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...]

Amazon Continues to Grow Its Influence in the Toys Category

By Jason Caine, Director for Compete, a Kantar Media company

The toy industry was a big online winner during the last two weeks of November, which included Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Nearly 24 million consumers shopped online for toys during the time period, an 18 percent increase over the same time period last year, according to market share data released by Kantar Compete.

Amazon’s holiday performance suggests that manufacturers need to shift their focus from thinking of the online retailer as an emerging channel to one that could be an important revenue driver in the next few years. One in four consumers considered a toy product on Amazon.com during the start of the holiday season.

Amazon chart1ToysRUs.com appears to be the retailer most impacted by Amazon’s early toys category successes thus far. One in three Amazon toy shoppers also visit ToysRUs.com to shop for the same products. Both Walmart.com and Target.com are experiencing cross shopping rates about half the size.  [Read more...]

Crafts Aren’t Just for Rainy Days

By Stephanie Carver, The Orb Factory

Craft kits are often the go-to activity on those blustery rainy days, but that doesn’t mean that when the sun is shining you can’t get crafty.

Get Messy

orb factory1Children love getting messy. Take advantage of sunny days and let them get a little messy outdoors. Set up a table in the backyard and choose anything from exploding science to glitter-filled kits.

Try My First Finger Paint & Frames and let them get their hands dirty–literally.

While it’s messy, finger painting is therapeutic, teaches children how to mix colors, strengthens hand and finger muscles, and contributes to fine motor skill development.  Throw a tarp over the picnic table, get them in an old T-shirt, and let the fun begin. [Read more...]