Author: Guest Contributor

NPD: The Health of the U.S. Toy Industry

The remainder of 2019 should see a reversal in negative sales trends. by JULI LENNETT, vice president, industry advisor, U.S. toys, The NPD Group Year-to-date through June, the total U.S. toy industry saw retail sales drop by $705 million to $7.5 billion, a decline of 9%, according to the NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service. This decline comes after strong growth of 7% over the same time period last year, which was largely a result of the Toys “R” Us liquidation sale. Not surprisingly, June was the best-performing month this year (when excluding Easter calendar shifts), down 1.9%, as the...

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The Uncertain Future of YouTube Influencer Collaborations Could be the Jolt Your Marketing Plans Need

by Clark Nesselrodt, Kathleen Tomes, and Brooke Schwartzman of Brilliant PR & Marketing Earlier this week, we found ourselves drafting an email to our clients in response to the recent FTC fines levied against YouTube’s parent company, Google. It seemed all too natural as public relations people to convey a tone of calm and indicate that nothing much would be changing. But then, we received the first tear-soaked call from one of our YouTube creator partners. Then another. Then, dollars previously committed to an influencer for a holiday YouTube campaign returned to us with the message: “No thanks. We...

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Games: A Category That’s Still Playing to Win

By Mary Couzin, CEO and founder, Chicago Toy & Game Group Board games remains a strong category, even though its sales are not rising at the incredible rate they have been for years. Global and U.S. game and puzzle sales last year declined 1%, as overall toy industry sales decreased by 2%, with sales still higher than 2016, according to the NPD Group. And despite the loss of Toys “R” Us sales, statistics show that the games category is thriving. Successful tabletop game projects raised $165.3 million on Kickstarter last year, up 20% from 2017, according to ICO Partners. The number...

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Ethical Toy Sourcing Gains Momentum

ICTI Ethical Toy Program Endorses Latest Regulations by MARK ROBERTSON, senior vice president, communications, and stakeholder engagement, ICTI Ethical Toy Program Now is the time to embrace manufacturing against a backdrop of new regulations, evolving consumer expectations, and global sustainability initiatives. ICTI Ethical Toy Program was at the forefront of ethical manufacturing last year. Last year’s highlights include the launch of refreshed Ethical Toy Program branding, which reflects our role as the leading responsible sourcing program for the global toy industry. We also introduced major program upgrades, including a new, risk-rated audit checklist, updated ethical toy factory certification, and increased...

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Leverage Your Brand’s Social Media Practices

Top Mistakes Brands Make on Instagram by BEN GUEZ, founder, LAXIR When you start a business, your brand needs to look legitimate on social media, requiring an audience’s attention. Unfortunately, if you are just starting out on Instagram, it is harder to gain a following and master the platform’s algorithm, and it’s important to remember some best practices for social media success. Here are the biggest mistakes I’ve seen brands make on Instagram — and why you should avoid them. Buying Fake Followers This is a huge red flag, even for brands that are just starting out. It’s obvious...

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Breaking Down the ABCs of STEM Toys

Developing creative and educational STEM-focused toys. by WENDY SMOLEN, founder, wendysmolen.com Not too many years ago, all a toy needed to attract parents was to have the alphabet on it. It didn’t matter whether the letter activity was age appropriate, kid friendly, used uppercase or lowercase letters, or even made sense. If it featured the ABCs and the packaging shouted, “educational!” then parents saw it as a leg-up to Harvard admissions. Today, new letters replace the ABC hype — STEM. Toddlers are now encouraged to learn advanced math, and preschoolers need to know the basics of engineering. There are...

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Spotlight Your Success with Media Coverage

Use earned media to leverage end-of-year sales. by KIMBERLY MOSLEY, president, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association Your fourth quarter is right around the corner. You have a long to-do list this time of year; yet many American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) members will agree that getting free “advertising” deserves a place on your priority list. Earned media — valuable coverage from bloggers, newspapers, magazines, TV and radio shows, and on social media — is all about trust. Like paid advertising, media stories can build awareness about your store and products. In contrast to paid advertising, earned media implies an...

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The Rise of Esports and Competitive Entertainment Viewing

The Licensing Updates and Trends You Need to Know by REYNE RICE, co-president ITMA, global trend hunter/ToyTrends Let’s be honest: kids love esports. They are increasingly watching and engaging with esports brands, teams, and players. Add in the popularity of sports licensing for older fans — including tweens, teens, and adults — and it is no wonder that esports is one of the fastest-growing segments of the licensing industry. Although sports licensing has been around for more than 20 years, video gaming and competitive championship viewing via streaming channels, such as Twitch and YouTube, has raised esports’ worldwide visibility...

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