The Toy Book spoke with Drew Stevenson, vice president of sales and retail marketing North America at Mega Bloks, about the current state of the construction category and Mega Bloks role in the industry.

TB: Building sets saw a 23 percent increase in sales from 2011 to 2012, according to the NPD Group, and the category is the strongest toy category right now. Why has the construction category taken off over the past couple of years?

DS: Well actually, the category has been consistently growing for the past four years and we believe it represents a desire for more educationally beneficial toys, which absorb children’s imagination from the age of 1. Parents want what is best for their children and they understand more and more the benefits of construction in terms of skill development, creativity, self-expression, and sense of accomplishment. So, we are confident that the construction toy category will only continue to grow.

Mega Bloks will continue to offer more choices for preschoolers, boys, girls, and collectors, allowing all of our fans to continuously immerse themselves in this play pattern and grow with Mega Bloks.

TB: What are some of the biggest trends you’ve noticed in the construction category recently?

Mega Bloks Hello Kitty Ice Cream Parlor

Mega Bloks Hello Kitty Ice Cream Parlor

DS: The first important trend in the construction category is the accelerated growth of construction toys for girls ages 4 and up. For girls ages 1 to 4 years old, construction has always been an important part of their play. Mega Bloks has been making construction toys for girls for more than 27 years, with our very first preschool Big Building Bag in pink-themed colors. We know that girls love creativity, customization, and self-expression, and that construction toys bring out a sense of accomplishment in all girls. A few years ago, we came out with our Mega Bloks Hello Kitty line, which has proven to be popular with parents and little girls ages 4 and up. And now, our new Mega Bloks Barbie construction line, launched in last fall, has proven that the girl’s construction category is here to stay.

Mega Bloks Barbie Super Star Stage

Mega Bloks Barbie Super Star Stage

Another important trend that we are noticing this year is the introduction of lights and sounds in construction play sets. Mega Bloks has a number of brand new construction toys from a variety of our brands that will highlight these features. For example, our new Mega Bloks First Builders Billy Beats Dancing Piano, as well as our Mega Bloks Barbie Super Star Stage, will invite toddlers and girls to dance to the beat of more than four songs per toy with lights that flash to the beat of the music. In addition, our new Mega Bloks Halo UNSC Night Ops Gausshog will feature lights and authentic sounds from the new Halo videogame.

Retailers have recognized these trends as well with more space dedicated to overall construction toys and also increased space particularly for older girl construction toys.

TB: When it comes to Mega Bloks specifically, what are you doing to push growth in this category?

DS: We are working on new campaigns for several of our star brands, including Mega Bloks: First Builders, Barbie, Halo, Skylanders Giants, and introducing Mega Bloks Hot Wheels.

The construction category is very competitive, as is most of the toy world. But as they say “product is king!” We constantly strive to provide the most compelling and attractive offerings to our consumers—from parents and young kids right through to adult fans and collectors. We are in the forefront of licensing, working with the very best companies in children’s entertainment. We work diligently with our retail partners to develop the most competitive programs in the marketplace and a best-in-class shopping experience. We speak directly to our consumers through initiatives, such as our Mega Bloks Family website, and actively encourage their involvement in the toy development process. Digital and social media have become a large part of marketing mix in order to more effectively engage with our target market.

TB: What has Mega Bloks’ success been like over the last year or so? Are you seeing growth statistics that match the statistics for the overall category? Can you share a few examples?

Mega Bloks First Builders Safari Train

Mega Bloks First Builders Safari Train

DS: Mega Bloks has been growing ahead of the market and gaining share at retail. We continue to dominate the preschool construction category and we are leaders in the overall construction category. In fact, we are in the top two construction toy companies, which represent 95 percent of the categories’ share.

The launch of our Mega Bloks First Builders line (all of our building toys targeted towards preschoolers ages 1 to 5) in 2012 was a great success. As a result, we have seen very encouraging growth in our retail sales and this has given our retailers the opportunity to more effectively merchandise our line.

TB: What sort of lessons can be learned from what’s happening in the construction toys category? Can any of these translate to other toy categories and increasing the success of those toys?

DS: The concentration on toys with rich content, absorbing play, and educational benefits are things that can be translated into other categories and increase their success. However, the majority of the growth in the construction category is really coming from the top two players and only strengthening the position that this is an extremely brand-loyal category, therefore making it very difficult for non-branded products and new competitors to gain entry with success.

Check out the July/August issue of The Toy Book for a showcase of this year’s new construction products!