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...]

COMMENTARY: I Don’t Know Art, But I Know What I Like (and That Includes Books about Lego)

Everybody loves Lego. But naturally, not everyone loves it in the same way. For some, what they find most appealing is the look of the bricks, which can capture the shape of an object—whether we’re talking about the Empire State Building or the Batmobile—while retaining an element of whimsy. For others, what makes Lego so awesome is the infinite number of possibilities it presents; that is, the fact that with enough pieces (and the right ones), a person can construct whatever they want. The only limiting factor is one’s imagination. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: What We Talk About When We Talk About Why Boys Don’t Play with Dolls on TV

NBWQDQUTdfblBOa-580x326-noPadIn a perfect world, toys would be toys and there would be no grand toy judge to pound his or her gavel and declare which ones are for boys and which are for girls–okay, that doesn’t actually happen, but rarely do kids get to decide which toys they want to play with before it’s already been preconceived as a boy or girl toy.

There have been many strides made towards creating toys that intend to promote gender equality—just check out this commentary, New Toys Inspire Girls to Cross Sterotypical Boundaries, from Alexi Velasquez, or, Dolls for Boys Are a Sign of the Times, from our own Phil Guie. Yet it seems that toy companies continually miss the mark.

Pinkifying “boy” toys doesn’t close a gender gap, and marketing toys that have previously been deemed “boyish” in a way that will appeal to girls may be smart for sales, but it’s important that we look beyond the toys themselves, and at the advertising campaigns that drive them. That’s where we really see the effect that it has on the way kids play. [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...]

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...]

COMMENTARY: This Holiday Season, Let’s Not Forget the Value of Games

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 3.21.15 PMJust this weekend, I attended a party at a friend’s house—a “FriendsGiving” gathering hosted by her and her husband. After a delicious pre-holiday feast of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and veggies, we decided to let the food settle while playing a game of celebrity Charades. Our game was spontaneous, so we worked with what was at hand: post-it notes, a pen, and a salad bowl. We tore up the post-its, wrote the names of celebrities, and tossed them into the bowl before breaking into teams and doing our best Michael Jackson, George Washington, and Vanna White impressions.

This reminded me that games aren’t just for kids. Somewhere along the line, the concept of “fun and games” became synonomous with youth, a lack of responsibility, and blissful ignorance. But one could make the argument that grown-ups need games even more than kids sometimes, to help us unwind, loosen up, and chill out at the end of a busy day or a hectic work week. [Read more...]

New Exhibition of Antique Trains and Toys Opens at New-York Historical Society

P.RHCS Gallery2This past Wednesday, the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library hosted a preview for its new exhibition, Holiday Express: Trains and Toys from the Jerni Collection. The showcase arrives right in time for the holidays, and includes a number of toys, toy trains, and scenic elements, some dating as far back as the 1850s.

At the museum’s Central Park West entrance, an abstract display shows the historical connection between the U.S. and the railroad, which opened up resources in the west to the east. Using American toys, including an electric train that will move through the entire tableau, it implies the consequences of progress and its effects on New York City.

Meanwhile, the adjacent Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History contains an expansive array of cases showing off antique toys of European and American origin. These go beyond oil-powered (not electrical) trains to the largest-known version of Gebrüder Bing’s Leviathan ocean liner; a zeppelin train of German origin; even a bridge accessory for a train set, designed by the architect Alexandre Gustave Eiffel and dating back to 1909.

[Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Something in the Air, or, How I Do Drone On

Unmanned aircraft, or drones, have been in the news a lot recently. This past Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ruled that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has the authority to regulate drones, and can fine those who fly them recklessly.

DJI.InspireMeanwhile, a recent article in The Wall Street Journal profiled a Chinese company called SZ DJI Technology Co., which has created a new commercial drone armed with a high definition camera, among other bells and whistles. From the video footage I watched, what struck me was that the drone only weighs two pounds, and looks a lot like the R/C flyer toys that constantly make their way through The Toy Book offices.

According to the aforementioned NTSB ruling, drones are legally aircraft. So in the eyes of the federal government, they aren’t toys, despite the groundswell of drone hobbyists popping up in places like Chicago, and despite the fact that one can see a clear trail of evolution between these controversial machines and less notorious R/C toys. [Read more...]

Q&A with Toca Boca on Artist Play Series, Toca Ink Tattoos for Kids

Toca-Ink_product-image_1This month, Toca Boca launched the Artist Play Series, a new project that invites international artists to celebrate the synergies of play and art by creating tools for play. The result is a series of toys that encourage imagination and self-expression. The line kicked off earlier this month with Toca Ink, a set of six temporary tattoos by Brooklyn-based tattoo artist Virginia Elwood. The Toy Book chatted with Toca Boca about the new line.

The Toy Book (TTB): Is this Toca Boca’s first licensed product line in the U.S.?
Toca Boca (TB):
Toca Ink, the first product from the Artist Play Series, is not a licensed product. It’s a Toca Boca product.

TTB: How did Toca Boca select each artist for the temporary tattoo line?
TB:
Toca Ink is the only temporary tattoo product we have planned. We partnered with Virginia Elwood on it after looking at hundreds of tattoo artists across the U.S. for one that had a truly personal style and high artistic integrity. Virginia’s love for this art form is evident in her work. She has a classic style, yet her bold personality still shines through. We were drawn to how she comes across as an artist first and a tattoo artist second. [Read more...]

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Neighborhood Toy Store Day Lets Independent Retailers Shine!

by Phil Guie and Deanna Atkins

ExteriorofKaleidoscope(Editor’s note: This article was updated on November 11, 2014)

This past weekend, playtime was definitely on at mom-and-pop toy stores located throughout the U.S.

Saturday marked the fifth annual Neighborhood Toy Store Day (NTSD), an event started by the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association to support locally owned toy retailers. Community members were encouraged to visit the independent toy store in their midst, and in return, participating retailers hosted in-store arts and crafts, games, and other activities that appealed to families.

In honor of NTSD, The Toy Book’s editorial staff interviewed owners of several neighborhood toy stores in their home communities. In their responses below, the store owners touched on their NTSD plans, the support they give and receive from their neighborhoods, the reasons why shopping at a locally owned toy store is a great experience, and more.
[Read more...]