If you haven’t noticed the runaway success of Pokémon Go this past week, you’re living under a rock. Look outside—all those people looking at their phones, glancing around, and walking slowly into traffic (hopefully not) are playing the hottest new augmented reality (AR) game. The word on the street is that this is the future of gaming. Perhaps it is. But it’s certainly not the first augmented reality game. The toy industry has been taking shots at this category for years with little to no success. At Toy Fair 2012, WowWee introduced its App Gear line. [Read more...]
New toys and games hitting shelves will inspire summertime play whether kids are at home, on vacation, or at the playground. The Toy Industry Association (TIA) spoke with industry experts to gain insight into what’s trending in outdoor play, what indoor playthings encourage creative skill-building and learning, and the top franchises and licenses expected to impact toy sales this summer.
Outdoor Play & New Destinations
As excitement builds for the “lazy days” of summer, toys sales show that families are anything but lazy. The NPD Group reported that the Outdoor & Sports Toys category saw a 9 percent increase in sales last year to $3.59 billion.
“The traditional outdoor play patterns—especially those related to exercise, like bicycling, running, and jumping—may not change much,” says Adrienne Appell, TIA toy trend specialist, “but toymakers are putting twists on classic toys and activities to keep kids engaged.”
New tech trends are complementing outdoor play, says J. Alison Bryant, CEO and chief play officer of PlayScience, PlayLab & Sandbox, adding that kids and families are using mobile technologies to enjoy navigational techniques such as geocaching, so they can learn about what they see on nature hikes or while playing on a beach.
“This is still relatively nascent, but what is great about it is that families are using technology to augment and enhance their play experience, not replace it,” Bryant notes.
Traveling to specialty toy stores can be perfect summer outings, especially during times when it may be rainy or too hot to be outside. Kimberly Mosley, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), says this season’s store-based events break up families’ packed schedules and provide venues for fun group activities.
“Specialty toy stores compete by making their stores a destination and providing child- and family-centered experiences that are unique in their communities,” Mosley says. “So, in ASTRA stores you’ll often see creative and fun opportunities pop up in the summer—everything from Make Your Own Garden Stone to a several-days-long Build-a-Fort Art Camp.”
Fun Ways to Play Indoors
Not all summer play takes place outside. Kids also enjoy playing inside, especially with toys and games that will boost their creative and artistic abilities. The new offerings from one of TIA’s main trends for this year, named “Ultimate Creator,” encourages kids to find and build their talents as digital artists, filmmakers, jewelers, and more.
“The season also presents opportunities for kids to explore their passions and interests through play,” says Appell. “Once they’ve returned to the house after a day outside, kids may be inspired to make their own ice cream with their parents, or design swimwear with toys and products under the Ultimate Creator trend.”
Additionally, products that teach or reinforce Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) are providing ways to keep learning fun outside of the classroom. Kids wishing to visit exotic and atypical places can arrive there almost instantly with new virtual reality (VR) products and content. Whether with a brand’s VR kit or by assembling cardboard glasses to connect to a smartphone, the sector breaks new ground in terms of offering 360-degree experiences.
“The essence of VR is to be immersed in a location it will teach children about, and transport them to places they couldn’t otherwise visit—deep in the ocean, the edge of a volcano, into a rain forest, or even into the nucleus of an atom,” says David Kleeman, senior vice president of global trends at Dubit. “It’s inexpensive, comfortable, and simple for [kids] to use, and we anticipate a growing amount of content for kids beginning this spring and summer, as the devices become widespread.”
Licensed toys account for 32 percent of U.S. toy sales, according to The NPD Group, and that number is expected to climb as various new entertainment reaches fans on the silver screen. This summer, theaters will be packed with blockbuster films featuring new and classic characters.
“Fans and industry professionals have high expectations for Captain America: Civil War, while families will likely make an outing for PG movies like Finding Dory,” Appell notes.
Other family-friendly summer blockbusters slated for release include The Angry Birds Movie, and sequels to Ice Age and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The licensed toys and games they inspire will run the gamut from tech to traditional and will keep kids busy playing for hours.
“Films’ toys often further the family fun even after the credits roll because they tend to be engaging and appropriate for all ages,” says Appell. “The play experiences offered by life-size accessories, mobile games, and everything in between should be able to keep toy sales strong and kids playing for hours.”
TIA tracks trends on a year-round basis to provide industry stakeholders with insight into what’s new and what’s on the horizon in the toy and youth entertainment product industry. Visit www.toyassociation.org/trends for more information.
Justin Smulison is the newest member of TIA’s Marketing Communications team, after years as a journalist and custom content producer in legal publishing. A proud husband and father, he is thrilled to report on toys and characters that he and his 2-year-old daughter play with together, and to be involved in an industry that positively impacts her and future generations.
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...]
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...]
The Toy Insider, in partnership with Woman’s Day magazine, hosted the fourth annual HoliDAY of Play event on Friday, October 16, where more than 100 digital influencers and members of the press met face-to-face with some of the top companies in the toy industry to get hands-on experience with the best toys on the market.
Guests were treated to a gourmet brunch while enjoying sweeping views of New York City during this exclusive 2.5-hour event. Toy Insider Mom Laurie Schacht greeted guests with the one and only Darth Vader, reinforcing the strength of the Star Wars force this year. Schacht then gave guests a full presentation on the Toy Insider’s Hot 20, Top Tech 12, and STEM 10 picks, as well as the top toy trends of 2015, which include:
Character Craze: Thanks to the upcoming launch of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, characters will play an even bigger role in the toy box than ever before, From interactive figures like Spin Master’s Legendary Yoda and Thinkway Toy’s 16-inch Darth Vader, toHasbro’s entire line of amazing role-play fun, these toys are easily the hottest of the year. Additional characters that will continue to be mega popular among kids are DisneyFrozen’s Elsa, the pups from Paw Patrol, and new adorable dinos from Disney•Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur. [Read more...]
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...]
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...]
At Spielwarenmesse 2014 the new TrendGallery will debut upcoming trends and product novelties in Hall 3A. Product displays are given a platform next to presentations and guided tours. From Wednesday to Sunday during the Toy Fair, the trend experts Reyne Rice (U.S.) and Dr. Maria Costa (Spain) will detail the individual trend segments and introduce new products. Exhibitors will also be presenting campaigns live.
For an overview of the global toy trends, Spielwarenmesse eG has created an international TrendCommittee. These trends scouts report on the latest trends from the industry from all around the world. As a preview on Spielwarenmesse 2014, the international TrendCommittee has already spotted four trends:
- Fit4Life: Toys that Promote Life Skills: Through practical methods such as gardening, sewing, handicrafts, cooking and pretending to be doctors, these toys impart important skills and prepare children for life.
- Retromania: Retro Toys and Retro Licences: Toys and heroes that grown-ups know from their own childhood are experiencing a revival. The new retro toys are often equipped with plenty of smart features.
- Mini is King: Mini Toy Versions: This development presents particular challenges in respect of products, and games in particular. More often than not, they have to be scaled down to accommodate a growing demand for mobility and transportability
- TechToys: Technology Teams up with Tradition: Traditional games and digital domains are producing game combinations which appeal to the young and old.
Since the domestic market is flat, American toy companies are increasingly becoming interested in exporting, says Carter Keithley, TIA President, who also informs about the New York Toy Fair, the importance of licensing for the toy business, the trends in the U.S. marketplace, and the Association’s activities.
by Daniele Caroli, editor, Giochi & Giocattoli
In order to be updated on the U.S. toy market and on the Toy Industry Association’s activities and events, I met Carter Keithley, president, at the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg, just a few days before the opening of the New York American International Toy Fair, which is managed by the TIA. [Read more...]