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March 2006 | Vol. V - No. 3
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Why Wood? It's Not Cheap and It's Not Modern

Manufacturers and Retailers Explain the Wood Allure


... manufacturers of quality wooden items have found a niche with the recycling, anti-plastic, anti-gas-guzzling crowd.
Wooden toys may not always fit mass market needs, but there is a niche of quality-seeking, nostalgic and environmentally friendly shoppers that search for unique pieces, especially when choosing a gift. Retailers would do well to join the hunt.

Quality counts, according to Dave Kessler, owner of Little Wonderland, a successful online retailer of wooden toys. “People are not always into plastic and batteries and bells and whistles. They want something that will last 40 years.”

Rosie Morris, store manager at Whiz Kids in San Luis Obispo, Calif., agrees that many of her customers are anti-plastic. “They are also drawn to items that remind them of their childhood, especially grandparents.” And Kessler concurs, “A lot of my customers are grandparents.”

Rob Wilson, director of marketing at Challenge & Fun Inc. (ToyShow), notes that specialty toy stores talk about the need to differentiate themselves, but they often don’t take the courageous steps to do that. “More and more we sell [wooden toys] into the specialty gift stores rather than toy stores.”

Mike Rainville, president of Maple Landmark Woodcraft (ToyDirectory), a successful manufacturer of American-made quality wooden toys, sees the same trends. “In general, we have devalued toys, where they are something to entertain or keep kids busy for a while rather than something of value to save.”

Quality wooden toys are giftable items for children and adults. At Bobbi’s Hallmark in Hanford, Calif., quality wooden nostalgic games from Front Porch Classics (ToyShow) were a relatively new item over the holidays. The baseball and pirate items were the only games in the store.

Rainville added, “Most toy stores won’t have much in nice wooden games. Stores with upscale clientele or a cross-section of customers carry the products.” Rainville conceded there is still junk in the wooden toy category. “People are looking for a nice set to have where they won’t lose all the pieces, something they can pull out for the family.”

Patrick Calello, CEO of Automoblox (ToyShow), purposely branded his product as an upscale, high-quality, heirloom toy. “And, wood is a logical foundation for that. We took the old fashioned wooden car and reinvented it, classic and modern.” Automoblox has the combination of giftable and collectible on its side. “We definitely market to parents and grandparents.”

Quality wooden toys make great gifts for adults and collectors as well as children. It’s about aesthetics for gift givers. The look and feel of well-made and often collectible wooden items appeals to the customers. Wilson reported, “Many times we sell to stores with a natural accent to their products.” Wilson and other manufacturers of quality wooden items have found a niche with the recycling, anti-plastic, anti-gas-guzzling crowd.

Whether parents or grandparents choose a wooden toy for the memories it generates for them, its aesthetic or its environmental friendliness merit, clearly they appreciate that it will last. Wood may not be the cheapest way to build a toy, but creative manufacturers are using technology to continue to bring unique, innovative items to the market for gift searchers.

The following wooden products sell well at specialty stores.





MSRP: $24.00
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



The Two Person Chinese Checkers board is one of several quality wooden games from this company, well designed to play and keep forever.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6934      (added 2/20/2006)
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MSRP: $59.95
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Wooden Toys



Itīs post time and the thrills of thoroughbred horseracing await in this exciting game of chance and strategy. The attractive wooden case unfolds to become a race track where players throw the dice and play their cards in an effort to move their horse to the finish line first. Advanced rules also allow for racing styles, handicapping and wagering.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 1698      (added 12/8/2004)
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MSRP: $49.95
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



This beautiful wooden game with wooden dice and an attractive wooden box makes a wonderful executive, family or keepsake gift. The game dates back to the days when Norman sailors rode on the high seas and is played by trying to achieve the lowest score, catching the right combinations on a player’s roll of the dice. And, the player that flips all the tiles down first “shuts the box.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6933      (added 2/20/2006)
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MSRP: $9.00
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Wooden Toys



These small but challenging puzzles are a quality version of a puzzle sometimes found in cardboard. They also remain challenging to solve again and again. Often solved more easily by the preteen set than by adults, Pocket Puzzles can make a great gift for just about anyone.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6932      (added 2/20/2006)
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MSRP: $37.50
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Wooden Toys



Bibros are fun to try and beautiful to look at, made of three different types of wood. Players manipulate pieces into flat two-dimensional and upward three-dimensional designs. The puzzle comes in a cloth bag and with a booklet of design ideas.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6931      (added 2/20/2006)
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MSRP: $35.00
Age Range: 3 to 9
SKU or Item #: 985005
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Wooden Toys
Vehicles - Small Toy
General Toys



The rich purple roof and soft rubber tires appropriately dress the Automoblox King of the Road. With an increased ride height and extra-large rims, this ride rolls with the big boys. Increased storage capacity in the rear block allows this ultimate lifestyle vehicle to be equally big on adventure and style.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 2331      (added 1/1/1900)
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MSRP: $59.00
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Wooden Toys



Each of the 20 cubes in this set can be strategically placed next to one another to bear a single image, much like pieces in a puzzle. Each cube is made of a different type of wood and identified on one side with a picture of the tree’s leaf alongside the name of the wood written in Latin, French, English and German.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6930      (added 2/20/2006)
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MSRP: $35.00
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Construction



This set of hardwood blocks with grooves and holes can be arranged in such a way as to provide a track for colorful glass marbles to run through.
— At Timeless Toys Ltd. in Chicago, floor manager Lance Sundermeyer said these sell the best at his store and that customers often buy one set and then another to add on to the initial set.
— Sallie Kashiwa, owner of Timbuk Toys Inc. in Denver, said this attractive product is most popular with people interested in the product’s aesthetic value, such as grandparents and people who choose the toy for display in a mountain vacation home.
— The beautiful set, with a cloth bag for storage, includes 21 blocks made of beech, ash, walnut and maple designed stand the test of time.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6929      (added 2/20/2006)
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MSRP: $14.95
Age Range: 5 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games
American-Made



Players have to scale the board like a mountain or rock climbing wall using their piton game pieces and a pair of dice. This simple game can be dangerous, as opponents can knock each other back to the base of the vertical wooden game board.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6928      (added 2/20/2006)
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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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