HoliDAY of Play 2015

Border Agents Seize Undeclared Tobacco Amid Load of Toys

As reported by the Associated Press, U.S. border agents found $300,000 worth of loose-leaf tobacco hidden in a truck hauling toys.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Thursday that agents made the discovery at the Lewiston-Queenston bridge in western New York in December and that the load was formally seized this week.

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Toy$, a Comic Strip by Dustin Glick

We really enjoyed this recent Dustinland comic, which centers on taking a kid to Toys “R” Us.

Don’t squint; click on the image for a larger-sized version.


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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