July 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 7
ASTRA Marketplace: Specialty at Its Best
15th Anniversary Show Welcomes New Companies and Willing Buyers
Even children were allowed in the exhibit hall, adding to the number of participants zigzagging up and down rows on Plasmart’s PlasmaCar, the decades-old Flying Turtle by Mason Corporation and the attention-grabbing EzyRoller, characterized by its sturdy steel frame and snakelike motion.
Randi Valenta of Little Threads in Chicago told TDmonthly Magazine she liked the athletic Yo Baby Practice Board by GarageCo Toys, especially because “there’s not as many boy toys.”
BOOTHS BRING ON THE NEW
Scott Dalgleish, CEO of Dragonfly Innovations, received great reviews of his Marbling and More kit during a hands-on session in which some 80 retailers got to test it out. They loved it, he said, except for the packaging — feedback he said he’s thankful to have as he prepares to take his arts and crafts line from online-only distribution to brick-and-mortar stores.
“It’s very cool,” Sharon Galluzzo of Learning Express in Cary, N.C., said of the project. “You take a pan of water and put this ink in the water and swirl it around.”
Woodland Magic Imports showed off the beech wood workmanship of a French family that’s been in the business for 300 years. The Woodman line includes a carpenter case of kid-sized tools as well as individual build-and-paint sets.
CEO Lisa Ligon of Playful Life Inc. has been to several gift shows this year, but decided to try out the toy market as well. Her Playful Chef apron and cooking tools come in a backpack and are accompanied by tips on shopping, organizing foods, nutrition and safety. “It’s real hands on,” she said, “so the little ones really love it.”
Mark-My-Time was also trying out the toy industry for the first time, with its Digital Bookmark that gives kids the ability to track timed activities such as reading, music practice and study time.
GOOD DEALS, LIGHT WALLETS
Near closing time on the last exhibition day, the noticeably busy Poppo Brands had run out of the two thick stacks of order forms they brought to the show. And how did others fare?
“They’ve all been big,” Matthew Peake of Top Shelf Holdings said of his company’s sales, pointing out that they offered free freight for minimum purchases of $1000.
Peggy Sebert, owner of Becky & Me Toys in Glenview, Ill., told TDmonthly that overall, manufacturers were offering attractive dating and freight incentives, with one even setting free freight at $250.
CARDS AND STONES DRAW INTEREST
Sebert and her associate were impressed with several games from Jax as well as the new Discombobulation from Continuum Games. Three of a Crime from Gamewright is “just a dynamite game,” she added, noting that they discovered it at Toy Fair and were already reordering.
Kathleen Lavin, a manager at Kids Club in Seattle, pointed out that ELM Education Marketing's new WordTeasers card games would be “good for kids learning SAT words.”
“We’re kind of liking the weird Dutch stones,” added Jenny Bramhall of Dandelion Toys in Fort Collins, Colo., referring to the MiYu Magic Stones offered by Winscott Corporation. She liked that the collectible stones are “natural, but tie in to fantasy, the Internet … and good works.”
A TIME TO LEARN
Over the four-day span, retailers could spend just as much time in informative sessions as they did browsing the floor. Topics covered everything from event planning to time management to ideas for fourth-quarter success, but one of the most popular presentations hit retailers on day one.
President Diane Sartain of The Tutoring Toy in Salt Lake City was one of many who appreciated the seminar on Customer-Centric Selling led by expert George Whalin of Retail Management Consultants. “We think we do a really good job with our customer service, but you can always improve,” she said, even after 19 years in business.
“Refocusing on the customer-centric philosophy … is something I’m going to take home,” seconded Elaine Hackney of Boing! JP's Toy Shop in Jamaica Plain, Mass.
Sally Erysian of Circle of Knowledge in Sunset Hills, Mo., said that during the sessions, she learned valuable lessons about gross margins and how to sell more product at a better price.
See below some products from the show:
And check out our August issue for coverage of TDmonthly’s Top-10 picks from the show (on ToyTV!), plus video footage of retailers sharing about their toy picks and conference sessions, and manufacturers demonstrating some of their newest and most popular products.
The Original Yo Baby Practice Board by GarageCo Toys, Inc.
Other products from GarageCo Toys, Inc.
This action toy helps keep kids fit as they simulate and learn how to skate, surf and snowboard without getting wet, cold or sore. Children can twist it, kick it, flip it or pop it as they play. The board measures 21” by 5.25” and comes in red, yellow, green and blue. “This product is the first of its kind. The boarding industry never had a plastic, functional, inexpensive toy — a 21st century toy,” CEO Bob Ellis of GarageCo Toys told TDmonthly. Launch date: June 2006.
— It’s very simple, yes, but the Yo Baby Practice Board received a TDmonthly Innovations 2007 award due to its usefulness as a training tool for very young children, propelling them to develop board-sport skills they can use later in life. It’s perfect for use on carpet in the home, and can easily travel anywhere.
— “We're doing well with Yo Babys, [and] ordering a case a month,” said Connie Hoeft, owner of C R Toys in Kearney, N.E., when asked about her best-selling sports toys in spring 2009.
— “We do really well with the Yo Baby practice boards. Last year, we went through a lot of those,” Lauren Obenour, manager of Green Frog Toys in Portland, Ore., told TDmonthly in March 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11555 (added 2/21/2007)
Discombobulation™ by CONTINUUM GAMES INC.
Other products from CONTINUUM GAMES INC.
In this fun, fast-paced game, a quick mind, fast reflexes and a good memory will help you stay on top. The goal is to be the first to play all of your cards before someone can discombobulate you with one of 10 distinctive Discombobulation™ challenges. Discombobulation challenges put you head-to-head against other players to compose rhymes, sing popular songs, make lists, mimic others, remember nicknames and much more. Mess up, you draw more cards.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12024 (added 3/21/2007)
This self-propelling, three-wheeled ride-on toy cruises smoothly and silently along the ground, similar to the movement of a snake. The rider simply sits in the seat, feet-first, and propels with an easy back-and-forth leg movement, demonstrating a special combination of physics properties that fascinates most first-time observers. There are no chains, no motor and no batteries. The product comes packaged with extendable axis rods (S, M, L), so it can grow with the child. “Awe-inspiring physics” and “the strong, long-lasting steel tube frame and overall quality construction” really set this product apart, according to EzyRoller President Denis Allais. Launch date: May 2007.
— Anyone can sit back and get a workout with this sleek and sporty, three-wheeled ride-on toy that moves fluidly with back-and-forth leg motion. Its long, low-set and adjustable design differentiates it from other ride-ons, as do the properties of physics that bring it to life. Such stats have garnered the Ezyroller a TDmonthly Innovations 2007 award.
— Jeanette Lauture of Aunt Jean’s Toys & Treats in Montclair, N.J., told TDmonthly in summer 2008 that the Ezyroller is a hot seller in her store. “This New Zealand outdoor ride-on toy is very innovative and has longevity for kids 3 to 14 years of age,” she said. “I’ve been selling it since October of ‘07.”
Where to buy:
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11949 (added 3/16/2007)
A gang of thieves has just been nabbed, but only three members actually committed the crime. Using keen eyes, quick thinking and deduction, players must try to figure out who's part of the guilty trio. Was it Loose-Eye Lenny, Kid Cassidy and Pencil Top? Or was it Louie St. Louis, Jonny Cortex and No Neck Nick? The first to name the right three suspects is the master sleuth. “This is a great whodunit game and is perfect if you only have a short amount of time, as the playing time is only about 15 minutes,” Cara Newbitt of Aigner Associates told TDmonthly. This game received a 2007 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award. Launch date: January 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12332 (added 4/13/2007)
WordTeasers: Idioms™ by ELM EDUCATION MARKETING LLC
Other products from ELM EDUCATION MARKETING LLC
WordTeasers: Idioms challenges kids, their friends and their families to answer funny or provocative questions involving everyday idioms (an expression whose meaning can’t be determined by the words themselves). The 150 challenge cards are easy enough for young players and sophisticated enough for adults. How many can play? The more the merrier. This educational game is designed to get everyone talking, laughing and thinking while improving their language arts skills. Launch date: September 15, 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 14089 (added 7/16/2007)
The Original PlasmaCar continues to intrigue and fascinate. Powered by kid power; no batteries, gears, or pedals needed. Just sit, put your feet up, and turn the steering wheel to propel yourself forward. The patented safety seat design places riders in a safe, comfortable position and minimizes tipping. Moves up to 6 mph on any smooth, flat surface. Supports up to 220 lbs. Visit www.plasmacar.com to see all the wonderful colors available.
— In a March 2015 survey, two out of 10 retailers told TDmonthly that Plasmacar is a best-selling outdoor toy.
— As of 05/13/2011 this product had 4.5 out of 5 stars from 122 reviews on Amazon.com. Cons: Does not work well on surfaces that aren't completely smooth.
— This top-seller in specialty stores earned a TDmonthly Top Toy 2007 award for its distinctive aerodynamic design and ease-of-use. TDmonthly believes it has the potential to become a classic due to its fresh, contemporary appeal and application in a child’s formative years.
Awards: 2012 Parents Choice Awards Recommended, 2009 Green Parents List Check Mark, 2009 DisneyFamily.com Top Action Figures and Toys for Toddlers, 2009+2008+2005 The National Parenting Centre Seal of Approval, 2008 iParenting Media Toy Award, 2008 Fat Brain Toy Award Active Play, 2006 TIA Outdoor Toy of the Year - Specialty Toy of the Year, 2006 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, 2005 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award, 2005 Dr. Toy Best Vacation Products, 2005 Creative Child Seal of Excellence, 2001 International Patent Fair, Hong Kong Gold Medal
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3829 (added 6/28/2005)
Heritage Playsets City Auto Centre by TOP SHELF HOLDINGS LLC
Other products from TOP SHELF HOLDINGS LLC
The fun is "open 24 hours" at this parking garage, car wash and service station. With a fully functional elevator, access gate and petrol pumps, this deluxe play set can really "jump-start" a child's imagination. This auto center play set is perfect for a child to play alone or with up to four other children.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12865 (added 5/15/2007)
Travel the U.S.A. the Sequence Way. Each card has the name of a capital with it's location shown on the state. Players match the state's shape and color on the card to the same state shape and color on the board, then place a chip on that space. The first player to get five chips in a row wins the game. Players of all ages will have fun learning the states and their capitals while enjoying the fun, challenging play of the sequence game. The states on the board also feature their corresponding state names. This game is for two to four players.
Awards: A TDmonthly Classics Award for being an all-time favorite toy.
— As of 7/21/2011 this product had 4.8 out of 5 stars from 13 reviews on Amazon.com.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 10605 (added 12/8/2006)
Poppo! is a fast-paced word game that is educational and fun for the whole family. Parents want fun, challenging and educational activities for their kids. Kids want to play right away, hate to wait, love challenges and definitely want to win. Peter Poppo and his pals come together in this exciting, new game specially designed for emerging readers. Your child pops the lettered dice in the poppers and matches them with the word or picture on the card. Being able to rearrange and assemble letters into words in a fast-paced setting is challenging and fun. Once children master the fundamental connection among the letters, the words and the pictures they see, they will be well on their way to becoming excellent readers. Poppo! received a 2007 Major FUN Award, The National Parenting Center's 2007 Seal of Approval and a Spring 2007 Best Products Award from Dr. Toy.
— "We offer educational, character-building products that help to bring adults and kids together," Chief Executive Optimist Michael Vien told TDmonthly. "Specialty stores are going to be able to create a Poppo! package of games, books, toys and plush characters in a way that will let customers consume products in the way they want to, by interacting simultaneously across multiple-delivery methods." He added that there will soon be a Poppo Pals virtual online community for kids and parents to learn and play together.
— Poppo! garnered a TDmonthly Top Toy 2007 award for being a simple, yet useful, educational word game with the undeniable fun factor of poppers. It also introduces new characters and thrives off of the company’s well-articulated and executed mission of enriching lives through play.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9840 (added 10/27/2006)
Quack Quack, The Call of the Farm Game by BLUE ORANGE GAMES
Other products from BLUE ORANGE GAMES
In this observation game, players race to get the farm animals home by calling the animals by name (“Pig! Cow! Duck!”) or by making the animals’ distictive sound (“Oink! Moo! Quack Quack!”). The adorable tri-colored farm animals all coincide with different combinations of the three dice. All the components are made of quality wood and are housed together in a wooden carrying box. “The wooden box makes a nice addition to the kid’s room and the cotton pouch is convenient for carrying Quack Quack wherever you go,” Blue Orange Games Sales Manager Adeline Bertrix told TDmonthly. This product is a winner of the 2007 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, the 2007 Dr. Toy Best Product Award, the 2007 Parents’ Choice Foundation Parents’ Choice Recommended Award and the 2007 Creative Child Award Preferred Choice Award. Launch date: February 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13751 (added 6/27/2007)
With this special diary, kids write with invisible ink markers and then shine the UV mini-light on the page to read what they’ve written. Each set comes with a locking 240-page diary with two keys, a mini UV-light and two invisible ink pens in a 6.5” x 7” x 1.5” magnetic-closure keepsake box. Varieties include Fairy, Castle, Princess Pea and Merlin. “A perfect gift, the My Invisible Diary sets combine the secret elements of invisible ink with a personal diary and a special keepsake box decorated with beautiful artwork,” Elizabeth Carpenter of Mazeology told TDmonthly. Launch date: September 1, 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13987 (added 7/6/2007)
The colorful Invent a Tent system is designed to help build children’s minds through creative play, allowing them to construct a unique play structure every time they pull it out. The kit includes set pole lengths and fabric dimensions and condenses easily into one storage bag. “Compared to similar products on the market, Invent A Tent builds a much sturdier play structure that is large enough for multiple children to play in at once. It also comes with an ample amount of fabric to cover the whole structure,” Cameron Scott of Invent A Tent told TDmonthly. Launch date: January 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13986 (added 7/6/2007)
The plush Adoptable Kinders Rag Dolls designed by famed artisan Aranza Zamora are washable, wear interchangeable clothes and stand about 18” tall. The collection is themed as an active group of 26 kindergarten friends with different personalities, and the name of each character begins with a different letter of the alphabet. The dolls come with an internet key-code that allows children to register online at the “Adoptable Kinders School,” where they can play educational games progressing from kindergarten through high school. A child graduates to the next grade when the games for one grade level are completed. “Our dolls are true rag dolls made from sewn fabrics and non-allergenic polyester filling. They are handmade here in the United States,” Maria Zamora of Granza Inc. told TDmonthly. Launch date: June 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13973 (added 7/6/2007)
Berenguer Boutique - 2007 Mini La Newborns by DOLLS BY BERENGUER
Other products from DOLLS BY BERENGUER
Although small in size, the Mini La Newborn is big in its true-to-life appearance. These all-vinyl baby dolls come packed in assortments of eight dolls which include three unique facial expressions. All dolls come in a cute pink or blue knitted romper with matching hat, diaper and receiving blanket.
— “Mini La Newborn from Dolls by Berenguer is only 9.5", yet … has the realistic features and wonderful detail found in larger dolls. In addition, Mini La Newborn is available two ways — as an anatomically correct doll or in a non-sexed version,” Mark Putinski of Dolls by Berenguer told TDmonthly. “This baby is especially popular because it is available in multiple ethnicities, including Caucasian, African American, Hispanic and Asian.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13969 (added 7/6/2007)
Dig It Up! Excavation Game by NEAR NATURE CORPORATION
Other products from NEAR NATURE CORPORATION
Every box of this dinosaur excavation game is comprised of a digging tool set and a buried dinosaur fossil, and the game simulates the common searching pattern paleontologists use in the field. The museum-quality products conform to United States and European Safety standards (EN71, ASTM F963 and AS1647). “Our product is the only digging play-type dinosaur game that could make layers simulating real paleontologists’ action. The dinosaur fossil is made from stone powder, which is three times stronger than similar products in the market,” President Tony Sangvacharakul of Near Nature Corporation told TDmonthly. Launch date: June 24, 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13968 (added 7/6/2007)
With this assemble-and-paste picture kit, children can create whimsical scenes from easy punch-out paper shape sheets. Shape Play includes materials for three large pictures, a glue stick, and a follow-along assembly guide. Scenes include various overlapping shapes that foster spatial planning and reasoning skills. Three kits are available: Circles, Ovals and Triangles. “Shape play kits are uniquely designed to be developmentally appropriate for very young children. Shapes and backgrounds are generous in size for easy handling and maximum appeal,” Designer Meera Gill of Play Odyssey told TDmonthly. Launch date: September 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13967 (added 7/6/2007)
Works of Ahhh? Wood Painting Kits ? Heart Box by BALITONO INC.
Other products from BALITONO INC.
This beautifully crafted wooden heart box awaits an artist. A child can paint whatever her heart desires, then brush on the special glitter glaze to make this a keepsake for herself or a loved one. The designer can glue photos, glass marbles (included), beads or other decorations to the open frame on top.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13957 (added 7/6/2007)
The Playful Chef set includes 10 kid-sized cooking tools, one toolbelt apron and five healthy hands-on recipes, all packed in a backpack for easy storage. The Chef gives children safety tips, color-coded measurements, 10-step instructions and 11 illustrated learning lessons. It also helps them learn how to plan a healthy meal, shop for nourishing ingredients and cook with the right tools. This cooking kit received a 2007 iParenting Media Outstanding Product Award and was selected for Dr. Toy’s Best Products Resource Program Spring 2007. Launch date: November 2006.
Where to Buy: The Satin Button
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13956 (added 7/6/2007)
This Woodman kit includes durable beech wood components and the tools a child needs to build the toy. The pre-cut wood is slightly unfinished, allowing kids to sandpaper it for the finishing touches. The set includes a hammer, dowels and glue for old-fashioned assembly. It also features paints and paintbrushes for detail and personalization. Launch date: August 2007; stickers added to the kit in 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 14065 (added 7/13/2007)
This soft velvety pouch contains three polished MiYu Magic Stones. There are 40 MiYu Magic Stones to collect, each with a Zodiac significance and each infused with the power of Love, Wisdom, Success or Energy. Inside the pouch is also a secret code that grants access to the MiYu Magic website where one can learn more about the magic stones. On the website, children also designate which charity is given money from their purchase. "MiYu Magic Stones are genuine semi-precious stones from around the world that are thousands of years old. They have real value and beauty unlike many of the plastic toys found at mass [market]," Scott Irwin, director of marketing for Winscott Corporation, told TDmonthly. Launch date: October 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 14058 (added 7/13/2007)
Crutch Critters are incredibly soft plush with extra padding on top, and fit snugly over the top of a crutch pad, adding extra comfort where it is most needed. There are six available styles: two Dogs, Cat, Horse, Tiger and Teddy Bear. They are packaged and sold in pairs. Crutch Critters soft style and quality plush, will offer children and adults a little extra comfort (both physically and mentally) while recovering on crutches,” Donna Slade of Heidi’s Home Design told TDmonthly. Launch date: September 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 14052 (added 7/13/2007)
mark-my-time™ Digital Bookmark by MARK-MY-TIME LLC
Other products from MARK-MY-TIME LLC
This award-winning digital bookmark allows children to monitor and record their reading times. It features a countdown timer with an alarm, a cumulative timer for multi-session reading, a clock, a replaceable battery and a durable polyethylene body. It may also be used for music practice sessions, math fact practice, cooking and more. It comes in neon green, neon blue and neon purple.
— "The bookmark is compatible with small, paperback books, yet [the] screen is large enough to read clearly and [the] buttons are easy to operate," reported Teresa Wilson, a mother of four who reviewed this product for a TDmonthly Roundtable.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13994 (added 7/9/2007)
This winner of the Dr. Toy Best Classic Toy Award allows kids to hop on the injection-molded polyethylene seat, throw their feet on the steel handle bars and use their hands to swing the handlebars side to side. The momentum caused by the child powers the ride. A great indoor or outdoor toy, the Flying Turtle can handle tough play and up to 150 pounds. It even comes pre-assembled.
— Of 45 retailers who spoke with TDmonthly in early 2008, over eight percent shared that this item was the best-selling ride-on toy in their store.
— “Flying Turtles by Mason…we sell at least one a week,” Cassidy Conway, owner of Heights Toy Store in Little Rock, Ark., told TDmonthly.
— “We sell one or two a week,” Bob Colbert, owner of The Toy Box in Searcy, Ark., told TDmonthly.
— “Good enough for Montessori schools — good enough for your home,” Owner Diana Nelson of Kazoo & Company in Denver said of this best seller in her store in early 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6882 (added 2/8/2006)
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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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