COMMENTARY: Dolls for Boys Are a Sign of the Times

Fritzi, from Haba

For the most recent issue of The Toy Book, I had a chance to research trends in the doll industry, and one that stuck out is an increase in dolls with potential appeal for boys. Arklu, the creator of Lottie Dolls, is planning to introduce its first boy doll, Kite Flyer, this fall. Meanwhile, Haba will be introducing Fritzi, a doll that has no assigned gender—Fritzi can be a boy doll for boys, or a girl doll for girls. There’s also Grandmas2Share, which is marketing grandmother-themed dolls as playthings for children of both genders. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Happy National Teddy Bear Day!

by Christine Duhaime and Phil Guie

toothpickLife—or childhood, at least—would have been simply un-bear-able without teddy bears, am I right? What other toy so effectively soothes us when we’re unhappy, or makes for a truer companion on picnics, tea parties, and other adventures? And since this is an industry blog, we should also point out that teddy bears are a perennial seller among audiences of all ages: Toddlers may receive them for their first toys, but so do young adults as college graduation presents; and grown-ups as birthday gifts, Valentine’s Day tokens, and souvenirs. [Read more...]

On the Hunt with Jordan Hembrough

When you step inside Hollywood Heroes in Westwood, N.J., you can literally smell the nostalgia (for those of you who are unfamiliar, nostalgia smells similar to dust-covered cardboard and childhood memories—but like, in a good way). In the collectible toy shop, bright lights beam down on glass cases displaying superhero relics with more than 40 years under their utility belts, making these toys anything but child’s play.

Owner of Hollywood Heroes and star of the reality TV show Toy Hunter, Jordan Hembrough poses with a plush version of himself.

Owner of the shop and star of the Travel Channel series Toy Hunter, Jordan Hembrough is an expert in the art of toy collecting, with more than 25 years of professional experience dealing toys. However, toys were always an integral part of Hembrough’s life. From schoolyard selling, Hembrough entered the big-time after college, when he secured a job as a buyer for StarLog, a chain of science-fiction-focused retail stores. Despite a lack of business background, Hembrough eventually went on to launch his own company, Hollywood Heroes. “I had the passion, and I think sometimes passion will drive you more than a business plan,” he says. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Back to School Goes Full STEAM Ahead

The back-to-school season usually means the smell of newly sharpened pencils, a new wardrobe, and denial that the precious summer months have come to a close. You’ve probably heard the acronym STEAM being thrown around here and there, but this movement is making a bigger impact on the toy industry than ever before.

STEAM puts an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, art, and math, and these concepts have definitely made their way to back-to-school gear. But companies are doing a lot more than just making educational toys. They’re creating products that have value added to them—something kids appreciate without even knowing, and parents love for all of the extra benefits. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Battery-Powered Toys Are Still as Relevant as Ever

VTech.chompandcountdino

VTech’s Chomp & Stomp Dino

Toy stores today offer kids an ever-impressive selection of playthings that do more and more each year. From video games to talking plush, appcessories to robotics, it seems like there is no end in sight for innovation in the toy industry. I’ve often wondered just how far toys will go—it seems that literally anything is possible these days, with the right amount of willpower and support. Will we see invisibility cloaks? Toys that let kids fly? Time machines? The list goes on and on. [Read more...]

License to Build: Familiar Properties Fill Up the Shelves of the Construction Aisle

This article was originally published in the July/August 2014 issue of The Toy Book. To read the entire digital issue, click here.

The construction play pattern has always allowed kids to create buildable worlds and adventures straight from their imaginations. But with a recent surge of licensed toys entering the category, kids are able to build more and more familiar worlds based on their favorite existing properties. According to The NPD Group, dollar sales of licensed building sets grew by 6 percent from 2011 to 2013. As the world becomes more multi-media driven, licensed properties are deeply integrated into kids’ daily lives. Established building toy companies, as well as those looking to get their feet wet in the category, are jumping on the bandwagon with characters and environments that are already a staple among kids—and even collectors. [Read more...]

Making a Case for Mass: Pitching Specialty Products to Mass Retailers

Amy Opheim HRby Amy Opheim, owner, C3 Marketing and Copywriting

It’s show time! The official start of the 2014 sales cycle is marked by Fall Toy Preview in Dallas. The show provides an opportunity for manufacturers to present product to mass market buyers, whose buying cycles are longer than that of specialty toy store owners.

While some product features make perfect sense in specialty—high price point, niche audience, not-so-self-explanatory—the mass market is the Holy Grail for many toy and game manufacturers. But with fewer mass market outlets than ever and thousands of products competing for a very limited amount of shelf space, how can specialty manufacturers catch the eye of mass market buyers? [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Even More Smart Devices Are Available for Kids

Toy companies creating kid-friendly and parent-approved technology has been a trend for some time, with no signs of slowing down in sight. In the recent past, tablets such as the Kurio 7s and LeapFrog LeapPad Ultra dominated the kiddie-tech market with durable rubber casings, safe settings, and easy-to-set parental controls. Now, however, manufacturers are focusing on putting different devices in the hands and on the wrists of kids. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Sports Video Games Are Getting More Realistic All the Time

Phil.NHL15.08.13

NHL 15, from EA Sports

Face it, sports fans: People of all ages love watching football, baseball, basketball, etc., and ever since the first video game based on any sport was released for home consoles, people have loved playing sports video games. I myself grew up with the Madden NFL and NBA Live series, both from Electronic Arts (EA Games), and I still remember the thrill of throwing a Dan Marino touchdown, or making Shaquille O’Neal uncharacteristically fire up a three-pointer. [Read more...]

How to Create an Effective Positioning Statement to Spark Consumer Interest

Amy Opheim HRby Amy Opheim, owner, C3 Marketing and Copywriting

Whether you’re launching a new brand or product, opening a new store, or creating a new property, you’ve got to know who you are. The inability to share exactly who you are and what makes you special—in one succinct sentence—is one of the biggest reasons that new brands, products, businesses, and licenses fail. Consumers have dozens, sometimes hundreds, of choices. Why should they choose you? What is the real benefit to them? What makes you better than the competition? You’ve got to be clear so that they can see you as the best choice. But how do you cull all of your passion into one single sentence? [Read more...]