Page 1

®


LICENSING EXPO 2016 »

WHAT'S NEXT IN KIDS' ENTERTAINMENT

ASTRA'S MARKETPLACE » SPECIALTY TOY SHOWCASE


MAY/June 2016

®

Volume 32, No. 3 — Published by Adventure Publishing Group

Jonathan Samet Publisher jsamet@adventurepub.com

DEPARTMENTS 10 Editor’s Viewpoint 12 Industry Update 14 Stat Shot 15 Euromonitor 16 Talking Social Media How to Create an Effective Influencer Campaign

24 TIA Perspectives

Summer Toy Trends

104 Compliance & Regulations

94 Property Profile:

ICTI CARE’s Committed Brand PLUS Program

100 Toys & TV:

105 Industry Marketplace

Disney•Pixar’s Finding Dory The Evolution of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

106 Flashback: May/June 1996

Jackie Breyer Editor-in-Chief jbreyer@adventurepub.com Marissa DiBartolo Senior Editor mdibartolo@adventurepub.com Ali Mierzejewski Senior Editor amierzejewski@adventurepub.com Maddie Michalik Assistant Editor mmichalik@adventurepub.com

17 Sweet Suite 2016

Varuni Sinha Assistant Editor vsinha@adventurepub.com

FEATURES

Joe Ibraham Assistant Visual Media Editor jibraham@adventurepub.com

18 Being Smart About Smart Toys

What Toymakers Should Do to Stay on Top

Stephanie Grassullo Editorial Assistant sgrassullo@adventurepub.com

102 Game Changer Why Toy Companies Are Consolidating

Bill Reese Production Director breese@adventurepub.com

20 Smart Toys 2016: Showcase

Lori Rubin Controller/Office Manager lrubin@adventurepub.com

82 Licensing Expo 2016 A look at this year’s licensed brands and properties on display.

U.S. Corporate Headquarters Laurie Schacht President laurieschacht@aol.com

98 ’80s Toys Are Back and Totally Awesome!

Sony Pictures Consumer Products Is Riding the Time Machine to Success

Slimeball Flinger Darts, by Diggin

specialty toys & gifts: 25 26 ASTRA’s Insights

Certified Master Retailers discuss how the credential improved their business.

27 News

28 Chatting with the Industry

Retailers and manufacturers discuss the challenges of the specialty toy industry.

36 ASTRA Marketplace 2016

A Selection of Toys Being Exhibited at the Show

78 How Play Works

Sandbox@MIT explores ways research can help kids play better.

80 Donating to Your Bottom Line

Why You Should Consider Donating Excess Inventory to Charity

On the Cover: Adora’s BathTime Baby Kitty, Berg’s Buzzy Nitro, Blue Orange Games’ Kaboom, Edushape’s Dr. Pooch, Faber-Castell’s Craftivity Super String Lanterns, Folkmanis’ Monarch Life Cycle, Green Toys’ Fire Station Playset, Gund’s Swim Trunks Curious George, Learning Resources’ New Sprouts Grow It!, Mindware’s E-I-E-I-GO!, Play Monster’s My Fairy Garden, Thames & Kosmos’ Geckobot

Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® 307 7th Avenue, #1601, New York, NY 10001 Phone: (212) 575-4510 • Fax: (212) 575-4521 The Toy Book Volume 32, No. 3 THE TOY BOOK (ISSN-0885-3991) is published bimonthly by Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® Editorial and advertising offices are located at 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, NY 10001, Phone (212) 575-4510. Periodicals Postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Copyright © 2016 Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. Printed in U.S.A. Subscription rates: $48 one year, foreign $200. The Toy Book is a trademark of Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® Registered in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Postmaster: Send address changes to: The Toy Book, c/o Adventure Publishing Group, 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, NY 10001. Opinions and comments expressed in this publication by editors, contributing writers, or solicited or unsolicited documents are not necessarily those of the management of The Toy Book.

Member, International Toy Magazine Association


editor’s viewpoint

GET SMART:

Where High-Tech and STEM Intersect by JACKIE BREYER, Editor-in-Chief AS A MOM OF TWO YOUNG KIDS, OF course I am interested in products that are both educational and fun. As a journalist ingrained in the toy industry, I know that there are a number of options that fit this description, and it’s a rapid-growth category for the industry overall. But when we think of “smart toys,” a number of things come to mind. Are we talking about traditional toys that engage children while promoting educational concepts? Or are we talking about toys that are able to act seemingly intelligent, carrying on conversations and responding to voice commands? For many parents, both of these product categories are pretty tantalizing, but they are very different. Personally, I am most interested in a toy that hones in on a sweet spot that overlaps both of these types of “smart toys,” giving kids an engaging, educational experience with a high-tech twist. A good example of this type of product is Hasbro’s new Love2Learn Elmo. Elmo gives kids as young as 18 months a customized, educational experience while still offering them a cuddly companion for bedtime. In this issue, we take a look at various types of smart toys, from high-tech, Wi-Fi enabled characters that can answer kids’ questions by pulling data from the cloud, to more traditional toys with educational elements being exhibited at ASTRA’s Marketplace June 5 to 8 in Denver. Check out Industry Analyst Sean McGowan’s take on smart toys on page 18, and don’t miss our coverage of ASTRA Marketplace, beginning on page 36. You’ll also find data on the smart toy category on pages 14 and 15. One of my favorite parts of this issue is our annual Chatting with the Industry Q&A. Each year I reach out to a number of specialty toy retailers and manufacturers from around the country to discuss the challenges presented by the specialty toy marketplace. One of the topics mentioned was the challenge of online and digital shopping. As more

10  THE TOY BOOK | May/June 2016 | TOYBOOK.COM

“It does everything on its own so I don’t have to. There’s even a program for driving you up a wall.” consumers turn to the internet and their smartphones and tablets to make purchases, specialty retailers shared some of their strategies for competing for toy sales, and manufacturers talked about the importance of enforcing a minimum advertised pricing (MAP) policy. Retailers and manufacturers need to stand together to keep specialty toy stores top-ofmind for consumers year round. Some manufacturers assist with play days and other in-store events that make a big impact at retail stores. As we head into the summer months, retailers can benefit tremendously by making their stores into destinations for families. There are many manufacturers that offer kits for play day events and activities that retailers can promote within the community. Some manufacturers,

such as Thames & Kosmos, will even send a rep to the store to help run the event. Learn more on page 28. Enjoy this issue of The Toy Book, and let us know what you think! Send me an email, or simply tweet @toybook and @jackiebreyer. We’d love to hear from you! »

Jackie Breyer is editor-in-chief of The Toy Book and the Toy Insider, and editorial director at Adventure Publishing. She has been reporting on new products and toy industry trends for 14 years. Contact her at jbreyer@adventurepub.com.


INDUSTRY UPDATE Chuggington

JAZWARES NAMED GLOBAL MASTER TOY PARTNER FOR CHUGGINGTON Ludorum appointed Jazwares as its new global master toy partner for its preschool property Chuggington. Jazwares will unveil its Chuggington line to retailers this month. The line will feature characters from the series. Products will include collectible characters, play sets, and feature toys. The line will move away from traditional track systems of train play and will focus on the destinations in the show to allow kids to build their own world of Chuggington and recreate adventures. The line will launch at retail next spring. »

SKYROCKET TOYS FORMS NEW MEDIA DIVISION Skyrocket Toys appointed kids and family entertainment executive and producer Jared Wolfson to lead the company’s newly formed media division, which will create original content for multimedia platforms in conjunction with the company’s toy and consumer products brands. Skyrocket will develop original content for digital and broadcast platforms with a corresponding line of toys and ancillary products. The company plans to launch its first property with a toy line in 2018. As senior vice president of the company’s media division, Wolfson will be responsible for developing, launching, and managing Skyrocket’s portfolio of integrated entertainment properties in coordination with the company’s toy and consumer products businesses. Wolfson was previously president of franchise integration at Zag Animation Studios and Zagtoon, and executive producer on global TV shows Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir, Popples, Sammy & Co, and Zak Storm. He also held various executive, production, and marketing positions at Jakks Pacific and Disney Interactive Studios. »

TOY INDUSTRY EXECS TO OPEN LICENSING EXPO Leading toy industry executives will open Licensing Expo 2016 with keynote “Toys to Content: Where Do We Go From Here?” on

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THE TOY BOOK | May/June 2016 | TOYBOOK.COM

June 21 from 8 to 9 a.m. at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. The panel includes Simon Waters, general manager and senior vice president, entertainment and consumer products, Hasbro; Laura Zebersky, chief compliance officer, Jazwares; and Susie Lecker, chief brand officer, Toy Box division, Mattel. The International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA) Senior Vice President Marty Brochstein will moderate the discussion, which is open to all registered Licensing Expo exhibitors and attendees. The keynote panel is part of LIMA’s lineup of Licensing University educational programs, which begins on June 20 with the Digital Media Licensing Summit. »

DISNEY DISCONTINUES DISNEY INFINITY Disney will discontinue Disney Infinity, John Blackburn, senior vice president and general manager at Disney Infinity, announced in a blog post. “By now you may have heard the news that we have made the difficult decision to discontinue production of Disney Infinity. From the beginning, Disney Infinity was built for you—our fans—and I wanted to take a moment to thank you not just for your support over the years, but for creating a community that made Disney Infinity more than just a game,” Blackburn writes in the post. There will be two final retail releases, including three new character figures from

Alice Through the Looking Glass later this month and a Finding Dory Play Set launching in June. The announcement comes two months after Disney laid out the video game’s plans for the year, including a focus on developing new play sets and characters instead of a new edition of the game. Disney Infinity first launched in August 2013, and the franchise was the No. 1 game in the toys-to-life category in 2014 and 2015. »

DHX MEDIA, ICONIX PARTNER TO GROW STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE BRAND DHX Media and Iconix Brand Group have entered a long-term agreement to co-develop and co-produce an animated series based on Strawberry Shortcake. DHX will produce and globally distribute the content, and Iconix will handle worldwide merchandising and licensing for the brand with DHX’s international licensing agency CPLG. Iconix and DHX will both participate on all revenue streams related to this agreement. In addition to the deal, DHX is now the exclusive, global distributor for the Strawberry Shortcake back catalogue, adding 108 half-hours to the eight half-hours of Strawberry Shortcake content already in the DHX distribution library. STAY CONNECTED!

@ToyBook


industry update DHX and Iconix will jointly finance, co-develop, and co-produce at least 39 new 30-minute episodes of Strawberry Shortcake, with the option for additional episodes. DHX Studios will produce all episodes, and DHX will be the exclusive worldwide distributor of this new content across all media, with the possibility to extend for additional seasons. Iconix will maintain ownership of copyrights and all intellectual property. »

HANDMADE AT AMAZON INTRODUCES BABY AND TOYS & GAMES CATEGORIES Handmade at Amazon expanded to include new product categories of handmade items, including Baby and Toys & Games. Handmade at Amazon provides customers and artisans a tailored store specifically for handcrafted items, and the new product categories will offer more than 20,000 items sold directly from artisans. The new product categories will add to the previously featured Jewelry, Home Décor, Artwork, Stationery and Party Supplies, Kitchen and Dining, and

Furniture categories. All products are factory-free and are made by hand. Since launching the Handmade store last fall, the number of available items has grown by four times to more than 400,000 quality handcrafted items from all 50 states and more than 80 countries worldwide. »

RUBIE’S PARTNERS FOR YO-KAI WATCH COSTUMES Rubie’s Costume Co. partnered with Level-5 abby Inc. and Evolution USA to produce officially licensed costumes for Yo-Kai Watch. The Yo-Kai Watch collection includes one-piece, zip-up hooded jumpsuits for Blazion, Whisper, Jibanyan, and Robonyan for Halloween or dress-up,

Yo-Kai Watch collection, from Rubie's Costume Co.

available in child sizes. The collection will be available worldwide this Halloween. »

TOYBOOK.COM | May/June 2016 | THE TOY BOOK

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STAT SHOT

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EUROMONITOR

A NEW LANDSCAPE How Smart Toys Are Changing the Toy Market

by MYKOLA GOLOVKO, toys and games project manager, Euromonitor International TECHNOLOGY HAS A TRANSFORMATIVE impact on countless aspects of our everyday lives. The list of markets disrupted by technology and rapid innovation continues to grow, and as smart toys become more prevalent, significant shifts are expected in how the global toy market works. The changes will be driven primarily by digital natives entering and overtaking the toy consumer base.

DIGITAL NATIVES

By 2017, annual sales of smartphones will surpass 1 billion units. Tablets and— more recently—wearable electronics have also become mainstream products. In 2016, mobile Internet subscriptions are expected to top 3 billion, and will likely surpass the 4 billion mark by 2019. This puts a smartphone with an Internet connection in the majority of households, in addition to computers, smart TVs, and other connected devices, which are rapidly gaining in popularity. Children worldwide are growing up surrounded by technology. For them, it is a natural com-

ponent of everyday life, and toys that offer interactive features and integrate virtual components into gameplay will feel natural to this audience. Manufacturers will respond with increasingly sophisticated products that blend physical and virtual gameplay.

SOFTWARE AND CONTENT GAIN MARKET POWER

So far, the most commercially successful products blending virtual and physical gameplay have been in the toys-to-life category, but going forward, we expect to see expanding physical playability to be the focus of development. Making smart toys more interactive in the real world will require the integration of contextual computing and elements of augmented reality. This will make the software platforms for toys increasingly complex, causing a shift away from the walled garden model of toys-to-life products toward more open platforms that minimize development costs. This is exactly what happened with

Projected Global Sales of Key Mobile Electronic Devices 2 1.8

Billion units

1.6

Wearable Electronics

Tablets

Smartphones

1.4 1.2 1

mobile phones. As these products became increasingly sophisticated, there was significant consolidation in software platforms, to the point where the market became essentially a duopoly of two operating systems. As software, content, and services gained importance in mobile computing, hardware became commoditized, with significant declines in prices. Similar dynamics are expected in toys and games as smart toys become mainstream products. The value of a toy will be a combination of the physical product, the capabilities of the software platform, and the content this platform can deliver.

ADJUSTING TO CHANGES

Toys are already becoming more complex products, as licensing becomes an ever-expanding part of the global market. The most successful toy lines are no longer stand-alone products, but integral parts of entertainment franchises that can span feature films, TV shows, and video games, along with apparel and other licensed products. Smart toys will add software platforms to the total value proposition of a toy. The role of software will enable interaction with digital content in meaningful and engaging ways. Products that integrate new technology for the sake of technology itself have typically done poorly. Products that use augmented reality and contextually aware software to allow children to interact with their favorite characters in new ways will be the must-have toys of the future. »

0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0 2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Mykola Golovko is the toys and games project manager at Euromonitor International, a provider of strategic market research. Golovko studies the ways in which technology diffusion rates accelerate and permeate a growing number of aspects of the daily life of consumers.

Source: Euromonitor International

TOYBOOK.COM | may/june 2016 | THE TOY BOOK  15


talking social media

HOW TO CREATE AN EFFECTIVE

influencer campaign by DEBBIE BOOKSTABER, president, ElementAssociates.com WHILE EFFECTIVE INFLUENCER MARKETing increases brand awareness and drives sales, the wrong strategy can be costly. So how can you create and measure an effective influencer campaign? Here’s a roadmap for working with influencers effectively: SET CLEAR GOALS Before you approach influencers or sign a contract with a PR agency or influencer marketing network, clearly define the campaign goals. Are you focused on brand awareness, or is your CEO expecting influencer outreach to drive short-term online sales, newsletter sign-ups, or app downloads? An influencer strategy will align with these goals. MEASURE YOUR RESULTS What key performance indicators (KPIs) will be used to evaluate and optimize your influencer campaign? Determine which systems and tools you need. If you have any unique technical or reporting requirements for influencers, clearly communicate these expectations. For example, if you need influencers to use unique tracking links or provide any information from their Google Analytics or Facebook Insights, let them know before you sign a contract. IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET CUSTOMER Influencer marketing taps into the established trust between influencers and their audiences. If your product isn’t a fit for an influencer’s audience, you are wasting your money. Share as much information as possible on the demographic information and behavior of your customers. In our experience, niche influencers with a social media following between 5,000 and 20,000 have a closer relationship with their audience and drive more sales than larger influencers with a following of 50,000 to 100,000. Use tools such as Hashtracking to identify top influencers for your hashtag or hashtags that your target customer uses.

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BEWARE OF FALSE INFLUENCERS Tools such as GroupHigh enable users to research influencers by topic and to sort based on the size of their social media following or blog traffic. However, unscrupulous influencers have been known to purchase “fake followers” in order to receive free product or more lucrative paid endorsements. Smaller influencers with a genuine following drive more engagement than larger influencers who may have a high percentage of fake followers. Evaluate influencers by using tools such as Twitter Audit, by examining the percentage of Instagram likes/comments to followers, or by asking them about engagement rates on previous campaigns. BUDGET STRATEGICALLY While it is still possible to obtain earned media coverage from influencers, many influencers work on an advertorial or sponsored post model. Since influencers set their own rates in the absence of clear industry standards based on cost per thousand impressions (CPM) or engagement metrics, costs for working with influencers vary widely. It’s important to find influencers who are the “right fit” for your brand as well as your budget. Before allocating money to influencer marketing, evaluate your overall marketing budget. What are your costs and expected results for other marketing channels? Use this as a starting point when evaluating a prospective influencer. OPTIMIZE YOUR CAMPAIGN Allocate a percentage of spend to influencer marketing and experiment to find the optimal mix for your brand. Some clients have reduced their radio, TV, and print budgets in favor of influencer outreach. Others have discovered that they can drive sales more efficiently via Google AdWords, Facebook or Instagram ads, YouTube adver-

tising, or affiliate marketing, but they also use influencers to obtain online product reviews, which play a key role in the customer sales funnel. DEFINE AN IDEAL INFLUENCER PERSONA Use tools such as Google Analytics to measure referrals from blogs. Track redemption rates on unique coupon codes shared or use a social media analytics tool such as Hashtracking to rank influencers participating in your campaign. What traits do your most effective influencers share? Use this information to develop an ideal “influencer persona,” then seek other influencers who fit the criteria. RELATIONSHIPS MATTER Seek to build long-term relationships with your most effective influencers. Personal touches, such as birthday and holiday cards accompanied by product samples, build loyalty and transform these influencers into ongoing brand advocates. » Debbie Bookstaber is the president of Element Associates, a digital marketing firm that is based in Philadelphia.


SWEET SUITE

SWEET SUITE 16: MAKING WAVES IN NYC THE TOY INSIDER’S SEVENTH ANNUAL SWEET SUITE EVENT will take place on July 13 aboard the Majesty Yacht docked in New York City. Known as The Biggest Night of Play, the premiere toy party of the year will welcome more than 400 influential bloggers and vloggers and more than 100 members of traditional media to connect with toy companies in advance of the holiday shopping season. And for the first time ever, Sweet Suite will welcome 18 of the top influencers under the age of 18 to join in on the festivities. Sweet Suite will be the feature event at the third annual Blogger Bash, a two-day conference for experienced digital influencers featuring parties, exhibitions, and speed pitching sessions. Blogger Bash welcomes attendees into high-energy party atmospheres, giving them a chance to have fun while mingling with brands in a professional yet inviting setting. This year at Sweet Suite, bloggers will enjoy one-on-one time with representatives from more than 75 of the hottest kids’ brands and properties on the market, including VTech, Activision, Jakks Pacific, LeapFrog, Hasbro, Spin Master, Lego, TOMY, Warner Bros., Fisher-Price, and more.

#SweetSuite15 generated more than 95 million Twitter impressions, more than 8,000 original Instagram photos, and hundreds of blog post recaps. This year, Sweet Suite will give digital influencers and members of the press a chance to meet old and new friends while sipping on cocktails, feasting on sweet treats, and—best of all—playing with toys before they even hit the market. Enormous swag boxes will be shipped directly to attendees’ homes after the event, sparking a resurgance in social media impressions and ensuring bloggers and journalists have products on-hand to review and share with their followers. With limited sponsorship opportunities still available, there is something to fit every budget, allowing toy companies of all sizes to get in on the action and get products in the hands of the most influential press, bloggers, and vloggers. Get on board this year to party, play, and make an impression. » If you’re interested in learning more about these events, contact Laurie Schacht at thetoyinsidermom@gmail.com.

TOYBOOK.COM | may/june 2016 | THE TOY BOOK  17


BEING SMART ABOUT

SMART TOYS

What Manufacturers Should Do to Stay on Top of This Evolving Toy Category by SEAN MCGOWAN, founder, SMG Leisure TOYS FEATURING TECH ELEMENTS SUCH as sound chips, programmability, or the ability to communicate with other toys are not new, but for the last few years, smart toys are eating up more and more shelf space. In this piece, I will look at several aspects of this burgeoning toy category. Some of these toys are truly groundbreaking, but both parents and toy manufacturers need to exercise a great deal of caution and forethought to make sure these toys safely deliver their intended benefit. For the purpose of this discussion, I'll clarify what I mean by

© & ™Lucasfilm LTD

Sphero's BB-8 app-enabled droid launched last year and allows kids to control the robotic ball with an app.

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“smart toy,” or, just as usefully, what I do not mean. I am not talking about toys designed to make your baby, toddler, or preschooler smarter. Instead, the term “smart toy” focuses on the smartness of the toy itself.

fact, they were really just running on pre-set clocks, testing for a small number of changes the user made, even though they seemed to respond to the user, grow (or die, if you didn’t “feed” them), and interact.

NOT-SO-SMART TOYS Products typified by Tickle Me Elmo, where a child presses a button (or issues a voice command) and the toy runs through a pre-programmed routine, are not considered smart toys. Some people in the industry refer to these as “watch me toys,” but I have provocatively called them “toys that play with themselves.” These toys don't make anyone smarter, nor do they use technology that is all that impressive. The broad category of electronic learning aids, which encompasses educational offerings from companies like LeapFrog and VTech, are not smart toys either, even though some of the tech-infused devices are pretty smart, and many of them are now connected either to each other or to the web. Smart toys interact with other devices and/or programs, such as apps, other toys, or other devices in the area. These toys often have a capacity to learn about their environments and to respond—sometimes in subtle ways—to changes in the environment. In some ways, products like Furby, Tamagotchi, and Webkins were the precursors to smart toys. They weren’t actually all that smart, especially compared to today’s smart toys. But I consider them to be the original smart toys because they appeared to be interactive, learn over time, and respond to changes in the environment. In

SMART TOYS 1.0 The toys I call smart toys 1.0 were effectively crude physical extensions of computer programs and apps. Think of those early apptivities—or app-based toys—that allowed kids to scan in some physical product (a little toy car, a figurine, a plastic gun) to cause changes in an app on a tablet or smartphone. In hindsight, these were little more than appbased games that invited the consumer to use a physical object other than their fingers to control the action. Why was this a good idea? It wasn’t, but it gave toymakers and retailers a way to be involved in a segment of the industry that was rapidly evolving away from them. In my view, the fundamental problem with these toys is that they didn’t allow kids to have more fun than they would have simply playing with the app. SMART TOYS 2.0 The toys I consider smart toys 2.0 are those that promote interaction between a tablet or a smartphone and the physical toy, to create an experience that is very different from—and better than—that which can be enjoyed without that interaction. Perhaps the best example is Furby Boom, but Sphero’s robotic ball (and its best-selling BB-8 version) and Ooboly also fit into this category. Plus, the entire toys-to-life sub-category pioneered by Activision’s Skylanders and now also populated by Nintendo’s amiibo, and LEGO and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s LEGO Dimensions, are also part of smart toys


SMART TOYS 2.0. While these toys are different from each other in many ways, what they share in common is the focus on both the screen—whether it’s a TV, a tablet, or a smartphone—and the toy. SMART TOYS 3.0 As technology becomes even more accessible, a growing number of smart toys either involve minimal screen-time or none at all, which brings us to smart toys 3.0. The emergence of these screen-liberated toys is due in part to backlash from parents who seek to reduce the amount of time their children spend staring at screens (which has apparently been linked to shortened attention spans and difficulty in learning). Additionally, technology that allows the devices to work simply and intuitively without a screen has emerged, such as chip sets, connection technology, and user interfaces. These toys may require a device to control, setup, or program the toys, but the focus is on the toy itself, not the screen of a tablet or smartphone. We have seen a host of 3.0 toys in the past year, such as Anki Overdrive, which allows artificially intelligent cars to race around connectible track, as well as interactive smart toys masquerading as plain old traditional toys, such as CogniToy and an adorable reworking of a classic, Edwin the Duck. These toys are a break from the prior generation of smart toys because all of the action and fun is in the toys. Kids are not just watching or using a toy to enhance an app experience. Instead, they are using the secondary device to enhance the power of the toy. One of the aspects I love about the newest generation of smart toys is how some of them encourage all kids to get involved with technology, including girls. LittleBits are designed with a gender-neutral color palette and can be used to create anything kids can imagine. Sphero’s BB-8 app-enabled droid is programmable and can be part of any kids’ play fantasy. SAFETY FIRST Still, some of the same issues that loomed over the prior generations of smart toys continue to linger. First and most important is the question of security. Let’s face it: Anything that interacts with your home’s Wi-Fi network is a potential security risk, but that doesn’t mean it’s pointless to try to make the toys secure—just the opposite. It is imperative that

toy manufacturers use security measures that are every bit as secure as those used to secure a teenager’s iPhone camera roll. Adults who purchase connected toys must remain vigilant that they are not serving as Trojan Horses to let hackers into their homes. While there will almost always be a way to hack a system, the key is to make it so difficult that the hacker will seek more fertile grounds. (Like the old joke about the two campers seeking to avoid bear attacks: The first camper says he plans to wear running shoes. The other camper laughs and says, “You really think you can outrun a bear?” The first one replies, “I don’t need to outrun the bear. I only need to outrun you.”) And hacking isn’t the only safety issue. For young children, there can be just as much danger if a toy simply serves as an entryway onto the web. Remember Commonwealth Toy’s WikiBear? Unintended consequences can ensue when you let an innocent looking toy surf the web. The idea of a teddy bear kids could use to ask unlimited questions and gain tons of knowledge seemed quite clever, but it wasn’t thought through well enough. ACCESSIBILITY IS EVERYTHING Another issue to be tackled is cost, and its inherent connection to the widening gap between consumers who can afford costly toys and those who can’t. While a very high percentage of the consumer base has access to smartphones, not all have access to the same phones or the fastest Internet connections, and I believe these toys should be designed to be as widely accessible as possible. The cost for the consumer is not the only cost to consider—developing smart toys isn't cheap. They require all of the traditional costs associated with getting a toy manufactured, plus extensive upfront development costs, additional bill-of-material costs, and ongoing costs, such as server costs, higher customer service costs, and the cost of operating an ongoing service: Toys as a service (TAAS). For larger, well-funded toy makers, these costs raise the risks but can probably be justified. For smaller, less lucrative companies, these costs can be prohibitive. Companies such as Seebo, an Israel-based technology company, provide turn-key solutions that allow even the smallest companies to quickly, efficiently, and inexpensively turn their products into smart, connected toys, lowering the costs and the risks.

CogniToys' Dino is a cloud-based, Wi-Fi connected toy that allows kids to engage in intelligent conversations.

KEEP YOUR PROMISES Finally—and this is ultimately true of any toy—smart toys must deliver on the promise of fun. They can’t be simply showing off some clever feature, or showcasing a new connectivity breakthrough. In fact, they can’t even be simply replicating traditional play, but in a more tech-enhanced way. They have to provide original experiences that engage kids in new ways. Otherwise, who needs them? »

Sean McGowan is the founder of SMG Leisure. He has been closely following the toy industry for 30 years, analyzing product trends, cost changes, marketing practices, and other aspects of how products and companies succeed (or don't). He also follows digital gaming, sporting goods, and juvenile products. McGowan started SMG Leisure in January 2016 to continue this work beyond the parameters of Wall Street.

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2016 SHOWCASE

SMART TOYS Love2Learn Elmo, part of HASBRO’s Playskool line, inspires silly, creative play. This cuddly plush toy and its accompanying app deliver a customized play experience for kids ages 18 months and up. Parents can program Elmo using the app, and he’ll remember the child’s name, as well as favorite colors, animals, and foods. Additionally, parents can use the app to customize the learning opportunity for their child, choosing from three different content stages and five different subjects, based on their child’s abilities and interests. Subjects include letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and animals. Adults can also use the Parent Helpers section of the app to select songs and phrases that Elmo will speak and sing in real time. Elmo can offer support and encouragement in important daily routines for kids, such as brushing teeth, using the bathroom, and more. The toy features more than 350 responses and has sensors in its nose, hands, and belly to respond to kids’ touch. Bluetooth capabilities also allow it to respond to scenes in the app’s games, providing a cohesive, interactive play experience. CHiP, from WOWWEE, is a new artificially intelligent robotic dog designed for kids ages 8 and up. Based on new Mechatronics, CHiP features a combination of wireless technology, telecommunications engineering, and a suite of advanced sensors. CHiP recognizes its master and responds to commands using the included SmartBand, a rechargeable wearable controller. CHiP also plays fetch, soccer, and other games with the included SmartBall, and knows when it’s time to head to its special SmartBed to recharge. Thanks to voice recognition technology, kids can name the pup anything they want, and watch as it responds to their commands. CHiP encompasses physical, digital, and tactile play with an intuitive, evolving app.

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Combining engineering and robotics to create a 3-foot-long interactive T-Rex, Meccano, a SPIN MASTER brand, created an interactive prehistoric pet with modern tech and personality. Designed for kids ages 10 and up, Meccasaur features a programmable Meccabrain with buttons on his back, allowing kids to control his direction, attack, roar, and mood. Kids can also pet their Meccasaur, and depending on its mood, it will either purr or roar at them. Kids can also ask the Meccasaur yes or no questions and witness a response. Meccasaur can even protect its owner in guard mode.

SPHERO’s new Star Wars Force Band gives kids a Jedi experience, allowing them to control the BB-8 App-Enabled Droid with just a wave of the hand. Designed with an authentic Star Wars look and feel, the Force Band attaches to the wrist and allows kids to use authentic Jedi Force gestures to operate BB-8. Kids will master moves including Force push, pull, and drive. BB-8 will even follow kids around based on the motion of their arms and the direction their bodies move. The Force Band is included with a movie replica, battle-worn BB-8 Droid from the new film Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and is compatible with the original BB-8 App-Enabled Droid.


SMART TOYS Kids ages 3 and up can go high-tech with MATTEL’s Barbie Hello Dreamhouse, Barbie’s very own smarthouse. This two-story home has innovative features designed for modern kids and is reflective of the next wave of innovation in the home. Floor sensors recognize where Barbie and her friends are in the house, the stairs turn into a slide, and the elevator is motorized. The Dreamhouse also features speech recognition, and an accompanying app allows for further customization.

Edwin the Duck, from PI LAB, is an app-connected smart toy that guides kids through stories, games, and songs. Edwin features motion-based interaction and a Bluetooth wireless connection to work alongside the primary app, as well as three additional apps. Made of soft, surgical-grade BPA-free silicon, kids can use Edwin to play games, take him in the bath, light their rooms as a night-light, and play music through the Bluetooth speaker.

OSMO’s new Osmo Coding teaches kids ages 5 to 12 to code using physical blocks that snap together. Designed for use with the existing Osmo game system, Osmo Coding pairs Osmo’s first character, Awbie, with the company’s Reflective Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. Kids can guide Awbie on a journey to find strawberries by arranging physical pieces of code. Each physical code block contains a unique command that can be sequenced with other commands. Combined with parameter, loop, and boolean (if-then) blocks, kids can easily program complex sequences for Awbie to follow in the open-ended world the app offers.

ACTEV MOTORS’ Arrow Smart-Kart is an interactive electric go-kart for kids. Arrow immerses riders ages 5 to 9 in a fun and safe driving experience. Arrow can be configured to match each driver’s skill level. The app connects to the Smart-Kart via Wi-Fi and equips parents with several safety features, including an adjustable maximum speed limit of 12 mph, collision avoidance that will automatically stop Arrow if it detects an obstacle, an emergency stop button, geo-fencing that prevents the driver from going outside a parent-defined geographic boundary, and an inactivity timer that alerts adults if Arrow is motionless for a selectable time period. Plus, they can monitor stats such as total driving time and total distance. Kids can even download synthesized engine sounds from an online sound library. In addition to the base model, enhancement accessories—sold separately—let kids customize their kart to create an even more complete experience.

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tia perspectives

SUMMER TOY TRENDS by JUSTIN SMULISON, content developer/communications specialist, Toy Industry Association NEW TOYS AND GAMES HITTING SHELVES will inspire summertime play whether kids are at home, on vacation, or at the playground. The Toy Industry Association (TIA) spoke with industry experts to gain insight into what’s trending in outdoor play, what indoor playthings encourage creative skill-building and learning, and the top franchises and licenses expected to impact toy sales this summer. Outdoor Play & New Destinations As excitement builds for the “lazy days” of summer, toys sales show that families are anything but lazy. The NPD Group reported that the Outdoor & Sports Toys category saw a 9 percent increase in sales last year to $3.59 billion. “The traditional outdoor play patterns— especially those related to exercise, like bicycling, running, and jumping—may not change much,” says Adrienne Appell, TIA toy trend specialist, “but toymakers are putting twists on classic toys and activities to keep kids engaged.” New tech trends are complementing outdoor play, says J. Alison Bryant, CEO and chief play officer of PlayScience, PlayLab & Sandbox, adding that kids and families are using mobile technologies to enjoy navigational techniques such as geocaching, so they can learn about what they see on nature hikes or while playing on a beach. “This is still relatively nascent, but what is great about it is that families are using technology to augment and enhance their play experience, not replace it,” Bryant notes. Traveling to specialty toy stores can be perfect summer outings, especially during times when it may be rainy or too hot to be outside. Kimberly Mosley, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), says this season’s store-based events break up families’ packed schedules and provide venues for fun group activities. “Specialty toy stores compete by making their stores a destination and providing child- and family-centered experiences that

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are unique in their communities,” Mosley says. “So, in ASTRA stores you’ll often see creative and fun opportunities pop up in the summer—everything from Make Your Own Garden Stone to a several-days-long Build-aFort Art Camp.” Fun Ways to Play Indoors Not all summer play takes place outside. Kids also enjoy playing inside, especially with toys and games that will boost their creative and artistic abilities. The new offerings from one of TIA’s main trends for this year, named “Ultimate Creator,” encourages kids to find and build their talents as digital artists, filmmakers, jewelers, and more. “The season also presents opportunities for kids to explore their passions and interests through play,” says Appell. “Once they’ve returned to the house after a day outside, kids may be inspired to make their own ice cream with their parents, or design swimwear with toys and products under the Ultimate Creator trend.” Additionally, products that teach or reinforce Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) are providing ways to keep learning fun outside of the classroom. Kids wishing to visit exotic and atypical places can arrive there almost instantly with new virtual reality (VR) products and content. Whether with a brand’s VR kit or by assembling cardboard glasses to connect to a smartphone, the sector breaks new ground in terms of offering 360-degree experiences. “The essence of VR is to be immersed in a location it will teach children about, and transport them to places they couldn’t otherwise visit—deep in the ocean, the edge of a volcano, into a rain forest, or even into the nucleus of an atom,” says David Kleeman, senior vice president of global trends at Dubit. “It’s inexpensive, comfortable, and simple for [kids] to use, and we anticipate a growing amount of content for kids beginning this spring and summer, as the devices become widespread.”

Summer Blockbusters Licensed toys account for 32 percent of U.S. toy sales, according to The NPD Group, and that number is expected to climb as various new entertainment reaches fans on the silver screen. This summer, theaters will be packed with blockbuster films featuring new and classic characters. “Fans and industry professionals have high expectations for Captain America: Civil War, while families will likely make an outing for PG movies like Finding Dory,” Appell notes. Other family-friendly summer blockbusters slated for release include The Angry Birds Movie, and sequels to Ice Age and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The licensed toys and games they inspire will run the gamut from tech to traditional and will keep kids busy playing for hours. “Films’ toys often further the family fun even after the credits roll because they tend to be engaging and appropriate for all ages,” says Appell. “The play experiences offered by life-size accessories, mobile games, and everything in between should be able to keep toy sales strong and kids playing for hours.” TIA tracks trends on a year-round basis to provide industry stakeholders with insight into what’s new and what’s on the horizon in the toy and youth entertainment product industry. Visit www.toyassociation.org/trends for more information. »

Justin Smulison is the newest member of TIA’s Marketing Communications team, after years as a journalist and custom content producer in legal publishing. A proud husband and father, he is thrilled to report on toys and characters that he and his 2-year-old daughter play with together, and to be involved in an industry that positively impacts her and future generations.


ASTRA MARKETPLACE 2016 EXCESS INVENTORY? HOW TO DONATE TO YOUR BOTTOM LINE SECURING FUNDS FOR YOUR PROTOTYPE


Specialty toys & gifts i ASTRA’S INSIghts

ASTRA’S CERTIFIED MASTER RETAILER CREDENTIAL New CMRs Discuss How the Credential Improved Their Business by KIMBERLY MOSLEY, president, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association IF YOU GOOGLE, “PROFESSIONAL certifications for business,” you’ll see a list of at least 90 credentials on Wikipedia. Ranging from the easily understood Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) to the emerging Master Certified Knowledge Management Professional (MKMP) to the “who knew?” Certified Protocol Officer (CPO), credentials are typically either industry specific or function specific. Whatever the certification may be, credentialing is a way for an industry to establish standards and help recognize professionals who hold themselves accountable to those standards. The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) has additional goals for the Certified Master Retailer (CMR) credential it launched in 2015: to give ASTRA stores a competitive edge by differentiating themselves from big box stores, improving their marketing, increasing business effectiveness, providing employee incentives, and planning for succession, all while making this professional development available at an affordable price. Results from First ASTRA CMRs This year, four ASTRA members earned the CMR credential. All report that they have made changes in their business practices—

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strategic and tactical—as a result of the CMR program, including: • Improved communication and partnership with vendors and sales representatives • Stronger decision-making through better use of business analytics • An increased focus to ensure that every product earns its place on the store shelf • Better capacity to step back and see the store through the lens of the customer

Growth as an Entrepreneur Early childhood educator Jenn Eisenberg, CMR and owner of Smarty Pants in El Paso, Tex., gave the CMR program to herself as a birthday present.“Some topics were a review, while other areas I never explored before. I am implementing new merchandising, staffing, and marketing practices, and have started a local group for entrepreneurs to help me grow as a store owner,” says Eisenberg.

From Gut Reaction to Analysis “Operating on gut reactions can only take you so far,” says John Clower, CMR and co-owner of Giggle Monkey Toys in Dalonega, Ga. Clower chose to pursue ASTRA’s professional credential because he and his wife Tammy are retired educators who had no retailing experience when they bought their store almost two years ago. According to Clower, “The business and finance track was mind-boggling, but I realized we were not doing enough to analyze the effectiveness of our purchasing strategy. We now do more analytics and tracking of inventory by departments.”

Active Listening to Customers Erica Sipes, CMR and manager at Imagination Station in Roanoke, Va., is a key employee who was encouraged by her store’s owner to pursue the credential. One big takeaway centers on the role of the store in the community. “I naively thought people would come to us because we weren’t a big box store and because they needed toys,” says Sipes. “Now, I am more actively engaged in figuring out what makes our community tick. I listen to and observe our customers more carefully, and I’ve come to realize that they truly want an experience, lasting value in what they purchase, and a store that cares about their family’s well-being.” All of ASTRA’s first CMRs expect to pursue additional ASTRA credentials, either through more members of their store’s team earning the Certified Master Retailer credential or working to become a Certified Play Expert (CPE), which is the second credential now available from ASTRA. »

Another Look at Everything Tim Holliday, CMR and co-owner of Children’s World & Children’s World Uniform Supply in Sarasota, Fl., championed the development of ASTRA’s continuing education program as the first ASTRA member to earn the CMR. Now, his business partner—and also his wife—is enrolled in the program. “We run the business together, so having the second set of eyes provides another look at everything,” says Holliday. “We talk about every class, which allows us to do an overview of nearly everything involved in our store. We expect to use our credentials as a public relations tool, as a point of discussion with customers, on signage in our store, and in emails and other materials.”

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


SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS | NEWS TUCKER TOYS ENTERS THE SPECIAL NEEDS MARKET Last spring, two of Tucker Toys’ products—the E-Z Grip ball and the Phlat Ball—received special needs approval from AblePlay, a division of Lekotek. Immediately after, Tucker Toys and Goliath Games, the U.S. distributor for the Phlat Ball, teamed up

E-Z Grip Balls

to donate a case of each product to all of Lekotek’s Toy Lending Libraries across the U.S. This year, four new Tucker Toys’ products received special needs approval. The company also established partnerships with charitable organizations, such as NWO Apraxia Support, donating prizes for events that benefit members of the special needs communities. One of the toys that received special

needs approval last year has already become well-known among special needs professionals, and therapy practitioners are using it as an occupational therapy tool. »

ASTRA TO HONOR INDUSTRY LEADERS AT MARKETPLACE & ACADEMY The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) has announced this year’s winners of ASTRA’s Excellence Awards. The awards recognize leading retailers, manufacturers, and sales representatives who represent the best of the specialty toy industry. The 2016 awardees are: Stephanie Sala, owner of Five Little Monkeys, for the Retailer Excellence Award; The Orb Factory for the Manufacturer Excellence Award; and Betsey Harney of Sugar B Sales and Shauna Davidson of WundeReps for the Sales Representative Excellence Award. The award ceremony will take place on June 6 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver during ASTRA’s annual Awards Breakfast and Business Meeting. »

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MARKETPLACE

Chatting with the Industry Specialty Toys & Gifts spoke with specialty retailers and manufacturers about marketing strategies, what’s selling, and how they’re facing the challenges of the specialty toy market.

What are the biggest challenges facing the specialty toy industry, and how do you manage these challenges? Clower: One of the biggest challenges facing our industry is finding a way to convince potential customers that specialty toy stores offer intrinsic value that cannot be gained in big box stores or online channels. Being able to see, touch, and play with items in our stores provides the customer with assurances that the product he or she chooses is right for his or her circumstance. The knowledge we can share about the benefits of specific products and the value of play in general can only be found in specialty stores. Another challenge we face is convincing parents to limit screentime. The research seems to be clear that kids need to be active in their play and that unstructured playtime is important in child development. I feel certain that we are not the only store owners who see young children—sometimes even in a stroller—entering our store with a phone or tablet in their hands. Trying to manage these challenges in our store is obviously difficult. On a day-to-day basis, we try to make sure that we are providing a quality experience with many demo products for customers to try. If we don’t have an item open, we will open it if a customer is interested. We greet every customer as they enter the store

Thea Brown Buyer and General Manager, World of Mirth, Richmond, Va.

and we always try to engage the children. I am always telling customers that they never know what will fly over their head or roll under their feet! Our goal is to have customers leaving our store with smiles on their faces and new knowledge about the importance of play. Fisher: I think the biggest challenges currently facing the specialty toy industry are keeping foot traffic up, and offering differentiation from online and mass-market channels. Without question, consumers have more avenues for purchasing than ever before. Fast delivery of products purchased online and price discounting both online and in mass-market stores are formidable forms of competition. Successful specialty toy retailers need to think about what they can do to differentiate themselves from this competition. Well-trained salespeople who can educate consumers; heavy involvement in local community activities; in-store activities and promotions that entertain, educate, and reward consumers; and value-added services (delivery, gift-wrapping, loyalty programs, bundling, etc.), are just some of the differentiators that online sellers and big box stores cannot offer. Osborne: At Wonder Works, we see challenges as opportunities to grow and better

Melanie Clark Owner, Big City Toys, Mobile, Ala.

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the services we provide our customers. One opportunity is incorporating high-demand trend products in our stores. These are seen on TV, may incorporate tech items, and may be found in mass retail stores. Rather than boycotting these toys, we embrace them. We expand our variety, look for them at shows, read industry articles, talk with others in the industry to identify them, develop relationships with their manufacturers, and then incorporate them into our product mix. However, we still keep a strong focus on the unique toys that make specialty what it is. Our buying model incorporates a large variety of products at a lower quantity to determine “winners,” then zero in on targeted products for the key selling seasons. By doing so, we have seen our sales increase, staff and customers are ecstatic about the change, and we’ve built many new relationships in the toy industry. Quartin: The challenges are different for everyone. For the industry as a whole, it’s always tough when coming off of a great year where we saw industry-wide growth of 7 percent. I’m hearing more and more that online marketplaces continue to be one of the biggest competitive threats to the specialty toy industry. Brick-and-mortar stores are focusing a lot of energy on coming up with

John and Tammy Clower Co-Owners, Giggle Monkey Toys, Dahlonega, Ga.

Mike Fisher Vice President, The Haywire Group


CHATTING WITH THE INDUSTRY ways to increase store traffic during a time when consumers are becoming increasingly accustomed to shopping from their couches. Retailers and manufacturers alike must continually differentiate their selection and products to provide the consumer with a unique experience and a reason to come back often. Experiential marketing and merchandising is a great tool to bring customers into the store. As a manufacturer, we’re seeing a lot of interest in and requests for ideas for special events and programs—game nights, play day programs—that engage and involve their customers in a way that online shopping doesn’t have the ability to do. Clark: Some of the biggest challenges facing the specialty toy industry are economy of scale, capital for investment, and specialization. The specialty toy industry is dominated by small business owners. These owners may lack the capital necessary to make infrastructure changes rapidly or frequently. A great example is a point of sale (POS) system. A large retailer such as Target can find or experience a security infringement in their current system and use its capital to immediately fund and install a new POS. However, for a small retailer, making the wrong decision with a three- to fouryear contracted POS could cost nearly 10 percent of an owner’s salary. Secondly, because of the “just-in-time” nature of our commerce style, larger retailers can use omni-channel contacts to obtain products at the site of production and negotiate for more favorable prices and quantities. In some cases, it leads to exclusion of the small retailer completely from the supply chain. Additionally, larger numbers of employees allow large companies to devote specialized time and talent to specific tasks.

Dan Folkmanis Vice President, Folkmanis Inc.

Specialization of marketing into online and brick-and-mortar is just one example. These may require two different skill sets. I think that small retailers may feel a compulsion to purchase large numbers of inventory or employ larger numbers of staff as a management strategy to compete with large retailers. It is my philosophy that the key to compete with the large companies is to be innovative and different. ASTRA is a tremendous help in opening lines of communication with inventors and small manufacturers who are eager to roll out their innovations in smaller quantities or with special offers. What key products/categories are driving sales this year? How does this compare to last year? Brown: This year both the games and plush categories are doing incredibly well for us. Games are up almost 26 percent over last year alone. Kienzle: Our top categories are always the staples: books, plush, and arts and crafts. They make good gifts and kids love them. Clower: Our top category this year has been active play, followed closely by plush and arts and crafts. Key products that have performed well for us include adult coloring books, Skytrix, Goodminton, Tenzi, Gigamic games (Pylos, Quarto, and Quoridor), Kanoodle (all varieties), and Hog Wild’s Power Poppers. All of these items seem to fly off the shelf. Clark: Since I am a new retailer, I do not have the benefit of long-term perspective with respect to products and sales trends. However, there has been a definite favoritism to digital products grounded in clear ties to the basics of play and learning. Coding, typing, and electronic tinkering are, no doubt,

Ann Kienzle Owner, *play, Chicago

surpassing hammer-and-nail type design and build. The best examples I can think of are the hands-on electric circuitry boards that explore circuit design, such as the Tesla kit from LightUp, which is now upgraded with applications offered for handheld devices. Osborne: Top categories for Wonder Works for 2016 are novelty, active play, plush, gadgets, books, and Lego. Our stores have a growing book section and incorporation of additional plush vendors also lend toward higher sales and profits. Ty, Douglas, Jellycat, Aurora, and Squishable are all strong plush vendors for our business. Shopkins remains strong with Moose Toys’ new charm and recipe offerings. Splashlings and Trolls will add to this year’s novelty category. Coloring books began their surge last year and continue into this year, with dot-to-dot books making their appearance. Emergence of the “Fairy Door” concept hitting America this year provides additional opportunities for promotional partnerships and in-store excitement. The Irish Fairy Door folks are amazing to work with for in-store promotions. Active play is a strong mainstay for Wonder Works with Swurfer still leading the way. This year sales will also be led by Fin Fun (Mermaid Tails and Cuddle Tail blankets), Waboba, and Micro Kickboard partnering with specialty toy stores with their Micro Bus Tour, and the introduction of BulziBucket, which we predict will be our No. 1 family outdoor game. Games is a high-growth category for the market this year, as baby boomers and millennials are connecting through family time. The classics are selling well, with new “laughter power” games, such as Pie Face

Christine Osborne Owner, Wonder Works Toy Stores, Charleston, S.C.

Andrew Quartin CEO, Thames & Kosmos

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CHATTING WITH THE INDUSTRY and Happy Salmon, showing signs of popularity. The wider your game selection, the better your profits. Do you enforce a minimum advertised pricing (MAP) policy? How and why? Quartin: Yes, we do. Our MAP policy was created to ensure a level playing field for all participants and we continually strive to enforce it in order to protect both the integrity of our products and our products’ margin for our retail partners. Enforcing our MAP policy is a full-time job, and we regularly monitor pricing trends of online marketplaces. Everyone on our team is tasked with watching for violations, documenting, and following up as necessary; any retailer who is found to be in violation runs the risk of being denied supply of some or all of our products. In addition to our internal tracking efforts, we also sincerely appreciate the efforts of our valuable retail partners who take the time to bring specific violators to our attention.

community and familiarizes our customers with new products. This is, of course, only economically feasible because of the generous contributions from manufacturers such as PlanToys, Aquabeads (from International Playthings), and SmartLab Toys. I also have an indoor play set by CedarWorks. There’s a birthday party area within the indoor play set with tables and a projector, allowing us to use the space for birthdays or community activities. Because the space features a play space and demo toys, kids and weary parents and grandparents often escape the heat or rainy doldrums in my store without an event. Most end up making a purchase, even if it’s small. It adds vitality to the store and has become a destination

Folkmanis: Yes, with difficulty and while using an outside agency. We’re learning to navigate this subject and it’s not easy—there’s always a new offender just when you think you’ve cleaned it all up. But it’s extremely important in order to stay competitive and be fair to our retailers and also to preserve and maintain our brand. Fisher: We aggressively monitor and enforce a MAP policy, all in an effort to support specialty retailer profitability. If a consumer is standing in a specialty store and pulls out a phone to compare pricing with online sellers, we want the pricing on our products online to be the same as they are in the store. It simply makes for a more level playing field. We therefore do not sell our products to third-party sellers or “Fulfilled by Amazon” (FBA) sellers. How do you keep customers returning to your store? Clark: Social media allows us to quickly blast last-minute sales or activities on weekends. Usually, we offer at least one or two free one- to two-hour activities for children every month. It establishes goodwill in our

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*play, Chicago

in Mobile on its own. It also allows for some relatively kid-free parental shopping time! Kienzle: I strive to really have a “curated” store. It’s the compliment we get most often and I do believe it brings people back. We rotate merchandise regularly to keep things fresh, and we’re always on the look out for something that’s new or a little different. Outside of the standard “complementary gift-wrapping” we try to go above and beyond in other ways. We deliver to local customers, offer shipping for people who live far away, and do weekly events at the store. Clower: Much of our business is from out-of-town visitors (probably 70 percent),

so it’s tough to plan on those customers returning. The best we can do is to ensure that they have a really good experience in the store, that they play a lot, and hope we can establish a basic relationship through conversation. We know that some of our out-of-town guests are regular visitors to our town, once or twice a year. Many have told us that they make a point of visiting our store when they are in town. As for our local customers, we maintain a loyalty program that keeps many of them coming back, along with the fact that we have established personal relationships with many of them. Osborne: Providing an experience like none other! We thrive off of making every customer at home when they come in the store, giving them a magical experience, and inspiring even the big kids to play and have a good time. The No. 1 reason why parents shop in specialty stores is because their children love the store. Providing customers with additional opportunities to come into our business is also key to increasing our customer base. We are expanding our in-store offerings to include birthday parties, and invite community instructors to offer classes and camps such as Kindermusik, Lego building, STEM, and arts and crafts. Our newest location features a room with barnyard doors that houses these activities. Promotions are created around hot and trending products. Very Fairy Fridays with fairy activities/raffles are currently being held to promote the Fairy Door trend. Wonder Works continues to host Wonderfest and Elfstravaganza, two large community-wide events that each bring in 7,000 to 8,000 attendees and feature children’s charities, children philanthropists, children entrepreneurs, and national toy manufacturers with their wonderful hot products. Wonder Works also hosts a loyalty program. Every time a customer shops they earn points. For every dollar spent, you earn one point. Once the customer reaches 200 points, they receive a $10 coupon. Customers love this program, and are always eager to know how many points they have earned.


CHATTING WITH THE INDUSTRY We offer complementary gift-wrapping, an easy return policy, and a birthday registry program, which makes it simple for them to get to a birthday party fast. We have many of the same customers in the store every Saturday headed to another birthday party. Brown: Not only do we have toys and gifts you can’t find anywhere else, but my staff truly helps to create a fun and exciting atmosphere. It’s not unusual to see them on the floor playing with a child or taking something apart to show a customer how it works. One staff member had a child come in so she could sign her yearbook! Our community is important to us. I love thinking about all the lucky kids that get to grow up coming into such a magical place. We aren›t pushy salespeople; we want you to leave with the perfect gift for whomever you are shopping for. That really makes people want to come back.

sells a product better than an in-store demo. As such, we provide free demo units for all new products and half-price demos for items in our backlist catalog. In keeping with the request from specialty retailers for ideas to make their store a desired destination, we provide materials—and in some cases, actual volunteers—to seamlessly run in-store game days, play days, and hands-on learning events. We just released our latest play day kit, Detective Science, which allows up to 30 children to solve a mock crime in the store via a series of forensic investigations. Fisher: Our overall strategy for the specialty market is twofold: We offer products and

What is your distribution strategy for the specialty market? Folkmanis: To continue doing what we’ve been doing for the past 40 years—give great individualized and personal customer service; offer a unique and quality product; and conduct outreach through trade shows, special events, trade publications, and social media. Quartin: Our distribution strategy can be summed up in one word: frictionless. First and foremost, we have a passionate and caring customer service team that only knows how to say yes, and an incredibly knowledgeable tech support department to answer questions and solve problems in a timely and professional manner. Furthermore, this year we announced a very aggressive specials program for ASTRA member retailers, providing free freight at reasonable levels to ensure high in-stock rates, as well as strong discounts to help with margins. We also understand that new products and categories can be met with hesitancy. To assuage these worries, we offer a low risk option with our “out with the old, in with the new” program that allows eligible retailers to feel comfortable trying out something new. In addition, we know that nothing

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Big City Toys, Mobile, Ala.

programs that benefit retailers’ bottom lines, and also work to drive business through their doors. We offer lower order minimums for freight discounts for ASTRA members, very low product quantity minimums for trying out new items, and highly attractive packaging and point-of-purchase displays that help sell the products. We also focus on a wide range of retail price points and product categories to appeal to as many consumers as possible. To drive business at retail, we are partnered with Shopatron to channel consumer orders from our website directly to retailers who are located in that consumer’s local

area. This gives the retailer the opportunity to establish a new relationship with a consumer. We also maintain a heavy social media presence to build awareness with consumers. Our products are typically multiple award winners, and have high product quality and play value. And on top of all that, our retail pricing strategy is designed to maximize our products’ perceived value by the consumer. How do you compete with growing online/mobile sales? Osborne: The opportunity online shopping provides is an opportunity to restructure our current business model. A CRM model provides a platform for reviewing what is and is not working for our business, what opportunities exist (digitally), and the development of targeted strategies. Recent toy industry statistics show growing percentages of specialty customers shopping online due to selection, price, and convenience. What opportunity does this provide the specialty toy retailer? What touch points do we have to gather data from the customer, share information with the customer, and keep the relationship growing? What will each of our stores offer our customers in store and online? How will this newly developing digital world affect our marketing strategies and where we place our marketing dollars (staff and strategies)? These are all questions specialty store owners are addressing currently or in the very near future. At Wonder Works, we are currently surrounding ourselves with experts in the CRM, digital, and e-commerce fields. CRM is being implemented, and marketing dollars, staffing, promotions, and advertising are being adjusted accordingly. Strategies will be implemented and optimized based on analytics. Content for our online store will also be altered to reflect our store feel and in-store shopping experience more. Clark: I have an online site, first of all. Anyone can shop our store in real-time with real-time inventory levels since it is tied to our POS. They can create wish lists or just browse at 11 p.m. (when I suspect most moms like me are shopping!).


CHATTING WITH THE INDUSTRY We offer personalized services, such as free gift-wrap, a birthday present registry to combat duplicate gifts, and a cadre of welltrained, happy, friendly, and helpful staff. Right now, we only offer in-store or curbside pickup, but hope to extend limited delivery options in the future. We also have a generous return policy. Since we’re local, I know my customers and they know me. I care about establishing and maintaining good, trustworthy relationships. Every sale for every customer counts.

Twitter feed, and we encourage customers to Like us on Facebook and occasionally invite them to post pictures and videos on our page.

Kienzle: It’s hard! We try to tap into the shop local movement and feel lucky that we have a community that understands the importance of doing so. We also try to provide services that make our customers feel special.

How do you prepare for the holidays to ensure you’ll have the right merchandise mix to meet your customers’ needs? Osborne: Reports are a strong indicator. They share profit and quantity information on products. Staff feedback and walk arounds are also necessary. Prior to the ASTRA show, we have a full management item review

How do you engage customers online to drive in-store sales? Clark: I use last-minute social media blasts through Hootsuite to generate interest for products or themes on slow days. Also, having a website directly tied to my POS allows for accurate inventory availability. This means Mom can score that toy and she knows it will be waiting for her in the store and paid for, nearly immediately, with pretty wrapping ready to go. Osborne: We use Facebook and Instagram to share promotions in the store. We also use social media to promote new products and musthave items. We post up to five times a day, but never more. Heartfelt posts, such as cute photos of children in the store, national stories that are sweet or funny, and child-related posts have higher reach rates. CRM systems provide analytical data that is specifically targeted to set marketing strategies that will optimize your customer to come into your store and purchase or go to your online store to purchase. They will share who to target, what to target them with, and what response to look for. Clower: This is an area in which we need to improve. We occasionally do Facebook ads, but have not been able to fully assess the effectiveness of those ads. We maintain a Facebook page, tie the Facebook posts to a

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Kienzle: To be honest, we don’t do it well enough. We need to tap into monetizing the social media platforms a bit more. I’d love to be able to capture the sale at the moment they’re excited about what they’re seeing, instead of waiting for them to come into the store.

Brown: That’s something I’m still working on perfecting. It feels like customers are shopping later each year, and we don’t have a ton of space for back stock. I’ve been trying to place future ship orders and tweaking them as needed. We also keep a notebook of customer requests up front and I go through that constantly. I also love to try some new items during the holidays that I might have been on the fence about earlier in the year. It’s an easy way to see if it’s a winner or a dog very quickly. January sales have been impacted for the better by having more merchandise available after the holidays. We used to go very lean and wait for [North American International] Toy Fair to restock. Now I have a few restock orders ready for the end of December, or I just go heavier on a few items I anticipate vendors might be low on. Clark: Attending ASTRA’s Marketplace is paramount to knowing the most desirable fourth quarter products. It allows me to make face-to-face orders with vendors or with my rep at my side so I can guarantee fulfillment when I need it. This year, however, I have prepared by upgrading my store with some minimalist, but generously endowed, storage armoires that blend into our décor. Last year’s experience taught me to order soon, order enough, and ship early.

Giggle Monkey Toys, Dahlonega, Ga.

meeting. We review reports, go through every item carried that year, and look at trending items and what customers are asking for. Plans for staggered holiday orders and marketing/holiday promotion begin. Kienzle: We start now! I try to identify a handful of key items—things I want to promote to local publications and TV as “the” thing for the holidays—and then try to ensure that we are trained on these items and we have sufficient inventory. I also work in advance to plan out a social media strategy to go along with this. Besides these key items, I ensure that we have the classics on order/in stock.

Overall toy industry sales were up approximately 7 percent last year. What are your expectations for this year? Folkmanis: Our company growth is in line with what the industry reported. We expect to meet and probably exceed this rate of growth this year based on the prosperity of the economy, the recent induction of the “puppet” into the National Toy Hall of Fame, and the surprises that our brand has planned for the fourth quarter. Fisher: Our expectations for sales this year are substantially higher. Our products, pricing, and retailer support across the board are enabling us to grow our business substantially.


CHATTING WITH THE INDUSTRY Quartin: A large part of last year’s growth can be attributed to Star Wars—this franchise provided a huge lift to the toy industry in 2015. This year, we can expect to see a good amount of that money shifting to more specialty-oriented toys and games. The 2016 holiday calendar should be very beneficial to our industry. Do you take advantage of ASTRA member programs? If so, which do you find most beneficial? Fisher: As a manufacturer, our support of ASTRA and its membership is a critical component of our business strategy. We offer special freight terms for members, participate in Neighborhood Toy Store Day, and as an ASTRA manufacturer member, we take advantage of the opportunity to have our products included in the Share the Fair and Best Toys for Kids programs. In addition, our marketing manager is an active member of ASTRA, and will become a board member this June. Kienzle: I take advantage of the year-round and Marketplace-specific promotions. Last year I tried quite a few of the ASTRA Exclusives and had good success as well. Neighborhood Toy Store Day is a hit with our fans. They love the idea that they’re supporting a local, family-owned store that their kids are growing up in. Folkmanis: ASTRA is a fantastic organization offering so many member benefits. Currently we utilize the online forum as well as the educational webinars. Last year, we were honored to receive the ASTRA Best Toys for Kids award for Pretend Fantasy Play for our Winged Dragon puppet. This year we look forward to celebrating our 40th anniversary at the Marketplace & Academy. It’s a great pleasure to work with ASTRA members. We enjoy and appreciate the camaraderie, their expertise and knowledge of the industry, and the passion with which the stores are run. Brown: Right now, I am going through the ASTRA Academy and learning so much. It’s been a wonderful tool for

great way to gain exposure, not only for the winning product, but also for our line as a whole.

World of Mirth, Richmond, Va.

me. The ASTRA Exclusives are also something I look forward to. Who doesn’t want to have good quality toys that are exclusive to their shop? Quartin: ASTRA Marketplace & Academy is one of our top trade shows of the year. Face-to-face retailer interaction is invaluable to determining what our customers want and need, and how we can go about fulfilling those needs. We’ve participated in ASTRA’s Kit Session for several years now, and last year we took part in ASTRA’s Game Night as well. The one-on-one feedback from small groups of retailers at both of these events is very helpful from a product development standpoint, and it also allows us to get an early look at which kits and games will take off in the second half of the year. We’ve also had the privilege of taking part in ASTRA’s Best Toys for Kids program. Having a product named to this list is a

Wonder Works, Charleston, S.C.

Clark: I try to take advantage of as many as time allows. I plan on completing the Certified Master Retailer online program as soon as I can. I frequently read user comments on the discussion boards, as well as contribute when I can. The print materials available with respect to financials were not only priceless for me when I began this adventure, but have also proven to be spot-on. I attended last year’s Marketplace and several lectures and plan on attending again this year in Denver. There is so much helpful information out there for nearly every situation. Osborne: ASTRA is the most beneficial show to our company. The quality time we receive with our vendors is important to our business philosophy, as we are able to get to know them and their products. There is no replacement for the relationship you build with a vendor. They are gold to your business and the ability to share their products with others and provide feedback is invaluable to sustainability of the industry. We also love that some vendors will provide special terms for ASTRA members. We take advantage of these specials and are extremely appreciative of the vendors that offer them. ASTRA Connect is also extremely assistive for receiving feedback and staying in the loop. Clower: Absolutely! We check the discussion boards regularly and have completed certifications through ASTRA Academy. Last year we attended Marketplace & Academy in Charlotte and found it to be invaluable. Having owned our store for less than a year, there was much for us to learn, and Marketplace & Academy taught us more than we could have imagined. Following up that experience with the Master Retailer (John) and Play Expert (Tammy) Certifications has given us the confidence we needed to be more successful. Thank you, ASTRA! »

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MARKETPLACE

TOMY Part of the Lamaze Creative Learning collection, from TOMY, the Mix and Match Caterpillar features eight different stuffed plush segments that can be rearranged in any order or arranged in the correct order by matching the Velcro color. Each segment has a different sound and texture including a chime ball, a squeaker, a rattle, and a crinkle to engage and entertain kids ages 6 months and up. When babies push down on the Toddler Toys Sort ‘n Pop Spinning Top, they can watch it pop out different shapes. Then, they can match the colors to their corresponding shapes and watch it spin again. Designed for kids ages 10 months and up, the Paddling Puppy teaches water confidence as kids wind it up and watch it paddle around in water. The Mix and Match Motorboat features four boat sections that each have a pour, squirt, sprinkle, or spin water play feature. The 3-in-1 Road Rescue is a wind up truck with a driver that works as a wrench. Kids can wind up the car, set it on the truck bed and lock the gate, then press the button to watch the truck zoom off.

Sort ‘n Pop Spinning Top

EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS Educational Insights’ Once Upon a Craft line inspires creativity through classic stories with the creation of fun and educational crafts. The eight unique storybook sets are each sold separately and include Once Upon a Craft The Gingerbread Man, Once Upon a Craft The Frog Prince, Once Upon a Craft The Elves and the Shoemaker, Once Upon a Craft Rapunzel, Once Upon a Craft The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Once Upon a Craft Jack and the Beanstalk, and One Upon a Craft The Ugly Duckling. Each set comes with the fairytale story and two craft activities. Educational Insights adds new items to the Nancy B’s Science Club line this year, including science tools for indoor and outdoor STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning. Made for kids ages 8 and up, the Nancy B’s Science Club Garbage to Gardens Compost Kit and Decomposition Book introduces kids to life cycles and composting, and promotes environmentalism. The activities in the 22-page activity journal also encourage creativity. The Compost Kit is an introduction to life cycles and environmental science, and includes a clear compost container with two compartments, a removable divider, two 3x magnifiers, two write-on/wipe-off boards, and a lid with air holes. The GeoSafari Jr. My First Telescope lets kids explore the moon with its focus-free telescope, built specifically for little hands and developing minds. Designed for kids ages 4 and up, the telescope promotes STEM learning and features a 10x magnification to help kids understand space and the moon. My First Telescope encourages exploration and discovery, provides hands-on experience with a scientific tool, and introduces kids to the wonders of space. It also comes with a multilingual guide that showcases the phases of the moon. Educational Insights’ Design & Drill line will add three new vehicles, including Race Car, Helicopter, GeoSafari Jr. and Monster Truck. Designed for kids ages 3 and up, the toys encourage the use of creativity, imagiMy First Telescope nation, and problem-solving skills. The Design & Drill Power Play Vehicles Race Car lets kids use the motorized mini-drill to snap the pieces together, customize the vehicle with colorful stickers, and take the race car to the road. It helps kids understand patterns, matching, and counting through creative STEM play, while expanding their fine motor skills.

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MARKETPLACE Monarch Life Cycle puppet

FOLKMANIS Kids can experience the beauty of life and metamorphosis with Folkmanis’ Monarch Life Cycle puppet. This puppet changes from a plush caterpillar, to a chrysalis, to an adult monarch butterfly. Kids can use the zippers on the chrysalis pouch to tuck and reveal one stage to the next. Once the transformation is complete, kids can insert their hands into the monarch wings for storytelling and role-play fun. The Great Blue Heron puppet is based on the shorebird and features realistic details and movement in the head and wings. The Mini Sea Otter is a travel-friendly finger puppet that is small and portable.

PLAYMONSTER My Fairy Garden, from PlayMonster, is a play set that’s also a real, live garden that lets kids interact with nature and use their imaginations. Kids plant the quick-germinating seeds and care for their garden, all while setting up and playing with fairies, woodland friends, and accessories. Designed for kids ages 4 and up, My Fairy Garden comes in three versions: Willow’s Tree Hollow, Calla’s Lily Pond, and Freya’s Magical Cottage. All of the sets include potting soil and quick-germinating seeds to get the gardens started. PlayMonster partnered with Tinkineer for its Marbleocity line of laser-cut wooden STEM kits made in the U.S. The designs of each module fit together to form a weaving and winding marble machine. The Marbleocity line features four different models, including Mini Coaster, Dragon Coaster, Mini Skate Park, and Skate Park, with more planned. All of the sets are made of laser-cut Baltic Birch and do not require batteries. PlayMonster will also introduce a smaller line of Perplexus 3-D maze games called Perplexus Micro. Each Perplexus Micro features a different shape and theme, and both have the signature inner maze and marble. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, Q-Bot is a cube with an inner robot that makes up the shifting, tricky maze, while Drakko is an egg shape with a dragon as its maze. PlayMonster expands into STEM learning with the acquisition of Roominate. Roominate currently consists of 12 sets, some designed for kids ages 6 and up, and others for kids ages 8 and up. With Roominate, kids can build interactive sets, such as a school bus and an amusement park that incorporate motors and lights. The interactive app allows kids to remotely control the motors and lights and get design ideas from fellow builders. The Lauri line of peg sets will get an upgrade this year with Action-Stackers. With new connectors that allow children to build in all directions and wheels that allow movement, these sets are both fun and educational, and don’t require batteries. Action-Stackers will debut with two separate sets. Both sets include an activity guide featuring tips and suggestions, and all pieces work with existing Lauri product. PlayMonster adds two new products to its Mirari and OK to Wake! lines. The OK to Wake! Owl with Night-Light & Music acts as a night-light by emitting a soft glow that changes color to let children know when it’s OK to get out of bed. The 6-inch Roominate Carnival owl also speaks to children and plays soothing lullabies. Mirari Glow to Sleep helps calm baby with music and sounds. Parents can also customize Glow to Sleep with their own songs, stories, and messages using a Bluetooth-compatible device or SD card. The gentle LED lights also help soothe baby, and can be turned off to create a dark room as well. With PlayMonster’s Celebrity Name Game, players get the names of celebrities, characters, famous places, and more, and make up clues to get their team to guess the names. Designed for four or more players ages 13 and up, it’s a race against the clock to see how many points you can get.

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MARKETPLACE

CJ PRODUCTS CJ Products introduces Guy Diamond as a Pillow Pet and Dream Lite this fall. This Trolls-themed Pillow Pet features a luminescent poof of gray hair for hair play. The Dream Lite turns the folding plush into a night-light, illuminating star and stripe icons and alternating hues of amber, blue, and green lights. The Sweet Scented Popcorn Panda has a long-lasting scent patch that features popcorn shapes and emits a buttery scent. The same popcorn pattern is scattered on the panda’s belly. The Sweet Scented Candy Corn Cat features the smell of caramel candy corn in a foldable Pillow Pet. The plush has wide yellow eyes and a pumpkin pattern that make it perfect for a Halloween gift or décor.

Guy Diamond

THAMES & KOSMOS With Happy Atoms, from Thames & Kosmos, kids use a set of 52 atom models representing 16 different elements to assemble molecular models. The atoms stick together easily with magnets. Metal tips on the ends of rubbery arms, which represent free electrons, snap onto magnetic bonding sites on the atom spheres, which represent empty spots for electrons in the atom’s outermost electron shell. The included app (available for iOS devices) uses image recognition technology to identify the molecule when kids take a picture of the atom they built. It presents detailed information about 120 of the most important molecules, such as a molecule’s usage, properties, hazards, formula, and structure. The Geckobot is a wall-climbing robot with a motorized air suction system that enables it to walk vertically up and down smooth surfaces, such as glass, plastic, whiteboards, and glossy laminates. The battery-powered motor drives an innovative gear system that produces a rotating motion making the legs move back and forth and up and down, mimicking a real gecko—two of the feet are touching the wall while the other two feet are lifted off of the wall, in an alternating motion. When its tongue hits an object in front of it, the Geckobot walks back down the wall. When the model walks, its head and tail move from side to side. Kids can build six other models and conduct experiments with suction to learn about air pressure and mechanical physics. Smugglers is a game that challenges players to compete to be the most skillful smuggler. Players roll the die to determine which size hole in the fence they need to fit their contraband, which is made of polymer putty that players roll into balls with the contraband pieces hidden inside. The players then roll their balls down a track toward the fence. The player that succeeds guesses the contents of the balls that did not fit or were smaller. If he or she guess correctly, he or she gets to keep the contraband. With the Magic: Gold Edition collection of magic props, kids can easily learn, practice, and perform 150 magic tricks and illusions. Kids can magically guess birthdays, numbers, and colors; levitate themselves and objects; bend and restore metal; practice dozens of tricks with playing cards; make a thimble appear, disappear, jump around, and pass through objects; and more. The set includes a 96-page instruction manual and video tutorials for the tricks are available online. This kit is designed to supply one magician ages 8 and up. New to the Kids First line is Robot Engineer. Kids read the funny story of two inquisitive kids, Ty and Karlie, and build simple, non-motorized models of the robots they construct and fix during their adventure to an automated candy factory. Designed for kids ages 3 and up, large, colorful plastic building pieces make it easy for small hands to put the models together. From each segment of their silly adventure, kids learn something new about robots and machines. This 53-piece science kit with an illustrated storybook provides an engaging way to teach simple engineering concepts to preschool-aged kids. This kit helps develop fine motor, science and math, visual-spatial, reasoning, and concept development skills.

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MARKETPLACE

THE HAYWIRE GROUP The Haywire Group will bring back its card game, Jukem Football, and expand the line to include Basketball and Soccer. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, each game will offer a unique play experience that utilizes the plays and actions of each of the three individual sports. With Action Princesses, a cooperative game designed for kids ages 5 and up, kids can perform fun and silly actions in order to make their way down the stone path to the castle. Kids may find themselves quacking like a duck or kicking like a ninja to defeat the dragon. The Haywire Group gives cardboard some play value with Calafant, the cardboard building kits that encourage and support children’s creativity. Kids first construct the kit, color it, and then play with it using their existing toys and imaginations. Calafant

LEARNING RESOURCES Learning Resources introduces the STEM Robot Mouse Coding Activity Set, designed for kids ages 5 and up. This set lets kids build a maze and use the coding cards to create a step-by-step path for the 4-inch programmable robot mouse. Once they program the sequence of the steps, they can watch as the mouse races to find the cheese. The deluxe set includes 30 double-sided coding cards, 10 double-sided activity cards, a cheese wedge, and an activity guide to provide a hands-on introduction to coding concepts. With 16 maze grids, 22 maze walls, and three tunnels, kids can create endless maze paths. Learning Resources also offers the Mental Blox 360° 3-D Building Game, a puzzle-solving game made for kids ages ages 5 and up. This game challenges players to build 3-D puzzles from different visual perspectives. It includes 40 double-sided cards that feature the puzzle on the front and the solution on the back. Three levels of play sharpen spatial visualization, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Learning Resources’ New Sprouts line features colorful, easy-to-grip, and durable products with a real-life look to encourage toddlers’ imaginative play. The line also encourages toddlers to build their vocabulary and reinforces good nutrition while providing hours of entertainment. New Sprouts Puppy Play! encourages role play and teaches children about the responsibility that comes with owning a pet. The Puppy Play set includes a plush puppy, a dog bed, a dog bowl, a bone, a brush, and a can of dog food. New Spouts Grow It! lets little ones plant and grow with gardening essentials that include a watering can, a shovel, and three pots. The colorful mix-and-match flowers and veggies encourage role play and create an appreciation for nature. Both the New Sprouts Puppy Play! and New Sprouts Grow It! are made for toddlers ages 2 and up. Learning Resources has a variety of creative hands-on learning tools to help children develop essential early skills to help them connect lessons from the classroom to their everyday lives. A to Z Alphabet Groceries, designed for ages 3 and up, features 26 groceries, each with its own letter, word, and picture. The colorful, realistic groceries provide a fun way to introduce language skills and inspire hours of imaginative play. New Sprouts Grow It!

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MARKETPLACE

ART’S IDEAS Jenga Giant, from Art’s Ideas, is the only licensed giant Jenga game. With two sizes available at retail, both games are made to the exacting specifications of Classic Jenga, using 54 precision-cut, oversized hardwood blocks. Made for kids ages 10 and up, Jenga Giant Genuine can stack more than 4 feet high, and with the available Booster Pack, sold separately, it can stack an additional 3 feet high. Made for families with kids ages 6 and up, Jenga Giant Family can stack to more than 3 feet high. Jenga Premium is a limited-edition game presented in a window box so that the copper foil stamped blocks are displayed on the clear acrylic base.

SMART TOYS & GAMES Smart Toys & Games will showcase games for players of all ages. Little Red Riding Hood is a new preschool puzzle game in which kids can help Little Red find the right path to Grandma’s house—unless the wolf gets there faster. This game comes packaged with a picture book with the original story. The puzzle is designed for kids ages 4 and up and features 48 challenges. SmartCar 5x5 is a new variation of the classic SmartCar. The game now features five wooden blocks for more variation and simpler rules, ideal for kids ages 4 and up. There are 48 challenges—24 designed for kids ages 3 to 7 and 24 for kids ages 6 to 9. The car is made from sturdy plastic with smoothly spinning rubber wheels. Dinosaurs—Mystic Islands is a shape-matching game that challenges players to separate the plant-eating dinosaurs from the carnivores. Kids can compose the green islands on the blue surface as shown, but make sure the three friendly dinos are separated from the three Tyrannosaurus rexes. Designed for kids ages 6 and up, Jungle Hide and Seek offers 80 challenges on a double-sided game board. The green day side is the classic four-section grid game, and the blue night side features more difficult challenges on a large grid. North Pole Expedition is an upgraded version of the game Camouflage, and now offers 80 challenges. This expedition features two playing modes—an Eskimo kayaking in the water and an Eskimo spear fishing on the ice. Kids can travel back to a time of castles and knights with the Walls & Warriors puzzle. Players need to protect the blue warriors within the castle and keep the red ones outside the walls. A 3-D rock, an additional central tower building, and gradual tips and hints make this puzzle game challenging for kids ages 6 and up. Magnetic Travel: Deducktion is a magnetic game that offers kids 48 challenges using deductive reasoning to find the position of each mallard. Place the three duck families so that all the ducklings follow their mother, but the moms can’t stand next to each other. This logic game is designed for kids ages 5 and up. With Parking Puzzler, kids try to place all the pieces on the board to make sure the cars are correctly positioned, avoiding the driving lane or taking up two spots. Designed for kids ages 6 and up, Parking Puzzler features 60 challenges. Kids can make a splash with Penguins Pool Party, designed for kids ages 6 and up. Place the penguins on the game board as shown in one of the 60 challenges, and then try to place the ice pieces around them. IQ XOXO challenges players to use the 10 double-sided pentomino pieces to solve 120 challenges. Designed for kids ages 6 and up, this brainteaser offers five levels of play, from Starter to Wizard. IQ Puzzler Pro features pieces to offer 120 2-D and 3-D challenges in three different playing modes. Players can play inside an orthogonal grid or in 3-D making pyramids or use the outside for a diagonal grid. IQ XOXO

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MARKETPLACE

PLAYMOBIL Playmobil’s new Adventure Tree House features a house that’s surrounded by wildlife found in the heart of the forest. It includes two figures, plus a mother bear and her cub, a family of foxes, a bald eagle, an owl, fish, and more. Kids can even use the equipment pieces, such as walkie talkies, a computer, and supply boxes, to learn about protecting the environment. Plus, kids can use the pulley system to lift the figures and accessories up to the house. The Furnished Children’s Hospital fosters a desire to help those in need, showing kids everything from the front desk where patients can check in with doctors and nurses to exam rooms. The set includes adult, child, and baby figures, as well as accessories to get patients back in shape, such as a respirator, a defibrillator, bandages, stethoscopes, and medical charts. Both the Adventure Tree House and the Furnished Children’s Hospital play sets are designed for kids ages 4 to 10. Kids can count down to liftoff aboard the Space Rocket with Launch Site. Outfitted with working lights and sounds, this rocket lets kids use the movable maintenance platform to help the space technicians inspect the rocket prior to launch. With the help of the repair robot, kids ages 6 and up can make sure that everything is in tip-top shape for the next space mission. The set includes two figures, a rocket, a launch structure, a satellite, a reAdventure Tree House pair robot, a computer, and other accessories.

SAGO SAGO TOYS Sago Sago’s new Sago mini line of toys includes three new portable play sets that fold up for easy take-along play. Inspired by the Sago Mini Space Explorer app, Portable Playset: Harvey’s Spaceship features a ship with different modules and a hatch that opens. Kids can take the included figure for a spin in the UFO, or surf comet tails on the hoverboard. Portable Playset: Jack’s Diner features booth seating, a jukebox, a take-out window, and a washroom. Portable Playset: Jinja’s house includes Jinja and Rosie figures, along with mini moving boxes to help Jinja move into her house. All of the Portable Playsets are designed for kids ages 3 and up. Also designed for kids ages 3 and up, Sago Mini Puzzle Mats combine classic foam mats with customization. With 12 different tiles featuring Sago Mini art, kids can create different towns and roadways to weave fun stories. The set includes 12 interchangable printed city pieces with popout building sections, a Robin figurine, and a sleek roadster. The box also transforms into a car for more fun. The Sago Mini Tuck Me In Quilt (page 25) was designed in collaboration with Libs Elliott for kids ages 2 and up. The quilt helps kids develop a sleep routine in an easy and fun way. The packaging doubles as a play bed, and kids can tuck the four included plush friends into the four quilt pockets.

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Portable Playset: Harvey’s Spaceship


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NEAT-OH! Neat-Oh!’s Magnutto Educational Magnetic Activity sets are designed to help young kids master their emotions. The sets come in three different styles, including Make a Mood, Make a Pet, and Make a Dino. Three primary elements in body language literacy—the eyes, the eyebrows, and the mouth­—are introduced. These building blocks of learning to read a human face teach kids an emotional vocabulary. All three sets prompt kids to learn, explore, and then explain their moods, emotions, and feelings so that they can read body language, people, faces, and the hidden emotions behind them. Neat-Oh! will expand its Everyday Princess line with the Julia the Artist Doll. The 4.5-inch doll features long hair, an apron, and a mini easel. Julia joins the other Everyday Princess collectible dolls, including Emma, Sophie, and Bianca. The dolls are designed to encourage imaginative play and empower young girls to design and control their own creative realm. Additionally, Neat-Oh! will add three new 11.81-inch plush dolls to its Nici Wonderland line, designed for kids ages 2 and up. Miniclara the Cowgirl loves to ride horses and explore the great outdoors. The doll features a cowgirl hat and a denim dress. Minisophie the Soccer Player loves to run, dribble, and shoot. This doll includes a soccer uniform and a ball, so she’s ready for action anytime. Minimargaret the Doctor has a passion for taking care of people. She loves to learn and help people with science, and comes with a stethoscope and a lab coat. All of the dolls are machine washable and dryable. Minisophie the Soccer Player

FAT BRAIN TOYS Fat Brain Toys’ Pop ‘emz is a craft set with 252 pieces of six different color mini hexagon-shaped suction cups that kids can use to design and decorate. Kids can press cups against windows, tables, mirrors, or phones to create patterns and follow the design guide for more ideas. The cups have a handy knob for easy removal and parents can revive suction with mild soap water. Pop’ emz is designed for kids ages 3 and up. Coggy is a 16-gear connected puzzle made of a zigzag coil, which folds and rotates to help kids develop visual and spatial skills. Kids can rotate the gears up to 255 degrees to match the puzzle to the 40 challenge cards included in the set. They can choose from four difficulty levels and from black and white or color play modes. Coggy is designed for kids ages 6 and up. Designed for kids ages 5 and up, Box ‘n Balls is a strategy game that involves bouncing 10 balls and stacking eight wooden nesting boxes. In the Rolling Target game, kids arrange boxes in decreasing order of size and roll a ball to hit each box. Kids can play the suggested games printed on the side of each box or invent new ones. Oombee Cube is a shape-sorting cube made of food-grade silicone with six rubbery shapes tethered to its corners. Designed for kids ages 6 months and up, the cube helps develop tactile and sensory learning. The shapes fit into the slots, which activate lights in the shape of a smile. Teething babies can also chew the shapes.

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SET ENTERPRISES SET Enterprises offers on-the-go fun with its line of Mini Rounds, which are miniature versions of its games that are small enough to fit in a purse, backpack, beach bag, and more and can be played anywhere. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, these games feature shorter, faster versions of SET, Quiddler, Five Crowns, and Karma. Players can play SET Mini Round solo or with as many people as they please. During each round, players try to be the first one to complete sets with patterns featuring colors, shapes, or numbers. Quiddler Mini Round is a fast-paced word game for two to four players. The challenge is to arrange your entire hand of cards into words. Players try to make the biggest words they can without getting stuck with any cards left in their hands at the end. In Five Crowns Mini Round, the goal is combine all cards into books and runs, be the first player to go out, and then watch opponents scramble as they get one last chance to cut their losses. With each round, the number of cards increases and the wild card changes to keep players on their toes. This fast-paced game lets two to four players complete five rounds in just 15 minutes. Karma Mini Round is a grab-and-go version of the fast-paced elimination game where everyone wins—except for the last player holding cards. During each turn, players are challenged to play a card of equal or higher value to avoid picking up the entire discard pile.

EDUSHAPE Edushape’s Gummyball Teether is easy for a baby to grasp, hold, and chew. The teether comes with nine nubs to nibble, each with a different texture for each teething phase, which ranges from infancy to 33 months. It’s durable, safe, and sturdy enough for infants to twist, roll, and toss. The Rainbow Soft Ball is a transparent ball that allows children to see colorful mini balls that move around its inner core. The 7-inch ball helps to stimulate young minds. Dr. Pooch is a veterinary pup with features that demonstrate how to get dressed. The ears button, the shoes tie, the stethoscope giggles, and the belt buckle and jacket snap to help kids develop dexterity skills. Dr. Pooch’s jacket, floppy ears, and squeezable arms and legs are soft to touch and cuddle. Young Brix are big, chubby, easy to hold, and made for small hands. Young Brix promote creative thinking for beginner architects, and have nine different flexible and soft-to-touch shapes, including triangles, circles, trapezoids, and more. The pieces easily snap together and attach from almost every side so that kids can build houses, forts, furniture, and more. The soft and easy-to-grasp Look & Feel Baby Book can attach to beds and unfolds to reveal shapes on one side and animals on the other side. Perfect for babies who respond to high-contrast black and white shapes, each animal has special features for babies to explore, such as crinkles, ribbons, felt, strings, and squeakers.

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Dr. Pooch


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MAGFORMERS Magformers partnered with Nickelodeon for its first licensed sets based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles HalfShell Heroes. The sets encourage preschoolers to build with Magformers squares and triangles to create Turtle towers by matching the characters to their colors and/ or interchanging them to tell their own story. Once the structure is built, the Neodymium Rare-Earth magnets will stick together, forming 3-D structures from a 2-D design for play featuring Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo. The product line will feature three sets at varying price points: 18-piece with eight Turtle cards; and 60-piece with 12 Turtle cards.

SNAPTOYS Snaptoys introduces Lil’ Butters, a line of quirky, fun, and sassy collectible butterfly figures for kids of all ages. Each Lil’ Butters design is inspired by the personalities that kids possess, including boldness, love, joy, strength, and more. Lil’ Butters are friends that will help kids discover who they are, how they define themselves, and where their wings can take them. Made for kids ages 7 and up, the first series consists of six figures: Mellow Bliss, Lovey Dovey, Sweet Beats, Superhero, Love Stinks, and Whatever. The second series will come out in the summer, with additional series planned. Thunder Stompers Stomp-a-saurs are plush dinosaurs that feature stomping sounds. Made for kids ages 2 and up, the 12-inch plush have oversized feet and vibrant personalities. The plush make roaring, growling, and stomping sounds when kids stomp their feet. Characters available include Mash, Slash, Crash, and Flash. Furbelles are little fur balls with personality and charm. These fluffy accessories can hang from bags, backpacks, and more.

UNIVERSITY GAMES University Games introduces Indoor Cornhole, new to the company’s Front Porch Classics line. For players ages 6 and up, this popular bag-tossing game can now be played inside any house or apartment for indoor tailgate parties. For preschoolers, Briarpatch introduces the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Welcome to Main Street Game, in which kids help each other to complete their goals as they visit familiar places in town. The game is the second in a series based on the PBS TV series and is part of Briarpatch’s Play ‘n Learn program. Orange Toss is a quick-thinking adult party game, in which players race against the clock to answer open-ended questions and pass the orange timer before it runs out. University Games reintroduces Doodletop with a fresh look and new activities. The Doodletop Design Kit combines the classic toy with multiple colors of ink, design paper, and new ideas for spinning art in creative ways. The BePuzzled brand expands its Disney offerings with new titles in 3D Crystal Puzzles, Hanayama Cast Puzzles, and GearShift. The brain teaser game GearShift requires logic and patience. Four individual gears shift together or independently, based on the placement of the cogs. Mickey Mouse, Disney Frozen, and Zootopia images are in the licensed versions, and a version featuring the Ouroboros, the serpent that eats its own tail, is also available.

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IDENTITY GAMES Eww Gross is the latest addition to Identity Games’ line of Find It activity games. This portable treasure hunt is a contained adventure that encourages kids to focus and concentrate while they play. Just like other Find It games, Eww Gross is full of brightly colored pellets and more than 40 small items kids must try to find. All of the items are listed on top of the game for easy reference. While some are easy to find, others are a bit harder to locate. Kids can twist, spin, shake, or tap the filled container to spot the hidden items. They can give themselves an extra challenge by trying to locate the items in alphabetical order, smallest to largest, or fastest to slowest. Eww Gross contains everyday items that are completely cringe-worthy, such as smelly sneakers, dandruff, earwax, and the letters F, A, R, and T. The game also includes a special hidden mystery item that kids can try to find.

MINDWARE In E-I-E-I-GO!, from Mindware, each player shakes the silo to reveal the animal for which he or she is rolling. Then it’s a race to the finish line to see who will be the first to roll a matching set of animals. The first player to roll a set of three collects a barnyard token. The first player to collect four barnyard animals gets the blue ribbon to win the game. Sapphiro is a game of luck and strategy designed for two to four players ages 6 and up. Players can play their diamond tiles to capture rubies, emeralds, and other valuable jewels by matching colors and surrounding the gems. But players shouldn’t leave a quick or easy way for their opponents to do the same. The first person to collect six jewels wins the game.

DOUGLAS CO. Douglas Co.’s three new Dragons include Aragon the navy dragon, Faust the silver dragon, and Elgar the copper dragon. Each evokes power, strength, nobility, beauty, and adventure. Douglas Co. introduces four new plush Princess Horses. The newest additions include Rainbow Princess White Horse, Flower Princess Tan Horse, Tribal Princess Appaloosa, and Warrior Princess Black and White Horse. Elephant Plumpie is a soft and squishy plush that measures 16 inches at full length and 10 inches when seated. Douglas Co. adds a new collection of soft baby books to its baby line. The Elephant Soft Toy Book is a 6-inch square book that is slightly padded and filled with activities and stories designed specifically for babies. An unbreakable mirror, colorful tags, and peek-a-boo flaps also help keep babies engaged. The Navy Boho Crossbody bag is part of a new collection of fashion accessories designed for kids up to age 9. Four new drawstring Sak Paks, four new Crossbody Bags, and four new Wristlets round out the collection.

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Aragon Dragon


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PACIFIC PLAY TENTS Pacific Play Tents’ newest products encourage children to participate in imaginative play with others. The Food Truck comes with mesh windows, inside pockets, and an order counter with roll up windows so children can serve the customers from the menu, which lists hamburgers, ice cream, and more summer treats. Kids can roll down the window when they are ready to close for the day. The beautiful graphics on the Butterfly Garden include cut-out leaves around the rim of the pavilion to help bring the garden to life. The part-mesh top ensures that kids have plenty of ventilation. The Interchangeable Multi-Panel Poly-Cotton Canvas Teepee has four interchangeable panels, allowing kids to choose from a graphic or solid colors. Each panel attaches with buttons that can be easily changed. The four wooden poles and poly-cotton fabric make the teepee sturdy and durable. Now, kids can have fun in their tents during the day or night with the Silver Lantern. The lantern features a handle so that it can be hung in a tent or held in a child’s hand. The ABC Mat is an interactive and engaging learning tool for kids. Each letter has a coordinating image to make learning fun.

Butterfly Garden

GREEN TOYS The Farm Playset, from Green Toys, includes a barn; a pick-up truck; fences; farmer, cow, sheep, and pigs characters; and a hog shed. Kids can open and close the barn doors, corral the pigs, and load the pick-up truck. The Fire Station Playset comes with a fire station, a fire engine, two firefighter cat characters, a rotating water cannon, a command center, and stackable bunk beds. Kids can open and close the doors to the station and help the cats slide down the fire pole. Both new play sets allow all of the pieces to store inside, and both feature a built-in handle for easy onthe-go fun. Green Toys introduces the Storybook series, which allows kids to see their toys embark on different adventures. In Train Off the Rails with Kody and Dot, Kody and Dot drive a delivery train off its tracks and discover a new way of looking at the world. In Boats Built for Speed with Davey and Pearl, Davey and Pearl try to figure out the best plan to deliver boxes across a lake. And in Mixed-Up Trucks with Baxter, Rosie, and Gus, the trio learns that the only way to get things done is to work together.

Fire Station Playset

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FABER-CASTELL Craftivity Super String Lanterns, from Faber-Castell, are handcrafted lanterns with a touch of gold sparkle. Kids can learn classic string art skills as they craft three lanterns with tassels. The kit includes gold sequin hanging cord, lights, and batteries.

nanoblocks Peacock

SCHYLLING Schylling will relaunch nanoblock product line this year with new products, programs, and merchandising assortments. These micro-sized building blocks offer kids a greater challenge, a sophisticated construction experience, and more detail. Kids can create detailed 3-D works of art that can fit in the palms of their hands, including the Mini Collection Series, Sights to See Series, and Advanced Hobby Series.

SCHLEICH Schleich’s Pick-Up Truck with Horse Trailer is big enough to hold two horses and doubles as a compartment for saddle and bridle accessories. The set includes two horse caretakers, a Friesian horse, and accessories such as a saddle, a bridle, a blanket, and feed. The Riding Center features a vibrant pink and a green accented horse stable that includes a detachable roof to transform it into an open riding arena. Accessories include a horse and a rider, a foal, a blanket, feed, flowers, fencing, customizable stickers, and more. The Large Farm play set is a colorful barn that features a detachable roof for easy access and workable parts. Accessories include a cow and a calf, a pig, a drinking trough, a ladder, fencing, hay bales, feed, and more. Big Adventure at the Watering Hole is a wildlife play set that features three modular pieces, including a waterfall, a river, and a watering hole. Complete with more than 20 accessories, the set includes a lion, a lion cub, and a zebra. Other features include modular and connectable plant pieces and a tree that unfolds for the animals to climb across. Riding Center

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TURBOSPOKE The Bicycle Exhaust System, from Turbospoke, is an accessory that can make any bicycle sound like a motorbike. By using plastic sound cards held in the path of rotating spokes, kids can peddle to power up the noise through the realistic megaphone exhaust. The system also includes stickers that kids can use to decorate it.

ZING Zing’s Firetek Zoom Rocketz is an air-powered light-up, launch tube system, designed for kids ages 8 and up. It sends light-up Zoom Rocketz up to 95 feet into the air and is good for day and night outdoor play. Kids can set the launch angle and slam their foot down to release the rocket. ZoomBoom Rocketz, for kids ages 6 and up, are rockets designed for an easy throw and a loud landing. With the 250 Zap Cap and a sleek design, kids can throw rockets higher, quicker, and harder.

DIGGIN Diggin’s farthest flying traditional foam football, Black Max Light Spiral Football, designed for kids ages 5 and up, now features a light system. When kids throw the football, the multicolored light show begins, and once kids catch it, the color returns to a steady green. The patented spiral rings help kids achieve tighter spirals and longer throws, and the dimples make the ball easy to throw and catch. Kids can throw and catch up to 100 feet with the Mega Rocket. The 6-foot rocket inflates in seconds and the foam fins are weighted for aerodynamics. Limbo Hop challenges kids to limbo under or jump over the bar. Limbo Hop features multiple player modes so that kids can play as individuals, in duos, or in teams. Kids will jump, duck, dive, and hop as they play. Limbo Hop offers out of the box play, requires no batteries, packs away for simple storage, and includes a built-in scoring system. Made for kids ages 6 and up, Slimeball Flinger Darts can shoot more than 30 feet. The darts have a built-in launch mechanism that makes them easy to shoot. The Slimeballs stick to the targets, but leave no marks. The set includes two Flingers, four Slimeballs, and a dartboard. The Slimeball line brings tons of slime fun, without the mess. With the Micro Missiles Target Set, kids ages 6 and up can launch missiles from their fingertips. The Micro MisSlimeball Flinger Darts siles travel more than 75 feet and the suction cup missiles stick to the target. Kids place the launcher on their thumbs and index fingers, pull back the missile, and watch as the missile flies. The set includes 12 Micro Missiles, two launchers, and a target.

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THE ORIGINAL TOY CO. The Original Toy Co. introduces the Sea Shell, designed for kids ages 3 and up. The Sea Shell is a two-in-one product that consists of two seashells kids can use as a sandpit and as a paddling pool. After use, one shell becomes a cover for clean and easy storage. The Baby Digital Drum Set features a realistic drum sound and can connect to an iPod, MP3 player, or CD player. The set includes a bass drum with a pedal, two side drums, a cymbal, two drumsticks, an eight-key electric keyboard, four sounds, four rhythms, and eight demo songs. In addition to a light show, kids can also record and playback tunes and rhythms. New First Blocks are hand-painted and printed wooden blocks that are available for kids ages 2 and up. Kids ages 3 and up can build different railway tracks with Giant Railway. The set includes 22 interchangeable track pieces, four railway crossings, and four character and train play pieces. The puzzle pieces connect with other pieces within the Giant Road system for additional play value. The Scrunch Ball is a 9-inch ball with an easy-grip texture to help kids catch it. The ball quickly deflates and scrunches to make for easy travel, and easily inflates for quick play.

ALEX TOYS Alex Toys introduces Shrinky Dinks 3D Flower Jewelry, with new silicone mold shapes to make Shrinky Dinks into flowers. Kids can make a necklace, a chain bracelet, and a pair of stud earrings. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, the kit includes 38 pre-printed Shrinky Dinks shapes, a silicon flower mold, eight colored pencils, a chain necklace, a chain bracelet, two earring studs, seed beads, elastic, and two beading needles.

First Blocks

LASER PEGS Laser Pegs will showcase its Light Up Pull Back Motor Model. Kids can pull the model back, let it go, and watch it zoom. The 8-in-1 Rally Cars Pull Back Runner kit can make the following creations: Xtreme Racer, Turbo Truck, Swamp Thang, Road Thrasher, Rally Car, Rally Support, Desert Rally, and Aerodynamic. The kit includes Laser Pegs’ exclusive Zippy Do Light-Up Power Base, 58 tinted construction bricks, and the light-up pullback motor.

Light Up Pull Back Motor Model

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THINKFUN With ThinkFun’s Code Master for ages 8 and up, kids learn the basics of programming without a computer. In Code Master, the Avatar travels to exotic worlds in search of Power Crystals and kids must use programming logic along the way to navigate the map. In each level, only one specific sequence of actions will lead to success. Once kids collect all the crystals and land at the portal, they win the game. Code Master will teach the principles behind programming, as well sequential reasoning and problem-solving skills. Escape the Room games, which first began as digital adventures and are now real-life events worldwide, lock players in a room and they must uncover clues and hidden objects in order to escape. ThinkFun’s version of Escape the Room is for ages 10 and up, and allows players to bring all the excitement of those experiences into their own homes.

BRACKITZ Brackitz’ Inventor Series is a construction toy game featuring motion-connectors that allow blocks to rotate. Kids can connect long and short planks, which are included in the set, to the connectors to make objects like a spinning Ferris wheel. Kids can also mix and match wood, plastic, colorful, and translucent pieces to build.


ASTRA MARKETPLACE & ACADEMY 2016

MUKIKIM V-CUBE V-Classics

ORBET INTERNATIONAL Orbet International offers V-CUBE V-Classics, a puzzle where players must achieve six uniform colored sides on a cube. Users will not play the same puzzle twice, and the pillow-shaped cube has a patented design with smooth rotation. Also available are the V-Collections cubes with printed themes. Designs include hamburgers, baseballs, cities, and artwork.

Mukikim introduces Rock and Roll It!, a new line featuring a flexible and portable Drum and Piano that roll back up into their boxes when kids are done playing with them. Designed for kids ages 6 and up, the drum and piano feature multiple tones, record and playback features, battery or USB power options, and demo songs. The SpyX line offers all of the gadgets needed for kids to pretend to be spies. The items will provide hours of spy roleplay fun. The line features more than 25 items that kids can collect.

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THE ORB FACTORY Designed for kids ages 6 and up, The Orb Factory’s Fuzzeez Spotted Dog lets kids create their own Fuzzeez friend. Kids place the colorful fluff inside of the Fuzzeez form and spray it with warm, soapy water. Once the form is filled to the top, just snap it shut and put it through the washer and dryer. Once complete, pop open the form to reveal kids’ creations. The PlushCraft Puppy Pack lets kids make three puppy pals by using the stylus to punch fabric pieces into the form. The easy illustrated instructions help kids decorate all three puppies with colorful fabric pieces and glittering eyes. Designed for kids ages 5 and up, PlushCraft Puppy Pak requires no sewing.

WINNING MOVES USA Rubik’s Junior Bear, from Winning Moves USA, is an easy-to-grip bear that is much simpler to solve than the original Rubik’s Cube. Designed for kids ages 4 and up, Rubik’s Junior Bear serves as a training cube. Winning Moves will also offer The Original Rubik’s Cube, available in its original packaging—exclusively for the brick-and-mortar specialty market. It comes complete with the original stickers, logos, and instruction booklet.

TUCKER TOYS Tucker Toys’ E-Z Grip Balls feature a soft but tough outer web that make it easy for kids to catch. The balls deliver a high bounce on any surface, including grass, sand, and water. Tucker Toys extends its collection with three new E-Z Grip Balls, including a football, a soccer ball, and a go-anywhere Jr. version. The E-Z Grip Football’s tough outer web is made for one-handed catches. The E-Z Grip Jr. 4.25-inch ball fits in backpacks and bags, and is ready to bounce on any surface. The E-Z Grip Soccer Ball’s bounce helps it quickly travel down the field, and its high-grip outer web makes it easy for goalies to catch. With a more aerodynamic design, the new Phlat Ball Aeroflyt hovers in the air to go farther with every throw. Similar to its Phlat Ball predecessors, its suction-cup center provides a spontaneous, time-release return to its ball shape while mid-flight.

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E-Z Grip Football


ASTRA MARKETPLACE & ACADEMY 2016

INTERNATIONAL PLAYTHINGS International Playthings introduces Calico Critters Ice Cream Shop, featuring the character Sandra Sandy Cat serving a variety of flavors from behind the counter. Kids can discover a secret hideaway when they spin around the shop’s ice cream scoops. The Kidoozie Counting Pogo Jumper digitally counts every hop as it squeaks. The stretchy bungee fits any height, and the jumper supports up to 250 pounds. International Playthings also offers the Kidoozie King Size Medieval Castle, a tent that can be used for imaginative play indoors and outside. With the Early Years Pop-up Puppy Ball Pit, babies can play and explore. The puppy face is welcoming, and the 10 colorful balls are easy to grip.

Calico Critters Ice Cream Shop

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BEGINAGAIN The Farm A to Z Puzzle, from BeginAgain, is a play set of wooden alphabet puzzles designed for kids ages 3 and up. Each of the 26 pieces is either an animal, a plant, a person, or a piece of equipment. Tinker Totter Robots is a 28-piece play set and game designed for kids ages 2 and up. Kids stack and connect chunky components to create various robots of different colors, sizes, and shapes. Tic Bug Toe, for kids ages 3 and up, is a twist on the traditional Tic-Tac-Toe game. Ladybugs and dragonflies made of wood are the opponents in this version. Kids take turns placing the bugs on the gameboard until three line up in a row.

Tinker Totter Robots

USAOPOLY USAopoly introduces Tapple 10. With 10 different games and 160 categories, Tapple 10 is an on-the-go word game with a compact travel case. The whole family can have fun playing all 10 games, including Tapple 10 Alpha, Rake ‘em In, Four in a Row, and more.


ASTRA MARKETPLACE & ACADEMY 2016

BERG The Berg Buzzy Bloom is light blue and pink and features a basket in the front and a custom sticker design. The Berg Buzzy Nitro is a red and blue pedal kart. The Buzzy Bloom and Buzzy Nitro are designed to help kids ages 2 and up learn how to cycle. The karts feature forward and reverse driving, four wheels to ensure stability, accessible pedals, and an adjustable steering wheel and seat to grow with kids. Based on the BMW racing legacy, the Berg BMW Street Racer features a swing axle to ensure the racer safely remains on the ground. The BFR Hub allows the driver to pedal forward, coast with the pedals remaining static, pedal back slightly to use the coaster brake to stop, and go in reverse. The rubber air-filled tube tires help keep the kart rolling on any packed surface, and the seat offers back support. The BMW Street Racer can be parked upright for storage.

BERG Buzzy Bloom

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ADORA The Adora Playtime Baby Floral Romper is an Asian baby doll with a bean bag weighted bottom to give it a lifelike feel. Each 13-inch handmade doll is created in lightly baby powder-scented Gentle Touch vinyl and weighs about 12 ounces. Adora has also added a boy to the My First Adora line for the first time. My First Adora Baby Boy features a squeezable body, removable clothes, and a magnetic pacifier to encourage kids to nurture and role play with their babies. Perfect for the bath, pool, or any water fun, Adora BathTime Baby Kitty comes with a washcloth and a removable animal-themed bathrobe that shows a printed swimsuit body. The doll also features an exclusive QuikDri body. The GiggleTime Boy and Girl are 15-inch dolls that come with a baby carrier and removable giggle mechanism. GiggleTime babies are made with baby powder-scented vinyl to give them Mixxie Mopsie Pony a real baby smell. Adora also introduces Mixxie Mopsie Pony, a creative toy that helps to enhance motor skills and learning. The pony includes four interchangeable legs, a pony body, two decorative leg bands, a tutu, a unicorn headband, a flower necklace, and a pony tail hair accessory.

WONDER FORGE In Wonder Forge’s Disney Junior The Lion Guard—Protect the Pride Lands Game, players must work as a team to protect the Pride Lands from foes from the Outlands. Together, players race to get Kion to the top of Pride Rock so he can unleash the power of the roar and save the day. Designed for kids ages 4 and up, this cooperative game can be played with one to four players.

GUND Gund’s Swim Trunks Curious George is a 12inch plush inspired by the book Curious George. The plush features colorful tropical swim trunks, a yellow and blue beach ball, and a beach towel embroidered with a Curious George signature. Gund introduces its first series of plush blind boxes. The Pusheen Snack Time collection features the adorable kitty cat cozying up to treats. Each box includes a sealed Mylar bag containing a random 2.75-inch plush key chain in one of eight formats: ice cream cone, donut, pizza, cookie, taco, hamburger, coffee mug, and cupcake.

Swim Trunks Curious George

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ASTRA MARKETPLACE & ACADEMY 2016

UNCLE MILTON Uncle Milton’s Undersea Light Projector displays a glowing, underwater seascape featuring characters from Disney•Pixar’s Finding Dory. Eight different light programs create soft, multicolored light shows that project fish and coral on the walls. An auto shut-off feature preserves battery life when it’s bedtime. The Finding Dory My Sign! allows kids ages 5 and up to highlight their name in lights next to their favorite Finding Dory characters. Kids can make their own personalized light-up nameplate or sign and customize it with decorative images and stickers from the movie. Dory Wall Friends is an interactive and light-up talking Wall Friend that speaks familiar phrases from the Finding Dory movie. At 13 inches tall, this display features high and low brightness options and an auto shut-off for bedtime.

Finding Dory My Sign!

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ODYSSEY TOYS

Star Chaser WiFi/VR

TANGLE The Tangle NightBat and Ball, from Tangle, features six bright LED lights built into the sleeve of the bat and a light-up ball for kids to hit, run, and score day or night.

Odyssey Toys introduces its next generation of drones. With fold-in motors that let kids put their drones in their pockets, the Pocket Drone is perfect for indoor or outdoor flying. The pocket drone also features Auto Start and Auto Stop, making it easier for beginners to learn to fly their drone. It can record and save HD videos and high-resolution photos on its 4 GB micro SD card. The 4x4 Turbo Runner climbs walls and ceilings with ease and is able to go nearly anywhere. The Star Chaser WiFi/VR’s in-flight virtual reality gives kids the ultimate control. Kids can fly their drone anywhere while it shoots photos and HD videos. Additionally, the next generation gyros and advanced algorithms provide great stability and agility. The StarBlade is the elite ultra-performance model of the Odyssey Flying Machines line. It features more than 40 LEDs, advanced agility, and a sleek, original design exclusive to Odyssey Toys. In addition, it’s easy to maneuver and responds to commands. The Galaxy Seeker FPV is one of Odyssey Toys’ best-selling streaming video drones. The drone has a high-definition camera and advanced stability.

BLUE ORANGE GAMES Top That, from Blue Orange Games, is a problem-solving matching game. Each player gets a red cup, an orange tube, a green coin, a white rabbit, and a black top hat. One player flips a challenge card, and then players race to stack their objects in a single pile following three simple rules: Objects printed in color must be visible on the stack, objects printed in grey must be hidden inside objects in the stack, and objects surrounded by stars must be kept empty. The first player to correctly stack his or her objects wins the challenge card. The game is designed for two to four players ages 7 and up. Kaboom is a fast-paced dexterity game designed for two to five players ages 6 and up. In the game, players take turns playing as the Master Builder, who needs to build as many wooden towers as possible. Meanwhile, all of the others play as Saboteurs, who try to knock down the builder’s towers by launching their blocks from the catapult. Both new games help develop kids’ processing speed, fine motor skills, visual perception, focus and attention, and problem-solving skills.

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ASTRA MARKETPLACE & ACADEMY 2016

BABIATORS Babiators are safe, durable, and stylish eyewear for kids. The new collection includes Original Aviator Sunglasses and Polarized Aviator Sunglasses for kids up to 7 years old, Aces Aviator and Navigator Shades for kids ages 7 to 14 years old, and Submariners Swim Goggles. Babiators have a one-year guarantee against loss or breakage of the eyewear.

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MARKETPLACE

NORTH STAR GAMES Happy Salmon, from North Star Games, is a simple, fast-paced card game with mini-celebrations built into the gameplay. In Happy Salmon, there are no turns. Players call out the action shown on their cards as fast as they can. When two players have a match, they celebrate by performing the action. Actions include High 5, Pound It, Switcheroo, and Happy Salmon. Each time a player celebrates a match, he or she quickly discards a card. The first person to get rid of his or her cards is the winner.

HANSA Hansa introduces a collection of realistic plush animals that combine soft sculpture art with the function of a seat and a footstool. The line includes Tiger, Lion, Elephant, Black Bear, Zebra, Lamb, and Golden Retriever Animal Seats. Each Animal Seat can be used as home dĂŠcor and a conversation piece, while also serving as a comfortable seat for children. Each animal in the line comes with a Toys That Teach tag that provides facts about the animal.

Tiger Animal Seat


ASTRA MARKETPLACE & ACADEMY 2016

WHATNOT TOYS Whatnot Toys is a new toy company with a different strategy— it identifies toys that have been big sellers in other countries and brings them to the U.S. The first product Whatnot has brought to the U.S. is Zomlings in the Town, a line of soft plastic zombies that have experienced success in Europe. Zomlings are collectibles that come in blind bags. Whatnot Toys is also bringing Kitty Club to the U.S. These collectible Kitties are also sold in blind bags and they offer an extended play pattern; Fans can buy a clubhouse and a café for their Kitties to socialize in. The story about the Kitties is all about fashion and glamour and maybe a little gossip but it’s all in good fun. All of the Kitties have eyes that blink and jewels in their hats and each Kitty has a back-story that matches her accessories.

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MARKETPLACE

EITECH Eitech introduces the Basic Series Motor Bike, which allows kids to build their own motorbikes. Kids can build while following the step-by-step instructions. The set helps them develop 3-D thinking and creativity. All of the pieces are made of high-quality steel. Kids can build up to two different heavy-duty construction vehicles using more than 1,470 steel parts with the Mega Bulldozer/Digger Set. The set features rubber tracks, so the finished machine can cover all terrains. It is designed to promote fine motor skills, creativity, and an understanding of building. Eitech also offers the Pterodactylus, with which kids can travel to prehistoric times while constructing a pterodactyl. More than 150 steel building pieces and tools are included in the set. With the VW Bulli 60th Anniversary Set, kids can recreate a classic. Made of polished steel, they can choose to build a VW bus or a flatbed truck using more than 880 parts. The Starter Series Aircraft is a construction set that features inPterodactylus terchangeable parts and tools.

ISCREAM Iscream introduces a new line of Color Me Pillows that kids can decorate themselves using six different fabric markers. The line features three styles, including Unicorn Color Me, Hearts Color Me, and Cupcake Color Me. New Bean Bags are squishy and soft bean bag chairs that come in bright colors with printed graphics. The fleece-covered chairs are filled with micro beads and measure 28 inches in diameter. Styles include Neon Fun, Tie Dye, Cupcakes, Basketball, and Happy Tears. Bean Bags


ASTRA MARKETPLACE & ACADEMY 2016

ANN WILLIAMS GROUP Rubber Band Game, from Ann Williams Group, is designed for two to eight players ages 8 and up. This brightly colored game of knock-down family fun features 12 numbered blocks, 250 rubber bands, and more than 20 ways to play. The Craft-tastic line will expand with new kits this year, including the I Love Fairies Kit, which includes eight fairy-themed projects, such as a magic wand, a flower crown, a fairy house, and a fairy dust necklace. The I Love Animals Kit includes eight animal-themed projects kids can make and share, including a cat mask, a bunny necklace, and forest friend garland.

SPIN-BALLS Spin-ballS, a modern version of poi that lights up using LEDs. It is a ball attached to a string that kids can rotate with both hands to improve flexibility, strength, and coordination. Poi originated on the island of New Zealand hundreds of years ago, and helps improve flexibility, dexterity, coordination, and strength in arms and hands. This toy is designed for kids ages 6 and up.

Spin-BallS


Specialty toys & gifts

How Play Works Sandbox@MIT explores ways research can help kids play better. by WENDY SMOLEN, senior vice president, Sandbox Events, and playpublisher, PlayScience RESEARCH HAS SHOWN THAT HAVING A playful learning environment is key to engaging kids, regardless of age or learning style. PlayScience’s annual Sandbox@MIT, themed The ROI of Play, looked at ways current research enables both big and small companies to create effective and fun learning experiences. Thought leaders in the business of play presented proven ways that play enhances learning, how to design and develop engaging products and experiences, and why we need to be mindful of the types of play we promote to attendees from more than 115 diverse companies. Play is how all kids learn both in and out of the classroom, but there’s no one-sizefits-all method. Technology has spurred the development of customized learning tools, as

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well as open-ended toys and games such as littleBits and Minecraft. Companies, such as Discovery Education, have created successful programs in schools using digital tools to empower both students and teachers. However, as technology becomes more prevalent in all aspects of kids’ lives, there are new questions and gaps that need to be addressed in the play research. Dr. J. Alison Bryant, co-CEO of PlayScience, and Dr. David Bickham, research scientist at Boston Children’s Hospital’s Center on Media and Child Health, are involved in studies that examine how different modes of play determine a child’s developmental outcome. They admit that research is frequently one-dimensional, testing a single factor of engagement, rather than seeing it in context.

According to Elizabeth Rood, Ed.D., vice president of Education Strategy at the Center for Childhood Creativity, IQ and spatial skills are traits that are twice as heritable as creativity. The environment in which play occurs is a huge factor in the developmental result. Researching kids’ and their parents’ play patterns and gathering data effectively also requires a multi-method approach. Bryant stressed the importance of assessing play from simultaneous viewpoints. Where, how, and with whom a child plays is as critical as with what he is playing. A well-rounded picture of how kids and families are engaging may include in-home observation, time-lapse photo analysis, and diaries parents keep on mobile devices. Bryant uses a PlayMatrix, which is an original fusion of content, context, audience, platform, form factor, and pedagogy. “We need to rethink our models of understanding play—and our approaches—so that we can use better insights when creating products and services that can have the greatest impact,” she says. Bickham’s current Project Genesis, #MorePlayToday, a collaboration with Hasbro, focuses on giving relevant information on play to parents, also considering the products and environments that have the most positive outcomes. One of the fundamental research gaps that the experts identified is actually defining what constitutes 21st century play. As digital play gains in importance, as well as in time spent, new questions arise. RJ Mical, head of games at Google, set forth the theory that computers, which were originally created for work, have now gotten more advanced because of play. He believes that people play because


they want to connect, which raises several important questions: Can digital play lead to the developmental advantages of traditional play? Do different types of digital play produce different effects? Do open-ended digital games replicate traditional free play? Neither expert had the answers to these questions, but they both acknowledged the need for further research in this area. The type of thinking that goes into creating a product is just as important as the academic research that propels the study of play forward. IDEO, a company that has built “design thinking” into its culture, creates solutions by bringing together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. The strategy allows people who aren’t formally trained as designers to use creative tools to explore a wide range of challenges. Basically, design thinking is a strategy to solve complex problems. It can be effectively used to explore any product in your wheelhouse. It has three components: 1. Inspiration: Define the problem. Look at what needs to be solved.

2. Ideation: Consider multiple solutions. We need to rethink our models of underJust as the PlayMatrix looks at play from difstanding play—and our approaches—so ferent perspectives, when that we can use better insights when crecreating a product, innovators ating products and services that can have need to look at solutions from the greatest impact.” various angles. Collaboration helps. Design thinking suggests that results are better when five IDEO team needed to promote active play in people work together on a problem for one a compelling way. An “I did it” moment and day, rather than when one person works for having kids show others how to play confive days. Ideation also takes time. It generfirmed the fun. ates ideas that need to be developed and Play motivates. It engages. It teaches. tested over and over again. It’s the way kids have always learned to Michelle Lee, digital kids lead at IDEO, make sense of the world, and a way parents described the design thinking used when can connect with their kids. As technology her team created a new app for Apple TV. infiltrates more aspects of play, our goal is The problem they tackled was turning the to promote the research and methodologies engagement of a passive medium (TV) into that make it work. But in the same way that a physical activity. Kids were tested in real we now look at play from multiple platforms, situations to figure out what worked. The the research behind play has to be just as remote and TV experiences were significantly multi-dimensional. » different from kids playing on an iPad. Trial and error were key. Just as play helps kids Wendy Smolen is the senior vice learn from their mistakes, designers had to be president of Sandbox Events and open to failure, too. playpublisher at PlayScience, a 3. Implementation: Move from project to global insights and strategy comprototype to product. IDEO has three rules pany that creates new consumer for prototyping: Make it rough, make it rapid, experiences in play, learning, and make it right. Defining what success looked entertainment. like was critical. The finished app from the

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Specialty Toys & Gifts

DONATING TO YOUR BOTTOM LINE Giving excess toy inventory to charity helps others and makes business sense. by GARY C. SMITH, president and CEO, National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources (NAEIR) BEING CHARITABLE AND BEING profitable do not have to be mutually exclusive—that’s what companies find when they turn excess inventory into donations that benefit charitable groups in their communities. Wholesalers, retailers, and distributors of toys face challenges when they look for the best way to move unprofitable stock. While they can discount or liquidate products, it hurts profits and their brand. Many savvy companies turn to product philanthropy—donating unwanted stock to charity. This gets unwanted inventory off the shelves, and also earns the company a healthy tax deduction. Companies that use a gifts-in-kind organization, which acts as a go-between for corporate product donations and nonprofit organizations, streamline the donation process. With a gifts-in-kind group, employees don’t have to screen charities to find the right fit because the organization does it for them. Using a Gifts-in-Kind Group First, a corporation contacts a gifts-in-kind organization about the excess product, and then completes paperwork to become a recognized donor. Then, it can contact the giftsin-kind organization whenever it wants to dispose of excess inventory. When member charities need items, they are able to browse through a catalog of donated products from member companies. The donor company receives proper tax documentation when they make their initial donation. Once the products have been distributed, the gifts-in-kind organization sends additional documentation to identify the specific charities that received their products. Surprisingly Big Benefits It’s no surprise that donations made to qualified charities are tax deductible. What may be surprising, however, is that if a company is a C Corp, it can receive a federal tax deduction equal to up to twice the cost of the donated products. According to IRC Section 170(e)(3), “Deductions are equal to the cost of the inventory donated, plus half the difference between the cost and fair market-selling price, not to exceed twice the cost.”

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Paula DeJaynes and Gary C. Smith participate in Airtex Design Group of Minneapolis’ stuffed animal donation.

For example, if your product costs $10 to produce and you sell it for $30, the difference is $20. Half of $20 is $10. So, use the formula: $10 (product cost) + $10 (half the difference) = $20 deduction. Since $20 does not exceed twice the product cost, it does not exceed the maximum allowable deduction. Compare this to when companies move inventory via online auctions or liquidation agents and, for most companies, it’s a much better deal. Plus, it’s a lot less stressful and labor intensive. Beyond the Bottom Line Aside from helping companies boost their bottom lines, product philanthropy also helps boost their image. Selling products at a discount devalues a company’s product and brand; however, donating products creates good will and elevates a company’s image. Yet, even the most motivated companies may have trouble finding time to give back to their communities. Gifts-in-kind organizations make that process easier, because they distribute products to charities, which in turn distribute them to people in need. Finally, donating products helps employees feel good about their workplace. When they see that that their company reaches out to help those in need, their company’s goodwill enhances how they feel about work. How to Get Started There are several gifts-in-kind organizations operating in the U.S., and, like anything, not all are created equal. Companies will want to choose one that is easy to work with

and has a roster of charities. It’s important to ask these questions: • What charities does the company serve? • Do my company’s products fit with what their member charities want? • Is the donation process streamlined? • Will they provide detailed records of donations and the charities that received them? • Are there any fees involved? Businesses will want to choose a gifts-in-kind group that does not charge fees to corporate donors. When to Start There is no “right” time to start using a gifts-in-kind group. But the sooner a business starts, the sooner it will reap the benefits. Donating excess inventory does more than just help trim a company’s tax bill; it also helps the company operate more profitably. Getting rid of excess inventory will free up space for high-performing products. It may even speed up order fulfillment, in turn, raising customer satisfaction. Finally, instead of leaving products to languish in warehouses, companies put them into the hands of people who really need them. It’s a great and easy way to make a difference in people’s lives. » Gary C. Smith is president and CEO of National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources (NAEIR), the largest gifts-in-kind organization in the U.S. To date, NAEIR has received donations of excess inventory from more than 8,000 U.S. corporations and redistributed more than $3 billion in products to nonprofits and schools.


Why Wouldn’t You Want to Reach Millions of Consumers During the Holiday Season? • Holiday Gift Guide in the

November issue of Family Circle magazine, read by nearly 16 million* consumers (*MRI Spring 2015)

• Extensive Online Presence A comprehensive companion website, toyinsider.com, features product reviews, demo videos, direct-to-retail links, and guest blogger contributions. • Widespread Media Coverage Laurie Schacht, the Toy Insider Mom and the Toy Insider Team, appeared in more than 250+ National and Major Market TV segments, along with hundreds of print, radio and online features. • Social Media Coverage Social media brand promotions on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more. toyinsider @thetoyinsider @thetoyinsider

To participate in the 11th Annual The Toy Insider™ contact: Jonathan Samet —(212) 575-4510 x 2321, jsamet@adventurepub.com Laurie Schacht — (212) 575-4510 x 2320, thetoyinsidermom@gmail.com www.toyinsider.com


AMERICAN GREETINGS ENTERTAINMENT American Greetings Entertainment’s Care Bears franchise will celebrate its 35th anniversary next year, and will introduce nostalgic lifestyle products with its partners. Land of Nod will launch a direct-to-retail program with artist-designed bedding and plush. Nordstrom will feature a plush, apparel, and accessories program for infant girls to tweens. Additional collaboration partners include Boy Meets Girl, Wildfox, Freshly Picked, and Ironfist for Dolls Kill. California Donuts will create an exclusive Care Bears donut at its flagship Koreatown location in Los Angeles. Supported with entertainment distributed to more than 450 million households and 50 languages worldwide, the Care Bears can now be seen on the Netflix original series Care Bears & Cousins. In addition to Care Bears, American Greetings’ Kooky comeback kid Madballs will gross-out a new generation with more crack-up, wacky fun. The Netflix original series Buddy Thunderstruck is a modern-day action-comedy. This stop-motion extravaganza follows the ridiculous adventures of a semi-truck driving dog named Buddy and his ferret mechanic, Darnell.

DISCOVERY KIDS Discovery Kids will continue to expand in North America through licensing deals in toys, games, apps, and apparel for kids ages 6 to 12. New science kits, arts and crafts, publishing, and toys will hit retail this year through licensees including Horizon Group, MerchSource, Sakar, Journey North, Parragon, and The Bridge Direct. Animal Planet Kids is part of one of the top animal brands on the planet that encourages consumers to celebrate and explore connections with the animal world. A 15-year partnership with Toys “R” Us in North America drives an Animal Planet toy line that features a 20-foot space at Toys “R” Us stores, which includes a space in the future flagship store in New Jersey. The line includes a full range of toys, including Big Foot, Yeti, and Animal Transport Helicopter.

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GLOBAL PRESCHOOL SENSATION Continues to Make a Splash in the US! New US Licensees Card Games ’Sunstache’ Sunglasses

Sound Books

Play Tents

Woven Throws

Plus new ranges from: www.peppapig.com Peppa Pig © Astley Baker Davies Ltd / Entertainment One UK Ltd 2003. All rights reserved.

16 © 20

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Toys from

coming Fall 2016 to specialty retailers!

www.benandholly.tv Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom © The Elf Factory Ltd / Entertainment One UK Ltd 2008. All rights reserved.

For licensing inquiries, contact jgrasso@entonegroup.com

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DREAMWORKS Continuing its evolution into a global branded entertainment company, DreamWorks Animation will showcase a franchise portfolio of new and classic properties for film, TV, and digital platforms. Trolls, scheduled for theatrical release on November 4, will be DreamWorks’ biggest and most expansive consumer products effort to date. This movie features the colorful, always-happy trolls, the comically pessimistic Bergens, and original music from Justin Timberlake. Hasbro is the master toy partner for the new film. Currently streaming on Netflix, the Dinotrux series brings kids a world of giant creatures that are half-dinosaur, half-construction vehicle. Current licensees include Mattel as the master toy partner and Little Brown Books for Young Readers for publishing. DreamWorks Animation will also highlight its upcoming Netflix series, Voltron, which debuts on June 10. The series tells the story Branch and Poppy, from of five unsuspecting teenagers transported from Earth into the midDreamworks dle of an intergalactic war to become pilots for robotic lions in the battle Animation’s Trolls to protect the universe from evil. They can unite to form the mighty warrior Voltron. Playmates Toys is signed on as master toy partner for the brand. DreamWorks Classics will focus on the global property Noddy, while AwesomenessTV, DreamWorks’ multi-platform media company, continues to produce short- and long-form content from more than 90,000 content creators.

SESAME WORKSHOP Cookie Monster Sun-Staches

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Sesame Street, the TV show that helps kids grow smarter, stronger, and kinder, gears its licensing program toward both the young and the young-at-heart. Earlier this year, Cookie Monster appeared in an Apple TV spot where he put Siri to use setting timers and playing music while he baked cookies. New clothing and accessory ranges from ABG, DiLascia, eWatch, Quiksilver, SG Footwear, Sun-Staches, and Trevco will launch in multiple regions worldwide. Sesame Workshop also partnered with Avocados From Mexico (AFM) on a few video spots. AFM enlisted chef Pati Jinich of Pati’s Mexican Table on PBS to meet Sesame Street’s Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Rosita, and share healthy benefits and fun facts about avocados. Kiddieland will produce foot-to-floor Sesame Street ride-ons, plush rockers, tricycles, and scooters. Playhut will produce play tents, bed tents, and action/game tents. Sesame Street has also collaborated for digital books from Scribd, digital music videos from Speakaboos, a vocabulary app from Tiggly, and temporary tattoos for kids and adults from Tattly.


TOP PRESCHOOL SERIES Brand-new content now in production, including music videos (2016), interstitials (2017) and more!

Master Toy Line Launches Fall 2016

Additional Categories Launching Fall 2016 Interactive website available now with games and apps launching throughout 2016

• Apparel • • Backpacks Bags • Lunch Boxes • • Games •

PJ Masks © Frog Box / Entertainment One UK Limited / Walt Disney EMEA Productions Limited 2014.

For licensing inquiries, contact jgrasso@entonegroup.com

Halloween Costumes Publishing Puzzles Sleepwear


LITTLEMISSMATCHED Founded in 2004, LittleMissMatched is dedicated to promoting girl empowerment and celebrating what it is to be a girl. Best known for fun and colorful mismatched socks that come three in a pack, LittleMissMatched does more than just socks. Today, LittleMissMatched is a girls’ lifestyle brand that spans many different product and entertainment categories and operates in several different channels of distribution, including retail, e-commerce, specialty, wholesale, licensing, and international. LittleMissMatched launched a line of bikes, licensed by Kent International, in the spring of 2013. The bikes are consistently ranked as the top-selling styles within the bike category. In addition, LittleMissMatched will re-launch its wholesale presence at Toys “R” Us this fall with the COLORize Series I sock line, which allows kids to color and customize a collection of socks. A special collection of fun sock gift sets and seamless leggings will also launch at Bed Bath & Beyond this holiday season, with Christina Sklavenitis Consulting further developing LittleMissMatched’s licensing and merchandising programs. COLORize Series I socks

THE JIM HENSON COMPANY The Jim Henson Company will launch a trio of new properties this year, including Word Party, Dot., and Splash and Bubbles, along with continuing licensing programs for Dinosaur Train—now in its fourth season on PBS Kids in the U.S.—and Fraggle Rock. Dinosaur Train’s new master toy partner, Jazwares, will debut new products at retail in the fall in the U.S. and select international markets. The line will feature figures, play sets, and plush. Other current licensees include Buy Seasons for party goods and California Costumes for Halloween costumes. The vocabulary-building show Word Party follows four baby animals as they sing, dance, and play. The series, which debuts on Netflix in June, invites kids to help teach the baby animals new words, learn new words themselves, and celebrate these achievements with a “Word Party.” Dot. is a new animated series based on tech expert and author Randi Zuckerberg’s debut picture book of the same name that targets girls ages 4 to 7. The series follows the inquisitive, exuberant, and tech-savvy Dot, who embarks on adventures to satisfy her imagination. Dot. will debut in the U.S. on Sprout in September. Splash and Bubbles is a new animated series that will debut this fall on PBS Kids in the U.S. and other platforms worldwide. Aimed at kids ages 4 and up, Splash and Bubbles follows Splash, a yellow fusilier fish, and his friend Bubbles, a mandarin dragonet, as they explore the ocean and discover otherworldly undersea habitats. Splash and Bubbles is co-produced with Herschend Enterprises. Fraggle Rock stars a cast of puppet creatures called Fraggles, who are quirky cave-dwellers who live in an underground world alongside their industrious geen neighbors, the Doozers, and a family of enormous Gorgs. The Jim Henson Company has signed new licensing partners in the U.S., including Super Impulse for novelties, Toy Factory for prize redemption, and Funko for collectibles. They join Zen Monkey Studios for apparel and gifts and Trevco for print on demand. Word Party

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SUNRIGHTS Sunrights Inc. and d-rights Inc. are working with Hasbro to relaunch the Beyblade franchise with the Beyblade Burst line. The new line will launch in North America this year, followed by a broader launch in most international markets next year. The Beyblade Burst toys feature a dynamic “burst” component. A Beyblade top explodes when an opposing Beyblade defeats it. The line also include stadiums and accessories for kids to customize their battles. Hasbro will also introduce a digital component in some markets. Beyblade Burst

ENTERTAINMENT ONE Entertainment One (eOne) introduces its PJ Masks property line for preschoolers. The series, which launched on Disney Junior in the U.S. last September, will roll out this year on the Disney Junior Network worldwide. Just Play signed on as a master global toy partner and a full licensing program will launch in the U.S. this fall, followed by an international consumer products rollout next year. Just in time for back-to-school season, the PJ Masks Lenticular Backpack, from Just Play, is made for kids ages 4 to 7. The backpack features durable double zippers, multiple pockets, front organizers, two side pockets to hold water bottles, and adjustable padded straps. Happy Threads will offer PJ Masks-inspired gear designed for kids ages 2 and up, including a toddler long-sleeve T-shirt that features a graphic of PJ Masks and the Baddies in action with a detachable cape. The Catboy Zip Hoodie will feature a built-in mask, 3-D cat ears, and a tail. Peppa Pig, one of the top-performing preschool properties worldwide, generated more than $1 billion in worldwide retail sales last year. With more than 700 licensees supplying products globally, Peppa Pig now has a retail presence in Australia, New Zealand, Spain, France, Greece, the U.S., Latin America, Russia, and Southeast Asia. Playhut provides two new tents to immerse fans in Peppa’s world. With the Peppa Pig Family Car, fans can play hide-and-seek in their favorite vehicle. The deluxe-sized Tree House provides a large area for kids to hide and play, as well as a tunnel port for them to crawl through. Animated series Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom, from the creators of Peppa Pig, rounds out eOne’s stable of preschool properties. The show is reaching new audiences across the globe as broadcast launches on-air in new markets this year. eOne has pan-European licensing rights to the new movie adaption of The BFG, which PJ Masks Lenticular Backpack, features the voice talents of Oscar-winning actor Mark Rylance in the title role. A growing roster of from Just Play licensees has signed on for the property across categories including apparel, games, and stationery. A full range of merchandise is poised to launch at retail stores across Europe in June.

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CARTOON NETWORK Cartoon Network’s fresh take on Ben 10 will center on a new animated series that re-introduces an energetic and fun-loving 10-year-old named Ben Tennyson. The series will kick off with the adventures of Ben, his cousin Gwen, and Grandpa Max as they travel the country during summer vacation. Playmates Toys will anchor the brand’s consumer products program, and serve as the master toy partner with a line of figures, play sets, and roleplay items slated to launch worldwide next fall. Cartoon Network launched products around the new The Powerpuff Girls series this year, with global master toy partner Spin Master releasing toys in key markets starting this fall. Recently green lit for a fifth season, Steven Universe tells the story of Steven—the proverbial “little brother” to the Crystal Gems—and three magical defenders that form a team to guard humanity. USAopoly signed on for games and puzzles, while Rubie’s Costume Co. and Funko will offer seasonal costumes and novelty toys, respectively. The Adventure Time series has more than 100 licensees globally, and has products in all categories and all channels of distribution. Jazwares is The Powerpuff Girls signed on to produce action figures, role-play, and plush toys, while Rubie’s is signed on for seasonal costumes for kids and adults. The 30-minute animated series Rick and Morty follows a sociopathic genius scientist who drags his timid grandson on dangerous adventures across the universe. The consumer launch will focus on buzz-building collaborations to create limited-edition products for fans, and a broader program for wider distribution at specialty.

MOOSE TOYS

Shoppies

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Moose Toys will launch a licensing program for its doll line, Shoppies, separate from the Shopkins merchandise program. New licensees for Shoppies include The Bridge Direct for construction toys and Disguise for Halloween costumes. The Licensing Shop will represent Shoppies in addition to Shopkins. Shoppies dolls launched last October, and the line expanded earlier this year. The line includes characters such as Jessicake, Popette, Bubbleisha, and Peppa-Mint. Featured webisodes and other entertainment will be announced shortly. The Shopkins U.S. licensed merchandise program is on track to reach $250 million in retail sales this year. New licensees on board include KOBA for live entertainment, Kurt S. Adler for holiday ornaments and décor, Pangea Brands for small electric appliances and cook/bake ware, and Wonder Forge for games.


THE WORLD OF ERIC CARLE Kids Preferred offers a wide range of innovative toys for The World of Eric Carle brand that encourage early developmental skills and learning for infants and toddlers. The World of Eric Carle Gardening collection, which launched at Toys “R” Us this spring, includes 14 gardening tools. Native Organics will launch a line of World of Eric Carle natural and non-toxic cleaning products that will be available in supermarkets and online this fall. Village Group will launch bubble bath, shampoo, body lotion, and gift sets in sculpted containers inspired by Carle’s artwork. The Very Hungry Caterpillar sells more than 7 million books each year. Apps inspired by the stories, and developed by licensee StoryToys, have topped iTunes charts in Japan, Germany, Australia, the UK, and the U.S. with more than 23 million downloads.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

GENIUS BRANDS INTERNATIONAL Genius Brands International (GBI) will introduce two properties to the global consumer products’ marketplace this year, including SpacePOP and Llama Llama. SpacePOP targets tween girls ages 8 to12 and offers a blend of music, fashion, beauty, friendship, and intergalactic adventures. The SpacePOP girls are five princesses fighting to vanquish Geela, who has taken over their planet and enslaved its inhabitants. SpacePOP will launch digitally through its YouTube channel and other platforms. MacMillan’s Imprint will launch a new book series starting with Not Your Average Princesses, a middle grade novel, with graphic novel inserts written by Erin Downing and illustrations by Jen Bartel. SpacePOP’s launch will draw support from GBI’s music-based apps, web series, linear TV exposure, potential live tour, and consumer product launches at retail nationwide this fall. SpacePOP GBI has also partnered with Llama Llama author Anna Dewdney and Penguin Young Readers to develop animated content and a line of licensed products, including toys, games, apparel, accessories, bedding, and healthy snacks and meals scheduled to launch this fall. GBI signed Kids Preferred LLC for a line of Llama Llama plush toys, puppets, and jack-in-the-boxes. Entertainment will launch digitally. New licensees include Hybrid for toddler’s apparel and Intimo for sleepwear for launch this fall.

92  THE TOY BOOK | MAY/JUNE 2016 | TOYBOOK.COM


Property Profile

“Our beloved underwater friends are back in a fun new toy line that brings the adventure from Disney∙Pixar’s Finding Dory to life. From Bandai’s Let’s Speak Whale toy that records your voice and plays it back in ‘whale,’ to mystery collectible figures from Funko, there are toys for fans of all ages to enjoy.” —Ratna Kirpal, vice president of licensing, Disney Pixar & Animation, Disney Consumer Products & Interactive Media

94  THE TOY BOOK | MaY/june 2016 | TOYBOOK.COM


property profile

1. 2.

3.

4.

1. INTERNATIONAL PLAYTHINGS will introduce four Aquabeads craft and bead sets. The Dory and Friends Set lets kids design characters from the movie, including Dory, Hank, and Destiny. When kids spray their patterns with water, the beads stick together. 2. IMPERIAL TOY makes a splash with the new Finding Dory Nemo and Dory Bubble Blasters. Kids can blow bubbles endlessly with Super Miracle Bubble Solution and a shellshaped dipping tray. 3. Kids can recreate movie scenes with Dory, Nemo, and Marlin with the Disney•Pixar Finding Dory Small Characters Robo Fish, from ZURU. When kids submerge the swimming fish underwater, they begin to move like real fish. The characters feature a “power save” mode to automatically switch off after one minute in the water. 4. With SPIN MASTER’s Finding Dory Magic Picture Search game, each player gets a dive “mask” that reveals hidden pictures on the game board. Players turn over a character card and then race to find that hidden character first. The game is designed for kids ages 3 and up. 5. The Disney•Pixar Finding Dory Sticker Trading Cards, from UPPER DECK, include 80 sticker cards featuring Dory and her friends. Each foil pack contains five sticker trading cards and each sticker back is part of a large Finding Dory puzzle. Upper Deck also offers 12 collectible Disney•Pixar Finding Dory Sticker Dog Tag Necklaces.

5.

TOYBOOK.COM | may/ June 2016 | THE TOY BOOK  95


Property Profile

6. 7.

6. Dory Wall Friends is an interactive light-up Dory to display on kids’ walls, from UNCLE MILTON. Kids can press the remote control button and watch as she lights up and says fun phrases. Dory Wall Friends can serve as a night-light with high and low brightness and an auto-shut-off feature at bedtime. 7. Finding Dory Bubble Science, from WONDER FORGE, lets kids explore the world of science with seven experiments. Kids follow the easy, step-by-step instructions to blow a bubble inside a bubble, create bubble sculptures, juggle a bubble, and more. 8. COLORFORMS will offer six products, including the Big Wall Playset. This set features a large Finding Dory sheet that sticks to the wall and 12 large, reusable Colorforms. 9. BANDAI lets kids speak whale just like Dory with Finding Dory Let’s Speak Whale. Dory records kids’ voices and then plays it back with various effects with the press of a button. Let’s Speak Whale is designed for kids ages 3 and up. The 10-inch Finding Dory Feature Plush speaks four phrases from the movie and comes in a variety of characters. As the master toy partner, Bandai will also offer a line of various products including Squigglefish, bath squirters, and Hatch ‘n Heroes. 10. Mash’Ems, from TECH 4 KIDS, are collectibles that kids can squish, mash, and stretch and are now available in Finding Dory characters so kids can bring home the movie fun.

8.

9.

Let's Speak Whale

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10-inch Feature Plush

10.


NEW COLLECTIBLES

STACK UP ADULT COLORING BOOKS »

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THE VOICE REACHING BOTH CONSUMER & TRADE SWEET SUITE

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Fall 2016


A LOOK INSIDE

’80s Toys Are Back and Totally Awesome! Sony Pictures Consumer Products Rides the Time Machine to Success THE 1980S WERE FILLED WITH FUN, FILMS, AND TV. THOSE WHO were lucky enough to grow up in the “neon” decade were able to play with toys from some of the most memorable characters of all time. Fortunately for today’s audiences, the resurgence of ’80s properties continues to steamroll ahead. Fan-favorite film and TV properties endure and Sony Pictures Consumer Products is among the companies riding high with the decade’s biggest brands, including Ghostbusters and The Smurfs. Open up your Trapper Keeper, put on your L.A. Gear, peg your jeans, fling on a slap bracelet, and take note of two of Sony Pictures Consumer Products’ retro properties that have been reimagined for new audiences.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

One of our favorite heroes of the ’80s is the great Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters. The ghost-busting play-pattern was a natural fit for toys, and there was a nice lineup from Kenner, Tyco, and others based on the animated TV show. Looking to get slimed, kids everywhere crossed the streams into retailers worldwide for the Proton Pack and Ecto-1, among others. From 1986 to 1991, an impressive toy line was released, and many of these items are highly sought after by collectors today. The Ghostbusters franchise continues to resonate with consumers across all demographics. Its logo remains one of the most recognizable elements of the brand, followed by Slimer, Stay Puft, the Ecto-1, and the Proton Packs. All of these elements have been carefully woven into the extensive merchandise program that is now taking the franchise’s original fans back to their childhoods. Sony has capitalized on the Ghostbusters excitement with a roster of more than 100 licensees for both the original film and the new movie, due in theaters July 15. In total, there are more

Ghostbusters Pop! Rides Ecto-1 with Jillian Holtzmann Vinyl Figure, from Funko

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Smurfs Brainy Mushroom House Playset, from Jakks Pacific

than 1,000 SKUs across all major categories, including digital and gaming, toys, apparel, and more, set to possess a whole new generation of fans. Mattel, the master toy partner, rolled out a toy line that includes an authentic electric proton backpack and blaster, action figures, an Ecto-1 vehicle, and blind bags with collectible mini figures. Lego has the license for construction toys, allowing fans to build their very own Ghostbusters Firehouse Headquarters. For the new movie, Activision will bring ghouls to life with a third-person action role-playing video game available for Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC, in which four people can play locally. NKOK’s radio-controlled vehicles are ready for action, complete with Slimer behind the wheel. Funko has signed on for vinyl collectible figurines and more for the classic and new programs. Ghostbusters merchandise for the new movie is slated to hit shelves just in time for the U.S. release this summer.

La, la, la, la, la, la; la, la, la, la, la!

Ghostbusters isn’t the only retro property being reignited by Sony. Originally introduced in 1958 with a comic book series by Peyo, The Smurfs became worldwide phenomenons and toy industry stars with the Hanna-Barbera cartoon series in the 1980s. The full-length, liveaction feature film and coinciding licensing program introduced The Smurfs to a new generation in 2011. The next installment of the franchise, Smurfs: The Lost Village, is a new, fully computer-animated feature film hitting theaters April 7, 2017. The new movie finds Smurfette and her brothers trekking through the uncharted Enchanted Forest to find a fabled village before the evil wizard Gargamel does. The movie-based licensing program currently features more than 20 partners across all major licensing categories including digital, gaming, apparel, accessories, and publishing. Jakks Pacific is back as master toy partner with a full line of figures, play sets, and much more. »


A LOOK INSIDE

ACTIVISION

MATTEL As master toy partner, Mattel’s line of action figures, vehicles, play sets, and role-play toys captures details of the film’s heroes and allows fans to create their own epic adventures. The Electronic Proton Backpack and Blaster gets fans ready to go ghost hunting. Kids can insert the included glow in-the-dark mini figure into the blaster and project its silhouette on the walls to see paranormal activity right before their eyes. The blaster also works with other mini glow-in-the-dark ghost figures, so kids can chase all the spooky specters in the film. Other figures are sold separately. The classic UNO game now features iconic characters from the 2016 Ghostbusters movie. Players race to get rid of all their cards by matching a card in their hand with the current card shown on top of the deck. Customizable cards deliver game-changing moments and help players defeat their opponents.

LEGO Fans can power up the proton packs and bust some ghosts at the two-story, 14-inch-tall Firehouse Headquarters from Lego. The set includes a containment unit, the lab, living quarters, nine minifigures, a Slimer figure, and more. It comes with more than 4,600 pieces in all. The set is designed for fans ages 16 and up.

The Ghostbusters game is a third-person action role-playing game designed for one to four players. As rookie Ghostbusters, players can level up their characters’ gear and abilities by tackling objectives, defeating ghastly creatures, and discovering hidden collectibles. The game is available for Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC.

NKOK

NKOK offers the RadioControlled Ecto-1, complete with Slimer behind the wheel.

RUNNING PRESS

Running Press’ Ghostbusters Collectible Kit includes a mini replica of the ghost-debilitating proton pack and wand. Complete with light and sound features, this gadget allows aspiring Ghostbusters to light ‘em up and blast away. The kit also includes full-color stickers.

TOYBOOK.COM | May/June 2016 | THE TOY BOOK  99


Toys & TV

THE EVOLUTION OF

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES by STUART FISCHER IN 1984, PETER LAIRD AND KEVIN Eastman introduced the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) as a large, black-and-white comic book. With limited resources, the pair hoped that good word-of-mouth would generate a solid fan base so they could publish new issues each month and gain respectable sales. Needless to say, their wish came true. More than three decades since its inception, the pizza-loving, crime-fighting turtles have gone beyond the pages of comic books and launched into TV shows, feature films, and a full-blown licensing program.

The TMNT prove how multiple industries can come together, both on the creative side of the property and on the marketing side surrounding the property, to create a new phenomenon. TMNT had a pretty good debut for a comic book published by the creators themselves for one key reason: it was different. It featured four human-like turtle hybrids who were terrific martial artists living in the sewer and taking direction from a human-like rat hybrid who was also an intellectual leader. Each Turtle was unique, with a personality all

his own, and they all loved to fight crime. This offbeat creation got the attention of Mark Freedman, president of Surge Licensing, who saw expanded potential in this comic. Freedman signed Laird, Eastman, and their company Mirage Productions, and began to represent them to the licensing community. A few small deals were made with a few manufacturers, including a new comic book publisher that published reprints of the original black-and-white comics, further expanding the Turtles’ exposure. Then, Freedman struck a deal with California-based indepen-

»

TURTLE TIMELINE:

PLAYMATES TOYS’ LEONARDO ACTION FIGURES THROUGH THE DECADES

1988

The original basic Leonardo figure released in 1988 was inspired by the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV show from 1988.

100  THE TOY BOOK | May/June 2016 | TOYBOOK.COM

1992

Playmates’ Movie Star Leonardo figure was inspired by the film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.

2003

Original Re-Launch Leo was based on the second animated TV series, which premiered in February 2003 on The Fox Box (Fox network).


Toys & TV dent toy company Playmates to produce a line of toys that would hit the market in 1988. At the same time, both Surge Licensing and Playmates struck a deal in late 1987 with Sachs Family Entertainment and Murakami, Wolf, Swenson Films (MWS) to create a five-part animated mini-series based on the original comic book. The series would coincide with the introduction of the Playmates toy line. By 1989, the TMNT property had already become a big success. The toys were selling well, the TV series aired five days a week in the fall of 1988, and licensing deals were pouring in, for everything from T-shirts to coloring books. Plus, the comic books were selling so well that three different comic book publishers could hardly keep up with the demand. In 1990, the first TMNT feature film

released from Golden Harvest Films and New Line Cinema. The film grossed more than $200 million in the U.S. and Canada, and more than $200 million through worldwide distribution, paving the way for sequel films and massive home entertainment sales. That same year, the Playmates toy line generated more than $500 million in sales. After additional feature films and another animated series, the TMNT brand was sold to Nickelodeon, which planned a full brand relaunch in 2012, leading with a new CGI-animated series, now airing its fourth season. The Turtles returned to the big screen in 2014 with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a 3-D action-comedy adventure that earned more than $493 million worldwide. A sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, will hit theaters in June, accompanied by a full toy line from Playmates.

TMNT proved that comic books provide wonderful source material for not only movies and TV, but also for toys and other consumer products, and that it’s not just the old classic superheroes that have potential for greatness. Lesser-known creative properties developed from the minds of independent artists are worth pursuing. These characters have achieved a great deal for more than three decades, and property owner Nickelodeon will pull out all of the stops to ensure their relevance to future generations. » Stuart Fischer previously worked at Universal Studios and Hanna-Barbera Productions. Fischer has written books including Kids’ TV: The First 25 Years and The Hanna-Barbera Story: The Life and Times of TV’s Greatest Animation Studio.

2016

2012

Nickelodeon re-launched the TMNT brand in 2012 with a new CGI-animated TV series. The basic action figures featured more than 12 points of articulation and were the most highly detailed figures ever made.

Playmates Toys launched a new collection of products inspired by the upcoming film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, set to hit theaters on June 3. The 5-inch basic action figures are highly detailed, fully poseable, and uniquely sculpted to capture the personalities and distinctive appearance of each Turtle.

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GAME CHANGER WHY TOY COMPANIES ARE CONSOLIDATING

by BRIAN LEVIN, vice president, Intrepid Investment Bankers; head of the Toys & Giftware practice TOYMAKERS ARE KNOWN FOR THEIR creativity, innovation, and ability to connect families, but did you know that many toymakers are also family-founded and family-owned? Toy industry giants such as Lego, Hasbro, and Mattel are—or were at one point—family-owned businesses. Each started with a vision and a great deal of entrepreneurial drive, and blossomed into the multi-national corporations that are executing the large mergers and acquisitions (M&A) that we see in the industry today. TECH TOY CRAZE The recently rumored Mattel-Hasbro mega-merger would have seismic effects on the toy industry as a whole, but a deal of such magnitude would be nearly impossible to consummate for a variety of reasons, including regulatory and anti-trust concerns. Despite the rumblings, both companies have continued to roll up other smaller players in the industry, turning their focus to “modern toys.” Recently, Mattel acquired Fuhu Inc., a developer of high-technology products for children and families, and Sproutling Inc., a maker of smart technology products for parents and families. These deals show that drones, voice-controlled robots, and appbased toys are gaining market share from traditional physical play products. These innovative toys are providing children with an engaging play experience that teaches them about engineering, coding, and problem-solving. Other evidence that innovative tech

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toys are a driving force in the market is the recent $72 million acquisition of LeapFrog Enterprises by the world leader in electronic educational toys, VTech Holdings. LeapFrog, once a Wall Street darling reaching a market capitalization of $2.5 billion at its peak, had recently fallen on hard times due to stiff competition in the electronic learning devices segment and less than stellar product launches. The acquisition will help VTech leverage the North American market where LeapFrog has consumer recognition. It will also help VTech offer a broader range of children’s educational technology toys, such as gaming consoles, smartwatches, and tablets. We expect to continue to see a large M&A appetite for these modern toy companies for the foreseeable future. Other recent noteworthy acquisitions of iconic businesses and brands include Cardinal Industries, a leading maker of puzzles and games, and the Etch A Sketch and Doodle Sketch brands by Spin Master. In addition, Ravensburger acquired BRIO, a manufacturer of wooden train sets. THE RISE OF M&A These acquisitions reflect two strong trends in the market: First, tech toys are attracting strong interest in the educational segment, and second, deal volume in 2015 increased 25 percent compared to 2014, with public company valuation multiples in 2015 exceeding the industry average during the prior five-year period. We believe that M&A activity will continue this year as toymakers

continue to consolidate in order to compete. ACQUISITION PRESSURE When evaluating acquisition opportunities, strategic players are looking for both growth and complementary expertise. Strong public market valuations have put pressure on companies to deliver growth, and many are seeking acquisitions to deliver that growth. We are seeing buyers that are looking to acquire companies in specific niches that provide them access to new markets, areas of expertise, or the ability to penetrate deeper into existing channels. In addition, key retail partners are increasingly looking to reduce the number of companies they are buying from, which, in turn, forces further consolidation. Some independents fear that they may be left behind if they do not pursue a transaction. With acquisition pressure mounting from both buyers and sellers, we expect the toy industry to remain an active playground for M&A in 2016. » Brian Levin has nearly a decade of experience focusing on mergers and acquisitions and leverage finance. His selected transaction experience includes the sale of substantially all of Wild Planet Entertainment Inc.’s assets to Spin Master Ltd. To learn more about M&A transactions, valuation trends, and other newsworthy items relevant to companies and investors in the toys and giftware space, contact Intrepid Investment Bankers at (310) 478-9000.


compliance & Regulations

A NEW AGE OF RESPONSIBLE SOURCING TOOLS FOR TOYS ICTI CARE’s Committed Brands PLUS Program

by MARK ROBERTSON, director of communications and stakeholder relations, ICTI CARE Foundation RESPONSIBLE SOURCING IN THE TOY industry has reached an inflection point. Consumers want their favorite toy brands to act responsibly and source toys from factories with high ethical and labor standards. Expectations among regulators, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), employees, and investors are rising. A raft of recent legislation and global standards require that toy companies address key ethical issues in their supply chain. Whether a company is a small independent toy company or a global toy brand, being a company that executes high ethical standards in its supply chain creates opportunities to protect and enhance its brand. BUILDING CONSUMER TRUST WITH RESPONSIBLE SOURCING It can take many years to build consumer loyalty, which is also easily damaged. Consumers expect toy brands and retailers to behave in a responsible manner and be good corporate citizens. Part of this means sourcing from factories that comply with local laws and internationally recognized principles, guidelines, and standards. In previous years, there have been many cases where a brand’s reputation became damaged due to negative activities or controversies that took place somewhere in the supply chain. When a company engages in responsible sourcing, it shows commitment to respect human rights, the environment, the community, and the supply chain. Responsible sourcing brings various benefits, such as cost savings, increased worker retention and productivity, company reputation, compliance with the law, and competitive advantage. As the ethical supply chain program for the toy industry, ICTI CARE has a long history of helping toy companies achieve their responsible sourcing aims. ICTI CARE brings clarity on ethical supply chain issues, offering toy companies a vision and clear roadmap of

104  THE TOY BOOK | May/June 2016 | TOYBOOK.COM

how responsible sourcing can work for them. More than 1,500 toy brands and retailers across North America, Europe, and Asia now pledge to source from ICTI CARE Certified factories. While it’s an impressive start, ICTI CARE hopes to enable thousands of more toy brands and retailers to recognize the multiple benefits of responsible sourcing. CHOOSING ICTI CARE’S COMMITTED BRANDS PLUS PROGRAM Committed Brands PLUS is a new, simple, cost-effective, and efficient responsible sourcing solution for toy companies that provides tools to show how their supply chain performs. Specifically, it monitors toy factories and manages risks, identifies opportunities for improvement, and reports on progress. Joining ICTI CARE’s Committed Brands PLUS program is a demonstration of commitment and leadership on responsible sourcing. The service is flexible, scalable, and priced to be accessible to companies of all sizes. Committed Brand PLUS addresses the root causes of ethical sourcing issues with the following key features: • Complimentary training for factories that results in continuous improvements • Certifications that will mean no major non-compliances for buyers to resolve • A Special Investigations team responds to risks at factories • Access to investigative reports and enhanced support tackling critical issues • Stakeholder and NGO engagement The Committed Brands PLUS program offers exclusive access to the advanced ICPS Responsible Sourcing Platform, which is an easy-to-use, powerful online tool that offers businesses of all sizes everything they need to transform their supply chain management. ICTI CARE’s leading certification, auditing, and factory capability programs are specifically designed to give toy brands and retailers

confidence that supply chain standards are being met in key areas, such as labor standards, governance, health and safety, along with a host of other ethical issues of concern to them and their stakeholders. Joining ICTI CARE’s Committed Brands PLUS Program equips a company with leading responsible sourcing tools and technology to manage risk and protect reputation, and provides an opportunity to support work that improves conditions for workers in the global toy industry supply chain. By introducing clarity, simplicity, and affordability into responsible sourcing, ICTI CARE hopes to encourage many more companies to join Committed Brands PLUS. It will continue to collaborate with organizations across the board and develop tools to help toy companies go further in achieving their responsible sourcing ambitions. Further information is available at www. icti-care.org. » Mark Robertson has more than 15 years of experience with sustainability. He leads on global communications and stakeholder outreach at ICTI CARE Foundation, and is passionate about sustainability. t


INDUSTRY MARKETPLACE

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: murraybass@playtimesales.com lensoyka@playtimesales.com carolleeman@playtimesales.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 and TJ Maxx, • N.Y. METRO…N.Y. City and New Jersey. Accounts… Toys R Us and their DOTCOM and Global Divisions, Xmas Tree Shops, Shepher Distributors, Burlington Coat Factory, Buy Buy Baby, Marlon Creations, Party City, National Wholesale, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Steven’s Intl., TRU Express and NY area Supermarket Chains. • MID-LANTIC…Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Western Ohio. Accounts…Rite Aid Drug, Group Sales, Boscov’s, Omni Global, 5 Below, Dollar Tree, Variety Wholesale and Big Lots. • K mart USA // JC Penney Catalog // Universal Studios Orlando // Gordman’s // Target and Walmart • CANADA…Walmart, Toys R Us, Canadian Tire and Costco • CHINA…We maintain a full time Hong Kong sourcing Office We employ a staff of 5 toy sales specialists. Our contact information is listed on our above shown letterhead. We welcome your inquiries.

®

To place a classified ad, please contact Bill Reese 212-575-4510 x2322 breese@adventurepub.com

TOYBOOK.COM | May/June 2016 | THE TOY BOOK  105


FLASHBACK

FLASHBAC TOP SELLING

The

TV PROMOTED

»

1

1 2 BATMAN FIGURES SKY DANCERS 3 4 sparkle beach barbie Polly pocket 5 6 7 songbird barbie gak 8 9 spider-man figures olympic barbie 10 STAR WARS FIGURES

MAY/JUNE 1996

Saban’s Samurai Pizza Cats is a new 52-episode animated series about heroic cats who double as samurai warriors and pizza parlor owners. The company is also licensing several other new shows, including Bureau of Alien Defenders and Saban’s Beetleborgs.

HASBRO

HASBRO

»

2

Five items join Learning Curve Toys’ Robotix lineup, which is in its second year. The motorized, modular building system’s new introductions include three starter sets featuring components not found in any other set; a Robot Computer Set; and a life-size, build-it-yourself Robot Commander. The Robot Commander stands 5 feet tall and can wave its hand, open and close its mouth, and move the visor above its eyes using five motors.

lewis galoob toys

MATTEL

mattel

cabbage patch bathtime baby mattel

mattel

mattel

mattel

106  THE TOY BOOK | MAY/JUNE 2016 | TOYBOOK.COM

3 »

toy biz

Licensees are quick to grab the manufacturing rights to Bananas in Pajamas in an attempt to capture the attention of the show’s coveted weekday morning audience of 2 to 5-year-olds. The Bananas in Pajamas 6-inch figure assortment, from TOMY, features all the characters from Cuddles Avenue, including Morgan, Amy, B1, B2, Rat in a Hat, and Lulu.


May/June 2016  

Many of us are traveling to Denver for the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA’s) Marketplace & Academy trade show, and in...

May/June 2016  

Many of us are traveling to Denver for the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA’s) Marketplace & Academy trade show, and in...