China Toy Fair


Get a Head Start on Toy Fair

By Julie Livingston, Director of Business Development & Accounts, Child’s Play Communications; former Senior Director of Public Relations, Toy Industry Association

We all know that the fourth quarter of the current year and first quarter of the new year are a marathon of events and deadlines for the toy industry. First, it is the chaos of closing out holiday orders and enjoying a brief holiday break. Then, for many, it’s on to the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair, followed by Nuremberg and then the annual New York Toy Fair at the Jacob K. Javits Center from February 10 to 13. With such a compressed timetable, every minute in pre-Toy Fair planning counts.

The annual event draws approximately 1,000 global media representatives from top tier outlets including The Today Show, The View, CNN, the Associated Press, The New York Times, NY Daily News, Wall Street Journal, and many more. Media publicity affords toy companies with valuable promotion and exposure, which can help to hype “driver products”–those in-demand items expected to be hot sellers for the 2013 holiday season.   [Read more...]

Learning Care Group Weighs In With Toy Suggestions

Courtesy of Learning Care Group

The Learning Care Group, provider of early education and care services to children, has shared their toy suggestions. [Read more...]

Amazon vs. Brick-and-Mortar

by Lutz Muller

In a pretty flat overall market place, Amazon continues to make headway as it is propelled by the ongoing move to cyber space, lower prices, and convenience.

Amazon has three major assets. First, the absence of brick-and-mortar stores allows Amazon to offer an unlimited inventory. Second, Amazon pays no sales tax in most states, which allows the company to undersell its competitors. Third, Amazon’s infrastructure allows it to grow almost limitlessly without the need for expensive retail stores.

This is how Amazon’s sales developed over the past few years against two major competitors:

[Read more...]

Plushland to Release Domo Plush Line

Big Tent Entertainment has signed a new licensing agreement with Plushland to bring viral sensation Domo to the world of sports. The long-term deal will see the launch of a line of branded plush featuring Domo decked out in college, MLB, and NHL team logos, as well as a number of destination slogans and sayings, including “I Love New York.” Beginning next spring, campus bookstores, specialty stores, and other sports merchandisers will feature the new Domo plush line, which includes fuzzy dice, cubes, balls, and pillows.

As National Baby Safety Month Begins, VTech Survey Finds Accidents, Choking Are Top Parent Concerns

Courtesy of VTech

Results Show the Majority of Today’s Parents are Extremely Safety Conscious, Labeling Themselves as either “Protective” or a “Close Supervisor”

In honor of National Baby Safety month in September, VTech Communications, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of VTech Holdings Ltd., commissioned a survey1 conducted by independent market research firm Toluna to uncover parents’ worries, habits, and priorities for a safe home. Top safety concerns include children getting hurt by falling or getting into harmful material (29 percent), choking (24 percent), and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) (20 percent).

With these worries top of mind, today’s parents are extremely safety conscious with the majority (71 percent) of survey respondents labeling themselves as either close supervisors (40 percent) or protective (31 percent).

“As every parent discovers, keeping kids safe remains a 24/7 proposition,” says Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of Mom Central. “National Baby Safety Month offers parents key advice and tips around home safety practices that can both help protect children and provide parents with peace of mind.”

[Read more...]

Go Ahead, Tweet It: Seven Ways to Take Advantage of the 
Social Power of Your Satisfied (and Not-So-Satisfied) Customers 


By Ron Kaufman

Today, we tweet about the latest books we’ve read. We let our friends know where we’re eating lunch via Facebook. We post pictures of our latest purchases to Instagram. We post reviews of the businesses we frequent on Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Angie’s List. As consumers, many of us have gone social. We love telling people about our latest experiences, and we love hearing about what others have experienced so we know what to do this weekend and what to avoid. Unfortunately, this social reality is something that few companies have fully embraced. Until they do, they’ll be missing out on the social power of their satisfied customers.

Just think about the last book you bought on Amazon. Did you read the publisher’s comments first or did you read the customer reviews? Most likely, it was the customer reviews. That’s because people trust people like them. Companies that aren’t embracing social media today are missing out on huge opportunities to capitalize on the voices of their customers.

The voices of your customers can contribute immediately and powerfully to a better service experience. Companies should be saying to their customers, “If you did not enjoy our service, please tell us. If you did enjoy our service, please tell someone else.” Engage them. Tell happy customers to go ahead and be social about their great experiences and encourage unhappy customers to come to you via social media so that you can make it right and improve your overall service.

A lot of customer service is already being done online, customer-to-customer. Companies that embrace this behavior can improve their service and save on costs. It is not unusual for a customer with a problem to use Google to find an answer before approaching the actual company responsible for the product or service. A quick search brings you tons of answers via user forums or message boards. The truth is customers like helping other customers. They’ll go out of their way to help a fellow customer find a solution, but for companies to do that backend customer service there would be a cost. By engaging your customers to help each other, you can defray your costs, improve your customer satisfaction, and stimulate a loyal community by encouraging people in your online social space.

The trick, of course, is encouraging your customers to use social media in the most beneficial way for your company. In other words, how do you keep them spreading great things about your company while bringing their complaints only to you? [Read more...]

Licensed Toys: A Growing Phenomenon with Year-Round Appeal

Courtesy of Toy Industry Association

Character licenses based on blockbuster movies have the ability to propel products to stratospheric success, creating memories that last a lifetime for millions of fans. Recent sales for licensed toys reflect this growing phenomenon: last year, licensed toys and games were up 2 percent from 2010. For the first half of this year, those numbers have climbed further to 27 percent of total toy sales.

“Kids love bringing movies to life through play, whether they are re-enacting storylines, imagining new plot developments, or emulating their favorite superheroes and villains,” said Adrienne Appell, trend expert at the Toy Industry Association (TIA). “Playthings related to the biggest blockbusters are sure to be on the wish lists of kids throughout the year and well into the holiday season.”

TIA has been tracking many of the family friendly movies that have toy and game tie-ins on its ToyInfo.org website. The following are a few examples from this year so far… and a sneak peak at what’s coming this fall:

The Avengers (May)
Toys and games related to The Avengers encourage kids to get into the spirit of the fast-paced movie. Considered by many to be the break-out movie and toy property of the year, strong toy sales are anticipated to continue during the holiday season following the Sept. 25 release of the DVD and Blu-Ray.

  • Bubble Blaster: The Avengers (Imperial Toy)
  • Game Strike Hulk (Hasbro)
  • 21-inch Avengers Skateboard (Bravo Sports)
  • Marvel Mini Basketball Hoop Set (Franklin Sports)
  • The Avengers Mini Muggs Action Figure two-pack (Hasbro)

[Read more...]

TIA Shares Best Practices in Anti-Counterfeiting in the Toy and Game Industry

By Justin E. Pierce, Toy Industry Association

$27 million. That was the MSRP value of the counterfeit toys and electronic games seized by customs and border patrol last year alone.  And that is only what was seized.  Unfortunately, this is the reality of having a commercially successful toy or game.  While you have invested sweat and equity into development, bringing it to market, and building your brand, you are now faced, as a result of your success, with counterfeiters that eat into your profits, infringe on your rights, and expose you to liability.

This is an all too common problem, particularly in light of the ease of the online marketplace. In fact, any company with a well-known brand or popular toy or game should assume that it is already being counterfeited. Likewise, any company with a global footprint that has distribution channels in different countries, with different regulatory schemes and pricing, should assume that various entities are working to take their profit margin by diverting products.  Diversion of products into unauthorized sales channels and distribution of “gray market” goods (or parallel imports) causes significant losses for many companies.

[Read more...]

All the New Specialty Games and Puzzles Fit to Print, and Then Some

The Toy Book‘s July/August issue showcases new puzzles and games for mass and specialty retail. We received dozens of submissions fit to print, beyond what fit on our printed pages. Here’s a look at 10 more specialty games and puzzles after the jump.

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Toys Transform Toddlers into Little Learners

Courtesy of Toy Industry Association

Back-to-school season is just around the corner for millions of kids across the country … but there’s no need for younger siblings who are not yet in school to feel out of the learning loop. Thanks to toy innovation in the infant and pre-school categories, there are tons of great new playthings on the market that build cognitive and developmental skills at a young age.

“With increases in total U.S. births predicted for both 2012 and 2013, toymakers are rolling out a broad array of brand new toys and games to challenge and excite little ones, presenting them with more play options than ever before,” says Adrienne Appell, trend expert at the Toy Industry Association (TIA). “Toys can help transform tots and toddlers into lifelong learners by helping them explore their interests and talents very early on.”

[Read more...]