Sweet Suite 2016

Swedish Toy Retailer Believes Toys and Baby Products Should be Sold Together

Lena Hedö, swedenBy Lena Hedö

Kungen’s Kurva Shopping Centre, just outside of Stockholm, is Sweden’s largest commerce site. This is where Peter Stenlund opened his sixth store one year ago—only 600 meters from another shop in the same retail chain, and with several other competitors close by.

“If you are confident and believe in your concept there is no reason to be afraid of competition. On the contrary, it is positive to establish your brand where the traffic is,” Stenlund says.

The large shopping center originally came together by several different malls that over time grew in to each other. Kungen’s Kurva, which can pride with having the largest Ikea in the world, also has a brand new shopping arcade and there are plans to double the amount of shopping opportunities. Additionally, there are two other centres in the area: Heron City and Skärholmen’s Centre. “The catchment area is very large,” Stenlund explains, “and tells us there are about 1.7 million potential customers. This opportunity was just right, as the development during 2014 was very strong.”

Stenlund’s business has reached a critical point as it’s become too large to handle without some essential areas being covered. “The fifth store was probably the most difficult,” he says. “We were still working in a small scale and couldn’t hire a Regional Director, but [it was] too big for me to handle myself. It was up to me to delegate the workload, have self-sufficient stores, and to trust the staff. A Store Manager is completely necessary and also functions as a Deputy for the store.”

Lekia kk bp gavel

The competition in the new establishment is grand, however Stenlund says that Lekia’s double establishment isn’t remarkable in the context, and there are several strong examples to mark this. They are contending with the in-size, largest Toys ‘R Us in the Nordics, Big Baby, a large-scale child and baby store, and not to be forgotten—Ikea. ”If I’ve learned anything, it comes down to observing the traffic and most of all customer frequency. Competition can drive customers for each other and at the same time it pushes the retailers to become better and better,” Stenlund says.

The store is located on the second floor in Kungen’s Kurva Shopping Centre and holds 630 square meters of retail place. It is a combined area of Lekia and Babyproffsen, which are both Voluntary Specialist Retail Chains that Stenlund is a member of. This is something he finds both convenient and natural. At our visit to the store, the baby section isn’t fully ready but everything else has found its place. The staffs are fully trained and a walkway is prepared in the center of the store.

“We want the line between ‘play’ and ‘baby’ to be a bit blurred, but it’s essential that it’s easy for the customers to find what they are looking for,” Stenlund says. About 40 per cent of the revenue comes from ‘baby,’ according to Stenlund.

Stenlund is a spokes person who strongly speaks for the sake that toys belong together with child- and baby products. “This is a necessary qualification to achieve profitable stores,” Stenlund says. “You have to see it from the customer’s point of view. The advantage with ‘baby’ is that it requires a deeper knowledge, which means you can’t sell it everywhere.”

Lekia kk barn i bil

As previously mentioned, the employees are an important resource for Peter Stenlund, who works after the principle of “team power.”

“Everyone helps out, and everyone has knowledge of the different areas, even if some have specific responsibilities,” Stenlund explains. “It’s important that you are a sales person in a positive and true sense. For example, we have an extra large retail expertise, as both the Store Manager and the Deputy in charge have a background of working at large retail chains. There is a difference in selling and to have goods for sale.”

On Stenlund’s to-do list we find staff supplementation, as well as to continue having recurring phone meetings with the Store Manager every week. When and if the long-sought-for Regional- or Sales Director can be hired, all depends on when the next store comes to life. In terms of the turnover Peter don’t want to rush to conclusion.

“I expect it to take 24 months before we reach a reasonable level,” Stenlund says.

Game of Drones

Drones compete to be top dog in the R/C aisle by adding extra features, gaming, and more.

Winter is coming—well, at least for the toy industry, which is constantly looking forward to Q4—and toy manufacturers are always competing to provide the best products at the best price.

Last year, we saw an influx of drones hit the market. A lot of companies were jumping on the trend, from traditional R/C companies to newcomers to the game that were importing in unknown brands. Retail shelves and online retailers were flooded with a variety of drones, making it a bit of a struggle for consumers to sift through all the options to find the one that suited their needs. [Read more...]

The New Age of Feature Plush

Feature plush has come a long way, expanding far beyond plush toys that just talk or make sounds. This year, plush are more realistic and interactive than ever.

Last year, most interactive plush introductions responded to touch, voice, or movements. This year, companies continue to raise the standard, taking plush to the next level. [Read more...]

Q&A with Hansa Creation

The Toy Book spoke with Richard Martinez, president, Hansa North America, about what sets the plush company apart.

Tell me about Hansa’s background.

Inspired by our mission to educate today’s generation and future generations on the need to preserve and protect nature’s wildlife, Hansa’s artisans have lovingly designed and hand-crafted the world’s largest collection of “true to life” animals. From the 3-inch mole to the life-size mammoth, the quality, care, and commitment to education, creative play, heirloom quality, and exacting detail are reflected in each Hansa item.

Hansa_Lion

What are your plans for expanding U.S. distribution?

Hansa offers its dealers unique opportunities through multiple merchandising and display platforms. Everybody loves animals, and offering customers and guests “wow”-evoking, traffic-driving attractions and must-have quality designs makes your store even more of a destination. Delighting and empowering Hansa collectors—who value the quality, eco-friendly, educational, and creative play features—provides unlimited opportunity for zoos, museums, wildlife parks, children’s and pet stores, specialty retail, display, home décor and furnishings, attractions, promotional, event planners, catalog, eco-friendly, rental, and educational facilities to “share the magic” of Hansa’s Creations.

What makes Hansa different from other plush companies?

Each item is individually hand-crafted, giving every animal a unique personality.

Hansa_GiraffeWhat makes your products so special?

Custom-designed fabrics, pin-point creation detail, and the eco-friendly design studio setting provide the creation team with the environment where gentle paws, swishing tails, and soulful eyes and faces come together to give each character a realistic look and heirloom-quality feel that is unmistakably Hansa.

Are there educational components to your products?

Yes, each item comes with an educational booklet that features factoids, a teaching tag, and pictures and tells the story of the animals in their natural settings.

What messages are you imparting to consumers?

Our mission is to educate, delight, and entertain today’s generation and future generations, reminding them of the need to preserve, protect, explore, and understand nature’s majestic animal kingdom.

What are Hansa’s plans for the future?

Hansa will continue to enhance and expand our collection, availability, and consumer access, while creating opportunities for our dealers with unique, educational, traffic-driving, cuddly, and creative play designs. Hansa will never rest in its goal to make our good products better and our better, best. »

Q&A: Patch Products Becomes PlayMonster

BobWannThe Toy Book catches up with Bob Wann, CEO of PlayMonster.

Patch Products is now PlayMonster! What’s the story behind the new name?

The name was changed to PlayMonster to better represent the diversity and quality of the company’s product line, which is a reflection of our mission and values. We started the process several months ago with motivation to simply update and evolve our logo, but as we researched and examined the changing marketplace, we saw an opportunity to create a playful new brand name that better expresses our belief in the power of play and that play is not only about fun, but also about making a difference in people’s lives.

The new name also better reflects that we are champions of play, a belief and attitude shared by all of our employees—from the management team to sales people to product creators.

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How has PlayMonster evolved over the past 30 years?

PlayMonster was founded as Patch Products in 1985 and named for co-founders and brothers Fran and Bryce Patch. The company started more than 30 years ago with children’s puzzles, but has since grown into one of the world’s leading manufacturers and marketers of award-winning games and toys that enrich the lives of the young and the young at heart. The company has grown tremendously over the past five years alone, because we’ve expanded from being a games-only company into a multi-category toy and game company developing play for all ages, with our infant toy line Mirari, all the way to our best-selling games such as The Game of THINGS… for adults. With this variety of products, we’re now shipping millions of units of toy and game products per year, three times as many as we did five years ago. We wholeheartedly believe in bringing high-quality play to people of all ages, and will continue to do so under the PlayMonster name.

PlayMonster has experienced rapid growth over the past few years, and is now a top 30 toy company. To what do you attribute this growth, and how do you plan to maintain it?

We’ve continued to be picky about the games we create and take under our brand. We only want to produce quality products that have timeless play, not a toy or game that’s frivolous, or some short-term fad that will not have long-term appeal. A good example of this is our popular party game 5 Second Rule. We first started working on it seven years ago, and today it’s even more popular than it was when it first launched. It is still a top seller because of the fun interaction it creates. Ellen DeGeneres enjoys it so much that she frequently plays the game on her show, and the interaction between her and her guests is hilarious. In the same way we’re picky about specific ideas, we’re also careful in the acquisitions we make. We look for long-lasting play value, often with a point of difference that makes it special, and that’s what we found with our most recent acquisition of Roominate.

What inspired the acquisition of Roominate? How will this acquisition impact PlayMonster?

With the acquisition of Roominate, a line of toys designed to open up possibilities for kids by showing them that creativity and engineering are fun, PlayMonster expands into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) category.

STEM is one of the fastest-growing categories in the toy industry today. What makes Roominate different is that not only do parents like it because it delivers on the principles of STEM, but kids love it because it’s so much fun they want to play with it over and over again. The founders of Roominate did a fantastic job of designing this line with the help of kids so that the fun is new every time. What good is a STEM toy if it’s not fun and kids don’t want to use it, right?

Roominate.Amusement

In an age where kids are spending more time with technology at younger ages, how are you helping kids and families spend more time playing together?

We make fun games and toys that promote interaction and quality time by playing with friends and family. We are champions of play because play brings people together with laugh-out-loud fun, and that’s important in today’s high-pressure world. We offer a fun way to escape stress and “screen time”and consumers clearly seem to be responding to that, as evidenced by not only by our increasing sales, but also by all of the awards and accolades our products have received recently. In the last six years alone we have had eight TOTY (Toy Industry Toy of the Year) award finalists across multiple categories—that’s a huge accomplishment for us, as well as a great honor.

What are your future plans and expectations?

We expect to continue to achieve high growth as PlayMonster by continuing our momentum and building on what’s been successful for us, and so far that’s two very essential things: The first is providing great play for all ages, not just for kids or adults or infants, but for everyone. The second is providing high-quality play that stands the test of time and offers a remarkable play experience, not games or toys that will only hold interest for a few days. These two ingredients, plus scaling up our marketing and advertising on digital media and TV, will be our key to continued growth. Last year we promoted one item, Chrono Bomb, on TV, and this year we plan to promote several more, including our popular kids’ game Yeti in My Spaghetti. So we’re definitely Yeti—oops, I mean ready—for an exciting new year!

Q&A: KD Group Plans Expansion in the U.S.

KD.EricLevinThis year marks the return of KD Group as a North American International Toy Fair exhibitor. While the company is better known in Europe, KD Group is no stranger to the U.S. toy and kids’ electronics businesses. The company’s Kurio line has been a leading kids’ tablet brand in the U.S. for the past four holiday seasons.

The Toy Book sat down with KD Group’s Strategic Director Eric Levin to learn more about the company’s plans for U.S. growth and expansion.

What is KD Group’s background?

KD Group has been the leading manufacturer of innovative kids’ electronic toys throughout Europe for more than 20 years. Under our Kidz Delight (KD) brand, we offer a wide range of toys that help build early learning skills for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. They are sold at mass and specialty retailers in more than 20 countries.

Tell us about your plans for expansion in the U.S.

KD Group is most known in the U.S. currently for our Kurio line of kid-safe Android and Windows tablets. Under that brand, we give kids the latest technology they want, but with the safety features that bring parents peace of mind. Meanwhile, our KD line of toys has been available in the U.S., but has been largely “under the radar.” We are committed to changing that this year and beyond.

We believe KD Group has the experience, resources, and commitment needed to be a significant player not only in the kids’ tablet market, but also in the toy industry more broadly, expanding into categories that include preschool electronics, traditional toys, and licensed products. KD Group is committed to building a talented and experienced team here in the U.S. to ensure that we who are close to the market are creating products that work for American consumers and retailers.

KD Headoffice_RR5_140324

Where do your new product ideas come from? Do you work with outside inventors?

KD Group has always sought to be innovative by adapting new technologies, whether it is motion recognition, voice recording, or image projection, for example, to guarantee cutting-edge educational toys that are ergonomically designed for children. We have an in-house team of product engineers, scientists, and educators who collaborate on product development, and we also work with established outside inventors. In fact, our doors are always open to new opportunities and we welcome inventors to help us innovate.

In the past, Kurio partnered with major players in the app world. Are you open to working with new licensing partners going forward?

On the Kurio side in the U.S., we’ve partnered with everyone from Angry Birds to Fruit Ninja, and from Disney to YouTube Kids. In Europe, KD Group has a strong portfolio of premiere licenses and is the preferred electronic toy licensee for major brands including Peppa Pig, Fireman Sam, Disney, Barbie, and Monster High. We recognize the importance of licenses and are very interested in growing our licensed product portfolio in the U.S.

KD Headoffice_RR5_140324

What is your focus for this year? What can we expect to see from KD Group in the future?

We see a great opportunity for market share gain with Kurio this year, given the troubles our main competitors have seen. We will continue to stay on trend and align with what is driving the business. For example, we are the first company to offer Windows two-in-one options for kids. We are also very focused on the importance of offering a strong value to consumers.

Additionally, we’re excited to expand our Kurio range to include Kurio Watch, a real-working Bluetooth smartwatch designed especially for kids. It combines all the basic watch functions (alarm, calendar, calculator, etc.) with music and video players, a front-facing camera for taking selfies and videos, messaging capabilities, an activity tracker, and mini games using motion sensors.

On the toy side, we’re eager to further expand the reach of our KD line of successful European-designed educational toys in the U.S. Developed in conjunction with childhood learning professionals, the toys offer kids ages 6 months and up stimulation through different shapes and learning themes. Many of the KD toys are bilingual and also double as role-play items. Ranges include: iLOL, a “my first” series of toys for infants; Toddly Fun interactive toys; Silly Sam & Friends toys featuring silly characters in the form of everyday household items, such as a flashlight and a coffee maker; Cheeky Tunes musical instruments; and My Bath Time waterproof-guaranteed tub toys.

Under our Tech-Too brand, we have a new range of realistic, pretend, touch-sensitive toys that look just like mom and dad’s electronic devices, featuring a smart TV, remote controls, a smartphone, a two-in-one tablet, a notebook, and a camera.

We’re also introducing a new range of nightlights for infants and small children with a cute ghostlike character called Tinyboo, who helps comfort kids who may be afraid of the dark. The night-lights utilize LED technology and come in different forms and functions, from a basic Mini Light that makes the perfect bedside companion; to a Baby Light that doubles as a rattle; to a Lantern that brightens to guide young children throughout the home; to a Huggy Plush toy that has a special cuddle sensor built in.

CES 2016 Ignites Tech with Innovation

By Reyne Rice, trend hunter and thought leader, CEO ToyTrends

The latest and greatest innovations rocked the tech world at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, held in Las Vegas from Jan. 6-9. Trade guests viewed the latest virtual reality headsets; flew unmanned systems and drones; test-drove the newest automotive vehicles with built-in enhanced entertainment and digital connectivity for kids and families; and marveled at the enhanced 4-D TV and home entertainment systems. Hands-on experiences and product testing dominated the crowded show floor as global exhibitors showcased their newest launch products, services, apps, and devices. [Read more...]

New Collectible Toys Stack Up

Whether it‘s seashells at the beach, multi-colored rocks, or big colorful feathers, kids love to collect odds and ends. For more than a decade, toy companies have cashed in on this quirky habit by introducing toy lines with small price points and big collectibility. In 2016, collectible toys are projected to get smaller in size, but larger in variety and number. With many new offerings already lined up, kids will have a lot more to choose from. [Read more...]

The New Flavor of Activity Toys

Mom was wrong: apparently, it’s more than OK to play with your food.

Since the inception of Kenner Toys’ Easy-Bake Oven in 1963, kids have been expressing their creativity in the kitchen by baking up miniature sweet treats. And while the Easy-Bake Oven is one of the most iconic toys ever made, inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2006, new toys that let kids make and decorate real, edible foods are eating up shelf space like never before. [Read more...]

Coloring Outside the Age Lines

Crayola_ColorEscapes6

Coloring books are integral to kids’ creative development, with thousands of titles featuring thick black outlines of cartoon characters, just waiting to be scribbled on, torn out, and hung on the refrigerator. But kids aren’t the only ones showing off their creativity with coloring books. Specialty retailers such as Michaels and Barnes and Noble are stocking the shelves with dozens of titles designed with adults in mind. [Read more...]