Vol. 30, No. 4
License to Build
s l l o D
he construction play pattern has always allowed kids to create buildable worlds and adventures straight from their imaginations. But with a recent surge of licensed toys entering the category, kids are able to build more and more familiar worlds based on their favorite existing properties. According to The NPD Group, dollar sales of licensed building sets grew by 6 percent from 2011 to 2013.
continued on page 10
Mega Bloks SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Band Figure Pack
B OA RD
The Golden Age of Games
Multiculturalism at Play
5 Games Trends
Construction Toy Showcase
From top to bottom: Doc McStuffins Walk â€™n Talk Doc Mobile Doll, from Just Play; Lalaloopsy Girls, from MGA Entertainment; Monster High Inner Monster Feature Assortment, from Mattel; Dora & Friends Talking Dora and Smartphone, from Fisher-Price; The Beatrix Girls London Collection, from PopStar Club
in this issue
License to Build
The construction aisle is experiencing a surge in licensed building sets.
The Big Toy Book’s Sweet Suite ’14 Stat Shot
The U.S. Fashion Doll Market
Lutz Muller takes an in-depth look at the doll industry, and points to a few rising stars.
Michael Araten, president and CEO of K’NEX, offers a tour of the company’s manufacturing facility.
Flashback: July/August 1994
The Golden Age of Board Games
With more options on shelves than ever before, the games category undergoes exciting changes.
Specialty Toys & Gifts NEWS S3
P UBLISHER Jonathan Samet firstname.lastname@example.org E DITOR IN C HIEF Jackie Breyer email@example.com S ENIOR E DITORS Marissa DiBartolo firstname.lastname@example.org Ali Mierzejewski email@example.com A SSOCIATE E DITORS Christine Duhaime firstname.lastname@example.org
E DITORIAL A SSISTANT Deanna Atkins email@example.com E DITORIAL I NTERNS Emily Kamen Magdalene Michalik Alexi Valesquez P RODUCTION D IRECTOR Anthony K. Guardiola firstname.lastname@example.org C ONTROLLER /O FFICE M ANAGER Lori Rubin email@example.com
ASTRA’S INSIGHTS S2
MULTICULTURALISM AT PLAY S4
5 TRENDS IN GAMES S8
Volume 30, Number 4 www.toybook.com
Phil Guie firstname.lastname@example.org
International Toy Industry: China Toy Expo
Published by Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.®
Four specialty doll companies take part in a discussion about trends in multicultural dolls.
CONSTRUCTION TOYS SHOWCASE S12
U.S. Corporate Headquarters Laurie Schacht, President email@example.com
Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® 307 Seventh Ave., #1601 New York, NY 10001 Phone: (212) 575-4510 Fax: (212) 575-4521
Member, International Toy Magazine Association
STAYING and Playing AHEAD OF THE GAME
ummer is almost over, and I have no idea where the time went. Retailers are reset for back-to-school (and are likely pretty cleaned out by the time you read this), and I’ve even spied Halloween and Thanksgiving (!) products already on shelves. Still, it’s a balmy 84 degrees here in New York, and I’m not eager to rush into the holidays just yet. However, in the world of publishing—much like retail— we are always looking ahead. We are putting the finishing touches on our Toy Insider holiday gift guide for consumers, which will showcase our recommendations for consumer toy and gift purchases straight through Black Friday and right into the new year. Consumers might find it hard to believe that we make these decisions while sitting in our shorts and T-shirts in the air conditioning. We are also looking ahead to the upcoming Fall Toy Preview in Dallas in October. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this show, which is run by the Toy Industry Association (TIA). The TIA works hard to make this show successful, but what the industry wants—strongly enough that manufacturers will continue to exhibit and buyers will continue to attend—in a long-lead trade show is not always abundantly clear. This year’s show will feature a variety of booth spaces to accommodate both private appointments and walk-in business, according to the TIA. New open booth displays have been designed to enable exhibitors to highlight items from their 2015 lines and encourage buyers to discover new products and suppliers. Only time will tell if this will help take the show in the right direction. As we contemplate the future of the toy industry’s trade shows and daydream about a prosperous holiday season, consider that summertime may be slow, but it’s not a total loss; it is what you make of it. Since sales are slower, it’s a
4 • THE TOY BOOK
Jackie Breyer editor-in-chief
great time to take stock of your marketing and merchandising plans for the holidays. It’s also the perfect time to build a rapport with your customers. Offer special in-store events and play days. Be a part of community events to help build recognition. Give consumers something to remember now, and they’ll be back later for holiday shopping. Please enjoy this issue of The Toy Book, featuring an inside look at the dolls, games, and construction categories. And please email me with your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you! ■
“We’re having a block party!” JULY/AUGUST 2014
he Big Toy Book’s fifth annual Sweet Suite event on July 17 was the Biggest
Night of Play. Nearly 400 influential bloggers from around the country and nearly 100 members of traditional media connected with more than 50 of the
hottest toy brands at Location 05 in New York City for an evening of fun. Sweet Suite kicked off Blogger Bash, a two-day conference for experienced bloggers featuring 10 themed parties. At the event, exciting lounge areas were created where bloggers enjoyed one-on-one time with some of the hottest kids’ brands and products. The night gave bloggers a chance to meet old and new friends while they sipped Lemonhead martinis and Zipz premium wine and ate delicious sweet treats. They also got hands-on experience with new products, including
LeapFrog’s Leap TV, and new Disney Infinity 2.0 characters from Disney Interactive. Plus, they met Spin Master’s Boomer, Imperial Toy’s Lum Lums, and the newest Lalaloopsy dolls from MGA Entertainment. Enormous swag boxes were shipped directly to attendees’ homes after the event, sparking a resurgance in social media impressions. The night came to a close with an after party hosted by Angry Birds Stella, where bloggers met the first female Angry Bird and her friends, unwound with delicious signature cocktails, and feasted on New York City-themed fare. Sweet
LiveStream, so bloggers could see the action and even win prizes from home. Social media was abuzz with more than 40 million Twitter impressions and more than 1,400 unique Instagram photos. The Big Toy Book will host its third holiday event on October 29 at the Hearst building in New York City in partnership with the Toy Insider and Woman’s Day. This Biggest Day of Play will give 120 influential bloggers from Philadelphia to Boston the opportunity to connect with brands as the holiday season approaches. Plans are already underway for next year’s sixth annual Sweet Suite event, with early bird sponsorship packages available. If you’re interested in learning more about these events, contact Laurie Schacht at email@example.com.
THE TOY BOOK •
S TAT S HOT
Top Properties: January 2014-June 2014 Ranked on Dollar Sales
TOP 5 PROPERTIES: BUILDING SETS
TOP 10 PROPERTIES OVERALL 1 Disney Princess 2 Barbie 3 Nerf 4 Little Tikes 5 Star Wars 6 Hot Wheels 7 TMNT 8 Pokémon 9 Lego City 10 Disney Frozen
1 2 3 4 5
Lego Lego Lego Lego Lego
TOP 5 PROPERTIES: GAMES/PUZZLES
TOP 5 PROPERTIES: DOLLS
City Star Wars The Movie Super Heroes Friends
1 2 3 4 5
Barbie Disney Frozen Disney Princess Monster High My Little Pony
1 Pokémon 2 Magic: The Gathering 3 Yu-Gi-Oh 4 Monopoly 5 UNO
Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Retail Tracking Service, January 2014 - June 2014
Percent of Dollar Sales: Age and Gender of Recipient January 2013-December 2013
Building sets sales to girls increased by almost 7 share points in three years. The increase has come mostly in the 6- to 8-yearold age group, which was just 2 percent of the overall building set market in 2011. Sales of Monster High & Ever After High have skewed doll sales slightly older in the last three years, most evident among girls ages 9 to 11. This segment gained more than 2 share percentage points since 2011. Within the games/puzzles category, boys ages 9 to 11 lost 4 share percentage points since 2011. Tablets/smart devices may be impacting older boys’ time spent with games/puzzles.
6 • THE TOY BOOK
Total Male 0-2 3-5 6-8 9-11 12-17 18-34 35+ Female 0-2 3-5 6-8 9-11 12-17 18-34 35+
100 82 5 19 26 22 4 3 2 18 2 4 8 3 1 0 0
100 4 1 1 1 0 0 0 96 13 37 28 14 2 1 2
Games/Puzzles 100 56 5 18 12 6 5 5 4 44 5 12 11 5 3 4 4
Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Consumer Tracking Service, January 2013 - December 2013
Industry GOLIATH GAMES ACQUIRES PRESSMAN TOY Goliath Games has acquired Pressman Toy, a move that supports Goliath’s goal of creating global brands. Goliath now shares a number of game brands with Pressman, including Rummikub and TriOminos. Goliath will look to use elements of its European marketing campaign for Tri-Ominos in North America. In May, Goliath also made a strategic investment in Crown & Andrews, an Australia-based manufacturer of toys, puzzles, and games.
NOMINATION PERIOD OPENS FOR TOY OF THE YEAR AWARDS BALLOT Beginning on September 1, toy companies, inventors, and retailers will have the opportunity to nominate outstanding toys, games, and properties for consideration on next year’s Toy of the Year Awards (TOTY) ballot. The nomination period will close on October 10, and the Toy of the Year Awards ceremony, hosted by the Toy Industry Association, will be held on February 13 in New York City. More information is available at www.toyassociation.org/toty, and questions may be directed to Jackie Retzer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get the latest toy industry news delivered straight to your inbox each week for free! Subscribe to The Toy Book’s Toy Report. Send an email request to email@example.com, and add that address to your address book to ensure delivery. For up-to-the-minute news, follow The Toy Book on Twitter: twitter.com/ToyBook, and like The Toy Book on Facebook: facebook.com/TheToyBook. Visit our blog at www.toybook.com.
THE TOY BOOK • 7
Toy Industry Association
& CLASSIC TOYS HELP
Bridge the Gap BETWEEN
by Kristin Morency Goldman, communications specialist, Toy Industry Association
rom Strawberry Shortcake and Hello Kitty to LiteBrite and basic wind-up toys, classic playthings and retro characters seem to be taking over the toy aisle. First identified by the Toy Industry Association (TIA) as an industry trend in 2013 (and gaining even more momentum this year), nostalgic toys and games bring kids, parents, and grandparents together in reminiscent fun. At TIA, we were curious to explore how the reappearance of these tried-and-true products and brands influence play—specifically, intergenerational play—so we posed the question to toy and child development experts across a range of disciplines. Here’s what they had to say:
According to Susan V. Bosak, educator, author, and chair of an international social innovation group called The Legacy Project, one-on-one personal time with mature
BENEFITS OF FAMILY PLAY Whether you’re 6 or 60 years old, play is an enriching activity and when younger and older generations play together, the benefits are even greater! Playing together as a multigenerational family: 1. Strengthens bonds 2. Builds shared memories 3. Fosters mutual respect and learning 4. Reduces stress for both parents and kids 5. Develops skills, coordination, and keeps everyone sharp and alert
8 • THE TOY BOOK
s n o i t a r e n Ge
adults is highly beneficial for children, who often get “too much peer socialization [and] too much mediated contact through computers and texting.” Spending time with older adults allows children to build self-confidence, discover their roots and history, and develop “a sense of continuity and perspective,” says Bosak. Parents and grandparents reap great benefits from playing with children, too. “Active, involved older adults with close intergenerational connections consistently report much less depression, better physical health, and higher degrees of life satisfaction,” says Bosak. “They tend to be happier with their present life and more hopeful for the future.” Parents today are generally eager to connect with their kids and spend quality time together as a family, says Sharyn Timerman, a child development specialist in Montreal, Canada. “There is a lot more education available [than in previous decades] and both parents and grandparents are being encouraged to participate on a more interactive level.” Play, while inherently fun, is also an integral part of the parenting process. “There are so many facets to building a relationship with one’s children. They are based on rules and boundaries, health and safety, and another component would be play,” says Timerman. “Through play there are many ‘teachable moments.’” Grandparents and other older relatives who are not primary caregivers make great playmates, too, because “the discipline element is not usually the focus,” says Timerman. Playing with a grandparent who is frail or hard of hearing may arouse empathy in children and teach them how to
adapt to meet the needs of a loved one. It’s also a great opportunity for older generations to talk about their own childhood memories and share lessons learned through life experiences.
Fun for All Ages
According to Dr. Scott Eberle, vice president for play studies at The Strong and editor of the American Journal of Play, engaging in unstructured play is doubly important these days, thanks to a rise in sports and other organized activities for children that often “turn parents into spectators and kids into aspiring professionals.” “Traditional toys that draw from skills that generations share or enjoy developing, such as Frisbee, will appeal to wide ranges, as well as [retro] toys like Silly Putty, the Magic 8 Ball, or the Ouija Board,” says Eberle. Other great options include open-ended toys, such as soap bubbles and 3-D puzzles; toys that invite “kibitzing,” such as jigsaw puzzles or construction toys; and classic games, such as checkers or chess.
Open-ended and classic toys are particularly conducive to intergenerational play because they tend to be engaging and appropriate for all ages. On the other hand, toys that carry complex back stories can become obstacles to getting parents involved in playing with their children, says Eberle. “These [toys] largely exclude parents who haven’t the time or the inclination to master the pantheon of characters and their interrelationships.” Timerman agrees that classic forms of play are paramount to bringing kids and adults together. Simple activities such as kicking around a soccer ball, playing outdoors with bug catchers, or simply enjoying a pajama day offer fun and enriching ways to connect as a family. ■ Toymakers and retailers are invited to check TIA’s consumer-facing website—www.ToyInfo.org—for free play advice and resources that can be shared with parents and caregivers. Additional information about toy trends and other data can be found in the “Industry Facts” section at www.ToyAssociation.org.
TIA’S PLAY TIPS FOR PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS (from “All About PlAy” At www.toyInfo.org) tIP 1: Choose toys thAt Are good for everyone’s Ages And skIll levels. that may mean family games, toys that are suitable for a range of ages, or playthings that don’t have rules and encourage imaginative, open-ended play.
tIP 2: be reAlIstIC About tolerAnCe levels. when you’re deciding what play activity to do, think about your grandkids’ ages and attention spans, as well as how much mess and noise you can actually stand.
tIP 3: don’t be too ConCerned About fInIshIng the ACtIvIty. remember, this is about spending time with each other and having fun.
tIP 4: loosen uP. If your grandkids transform a traditional activity into a new kind of game, go with it! you don’t always have to follow the rules (as long as it’s safe and appropriate, of course).
tIP 5: thInk About who should leAd the ACtIvIty. even though you’re the adult, you don’t always need to hold the reins! letting the kids direct the play can help them foster confidence, leadership skills, and problem-solving abilities.
tIP 6: PlAn for more ACtIvItIes thAn you thInk you’ll need. kids’ short attention spans may mean you’ll go through more games than expected. And if you don’t get to them all, you can always save those ideas for another day!
THE TOY BOOK •
Familiar properties fill up the shelves of the construction aisle.
by Ali Mierzejewski
he construction play pattern has always allowed kids novelty toys), McFarlane says that the company is taking this to create buildable worlds and adventures straight step confidently. The company designed The Walking Dead from their imaginations. But with a recent surge of li- construction products with blocks that are compatible with censed toys entering the category, kids are able to build more other construction bricks on the market, but with detailed and more familiar worlds based on their favorite existing prop- skins covering them. The result is finished products that don’t erties. According to The NPD Group, dollar sales of licensed look like brick constructions—they look like items you could building sets grew by 6 percent from 2011 to 2013. As the display on the shelf, which is great for the older demographic world becomes more multi-media driven, licensed properties that makes up The Walking Dead’s viewing audience. As far as are deeply integrated into kids’ making his construction aisle daily lives. Established building debut with a licensed property inMcFarlane Toys pays close attention to detail with its The Walking Dead-themed construction line. toy companies, as well as those stead of a proprietary one, Mclooking to get their feet wet in Farlane says this may prove to be the category, are jumping on the an easier entrance. bandwagon with characters and “For a small company, it’s a environments that are already a huge benefit,” he says. “If you go staple among kids—and even in with an unknown [brand], then collectors. you have to educate the public on what it is—and now you have a A Buildable Debut big marketing spend. With a big This fall, McFarlane Toys brand name, you’re already will enter the construction catehalfway there.” gory with a licensed building toy The Bridge Direct has also line based on AMC’s series, The Walking Dead. Todd McFar- entered the construction aisle with licensed C3 sets based on lane, founder of McFarlane Toys, is adamant on creating some- WWE and the NBA. “There are advantages to launching with thing that the construction aisle is missing. both licensed and non-licensed products. It just comes down to “Twenty years ago I walked down the action figure aisle and the concept, the fit, and the appeal,” says Dan Meyer, marketI asked a simple question, ‘I don’t get why it can’t look cooler. ing director, The Bridge Direct. The C3 NBA product line will launch this fall, while the C3 It’s only plastic,’” says McFarlane. “I’m asking and answering the exact same question now in a new aisle. And the answer is: WWE StackDown line is already on shelves. The Bridge Direct focused on building a licensed toy line that was true to its conIt can.” Although McFarlane Toys is out of its comfort zone in this cept, as well as a good fit for the company. WWE provided not category (usually it focuses on action figures, collectibles, and only an audience of young boys—the typical demographic in
10 • THE TOY BOOK
the construction aisle as well—but also a whole new audience. “WWE was one of the few remaining boys’ properties that had not yet ventured into construction—and that was exciting to us,” says Meyer. “Construction toys have the ability to reach a broad range of consumers—from kids to collectors to adults. The WWE brand also has this same holistic appeal. It was a natural fit.”
A Match Made in Licensing There are many things that companies should take into consideration when trying to choose a licensed property on which to base a construction line. “One of the most important things about license selection is its global nature. [Mega Bloks] is a global company and wants licenses with global appeal, so franchise popularity and differentiation are important,” says Adrian Roche, vice president, boys and collectors, global licensing at Mega Brands. Construction provides a great play pattern for licensed toys. It allows kids and collectors to rebuild their favorite worlds, then provides the tools for a role-play play pattern after the set is built. “It’s really critical that a property will translate well into the construction play pattern—not all of them do,” says Michael McNally, senior director, brand relations for Lego Systems. Properties that translate well into the construction play pattern are usually based heavily on stories, characters, and themes that can be recreated through buildable worlds. “So much of what children expect today revolves around storytelling and characters, Licensing can provide some of the most popular characters and stories as K’NEX’s Titanfall: inspiration for building and role play IMC Atlas Titan Building Set with the added value of, in many cases, an accompanying audience of fans who are potential collectors or consumers,” says McNally.
Developing a Licensed Set Creating a licensed construction set is far different from a proprietary brand, due to the fact that the world in which the property exists is already established and wellknown among its fanbase. This is
12 • THE TOY BOOK
important for companies to remember as they embark on the development stages of their new lines. “Characters of the licenses are our first focus,” says Mega Bloks’ Roche. “It is essential for us to transform these iconic characters into authentic and poseable micro action figures. The feature-focused design enhances the opportunities for postbuild play patterns, which is what really makes it come together as a great building toy.” Beyond just staying true to an existing property, Mega Bloks SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Band Figure Pack the company must also put its own spin on the product, so that differentiation helps to drive sales. The aforementioned McFarlane Toys created a whole new feel with the skins on its The Walking Dead-based construction line. Spin Master’s new Ionix line, which features shapeshifting bricks for a new kind of post-build play, adds a new twist on traditional building. “We’re intimately involved in developing our construction sets with a high level of detail to stay true to the integrity of the characters and the world,” says Rob Wolf, senior brand manager, marketing for Spin Master. “With Ionix in particular, we’ve been able to integrate a truly new concept of shapeshifting bricks into the sets themselves and provide all new, creative ways to play and build the sets.” Creating a construction set is a balance between accurately representing the property, creating innovations, and still remaining true to the licensee’s core values. It’s important for licensees to work with products that fit into what they are trying to achieve as a company, and for licensors to find a toy company that believes in what it is doing as a brand—and can integrate that into the innovations they are making in the toy industry. K’NEX, headquartered in Pennsylvania, believes that its company-wide dedication to products made in the U.S. is a big appeal to licensors. “A little more than 80 percent of everything we produce is now made in the U.S.,” says Michael Araten, K’NEX’s president and CEO. “That’s unique in the category and that includes the licensed products. It’s something we’re seeing parents really
clamoring for. It’s something that we’ve found, as we’re talking to licensors, is appealing to them.” Companies also must take into consideration the core audience of the brand that they are developing into a toy. For example, when K’NEX creates new Plants vs. Zombies-themed toys, they focus on the core age demographic for that property: kids ages 5 to 10. “One of our top priorities when developing a licensed set is the core age demographic that we’re designing the toys for so that we make the build buildable for all the kids in that age
range,” says Araten. While building sets provide tons of open-ended, imaginative play for all ages, sometimes kids—and collectors—look to recreate existing worlds that they know and love. Through licensed products, builders can create highly detailed, beautifully crafted environments and either re-enact their favorite storylines or create new adventures. Licensed construction toys give kids the ability to create and recreate the worlds they are already immersed in on a daily basis, further deepening the connection between the brand and its audience. ■
Building New Ideas
rowdfunding sites, such as Kickstarter, have made quite an impression on the toy industry, giving those who may not be professional toy designers and inventors the chance to turn their own ideas into real life products on retail shelves. Lego is one company that took this idea and applied it to its own development process, with a program called Lego Ideas. Lego Ideas lets anyone create a model, take photos, and write a project description to post on the company’s website to gain supporters. Once an Idea reaches 10,000 supporters in the allotted time, the project enters a phase called the Lego Review. A review board of set designers and marketing representatives evaluates Lego Ideas projects according to the review criteria and hand-picks the projects that will then go on to become new Lego sets. If the Lego review board selects your project, the set goes into production, and the Idea creator can give his or her input to the professional Lego designers that are designing the final set. Once the design is complete, the set goes to the factory and is released for sale worldwide. The Idea creator is featured in set materials, receives a royalty on sales, and is recognized as the project creator. One such Idea creator was Sam Gras, from Gaithersburg, Md., whose daughter Tziona inspired his Lego Idea for a Batmobile set based on the 1966 Batman TV series. “I’ve always been a Batman fan myself. I’m the Batman guy,” says Gras. “Being her father, it’s only given that that’s going to rub off on her.” Gras took Tziona to Comic-Con for
Gras’ design, from ideas.lego.com
the first time when she was just a year and a half. He had one of his favorite artists draw a picture of her in a Robin costume next to Batman fighting crime. This drawing hung over her bed for the next year and a half—and when she started speaking it inevitably became “Tziona Robin and Daddy Batman.” So Gras set out to create a set where Tziona Robin and Daddy Batman could ride in a Batmobile and fight crime together—and chose the 1966 series version due to the upcoming anniversary and the wholesome, classic value the series itself holds. For creative types such as Gras, Lego Ideas provides an outlet for their designs. Gras loves that it has allowed him to connect to his daughter in the physical play space with a classic toy they both love. For more information on Lego Ideas, or to read more about Gras’ design, visit ideas.lego.com. —Ali Mierzejewski
THE TOY BOOK • 13
by Phil Guie
Inside the Toymaker’s Headquarters Built in One Place, Shipped from That Same Place
’NEX is a construction toy company that thinks outside the blocks, and that definitely goes for its headquarters The second leg of the tour was the on-site warehouse, divided and factory, too. between east coast and drop-ship distribution, the latter of This past June, I had a chance to see how K’NEX, which which fulfills online orders. This past July, the company finished consist of colorful rods and connectors, are created from start to expanding the warehouse, adding 30 percent capacity to the 20 finish. The company’s main office and manufacturing facility are percent added during the previous year. located within a short distance of each other in tranquil Hatfield, K’NEX is its own distributor as well as manufacturer, Penn. For the start of the tour, I dropped by the corporate office, providing a speed to market that Araten says is invaluable. As where the design, marketing, and engineering teams were an example, he mentioned K’NEX’s licensing agreement with recently brought together to increase efficiency. Rovio Entertainment for Angry Birds, which was signed in Led by K’NEX president and CEO January 2012. By June, K’NEX Michael Araten, the tour offered a already had toys—with finished reverse-engineered look at the toypackaging and instructions—on making process, beginning with retail shelves. packaging, and gradually working all “If a licensor wants to work the way back to how individual pieces quickly—and in this digital age, are made. The first stop was the things are getting quicker all the graphic design department, which is time—we’re the only ones that responsible for the instructions that can deliver that speed in a come with each K’NEX toy. Nearby was physical format,” says Araten. the packaging design team, which Manufacturing and distrirefreshes 33 to 50 percent of the entire buting from one location also line each year. makes it easy to fulfill orders for “We’re always asking ourselves, ‘Will K’NEX’s more than 2,000 this get one more person to pick this The design department at K’NEX, where play is a full-time job. specialty retail customers. (Photos by Kari Love.) “A small store might buy 100 up off the shelf? And will this help us sets a year, but for us, there’s not communicate ourselves in the most much difference between dealing impactful way?’” says Araten. with a small store versus a large Down a hallway is a large room with conglomerate,” says Araten. every size box of K’NEX toys currently on the market, along with several motorized displays. For the coming A short drive away from K’NEX year, more than 2,500 different retail headquarters is the facility for displays are planned, including The Rodon Group, the exclusives for Target, Toys “R” Us, and manufacturing arm of K’NEX. Wal-Mart. Each retailer tends to want The Rodon Group, which is something different, whether that’s a currently a subsidiary of the lot of, “wow” factor, or a display toymaker, was founded in 1956 showing how K’NEX offers top value Michael Araten in the conference room of The Rodon Group facility, where classic K’NEX products are on display. by Irving Glickman, the father of for consumers’ money, says Araten.
Yes, They Also Do Windows
14 • THE TOY BOOK
Joel Glickman, who invented K’NEX in 1992. The entire facility measures 130,000 square feet, and roughly 25 percent of the plastic parts produced are either for K’NEX or TINKERTOY, the latter of which is licensed from Hasbro. The other percentage includes items that hedge against seasonality: parts for windows, bottled beverages, flu Left: Three large silos contain resin, the factory’s most used material. Top: K’NEX has been demoing Baxter, from Retest kits, and more. The factory is Think Robotics, with the goal of using it for simple manufaccapable of producing pieces within turing tasks. ten-thousandths of an inch, and that precision is useful for toy parts. working at once, presenting the data in a This improved quality has not snapshot updated in real time. Because of such gone unnoticed. In the case of advancements, only seven workers TINKERTOY, which was manuare needed per shift, although each factured in China until 2012 when one must be technically proficient. K’NEX acquired the license from To meet these needs, K’NEX trains Hasbro, Araten says consumers in-house, as well as recruits from have praised the new version of nearby colleges and universities. the toy. “We keep hearing how it stays together better, and how you can Currently, 95 percent of K’NEX clean it now,” he says. parts are made in Pennsylvania. The For the toymaking process, company still imports motors and molds are made from rust-resistant small, finely painted figures from stainless steel. Electricity-conductChina, but Araten says K’NEX is ing graphite is used to burn each Warehouse monitors like this one provide factory workers with looking to have all manufacturing of the floor. mold and it can take hundreds of real-time snapshots back in the state by 2020. That electrodes to complete just one. would represent a 180-degree turn According to Araten, from design stage to the production floor, from when he arrived at K’NEX in 2005; at that time, 50 percent the process of creating a mold can take up to 16 weeks. of component parts were produced overseas. Eventually, the molds go to the factory floor, where they At present, domestic manufacturing is already making a are utilized in the presses that create K’NEX parts out of raw comeback. Araten attributes it to different factors, including plastic pellets, or resin, mixed with color. More than 1 billion “Made in the U.S.” having worldwide marketing cache. In parts are generated by a single pressing machine per year, addition, he says purchasing is happening later in the year than and the process is entirely automated: Whenever a bin ever, and as such, manufacturing in North America presents a collecting parts reaches its designated weight, it is rolled very simple geographic advantage: Product gets to stores faster aside to make way for the next one. Extra materials, such as if it doesn’t need to cross an ocean. As far as labor costs, K’NEX’s investments in automation and rejected parts, are ground up and recycled. Less than one robotics effectively negate the cheap manpower that other percent of material gets wasted. K’NEX prides itself on its conservation efforts, and to that countries could traditionally offer. Araten acknowledges the end, conserves 150 tons of cardboard each year—enough to upfront costs, “but if you know you’ll be building for a long fill three football fields about a foot deep—by using robots, while, it’s a no-brainer,” he says. Innovation has long been K’NEX’s way of doing things, and which can more efficiently pack pieces into boxes. There is also behind-the-scenes software that tracks all 100 machines the toymaker shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. ■
Location, Location, Location
THE TOY BOOK • 15
C ns ruc i n ys Lego introduces Lego Fusion, a play experience that combines traditional Lego brick play with app-based game themes. Designed for kids ages 7 and up, Each of the four Lego Fusion experiences (Town Master, Battle Towers, Create & Race, and Resort Designer) consists of a set of bricks, a corresponding free downloadable app, and the new Fusion capture plate, a small brick-building plate with a printed design. Kids can build a façade of a building and then scan this capture plate, which recognizes the size and colors of the bricks, allowing builds to come to life in a virtual world.
The Power Block Sports Car, from Laser Pegs, is an eight-in-one sports car kit. Kids ages 5 and up can build models including Rally Car, F-1 Racer, Modified Racer, Land Speed Record, and more. Once they’re built, kids can light up the creations. The kit includes a Power Block Power Base, two Laser Pegs, 83 construction bricks, and four tire pegs. This kit is 100-percent compatible with other major construction kits.
16 • THE TOY BOOK
McFarlane Toys will unveil brick building toys based on TV’s most watched drama, AMC’s The Walking Dead. With realistic action figures based on The Walking Dead characters, the new toys will extend McFarlane Toys’ standards of realism and detail into the building toy aisle. The line features realistic sculpts, light-up and shaped figures, iconic environments, and dozens of fan-favorite characters and walkers. The construction line includes building sets and blind bag figures and will be available this fall.
Hasbro’s Kre-O line expands with the addition of sets based on the Transformers: Age of Extinction film. With the 196-piece Kre-O Transformers: Age of Extinction Grimlock Street Attack Set, kids ages 6 and up can build Grimlock, the T-Rex Dinobot, along with a breakaway archway for Grimlock to destroy. With the built-in Dinoforce action feature, Grimlock can pick up the Decepticon Vehicons in his mouth or with the capture claw in his tail.
Kids ages 6 and up can battle to stop the invading forces with the Ionix How to Train Your Dragon 2 play sets, from Spin Master. Using the unique shapeshifting Ionix bricks, these sets allow kids to take the action to the skies to stop the villains and bring peace back to Berk. Each set allows kids to create Vikings, dragons, and buildings. Available sets include the Mini Battle Playset and the Deluxe Toothless Set.
The Mega Bloks First Builders Bobby Barn Musical Farm lets little ones ages 1 and up enjoy 12 real farm sounds and cheerful barn tunes. Kids can help their Block Buddy Farmer swing open the barn doors, or hop aboard the tractor as they tend to the chicken and cow. This friendly farm comes with a colorful assortment of blocks and stickers, a Block Buddy Farmer, and a rolling tractor. It also features a handy carrying handle and storage in the silo.
Deluxe Toothless Set
With the C3 NBA One on One Set, from The Bridge Direct, kids ages 6 and up can create their own Lebron James versus Kobe Bryant match-ups. Kids can build up the action with more than 150 pieces, including a hoop, a basketball, courtside seats, rafter jerseys, an NBA trophy, and articulated figures of the NBA Superstars.
Kids ages 8 and up can maneuver through the wartorn streets of Angel City with the K’NEX Titanfall Ultimate Angel City Campaign Building Set. They can battle Titans in the ruined terrain of the city, jump pilots between buildings, and arm their weapons to continue the battle between the IMC and MCOR forces. This set contains more than 1,200 K’NEX pieces, so builders can construct two 12-inch Titans, six figures, and an assortment of working weapons and stationary turrets.
THE TOY BOOK • 17
A R O D B
The Golden Age of Games
by Mary Couzin, president, Chicago Toy & Game Group
ore people are playing games of all types than ever before, which is changing the landscape of how games are produced, marketed, and sold. Games are now promoted in new ways, sales are more difficult to track than ever, and there are more types of games available to more people in more ways. Think of board games in terms of food: New culinary sensations are consistently introduced into our diets, but we still eat many of the basic items we always have— we just develop a richer and more varied diet. In that same way, consumers now play games that are both high-tech and traditional. Sometimes you feel like a snack (apps), sometimes you feel like passed hors d’oeuvres (party games), and sometimes you want a sit-down dinner with your friends and/or family (board games). No matter what you are in the mood for— all games are good. Although I am now involved in the toy industry as a whole, I started my career as a board game designer and publisher. It is interesting to watch this category evolve and there are lots of new trends happening that will continue to change the face of games.
Consumer Shows such as Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), Comic-Con International: San Diego, and the Chicago Toy & Game Fair (ChiTAG) are growing year after year. In a recent ASTRA panel, Meredith Eisenberg from Bananagrams said consumer shows are now a big part of the company’s marketing budget. It makes sense—in this age of the Internet, people communicate nonstop. Those who attend consumer shows become influencers in their communities. They talk about what they see, what they like, and make recommendations to friends and family. The same is true for members of traditional media and bloggers who attend these shows. Consumer shows also allow companies to get valuable feedback directly from consumers—you can’t ask for a better focus group.
Board Game Cafés
STEM & STEAM
In the latter half of 2010, Toronto’s Snakes and Lattes
18 • THE TOY BOOK
board game café successfully launched. Setting the standard for similar establishments, Snakes and Lattes is an incredible place. Frequently, the line to get in extends out the door, with people of all ages eager to play all types of games while enjoying delicious food and drinks. Similar board game cafés are now popping up worldwide in major cities such as New York, Boston, Edmonton, Galveston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, New Orleans, London, Montreal, Sydney, Columbus, Fort Collins, and more. I’d love to see mass chains, such as Barnes & Noble, hop on this trend next.
STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and
STEAM (adding the arts to the scientific mix) are trends that are growing across all categories of the toy industry. I, along with Geena Davis, Maria Bello, and Claire Munn, currently serve as a judge for DevelopHERChallenge, a non-profit organization that tasks toy designers to create STEM-based toys and games for girls. Currently, only one in seven girls opts to be an engineer, and similarly, only one in six girls opts to be a toy and game designer. It’s important to give kids a full array of options, instead of limiting boys to blasters and girls to Easy Bake Ovens. Toys and games shouldn’t instill limitations; instead, they should inspire, educate, enable social learning experiences, and comfort kids.
The Growth of Eurogames Eurogames, such as Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride, continue to migrate from hobby stores to the mass market. The New York Times recently reported that sales at hobby stores in the U.S. rose 15 to 20 percent in each of the past three years. Additionally, Amazon says board game sales increased by a double-digit percentage from 2012 to 2013. Some manufacturers are even putting a licensing twist on Eurogames. USAopoly, for example, has launched The Walking Dead BANG! and Adventure Time Munchkin. The addition of popular licenses makes the games more relatable and approachable. Just as Lego boosted the construction category, Eurogames are bringing up the board game category.
Stories Sell Products There is no better example as to the power of the story to sell product than Debbie Sterling and GoldieBlox. Sterling, a female engineer, was inspired to create an intuitive construction game for girls because of the lack of women in her field.
Sterling created a brief video to tell her story and launched GoldieBlox via Kickstarter, a crowd-funding platform that allows consumers to pledge money toward a product to help launch it into production. With a goal of $150,000, the company raised $285,881, launched a viral YouTube video, became a media sensation, and kicked off this year with a Super Bowl commercial—all as the result of a good story. Stories sell, and I wouldn’t be surprised if more game inventors’ stories are used to sell product.
Crowdfunding Crowdfunding on platforms such as Kickstarter is gaining popularity due to success stories such as Debbie Sterling and GoldieBlox. TechCrunch reports that more money was pledged to board games than video games on Kickstarter in 2013. Cards Against Humanity, an offensive yet hilarious party game for adults, launched on Kickstarter with a $4,000 goal and raised $15,570. The game took on wild popularity, and the company has since produced four expansion packs as well as smaller-scale seasonal and theme packs. Additionally, Moby Dick or, The Card Game, a card game based on the classic American novel, raised $102,730 with a goal of only $25,000. Robot Turtles, a decidedly low-tech game that teaches kids the basics of programming, currently holds the title of the most-backed board game in Kickstarter history, with more than $631,000 pledged. Created by Dan Shapiro, the game was picked up by manufacturer ThinkFun and is now available for purchase. All of these trends are changing the face of the games category, but all prove that no matter how digital our world may become, there will always be room for traditional games. ■
THE TOY BOOK • 19
E M A S G & Puzzles
Bounce-Off, from Mattel, is designed for players ages 7 and up. A head-to-head competition game, one player flips a card to reveal a pattern. Then, two to four players race to complete the pattern on the card by bouncing colored balls onto the included grid. The first player or team to complete the pattern wins the game. This game is appropriate for both kids and adults.
Spin Master’s The Best of TV & Movies is the entertainment edition
Dubai Time Puzzle, from 4D Cityscape, has more than 1,200 pieces and recreates Dubai’s famous skyline in 3-D, while also utilizing the fourth dimension of time, spanning more than 100 years of architectural history in Dubai. The puzzle includes 72 plastic building replicas that depict the city as it appeared from 1787 through to 2013 with the addition of the Infinity Tower, and into the future to this year with the completion of the Khalid Al Attar Towers. The puzzle includes iconic structures such as the Burj Khalifa, Princess Tower, and Burj Al Arab. Puzzlers can recreate the famous waterways of The Palm and The World. The buildings fit into pre-cut holes in a traditional 2-D jigsaw puzzle that forms the city’s street layout.
Board Game, packed
An extension of the Loaded Questions line of games
with logos and trivia
from All Things Equal, Loaded Questions Party is com-
questions about popu-
plete with more than 255 new questions and exciting
twists on the original gameplay. Players move through
movies. Designed for
the game board by answering
kids and adults ages 8
questions and guessing who
and up, the game plays
wrote what. Players can ad-
just like the original
vance one space for every cor-
Logo Board Game, but with the addition of three Bonus Cards
rectly matched answer, and
for team play. Players can play the Mute card to stop a specific
the player who writes the win-
player on the other team from answering, play the Change the
ning response has the oppor-
Channel card to take another card instead of the one that was
tunity to advance two spaces
drawn, or play the Fast Forward card, which allows a team to
on the board. Whether the an-
pass on one of the four questions on a card. Players who an-
swer is silly, serious, honest,
swer correctly get to advance on the board, and the first player
creative, or ridiculous, it’s up
or team to reach the Winning Space and successfully answer
to the players to decide which
the final question wins the game.
response is victorious.
20 • THE TOY BOOK
Selfie is a new game of silly expressions from USAopoly. Four or more players ages 13 and up can discover just what their selfie says about them. A player draws a card, takes a selfie, and other players are challenged to guess what expression the selfie reflects. The selfie-taker’s favorite guess gets a point and the player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner. A fun party game for kids and adults in the smartphone generation, the game can be played with or without an app, and players can share the fun on social media with #theselfiegame.
LCR Wild Dice Game, from George & Co. LLC, puts a new twist on the original LCR Left Center Right dice game. With the new game play, players can choose their moves. The unpredictable play of the game brings excitement for three or more players ages 8 and up.
Peek-A-Doodle Doo, from Fat Brain Toys, is a game designed to help improve concentration and memory skills in two to four players ages 3 and up. With fast-moving fun, the chicken game pieces are in constant motion. Kids use their memories to collect all 12 eggs and return them to the crate and then cover all 12 eggs with free range chickens, which feature rubbery beaks, combs, and tails. The game includes 15 nests, 12 chickens, 12 white eggs, four scoring eggs, and four scoring nests.
22 • THE TOY BOOK
Bananagrams Inc. has launched Bananagrams WildTiles, which includes six monkey WildTiles, putting a new spin on the original Bananagrams racing crossword game. Now, with Bananagrams WildTiles, as players ages 7 and up race to complete their grids, they can pick up a WildTile and play it as many times as needed, standing in for any letter. As with all Bananagrams games, everything stores neatly in the banana pouch for travel fun.
New to its line of Pass & Party games, Hasbro’s Catch Phrase Decades provides players ages 12 and up with an instant party. With phrases from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and today, the game will bring out the party in the whole family. Players must shout, gesture, and say anything but the words in the answer to help their team guess correctly before time runs out. The built-in timer and scorekeeper make play easy with just the one piece.
T HE D EFINITIVE I NFORMATION S OURCE
G IFT M ERCHANT
Te d K i e s e w e t t e r
Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award at ASTRA Marketplace & Academy
by Kathleen McHugh, president, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA)
he late Fred Rogers, known to generations of children as TV’s neighIt should come as no surprise that Kiesewetter was an enthusiastic supborly Mr. Rogers, once said: “Anyone who does anything to help a porter of building the association that later became ASTRA. Early on, he child in his life is a hero to me.” served on the board of directors and helped to conceptualize the marketplace Mr. Rogers would find plenty of heroes in the roster of specialty toy in- + academy approach to ASTRA’s signature event of the year. “It was exdustry professionals that the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association tremely important to me as a manufacturer to interface with retailers in a neu(ASTRA) has honored over the years. At its 2014 Marketplace & Academy tral environment,” says Kiesewetter of his years on ASTRA’s Board. “It gave in Phoenix, Az., these new names were added to the list: me a lot of insight about what retailers need, and the netRetailer Excellence Award working is invaluable.” Wonder Works of Mt. Pleasant, SC Kiesewetter notes that ASTRA’s Lifetime AchieveTop Ten Toys of Seattle, WA ment Award is especially meaningful to him. “I have been Manufacturer Excellence Award fortunate to receive a number of awards in my career,” he Crazy Aaron’s Puttyworld of Narberth, PA says, “but I cannot think of another organization I am so Sales Representative Excellence Award honored to get an award from, because this award is given Sue Warfield of Ely, MN with sincerity, an emotional attachment to a recipient the Ted Kiesewetter was recognized with ASTRA’s highorganization has known for many years, and with no ulest honor: the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award. He terior motives. That spontaneity reflects ASTRA’s injoins an august group of previous honorees who repretegrity and true commitment to its mission.” sent a who’s who of the specialty toy industry, including Kiesewetter’s thoughts on the future of the specialty Peter Reynolds, Frank Martin, Karen Scarvie, Jeff toy industry? First, and perhaps most obvious, is his reFranklin, John Lee, Jerie Messer Lukhfar, Martine Redminder to keep up with the way customers live their lives. Ted Kiesewetter with man, Eddy Goldwasser, Mary DeSilva, Phyllis Brody, “The most important ingredient in our industry is being in ASTRA President Kathleen McHugh Deb McCollister, Jamie Seeley-Kriesman, Terry Gannon, the moment,” he notes. Second, channel relationships are and Idanna Smith. critical. It’s important to visit your key accounts and put in some face-to-face What makes all these toy industry leaders and the many others who have time to build strong relationships. Third, healthy play is a valuable platform been recognized by ASTRA so special is their unwavering commitment to for selling toys, and he recommends that manufacturers and retailers grow ASTRA’s mission: to promote the growth of the toy industry by delivering their expertise about how play helps kids develop. products that serve children’s best interests. In presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to Kiesewetter, Galt Toys’ Thanks to his long toy career—most of it at the helm of International Beau James noted that “Ted has always been a steadfast supporter of the spePlaythings Inc., which was lauched in the mid-1970s when he expanded and cialty retailer. He saw the importance of a strong brand, and he built one for renamed a previous business—there isn’t much about the emergence of the the long term.” This is true for the toy company Kiesewetter built, which continues to specialty toy industry that Kiesewetter didn’t witness firsthand. He remembers a time when there was very little interest in quality developmental toys develop creative products that focus on what the child can do with the toy and imported Euro brands that would be equivalent to today’s specialty play rather than what the toy itself can do, and it is true for his contribution to esproducts that were sold in higher end toy stores such as FAO Schwarz or up- tablishing ASTRA as a meaningful, enduring organization that evolves along with its members’ businesses. l scale department stores such as Macy’s, B. Altman, and Gimbels.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
MATTEL LAUNCHES NEW DIRECT-TO-CONSUMER FOR THOMAS & FRIENDS WOODEN RAILWAY
Mattel brings a new shopping experience to Thomas & Friends fans nationwide through a crosscompany collaboration that began this month. Anchored by the Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway product line, the new experience includes the first Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway direct-to-consumer catalogue, an e-commerce website, and partnerships with 20 independent specialty retail stores, which will serve as official Thomas & Friends Specialty Stations in the U.S. Thomas & Friends will also introduce a limitedrelease wooden engine, Logan—a Shunter that works at the coal plant, and is only available in the U.S. through the new catalogue, e-commerce website, and official specialty stations. The Logan wooden engine will be available through December 31 of next year. The e-commerce website, thomaswoodenrailway.com, launches next month. In addition, moving forward, Toys “R” Us will become the exclusive national chain retailer of Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway.
TOYFEST WEST RETURNS VEGAS FOR THIRD YEAR
The ToyFest West trade show will take place for the third year in Las Vegas. It will be held March 8 to 11 at the South Point Casino and Hotel, and the Western Toy and Hobby Representatives Association (WTHRA) will offer a free Monday night stay when attendees book Saturday and Sunday night at the host hotel. The offer is limited to the first 300 rooms booked. At ToyFest, more than 700 established and new vendors alike will unveil their products for the upcoming year. Information can be found at ToyFest West’s homepage at www.toyfestwest.com, or by calling (909) 899-3753.
ON THE COVER: WITH PACIFIC PLAY TENTS’ TUNNELS OF FUN JUNCTION SET, FOUR 3-FOOT-LONG TUN-
NELS CONNECT TO A CENTER HUB FOR INSTANT HIDE-AND-SEEK FUN.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
Multiculturalism at Play
In a world growing ever more diverse, Specialty Toys & Gifts asks doll manufacturers about the current state of the multicultural doll market, the challenges of reaching consumers, and what the future of the doll category looks like.
Anita Winsor, president, Starpath Dolls
What are the major challenges facing multicultural dolls, either in the mass or specialty markets? Winsor: Multicultural dolls have been scarce for so long that many stores are still wary that customers will not buy them. Smaller toy stores have limited shelf space, so they may choose to stick to the safer, more traditional choice of Caucasian dolls. But as expectations change, the market will follow.
Harkin: In the mass market, it would appear that there is less choice than a few years ago. This, however, has provided an opportunity for companies such as Arklu, who serve independent retailers, to provide different options for consumers.
Ian Harkin, managing director, Arklu
Anderson: I think most toy manufacturers would like to offer a wider variety of dolls and accessories, whether it be themes, fashions, or cultures. However, the cost can be challenging from a manufacturing and inventory standpoint, especially distributing to the specialty market.
Briner Conrad: Because very little previously existed in the multicultural doll market, the biggest challenge is consumer awareness. Fortunately, parents today are, in many ways, more eager for their children to play with toys a little while longer. How do consumers tend to discover multicultural dolls? Is it word of mouth, news articles, or blogs? Anderson: I think consumers find multicultural dolls through a variety of mediums. Because our advertising is primarily grass roots, word of mouth has been primarily how consumers find out about our toys.
Amahale from South Africa, from Global Girl
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
Winsor: The Internet has made them easier to find. There is a growing recognition that there is a market for
these dolls. When I was at Toy Fair last February, I was approached by a number of stores and online sites that specialize only in multicultural dolls. The demand was there, but the product selection was not.
Briner Conrad: Moms have always been incredible influencers. But with the proliferation of social media, their sphere of influence is now exponentially greater. In addition, trusted resources, such as print and broadcast media, continue to play an important role in communicating new toys to parents too.
Harkin: We have focused a lot on PR, social media, mom bloggers, and the media. We’ve been fortunate to receive a lot of positive feedback and encouragement, which helps spread awareness. What are the latest trends in multicultural dolls? Which groups have seen an increase in demand in recent years? Harkin: It’s been almost two years since we launched Lottie. When we first shipped our dolls, we did notice that the ethnic dolls weren’t selling so well. However, over time, after the first purchase had been made, people were coming back for more and now the sell rate of ethnic dolls is right up there with our other dolls.
Winsor: There is a growing selection of African American dolls and Hispanic dolls found in the larger toy stores. Asian dolls continue to be very difficult to find. The few that exist often don’t look Asian.
Anderson: I think growth trends in population play the biggest part in demand for different multicultural dolls. For example, in the U.S., with the growing number of Asians and Hispanics, there is an increase in demand for toys and dolls that reflect those cultures.
Do parents buy multicultural dolls because they want their children to have playthings that resemble them, or is it because they want their children to have diversity in their doll collections to better reflect the real world? Briner Conrad: It’s both. We have spoken to Asian, Hispanic, and African-American parents who thank us for creating this brand because it is hard to find dolls for their children that resemble them. Other parents tell us that they want to bring diversity into their children’s lives and homes—they would like to teach their children about France or South Africa, and have chosen to buy those dolls and books as a springboard for educating them about these places. A few have bought them in preparation for a trip to one of the geographies, building excitement for their children to learn about new places.
Harkin: We also see parents select dolls that have similar features to their kids. Some premium lines now sell children’s clothing to match their dolls, so in this instance, minorities tend to be buying dolls that look like their kids. But kids have varied reasons to select one doll over another: marketing influences, peer influence, etc. When the choice is left to them, we find that they select a doll that reflects their own features, hair/eye color, etc.
Winsor: Most parents want a doll for their child that shares at least some of her own characteristics, such as ethnicity or hair color. It is a nice way to make their daughter feel special and the child feels a bond to the doll. Some parents also see multicultural dolls as a way to expand their child’s world and help them see people who look different in a familiar and positive way.
Are there any ethnic groups or geographic regions that you’ve yet to explore, but you’d be excited to explore next? Harkin: We are really excited about exploring the opportunities appearing in Japan and China, and we are introducing a Chinese-themed Lottie next year.
Briner Conrad: We will look to explore all different regions around the world over the next several years. The next collection to launch will be a European collection with dolls from England, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain,
and Sweden. We will also launch a doll prior to the Olympics every two years from the country that will host the games. The first one will be from Brazil, in order to represent the Summer Games happening in 2016.
Winsor: Linda Mason, our doll designer, has made some beautiful Native American dolls in the past, so that could be an interesting opportunity. We also feature a personalized book called Tiger Magic, which takes the child and her doll friend on an adventure in India. We would like this to be the beginning of a series in different countries that are both educational and fun to read.
Why are multicultural dolls so important? Briner Conrad: The U.S. Census statistics show us that by 2025, the majority of Americans will be multicultural. Perhaps even more significant, we’ve learned from The NPD Group that by 2023, tweens will become the most diverse demographic in the U.S., encompassing 40 percent minorities. Delivering toy options to our children that are reflective of them and the society in which they are growing, learning, and playing is necessary to prepare them for the world.
Harkin: They are an important opportunity to educate kids before they are exposed to peer pressure. Then they can form their own opinions based on what they have learned through their toys, books, etc.
Winsor: Children create lasting impressions at a young age. Playtime is an introduction to adult life, and the more comfortable they feel with diversity in our increasingly ethnically blended world, the better off they will be.
Anderson: An important part of play is learning, and being exposed to dolls that are multicultural allows the opportunity for children to both identify with themselves and learn about the world. Gone are the days when all dolls in the store had very light skin and blond hair. Cultural relevance is important during playtime, which is a prelude to adult life. It is important for children to be exposed to the history of their own culture, and play with toys that look like them, but they should not be limited to such toys. ●
Kelly Anderson, vice president of marketing, Manhattan Toy
Kimberly Briner Conrad, brand marketing and development, Global Girl
Wishing Star Doll, from Starpath Dolls
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
ADORA makes a splash with Adora BathTime Baby Elephant, which comes with her own washcloth to help dry her off. She also has a removable, elephant-themed terry bath robe embroidered with a little trunk, as well as a bathing suit that dries quickly. Suitable for kids ages 1 and up, this handmade doll features eyes that open and close, and it can be used for play in any body of water.
This fall, GREAT DIVIDE expands two of its French Canadian doll lines into the North American market: Les Capuchons and Les Bizous. Each colorful, 14-inch doll has a novel European design and is handmade from supple materials. Les Capuchons include a jacket and a detachable hood, and are available in five models. Les Bizous are cloth dolls that feature detachable clothing, and come in three different models. Both doll lines are suitable for kids ages 1 and up.
STARPATH DOLLS features customizable chapter books, which can be personalized with details from any child’s world, subsequently placing them inside the book with her doll as her fellow adventurer. The initial line offers four 18-inch dolls to choose from: Morning Star, Shining Star, Wishing Star, and Wandering Star. Parents can visit the Starpath Dolls website and enter their child’s and their doll’s given names, or make up entirely new ones for the story characters. After kids answer a series of questions, these details are woven into the book, which arrives by mail within one to two weeks.
The new Elf Magic Playset, from ELF MAGIC, lets kids dress, cuddle, and play with their very own elves. Each set includes a 10-inch magic elf, a blanket, a two-sided play scene, magic snowflakes, a passport and a boarding pass, stickers, and a bed that turns into either a workbench or a table. In addition, the play set comes with a letter from Santa, as well as a keepsake box.
School Days Lottie, from ARKLU, comes with a school uniform outfit that includes a shirt, a tie, a tunic, socks, navy Mary Jane shoes, and a school bag with a cat theme. The doll’s ensemble also features a striped maroon scarf and glasses. School Days Lottie comes packaged with collector cards, which fit into the doll’s backpack, as well as leadership tips for girls.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
In celebration of the Groovy Girls line’s 16th birthday, MANHATTAN TOY has introduced the Special Edition Sweet 16 Dolls: three limited special edition dolls—Skylar, Fuchsia, and Lilia—with brightly colored fashions and hair. Another new addition is a line of core dolls featuring names starting with the letter “B”: Brooklyn, Bailey, Bayani, and Brenna. These poseable dolls have distinctive outfits, hairstyles, and grins.
B-Line Core Dolls: Brooklyn, Bailey, Bayani, and Brenna
THREE DAUGHTERS INTERNATIONAL has launched Global Girls, a collection of ethnically diverse dolls and companion books that provide a window into modern day cultures through play and reading. At launch, the Global Girls collection will feature six 21inch play dolls from locations including France, South Africa, Argentina, and more. Each doll is constructed with a soft body and a special frame that allows her to sit up, stand on her own, and pose.
Global Girl Marcela
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
5 Trends! With the popularity of the 5 Second Rule game, Name 5 game, and other games where players must name things that have to do with a specific topic, industry experts were challenged to name five new trends in the games category in 12 words or less. Let the games begin! Anna van Slee
tal Manifest Digi or do er th &O Entertainment
•Health t versions •Cheeky adul •3-D printing cters in •Game chara entertainment arel •Fashion app
•No rules •Easy to under stand •Hybrid gam es •German gam es •Games for yo ungest
NH Contract Management
•Lower prices: Mass •Higher prices: Gamer games •Cooperative •Card games •Kids’ action
The Game Aisle, Brainy Chick
•Geeky fun •Gamer games •Toyesque games •Publishers on Kickstarter •All-play
•Adult games •Board game cafés •Adult game nights •Personalizatio n •Jumbo-size g ames
Tanya Thompson ThinkFun
•Game cafés g •STEM/codin ovement m r ke a •DIY/m t/Eurogames •Geek produc time •Offline family
Compiled by Mary Couzin, president, Chicago Toy & Game Group
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
E M A S G & Puzzles
GRIDDLY GAMES will debut a re-creation of the classic game 5 Stones. Originated in ancient Asia
more than 4,000 years ago, 5 Stones is designed for one or more players ages 6 and up. The game can
be played as a personal challenge or a friendly competition and requires hand-eye coordination and dexterity as players progress through stages requiring quick reflexes, accuracy, and luck. Players take turns attempting
stages of the game by tossing and catching the stones with a variety of different techniques. 5 Stones includes five non-magnetized hematite stones and instructions for play in English, French, and Spanish.
The most backed board game in Kickstarter history, Robot Turtles,
from THINKFUN, sneakily teaches preschoolers the fundamentals of computer programming while encouraging
silly family fun. Kids play with a grown up, using Code Cards and
Bug Cards to program their Robot
Turtle to reach its matching jewel. As
you advance, the game incorporates
obstacles such as Ice Walls and more complex Code Cards such as lasers.
Kids ages 4 and up also get to boss the grown-ups around in the game.
Cards Against Humanity is a party game for horrible people that
launched on Kickstarter in 2011 and has since released four 100-card expan-
sion packs and two 30-card themed packs. Designed for players ages 17 and up, Cards Against
Humanity is an adult party game that promotes
good, not-so-clean fun. In each round, one player
asks a question from the black card deck, and
everyone else answers with the funniest white card
in their hand. The player asking the question
chooses the answer he or she likes best. With sim-
ple black-and-white packaging, the game is all
about the humor players put into it.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
E M A S G & Puzzles Multi-level
RAVENSBURGER has expanded its
line of 3-D puzzles for kids ages 10
and up. Featuring precision-cut flat
games from SMARTGAMES
and hinged pieces that fit perfectly
into place, the Tula Moon collection
are designed to move play-
showcases colorful and whimsical
ers through carefully se-
Tula Moon artwork. With 216 pieces,
quenced levels of play
the Tula Moon: Eiffel Tower 3-D
from easy to difficult. The
puzzle brings one of Europe’s most
company has expanded its
recognizable buildings to life in a col-
line of travel-friendly sin-
gle-player games this year to
Ravensburger will also have new
include Quadrillion. This
games this year, including Enchanted
game requires players ages 7
Forest. Designed for kids ages 4
and up to click four magnetic grids together to
and up, this fairytale-inspired
create a unique game board. Then, players must attempt to fit 12
classic is a memory match-
colorful puzzle pieces onto the board. There are countless challenges
ing game. Players roll
and solutions in the game.
the dice to move
around the board, sneaking a
LOONEY LABS has created licensed ver-
peek at treasures along the
sions of Fluxx, a game with one basic rule:
way. The first player to find
draw one card, play one card. Players begin
the treasures that the king seeks wins the game.
with three cards each and add cards to their
hand one at a time. Then, players choose one
In Say the Word, from PEACEABLE KINGDOM, players take a zany
card to play, following the directions written
character, some silly words, and an offbeat challenge and work to put
on that chosen card so that the rules of the
them all together one phrase or sentence at a
game constantly change.
time. If one player can’t recall a word, the
Regular Show Fluxx highlights the hit
other players can act it out for him or her.
show’s lead characters, a blue jay named
Players must repeat the story from start to
Mordecai and a raccoon named Rigby, who are
finish to win. The game
best friends working as groundskeepers at a
is designed for three to
local park. Cartoon Network Fluxx will feature
a diverse lineup of fan-favorite characters from
ages 10 and
a variety of the network’s original series, including Adventure Time;
The Amazing World of Gumball; Courage the Cowardly Dog; Dex-
ter’s Laboratory; Ed, Edd ’n Eddy; Johnny Bravo; The Powerpuff
Girls; and Samurai Jack.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
FUNNYBONE TOYSâ€™ Disruptus asks players to look at objects and ideas and use different approaches as determined by the roll of a die. The game draws inspiration from the very important practice of disruptive thinking, which has been used to create ideas and objects such as digital music, camera phones, and car sharing programs. The game is designed for kid and family fun as well as for corporations to help employees and teams be more innovative. EEBOO
is a specialty toy manufacturer that creates high-quality toys
and crafts for kids. eeBoo has expanded its puzzle offerings this year,
with puzzles varying in piece count and featuring artwork from acclaimed childrenâ€™s book illustrators. The Life on Earth 20-piece puzzle,
R&R GAMES has launched Strike
a Pose, a freeze-frame party game for
kids and adults ages 10 and up. All
players select a number card and pose
designed for kids ages 3 and up, is made from 90 percent recycled grey-
as the thing or person that corresponds
and a handle for easy toting. Featuring
must figure out who or what the other
board and features imagery from Melissa Sweet. The puzzle is ready for on-the-go fun with an animal-cracker-style box
bright colors, lots of animals, and
other natural imagery, the puzzle
is meant to inspire creativity dur-
to the number on the pose card. One
player acts as the Statue Collector and
players are posing as. Great for large
groups, up to 14 people can play
Strike a Pose at a time.
Bodydoodles is a tattoo guessing game from THE HAYWIRE
GROUP. In this drawing game for kids ages 8 and up, players use
their bodies as the canvas. A player selects a body card, a doodle Sushi Go! is a new pick-and-
pass card game from GAMEWRIGHT.
In this fast-playing game, two to five
players ages 8 and up must grab the
best combination of sushi dishes as
they whiz by. Players score points for
making the most maki rolls or for col-
lecting a full set of sashimi. Dip your
favorite nigiri in wasabi to triple its value. Players
must be sure to leave room for dessert or their scores
will decrease. The player with the most points is named the sushi master.
card, and a person he or
she wants to ink. Players
then race to guess what is
being drawn and earn
points for guessing cor-
rectly. Kids can play in
teams or as individuals. All
of the markers included in
the game are skin-safe,
washable, and made in
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
C ns ruc i n ys
Arrazzles, from FUNNYBONE TOYS, lets kids ages 4 and up explore abstract geometrical configurations. Each card has one of five different patterns of slots, allowing for abstract building and design opportunities. The cards are covered in five reflective, metallic colors with a different color on each side of the card. As kids build and connect, the colors reflect off each other. The hole in the middle of each card allows for further form exploration—it’s sized to hold a standard plastic straw, yarn, or a pipe cleaner.
SmartMax sets, from SMART TOYS & GAMES, are all compatible, so creative building grows as sets are combined. The sets allow older kids to build more complex structures, but the pieces are big and strong enough for kids ages 1 and up to use. The Mega Ball Run lets kids build structures that include chutes and ramps so they can watch the metal balls race through their designs.
Ideal Building Boards, from ALEX BRANDS’ Ideal Timeless Toys, is a set of 200 solid wooden boards that require no glue or nails for building. Kids ages 4 and up can stack the lightweight boards following the included instructions or on their own. The set includes two balls to fly down any chutes, tunnels, or slides that kids build. With no batteries, this set encourages classic play and creative fun and helps kids develop problem-solving, spatial, and fine motor skills. With Z-A-C The ZOOB Alien Creature, kids can build an alien, a rocket ship, a UFO, or create their own masterpiece. The set features 200 ZOOB pieces, including 12 that glow in the dark for deep space fun.
MODULAR TOYS’ 3D Highway set lets kids ages 4 and up build bustling highways without limits. Kids can use the 72 construction pieces and 60 patent-pending connector pieces to create any number of track combinations. Three buildable cars offer imaginative play. Kids can use the included instruction book for assembly samples or they can construct complex bridges, interchanges, and more on their own.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
Blocks super, from MINILAND, is a range of construction games made up of large, durable blocks that, combined with figurative bricks, enable kids ages 18 months to 5 years to create characters, vehicles, and race tracks. They also include blocks that fit together with decorative elements. The versatile, educational game promotes social skills and creativity.
Squigz Benders, from FAT BRAIN TOYS, provide a whole new way for creative and imaginative builders to construct. These Squigz bend, twist, and loop as they suction to one another by just applying a bit of pressure. Designed for kids ages 3 and up, this flexible set includes 12 benders and six original Squigz, giving kids more possibilities. These bendable, twistable toys are easy for little ones to manipulate.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
C ns ruc i n ys
The new Baufix line, from STADLBAUER, gives kids ages 3 and up the ability to construct their own toys. The Baufix Super Crane is a high-quality wooden construction set with more than 150 pieces to build a large, functional crane. The painted wood pieces fit together easily, using a twist of the included wrench. The Baufix Aeroplane is a 37-piece set that gives young builders the choice of at least three designs they can make using the included pieces and tools. With these brightly colored pieces, kids can make an airplane, a cart, or a two-wheel scooter. The Baufix Game is a starter set, in which kids can roll the dice to decide which piece to add to the creation next. There are three suggested projects or kids can use their imaginations to build.
Hindi ABC Blocks is UNCLE GOOSEâ€™s 21st foreign language set. The blocks are designed to inspire children to learn and appreciate the richness of the 5,000 year-old Hindi language and culture. This set features characters from the Hindi language and an Indian-inspired animal pattern side in a variety of vibrant colors. The block set includes 32 wooden blocks.
KIDS PREFERRED introduces its new Animalia collection to its Buildex line of wooden cars and vehicles. Developed in conjunction with the toy designers at Chelona Wooden World, Buildex toys are ideal for little engineers and young minds. The toys encourage kids to develop 3-D thinking and an appreciation for construction, movement, and design through the assembly of high-quality parts. The Animalia collection is made of durable wood construction and features a patented Flex-Lock system that allows for natural movement of body parts, including arms, legs, and eyes. Each piece features colorful designs that can be created without the use of glue or tools.
The YOXObot Orig, from PLAY FROM SCRATCH, is a 34-piece kit that contains YOXO links, tubes, and curves for kids ages 4 and up to build their own 18-inch-tall recyclable robot. Orig comes apart for kids to invent something new using tubes and boxes from around the house. The set comes with custom robot parts and repositionable YOXO eye stickers.
Juba the Bat
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
Playstix, from POPULAR PLAYTHINGS, is a construction toy that allows kids ages 4 and up to build anything ordinary or extraordinary. Assembly is easy and fun with the Idea Booklet, color-coded pieces, snap-on wheels, and a building base, allowing kids to build everything from a cabin to a racecar. Kids can simply stack the pieces or use Playstixâ€™s unique Snap and Lock feature, which holds everything in place and allows them to lift and play with their completed models.
Color Clix, from ALIare uniquely shaped blocks that mimic the same connecting angles found in atoms, crystals, and DNA molecules. Without being limited by block shapes, kids ages 5 and up can build anything. These blocks also expose kids to science without even realizing they are learning. QUANTUM INTERNATIONAL,
MAGFORMERS construction sets foster brain development through fun and educational play. These high-quality, durable construction sets have intelligent magnetic design that allows kids to create with their imaginations. With the 83-piece Magnets in Motion Power Set, kids can create and control powerful gear contraptions. The set includes 15 different magnetic shapes, accessories, and electric add-ons so kids can build magnetic creations.
In GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank, the newest building set from GOLDIEBLOX, Goldie has to find a way to get Nacho cleanâ€”but Nacho hates water. As kids read along, they learn about hinges and levers while helping Goldie build a dunk tank to get Nacho clean so everyone can get to the carnival on time. This set, which includes storybook instructions, helps kids build spatial skills, learn engineering principles, and develop confidence in problem-solving. The set comes equipped with three design ideas and unlimited building possibilities for kids ages 4 and up.
SPECIALTY TOYS & GIFTS
Assemble First, Then Play With BooKid Toys USA’s line of Action Toys, kids ages 3 to 8 will have as much fun assembling their toys as they will playing with them. There are 12 different sets to choose from, with each set containing 40 to 70 pieces that snap together. With the Train in the Farm set kids can build up their farm and train track and watch the battery-operated train chug around the track while playing music and flashing lights. Each BooKid Toys set helps improve kids’ fine motor and communication skills.
A New Pet for Kids Moose Toys gives kids fun, sweet, and interactive pet birds, without the mess and the responsibility of real ones. With Little Live Pets Birds, kids can choose from Polly, Charlie, Cheeky, and more, and watch these toy birds come to life and behave like real pets. As kids pet the bird on its head and back, it chirps and tweets more than 30 different sounds, melodies, and tunes to popular nursery rhymes. In addition, a unique chatter back recording feature lets kids speak to their pet bird and hear it repeat their words back to them.
Stay Connected with Toymail Toymail combines an app with a toy to allow kids, friends, and family members to communicate messages in a unique way. Once a message is recorded—either in a quirky or normal voice—it’s then delivered to the Wi-Fi-enabled Mailman that plays the message aloud. Kids can then send their replies back through the toy, making a two-way conversation. The Mailmen are available in a variety of characters, including Snort (pig), Milksop (bear), Fairfax (fox), Rochester (Raccoon), and Buck (Buck).
Craft Like a Fashionista Gemz, from Arch Tags, is a craft kit that allows minifashionistas to decorate their own wearable pairs of glitter jelly ballerina flats. Girls can stick on plastic spikes, pearls, gems, stickers, and rhinestones, or squeeze on a cool design using an included tube of glitter glue. With an endless amount of ways to customize the shoes, every girl gets to create a trendy, original look. Shoe colors available include black, clear, pink, and purple, and each pair is comfortable and flexible. Recommended for kids ages 4 and up, Gemz is an easyto-do craft that doesn’t leave a big mess.
Douglas Co. Plays Dress-Up Douglas Co. adds new Fly-Away Dresses and Fanciful Fabric Wings and Masks to its Dreamy Dress-Up line, designed in Europe by NaoPoa. Kids ages 3 to 8 can choose from different styles of handmade dresses, including Fairies (available in pink, blue, green, and rainbow) and butterflies (including Monarch Orange and Monarch Pink butterflies, as well as purple and yellow butterflies). The wings (sold separately) are available in girl- and non-gender specific styles that include a bat, a dragon, a firebird, a woodpecker, a parrot, and more. In addition, kids can pair the Fly-Away Dresses and Fanciful Fabric Wings with the Fanciful Fabric Masks, which are available in 18 different designs that appeal to both boys and girls.
38 • THE TOY BOOK
International Toy Industry
Preschool Supplies and Playground Equipment Hall Grows at China Toy Expo 2014
by China Toy & Juvenile Products Association
ainland China’s largest international toy fair, China Toy Expo, will expand exhibition space by more than 20 percent to exhibit more products and suppliers this year. The preschool supplies and playground equipment hall, a new feature introduced to the show last year, will grow in both exhibitor numbers and space to showcase a wider range of related products, making it an ideal sourcing event beyond just toys. Altogether, 1,300 global exhibitors are expected to take part in the 2014 China Toy Expo and its concurrent events, China Kids Expo and China Licensing Expo, which cover 10 halls in total, with a 120,000-square-meter exhibition area. High-quality Chinese manufacturers will continue to be the majority, with more than 85 percent producing all types of toys, including plush and dolls, wooden toys, remote control toys, hobby models, puzzles, games, inflatable toys, outdoor sports, festive articles, and more. Preschool supplies and playground equipment will be exhibited mainly in hall W3. In total, about 300 related exhibitors are expected to participate in the show and showcase kids’ electronics, preschool art and dough activities, games and puzzles, teaching toys, playground equipment, school furniture, accessories, and more. After the zone was introduced to China Toy Expo in 2011, the exhibit products and profiles of show
40 • THE TOY BOOK
visitors became much wider. Kindergartens and preschool agencies, distributors, and amusement equipment importers has increased by 39 percent. Due to increasing buyers’ needs, exhibitors for the aforementioned products have rapidly grown by more than 30 percent this year, and themed halls have been introduced.
Wider Range of Preschool Supplies and New Product Guide Apart from various kinds of preschool toys, a large number of the newest kids’ electronics, teaching aids, arts and crafts, language learning kits and books, kids’ stationery, preschool furniture, and more will be on display. To help buyers with sourcing, a new products guide, which includes featured new products along with the suppliers’ booth numbers, will also be distributed to global buyers onsite.
Playground Equipment Increase by 30 Percent
Supported by local governments and associations, China Toy Expo is the only fair where the two main production regions for playground equipment, Yongjia and Baoying, will make a joint appearance. Leading manufacturers Huaxia, Yucai, Qiaoqiao, Yuhe, Sunnybaby, LeFunland, Wenzhou East Amusement Equipment, Beiwan, Baole, as well as other medium and small manufacturers from across China, will also exhibit to worldwide visitors. Apart from China Toy Expo, China Kids Expo, Mainland China’s most influential baby products fair, and China Licensing Expo will be held concurrently. China Kids Expo, co-
organized by CTJPA and Koelnmesse, will showcase a full range of baby products, including strollers, car seats, baby ride-ons, cribs and baby furniture, kidsâ€™ bikes and tricycles, feeding
products, baby clothing, and more, to bring buyers more sourcing opportunities. Last year, the show attracted a total attendance of more than 73,670 visitors from 114 countries and regions, and 1,102 global exhibitors, covering a total exhibition area of 100,000 square meters. â– CTJPA is the not-for-profit trade association representing the interests of the Chinese toy and juvenile products industry. CTJPA is the only official representative in ICTI appointed by the Chinese government and the governance board member of the ICTI Care Process. The government, the trade, the media, and consumers recognize CTJPA as the authoritative voice of the industry. CTJPA was founded in 1986 as the China Toy Association and it has more than 5,000 total registered members.
The U.S. Fashion Doll Market:
There Are a Few New Girls on the Block by Lutz Muller
he fashion doll segment is growing much more slowly than all other dolls, and national buyers foresee a point not too far in the future when fashion doll sales will begin to decline—at least in the U.S. This is not too surprising, given demographic and cultural factors—population growth, market saturation, and the kids growing older younger (KGOY) phenomenon. Though not quantifiable, another factor is that all fashion dolls basically fall into two categories: Barbie (or a clone thereof) or Monster High (or Monster High-like). Either the doll represents the chaste, kind, nice girl mothers would like their daughters to be or it represents the bratty, often bullying, and not-very-nice girls these daughters sometimes are—Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde, as it were. Buyers fear that
42 • THE TOY BOOK
the same consumer fatigue that beset Barbie and her sisters will also begin to bedevil Monster High and its clones, to the extent that the entire category will go south unless somebody comes up with yet another fundamental change. Mattel—which has the Barbie, Monster High, Ever After High, as well as the Disney Princess brands—and MGA— which has Bratz, Moxie Girlz, and Mooshka—have dominated the fashion doll space in the U.S. since the beginning of this century. The chart below, which is based on Klosters Retailer Panel data going back to 2007, shows this brand domination very clearly. However, other doll companies have begun to grow fairly rapidly and deserve closer scrutiny, since they may well represent a new alternative. Two companies stand out in this category: Jakks Pacific and Spin Master. Spin Master, after a number of failed attempts, now has the Flutterbye Flying Fairy, a fashion doll entry that seems to have traction. Flutterbye is unusual and different in that it is a winged doll that flies on its own steam, at price points between $10.99 and $34.99. The line is not based on an outside license or a movie. Spin Master’s market share in the fashion doll category is estimated at 3 percent, up from about 1 percent two Source: Klosters Retailer Panel years ago. The company’s
The buyers fear that the same consumer fatigue that beset Barbie and her sisters will also begin to bedevil Monster High and its clones, to the extent that the entire category will go south unless somebody comes up with yet another fundamental change.”
with the possible exception of Winx, where both shelf space and sell-through have shown a negative tendency. The chart at left shows how the four companies stack up in terms of U.S. fashion doll market share at the end of June 2014. I also looked at the major brands in terms of consumer interest as shown by web searches, which demonstrates the threat that Jakks represents to Mattel better than anything else (see chart on next page). These web searches are driven by the fact that both the Frozen and the Maleficent movies are exceptional box Source: Klosters Retailer Panel office sales generators. For the first 40 days, Frozen racked up box office sales strategy seems to be working, and more importantly, it is of $263 million in the U.S. as compared to Maleficent’s $216 not dependent on outside factors such as movies or li- million. However, according to my retailer panel, Frozen’s censes. In short, Spin Master’s success or failure in the doll fashion doll retail sales are clearly ahead of Maleficent’s at space depends only on skill and hard work. a rate of about 5:1. I asked the company about this apparJakks Pacific has gone a different route, but is also doing ent discrepancy. Kim Ferguson, senior director of marketwell. In fact, of the two, Jakks is growing faster, and at 5 per- ing for Jakks Pacific’s girls brand, says, “The two movies cent, has a significantly higher market share than Spin Mas- are different and not really comparable. Frozen is an aniter. Jakks also has a number of Disney licenses, such as mated feature film/ongoing property with long-term Disney Tinker Bell/Fairies, which it had for a number of years; Oz content support beyond the theatrical release, which introthe Great last year; and Maleficent this year. In addition, it duced two new princesses to the Princess portfolio. Malefihas a secondary license for Frozen, which is doing fantasti- cent is a live-action film about a Disney villain, and like cally well. Last year, Jakks Pacific also launched the Winx other live-action theatrical releases, is a huge movie event, fashion doll range based on the animated TV series Winx but will not have the same staying power. The Frozen story Club. Distribution at major retailers tends to be good, and line and the two princesses lend themselves to toys and the national buyers have told me that all are doing very well, dolls. Frozen, as a comedic, adventure story with memo-
THE TOY BOOK • 43
Source: Google Trends
rable music, appeals to a wider age range of girls and to core doll consumers, while Maleficent—due to a darker story of revenge and betrayal—appeals to a slightly older, edgier girl who is not as much a core doll consumer. Maleficent dolls are more of a collector item than Frozen dolls, demand is more modest, and the sales goal is to be sold through cleanly by the end of the theatrical run. The bottom line: There is a broader and bigger audience of girls who aspire to be Elsa and Anna and play out their story.” This sales discrepancy would probably be considerably higher were it not for the fact that the supply for Frozen dolls cannot keep up with demand and are widely out of stock at the major retailers. “We are working very hard alongside our retail partners to get more of our most popular Frozen products into stores. We are continuously shipping our Frozen products to retailers, but they sell out as quickly as they hit the shelves,” says Ferguson. In summary, Jakks is beginning to do well in the fashion doll space, and over the longer term, could represent a real challenge to Mattel and MGA if it can maintain its momentum. However, there are two structural problems that face the company in this quest. The first is that it has not yet established itself as a significant factor in Europe, and for this it would need the type of licenses it now has in the U.S. The company faces a vicious circle in this: Without ex-
44 • THE TOY BOOK
isting strong sales, it does not get good toy licenses, and without good licenses, it does not get strong toy sales. Secondly, current growth drivers are all Disney movies, which will eventually run out of steam. Yes, there will be new movie properties to be had—Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland in 2015 and 2016, respectively—but at this point, there is no guarantee that Jakks will get a piece of either one. Also, Jakks’ non-movie-dependent brands, Tinker Bell and Disney Fairies, are growing too slowly, and Winx is not strong enough to guarantee continued sales acceleration at the rate which the company has seen during the past 18 months. All indications are that Jakks is turning the corner and that the new people it has brought into the organization are making a real difference. I believe that they will find ways to overcome these obstacles in the same manner and with the same zest with which they tackled the challenges that faced them over the past year. ■ Lutz Muller has been active in the global toy and video game market since 1984. He has lived and worked in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Australia, and the U.S. His insights are based on his daily contacts with toy buyers at big-box stores in the U.S. and Europe, his proprietary retailer panel in the U.S., and his third-party manufacturing contacts in China.
Hasbro will add two new dolls to its Baby Alive line, which specializes in realistic baby moments. The Baby Alive Brushy Brushy Baby Doll lets kids practice toothbrushing by holding the included toothbrush to the doll’s mouth and pressing a button, which makes the bristles move around in circles. Each Brushy Brushy Baby Doll also comes with a bottle and a diaper. The Baby Alive My Baby All Gone Baby offers a full feeding and caregiving experience. She emits more than 30 sounds and phrases, recognizes when she is being fed, and has a diaper kids can change when she wets. Both new dolls are available in three different ethnicities. Baby Alive Brushy Brushy Baby Doll, from Hasbro
This fall, The Beatrix Girls return in The Beatrix Girls London Collection, with new 1960s Mod-inspired fashions, matching doll stands, and British stylized doll-sized instruments. The new dolls include Brayden, with knee-high boots, a high-waisted dress, and a jacket; Ainsley, in a pink plaid skirt with a matching parasol and a star-spangled petticoat; Chantal, with a slim, mod, two-tone mini, a matching bracelet, and shoes; and Lark, with a slim-fitting union jacket. Each doll comes with the band’s newest songs.
The Lalaloopsy brand, from MGA Entertainment, introduces Lalaloopsy Girls, a new line of vibrantly colored, 11-inch dolls with different fashions. Six of the 10 Lalaloopsy Girls reflect the brand’s original characters, though they have been aged up to resemble tweens. Each doll has lanyard hair that magically colors when streaked with cold water. In addition, each doll comes packaged with an extra outfit consisting of a twopiece pajama fashion set, as well as two hair clips and a pet.
Lum Lums, from Imperial Toy, have skirts that light up whenever kids hold their hands. If there are multiple dolls in the circle, they all light up at once. Available beginning this fall, each doll includes interchangeable fashions such as skirts, boots, and accessories, and each skirt features a unique puzzle enclosure for easy changing. The Lum Lums line includes four different characters—Floressa, Trindi, Yummie, and Valerina—as well as pets, accessories, and play sets.
THE TOY BOOK • 45
Spin Master introduces the first character in its Chatsters line, Gabby. Gabby dances and talks when kids interact with any of her included accessories or her touch-sensor glasses, which are a pair of high-resolution LCD screens that feature animated eyes. Six of her accessories, including her pet puppy Sprinkles, are equipped with microchips that the doll recognizes and responds to. There is also a secret speaker in Gabby’s boots that lets her communicate with a mobile phone or tablet. Using the downloadable app, kids can call and text Gabby, who will text them back.
A charitable doll line from Playmates Toys, Hearts For Hearts Girls features dolls from all around the world, each authentically dressed to represent a real-life girl who is working to make life better in ways unique to her community. This year, the line has been expanded to include Surjan, who represents the country of Nepal, and Nyesha, who represents the neighborhood of Harlem in New York City. They join dolls inspired by girls from Ethiopia, Afghanistan, the Appalachian region of the U.S., and more. Recommended for kids ages 6 to 12, each Hearts For Hearts Girls doll includes a friendship bracelet and a story booklet explaining how the girls live and contribute to their families and the world. Hearts for Hearts Girls Surjan
The Dora & Friends Talking Dora and Smartphone, from Fisher-Price, includes the character’s signature outfit, along with her smartphone and charm bracelet from the TV show. The doll comes with a matching child-size smartphone for receiving calls from Dora and her friends, and for going on adventures using the Map app. Suitable for kids ages 3 and up, the 11.5-inch doll also lights up while she talks, can sing in both Spanish and English, and responds to the smartphone with relevant bilingual phrases.
With the Doc McStuffins Walk ’n Talk Doc Mobile Doll, from Just Play, kids ages 3 and up can reenact the character’s toy rescues. A push of the siren on Doc’s mobile clinic sends her walking, talking, and singing the Doc Mobile song. The set includes Lambie, who talks and sings along with Doc, and the mobile clinic features a light-up siren and doors that open. Walk ’n Talk Doc comes with an otoscope, a stethoscope, a magnifying glass, and a knee hammer.
46 • THE TOY BOOK
Following up on the launch of The Zelfs last year, Moose Toys plans to introduce new Zelicious scented characters this fall. Each will have its own fabitat, so kids can add to their Zelfs’ world. The new dolls will feature the same colorful, style-able hair, as well as poseable arms and legs as previous Zelfs. For the Zelfs line, Moose will also introduce new body molds and character designs inspired by animals.
Strawberry Shortcake comes to life as a singing toy with the Strawberry Shortcake Sweet Beats Singing Doll, from The Bridge Direct. The doll features the music and modern look from the animated series Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Bitty Adventures. Intended for kids ages 3 and up, she stands 11 inches tall, is dressed in a sparkly ensemble, and includes a guitar, a microphone, a comb, and a hair bow that kids can wear, too. Whenever the microphone is raised to the doll’s mouth, she sings or gives shout-outs to her audience. With a push of a button, she also strums her guitar, plays riffs, or hums.
Mattel has followed up its Monster High line with the Monster High Inner Monster Feature Assortment, for ages 6 and up. Kids can customize these dolls by changing their eyes, facial expressions, and fashions. Each set includes one full doll with eye-changing feature, one interchangeable face plate, a peggable skeleton and chest plate, an inner piece count, over-the-top fashion, and more. Scared Silly n Shockingly Shy and Spooky Sweet n Frightfully Fierce.
With the Frozen Snow Glow Elsa Singing Toddler Doll, from Jakks Pacific, a touch of Elsa’s magical snowflake necklace causes Elsa to talk and her dress to light up in a flurry of lights. By raising her arm, her snowflake necklace lights up, her dress magically shines, and the hit song, “Let It Go,” by Idina Menzel is played. Elsa also emits 15 sounds and phrases from the movie, and can sing in 25 different languages.
THE TOY BOOK • 47
Battat will expand its Our Generation line with three new dolls, each intended for kids ages 3 and up. Boho-chic Claire comes with a faux fur vest, a pair of tights, boots, a brush, and more. A new doll and chapter book set, Layla and A Song from My Heart, comes with a guitar with a strap, a flower headband, a pair of star glasses, and jeggings with a skirt. The Lily Anna and Adventures at Shelby Stables chapter book and horseback riding set comes with two complete outfits, including a pink party dress, as well as stable gear, such as a pair of jodhpurs, a jacket, a helmet, and more. Lily Anna and Adventures at Shelby Stables
Famosa expands its Nenuco line with soft-body baby dolls for kids ages 2 and up to feed, bathe, and dress. These new dolls are available in three different personalities: My Little Nenuco, which measures 14 inches long, smells sweet, and has a soft body; My First Nenuco Kisses, which measures 16.5 inches long and comes dressed in a pink and white striped top, pink-dotted pajama bottoms, and matching striped footsies; and Nenuco & Her Little Sister, a double doll set that includes a 15.5-inch tall big sister Nenuco with a pink jumper dress and hat. Her younger sister doll features a matching jumper. Nenuco & Her Little Sister
48 â€˘ THE TOY BOOK
This year, Barbie and Mattel celebrate 55 years of Barbie as a top-selling doll and worldwide icon with a new career doll that celebrates reallife businesswomen everywhere. Barbie Entrepreneur, for kids ages 3 and up, includes a smartphone, a tablet, a briefcase, and a modern outfit in the characterâ€™s signature pink. Mattel has also partnered with a diverse group of female entrepreneurs, including the founders of Girls Who Code, Rent the Runway, and One Kings Lane, to provide inspiring stories for the girls of today. Profiles of these women, Barbie along with advice, Entrepreneur games, and activities, can be found at www.barbie.com/entrepreneur. A new take on Barbie, Best Fashion Friend Barbie, from Just Play, stands more than two feet tall and features articulation as well as removable fashion. She comes with shoes, a brush to style her hair, rooted eyelashes, and more. Intended for kids ages 3 and up, the line also features Nikki and Theresa. Best Fashion Friend Barbie
BUSINESS DIRECTORIES 2014 Trade Show Directory $39.95 Independent Sales Rep Directory $69.95 Toy Wholesalers & Manufacturers $29.95 We carry Salesman's Guides to Find Buyers and Trade Show Exhibitor Lists for Toy Fair and others! 1-800-635-7654 • firstname.lastname@example.org www.Forum123.com Free Magazine: www.RFmagazine.com
The Toy Book Volume 30, Number 4 THE TOY BOOK (ISSN-0885-3991) is published bi-monthly by Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® Editorial and advertising offices are located at 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, NY 10001, Phone (212) 575-4510. Periodicals Postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Copyright © 2014 Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. Printed in U.S.A. Subscription rates: $48 one year, foreign $200. The Toy Book is a trademark of Adventure Publishing Group, Inc.® Registered in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Postmaster: Send address changes to: The Toy Book, c/o Adventure Publishing Group, 307 Seventh Ave., Room 1601, New York, NY 10001. Opinions and comments expressed in this publication by editors, contributing writers, or solicited or unsolicited documents are not necessarily those of the management of The Toy Book.
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: email@example.com // firstname.lastname@example.org
The Playtime Sales & Marketing Company, LLC. is a Toy and Electronics Manufacturers sales representative organization. Our prime focus is to represent Toy and Electronics Manufacturers to the Mass Market Retailers. The principals of our Company are Len Soyka and Murray Bass. Our only vocation has been in the Toy Industry. We are dedicated toy professionals.
Our geographical areas of sales coverage and accounts include: • NEW ENGLAND…Connecticut North to Maine and Upstate N.Y. Accounts… CVS Drug, BJ’s Whle Club, Benny’s, TJ Maxx, I Party and CW Price. • N.Y. METRO…N.Y. City and New Jersey. Accounts… Toys R Us and their DOTCOM and Global Divisions, FAO Schwarz, Xmas Tree Shops, Shepher Distributors, Burlington Coat Factory, Buy Buy Baby, Marlon Creations, ToyZam, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Steven’s Intl.,TRU Express and NY area Supermarket Chains. • MID-LANTIC…Pennsylvania, Wash D.C., Northern Virginia and Western Ohio. Accounts…Rite Aid Drug, Group Sales, Boscov’s, Liss Bros, 5 Below and Big Lots. • K mart USA // JC Penney Catalog // Universal Studios Orlando // Gordman’s // Duckwall // Pamida // AAFES • CANADA…Walmart, Toys R Us, Canadian Tire and Big Lots. We employ a staff of 5 toy sales specialists. Our contact information is listed on our above shown letterhead. We welcome your inquiries.
THE TOY BOOK •
Flashback: July/August 1994 1.
Since the first Zany Brainy store opened in 1991, the company has made plans to open 18 stores in the Northeast by the end of the year. Shown here is one of the computer stations located at the end of an aisle for kids to experiment with before parents make a purchase. 2. As the official mascot of the 1996 Centennial Olympics, Izzy, from manufacturer Dakin, is anticipated to be a hot item in the months to come. It is available in 15- and 10-inch sizes. 3. The Lyons Group’s brand Barney has been named the Licensing Industry Manufacturers’ Association (LIMA) License of the Year. 4. Just Toy’s Micro-Bake Oven puts a new spin on a traditional play activity. Kids can learn to bake using the modern convenience of a microwave oven.
50 • THE TOY BOOK
The Voice Reaching Both Trade and Consumers
Contact: Jonathan Samet or Laurie Schacht Adventure Publishing Group 307 7th Avenue, Suite 1601 New York, NY 10001 Tel: 212-575-4510 Fax: 212-575-4521 www.adventurepub.com
In this issue, we take a look at the construction toy category (page 10), where licensing is heating up. From SpongeBob SquarePants to The W...