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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

Sesame Workshop Celebrates 45 Years of Sesame Street with New Apps, Games, and More

Cookie Monster and Alan Muraoka at the recent Digital Playground event hosted by Sesame Workshop.

Sesame Street turns 45 this year, and this past Tuesday, Sesame Workshop hosted a digital playground event in New York City to show off new apps, e-books, and other multimedia offerings for children age 5 and younger. During the morning-long event, several dozen little ones got to play test the latest in Sesame Street-branded games, which were set up at iPad stations. They also watched long- and short-format clips of Sesame Street online, courtesy of the brand’s latest digital video platforms.

During his welcome to guests, Scott Chambers, senior vice president of worldwide media distribution for Sesame Workshop, said that Sesame Street currently has an audience of roughly 5 million viewers on PBS. However, he pointed out that among the most recent generation of viewers, 63 percent of that audience is introduced to the program digitally; hence, Sesame Workshop’s latest efforts to develop the brand across a number of digital platforms.

Chambers, along with guest speakers Cookie Monster and Alan Muraoka of Sesame Street fame, took turns emphasizing the importance of self-regulation for kids–a theme reflected in several apps on-hand. One of the newest, Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame, teaches kids ages 2 to 5 how to deal with tough emotions by letting them play as a cute horned monster. Kids are presented with a choice of problem scenarios, such as having trouble getting dressed or getting ready for school, and then a choice of possible solutions. [Read more...]