Q&A with Eva Lorenz, Category Leader, Amazon Toys & Games

Eva Lorenz, AmazonThe Toy Book (TTB): How are you engaging consumers to drive sales?

Eva Lorenz (EL): Amazon customers, particularly busy parents, appreciate having the ability to shop on their own time and from the comfort of their own home or while on-the-go using a mobile device. They also love having access to the largest selection of products and all the information they needcomprehensive product details, high-resolution images, video content, and customer reviews–to make informed purchasing decisions. We consistently deliver on these promises to customers, which has earned their trust and keeps them coming back to shop on Amazon. [Read more...]

NRF Says Supreme Court Ruling on Swipe Fees Leaves Merchants and Consumers Paying Too Much

nrfOn Tuesday, the National Retail Federation (NRF) expressed disappointment at the U.S. Supreme Court for not reviewing an appellate court ruling on whether the Federal Reserve (Fed) set a 2011 cap on debit card swipe fees higher than the level sought by Congress in legislation passed the year before. [Read more...]

GUEST COMMENTARY: International CES Explodes with Family-Friendly Tech

by Reyne Rice, toy trends analyst and consultant

Meccanoid G15 KS, from Spin Master

During the first week of January, International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015 unveiled the latest consumer electronics innovations. Kids, families, and educators were among the target audiences for this new world of technology, which extended across all exhibitor areas. Here are some of the family tech-focused highlights from the show: [Read more...]

Retail Toy Sales Up 4 Percent on Building Sets, Electronics, Frozen, Says NPD Group

NPDGrouplogoAccording to retail sales data from The NPD Group, U.S. retail sales of toys generated $18.08 billion last year compared to $17.46 billion in 2013, an increase of 4 percent.

Retail sales over the 2014 holiday shopping season got off to a bumpy start, with the weeks of Black Friday and Cyber Monday experiencing mixed results of -2 percent and 1 percent (compared to the same time periods in 2013). However, with one extra shopping day the week of Christmas compared to last year, Christmas week grew 27 percent, lifting December growth to 6 percent. Meanwhile, fourth quarter sales were up 3 percent for the 13 weeks starting October 5 through the week ending January 3. [Read more...]

GUEST OP-ED: Is That a Squirt Gun in Your Pocket, or Are You Just Displaying Your Deep Human Need to Play?

by Matthew Lawrence, strategist, Fresh Squeezed Ideas

FreshSqueezedPlay2As a 42-year-old dad to two young boys, I get excited when they ask for toys bearing the same franchises I loved as a child during the 70’s and 80’s (It seems to be superhero everything, these days!). Providing them these experiences reminds me that I still have some youthful zeal and enthusiasm, which is a great asset in my role as a cultural strategist who works day-to-day at loftier, more adult-natured stuff. But it also reminds me that they are able to enjoy the richest play experiences possible, through tried and true brands that have endured the test of time. [Read more...]

GUEST OP-ED: Keep Kids’ Creativity Turned On, and Their Boredom Turned Off, This Holiday Season

YOXO Jeff Freeland NelsonThis holiday break, kids across America will be home and looking to stay occupied. After the novelty of new holiday gifts wears off, chances are parents will hear those dreaded words: “I’m bored.”

Pediatricians recommend less than one to two hours of screen time each day for children. So how do you fill those remaining hours without handing over the iPad or popping in a DVD? Jeff Freeland Nelson (pictured above), founder and CEO of YOXO, and former technical director of the Minnesota Children’s Museum, has tips to keep kids’ creativity flowing this winter break and throughout the year: [Read more...]

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...]