China Toy Fair


COMMENTARY: Animation Has Long Been a Promotional Vehicle for Toys

BrandonEngel1by Brandon Engel

You’ve likely heard about the massive success of The Lego Movie, and maybe you were even one of the millions worldwide who have gone to see it. Despite its financial success, some have blasted the film for essentially being a glorified, expensive commercial for Legos. I don’t think that anyone can deny that The Lego Movie is obviously commercially motivated, but does that make it wrong? Is it all that different from children’s movies selling toys based on the film?

BrandonEngel2Last Christmas, the Frozen Castle Playset and matching Barbie dolls from the Disney film Frozen were at the top of many children’s lists for Santa. Every time a commercial appeared for the movie or the toy, they advertised each other. Is The Lego Movie any different just because the toy existed before the movie? Here is the bigger question: In an age where almost no image is spared licensing of some form, where does the line get drawn between entertainment and commercial? [Read more...]

PUBLISHER’S VIEWPOINT: The Times They Are A-Changin’

Feb.17.toybook.jsametby Jonathan Samet

On the December 21 episode of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update segment, Seth Meyers delivered the following:

Toys ‘R’ Us announced this week that its stores will remain open for 87 straight hours leading up to Christmas. Not to be outdone, the Internet announced that it will be open all the time, always, forever.”

This was meant to be a joke to make us all laugh (and it was funny), but at the same time it needs to be taken seriously, as the Internet has certainly changed the way we conduct our lives. One key difference is that the time of day consumers can make purchases is no longer limited by “store hours.” With a simple click of the “enter” button, toys and other products can show up at our door—or go directly to the gift recipient—in as little as 48 hours, without having to leave the comfort of the couch or desk.

Therefore, no matter what part of the toy industry you participate in, you have to take this change seriously. We all have to continue to evaluate how to best reach and win over the end user 24 hours a day, 365 days a year—or as Seth Meyers put it, all the time, always, forever! I remember talking to many manufacturers, even within the last nine years since I became publisher here, who said that Internet sales were just a tiny fraction of their business and was of no concern. To quote Bob Dylan: “the times they are a-changin’,” and to survive and succeed, we all better be a-changin’ with them.

Which takes me to my next topic for discussion—though it is one that has been addressed numerous times (including within this very column) over the last few years. The New York Times ran an article on December 23 titled “Babes in a Digital Toyland: Even 3-Year-Olds Get Gadgets.” The article discusses how the passion for playing with traditional toys and games seems to be diminishing at an earlier and earlier age. The topic of age compression and increased demand for tech toys is nothing new, but this article references a recent survey of 1,000 parents with children between the ages of 2 and 10, and a particular claim caught my attention:

“About two-thirds of those [parents surveyed], planned to give a tablet or smart-phone.”

From the referenced study, the claim of 66 percent was not as startling as the fact that the sample size began with parents of kids as young as 2 years old! Kids under age 5 possibly receiving tablets or smartphones? The times, they really are a-changin’.

So where do the above two topics leave you if you are in the business of either manufacturing traditional toys and games or owning a brick-and-mortar retail store? If you are saying to yourself, “it is time to fold up the tents,” that could be one option. The other is to continually adapt to the ever-changing marketplace and deliver a product or service your end user will demand. If you face obstacles, analyze and react to them, rather than resist or complain.

As much as the Internet, technology, and tablets and smartphones are changing our lives, it is important to remember that one of the single hottest products on the market last year was a simple plastic loom that kids wrapped rubber bands around to make colorful bracelets. There is probably no happier sight than walking into a store with the child in your life, buying him or her a product off the shelf, and seeing the instant smile and excitement on his or her   face. So, as much as the times are a-changin’, in other ways, many of the great things in life stay the same.

This column was published in the February issue of The Toy Book. Check back regularly for more toy industry commentary from Jonathan. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!

COMMENTARY: Will Black Friday Need to Be Rebranded?

by David E. Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, LLC

The Christmas holidays and toys are synonymous. Indeed, toys and the Christmas season are a tradition. Another holiday tradition is Black Friday, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. Yet over the past several years, Black Friday has started to lose its meaning with retailers pushing opening hours ever earlier. Now many retailers are opening on Thanksgiving Day, and pushing the envelope to see how early they can open on that holiday. This is an attempt in some aspects to rebrand the holiday shopping season and establish Thanksgiving Day as the start of the traditional shopping season. Retailers are stating that they are responding to consumer demand; yet surveys show that 87 percent of Americans are opposed to retailers being open on Thanksgiving Day (even though they frequent the stores).

So what would be a smart strategy for the toy industry as this happens? Should toy stores open on Thanksgiving? Should toymakers make a strong push for Thanksgiving Day sales? Is Black Friday over and should everyone jump on the Thanksgiving Day bandwagon? The answer to these questions is a resounding no. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Boo! Halloween Toys That Outlast the Season

by Laurie Schacht, Toy Insider Mom

zombieLast year was a pretty tough Halloween on the east coast. Just a few days before the holiday, Hurricane Sandy shut off our lights, devastated our coasts, and in my neck of the woods, pretty much canceled parties and trick-or-treating. So this year I hope to see all our favorite ghosts and goblins make a big comeback.   

Who will you be this year? The Marvel superheroes will be strong sellers. Lets face it: what kid doesn’t want to save the world—and what adult doesn’t want a few hours to be “that hot” at a grown up party dressed up as Iron Man or Wonder Woman!

For little girls, if you haven’t purchased their Doc McStuffins or Sofia the First costumes yet, good luck finding them. I’ve yet to meet a 4-year-old girl that hadn’t loved one or both of these new favorite characters. Boys are loving Jake and his Never Land Pirates, Skylanders, Trash Pack Kids, and Slugterra.

But it’s not just in the costume. There are some great additions to the two hottest video games with Halloween themes this year that I need to share. Skylanders Giants released their special Halloween edition called Eye-Brawl. It’s sports a pumpkin head and a skeleton head at his feet. Disney Infinity will let kids build their own Halloween town in Toy Box mode, with the Pumpkin King throwing pumpkins at other characters, including the newly released Jack Skellington. [Read more...]

Musical Toys: An Inspiration to Pursue the Art

by Rachel Matthews, guest blogger

Not too long ago, the Kidz Bop kids found their way performing at venues in New York and New Jersey. Their collection of poppy, top 40 covers has allowed them to produce dozens of compilation albums, launch a U.S. star search, release books, video games, and toys.

The line-up of the group is in constant rotation as each member ages. Because of this rotation, many a child beg their parents for a singing lesson—especially in New York—after seeing a Kidz Bop performance. The chances of becoming a member is hard pressed as detailed by this young musician, but the combination of their U.S. talent search and brand gives hope to many children within the States.

Of course, aiming to sing for a band such as Kidz Bop is only part of what’s driving up sales in music -parents must by music-related toys to help further their children’s ambitions.

[Read more...]

10 Board Games You Shouldn’t Miss Before Stepping to Adulthood

by Pam Johnson

The great journey of adulthood will happen to us all. However, before you get there, it’s time to enjoy these fun and amusing board games.

Candy Land

Don’t even try to get to adulthood without playing Candy Land! This amusing game has been entertaining children of all ages for decades and decades, and you simply cannot miss it.

Monopoly Jr.

While one of the games can still take hours to complete, Monopoly Jr. is more suitable for a younger crowd than the standard version. Youngsters can certainly learn some basic counting skills while having a lot of fun.

Real Monopoly

Before making that final leap into the world of adults, it’s time to get out the board and play some real Monopoly. You’ll get a chance to see what it’s like to own some real estate and handle some seriously large amounts of money in your own hands! [Read more...]

Reshoring Toys

By Howard N. Aronson, Managing Partner, Lackenbach Siegel LLP

Like the proverbial child who runs away from home only to return before nightfall, an American toymaker is bringing most of its manufacturing back to the U.S.—after more than a decade of outsourcing in Asia. The decision of K’NEX Brands, a family-owned maker of plastic building toys, to boost manufacturing at The Rodon Group, its Hatfield, Pa. plant, is only one example of a major trend. Persuasive factors leading to the ultimate decision included quality control, overall costs, timeliness of deliveries, and intellectual property issues. Many are following the lead of K’NEX and rediscovering that home sweet home is the best place to make and distribute products after all.

Manufacturing in the U.S. created many advantages for K’NEX:
• Greater ability to react to shifts in consumer demands for toys because it’s much quicker and easier to retool–thus creating additional sales;
• Delivery times are quicker–as are changes in delivery schedules, for example, to take advantage of unexpected increases in sales at some stores;
• There’s more control over quality–including avoiding toy safety product recalls;
• There’s more control over materials–again, especially important where safety is an issue, as it is with many toys;
• Overseas labor costs are increasing, whereas using robotics in its U.S. plant is boosting productivity–thus lowering per unit labor costs;
• Transportation costs are rising;
• Time zone differences make communication between manufacturers and suppliers difficult. [Read more...]

U.S. Companies Look to Overseas Markets for Growth

Since the domestic market is flat, American toy companies are increasingly becoming interested in exporting, says Carter Keithley, TIA President, who also informs about the New York Toy Fair, the importance of licensing for the toy business, the trends in the U.S. marketplace, and the Association’s activities.

by Daniele Caroli, editor, Giochi & Giocattoli

In order to be updated on the U.S. toy market and on the Toy Industry Association’s activities and events, I met Carter Keithley, president, at the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg, just a few days before the opening of the New York American International Toy Fair, which is managed by the TIA. [Read more...]

United States Urged to “Think Asia, Think Hong Kong”

By Carol Kwok, Corporate Communication Officer, Hong Kong Trade Development Council

The largest Hong Kong promotion ever to take place in the U.S. will be held this summer to showcase Hong Kong’s advantages for American companies looking to tap new business opportunities in Asia, particularly on the Chinese mainland.

Think Asia, Think Hong Kong will feature symposiums in New York and Los Angeles, June 11 and 14, respectively. Speakers will include CY Leung, chief executive of the Hong Kong SAR Government, and more than 60 prominent senior executives from global companies. The event was organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), with support from 14 Hong Kong partners and a number of U.S. organizations. [Read more...]

Children’s Play Preferences and Academic Success Subject of Study in the “American Journal of Play”

Courtesy of The Strong

There is an apparent link between children’s thinking styles, the types of play activities they prefer, and their academic achievements, according to a recent study by Robin M. Holmes of Monmouth University and colleagues Sharon Liden and Lisa Shines in the American Journal of Play, a scholarly journal of The Strong in Rochester, N.Y.

Holmes and colleagues studied 74 middle school students (45 boys and 29 girls, ages 10 to 15) of mostly Filipino and part Hawaiian heritages to assess the relationship between the children’s thinking styles, play preferences, and school performance as measured by state mandated test scores and grade point average. Two standard assessment tests were administered to determine the students’ personality traits, and students were asked to provide written responses to three questions about themselves and their favorite playful activities to help categorize them as field dependent (gravitating towards social situations and interactions) or field independent (preferring to avoid social contact and set their own standards for thinking and behaving). [Read more...]