games are expected to see relatively modest growth during the next five years, as rising parental income—as well as a continued influx of blockbuster movies for licensing—will help drive growth. ■
Matthew Hudak is a U.S. research analyst for Euromonitor International. He researches a variety of packaged goods industries and gathers market sizes and brand and company share data for toys and games. He has been quoted numerous times in trade and business publications, as well as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
THE TOY BOOK • 99
continued from page 30
Feb. 27, 2014 May 14, 2014
Transcom Capital Group Uncle Milton (science, nature exploration products) Ardian Investment Schleich Gmbh (figurines and action figures)
May 14, 2014
Toy State Industrial Ltd.
Nikko Co. Ltd. (R/C cars)
May 19, 2014
Propel Equity Partners
Summit Products (general toys)
May 19, 2014
Propel Equity Partners
Citiblocs LLC (wooden construction toys)
Jun. 27, 2014
Pressman Toy Corp. (board games)
to that point. Propel Equity, on the other hand, is a financial entity that decided to buy up companies that by themselves were not viable, put them together, and meld them into a viable whole. It is generally assumed that a similar strategy will be followed by the other three financial companies listed above: Crofton, Transom, and Ardian. In addition, The Street reported on March 20 that “Jakks Pacific is seeking to acquire other toy companies with up to $100 million in sales.” There is little doubt that the acquisition spree under way today is unlikely to come to an end very soon and more companies will sell out in the months to come. Hybrids and Mobile Devices Invade the Toy Aisle Activision’s Skylanders hit the U.S. toy space like a thunderbolt in 2011 and continues to make inroads at an increasing rate. The company’s real impact is not generally recognized because NPD rates them and their competitors as part of the video game space and not as toys, even though the toy figures of both the Skylanders and Disney Infinity represent about 85 percent of their total sales. Both operate on the same principle: You need a video game console, a game, a portal, and toy figures. The majority of U.S. households already have at least one of the consoles needed, so there is no additional investment required. The game and the portal are one-time outlays and come with three toy figures as part of a starter pack. In the case of the latest Skylanders game, Skylanders Trap Team, starter packs run between $79.99 and $99.99. Each additional figure costs $16.99. Kids hook up the portal to the console, insert the game, put the figures on the portal,
100 • THE TOY BOOK
Hybrid Sales in the U.S. Retail, in U.S. $Millions
1,200 1,000 800
Mega Brands Inc. (construction toys)
To ta lH
Schylling Associates Inc. (general toys)
Feb. 14, 2014
Ni nt am end iib o o
Crofton Capital LLC
Fu sio n
Meccano Ltd. (metal construction, building toys)
Aug. 14, 2013
Alex Toys (mainly arts and crafts products)
Spin Master Ltd.
nfi ni ty
Propel Equity Partners
Aug. 13, 2013
May 20, 2013
and are ready to play. Then, kids want more figures to complement the game. That is no problem—there are now 273 Skylanders figures and 45 Disney Infinity figures available. Both Activision and Disney Interactive will release a new generation range—Skylanders Trap Team and Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes 2.0—this fall. Two more companies will join the fray this year—Lego and Nintendo. Lego introduced Lego Fusion, which operates on the same principle as Skylanders and Infinity except that it interacts with smartphones and tablets rather than video game consoles. Nintendo will also release its hybrid range, amiibo, in October, which follows the same principles as Skylanders, except that it is restricted to the Wii U and the Nintendo DS gaming systems. While there is no statistical data available, all indications are that both the Skylanders and Disney Infinity have made inroads into the traditional toy space, particularly in the action figure category, and, to a lesser degree, the preschool space. Disney Infinity will also become a factor in girls’ toys by including female icons, such as Maleficent, Frozen’s Elsa, The Avengers’ Black Widow, and Merida from Brave, in its 2.0 Edition. Hybrids have been immensely successful from the start and this success is expected to continue to the end of this year and beyond. U.S. retail sales figures tell the story [note that the 2014 bars are estimates]:
yl a nd er s
Date of Transaction
Source: Klosters Retailer Panel
Shelf Space Comparison In Linear Feet at Wal-Mart, Target, and Toys “R” Us 1,200 1,000 800
Dec. 29. 2013
Apr. 5, 2014
July 4, 2014
Aug. 2, 2014 Fig ur es
Al lA ct
yb rid To ta lH
nfi ni ty ey I Di sn
yla nd er s
figures—a category that represented 6 percent of all toy retail sales in the U.S. last year and that in terms of sales could well be overtaken this year by the hybrids. Needless to say, it is virtually certain that more hybrids will enter the toy space and upset the applecart in other categories, particularly dolls, board games, and vehicles. In addition, there will be more entrants into the action figure and preschool space. To wrap things up—yes, there will be a Christmas, but that is about the only thing you can take for granted. ■
Source: Klosters Retailer Panel
A good way to demonstrate the importance retailers attach to hybrids is to look at the shelf space they give to the two brands today. The chart above compares hybrids with action
Lutz Muller has been active in the global toy and video game market since 1984. He has lived and worked in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Australia, and the U.S. His insights are based on his daily contacts with toy buyers at big-box stores in the U.S. and Europe, his proprietary retailer panel in the U.S., and his third-party manufacturing contacts in China.
We Need a Hero Analyzing the Action Figure Category
by Steve Reece, brand marketing and product development consultant
uring conversations I’ve had with members of the toy industry, concerns were raised about the health of the action figure category. This traditional powerhouse has been a huge driver of toy sales for many decades. So, what’s the issue? Well, from what I've been told and what I’ve read, there are several trends that might be acting as negative factors toward this category: 1. With the ongoing fragmentation of media—and the trend toward kids dipping into multiple pieces of content/multiscreening versus engaging with just one movie or TV franchise—there is less opportunity for toys as kids might be less engrossed in any one brand, world, or franchise. 2. That old favorite of the Kids Growing Older Younger phonomenon (KGOY) and the resulting squeeze on the size of the age demographic that is into action figures. 3. Gender political correctness, which purportedly softens the demand/appeal of toys supporting typical genderspecific stereotypes.
The reality in the consumer world is that while kids may play with traditional action ﬁgures less than they used to generations back, kids still need their heræs to be heræs.”
102 • THE TOY BOOK
Skylanders Hero Figure Pack, from Activision
A suggested trend toward more humor-driven TV programs, rather than ones that are purely action-based. Now, before anyone thinks me a harbinger of doom, I just don’t buy these factors as absolute. There are some major drivers of this category that have not gone awry, and seem unlikely to go away any time soon: 1. Blockbuster kids’ action movies have traditionally been— and still are—massive drivers of action figure sales. These action-packed cinematic/DVD events are not going away. 2. Hero movies have never been more prominent. Right now, there are more blockbuster kids’ action movie franchises than ever before, and while they may not shift as many toys as they used to, they drive potentially huge volumes nonetheless. 3. Toys are increasingly a low-thought/throwaway/impulse/cheap gift purchase. My company regularly conducts market research/play testing, and over the past few years we’ve identified a phenomenon that we call toy stockpiling— whereby kids accumulate more toys than they can or will ever play with. The reality in the consumer world is that while kids may play with traditional action figures less than they used to generations back, kids still need their heroes to be heroes. Even if that manifests itself in action figure toys for fewer years
than it used to, there is still a collection of massively powerful drivers underpinning this category now and for the foreseeable future. One of the other major disruptive factors in the action figure space that is often conveniently labeled as/placed outside the action figure category has been Activision’s Skylanders franchise, followed by Disney Infinity in a similar vein. These franchises fuse traditional video console gaming with smart action figure play, making it all too easy for those who tend to look at what’s purely traditional to pretend Skylanders hasn’t happened in the same space. Yet, the reality is that according to public domain data, Skylanders has now tipped $2 billion in global sales, with more than 175 million units shipped to date. This has impinged on traditional figure play. So, in fact, we see that traditional—i.e. low-tech action
figures—have performed fantastically well when you overlay this huge new giant-sized sub-category of toys-to-life on the action figure category. The difference is that these brands originate from outside the traditional toy companies. Ignoring the disruptive tech angle and the threat that creates for traditional action figures, you could easily argue that action figures as the consumer sees them—incorporating Skylanders and Disney Infinity—have never been in a stronger position. ■ Steve Reece runs a leading toy and game industry consultancy offering product and concept representation into Europe and beyond; strategic consultancy; reliable cost-saving sourcing services; and consumer insight. For more details, visit www.stevenreece.com.
THE TOY BOOK • 103
IoT e Internet of ings
by Howard N. Aronson
f you’ve ever wished your medicine cabinet could tell you when you’re about to run out of aspirin or toothpaste, you’ll welcome the Internet of Things (IoT), where objects, devices—and toys—communicate through the Internet. Right now, the Internet is a network of computers, each with a number of IP addresses that identifies the computer. In the IoT, objects such as phones and toys could have a device attached to them that would identify it by a unique IP address. When these devices are so enabled to communicate with each other through the Internet—voilà—the IoT!
The IoT Is Already Here
We already have some of that technology: We expect our phones to keep track of information from our computers, route us around traffic jams, and warn us of approaching storms. One car rental company allows its customers to locate and reserve the nearest car and pick it up (the car unlocks with a membership card) without having to go to a rental office. Legend has it that the IoT started with a smart soda maSnort, from Toymail
104 • THE TOY BOOK
chine. Students in a university computer science department were sick of traipsing to the far away vending machine, only to find that either the machine was out of their favorite soda or that the soda hadn’t chilled yet. Student programmers installed micro-switches to keep track of the supply and temperature of the vending machine contents. The machine was also connected to the Internet, so that everyone could tell what was in stock and whether or not it was cold, without walking all the way down the hall to find out. Current and imminent IoT applications include a cardiac monitor that will communicate directly with physicians, and a whole realm of energy-saving devices, which use weather and other data to adjust street lights, heating and lighting systems, and pollution control. Engineers can monitor buildings and bridges continuously for stress and wear, as well as other factors that threaten public safety. Mimo offers a baby-monitor onesie that measures a sleeping infant’s breathing, activity level, and other signs, and communicates that information to the parent in another room.
The Internet of Toys
The IoT will not only allow toys to keep their batteries running longer by controlling energy efficiency in the toy, but children can link toys that they make themselves (by 3-D printing) to their digital identities, including Twitter and email accounts, and control the toys directly from their smartphones. Animated dolls will be able to sing, dance, and act in people’s living rooms, as well as react to dialogue, motion, or music. The IoT will mean more personalized learning
toys, and educational toys, including dolls and puppets, will be able to read stories from vast libraries, pronounce difficult words, and answer spontaneous questions from children, all by accessing information directly from the Internet. Imagine a toy being able to read children’s facial expressions—even to recognize them and call them by name. According to a 2005 market research study by Tangull America, the market for toys with embedded information technology was expected to grow at a rate of 15 percent a year and reach almost $150 billion in the U.S. by next year. While the 2008 recession poked a few holes in that balloon, the industry statistics are impressive. When those Internetactive toy-laden children get a little older, there will be IoT security systems to monitor their competitive exams. The IoT has already inspired products that may join remote-controlled airplanes and train sets as kids’ classics: • WikiBear, from Commonwealth Toy, is a voice-activated plush bear with a wide range of knowledge of facts, figures, and jokes. As kids interact with him, WikiBear remembers names, likes, and other information. • Toymail can send voice messages to the phones of loved ones and receive and reply to voice messages. This kind of technology was used to create a helmet with a sensor to monitor head impacts in sports, identifying the traumas as soon as they occur, and thus possibly reducing future brain injuries. There will also be a major impact in the toy manufacturing process. The Internet, with satellite links and proprietary networks, is used not only for business orders and personal communication, but to monitor and contemporaneously adjust manufacturing procedures and performance. The IoT can create manufacturing efficiencies by allowing processes and settings to adjust automatically based on data fed back from equipment.
Security Issues and Legal Problems
The IoT has many legal implications, of course. The most obvious ones are privacy and protection from malicious attack, because all the data collected and communicated to allow more control of objects may fall into the wrong hands. A major threat is at the manufacturing level, where the IoT will make the theft of trade secrets easier. Toys are not exempt from security concerns. A toy that
allowed children to send instant messages to their friends and receive return messages is no longer being sold, even though the toy included safeguards to prevent unauthorized people from joining kids’ conversations. Presumably, parents were wary of security and personal information theft issues. Data about time, place, and identification can travel from a model car to the Internet—meaning that not only the direct user, but also potentially many others, can access that information. As one blogger pointed out, a coffeemaker or a teddy bear requires just as much protection as a computer. A recent attack on the IoT generated hundreds of thousands of spam communications, and hijacked more than 100,000 items of household equipment including home routers, smart TVs, and even a refrigerator. Manufacturers must provide adequate safeguards, including notice and warning to customers of possible privacy threats that accompany the purchase of an IoT toy. In addition, when data is collected by a company (or a government agency), consumers who are the source of that information may have a right to it. Thus, companies and government agencies will have to set up systems to alert people that information about them might be peddled promiscuously, as well as have a means for the consumer to opt out of such access to private information. continued on page 115
THE TOY BOOK • 105
Back to the Future: Fresh Packaging for
by Ted Mininni, president, Design Force Inc.
lassic brands can leverage their significant heritage via retro package design, and more of them are doing just that. Retro packaging often resurfaces during economic slowdowns. But there are other good reasons to flirt with retro package design: to celebrate landmark brand anniversaries; to focus on fewer, simpler ingredients that matter to consumers; or to remind consumers of the brand’s category leadership. Pepsi’s 2009 return to its classic white can with center red panel and former brand identity straight out of the 1970s—a stark departure from its contemporary sapphire blue package—reinforced brand heritage and values. The company cleverly used the word “Throwback” and touted its use of real sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup. Underneath “Throwback,” the words “Limited Time Only” appear. Smart. High brand recognition, nostalgia, and a reinforcement of brand values—for a limited time—proved to be a formula for success for PepsiCo, prompting the company to offer retro packaging for its Doritos brand. But did this move turn new consumers into brand fans? When Pepsi conducted consumer surveys on the retro packaging, the company found that more than 50 percent of the people who purchased the product bought more than they normally did. Many of those customers didn’t usually buy Pepsi products; they didn’t buy other Pepsi products and they didn’t buy other carbonated drinks, either. Thus, Pepsi had gained new customers according to Amy Wirtanen, senior director of marketing for PepsiCo Beverages America. What’s intriguing is that bringing back classic packaging, but contemporizing it a bit, can act as a bridge among multiple generations of consumers. Because it looks distinctive when compared with modern, sophisticated packaging on the
106 • THE TOY BOOK
shelf these days, it’s a clear stand-out. To younger consumers, who are suspicious about brands, those with slick packaging may be trying too hard. Retro packaging makes brands seem more authentic, down to earth, and honest— less contrived. Kids and young adults tend to think retro is hip and cool—unless it looks old and tired. The trick is to give a retro feel to packaging while updating it enough to appeal to a contemporary audience. Last year, General Mills partnered with Target to offer its Monster cereals in retro packaging around Halloween. Reintroducing the Monster cereals in new packaging, while retaining the original characters and product form, allowed Boomers and Gen-Xers to recall the fun times they spent enjoying these breakfast treats as kids, making an immediate and powerful connection with the brand and motivating purchase decisions. The packaging for General Mills’ Monster cereals was beautifully designed. Illustrations of the classic characters in a fun new style drove the entire package design, with each monster’s package and illustration representing its flavor monochromatically. The beauty of this packaging is that, like Pepsi’s Throwback, it was available for a short time—and much like any limited-edition, it became valuable to collectors and aficionados of the brand.
Leveraging the Classic, Merging with the Modern
Some of the best examples of retro packaging appear in the toy industry. By tweaking classic toy packaging (and sometimes the toys themselves), and by leveraging the heritage cues that remind parents of their own childhoods, heritage toys can be refreshed for a new generation of kids while earning parental approval.
Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone, from Basic Fun
However, in some cases, it’s nice to represent both classic toys and packaging as they were when they first came on the scene. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT), favorites from the 1980s, are back. With the release of a feature film in August, a hit TV show on Nickelodeon, and a comic series from IDW Publishing, the Turtles are hotter than ever. Playmates Toys recently rereleased the classic figures that first appeared in 1988 for Toys “R” Us. Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello received an instant jolt of recognition from collectors who grew up loving this crime-fighting quartet, upon seeing the classic action figures and packaging. The primary difference in the retro packaging is the brand communication in the upper right-hand corner: “Classic Collection” and “Originally released in 1988.” The throwback packaging with each figure in classic action pose, the original brand identity, and the toned-down color palette look cool when juxtaposed next to today’s neon-colored, sophisticated packaging for TMNT toys from the animated series. Besides the packaging, the figures have less articulation than contemporary ones, which adds to the vintage feel. The back panel of each package doesn’t share the story about the character inside, but instead relates to the franchise’s history and origins. These figures and packaging have strong appeal. For adults, they’re nostalgic and collectible. For kids, they’re cool, since they’re so different from the modern action figures they’ve seen since they were young. Fisher-Price has been a beloved toy brand for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers for more than 80 years. The wheeled Chatter Telephone, which toddlers pulled behind them with a string, was introduced in 1962. It became an instant hit and the brand’s No. 1 toy for most of the 1960s and 1970s. Time magazine ranked it 45th on its list of the AllTime 100 Greatest Toys. The buttons and dial encouraged kids to emulate their parents on the phone and to develop speech. Today’s version is made of plastic rather than its original wood, but it has been re-released in its classic packaging by Basic Fun. Cut-outs on the top, front, and sides of the package encourage kids to “try me.” The original Fisher-Price brand identity and signature red canopy across the top and sides of the plain brown box are very retro, as is the bright blue band across the bottom of the packaging with the simple brand communication: “Fisher-Price Classic Toys.” A red starburst on the lower left-hand side of the packaging states:
“Yesterday’s classics—for kids of today” as a nod to the toy’s history. Regardless of how sophisticated today’s kids are from the youngest age, the interactive nature of the Chatter Telephone resonates. Parents and grandparents will smile and endorse this classic toy in its retro package. Cabbage Patch Kids, a 1980s classic, have been making a comeback. In a smart marketing move, the brand launched Cabbage Patch Celebration Kids last year to mark the brand’s 30th anniversary. It’s clever to leverage a birthday party celebration—something that kids clearly love. Festive packaging depicts colorful streamers and confetti to make the point. The most important piece of brand communication is the brand identity with the “Celebrating 30 Years” banner, in the center lower front of the packaging. In the lower righthand corner, a special “Celebration Kids” logo further extends the theme of these special-edition dolls with packaging as important as the toys. As for the Cabbage Patch Kids, each is still slightly unique and one-of-a-kind—“just like you,” the packaging proclaims, leveraging its cornerstone brand value. Each doll still comes with a birth certificate and adoption papers, as well as a festive cupcake comb for the girl dolls and hip glasses for the boy dolls. All of them are still branded with the signature baby powder scent they have always had. Yet, these plush babies are now contemporary with color-streaked hair and clad in trendy party clothes. This is proof that product and packaging can leverage classic values and cues, while being contemporized to appeal to a new generation and bring back fond memories for parents. When classic brands consider designing retro packaging, they must define their objectives and reasons for doing so beforehand. They must also consider how “retro” to go: Will heritage packaging benefit from tweaking to contemporize it a bit or is it better to recreate the original? Remember that there should be appeal for multiple generations. If these criteria are not met, retro package design may not be the best idea. ■
Ted Mininni is president of Design Force Inc., the leading package and licensing program design consultancy to the consumer product and entertainment industries. Mininni blogs about package and licensing program design at www.designforceinc.com. He can be reached at (856) 810-2277.
THE TOY BOOK • 107
SPIELWARENMESSE Gets Trendy Spielwarenmesse focuses its international trade show on growing industry trends.
oth buyers and traders alike sense that lifestyle products are on the rise in their stores. At next year’s Spielwarenmesse, held from January 28 to February 2, they can learn all about the games, leisure, and lifestyle industries. The Fashionable and Trendy Articles product group will bring together a range of goods for the first time at a separate area in the central entrance hall of the exhibition center. Consumers see products not just as commodities, but also as a means of expressing their personal lifestyles, and therefore, Spielwarenmesse has supplemented its portfolio for trade visitors with the addition of the Fashionable and Trendy Articles product group. Here, they can exhibit fashion and accessories, home décor, design toys, stationery, fan and souvenir articles, and licensed products popular with kids.
Spielwarenmesse’s 2014 TrendGallery
108 • THE TOY BOOK
Next year, more than 160 companies will exhibit products relating to these lifestyle categories at the Spielwarenmesse. Birgit Klostermann, managing director of bb-Klostermann GmbH + Co. KG bb Schönes Schenken, understands the lifestyle potential that Spielwarenmesse has: “For us, the Spielwarenmesse is a perfect platform to showcase our accessories and gift items in an appropriate atmosphere,” he says. “We meet our most important customers in Nuremberg—both national and international ones. You can’t ignore the Spielwarenmesse—for us, it is and remains the most important door opener for success and progress.” While everything in the Fashionable and Trendy Articles exhibition area will revolve around lifestyle, visitors to the TrendGallery in Hall 3A can look at global trends in the toy industry. In order to track down global trends for buyers and distributors, Spielwarenmesse works with an international TrendCommittee. The TrendGallery, on display at Spielwarenmesse, presents the results that this nine-member committee finds to visitors. More trends can be found in the 12 product groups throughout the exhibition site, where more than 2,700 manufacturers will present their new products and perennial favorites. Approximately 76,000 retailers and buyers from more than 120 countries will come to Nuremberg to show off upcoming product ranges at the show. The Toy Business Forum will contribute its industry know-how to show dealers how they can profitably sell to customers. Its free lectures will take place between 1 and 3 p.m. every day from Wednesday to Sunday during the show.
The show floor at last year’s Spielwarenmesse
The presentation of the ToyAward winners will link to the TrendGallery—as will the New Exhibitor Centre and the joint stand of Young Innovative Companies, sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). Every dealer and buyer on the lookout for new and unique play ideas will find something in the wide range of innovations on display in Hall 3A. Throughout the exhibition area, visitors will find aproximately 70,000 new products. The Festive Articles, Carnival, and Fireworks exhibition in Hall 9 will give a unique overview of the manufacturers of pyrotechnics and fireworks. Companies in the Model Construction, Hobbies category in Halls 7 and 7A will have high-end models for specialist shops at the ready, plus different offerings for toy retailers as well. Hall 7A will house ready-to-play R/C models. The Model Railways and Accessories category will also link entry-level models for the specialist shops to high-end and technically sophisticated model railway layouts. Discerning model railway dealers will be interested in what the lowvolume producers have to offer in Hall 4A. With trend guides and exhibitor activities on Sunday Plus, business owners can bring together the concentrated flow of information into a single comprehensive program. One thing is certain: During Spielwarenmesse, Nuremberg will once again be full of toy professionals worldwide, allowing visitors and exhibitors to learn all they need to know to successfully tackle business in the upcoming year, through both personal talks and the exhibition program. ■
Spielwarenmesse Expands Globally with World of Toys Pavilions
Aside from the leading international trade fair, other events hosted by Spielwarenmesse eG have grown as traders and manufacturers worldwide start to expand their business in the domestic market. These events are especially of interest to those companies that wish to enter a new export market. World of Toys by Spielwarenmesse eG is an international trade fair program developed for a joint participation of companies at national and international trade fairs. Companies can establish new business contacts or strengthen existing ones at the World of Toys pavilions at the following fairs: Asia • Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair • Kids India Middle East • Toyzeria Russia • Kids Russia
As of next October, the cooperative will, for the first time, apply its trade fair expertise to another consumer goods market in Germany and host the new stationery exhibition, Insights-X. A specialist trade fair for paper, office, and stationery supplies in Nuremberg, Insights-X will place specific emphasis on the manufacturers, buyers, and distributors of products for offices, schools, and hobby stores.
Spielwarenmesse: January 28 through February 2 For additional information, visit www.toyfair.de.
THE TOY BOOK • 109
by Marissa DiBartolo
Star of the Travel Channel series Toy Hunter and owner of Hollywood Heroes discusses the art of toy collecting.
hen you step inside Hollywood Heroes in West-
On Toy Hunter, Hembrough and his team travel the
wood, NJ, you can literally smell the nostalgia
world in search of vintage toys. From the U.S. to Mexico,
(for those of you who are unfamiliar, nostalgia
Hembrough looks for the best return-on-investments possi-
smells like musty cardboard and a damp basement—but
ble, but he says he has a special place in his heart for one
like, in a good way). In the collectible toy shop, bright lights
property in particular. “I’m a Star Wars geek—and it’s actu-
beam down on glass cases displaying superhero relics with
ally my Achilles heel, because people have caught on and
more than 40 years under their utility belts, making these
they are offering me stuff at higher prices now,” he laughs.
toys anything but child’s play. Owner of the shop and star of the Travel Channel series
But, evaluating the worth of a toy is a lot more complicated than just considering his passion for any particular
Toy Hunter, Jordan Hembrough is an expert in the art of toy
franchise. Though he can typically rely on the knowledge of
collecting, with more than 25 years of professional experi-
the business he’s acquired over 25 years, Hembrough also
ence dealing toys. However, toys were always an integral part
has a team of experts he can turn to for advice when deciding
of Hembrough’s life. From schoolyard selling, Hembrough
a toy’s value. Additionally, when time permits, one of his go-
entered the big-time after college, when he secured a job as
to tools is eBay. “eBay really is the world’s marketplace right
a buyer for StarLog, a chain of science-fiction-focused retail
now. You have to go to completed auctions and see what was
stores. Despite a lack of business background, Hembrough
sold and what they were sold for, and that’s how you judge
eventually went on to launch his own company, Hollywood Heroes. “I had the passion, and I think sometimes passion will drive you more than a business plan,” he says.
Becoming the Toy Hunter Though Hollywood Heroes has been in business for more than a decade, everything shifted for Hembrough three years ago when a casting agent contacted him looking for a host for a new reality TV show on toy collecting. Hembrough ventured to New York City to meet with Sharpe Entertainment, the production house behind Toy Hunter, as well as popular reality TV series Man Vs. Food and Extreme Couponing. “I had the meeting on Tuesday, by Thursday I had a signed contract, and by the next week we were in development—it was that quick,” says Hembrough.
110 • THE TOY BOOK
Jordan Hembrough poses with a plush doll version of himself. Merchandised based on Toy Hunter is sold at his Hollywood Heroes shop.
it—and dealers would usually hate
majority of what Hembrough finds
that,” he says.
comes from former toy industry employees. “You have all these people
Vintage is Gold
who work in the toy industry, either
In the world of collectible
designers or sales reps, and they
toys—as one could imagine—the
have all of this crap that they’ve ac-
older, the better. New collectible
cumulated and they are looking for
toy lines are produced every year,
an outlet—and we provide that out-
but very few of them hold any real
let,” he explains. Kenner Toys, a
value. Instead, Hembrough is after
Cincinnati-based toy manufacturer,
vintage toys. “The older stuff is
was sold to Hasbro in 2000. Hem-
more valuable, because right now,
brough made the journey to Cincin-
everyone is making this shit to be
nati twice a month, capitalizing off
a collectible and everyone is buy-
of Kenner’s ex-employees with an
ing it, so the idea that ‘we never
overflow of product. “I was planning
knew back then’ still holds true,”
to buy an apartment out there,” he
he explains. Even limited-edition
explains, “All of these people were
collectibles, such as Comic-Con
left holding all of these prototypes
exclusives, are sometimes overpro-
and toys, and when they saw the
duced and don’t hold as much value as they once did. However,
Hollywood Heroes is home to countless collectible toys. The Westwood, NJ shop is open to the public on weekends.
Hembrough does think that a few
money was coming in, it took off because of word of mouth. From Kenner, it grew to Mattel, to Galoob,
companies cranking out new, high-end collectibles will have
and to Mego—everyone knows everyone in this industry,”
success. “There are a couple of companies, like Sideshow
Collectibles, that only make a collectible at a limited number, hold it to that number, and don’t keep reproducing all the
Friends, Not Fans
time,” he says. Hot Toys, a division of Sideshow, released a
Since Toy Hunter premiered three seasons ago, Hem-
1/6 replica of Batman based on the 1966 TV series, which
brough has developed an exciting fanbase, including thou-
is currently valued at more than $200.
sands of Twitter followers. “It’s all still very, very surreal,” he
Before Hembrough can appraise the value of any toy, he
says, “I am very approachable, when people call me a
has to find it. While he says 85 percent of what he finds
celebrity I tell them they got the wrong guy.” While he says
comes from people reaching out through his website and on
he prefers to refer to his fans as “friends,” what means the
social media, fan events such as New York Comic-Con and
most to Hembrough is the kids who love Toy Hunter. “When
Chicago-based C2E2 are important for making connections
we started the show, our demographic was guys ages 18 to
as well. People come from all over to discuss what collectibles
54, and all of a sudden we are skewing toward kids and fe-
they have, what they are looking for, and what they are trying
males. It just goes to show you the universal love of toys and
to sell—all perfect for the Toy Hunter. While social media,
the memories in general,” he explains.
email, and eBay are important tools, the fan events allow inperson contact, which Hembrough says is invaluable. “Sit-
Keeping Up with Pop Culture
ting down with someone over a meal or over a drink at a bar
Though he does have his favorite properties, Hembrough
is just so important because you can’t get that over Facebook
is always on the prowl for new trends in the industry. “I think
or over a telephone,” he explains.
as time goes on, and as companies reintroduce brands or franchises, whether it be [those based on] books or movies,
One Man’s Trash... It’s no secret that the toy world is a small one, and the
“I think the older brands are coming back to the forefront,” continued on page 115
THE TOY BOOK • 111
Measuring Social Media ROI for Online Retailers
by Jai Rawat, founder and CEO, ShopSocially
ccording to a Gartner study, 56 percent of organizations do not track rate of investment (ROI) of social marketing investments, and only 42 percent of marketers connect social marketing activities to business outcomes. Considering that digital marketers are usually fanatical about measuring ROI, these numbers are really surprising. However, this lack of measurement is not due to a lack of trying; social media ROI is a hard nut to crack. Let’s examine a few approaches retailers have taken toward social commerce and how one can measure the ROI across these methods.
Facebook Ads In my informal survey of more than 200 retailers, I found that only 15 percent of them see a positive ROI from their Facebook ads. That is not an encouraging number, but more on that later. The good news is that it is relatively easy to set up a tracking parameter within Facebook ads to measure the click traffic and conversion on your site. However, there are a couple of things you need to be aware of: The number of clicks reported by Facebook is usually much higher (sometimes two to three times) than what you will see in your Google analytics dashboard. Facebook claims that this is due to the difference in how Facebook and Google measure clicks. This can have a big impact on your measurement. If you are using Facebook tracking, it will report both click-through and view-through conversions. There is no denying that many users don’t like to click on ads and prefer to visit the site directly. However, you need to de-duplicate the conversion numbers to avoid overstating the view through impact. For instance, the same conversion may get
112 • THE TOY BOOK
attributed to view-through from Facebook and click through from AdWords.
Facebook Posts This is where it begins to get tricky. Social media sites are designed for peer-to-peer communications and inserting content from your brand disrupts that flow. Additionally, if that post happens to be promotional—e.g., trying to sell a product—it usually doesn’t work. This is also the reason for poor ROI from Facebook ads. The following research report by Forrester captures this sentiment really well. The level of trust for such posts is only about 10 percent:
Source: Forrester Research Inc.
Facebook posts should be more about creating engagement and staying connected with your users, rather than driving clicks and conversions. A better measurement of ROI here is the level of user activity, such as likes, shares, and comments. Comparing these numbers with other competitors in your industry will help you assess whether your strategy is producing a good return on effort.
On-Site Social Widgets Practically every site has on-site social sharing widgets these days. Most sites simply add a social widget and forget about it. Users have developed blindness toward these widgets, which typically get a really low engagement rate, averaging 0.05 percent. However, as highlighted in the Forrester research, peer-to-peer recommendations are the most powerful medium. Neglecting this opportunity means missing out on a very powerful marketing strategy. A better strategy is to use proactive sharing widgets incentivizing users to engage with and share your content and products. The sharing rate using such strategies can be 2 to 5 percent, which is up to 100 times higher than passive sharing widgets. This strategy has come to be known as Onsite Social Commerce. On the flip side, adding an incentive can cut into your profit. Therefore, it is important to measure the impact from this approach. Here is how you can do it: Measure the impact of on-site conversion rate via A/B testing. Split the traffic into two buckets and measure the overall impact on your sales and revenue. Research has shown that proactive sharing widgets not only generate social referrals, they also help improve the conversion rate on the sites.
Source: ShopSocially – Customer’s A/B testing Funnel
Measure the social referral impact. Make sure that the posts generated from your on-site sharing widgets have links containing a particular tracking code. It will help you measure the incremental, friend-referral traffic from social media channels. You can even get fancier and create a different tracking code per user, which will not only help you measure the referral traffic, but will also help you identify the social influencers. No. of Facebook Friends
No. of Purchases Shared
No. of Clicks from FB Friends
No. of Purchases from FB Friends
High number of friends with high engagement and influence of friends—obvious social influencer Low number of friends but high engagement or influence—possibly a social influencer for this specific category
High number of friends but very low engagement or influencepossibly a fake account
Source: ShopSocially – Customer’s Social Influencers Report
Unlike other marketing channels that are relatively mature now, social media still evolves rapidly. Keeping an eye on the latest trends and experimenting constantly can help you get a first-mover advantage. ■
Jai Rawat is the founder and CEO of ShopSocially, a comprehensive social commerce platform for online retailers. He is a successful serial entrepreneur and an investor, advisor, and mentor to several startups. Rawat has more than 20 years of industry experience. He has a track record and deep passion for creating exceptional online consumer products and has been awarded 17 technology patents. Rawat has won several awards and recognitions, is a frequent speaker at industry events, and also organizes TiEcon, the world’s largest conference for entrepreneurs. His detailed profile can be seen on Wikipedia and LinkedIn.
THE TOY BOOK • 113
HOW FOR A by Kevin Pollack, vice president, Stericycle
he hardest part of preparing for a recall is facing the reality that adverse events happen even for the most safety-conscious organizations. In today’s complex global economy, where factories are stressed to maximum capacity and uncompromising safety is the only policy, recalls will happen to even the most committed, savvy toy manufacturers. With that in mind, the best way to mitigate the risk of a recall is to create a structured recall plan. A lot of companies find it hard to spend the time and money to create a plan for something they hope never happens, but it’s an investment in the company’s future that could bring an exponential return in the event of a recall. When creating a recall plan, communication and organization are two of the main factors to consider. Internal communications are the backbone of a recall, and they will only be efficient through an organized system with a clear chain of command. Planning ahead enables you to think about who is best suited for various roles and will help avoid mass chaos in the event of a recall. If everyone knows his or her role and who is responsible for each aspect of the recall, issues can be resolved quickly and effectively. Being forced to look at how communication is handled internally can also help you source inefficiencies in normal operations and could lead to gains across the board as well. Communicating with external stakeholders is also a top priority. Consumers need to be informed of recalls as quickly as possible to ensure their safety. Lengthy delays in notification can have disastrous consequences for their safety and the brand image. Communication channels and strategies need to be assessed and laid out ahead of time, so that internal parties know who they need to contact and how as soon as all of the pertinent information is available. Organizations should make sure they communicate with any regulatory bodies that may be involved. It’s important to know which agencies these are and who the appropriate
114 • THE TOY BOOK
contacts are. For toy manufacturers, it’s the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). It is also critical to research what the agency will need in the event of a recall to ensure that necessary information is collected and readily available at all times. Of course, recalling the actual product is another key step that often involves intricate layers of detail. In today’s complex global supply chains, reversing the distribution flow is not always as easy as it sounds. Product needs to be removed from shelves and other retail avenues as quickly as possible. There should also be an efficient way for consumers that already own the product to return it. This process can present complex logistical challenges and, in the heat of a recall, they will only add to the chaos. Taking the time to lay out a strategy ahead of time will save time, money, and headaches during a recall. There are countless other intricacies involved in preparing for recalls, but the final step for any organization is practice. No one should be looking at the recall plan for the first time when an event occurs. Mock recalls will help source any issues with the plan, ensure everyone knows and is comfortable with their role, and minimize confusion in the heat of the event. While some organizations choose to plan for and handle recalls internally, companies that partner with a recall expert are able to enact a recall more quickly and stay focused on running the business. For toy manufacturers, speed is critical to ensure that damaged or unsafe products are removed from homes with children. ■ Kevin Pollack is a vice president at Stericycle. He works within the Stericycle ExpertSOLUTIONS suite of services, which offers a wide range of solutions, ranging from quality audits and mystery shopping to product recalls, retrieval, and product remediation.
continued from page 105 Another potential problem related to the proliferation of IoT toys is the monumental change to the current system that is needed to allocate and keep track of the mind-boggling number of IP addresses—estimated to be in the tens of billions—that will be assigned to endless numbers of possessions, so these “smart” objects can collect and communicate information with each other. An even more difficult issue is that manufacturers will need to obtain licenses for the sensing and communication technology that allows toys or other objects to communicate with the environment, with each other, and with people. Strong intellectual property protection also will be needed for inventors’ relevant innovations—ever-smaller power devices and software applications that will gather, manage, and communicate the huge amount of data from all the interconnected devices. Not only technology, but the data itself, if proprietary, requires legal protection. If the myriad new devices and systems are to work, there needs to be a legally protected way to access and use the necessary data.
Not So Fast…
Law firms are closely following the rapid development of the IoT so that they will be ready to counsel clients about protecting their own intellectual property, as well as about their use of the intellectual property of others and the protection of their customers’ privacy. Toy manufacturers will need to stay a step ahead of the IoT in protecting privacy, security, and their patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. Without this legal protection, manufacturers of everything from cars and medical devices to remote-controlled toys and dolls may decide that the risks of the IoT outweigh the benefits of efficiency and productivity. Then, as The Economist’s Babbage blog recently predicted, the IoT may turn ■ out to be the Internet of Nothings.
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 haronson@LSLLP.com .
continued from page 111 he says. Film franchises such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and RoboCop were rebooted this year, sparking a surge in the sales of vintage toys. “In a sense, the newer stuff pushes the old stuff to the forefront a little more and increases the value,” says Hembrough. With even more films based on classic franchises set for release in coming years, such as Star Wars, the Toy Hunter expects this trend to continue to grow.
Forbidden Fruit Some properties are always hot, but there are also some collectibles that Hembrough stays away from entirely. Fad toys from the ’80s and ’90s that people believe are hot and valuable are actually virtually worthless. “I never buy Cabbage Patch Kids,” he says, “They are just all over the place, and they haven’t retained their value.” Similarly, Ty’s Beanie Babies were all the rage in the ’90s, flooding hobby and specialty shops, but due to overproduction and a lack of demand, the fad quickly died and the oncevaluable plush buddies are now worth less than their original retail price. Tiger Electronics’ Furby was another hot seller in the ’90s. With a retail value of just $35, Hembrough was selling Furbies at a whopping $400 a piece—including one to actress Demi Moore. Now, however, Hembrough says the original Furbies are worth a mere $50. The brief popularity of these toys was due in large part to under-manufacturing, but because the fads were fleeting, the toys did not retain their value. “Sometimes, you have to under-manufacture, but then again, how do you make a profit?” Hembrough questions. While deals for the fourth season of Toy Hunter are still in the works, Hembrough shows no signs of slowing down in the world of collectibles and pop culture. With his Hollywood Heroes storefront that welcomes hundreds of visitors every weekend, an exciting social media fanbase, and an unmatched passion for finding toys that are of unicorn status, Hembrough’s hunt is far from over. ■
Follow @JordanHembrough on Twitter! THE TOY BOOK • 115
BUSINESS DIRECTORIES 2014 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 • email@example.com www.Forum123.com Free Magazine: www.RFmagazine.com
The Toy Book Volume 30, Number 5 THE TOY BOOK (ISSN-0885-3991) is published bi-monthly by Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® Editorial and advertising offices are located at 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, NY 10001, Phone (212) 575-4510. Periodicals Postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Copyright © 2014 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 TOY BOOK
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: firstname.lastname@example.org // email@example.com
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, TJ Maxx, I Party and CW Price. • 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, ToyZam, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Steven’s Intl.,TRU Express and NY area Supermarket Chains. • MID-LANTIC…Pennsylvania, Wash D.C., Northern Virginia and Western Ohio. Accounts…Rite Aid Drug, Group Sales, Boscov’s, Liss Bros, 5 Below and Big Lots. • K mart USA // JC Penney Catalog // Universal Studios Orlando // Gordman’s // Duckwall // Pamida // AAFES • CANADA…Walmart, Toys R Us, Canadian Tire and Big Lots. We employ a staff of 5 toy sales specialists. Our contact information is listed on our above shown letterhead. We welcome your inquiries.
Place a classified in
Please contact Anthony Guardiola 212-575-4510 x2322 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Advertiser Index Adora ................................................................................................57 Adventure Publishing Group..........................................................119 Alex Brands................................................................................12, 13 American Plastic Toys......................................................................70 Ball, Bounce, Sport ..........................................................................72 Bananagrams ....................................................................................55 BERG Toys.....................................................................................101 Blue Orange Games .........................................................................79 Delta Childrens Products .................................................................61 DEMDACO .....................................................................................S7 Diggin Active ...................................................................................59 Dracco ..............................................................................................69 Duncan Toys.....................................................................................74 Eastcolight......................................................................................S11 Elf Magic .........................................................................................S5 Entertainment One Family ...............................................................63 Fashion Angels .................................................................................73 Finch & Associates.........................................................................116 Folkmanis.........................................................................................S2 Forum Publishing ...........................................................................116 George & Co. ...................................................................................80 Hog Wild ..........................................................................................53 Hong Kong Trade Development Council ........................................31 Innovation First ..............................................................................1, 2 International Playthings ...................................................................39 Jada Toys ....................................................................................14, 15
Kahootz Toys....................................................................................75 Magformers ......................................................................................77 Maisto.............................................................................................8, 9 Masterpieces Puzzle Co. ..................................................................71 NKOK ............................................................................................6, 7 Odyssey Toys ...................................................................................41 Ollie’s Bargain Outlet.....................................................................116 Pacific Play Tents .............................................................................65 PlaSmart .....................................................................................17, 19 Playtime Sales & Marketing ..........................................................116 PPW Toys .........................................................................................78 Rubies Costume Company.............................................................120 Safari Ltd..........................................................................................51 Sakar.................................................................................................45 Schylling...........................................................................................33 Silverlit Toys ....................................................................................35 Speed Stacks.....................................................................................67 Spielwarenmesse ..............................................................................21 Thames & Kosmos...........................................................................37 The Bridge Direct...........................................................................4, 5 The Orb Factory ...............................................................................76 UL.....................................................................................................29 Universal ..........................................................................................43 World Tech Toys.........................................................................10, 11 Worx Toys ........................................................................................81 WTHRA .........................................................................................103
THE AD INDEX IS PUBLISHED AS A COURTESY. WHILE EVERY EFFORT IS MADE TO BE ACCURATE, LATE ADDITIONS AND CHANGES IN LAYOUT MAY RESULT IN ERRORS OR OMISSIONS.
THE TOY BOOK •
Flashback: September/October 1994 1.
1. Children can assemble and solve mysteries with the Great American Puzzle Factory’s Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego puzzle. Each puzzle features 10 crime cases. 2. The Shout ’n Shoot, from CAP Toys, is a battery-powered, voiceactivated squirt gun. The high-tech headset is complete with a microphone arm, a battery pack, and a water container that hooks onto a belt. With a quick yell, it emits a stream of water from a thin nozzle on the side of the headset that can travel 20 feet. 3. Milton Bradley’s Lion King Game lets kids play along as Simba grows up from cub to king. 4. Landoll has acquired the rights to produce coloring and activity books featuring Rupert, the star of the new Nickelodeon TV show. 5. It’s bonechilling excitement when barbaric fantasy, futuristic technology, and awesome firepower unite in the most fantastic actionadventure line ever. The Skeleton Warriors action figures and accessories have terrifying skeleton detailing, metalized body armor, and bone-crushing weapons. They aren’t just dangerous—they’re bad to the bone.
118 • THE TOY BOOK
The Voice Reaching Both Trade and Consumers
Contact: Jonathan Samet or Laurie Schacht Adventure Publishing Group 307 7th Avenue, Suite 1601 New York, NY 10001 Tel: 212-575-4510 Fax: 212-575-4521 www.adventurepub.com
Imagine, Discover, Inspire with Uncle Milton
ncle Milton’s In My Room brand will introduce new ways for kids to customize and express themselves through room décor. The Dino X Team brand will let kids bring the adventure and discovery of a dinosaur explorer to life. A new proprietary brand will also be introduced next year. Fireworks Lightshow will continue to empower kids to light up the night, while the classic Ant Farm brand will intrigue the next generation of kids. Next year will see new innovations from Uncle Milton, featuring top entertainment licenses and using real science and technology to expand kids’ imaginations.
Goliath Goes Galactic
I Aquarius Brings Batman to the Board
quarius Entertainment Merchandising will release its newest DC Comics-inspired board game, Batman Road Trip, after being given the green light from Warner Bros. Consumer Products, on behalf of DC Entertainment, earlier this year. In this game, it’s up to the players—with a little help from the Dark Knight—to win back Gotham City from the criminal masterminds who have taken over. The rest of the DC Comics collection will include desktop standees, die-cut puzzles, 1,000-piece puzzles, and playing cards, inspired by characters such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and more.
n Alien Invasion, Goliath’s latest addition to its line of family games, the aliens have invaded and are trying to abduct players and their animals. The unique teleportation device on the aliens’ space ship will have players ages 6 and up running for cover. The last player to escape the aliens wins this space-tacular game of survival. Ewww, Who Tooted!?! is a game of gassy good times. Each player gets a bean-shaped controller to control the character’s flatulence. When the controllers light up, only one person will “toot” and the other players have to guess who did it. In Seagull Splat!, players ages 4 and up must race to split before the seagull splats. Avoid the seagull’s mess and be the last player on the beach with a clean towel to win the game. The newest member to Goliath’s lineup of skill and action games, Seagull Splat! provides kids with clean, foamy fun.
THE TOY BOOK • 121
PillowPets Has Comfort for Every Body
illow Pets, a company that specializes in friendly dual-function pet plush, will introduce BodyPillars next year. These 30-inch, character-inspired body pillows contour to kids’ unique bodies, making them the perfect cuddle buddies for kids ages 3 and up. With their caterpillarlike, segmented bodies, BodyPillars provide the ultimate level of comfort, making activities such as watching TV, studying, reading, and sleeping more fun. Kids can choose from eight huggable styles, including Purple Cow, Black and White Cow, Green Puppy, Pink Pig, Teal Elephant, Flower Power Cat, Panda, and Moose.
Pressman Toy Corp. Makes a Splash
ressman Toy Corp. will launch an updated version of Lucky Ducks, which has sold more than 5.5 million units over the last 20 years. Pressman will also expand its lineup to include a game based on Moose Toys’ new Shopkins brand. In Shopkins Spree, players race to collect one of each of the Shopkins characters and get them to the cash register finish line. A family favorite for more than 47 years, Tri-Ominos has sold nearly 17 million units worldwide. This year, Pressman will promote the Deluxe Edition of this classic game in a triangular box through TV campaigns.
Melissa & Doug Offers Dress-Up and Plush Melissa & Doug’s latest line of dress-up products for kids ages 3 to 6 includes the Pediatric Nurse Role Play Set. It features nurse’s scrubs, a plush baby with fastening diaper, a syringe, a thermometer, a stethoscope, an ear scope, and reusable name tags. The Pilot Role Play Set includes a uniform jacket with an attached shirtfront, a hat, a detachable tie and wings, a reusable flight checklist, and a steering yoke. The Magician Play Set has a cape with a bow tie, a vest with a secret pocket, a top hat with a hidden compartment, a wand, and more. The company’s new line of giant, lifelike plush for kids ages 3 and up includes Black Bear & Cub, a bear pair including a nearly 3-foot-tall mama bear with soft fur. There is also a boa constrictor measuring more than 14 feet long, with realistic markings and a soft plush exterior. Both are made of durable materials and are surface-washable. The Snacks & Sweets Food Cart is a rolling, reversible snack cart that offers a choice of menus for kids ages 3 and up. With the hot dogs menu and awning on display, kids can reach inside the slide-top food compartment to serve up hot dogs, soft pretzels, and more. By flipping the awning to sweets, the menu changes to cones, scoops, and ice pops. The sturdy wooden cart comes with more than 40 play pieces.
122 • THE TOY BOOK
Ravensburger Cools Down with Frozen Puzzles
avensburger has assembled a lineup of puzzles based on Disney’s Frozen. Frozen: The Frozen Difference puzzle challenges kids ages 6 and up to spot the nine differences in the completed puzzle compared to the image on the front of the box. Additionally, the company has expanded its arts and crafts activities assortment with Spiral Designer, which enables young artists to draw spiral designs or create combinations of different patterns. Kids ages 6 and up insert a sheet of paper between the drawing frame and templates and start designing. All they need to do is select one of the design discs and rotate it to create spectacular art.
Funrise Is Mad for Madballs
unrise Toys has teamed up with Madballs for plush sports balls and accessories, including baseball bats and basketball hoops, based on the bouncing ball introduced in 1986 by AmToy. Set for release next spring, some of the new toys will have sounds, and all are designed with the same grotesque features as the original line. Madballs are intended for kids ages 4 to 8, with a secondary target range of 15 and up. Examples of characters from the line include Slobulus, a popeyed, ooze-filled head; Hornhead, who has a massive horn ripping through its skull; Skull Face; and more.
Geospace International Sends Rockets to New Heights
Douglas Introduces New Plush
ew for spring, The Douglas Co. presents 12-inch-tall Sweet Petites that come with a matching designer bag. Available in four styles, including Blossom Bunny, Bonnie Bunny, Madeline Mouse, and Dotty Pig, each Petite is made from fresh spring fabrics and fits inside the 7-inch bag. Additionally, Peachy Bunny, a super-soft, cuddly bunny, will make its debut in the spring. Peachy Bunny will be available in 13- and 18-inch sizes.
he Air Archer, from Geospace International, is the first bow-styled pump rocket from the company. Using Geospace’s Pump Rocket Jr foam rockets and darts, kids can master the skills of the Air Archer and launch foam rockets up to 125 feet. The set includes three safe, soft foam rockets and four foam darts. Geospace’s Geoflux interactive spring toy will be packaged in a Blister Card. Kids can watch it flow up and down their arms, pass it to friends, and more. It is made of one continuous band of polished steel and includes a travel pouch.
THE TOY BOOK • 123
Toy Industry Association
Toy Industry Foundation
FALL 2014 UPDATE
by Kristin Morency Goldman, communications specialist, Toy Industry Association
very child deserves the benefits of play—which is why the Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) distributes cuddly stuffed animals, skill-building toys, educational games, and much more to children’s charities worldwide, working year-round to bring the magic of toys and play to children in need. As many companies and individuals turn their attention toward charitable giving leading up to the holiday season, TIF has many initiatives planned to ensure that new toys and games will light up the faces of children living through stressful situations—whether they are sick, impoverished,
living in foster care or on a military base, or otherwise in need of a playful distraction.
Annual Toy Collection at Fall Toy Preview
TIF will hold its annual Toy Bank collection at the close of Fall Toy Preview on Thursday, October 9. The collected toys, games, and youth entertainment products will benefit Dallas-area children in need. Companies that would like to participate can email TIF and state their interest in making a contribution. Volunteer staff will circulate the show floor on Thursday afternoon to collect the donated product—making move-out a breeze. Contact email@example.com for details, or visit TIF at a giveaway for foster children in Arkansas Booth No. 2300 at the show. hosted by a TIF/CASA partnership
Bringing Laughter & Play to Military Families As part of its continuing partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America Military Services, TIF kicked off a number of fall toy distributions with a toy giveaway for hundreds of kids living at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia on September 18. In the coming weeks, TIF will deliver the gift of play to families living at Mayport Naval Station in Florida (October 25), USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir in Virginia (November 6), and Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma (December 3). By year-end, TIF will have reached fami-
124 • THE TOY BOOK
lies at a total of 50 military installations this year alone, providing playful relief to children as they battle the stress of parental deployments, escalating tensions abroad, and frequent moves from base to base.
TIF partners with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America Military Services to bring toys to hundreds of kids in military families.
2014 Holiday Toy Drive Brightening the lives of hundreds of thousands of kids in need during the holidays is an important tradition for TIF and the toy industry. From October 15 to December 31, TIF will collect brand new toys, books, DVDs, crafts, and other items from companies within (and related to) the toy industry during the Toy Bank’s annual Holiday Toy Drive. The drive will enable TIF to bring toys to kids across the U.S. and Canada, including underserved children in the Bronx, N.Y., who will be treated to a special holiday giveaway in partnership with the YMCA. Some of the donated toys will also make their way to NBC’s Today show Holiday Gift Drive to benefit tens of thousands of families facing financial hardships.
More to Come Even more exciting opportunities to take action will roll out this fall, including TIF’s “Art With a Heart” auction, a special crowdfunding opportunity through RocketHub, and other initiatives, such as TIF’s annual ad sales fundraising campaign for the Toy of the Year Awards (TOTY) Tribute Book, will soon kick off. As TIF’s signature fundraiser, the Tribute Book campaign offers companies fantastic exposure to the toy industry’s top executives in attendance at the TOTY ceremony—and 97 percent of every donated dollar goes directly to TIF’s programs serving children in need. Another new initiative is the Leaders Circle Group (LCG), which provides young industry professionals with the opportunity to give back by forming a group with any number of friends or colleagues and combining their personal donations totaling $250 or more to support TIF. “None of our work is possible without the generous support of our caring community,” says Jean Butler, TIF executive director. “We are grateful to all of our donors—whether they are providing playthings or contributing funds. Every toy, every
game, and every penny sustains our mission of delivering the magic of play to disadvantaged kids and bringing a sense of normalcy and fun to their lives.” ■ To date, TIF’s Toy Bank has delivered more than $100 million in toys to children in need. For more information about TIF and its work, visit www.toyindustryfoundation.org. To make a product or monetary donation, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (646) 454-5581.
Like the Toy Industry Foundation on Facebook to stay in the know about new initiatives and opportunities to take action and give back to children who need your help! Visit www.facebook.com/toyindustryfoundation to learn more.
THE TOY BOOK •
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