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April 2006 | Vol. V - No. 4
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WTHRA Show Wrap-Up

Pomona’s Toy Trade Event Captures West Coast Crowd


For East Coast manufacturers and representatives, the Pomona show is a natural follow up to Toy Fair.
Held March 11–14, the Western Toy and Hobby Representatives Association Show (WTHRA) has become a reliable, compact, hands-on search engine for retail and wholesale buyers. Though day one was marred by a very un-SoCal-like hail storm, participants said the slush didn't dampen buyers' enthusiasm for their products — or for the show.

“After 20 years of going to this show, it is like a small town or a family,” according to Judy Hall, from Reno, Nev., and 2006 WTHRA Retailer of the Year. She has attended the show every year because it is closer to her than the New York Toy Fair.

Ira Kizner, vice president of sales and marketing at Guidecraft, agrees: “For some of our West Coast customers, this is the only time we meet face to face.”

Steve Grimshaw of Fun Lines is a long time exhibitor at the WTHRA show. “The main shift we see is in the number of customers outside of the toy store industry who are showing up to buy.” Grimshaw believes one reason for this shift is that many gift shows no longer sport long aisles of toy exhibitors, driving more specialty and gift store owners to toy shows.

WTHRA and sales agencies are both involved in expanding the audience of the show as grocery, drug, hardware, clothing and other specialty stores are including toys in their stores. “It’s true — because the toy industry is shrinking,” said WTHRA president Betsy Harney who confirmed that the association advertises the show in trade magazines outside of the toy industry. “The show is also unique in that it is set up for representatives to do business in a cost-effective way,” reports Harney. The show is run by volunteer members of the association.

For East Coast manufacturers, the Pomona show is a natural follow up to Toy Fair. “It’s a good chance to show your new lines and extensions to the folks on the West Coast who were not able to make it to New York,” said Kizner. Kizner, who has attended the show for 10 years, gets the sense that the show grows stronger and stronger. Kizner believes that over the past four or five years there has been a trend toward placing orders at the show.

Harney agrees that as buyers realize they save time and money by taking advantage of incentives when placing their order at the show, they come prepared to buy. Placing orders is a trend WTHRA encourages. The Tons of Toys giveaway awards approximately $10,000 worth of toys donated by manufacturers and wholesalers to a lucky retailer. Retailers/buyers get a raffle entry in the giveaway every time they place an order at the show.

Marilyn Chalais of Chalais Associates has had a good experience exhibiting at the show for seven years and claims her business continues to grow. With more than 900 manufacturers and representatives displaying, she suggests buyers first collect information at booths and then return to what really interests them.

Because most booths at WTHRA are manned by reps standing in for manufacturers who do not have a presence in the area, exhibitors are not arranged by toy category. This makes identification of the growing or shrinking categories difficult. With so much competition in the room with you, Chalais said “uniqueness” is important. Her science and nature lines by Noted get attention from retailers who use the show to seek out unusual items.

“Attendance has been about the same for the last five years, which is a good thing in the toy industry,” according to WTHRA office manager, Phyllis St. John. She estimates 850 to 900 actual buyers, not counting family and employees, visited Pomona, Calif., for the event.

Read here about the best-of-show products and why retailers were so enthusiastic. And in case you need to see more, TDmonthly also sent our Video Crew into selected booths, so that toys could really strut their stuff. Be sure to click on the video links to see for yourself.





MSRP: $5.50
Age Range: 7 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature



It's white, hooded and has dripping red veins. About the size of a greeting card, each Grow Your Own Plant Kit contains a seed pack and peat puck inside its mini-pot. Specific growing instructions are provided for each plant.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6636      (added 1/18/2006)
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MSRP: $13.00
Age Range: 0 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Infant & Toddler



Mary Meyer presents the Taggies Sleepy Fleece: plush toy animals with 7" x 8" fleece bodies that are easy for little hands to grip. The super soft, custom-printed fleece is baby-safe and features clever embroidered details and custom-printed tags. Sleepy Fleece is available as a bear, cat, cow or dog. Mary Meyer baby is the exclusive source for Taggies plush toys. The Taggies plush toys feature an adaptation of the Taggies blanket.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5999      (added 12/15/2005)
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MSRP: $30.00
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Construction



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.
TDmonthly posted a video of Guidecraft Inc.'s Magneatos in November 2007, in which a demonstrator commented on the "not so sturdy" nature of the product, potentially portraying the design or strength of the magnets as a weakness. TDmonthly did mention positive traits of the toy, but upon further review and observance of children playing the set, discovered even more: Magneatos encourage children to work together, communicate (as they find certain colors of pieces, for example), and compete, since the larger sets, especially, contain enough pieces for children to work on their own projects. Also, the power of the magnets forces children to put more thought into the foundation of their structures, reinforcing principles of balance. Per these findings, the video was removed.

Where to Buy: Rocking Horse Toy Store; Really Great Toys; Berkira

ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4455      (added 9/7/2005)
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MSRP: $19.99
Age Range: 3 and up
SKU or Item #: 1002
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Religious
Plush



This 16” premium plush doll comes individually packaged with detailed magnetic hands and an adorable baby Jesus. The Holy Folks Mary doll is the perfect example of patience and faith for children aged 3 and up. Mary’s unique and entertaining magnetic functionality allows children to play and pray. “Ninety percent of our orders to date have been from stores that are not faith-based,” Mica Johnson, co-owner of TadPals, told TDmonthly. “Everyone really loved the magnetic accessories and the magnetic praying hands too. … Above all else, they are just cute dolls.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7176      (added 3/9/2006)
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MSRP: $24.99
Age Range: 6 and up
Launch Date: September 2006
Gender: Boys
Category: Pretend Play



Verticon, the first aerial battle system, allows kids to experience the magic of mid-air combat. Kids can go head-to-head with 3-D warriors that fight in flight. Combat commences when kids release their palm-sized battling sphere into an inverted dome perched atop a foot-high air-blowing base. The Verticon warriors hover over the dome, floating and fighting in its powerful jet stream until one warrior is knocked out of the airflow and plummets to defeat. Each warrior is equipped with a combination of weapons best suited for its fighting style. This base unit comes with 4 warriors and 12 weapons. “Verticon wowed the crowd at the Western States Toy and Hobby show with the thrill of warriors battling to the finish in mid-air,” Robin Russell of Wild Planet told TDmonthly. This toy will be ready for retail in Fall 2006.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6856      (added 2/7/2006)
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MSRP: $14.98
Age Range: 4 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Audio & CD



Reggae Playground presents renowned artists from reggae’s birthplace of Jamaica. Judy Mowatt, a former backing vocalist for Bob Marley and a respected solo artist, invites listeners to get moving with her rousing “Let’s Dance.” Children hear about the importance of respecting each others’ differences and the need to work together in Rita Marley’s classic anthem, “Harambe.” The Jamaican reggae arrangements of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by the legendary Toots & the Maytals and the Burning Souls’ rendition of “Here Comes the Sun” demonstrate the adaptability of this infectious beat to almost any tune.
— Pat Selby, owner of Calico Cats LLC in West Bainbridge Island, Wash., “Just ran out. We’ll be ordering more Putumayo Kids.”
— Donald Roland, owner of Dot’s in Montreal likes all the Putumayo Kids disks: “Folk Playground is coming out in May, and the Reggae is on in the store all the time.”
— “Reggae music has a great beat that kids love, so everyone was pleased to see a new album of reggae music created for children to enjoy along with their parents!” said Shana Kirsch, manager of Western Region of Putumayo Kids & Education.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5876      (added 12/9/2005)
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MSRP: $159.99
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Construction



The Defender Duel has a competitive play pattern: The radio-controlled Defender vehicles enter the arena, facing the spectators in the stands — all constructed of Rokenbok's unique girder, ramp and decking units. Then it's no-holds-barred excitement as the two players try to capture all three flags from their opponent's vehicle or push the vehicle completely out of the arena to win the game. Like the other Rokenbok Start Sets, Defender Duel includes the four-player, eight-vehicle command deck and eight receiver keys, which allow nearly limitless expansion of the system. “Retailers responded enthusiastically because of the proven themes of these new Start Sets; Rokenbok's reputation for imaginative play; the flexible expandability of the Rokenbok construction system; our full-featured, robotic vehicles, and the rock-solid quality of every Rokenbok product, backed by our lifetime warranty,” Christine Norris, marketing for Rokenbok Toys, told TDmonthly. “Men really like the Rokenbok sets and are always adding to them,” said Ed Dodd, manager of Classic Toys in Anchorage, Alaska.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7262      (added 3/20/2006)
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MSRP: $124.99
Launch Date: January 2006
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Dolls



This special limited-edition doll replicates the likeness of Emma Watson as Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” films. The 17” Hermione features remarkably engineered jointing, with 14 points of articulation that include the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, side-to-side chest joint, ball-jointed hips, knees and ankles. Launch date: 2006.
— “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the fifth movie installment in the Harry Potter series, generated over $291,000,000 in the U.S. Box Office alone.
— “The most excitement in our booth was generated by Tonner Doll Company's Harry Potter and Hermione Granger,” Cleo Dougherty of Cleo & Company told TDmonthly. “People were amazed at the terrific likenesses to the actors.”
— Owner Robert Tonner of Tonner Doll told TDmonthly that the popularity of the Harry Potter line “hasn’t slowed down in the last two or three years.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7263      (added 3/20/2006)
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MSRP: $149.95
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Construction



With the Überbots construction and RC kits, kids spend most of their time designing and building offenses and defenses and then testing their assumptions on the field of battle. If they are knocked down three times, they return to their lab and redesign to come back stronger. The more kids play, the more sophisticated their designs become. Dane Scarborough, inventor of Überbots and Überstix, told TDmonthly, “Build a boat and it floats or sails; build a UFO and it really flies; build a skyscraper and your ceiling may get in the way. More than one retailer told me that placing the order felt good because Überstix are designed to work with recycled items, including water bottles, Popsicle sticks, McDonald's straws, paperclips, etc. … This feature allows kids of all economic backgrounds to build big.” The kit builds two Überbots with 250 Überstix, two controllers and two flags. Each Überbot will operate on a different RC frequency, with up to six Überbots capable of battling simultaneously. The kit can also be purchased with rechargeable batteries.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7264      (added 3/20/2006)
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MSRP: $35.00
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Outdoor Fun



“We're a young company with a new action sport toy called Spinners or SpinnerSkates … Although others said the WTHRA show was slow it was an absolute success for us!” enthused Carlos K. Vargas of SpinnerSkates. What are spinners? They are clip-on heel skates that convert any shoe into a skateshoe. Spinners clip on and off of any shoe at any time. Retailers love the 100% markup and the fact that they do not have to carry every shoe size under the sun. Spinners uses one-size-fits-all revolutionary adjustable-width design. Parents love the fact that they clip on to any shoe and are much less expensive than skates. Kids love having better control and cool design. The best thing is having flashing lights on the wheels that flash as they roll. They do not require batteries. “Spinners target buyers are mostly tweens and teens. Total spending by this group is expected to top $1 billion dollars this year,” added Vargas. They come with a free carrybag and tool and are available in 5 colors.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7265      (added 3/20/2006)
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MSRP: $14.95
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Novelties



“Faucet Light is just different,” said Joe Rooper of Hogwild. “ You screw it on your faucet and when you turn on your water, the light comes on. Turn off the water and the light goes off. Again, it is completely different, no one else has anything like it and it fits with toy stores, gift stores and more.” “I sold out of it!” Bettie Lee Moore, owner of Kaboom! in Leesburg, Va., told TDmonthly in December 2005. “And people were coming back for it!”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7266      (added 3/20/2006)
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MSRP: $35.00
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Teddy Bear
Gifts
General Toys



Grab and Go is a patent-pending technology that allows retail locations to carry personalized products without the headaches of personalized products. Retailers can put one Teddy Bear on the shelf, and that bear comes with a software CD and connection cable. The customer purchases the bear and then goes home to complete the personalization. The end result is a teddy bear with a 50-second song, where the child's name is sung 8 times in the lyrics. This is one of the products that generated the most excitement at the 2006 Pomona toy show, said Daryl Ragsdale of Kids Juke Box. “Kids Juke Box has taken the guesswork out of personalized products,” he added.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6869      (added 2/8/2006)
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Age Range: 4 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



OgoSport is the invention of Pratt Institute of Design professor Rick Goodwin. It is an inflatable disc that can be used to play catch with a ball (it gives like a trampoline and can catapult balls up to 150' in the air) and can also be used at the beach like a frisbee (as a bonus, it floats!). Batteries are not required. Available are OgoSport Mini ($7.50), Single Pack OgoSport Large ($10.00) and Double Pack OgoSport Large ($19.00).
— After the 2006 Toy Fair and Pomona shows, where the toy debuted, OgoSport was shipped to 300 stores within a couple of weeks. Shortly after, Kevin Williams of OgoSport told TDmonthly, "We’re getting great response and reorders already."
— Kate Tanner, owner of Kidstop Toys & Books in Scottsdale, Ariz., spotted OgoSport at the American International Toy Fair 2006 and knew she’d found a winner. “When we played it, we had adults waiting in line to play it,” she told TDmonthly. “When we have fun with it, you know the kids are going to have fun with it.”
TDmonthly's homeschoolers also loved OgoSport (view article).
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7040      (added 3/1/2006)
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“We have had a great response toward our Yumis at the WTHRA Pomona show,” said Nadine Becker of KL Hobbies. “Yumis have adorable faces and an ‘active’ personality, which help to promote a more playful lifestyle for kids.  Each animal has its own name and personality. Their soft bodies and wooden hands and feet make them fun to pose in all positions.  “We found retailers could not resist picking them up and posing Yumis into all sorts of activities,” added Becker.  Kids collect all 20 different animals, 5 families, sports and more.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7346      (added 3/28/2006)
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MSRP: $24.99
Age Range: 3 and up
Launch Date: May 2006
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Preschool



“Find Frinkle was unveiled at the WTHRA show in March to wide acclaim,” said Rick Rotkosky, president of Xyllion Inc. He's a lovable prairie dog who takes delight in hiding from small children. He's soft, cute and loves to talk and giggle and play over and over again. To play with Frinkle, squeeze his belly and hide him someplace safe, like under a pillow or blanket, in a closet or cabinet, behind a curtain or in a box. Then press the button on the controller and Frinkle chirps, laughs and encourages young children while he waits to be found. When a child finds Frinkle and squeezes his belly, Frinkle exclaims in delight and asks to play again. Launch date: May 8, 2006.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7329      (added 3/28/2006)
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MSRP: $44.99
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Play Sets



This new environment gives the babies of Cloverleaf Corners lots of adventures as they slide down the slide, crawl through the tunnel, run over the bridge and climb to the top of the hill. Best of all, there is a hot air balloon they can ride above the park. The park itself comes with everything needed to start playing — including two twin-sized Critters!
— “Calico Critters have been an exceptional thing...my highest increase in sales the last three years,” Yamil Castillo, owner of The Red Balloon Toy Store in Salt Lake City, Utah, told TDmonthly in April 2008.
— “Calico Critters consistently sell. There is just something that appeals to adults and children as well,” Donna, manager of The Treasured Child in LaGrange, Ky., told TDmonthly in April 2008.
— Three of 50 retailers, who spoke with TDmonthly in April 2008, singled out Calico Critters playsets as best-selling playsets.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7349      (added 3/28/2006)
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MSRP: $24.95
Age Range: 6 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



The makers of award-winning WonderChess introduce their newest educational game: WonderLetters - the "prize-filled" crossword game for kids. WonderLetters is the first game where players create interlocking words with jumbo-sized letters that contain hidden prizes.  The hidden prizes are customizable to best meet individual tastes and values - they can be tricks or treats, ranging from the motivational stickers included in the game, to jelly beans or jumping jacks.  WonderLetters offers the immediate gratification kids desire while developing their literacy skills in English and/or Spanish. The game includes 49 jumbo-sized, prize-fillable, WonderLetters from both the English and Spanish alphabets; 2 Drawstring Cloth Bags; 1 tri-fold gameboard; 1 set of motivational sticker prizes; 2 WonderReward Cards (incentive charts); and game rules. “We invented ‘prize-containing game pieces,’ which make our educational games more fun, exciting and immediately gratifying for children,” Michael Alvarez, founder and CEO of WonderChess, told TDmonthly. The game is for 2 to 4 players.

 
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7350      (added 3/28/2006)
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MSRP: $19.99
Age Range: 8 and up
SKU or Item #: 6050
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Card Games
General Games



In Snorta, each player chooses the sound of a typical farm animal and the fun begins. As players quickly flip over cards, tongue-tied players stumble and stutter to blurt out the animal sounds of the other players. Before long the "barnyard" fills with bales of laughter. You will have a hoot with Snorta! “This game seemed to appeal to the retailers because it was easy to teach [great for demos], and they loved the cute animals,” Matt Mariani, president of Out of the Box Publishing, told TDmonthly.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3425      (added 4/22/2005)
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Age Range: 3 and up
Launch Date: January 2006
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Play Sets



This set includes three explorer figures (Megan the Ranger, Ken the Tracker and Tom the Adventurer) and more than 30 accessories including an ATV, crypt, mummy, crates, tool boxes, tools and much more. Launch date: 2006.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7382      (added 3/29/2006)
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MSRP: $9.99
Age Range: 5 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Sporting Goods & Accessories



Kids can throw farther with the Black Max Football. The patented spiral ring helps kids throw tighter spirals and longer throws. Special dimples make the ball easy to throw and catch.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7383      (added 3/29/2006)
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MSRP: $9.95
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games
Gifts



This classic dice game takes rolling to the next level, with a red-hot die that explodes the possibilities for winning ... or losing. It's high stakes and double scores, with a score pad and bonus game inside this highly portable game.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7446      (added 3/31/2006)
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Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Board Games



This board game combines the exhilaration of horse racing with the atmosphere and sounds of the racetrack. Players act as jockeys aboard their own thoroughbred horse, forced to decide whether to bolt for the early lead or to hold back and try to overtake tiring horses down the backstretch. The game incorporates modern technology with traditional board game play. “Today's game buyer is more sophisticated and thus much more hard to please than previous generations,” pointed out Deep Creek Enterprises’ president Bill Walker. “Since TriQuest is able to match superior technology with the tradition of board games, it is unique in its ability to attract players of varying generations.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7338      (added 3/28/2006)
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Pennie HooverWriter's Bio: Pennie, a graduate of Indiana University School of Journalism, is a freelance writer and lives with her husband and three children in Visalia, Calif. Read more articles by this author

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