February 2006 | Vol. V - No. 2
2005 — Back in the Saddle Again
State of the Industry: Manufacturers
2005 was a very good year … and we’re not talking wine. After a downturn in the toy industry since 2001, the marketplace finally showed positive signs. Although 4th quarter earnings for most of the major players in the toy industry will not be released until early February (we'll keep you updated), the more than 70 manufacturers contacted by TDmonthly Magazine responded "thumbs up."
Courtney Tudor, CEO of Mr. Bigshot Inc., received a helping hand from a mention in the Washington Post: “We had a huge sales boost of about 1000% due to an article that was posted in the Washington Post recommending Mr. Bigshot.” That, and the fact that it was reprinted over and over in numerous other combinations, helped.
For Celebriducks (ToyShow), PR also helped bring home their biggest Christmas ever: “Dave Barry, the humorist who has a column in most U.S. newspapers, put us at the top of his holiday gift list,” explained Craig Wolfe, owner of Celebriducks. They also did a lot of radio shows, and were in the top 10 lists of newspapers such as the Wichita Eagle.
New alliances seemed to go hand-in-hand with great sales, as well. Barbara Jerome, “the mom who invented NAMiTS,” explained that they had made a licensing agreement with Great American Puzzle Factory that started January 1, 2006.
Michel Alvarez, founder of WonderChess LLC, had a great year, expanding his retailer base, and concluding his first full year in business with actual net profit on the income statement, and a strong, liability-free balance sheet. “That’s ultimately what’s most important, especially since the vast majority of us first-timers to the industry are self-funded lunatics.” He is now looking at a licensing deal by 2007.
Juleen Murray Shaw, founder of Nursery Tap (ToyShow), had a wonderful holiday that has continued to build into the new year. Bud Fraze, of Bill and Bud Inc. (ToyDirectory), had “a great Christmas,” and they too looked to licensing, signing a contract for two of their products in fall of 2005, and in talks to license a third product. Curt Covert, owner of Smirk & Dagger Games (ToyDirectory), had solid Christmas sales.
And the same went for Ideals Publications/Williamson Books (ToyShow), as Lee Ann Dichtel, retail sales manager, explained. “Sales in the fall were on target. Overall, we had a good selling season.”
As for trends in the new year?
Licensing. A full 55 percent of the companies contacted expressed that that is where they’re going in 2006 and beyond.
Conventional games finding new life in the digital arena. Covert has noticed this trend coming on since games like Scene It proved the worth of this category. “Cell phone, cable, DVD, on-line, console gaming systems, will all have ‘conventional’ game offerings that re-find an audience with a passion for technology,” he said.
An increase in interest in special-needs toys. Bud Fraze thinks that “the whole industry is waking up to the fact that not only is it good PR to have special needs toys, [but also] that market is growing very fast.”
Moving into foreign markets. Even European companies like Rob Walrecht Productions, found this to be true.
All in all, 2005 was a positive year, laying the groundwork for new expansion, new alliances and new markets. 2006 looks to be a stellar year in the toy industry.
What follows is more information on a few popular products made by the manufacturers mentioned in this article.
Based on actual stock market information compiled over the past 35 years, Mr. Bigshot plunges you into the world of Wall Street and challenges you to come out ahead of your competitors. Beginning in 1965, players advance through the years, trading their way up the financial ladder. For 2-6 players, this package includes both the board game and the CD-ROM version.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4630 (added 9/16/2005)
Celebriducks, the creator of the first-ever celebrity rubber ducks of the greatest icons of film, music, history and sports, is releasing its first cow duck, Bubbles. She's all decked out for the tub with shower cap, loofa sponge and plenty of bubbles. The first edition is only 1,008 ducks, and more than half are sold out. Bubbles will appeal to both duck and cow lovers. The ducks are all individually numbered.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6204 (added 12/29/2005)
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There are four different color-coded kinds of cards that ask children to name items that share a common feature, such as things with buttons or items that are shaped like a circle. Other times this open-ended game has kids make up stories or share their knowledge of a specific topic. There are no winners or losers. This simple game is a fun conversation starter and creates talkative children, aiding in building their vocabulary. The games are licensed, manufactured and distributed to retailers by Great American Puzzle Factory, Inc.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4254 (added 8/23/2005)
Kids love discovering small prizes inside the chess pieces — that´s the magic of this award-winning kit, which includes everything needed to learn and play chess. It features 32 prize-fillable chess pieces and a 3D-illustrated, 54-page book providing 10 easy lessons for kids and their caregivers. Incentive charts, WonderFiller sticker prizes and a 15" chessboard round out the fun and effectiveness. WonderFiller prizes are customizable to best meet the values of a particular family and they allow both players to experience winning. WonderChess received the 2007 Mr. Dad Seal of Approval as well as three awards in 2005: NAPPA Gold, Dr. Toy's Best Children's Vacation Products and Creative Child Magazine's Preferred Choice Award.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4167 (added 8/15/2005)
"Nursery Tap Hip to Toe, Volume Two" continues the journey of its Peabody Award-winning predecessor by introducing the small child to the performing arts through theatrical wordplay, rhythm, rhyming and dance. In Volume I, Juleen Murray Shaw took 30 traditional nursery rhymes, turned them on their heads, and set them to dance. Shot from the waist down, which allows a child to imagine themselves in the scenes as the dancer/performer, Nursery Tap Hip to Toe combines tap, ballet and hip-hop into a stimulating theatrical experience. Volume Two includes French and Chinese rhymes along with updated traditional English standards. “A child sees theatrical dance up close and personal and … because of the rhyming and wordplay, this increases phonemic awareness,” Shaw told TDmonthly. This product has received A Parents’ Choice “Silver Honor” Award, Creative Child Magazine’s “DVD of the Year” Award, Scholastic Teachers “Best of 2006,” an iParenting Media Award, and the Dove Foundation Seal of Approval Highest Rating – 5 Doves. Launch date: 2006.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5582 (added 11/18/2005)
See It & Sign It: American Sign Language Game by PlayAbility Toys LLC
Other products from PlayAbility Toys LLC
Not just a game, this product is also a learning tool. The game teaches basic sign language, and the players use the knowledge to compete against each other to complete word games. See It & Sign It teaches 60 words, the alphabet and numbers, and comes with 60 word cards, two secret decoder lenses and 10 double-sided game boards.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4739 (added 9/22/2005)
A hilarious send-up of the classic game with a similar title, Candyman! is a mad dash to escape that magical land. It seems the king is shipping off all of the candy to be eaten by children, so the gingerbread men are making a run for it. The winner is the first to make it past the border, with plenty of candied collateral damage along the way. Smirk & Dagger Games have “the ability to bring families back to the table to play together. Our thematic edge and ‘gotcha’ game mechanics … leave kids talking,” Curt Covert of Smirk & Dagger Games told TDmonthly.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4971 (added 10/10/2005)
This book is written by two kids who found they were fending for themselves (and their working parents) in the kitchen. It includes more than 150 recipes covering each mealtime plus snacks, desserts and salads. Mouthwatering dishes include A Whale of a Fruit Salad, Jammed Potato Skins, Chicken Shirt Pocket, Taco Salad, Tortilla Pizzas, Breakfast-on-the-Go and Faux Lasagna.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6159 (added 12/22/2005)
The Planisphere for North America by ROB WALRECHT PLANISPHERES
Other products from ROB WALRECHT PLANISPHERES
The planisphere is the perfect way to learn how to recognize stars and constellations. Every planisphere is designed for a certain latitude zone. The PLN-40 is designed for 40° north, which is good for most of North America (but also, for instance, Southern Europe, as well). The very accurate PLN-40 includes 700 stars and 300 "deep-sky" objects, some useful tips and features, Right Ascension and Declination.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6239 (added 12/29/2005)
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