Jay Foreman, CEO of Basic Fun! spoke with the Toy Book about several trends for the year, including mergers and acquisitions, toys based on retro brands, and more.

Do you anticipate the trend of mergers and acquisitions will continue this year?
Yes, it’s not getting any easier to run a toy company — big or small — in this ever-changing retail environment. Many companies run great toy lines, but are very challenged at being great toy companies. Their brands and business might make more sense in a larger platform.

Were you able to recoup the shelf space that was lost in the wake of Toys “R” Us’ demise? If so, how and where?
No, we have not seen a recoupment of the Toys “R” Us business naturally [from] the overall growth of the business. You just can’t replace the linear shelf space lost. The only way to grow is new, hot product.

The 15% tariff on toys has been called off. How does this affect any strategies you had in place to mitigate its effect?
I felt very strongly that we would win this battle with the administration and find a way to convince it … that this was and remains a ridiculous policy. So, for us, it is business as usual. My bet is this president is not capable of making a big deal with China, and phase one is the best we are going to get. For the toy industry, at least, that’s good enough.

What are your predictions for the state of toy retail this year?
Flat growth with the best retail platforms, brands, and product lines rising to the top — and everyone else fighting for their share.

Toys that embrace classic play are continuing to edge out products that incorporate technology. How does this affect your product design plans?
That is right in our sweet spot. We have little, if any, new tech or artificial intelligence in our products. We depend on classic play, such as Lite-Brite, Tonka, and Care Bears, and it continues to work. I’d certainly like to create the next Minecraft game, but the next toy that needs a phone or tablet to work is not in our plans.

Nostalgic brands, entertainment properties, and products continue to dominate store shelves. How does this trend affect innovation and new product ideas in the toy industry?
It’s a proven fact that innovation in toys generally doesn’t work for more than a season or two. It’s basic play patterns — dolls, action figures, plush, and trucks. L.O.L. Surprise! is as basic as it gets as a play pattern. The innovation is a brilliant design and storytelling.

This State of the Industry Q&A response originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of the Toy Book. Click here to read more!