GUEST OP-ED: Deck the Halls, Not Your Customers: Tips for Handling Customer Complaints This Holiday Season

RonKaufmanheadshotFor the customer service sector, the holiday season is crunch time. With more shoppers, more sales, more shipping, more advertisements, and more product demand, there’s (so much) more potential for something to go wrong. At the same time, shoppers’ expectations are never higher. They don’t just want to check every item off their lists; they expect their shopping experience to be fun, festive, and full of good cheer. It’s the holidays, after all! No pressure, right?

Author Ron Kaufman admits that the holiday shopping season does seem like a minefield of potential customer complaints. But he’s also adamant that, handled sensitively, complaints can be a catalyst for improving customer satisfaction and capturing new business. [Read more...]

Don’t Have a Cow, Man! Check Out These Vintage Simpsons Collectibles Instead

TheSimpsonsby Brandon Engel

The Simpsons began its 26th season in September, making it the longest running sitcom and the longest running scripted prime time TV show in American history. Since the program’s 1989 debut on Fox–which came after three seasons of being a sketch in the The Tracey Ullman Show–the cartoon series has become ingrained in American culture and has greatly influenced the adult animated TV show genre, which includes such programs as Family Guy, American Dad!, Daria, Beavis and Butthead, Ren & Stimpy, and Archer, to name a few. The series is still so popular that FXX hosted a marathon of every single episode this past August and still airs hours upon hours of reruns every week (Fans should check their local listings for FXX availability).

The show has garnered a huge fan base during its 26 seasons on the air, and even the show’s merchandise has a large cult following among collectors. So, in honor of the show’s latest season, we’re taking a look at some of the rarest and most unique pieces of merchandise and memorabilia, including two toy figures. [Read more...]

Time Definitely Flies for PowerUp 3.0

PowerUp3.0A year ago this month, inventor Shai Goitein of PowerUp Toys launched a Kickstarter campaign for PowerUp 3.0, which generated more than $1.2 million and became one of the top funded programs in the flight category. Today, the innovative Bluetooth-enabled paper airplane toys are sold exclusively at Mastermind Toys stores across Canada and in various specialty U.S. retailers.

In 2013, PowerUp Toys launched a Kickstarter page with a goal of $50,000 to fund PowerUp 3.0, a Bluetooth-enabled paper airplane that can be controlled directly from a smart phone app. The campaign reached its funding goal within eight hours. Shortly after the Kickstarter shipments of PowerUp 3.0 were flown overseas to more than 100 different countries, PowerUp 3.0 debuted at the EAA AirVenture Air Show and was made available to the general public on poweruptoys.com.

“Thanks to the overwhelming support of our Kickstarter backers, PowerUp 3.0 was able to get off the ground and capture the attention of major influencers,” says Goitein, inventor and president of PowerUp Toys. “This past year has been an amazing ride and it isn’t over yet. We are always looking to the future and dedicating ourselves to wonders of science and play so that we can create the next big thing for our fans.”

China Toy Expo Shows the Dynamism of the Toy Industry in China

Resized.EMILIALSINAby Emili Alsina

Over 50,000 professionals of the toy, baby, and licensing industries visited the trade shows organized by the China Toy & Juvenile Products Association (CTJPA) in Shanghai from October 14 to 16: China Toy Expo, China Kids Expo, and China Licensing Expo. This attendance represents a 26 percent increase compared to the previous year. Alsina, editor of the Spanish magazine Juguetes B2B (specializing in the toy industry in Spain) and member of the International Toy Magazine Association (ITMA), attended these three trade shows to witness the latest trends and developments of the industry in China.

The toy market is very dynamic in China, and has a consumer (the parents) increasingly interested in products that provide educational value to their children. The kids, in turn, are increasingly interested in licensed products. China Toy Fair, which has been held for the last 12 years–and is the largest international toy fair in mainland China and the third largest worldwide–was celebrated simultaneously with the China Kids Expo (childcare sector) and the China Licensing Expo (licensing sector).

Resized.LEGOJuguetes B2B, a professional communication magazine specializing in the toy industry in Spain, attended the three trade shows to give informational coverage of the latest trends in the industry that will shape the Chinese market next year. The strategy of holding the three exhibitions simultaneously makes perfect sense, given the synergies that occur between the three different sectors. For instance, the licensing business has a large influence in the toy industry, with licenses for baby care products as well. Therefore, celebrating the events at the same time is an interesting opportunity for the professionals. [Read more...]

Toy Industry Unveils Nominees for 2015 Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards

TOTY2015logoToday, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) announced the 83 finalists for the prestigious 2015 Toy of the Year Awards (TOTY). Between now and January 11, toy consumers of all ages can visit www.toyawards.org to vote for their favorite toys, games, and properties across 12 categories.

The 2015 finalists were selected from more than 600 nominees submitted for consideration by 159 companies. Sixty academics, journalists, toy trend experts, play therapists, toy inventors and designers, and toy retailers staffed the nomination committees that narrowed the field to the slate of finalists.

Votes from mass retailers, specialty toy retailers, media, TIA members, and consumers will be weighted and used to determine each of the 12 category winners. The winners—including the overall Toy of the Year and the People’s Choice awards—will be announced at the TOTY Awards ceremony held on February 13, 2015 as the kick-off to the 112th North American International Toy Fair. [Read more...]

Hasbro in Talks to Buy DreamWorks Animation

Hasbro logoAs initially reported by Deadline, Hasbro Inc. is in early talks to buy DreamWorks Animation SKG. The deal would give the toy maker, which has clout with major retailers, an animation studio that just recently began diversifying beyond the movies.

For each company, a deal could help accelerate movement beyond their core businesses. DreamWorks Animation has expanded into consumer products in recent years, but still lags behind Walt Disney Co., while Hasbro recently sold off some of its stake in the Hub cable network.

dreamworks_animation_logoThrough its relatively new film label, Allspark Pictures, Hasbro has movies in the works based on its toy brands, My Little Pony and Jem and the Holograms. It is also launching a new Transformers cartoon series on the Cartoon Network, having had trouble edging in on children’s networks Nickelodeon and Disney Channel.

Should a deal be reached, it would likely come during the next two to four weeks, and would result in a family entertainment powerhouse to be called DreamWorks-Hasbro, according to a source in the article. Hasbro could also have management of the new entity already in place: On Wednesday, the company appointed Stephen Davis, who has led Hasbro Studios since its launch in 2009, to the role of executive vice president, chief content officer.

In this new role, Davis will be responsible for developing content for Hasbro’s brands across multiple platforms. He will also work closely with Hasbro’s president and chief executive officer, Brian Goldner, to oversee Allspark Pictures (This aspect of Davis’ role was announced prior to news about the possible Hasbro-DreamWorks deal), as well as franchise films such as Transformers that are produced in partnership with major studios.

The Toy Insider and Woman’s Day Magazine Launch New Video Series

WomansDayVideoThe first entry in The Toy Insider‘s newest Fun with Kids video series launched this week at Woman’s Day. The latest video can be found on the Woman’s Day site’s front page, and the series will run for the next five weeks leading up to the holidays, reaching the site’s 3.9 million unique monthly visitors (Note: The Toy Insider is published by Adventure Publishing Group, which also owns The Toy Book).

In “Toys in Motion,” Toy Insider Mom Laurie Schacht and Woman’s Day‘s Senior Editor Taryn Mohrman show off this season’s hottest toys that race, fly, and ride. Products shown in the video include: The Rockin’ Rider Patriot Rocking Horse, from Tek Nek Toys; the Air Storm Firetek Bow, from Zing; the Planes Fire and Rescue U-Command Dusty, from Thinkway Toys; the Hot Wheels Street Hawk, from Mattel; the Heli Beast, from Silverlit; the Sky Viper Camera Drone, from Skyrocket Toys; the Hot Wheels High Jump Frenzy, from Toy State; the Extreme Beast, from Maisto; the Y Flicker Lift, from Yvolution; and the PowerRider 360, from Razor.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Neighborhood Toy Store Day Lets Independent Retailers Shine!

by Phil Guie and Deanna Atkins

ExteriorofKaleidoscope(Editor’s note: This article was updated on November 11, 2014)

This past weekend, playtime was definitely on at mom-and-pop toy stores located throughout the U.S.

Saturday marked the fifth annual Neighborhood Toy Store Day (NTSD), an event started by the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association to support locally owned toy retailers. Community members were encouraged to visit the independent toy store in their midst, and in return, participating retailers hosted in-store arts and crafts, games, and other activities that appealed to families.

In honor of NTSD, The Toy Book’s editorial staff interviewed owners of several neighborhood toy stores in their home communities. In their responses below, the store owners touched on their NTSD plans, the support they give and receive from their neighborhoods, the reasons why shopping at a locally owned toy store is a great experience, and more.
[Read more...]

Nintendo Shows Strength on New Games in Financial Results

NintendoAs reported by Bloomberg News on Wednesday, Nintendo posted second-quarter profits that beat analyst estimates, helped by a weaker yen that boosted the value of overseas sales and demand for new games, including the company’s Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8. Net income was 24.2 billion yen, or $224 million, for the three months ended September 30, compared to an 8 billion yen loss a year earlier.

The company booked a 15.5 billion yen gain in the fiscal first half from the weaker Japanese currency. Second-quarter sales fell to 96.7 billion yen from 115 billion yen a year ago, but Nintendo left unchanged its forecast for full-year profit of 20 billion yen and sales of 590 billion yen. The company maintained its projection to sell 3.6 million Wii U consoles across the full year.

In a statement, Nintendo also maintained its full-year sales targets for the 3DS handheld player and software titles for both. The newest version of the 3DS, which features additional buttons and a faster processor, went on sale in Japan on October 11; and Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, which was released in Japan on September 13, and in North America and Europe on October 3, sold 3.2 million units as of the end of the month. The company is also entering the multi-billion-dollar, collectible toy market with its amiibo figurines, which let players enter a Nintendo character into a game through the Wii U’s GamePad tablet.

Cartwheel Kids Acquires Smart Toy

CartwheelKidsSmart Toy, formerly known as Ubooly, has been acquired by Cartwheel Kids. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Created in 2012 by husband-and-wife team Isaac Squires and Carly Gloge, Smart Toy is an interactive, huggable plush toy that uses apps and speech recognition software to interact with children. It encourages creative, active play by telling stories, embarking on adventures, and guiding activities. It also speaks five different languages.

According to Sunny Lauridsen, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Cartwheel Kids, the Smart Toy acquisition is in line with Cartwheel Kids’ strategy to expand its product portfolio into new categories that deliver meaningful play experiences to children. The next-generation Smart Toy will debut at International Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Gloge and Squires will join the Cartwheel Kids team as directors of technology and will continue to oversee development of the Smart Toy product line.