Andrew Yanofsky, director of marketing and operations at WowWee, talked about Baby Shark products, the company’s virtual showroom this year, and more in the Toy Book‘s annual State of the Industry Q&A.

The Toy Book: Games, puzzles, activities, and active toys were the top categories of 2020. Were there any surprise sellers for WowWee last year?
Andrew Yanofsky: We had a terrific sophomore year with Pinkfong Baby Shark, which also was supported by the Baby Shark Toy School online activity program soon after the pandemic hit. In addition, Power Treads launched with an exciting, direct-to-consumer campaign during the summer, which was perfect for indoor activities and the momentum carried right on through holiday, adding a TOTY nomination in the Vehicle of the Year category. And, our newly launched Wilder toys and games division released two terrific licensed games for the older teen/adult crowd: Impractical Jokers and Hot Ones, both fan favorites with more on the way in 2021!

TB: What trends will have the biggest impact on the toy industry in 2021 and beyond?
AY: One trend we’ve seen emerge during the pandemic is a shift in consumer appetite for going back to the basics. Virtual classrooms are putting kids in front of screens during the school day, with video games and streaming shows keeping them there once the school day is finished. Parents are more eager than ever to enable breaks from technology through play. This was one of the factors that made the development of our Pop2Play role-play brand so appealing. Its incredibly sturdy cardboard construction is a bonus for parents because the large structures are easily folded away after playtime. With families spending more time inside than ever, parents really appreciate the extra room!

TB: Coming off of 2020, what are you looking forward to in the year ahead?
AY: A new year means new toys! The pandemic forced everyone to stay put, but oddly enough it bought our team closer together than ever. Being more in sync helped kick our total output up a notch. When I look around at the WowWee “virtual” 2021 showroom, I’m blown away by the number of quality brands and products we will be able to deliver this year. From our new Baby Shark’s Big Show range, My Squishy Little Dumplings character line, Pop2Play, thrilling new Power Treads sets, and a few other soon-to-be-revealed lines, I think this is one of our best efforts in years. So what I’m looking forward to most in the year ahead is seeing how the kids — and the parents — respond!

This State of the Industry Q&A response was originally published in the February 2021 edition of the Toy Book. Click here to read the full issue!