January 2009 | Vol. VIII - No. 1
Playmobil Offers Foundation for Kids’ Creative Play
Themed Playsets Continue to Bring Imagination to Life
Introducing between 80 and 100 themed playsets, accessories and figures every year, Playmobil helps to stimulate children’s imaginations and create endless adventures.
A CENTURY OF EVOLUTION
The firm that would become Playmobil began in 1876 in Germany as a lock and metal fitting company, named Metallwarenfabrik Andreas Brandstatter after the founder, TDmonthly Magazine learned. The company changed its name to Geobra in the 1930s, and continuously evolved in response to changing product needs, using sheet metal to manufacture various products, such as telephones, cash registers and various items for toy shops.
In the late 1950s, Horst Brandstatter, the company’s present owner, shifted the focus to plastic. The company became expert plastic toymakers and rapidly expanded into the toy and leisure fields. But the 1970s oil crisis and surge in raw materials’ prices forced them to regroup, and the small, moveable figures that became known as Playmobil were born.
Introduced at the 1974 International Toy Fair in Nuremberg, Germany, Playmobil was enthusiastically received by both parents and children, and has been a top seller since. Today, with headquarters in Zirndorf, Germany, it has subsidiaries worldwide. The toys were introduced in the United States in 1984.
NO RIGHTS OR WRONGS
From pirates and knights to hospitals and circuses, Playmobil’s diversity literally offers something for every child. The 1.2.3. series is targeted at children ages 1 and up, while the more complex sets are for children ages 4 and older.
Michelle Winfrey, marketing and public relations manager for Playmobil U.S., told TDmonthly the toy figures and sets “allow children to be children. There are no rights or wrongs. They don’t dictate how to play. If a 2-year old wants to put a cow in the house, that’s OK. It’s an evolution of learning. We give the child a foundation, and they choose how to build within that foundation using their imagination.”
While playing, the child is learning. “The toys teach cognitive, social, emotional, motor and mobility skills, as well as about other cultures,” Winfrey explained. And these skills are essential. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, from birth to 5 years a child should reach milestones in how he plays, learns, speaks and acts. Imagination-based toys such as Playmobil help achieve that.
Winfrey added that Playmobil has proven a wonderful toy for special-needs children. “I explain [to parents] that it’s because the toys don’t intimidate them. All the external stimulants are gone. It’s just the child and the toy. It lets them focus and control.”
NOSTALGIA AND TOUGH STUFF
Casey Sartain, buyer at Tutoring Toy in Salt Lake City, Utah, told TDmonthly that Playmobil is one of the store’s best brands, and attributes its success to several things.
“First, it’s the nostalgia factor. Parents and grandparents remember playing with them. … They have such good memories about it, and in turn are now buying Playmobil for their children. Country of origin is another reason. The fact that it’s made in Germany/Malta makes a big difference to a lot of our customers. Finally, its durability is a real factor.”
NEW EVERY YEAR
Playmobil keeps refreshing its line and will introduce this year an Egypt collection, which Winfrey shared will be “a phenomenal line,” as well as a Veterinary Clinic and Wedding set.
Winfrey noted that Playmobil adheres to a key marketing rule when it comes to new product introductions: “We try to stay true to the brand. We’re not selling something that’s going to go ‘boom.’ It’s a toy that’s designed for your child to develop imaging, mobility and learning skills.”
See some of Playmobil’s new products below:
Keep the Pyramid from being invaded by releasing various traps with your very own amulet. Intruders will have to overcome the collapsible staircase, chute, and scorpion trap. There is also a secret treasure chamber, trapdoor with slide, and rotary secret chamber. The pyramid walls are removable. Set includes 4 figures, tomb, and many other accessories. Dimensions: 21 x 21 x 14 inches (L x W x H). Recommended for ages 5 and up. Choking Hazard. Small parts. Not for children under 3 years.
— "We sold out and are taking orders for it," Mike DiAndrea, manager of Hardware Center Inc. in Paoli, Pa., told TDmonthly of this high-ticket item in late November 2009. He cited unit sales of about 25 per week.
— Eight of 44 retailers surveyed in late fall 2009 named the Playmobil Pyramid as one of their top sellers. Seven others cited the Playmobil line in general as a popular purchase.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 21620 (added 12/8/2008)
Cheer on the newlyweds as they make their way out the Church. Press the windows of the church tower and hear the bells and organ music. Also comes with three figures, many accessories, and a pink jewel case with rings for the child. 2 AAA batteries required. Dimensions: 12.5 x 16.5 x 22 inches (L x W x H). Recommended for ages four and up. Choking Hazard. Small parts. Not for children under 3 years.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 21618 (added 12/8/2008)
The Horse Farm Stable features three horseboxes, a section for refreshments and an area for grooming. It includes three figures, three ponies, a kitten, a wheel barrel, hay, a ladder, fences and many other accessories. Dimensions are 21” L x 11” D x 10” H.
— "Playmobil is selling really well for us," Erika Evers, owner of Dancing Bear Toys in Hendersonville, N.C., told TDmonthly in early 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 21673 (added 12/10/2008)
Celebrate the couple’s recent marriage under the Party Tent. Includes three figures, two-layer wedding cake, white tent, table for presents, and many other accessories. Recommended for ages four and up. Choking Hazard. Small parts. Not for children under 3 years.
— Playmobil means “cute, exciting and detailed figure play,” said Patricia Fiedler, owner of Green Frog Toys in Portland, Ore., where the toys were named best sellers in spring 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 21633 (added 12/8/2008)
Help the Police monitor the Police Headquarters. Prison cell comes with working door lock and breakout window and wall. The Police Headquarters is equipped with surveillance cameras and has a reception area, interrogation room, and a wall for equipment. Also includes three figures and many other accessories. Recommended for ages four and up. Choking Hazard. Small parts. Not for children under 3 years.
— David Campbell, owner of Amazing Toys in Great Falls, Mont., likes Playmobil because its products are "not made in China, customers come back for more [and it offers] good play value," he told TDmonthly in fall 2008. Thirteen percent of 52 retailers named the company as a favorite.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 21632 (added 12/8/2008)
Listen to the pianist as he performs a song for all to hear. Includes a figure, white grand piano, sheet music, and stool. Press the keys of the piano to play two wedding melodies. 2 AAA batteries required. Recommended for ages four and up. Choking Hazard. Small parts. Not for children under 3 years.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 21631 (added 12/8/2008)
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Writer's Bio: Claudia Newcorn has been a freelance writer and editor for over 10 years, after having spent more than a decade in marketing and product management. She writes for both businesses and individual clients, crafting copy, content and advertising. Her articles appear in newspapers, magazines and specialty publications nationwide (www.acornmarketing.com). She is also the author of an award-winning fantasy fiction book, "Crossover," and several published short stories (www.claudianewcorn.com). Read more articles by this author
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