May 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 5
New Companies and Colors Mix It Up
Trendy Tints and Specialty Manufacturers Keep Babes and Tots Active
Infant and toddler toys account for 15 percent or more of their total sales, said eight of nine specialty storeowners surveyed by TDmonthly Magazine. And three indicated it may account for as much as half. With those kinds of numbers, it’s no wonder that some of the newest companies catering to little ones are catering — exclusively — to the specialty market, too.
Boikido and iggiBig just came onto the scene in the United States last year, and along with the brand new Little Little Little Toy Company, are vowing loyalty to specialty stores.
"We have been approached by mass-market stores and we've said no,” Owner Matthew Peake of Top Shelf Holdings, producer of the iggiBig line, told TDmonthly.
President Peter Reynolds of The Little Little Little Toy Company expressed the same: “We're not going to the mass market, period. The specialty retailer is often used as a training ground before [companies] move onto bigger and better things, but the work they do is so important.”
Though many themes remain the same when it comes to toys for infants and toddlers, research has led several companies to branch out in colorful ways.
“There are so many young and new parents, and they really like the fun, modern, bright colors,” said Lauren Guegtler, assistant manager at Great Rocky Mountain Toy Company in Bozeman, Mont., indicating the continuance of a trend away from pastels and primaries.
Owner Amy Barrett of Lasso the Moon Wonderful Toys in Helena, Mont., has noticed an influx of spring-oriented colors — “lime green, orange, different shades of purple, aqua” — from companies such as Manhattan Toy, eeBoo and Boikido.
"There's been a lot of research done that says the young mind needs more stimulation than just primary colors,” Peake commented. His company’s iggiBig brand features shades such as light blue, magenta and lime green.
Twenty-five specialty retailers told TDmonthly their best-sellers include floor puzzles, a ball by Rhino Toys, push and pull toys, and good ol’ jack in the boxes. Aside from these and others in the list of TDmonthly’s Top-10 Most-Wanted Infant & Toddler Toys, retailers also revealed the following:
“One thing I keep ordering is the Happy Hands Mat from International Playthings,” said Owner David Campbell of Amazing Toys in Great Falls, Mont. “We put it out on display. It’s almost like an electronic piano. … And it's under $30.”
And Jennifer Schneeweis, owner of Izilla Toys in Seattle, noted that her store sells about five units per week of Plan Toys’ Punch & Drop, accounting for one of every five toddler products they sell. “People are buying it for gifts,” she said, “We recommend it.”
Read on to see what else is new and popular for little ones:
This rubbery, tri-colored ball is a staple for any child learning cognitive and social skills and developing fine- and gross-motor skills. Ideal for children with a special need, the ball is durable and has a skeletal structure that allows for easy catching. "Kids and teachers agree that Oballs are the easiest balls to catch and hold. The cool design already has won five awards for excellence and innovation, including an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award and a Dr. Toy Best Vacation Products Award,” said Suzanne Silverglate, owner of Rhino Toys.
— “Everybody buys it,” Dalene Lockhart, owner of Toy Town in Casper, Wyo., told TDmonthly in 2007. “Right now it is head and shoulders above others [in the infant/toddler category]. It's probably been that way for two years.” Retailers reported average monthly sales of five to 25 a month.
— In summer 2008, four of 66 specialty retailers named the Oball as one of their top-selling gifts for babies. “We sell more of them because our store does gift wrapping and it makes a good topper,” said Jill Jernigan, owner of J. Christopher Toys in Jonesboro, Ark.
― Ask retailers about top-selling balls and the Oball is an answer that’s sure to come up, winning the graspable toy a TDmonthly Top Seller 2007 award. Six of 64 retailers named the Oball as a best-selling baby toy in March 2009, and two of 39 said the same a year later. “[It] is definitely the best-selling gift for babies,” stated John Naisbitt, owner of Thinker Things in Del Mar, Calif., in June 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 456 (added 9/1/2004)
This tin box features a plush Circus Jester puppet and plays “Pop Goes the Weasel.” It is suitable for children over 18 months. Launch date: February 14, 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12151 (added 3/29/2007)
iggiBig Deluxe Building Blocks by TOP SHELF HOLDINGS LLC
Other products from TOP SHELF HOLDINGS LLC
This award-winning building block set includes 48 painted hardwood pieces, drawn from architectural styles from around the world. With Russian domes, Roman arches and Middle Eastern towers, children can build their own "global village." The blocks come packed in a sturdy storage crate.
— “This set is bigger, brighter and more vibrant, and includes a greater variety of styles than other building blocks and architectural blocks on the market. Since it includes many architectural styles all in one set, it stimulates a child's imagination while exposing them to different shapes and styles,” Owner Matthew Peake of Top Shelf Holdings told TDmonthly. “We also have gone more up-market in terms of material,” he added about the iggiBig line. “We use rubberwood whenever possible.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11986 (added 3/19/2007)
Dreamtime Parade by THE LITTLE LITTLE LITTLE TOY COMPANY
Other products from THE LITTLE LITTLE LITTLE TOY COMPANY
Helping baby relax and get a good night’s sleep makes him feel restful and reassured. These calming friends are fun to observe with their soft pastel colors. Dreamtime Parade is a soft donkey that attaches to a crib and plays relaxing music and/or projects a light show to help baby drift off to sleep. It comes with a remote control so mom or dad can adjust the sound or image without disturbing baby.
— “All of our product selection [and] all of our direction on marketing is based on the fact that play is critical to the full development of a child — not just physically, but mentally, socially and emotionally,” President Peter Reynolds told TDmonthly.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11889 (added 3/12/2007)
Made of 100-percent cotton corduroy fabric, this pony has an old-fashioned mop-head mane and tail. It includes a safety back rail on the seat to prevent a child from sitting off center and toppling over backward. The product is made in Poland and features quality European craftsmanship. Launch date: May 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12053 (added 3/22/2007)
Created for ages 6 months and up, Boss, the blue dinosaur with 60 colorful balls in his tummy, is just waiting for babies to give him a big hug. Babies can sit inside Boss’s tummy (ball pool) for hours of fun. When Boss is zipped up, there are other activities for kids to discover. Launch date: June 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12105 (added 3/27/2007)
When assembled, this 28-piece puzzle measures 10’ long. It is made of heavy-grade cardboard that is coated on both sides and is 20 percent thicker than the competition's material. The company’s colorful, detailed, value-priced floor puzzles are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and piece-counts, ranging from 24 to 100 pieces. The pieces of the Alphabet Train Floor Puzzle are self-correcting and the puzzle itself is an amazing 10’ long upon completion. Launch date: Re-launched January 2007 with revised graphics.
— “Our best seller is Melissa & Doug — their wooden floor puzzles are very popular,” said Melodie Ingwersen, owner of Creative Kids in Columbia, S.C.
— Research conducted by TDmonthly indicated that sales of Melissa & Doug Floor Puzzles were strongest in the Southeast, where retailers averaged more than 30 units sold a month.
— Over 57 percent of retailers told TDmonthly in early 2008 that Melissa & Doug puzzles were the best-selling puzzles in their stores.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12004 (added 3/20/2007)
The Boikido Activity Table includes three magnetic stacking animals, a zigzag activity, a bead coaster, a magnetic spinning flower, counting beads and a shape sorter. It develops shape recognition, imagination, problem solving and fine motor skills. Adult assembly is required. “The combination of bright colors, themed graphic design and age-appropriate activities makes it attractive, interesting and developmental for young children,” Jonathan Segal of Boikido told TDmonthly. He added that “Boikido changed … the traditional look of wooden toys of primary colors and exposed wood grain in favor of more contemporary and fresher colors that appeal to infants.” Launch date: October 2006.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11984 (added 3/19/2007)
Stunning colors give this perennial favorite a lively look. Babies will be engaged and amused by the responsive rattle, and caregivers can safely refrigerate this pliable plastic toy to produce a soothing teether. “We have so much of the Manhattan baby...we sell a lot,” Owner Amy Barrett of Lasso the Moon Wonderful Toys in Helena, Mont., told TDmonthly in early 2007. “People buy them for baby gifts...baby shower gifts. They like them because the colors are so bright.”
— “Winkels from Manhattan Toy — [we sell] about 30 per month,” Burdette told TDmonthly in March 2008. Five percent of the 40 retailers who spoke with TDmonthly in spring 2008 singled out this item as their stores’ best-selling infant and toddler toy.
— "I sell 18 or so a month," Mary Ellen Cerney, owner of Dear Friends & Children in Duncan, Okla., said in March 2009. In June 2009, four of 47 retailers listed Manhattan Toy as their best-selling baby line. In March 2010, two of 39 specialty retailers cited Winkel as a best-selling baby toy.
— In June 2010, five percent of 40 specialty retailers named Manhattan Toy’s Winkel as a top-selling baby product.
— As of 05/21/2012 this product had 4.5 out of 5 stars from 299 reviews on Amazon.com.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 10528 (added 12/7/2006)
Musical Hands Mat by iPlay by INTERNATIONAL PLAYTHINGS LLC
Other products from INTERNATIONAL PLAYTHINGS LLC
This musical mat features eight brightly colored, textured handprints that serve as piano keys. When pressed, they make piano, cat, dog, chicken and bell sounds, or play pre-programmed melodies. Children can follow the flashing lights in order to play a song, and the product requires two AA batteries (not included). Launch date: 2000.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12277 (added 4/11/2007)
Suitable for ages 6 months and up, this product features two adorable baby animals on their very own train car — with fun teeter-totter action. Baby can push or pull the car along, or move the animals' legs and heads for fun clicking sounds. The 7” x 5” train car links to the Amazing Animals Sing & Go Choo-Choo. Johnny’s Toys in Covington, Ky., sells five or six Fisher-Price pull toys per day, the store’s manager, Gary, told TDmonthly in early 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12278 (added 4/11/2007)
These colorful cups, for ages 6 months and up, are available with 120 names, 60 for boys and 60 for girls. They feature 12 phrases, and the company also offers 10 matching pacifiers. This product is “a fun, colorful [and] unique personalized baby sipper … and a one-of-a-kind gift not offered by any [other] company,” Mike Donohoo of I.D. Gear told TDmonthly. Launch date: March 19, 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11987 (added 3/19/2007)
Part of an organic 17-item line that includes stroller clips, rattles, hand puppets, blankets and more, this 9.84”-tall Sheep Music Box is made of organic cotton (outside) and stuffed with organic lambs wool for a super-soft feel. It is machine washable in the wool cycle. “When sigikid launched the organic line, it was paramount to find the softest organic materials on the market, while meeting the highest quality standards. The color scheme of Natural Friends is refreshingly different [from] the often overused pastel colors in baby toys, and is focused on brighter colors, without neglecting the natural aspect of the line,” CEO Eva Gottstein of sigikid told TDmonthly.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12118 (added 3/28/2007)
Designed for ages 18 months and up, this set of five cubes — featuring pet, insect, sea animals, wild animals and farm animals themes — allow children to learn 30 animal names and sounds. It features Discovery and Quiz game modes with great sounds and graphics, and includes a cube storage bag. “The amount of developmental content” makes this product unique, Don Light of Kidz Delight told TDmonthly. Launch date: April 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12034 (added 3/22/2007)
This soft, quality doll is handcrafted in Germany. Following the philosophy of Waldorf educators, it is characterized by a simple and clear form to stimulate a child’s imagination and various textures to promote tactile development. It is ideally suited for playing and cuddling, and makes a wonderful bed companion. The wool body is filled with polyester, and the hands and feet are filled with granules encased in little bags. The hair is mohair wool. It is machine washable up to 105 degrees, and all textiles have the Oeco-Tex certificate 100. “Superior quality materials and craftsmanship” set this product apart, Sales Manager Sybille Hartmann of Koesen USA told TDmonthly. Launch date: 2006.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12279 (added 4/11/2007)
Light & Sound Playmat & Gym - Lotty Ladybird by MAMAS & PAPAS LTD.
Other products from MAMAS & PAPAS LTD.
This brightly colored, luxuriously soft padded playmat and gym is packed with fun interactive features — including squeaks, rattles, five popular melodies and flashing lights — designed to encourage baby's key developmental needs from birth upward. Babies can rest on their backs and the dangling characters will entertain them. The gym is part of the Babyplay collection, which combines the fun elements of play with key developmental tasks and activities.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11988 (added 3/19/2007)
This junior version of the award-winning Bilibo can be just about anything children want it to be — a racing beetle, a spinning top, a boat in a bathtub, a game piece, a sliding puck, a designer’s seat for Barbie and more. It is 100 percent recyclable and comes in red/yellow, pink/orange and blue/green color combos.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11917 (added 3/14/2007)
One of six fun animals that can be pulled. They wobble and make a small bell sound when pulled.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11516 (added 2/19/2007)
This award-winning, patent-pending product uses a fun bottle cover designed to help babies and toddlers learn how to lift and hold their own bottles and sippy cups. Each machine-washable LilyBug features a soft, cuddly animal friend with an embroidered face and vibrant colors, and provides visual and tactile stimulation. The company requires a minimum order of 50 pieces. The product “is an innovative learning tool that children are instantly attracted to. … We provide an alternative to the hard, plastic baby bottle or sippy cup by offering a comforting animal friend during the developmental years of feeding and growing,” CEO Crystal Kane told TDmonthly. Launch date: April 2006.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11287 (added 1/29/2007)
This new game puts a fun “spin” on paper-doll play, as girls use a spinner that tells them how to dress their dolls. The game includes five dolls of different nationalities that are characterized by distinctive outfits and individual hobbies. “This product is different because not only do children get to pick-out different outfits for their girls, but they also are encouraged to think about a hobby or work they want to do one day,” Devo Ihonde, director of sales at eeBoo corp., told TDmonthly. Launch date: March 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11609 (added 2/23/2007)
Farm Quoits by THE LITTLE LITTLE LITTLE TOY COMPANY
Other products from THE LITTLE LITTLE LITTLE TOY COMPANY
This classic game features adorable farm friends. It is designed to be fun for the whole family. “Our products … are designed for the play needs of a child, and they require hand selling or personal selling, one on one, and you can't get that anywhere other than specialty,” President Peter Reynolds told TDmonthly.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11883 (added 3/9/2007)
This product gives little ones a chance to practice hammering, as they can hit the colored balls until they drop and slide out of the box. It is suitable for ages 12 to 18 months.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12524 (added 4/30/2007)
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Writer's Bio: Julie L. Jones has written articles for both newspapers and magazines. Before joining the staff of TDmonthly Magazine, she worked as a communications writer and provided editorial support for a market research company. Read more articles by this author
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