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
TOYBOOK.COM | MAY/JUNE 2016 | THE TOY BOOK 29
Many of us are traveling to Denver for the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA’s) Marketplace & Academy trade show, and in...