February 2006 | Vol. V - No. 2
Make My Year: 2005 Did It
Specialty Retailers Say Sales Were “Up”
2004 was a good year for selling toys, but 2005 was better, 16 of 25 specialty toy retailers told TDmonthly Magazine this January. Despite natural disasters and gas-price hikes, 2005 sales grew by 10 percent to 55 percent for most, stayed the same for six and were down for three.
When theorizing why, retailers cited decreased competition and customers who were “looking for something different … something with longevity,” as Greg Bonner, second-generation owner of the 40-year-old Heights Toy Center Inc., in Little Rock Ark., put it.
The three retailers whose sales were down all pointed to extenuating circumstances, such as a personal tragedy, town reconstruction and — in the case of Buddy Wood, owner of Le Jouet in Metairie, La. — Hurricane Katrina.
“We were closed in September,” said Wood, whose store had been flooded with 30” of water for 10 days. “But it was a fantastic December.”
Wood’s strongest sellers were specialty items, such as Madame Alexander dolls, Thomas the Tank Engine trains and ride-ons. “We had a good year with dolls,” agreed Sally Lesser, owner of Henry Bear’s Park in Arlington, Mass., who carries Madame Alexander, Adora and Corolle (ToyShow).
“They want classics …” concurred Miles Altman, owner of 25-year-old King Arthur’s Toys in Cincinnati, Ohio. “… something that’s proven …. For the first time in several years, price wasn’t a factor.”
When asked about surprise hits, Hassan Derazi, eight-year owner of Leaping Toys in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., commented, “We sold a lot of high-ticket items. We weren’t prepared for that.” His customers bought large plush toys and dollhouses that cost more than $100.
“I had absolutely spectacular sales with Plasmacar (ToyShow),” enthused Harriet Story, owner of Leaping Lizards! in Mineral Point, Wis. “As soon as I got them, I started having children ride them … and they just flew out of my store.”
Quadrilla by HAPE “blew out!” exclaimed Kate Tanner, seven-year owner of Kidstop Toy & Book Store in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Every shipment that came in was gone.” “Quadrilla was exceptional,” agreed Paula Bolte, nine-year owner of Imaginations Toy and Furniture Company in Blacksburg, Va., and two other storeowners.
Less-pricey surprises included Ruckus by Hubbub Inc. “The company had contacted the local paper and they wrote a story,” said Bolte, “We sold out and have 280 people on our waiting list.”
Tanner had a similar experience when the Wall Street Journal interviewed her for a write-up on Cogno by Double Star (ToyDirectory): “People hit our Web site and cleared us out of Cogno in 24 hours.”
“We knew it was going to be big, but Hide and Seek Safari by R&R Games was insane,” exclaimed Ed Evans, co-owner of 1-year-old All Things Fun! in West Berlin, N.J.
“We tried HABA (ToyShow) this year and did very well,” shared Altman. Games were strong with all the retailers, especially Blokus by Educational Insights (ToyDirectory), Apples to Apples by Out of the Box Publishing (ToyDirectory) and games by Gamewright and ThinkFun.
Retailers agreed that they’d been helped by the recent closures of competing specialty toy retailers and chains such as Zany Brainy. They differentiated themselves from the discount big-box stores, such as Toys R Us and Wal-Mart, by offering “pricey gift wrap,” staying on the floor and knowing their toys. Sales figures make retailers believe they’re on the right track.
“I'm very much optimistic for 2006,” concluded Bonner.
“2005 went so well that I'm meeting with a rep right now to get even more product in,” agreed Rich Gordon, owner of the Learning Express in Exton, Pa. “I think 2006 will be even better.”
The following are some of the toys that retailers said made 2005 strong:
Age Range: 2 to 5
Thomas can be loaded up at the cargo tower, then sent on his way to Tidmouth Station. The set includes a cargo tower with a slide so kids can open it to drop cargo. It also features a full track that measures 23" by 35", train signal and station. It recently won a 2006 Oppenheim Toy Award, comes with more than seven feet of track and 16 curved track pieces and is compatible with the complete LEGO and DUPLO systems.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4463 (added 9/7/2005)
Specially designed for bathtime fun, 12" Tidoo is poseable and so light that she floats. This 2005 Tidoo adds an extra dimension of fun to bathtime: When you put the doll´s feet in the water, she laughs, and when you take her out of the water, she cries. Blue-eyed Tidoo comes with her own inflatable duck-shaped float with a real working shower attachment. She was a winner of the Creative Child Magazine Toy of the Year Award.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5539 (added 11/15/2005)
Kids and adults alike can enjoy using the 105 pieces in this set to create many different kinds of giant marble runs. The brightly colored, sturdy wood pieces include two twist-action helix pieces. It also has rails, connecting blocks, accelerators and action pieces. This large Quadrilla set comes with 100 colorful marbles and instructions on how to build three rail combinations.
— Girls and boys are both into building systems, as well, such as Marble Run,” Eric Masoncup, owner of Gepetto’s Toy Box in Oak Park, Ill., told TDmonthly.
— Quadrilla was a monster hit during the holiday season 2005 and continued to sell afterward, retailers all across the nation told TDmonthly.
— Accessories, including extra tracks and blocks, are available separately.
THIS PRODUCT IS NO LONGER SOLD BY HAPE
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3949 (added 7/15/2005)
The Original PlasmaCar continues to intrigue and fascinate. Powered by kid power; no batteries, gears, or pedals needed. Just sit, put your feet up, and turn the steering wheel to propel yourself forward. The patented safety seat design places riders in a safe, comfortable position and minimizes tipping. Moves up to 6 mph on any smooth, flat surface. Supports up to 220 lbs. Visit www.plasmacar.com to see all the wonderful colors available.
— In a March 2015 survey, two out of 10 retailers told TDmonthly that Plasmacar is a best-selling outdoor toy.
— As of 05/13/2011 this product had 4.5 out of 5 stars from 122 reviews on Amazon.com. Cons: Does not work well on surfaces that aren't completely smooth.
— This top-seller in specialty stores earned a TDmonthly Top Toy 2007 award for its distinctive aerodynamic design and ease-of-use. TDmonthly believes it has the potential to become a classic due to its fresh, contemporary appeal and application in a child’s formative years.
Awards: 2012 Parents Choice Awards Recommended, 2009 Green Parents List Check Mark, 2009 DisneyFamily.com Top Action Figures and Toys for Toddlers, 2009+2008+2005 The National Parenting Centre Seal of Approval, 2008 iParenting Media Toy Award, 2008 Fat Brain Toy Award Active Play, 2006 TIA Outdoor Toy of the Year - Specialty Toy of the Year, 2006 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, 2005 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award, 2005 Dr. Toy Best Vacation Products, 2005 Creative Child Seal of Excellence, 2001 International Patent Fair, Hong Kong Gold Medal
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3829 (added 6/28/2005)
Already named a Top 10 Game by Dr. Toy and recommended by the National Parenting Center, this underwater “CHALLENGE” version of the original Cogno board game has players race through an alien ocean game board, collecting survival gear and fuel cells by answering mind-bending questions (beyond trivia!) about how the universe works. A “Book of Y” explains all the science answers for the curious. Kids love the two game boards, cool characters, strategy and thought-provoking questions. Trish Garlock, owner of Treasured Child in La Grange, Ky., said customers keep renting the game from her store's game library and then calling in with credit card in hand to purchase via the phone. It's a top seller in her store, she said in January 2006.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3008 (added 2/25/2005)
A modern adaptation of the classic game of hide-and-seek, Hide & Seek Safari features an exclusively designed Seeker — a "magically" sensitive wand that resembles a tree branch — that players must use to track down the elusive tiger. As players close in on the hiding tiger, the wand lights up to show them the way. The Seeker sounds an alarm when the tiger is near. The game can be played both indoors and outside, with multiple Seeker wands and multiple hiding animals (additional animals to be released).
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 2905 (added 2/16/2005)
With this huge set, kids can create a marble run using big hardwood ramps. It includes special pieces like a bell and a zigzag ramp. Other accessories, available separately, can be added to the set.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6274 (added 1/3/2006)
Knight's Castle by SCHLEICH NORTH AMERICA, INC.
Other products from SCHLEICH NORTH AMERICA, INC.
Jousting knights and horses need a place to gather, rest and strategize. This modular castle has two 16.5” towers with crenellations so archers can let fly and then hide, a drawbridge and an authentically medieval look. Made of textured plastic, the castle comes as an easily assembled kit. Towers and other pieces are available separately so that kids can add to the castle as their collection of knights and horses grows.
— Karen Barwick, owner of Boomerang Toys in New York City, expected the Knight’s Castle to be a great Christmas seller.
— The knights and horses that fit in this castle have been cited by almost every retailer surveyed as the hottest collectible item among boys ages 4 to 12.
— “The Knight’s Castle is a winner for us,” said Sam Armstrong, CEO of Schleich North America. “It’s a product everyone is chasing right now. We’re getting containers in every week, so it’s just a question of keeping of up with the demand.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5255 (added 10/27/2005)
These highly detailed figurines and accessories are hand-painted and historically accurate. Almost all Papo Figurines can stand on their own or ride any of the horses. "The concept of creative imaginative play continues to be something that retailers and parents are very pleased with," Larry Hotaling, president of Hotaling Imports, Papo´s U.S. distributor, told TDmonthly Magazine. "It´s something that´s [otherwise] lacking with today´s children ... Papo´s been very well received."
— Papo knights were very-good-to-great sellers in 90 percent of stores surveyed.
— “Papo knights are one of the best things we have right now,” said Richard Emery, owner of Toy Star in Easton, Pa., back in June 2005. As of the end of October 2005, retailers across the nation agreed that Papo knights were still one of their best items for boys.
— The popularity of Papo is growing strong," said Hotaling. "Children are very interested in our different categories, such as Medieval Knights Fantasy and Pirates. The brand name is becoming very well known.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4155 (added 8/15/2005)
Kids can paint with sweeping gestures when they use this generous-sized easel. One side is a chalkboard, the other´s a dry-erase board. Load a piece of paper into the paper holder and kids can paint and scribble to their heart’s content. Each side of the easel features a colorful tray that can hold paints, cups, chalk, erasers, clips and more. “Our Deluxe Easel has become one of our best-selling items because of its great value, high-quality construction and versatility,” said Rick Davis, part of the marketing team at Melissa & Doug. It has two adjustable boards that allow children of all sizes to enjoy painting and creating, and the easy-to-clean trays are removable in seconds.”
— This product has been making the TDmonthly Best-sellers lists since 2005.
— As of 1.06.2011 this product had 4.5 out of 5 stars from 647 reviews on Amazon.com and was No. 18 on the top 100 bestselling toys and games. Pros: Double Sided; easy to clean. Cons: Supplies must be purchased separately.
— "The Melissa & Doug Easel, hands-down, beats everything in terms of dollars. It's well-made and good value," was the praise given by David Campbell, owner of Amazing Toys in Great Falls, Mont.
— “Our easel, from Melissa & Doug, just blows out of here,” said Nishan Shepard, owner of Rockridge Kids in Oakland, Calif., in early 2010.
— Seven of 48 retailers named the easel as their top-selling art item in January 2010, reporting average sales of three per month.
— This easel has been a consistent best seller for Jillie Beans Toys & More of Westminster, Colo., since the store opened in 2006. (April 2010)
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4844 (added 9/29/2005)
This doll house folds up neatly into a carrying case, allowing your child to play with her new best friends anywhere. The house is fully stocked with accessories, such as chairs, toys, beds, tables and even pets. The dolls included are durable, cheerful and fully poseable.
— Syd Clarke, owner of Ali-Cat in Carrboro, N.C., told TDmonthly in a December 2014 interview that the Take-Along Doll House by Playmobil is one of their best-selling play sets.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4787 (added 9/23/2005)
Apples to Apples is a wild, award-winning card and party game that provides instant fun for four to 10 players. It’s as easy as "comparing apples to apples" ... players need only open the box and deal the cards to be ready to play. They then select the card from their hands that they think is best described by a card played by the judge. If the judge picks their card, they win that round. Everyone gets a chance to be the judge. Each round is filled with surprising and outrageous comparisons from a wide range of people, places, things and events. Fast moving and refreshing, Apples to Apples is perfect for any get-together with family and friends.
— "Sales have doubled every year," enthused Matt Mariani of Out of the Box Publishing in 2005. "We´re struggling to keep up to the demand." [Game previously available from Out of the Box.]
— Gwen Bowden, manager of Doodlehopper 4 Kids in Springfield, Va., told TDmonthly that she expected Apples to Apples to sell well during Christmas 2006.
― In early 2009, retailers reported sales of up to 40 per month of the Apples to Apples game.
― “We probably sell 25 a month,” Mike DiAndrea, manager of Hardware Center in Paoli, Penn., told TDmonthly in early 2011.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3423 (added 4/22/2005)
This all-knowing handheld features “artificial intelligence” and can read minds. Players simply think of something, and then answer a series of questions. If the machine guesses within 20 questions, it wins. “20Q is an artificial intelligence, an electronic toy, a website and a phenomenon. Teachers everywhere…tell us how much fun it is to use 20Q with early readers in their classrooms, and as a motivator and reward for older kids,” Radica USA told TDmonthly.
— "A travel game we have for older children is 20 Questions. … the whole family can enjoy this one," said Peter, owner of Mr. Toad’s Toy Company in Naples, Fla.
— “The most perfect gift imaginable,” said DeeDee McMillen, co-owner of McMillen’s Magic in Trenton, N.J.
— Retailers have told TDmonthly that 20Q answers this pertinent question: What toy with wide appeal will boost my monthly totals? Since 20Q seems poised to do it again in 4Q, it’s been honored with a TDmonthly Top Seller 2007 award.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3083 (added 3/1/2005)
Europe´s 2002 game of the year, Blokus is a strategy game for the family. It's similar to the ancient Go Game — the board is a grid and players use their pieces to try to control as much territory as possible. The game pieces are in four, 21-piece sets of varying shapes. Each player chooses a color and works on expanding his territory on the board while blocking others from doing the same. Each new piece laid down must touch at least one other piece of the same color, but can only touch at corners, not along edges. The game ends when all players have been blocked from laying down more pieces. Points are deducted for pieces not played, and the player with the highest score at the end, wins. Blokus comes with a game board with 400 squares, 84 game pieces (red, green, blue and yellow), and instructions.
— In spring 2007, Sally Lesser, owner of Massachusetts’ Henry Bear’s Park, called Blokus a “consistent best-seller” at her three stores. It's also tops at Juggles in Wakefield, R.I., and Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash. Six of 63 retailers named Blokus as their overall best seller in September 2008. Three of 52 retailers named Blokus as one of their overall top sellers in November 2008. Blokus is no longer distributed by Educational Insights as of 12/4/08.
― “No. 1 is Blokus,” Linda Hanzelko, owner of Timmy's Toy Chest in Lake Mary, Fla., told TDmonthly when asked about best-selling games in early 2009. “It's an easy sell. It's one that people come back later and say 'You were right.'” In late 2009, Lori Hershman, owner of Evan's Toy Shoppe in Hamden, Ct., estimated sales of about 34 units monthly. Six of 38 retailers called it a best-selling game in Feb. 2010, selling from three to 150 units per month.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3721 (added 5/27/2005)
Knitting is simultaneously trendy and traditional. “Knitting” takes kids from step zero (how to hold the needles and yarn) to finished projects they can show off shamelessly. The book comes complete with yarn, knitting needles, a crochet hook, two buttons and a sewing needle. They’ll learn to knit a long skinny scarf, a cozy hat, a sunglasses case, a cell phone sock and more. The book is written by Anne Akers Johnson.
— “Knitting” is one of Klutz’s Top 10 favorites on its Web site.
— “This has been selling well since January,” said Kelly Smith, owner of The Learning Express in Carlsbad, Calif.
— “Knitting” is one of the best-selling girls sharing crafts at Victoria’s Toy Station in Baton Rouge, La., said owner Katie Culotta.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5146 (added 10/21/2005)
This design toy offers creative construction challenges for today´s kids on the go. Children can stack, nest, link and even lock WEDGiTS together to create creatures, structures, mechanical levers, statues and even galactic spacecraft. Packaged in its own portable, plastic carry-case, this 35-piece educational, manipulative product allows kids to create designs, structures, creatures and art forms.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4302 (added 8/24/2005)
Magneatos is a jumbo-sized magnetic construction set similar in concept to popular sets made for older kids, but designed for small hands with huge imaginations. The distinctive extra-large size and bright colors of Magneatos make them ideal for little builders. Available in 36-, 72- and 144-piece sets, Magneatos construction sets can be combined with one another. The suggested retail prices for the sets are $30, $50 and $100, respectively. Baby builders can reach for the sky with this popular toy. Its steady sales have earned it a TDmonthly Top Seller 2007 award.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4455 (added 9/7/2005)
Calico Critters Slydale Fox Family by INTERNATIONAL PLAYTHINGS LLC
Other products from INTERNATIONAL PLAYTHINGS LLC
These tiny flocked, articulated figures are as foxy as can be. Mother Velvette wears an eyelet apron so she can prepare yummy meals for her family. Father Slick is dressed in coveralls, ready for a hard day’s labor. Brother Buster and sister Scarlet work off the calories from their mom’s good food by playing in their yard with the other kids from Cloverleaf Corners.
— “Calico Critters sell big time,” said Warren Brown, owner of French’s Toy Shop Inc. in
— “Omigod! Unbelievable! That’s like a top seller,” enthused Ricki Block, owner of Ariel’s Child in New Windsor, N.Y.
— “I believe it is the level of detail [in the toys] along with the collectibility of the critters that has resulted in so many fans … from very young children to tween girls,” commented Susan Tice, product manager for International Playthings Inc.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5631 (added 11/21/2005)
Sixty rugged plastic pieces snap together easily to form endless combinations of poseable creatures. In this set, kids can make a cat, fruit bat, lantern fish, desert lizard, snake and firefly or morph them to make all sorts of fantasy creatures. The heads have hinged jaws, and select pieces, such as the cat’s eyes, glow in the dark. All Morphs sets are interchangeable. The Morphs are also available in jungle, sea, pet, runners, fliers and dinos sets.
— “This is a great one,” said Doris Jelliff, bookkeeper for Dinosaur Hill in New York City. “It was a big hit when they first came out and now they’ve come out with new glow-in-the-dark ones.”
— “This is one of the hot sellers,” said Ricki Block of Ariel’s Child in New Windsor, N.Y. “All of the sets are going to be popular.”
— “We started with 60 stores in 2004, but the word got around so now we’re in 700,” said River Dolphin partner Mark McFarland. “The demand has been high; we’ve gotten slammed with orders. We got in 25,000 units today and they are almost entirely sold.” READ MOM REVIEW
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5256 (added 10/27/2005)
Only Hearts Club Dolls by ONLY HEARTS CLUB GROUP LLC
Other products from ONLY HEARTS CLUB GROUP LLC
Taylor, Karina, Olivia, Briana, Lily and Anna are all best friends who have made a promise to listen to their hearts and do the right thing. All six are available in this line, along with fashion accessories, outfits and each character's associated book. Each Club Doll comes with her own pet dog. Ricki Block of Ariel’s Child in New Windsor, N.Y., said she had a rush on the dolls two weeks before Christmas 2005 and sold out. Watch Pomona demo video
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4784 (added 9/23/2005)
Although PUMGOs resemble skateboards, with the PUMGO, riders never have to push off the ground to propel it. Instead, users merely pump the deck back and forth. This motion is transferred through a four-wheel-drive system to propel the board at up to 10 miles per hour. The PUMGO requires no motors, batteries or pushing. It was featured in the November 2005 issue of Boy's Life and the December 2005 issue of Sports Illustrated for Kids.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3182 (added 3/8/2005)
Remember sliding around on hardwood floors in your socks? Now enjoy the same fun on any carpeted area using these special skates. Strap them onto athletic shoes and you´re ready to glide. The smooth plastic with built-in toe grips lets users coast across carpet, yet they are safe to walk in. One size fits all. FunSlides was awarded Dr. Toy’s "10 Best Active Products" in 2004, The National Parenting Center’s Seal of Approval 2004, and, most recently, the IParenting Media Excellent Product Award. "Our toy has created a whole new category — toys and games that slide on carpet! It is a great toy that is fun and easy to demonstrate," Linda Willrich of Simtec told TDmonthly.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3330 (added 3/31/2005)
RollerCoaster Tycoon Roller Coaster Construction Set by MINIATURE AMUSEMENTS
Other products from MINIATURE AMUSEMENTS
Kids from 9 to 99 can build their own roller coaster with the “RollerCoaster Tycoon” Roller Coaster Construction Set (RCCS). The RCCS was named Best of Show at the Western Toy and Hobby Show. The RCCS is challenging and fosters creativity because there are limitless possibilities in design variations and improvements. As the RCCS is easy to assemble, alter and disassemble, friends can combine individual models to make one gigantic floor-to-ceiling coaster. Physically accurate to look and perform just like a real steel roller coaster, the RCCS is bound to give hours of imaginative fun. A full line of accessories is available, sold separately.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 583 (added 9/1/2004)
The game is intended to entice both teens and adults.
— Cranium at one time ranked No. 3 on the Pazsaz Entertainment Network´s Top 10 selling board games in North America.
— On Amazon.com it used to be the No. 3 most popular board game.
— Joyce Matthews, owner of Just 4 Fun in St. Simon’s Island, Ga., told TDmonthly that Cranium by Cranium Inc. is the absolute best-selling game in her store.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 2156 (added 1/3/2005)
Already a legend in India after countless appearances in Bollywood’s most recognizable productions, actress Isha makes her first appearance in Paris after one of her movies made it big on the European market. In her 100 percent pure silk, sari-inspired gown with exclusive embroidery design, Jason Wu-designed Isha seduces collectors with her sensational appeal. In addition to its Fashion Royals line, Integrity also makes play fashion dolls for children, as well as multi-ethnic baby and toddler dolls.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5751 (added 11/30/2005)
Super Doinkit is great for all sports — soccer, baseball, volleyball and even the pool or beach. You can kick it, hit it, catch it, roll it, volley it and even juggle it. It’s the multi-sport ball that creates excitement wherever it goes. It improves hand-eye coordination while promoting athletic competence and fun. It is the perfect cross-training tool for all ages.
— “We’ve been selling these well for several years,” Owner Elaine Hackney of Boing! JP’s Toy Shop in Jamaica Plain, Mass., told TDmonthly in summer 2007 about the “dart ball.” “The fact that it can be both indoor and out is a great selling feature. It’s good throwing practice and both kids and adults enjoy it.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 407 (added 9/1/2004)
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Writer's Bio: ALISON MAREK is an award-winning writer, director and cartoonist whose work has been published by Fairchild Publications and DC Comics (Piranha Press), broadcast on Showtime and other cable networks, and viewed worldwide in film festivals. See her short films and print work on www.alisonmarek.com. Watch her nefarious villains in the web series www.MuggsMovers.com. Get inspired by her cartoons "Daily ARFFirmations to Unleash Your Inner Fido" at www.ARFFirmations.com. Phew! And then ... Read more articles by this author
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