Ben Gadbois (BG): While it isn’t a category itself, robotic technology is advancing the toy industry in revolutionary new ways. Toy robots are nothing new to the market, but over the past few years we are seeing more innovative integration of robotics, allowing kids to do incredible things. From our trainable, voice-recognizing dog, Zoomer, to the autonomous, fiercely independent Zoomer Dino, toys are coming to life and great new play patterns are emerging. This year, we are fusing the latest technology and robotics with the iconic Meccano brand (known as Erector in the U.S.) with our latest robot, Meccanoid G15 KS. Meccanoid embodies the core values of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and empowers children by acting as a fun and engaging way to learn about coding, robotics, and engineering. As society advances, so do our toys, and there is a new thirst in the market as consumer behavior shifts toward products that can be both fun and educational.
With that in mind, I expect the doll category may contract slightly. Though there are perennial hits within the category, the growth that we’re seeing in others and the shift toward less gender-specific toys means that newer brands may be less successful in the category in the years to come.
TTB: How have you seen consumer expectations change over the past decade?
BG: The impact of technology on consumer behavior cannot be understated. Many toy companies have taken note of this shift in consumer behavior and have created items that fall into the new classification of “phygital”—toys that have both a physical and digital play pattern. This is an exciting new challenge for toy makers, which results in even greater value for consumers. Over time, that added value becomes an expectation. Today’s toys have to be much more than simple playthings; they need to embrace technology, offer multiple ways to interact, and should live on beyond the physical playroom.