Alex Brands Acquires Shrinky Dinks

AlexBrandsShrinky Dinks will be part of the Alex Brands family of toys, which includes Alex Toys, Poof, Slinky, Scientific Explorer, and more. Invented in 1973, Shrinky Dinks consist of large, flexible sheets, which when heated in an oven, shrink to small hard plates without changing their color or shape.

Alex Brands historically licensed the Shrinky Dinks brand for use in the Alex Toys product line. It also joins Alex Brands’ growing collection of Made in the U.S. products, including Poof foam balls and Slinky products.

Alex Brands Joins Toys for Tots as Official Sponsor

AlexBrandsAs of today, Alex Brands has become an official sponsor of Toys for Tots. The company is joining the charitable program to help benefit children and families during the current holiday season.

A 67-year-old national charitable program run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Toys for Tots collects toys, books, and other gifts, distributing them to economically disadvantaged children. Last year, the Marine Corps provided for nearly 7 million children in more than 760 communities nationwide.

“We are delighted to have Alex Brands join us as a national corporate sponsor,” says retired Marine Major Bill Grein, vice president of marketing and development for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. “The addition of some of the most recognizable and iconic toy brands to our efforts is going to help make this holiday season even brighter for the children we serve.”

Alex Brands’ family of brands includes Alex Toys, Poof, Slinky, Scientific Explorer, Ideal, and 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.
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Never Ending Slinky Brings the Classic Toy into the 21st Century

18bb85d19c23ef3a3f932b3602fda962_largeThe Never Ending Slinky Machine has launched on Kickstarter this week. Also known as Project NESM, the product offers a new take on the classic Slinky, creating a perpetual motion machine when the Slinky is placed on the unit.

The product was created in the UK by a team of designers to be used as a standalone piece for a modern office or something to have around the home. It uses custom made components that turn the Slinky into an unending motion machine or infinite staircase.

The Kickstarter campaign was launched to bring Project NESM into full production. If fully-funded, one shipment will occur in September and the other in November in time for the holiday season.

Alex Brands Brings Several Toy Industry Companies Together Under One Brand

PrintAlex Toys, POOF-Slinky, and Zoob have come together to form Alex Brands, a family of brands that will include several names in the toy industry, including Alex Toys, Slinky, Scientific Explorer, and Ideal. Alex Brands’ collective portfolio will encompass more than 2,000 products spanning the categories of games, science kits, preschool and infant toys, construction sets, craft activity kits, and more.

The Alex Brands family will be headed by Fred Keller as president, and steered out of Canton, Mich., and Northvale, N.J. Alex Brands is owned by Propel Equity Partners, which acquired Poof-Slinky in July 2012, Alex Toys in May of last year, and Zoob this past September.

At next month’s American International Toy Fair in New York City, Alex Brands will introduce more than 150 new items across all its brands.

COMMENTARY: Kids Getting Older Younger—Or Younger Older?

Everyone always talks about how kids are getting older younger. Kids as young as 8 years old are swapping their Barbie dolls and Transformers for iPods and tablets—but this isn’t the case for everyone. There are big kids everywhere, and toys have a funny little habit of bringing an adult’s inner-child giggling wildly to the surface.

Nostalgia is a huge trend in toys today—classic properties such as The Smurfs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Pac-Man have resurfaced and are engaging a whole new generation. Traditional toys, such as Hasbro’s Easy Bake Oven, Kahootz’s Spirograph, and POOF-Slinky’s Slinky, all still appeal to young kids the same way they did decades ago. However, adults and older kids will find just as much fun in new products primarily targeted toward youngsters, too.

RainbowLoom.Butterfly Blossom braceletThis weekend, I was loomed. A family friend’s daughter, Karli, had her wrist covered in the colorful rubber bracelets that are a product of Rainbow Loom, from Choon’s Designs. A huge craze among kids, I was enamored by the bracelets and begged her to teach me how to make one. She did, and of course, hers came out better. I’ve been staring at it on my wrist every day since she made it for me, and I was extremely tempted to purchase my own loom when I went into a Michael’s craft store and saw the enormous display (but I thought to myself: “You’re 23 years old, Marissa! Taking home product samples is one thing, but you cannot justify BUYING a toy!”).

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Propel Equity Partners Acquires ALEX

Propel Equity Partners, a private equity firm focused on investing and creating value in consumer brands, has acquired ALEX, maker of children’s creative products.

ALEX joins the POOF-Slinky family of brands, which includes Slinky, POOF, Ideal, Scientific Explorer, and Fundex Games on the Propel Equity Partners roster of toy brands. POOF-Slinky Inc. was acquired by Propel Equity Partners in last July, and Fundex Games was acquired in December.

The combined strength of the two companies, along with an emphasis on customer-development and brand-building, will continue to fortify the brands’ presence. Broadened distribution and intensified consumer communications will drive availability of, and desire for, ALEX products among more households across the U.S. and worldwide. [Read more...]

Pennsylvania Adds Exclusive Slinky Component to Groundhog Day Foursquare Partnership

The Pennsylvania Tourism Office has announced the continuation of its partnership with Foursquare for Groundhog Day 2013 with a custom badge available to Groundhog fans worldwide. Also new this year, Foursquare users who check in at Gobbler’s Knob will also receive the celebrated Pennsylvania-made toy, Slinky. [Read more...]

GUEST BLOG: Top 10 Steel Toys of All Time by Becky Cunningham

The following is a guest blog written by Becky Cunningham, a contributor for Capital Steel & Wire, Inc. and a writer with expertise in communication and public relations. Capital Steel & Wire, Inc. is a supplier of domestic and international steel bar and wire products.

Throughout history, millions of dolls, trucks, board games, balls, stuffed animals, crafts, and other toys have been introduced for children of all ages and generations. The best toys of all time are debatable, but there are those few standard toys that have made an important mark in the life of the American child. What’s more significant is that these toys have one fundamental feature in common—they are all made of steel. Check out our list of the top 10 steel toys of all time.

1. Slinky

“It’s Slinky! It’s Slinky! For fun it’s a wonderful toy. It’s Slinky! It’s Slinky! It’s fun for a girl or a boy.”  Slinky—and its famous jingle—is certainly a childhood classic; the slogan speaks for itself. But what the slogan doesn’t say is “It’s steel! It’s steel!” The ever-popular Slinky, developed in 1943 by mechanical engineer Richard James, was a hit the moment it was available in stores. In November 1945, Gimbels Department Store sold its entire inventory of Slinkys in just 90 minutes.

This “walking” toy was actually an accidental creation. In an attempt to develop springs to support sensitive instruments aboard ships in war time, James inadvertently created a spring that bounced around different levels of his workshop and recoiled into an upright position. Fascinated by this discovery, he experimented with different types of steel and tensions, and, a year later, made a spring that would walk—the Slinky.

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Toy Battle of the Ages: Slinky vs. Etch A Sketch

Advertising agency Team Detroit has created a campaign for a battle between two classic toys: the Slinky and the Etch A Sketch. The Slinky vs. Etch A Sketch contest asks fans to vote for their favorite toy on SlinkyVsEtchASketch.com. At the website, participants can upload fan videos, while student groups, teams, and other organizations vie for a cash prize by demonstrating their love for the toys.

Prizes include $5,000 for the top video produced for each toy, as well as a daily Slinky and Etch A Sketch giveaway. Other prizes range between $500 and $3,000.

The contest runs through October 31 and is sponsored by Ohio Art and POOF-Slinky. Slinky celebrates its 65th anniversary this year, while Etch A Sketch celebrates its 50th.