April 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 4
Playmaker: Not Your Typical Monkey Business
There's Depth to Those Soaring Simians
A Foundation of Substance
The idea that substance matters most resonates with the core values of Playmaker Toys. From the very foundation of the company to the products they make, Wong believes that things come about through people and products rather than gimmicks or tricks.
That might seem surprising coming from someone who makes a screaming toy monkey, but Wong told TDmonthly that he firmly believes the product is anything but a gimmick: "We focus on developing unique items,” he said, “not copycats.”
Experience = Value
”Playmaker Toys combines generations’ worth of industry experience in R & D, manufacturing, sales and distribution,” Wong said. “I am part of a third-generation toy family. My grandfather started in the business... and my father built an import and wholesale business, so it was a perfect match.”
Eventually, they all got together and felt it was time to form a company that Wong says “focused on products that actually kept kids’ attention.” This led to the formation of Playmaker Toys in 2005.
Wong believes it’s hard to ensure you’re first in the market with a toy. So Playmaker Toys works backward. As Wong put it, “We take a category, narrow it down to the kind of product we want, then build the line back up from there.”
Wong believes that Playmaker comes out with products that are unique while meeting a genuine need in the market, which he also believes serves specialty retailers well.
"What many retailers probably know is that some of the smaller manufacturers like us allow them to make larger margins — anywhere from 10 percent to 25 percent more compared to the bigger guys,” he said. "As soon as we hear feedback from our retailers, we can react and fill their needs a lot faster.”
That’s why Wong and Playmaker have added to the stable of “Flingshot Flying” stuffed animals with chickens, ducks, cows and pigs, with more to come.
Toys That Entertain
Wong adheres to a philosophy of entertaining people with toys. So it’s not surprising that the Flying Monkey has appeared on American network TV. As Wong proudly told TDmonthly, "Even Jay Leno shot one into the audience during his recap of top 2006 toys!"
A Long-Term Game
When asked about the two biggest challenges his company has faced, Wong quickly replies, “Getting your foot in the door and patience. It’s hard to get noticed by retailers at first. At the same time, companies that think success comes overnight are setting themselves up for a fall. We’re in this for the long haul.”
According to Wong, products such as the Flying Monkey result from quality people, innovative thought and a commitment to entertainment value. Here’s some of the entertainment they’ve flung around thus far:
This monkey works like a slingshot and offers hours of screaming fun (he’s designed to scream on impact). The toy is 11” tall with an arm-span of 13”. With a bit of arm power, he can fly up to 30 feet – the farther one pulls him back, the farther he will fly. “The novelty of a monkey flying through the air and screaming, catapulted by the stretchy arms, brings smiles to children and adults alike,” said Ernie Wong, president of Playmaker Toys. “It requires interaction from those who play with it. You just don't watch it do stuff, you're an active part of what makes it such an entertaining product."
— “[We sell] three per day, 75 to 80 in a month” of the flying monkeys by Westminster International, Teresa Ford, owner of Kids’ Ketch in Lewes, Del., told TDmonthly in May 2008.
— “[We sell] at least 20 per month,” Owner Mary Sisson of Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash., told TDmonthly in May 2008. She buys the store’s best-selling monkeys from Westminster and California Creations. “We sold something like 97 in a week before Christmas — mostly to adults for their offices,” Sisson said in early ‘08.
— The Flingshot Flying Monkey was a surprise hit, and thus earned a TDmonthly Top Seller 2007 award.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9727 (added 10/23/2006)
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Writer's Bio: Dennis Furlan is a freelance writer who lives just outside of Toronto, Canada. He works on a variety of writing and editorial jobs with clients and publications worldwide. Dennis is proud to be part of the TDmonthly team, serving as a regional correspondent for the northwestern U.S. Read more articles by this author
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