GUEST COMMENTARY: Feds to Ban Kids’ Soft Plastic Toys for No Good Reason

by Jeff Stier, senior fellow, National Center for Public Policy Research

jeffstierThe Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) wants to hear from you.

The agency has extended its comments period until April 15 as it considers a rule that would regulate a range of chemicals within a group called phthalates. These chemicals, among other purposes, keep plastics from shattering when bent, and play a useful role in a range of consumer products.

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Q&A with Mattel: Social Media, 3-D Printing, and More

logo_Mattel logoThe Toy Book (TTB): In what new ways are you using social media to correspond directly with consumers?

Mattel: We engage with consumers across all brand and corporate social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, as well as retailer sites, like Wal-Mart and Kohl’s. At Mattel, we have a fully functioning reporting and engineering team dedicated to understanding what the consumer is saying and turning that data into actionable improvements for both our manufacturing and design process.

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Q&A with Kathleen McHugh, President, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA)

ASTRA.KathleenMcHughThe Toy Book (TTB): How can specialty retailers compete in 2015?

Kathleen McHugh (KM): ASTRA is launching an exciting new program that is designed to help independent specialty retailers position their stores as destinations. The program will offer exclusive products for ASTRA member retailers that will not be available elsewhere.

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Q&A with Tony Norman, Co-Founder, President and CEO, Innovation First International

Hexbug.TonyNormanThe Toy Book (TTB): How do you use 3-D printing in your R&D? Do you plan to incorporate 3-D printing into your consumer offerings in the future?

Tony Norman (TN): We have three commercial-grade 3-D printers at Hexbug headquarters that run pretty much continuously. Design is iterative, and our 3-D printers enable us to engage in rapid prototyping. This rapid prototyping allows us to get real working samples out to focus groups quickly and frequently, so as to gather feedback and make the necessary changes prior to starting production. This highly accelerated production process significantly reduces our time to market and sets us apart from other toy companies.
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Q&A with Jay Foreman, President and CEO, The Bridge Direct

resized,TheBridge.JayForemanThe Toy Book (TTB): Which licenses do you anticipate will be key drivers in 2015?

Jay Foreman (JF): I think everyone would agree on Marvel’s The Avengers, Frozen, Cinderella, Minions, and Star Wars, along with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; however, there are a few nontraditional brands emerging from toy companies, like Shopkins, that should be considered.
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GUEST COMMENTARY: Montreal Toy Maker Wooky Entertainment Roars onto the World Stage

by Simon Forsyth, Media Relations Advisor, Corporate Communications, Export Development Canada

WookyEntertainmentAs kids we needed toys. They spurred our imaginations, occupied our days, and generally brought joy to our then simple lives. But our love for them was fickle–we’d obsess over them one day, discard them the next, and soon beg for new ones.
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Q&A with Laura Zebersky, CCO and EVP, Jazwares

Jazwares.LauraThe Toy Book (TTB): How have you seen consumer expectations change over the past decade?

Laura Zebersky (LZ): Over the past 10 years, the convergence of toys and entertainment has been unprecedented. Consumers have come to expect both online and offline experiences from their favorite brands. It’s not enough anymore to create a new toy. Stories, videos, and other content are needed to really engage kids and toy fans of all ages. This leads into another big change: If you want to reach consumers today, traditional formulas from years ago need to be augmented with strategies that include communication across multiple social platforms. Kids are engaging in new ways with different types of media; they might interact simply by sharing images and video of exciting new toys on various social channels or become avid fans and essentially create celebrities on YouTube. They want the whole experience, and the brands of tomorrow will have to provide it in accessible and innovative ways to stand out from the crowd.
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Q&A with John Gessert, President, American Plastic Toys

APT.John GessertThe Toy Book (TTB): Which toy categories do you expect to expand in 2015? Which do you expect to contract?

John Gessert (JG): We are starting to see more interest at the consumer level in toys that promote or support basic play patterns. We have received notes from consumers that complement our products not only for being made in the U.S., but also for providing a basis for good basic role playing that results in active play that promotes imagination. Another role-play area that seems to be increasing from initial line reviews for fall is in doll-related play. It appears that demand for doll accessories has increased for 2015.
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Q&A with Søren Torp Laursen, President, Lego Systems

Lego Direktion  15,012,2005 © Niels Aage Skovbo, FOKUSThe Toy Book (TTB): How has the success of The Lego Movie helped to transform the entertainment and merchandising arm of Lego?

Søren Torp Laursen (STL): We are thrilled that The Lego Movie captured the attention of so many people around the world last year, serving as an anthem for creative building that drove families to pull out their existing Lego collections or try one of the Lego sets that we had on shelf. While we do not have ambitions to become an entertainment company, we know that storytelling and content—be it film, TV, YouTube tutorials, or fan-generated animations—is an important way that we create relevance while inspiring new ideas for play time. The movie was a perfect validation of our belief in the power of stories, and we look forward to deeper relationships with our content partners to continue to enhance what we do best in delivering fun and creative building sets that inspire children to become their own storytellers.
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CTA and TIA Share the Benefits of Using a Canadian Distributor

PrintThe Canadian Toy Association (CTA), an affiliate partner of the Toy Industry Association (TIA), recently asked its members to share the unique perks of partnering with a Canadian distributor. A survey of U.S. TIA members found that Canada is their No. 1 target market for toy, game, and youth entertainment product distribution.

The top four advantages, compiled by CTA, are as follows:

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