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March 2009 | Vol. VIII - No. 3
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Regional Reports: What’s Selling … And Where

Find Out What’s Going on in Stores Near You


New England Trends by Chris Lundy

No name came up more frequently for wooden toys than Melissa & Doug. Whether it’s play food or art supplies, this company led the pack.

Party games like Blokus from Mattel and Bananagrams by Bananagrams are still popular. When staff members know the games, they can show them to customers and sell them more easily. Game nights at the store demonstrate just how fun one of these games can be.

Other best sellers ranged from Uglydolls by Pretty Ugly to miniature helicopters.


Mid-Atlantic Trends by Brenda Ruggiero

Retailers reported that their best-selling wooden toys have been doll houses, furniture and wooden puzzles, mainly by Melissa & Doug.

Sales are down, as is typical after the holidays, but it seems they are even lower than usual right now.

People are still seeking out games, such as Apples to Apples by Mattel, and Bananagrams. They want games that they can play as a family, but are also interested in solitaire-type games. People have also shown more interest in mind games and puzzles lately.


Midwestern Trends by Terri Hughes-Lazzell

When it comes to wooden toys, Melissa & Doug tops the list for most specialty toy storeowners. Quality and variety are key. Melissa & Doug’s wooden food and puzzles are the most popular. A close second to M&D is Plan Toys. With the push toward eco-friendly items, customers appreciate that Plan is a green company.

Games continue to be good sellers for most toy stores. While some storeowners are concerned about rising prices, most said the economy has brought them more and more people looking for family games and returning to an old pastime. Some of the hottest games continue to be Blokus and Bananagrams.


Western Trends by Claudia Newcorn

Melissa & Doug wooden products received the most mentions as best-selling wooden toys.

Blokus (three mentions out of seven) and Bananagrams (three) were the best-selling games. The majority of retailers have noticed an upswing in the popularity of games and attribute this to a return to families playing together at home, and as games as family entertainment, possibly due to the economy. LCR Dice received two mentions as a best seller.

No one product received multiple mentions as the overall best-selling item. Mentions included Blokus, Bananagrams, Sprig Toys and Playmobil.


Southwest Trends by Claudia Newcorn

Melissa & Doug wooden products received two of seven mentions as best-selling wooden toys. Others included the Dancing Alligator by Plan Toys and the designer toy Deathbot by Ningyoushi.

Two retailers named Bananagrams as their top-selling game. Others included Killer Bunnies by Playroom Entertainment, Set by Set Enterprises, and Bingo. The majority have noticed an upswing in the popularity of games, in particular games that can be played by the entire family.

PlasmaCars by PlaSmart received two mentions as the overall best-selling item. Others included Astrojax and EzyRoller.


West Coast Trends by Marie Raven

Plan Toys has been selling well for people, and retailers seemed to feel good about the response they've been getting lately to their wood products all around. Their customers often prefer it to plastic product, they said. Insofar as games are concerned, Qwirkle by Mindware merited mention, and Bananagrams continues to be an extremely strong seller.

Here are the toys retailers around the U.S. are talking about:




MSRP: $14.99
Age Range: 7 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games
Educational
Award Winners



The fast-moving word game consists of 144 ivory-like letter tiles in a zippered banana pouch. Players place the tiles face down on the table and randomly select 21 tiles. They turn their letters right-side up simultaneously and proceed to form as many intersecting and interconnecting words as possible, rearranging their own letters as many times as desired throughout the game. Awards: TDmonthly Top Seller 2007; 2009 TOTY Game of the YEAR, 2006 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal; 2007 iParenting; 2007 Parents' Choice Recommended; 2007 Dr. Toy Best Products. (Read Review)
— This product has been making the TDmonthly Best-sellers lists since 2007.
— As of 05/13/2011 this product had 4.8 out of 5 stars from 456 reviews on Amazon.com.
— Eight of 66 retailers vouched for its best-selling status in May 2008; seven of 63 did in Sept. 2008. Shani Watmough of Planet Toys in Rockland, Maine, said her store sells 60 per month.  Fifteen of 38 named it a top-selling game in Feb. 2010.
— As of April 5, 2010, Bananagrams had spent 570 days in the top-100 best-selling toys and games on Amazon.com.
— According to owner Brett Sommer of Figpickels Toy Emporium in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho,  “It was the 2009 game of the year. The brilliant packaging definitely helps this product."
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8301      (added 6/19/2006)
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MSRP: $49.99
Age Range: 10 and up
SKU or Item #: 4404
Launch Date: June 2008
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Remote Controlled
Aircraft
Vehicles - Small Toy



The MICRO-TIGER indoor, digital proportional IR helicopter features a micro size fun with macro-scale performance. The MICRO-TIGER's blue LED light illuminates the cockpit for cool nighttime flying. The product is capable of precise and accurate control using the new digital proportional patent-pending Motion Auto Sensing Control (M.A.S.C.) Controller. A simple tilt of the wrist turns the helicopter in that direction. Beginners and experienced pilots will both enjoy the thrill and command of steering like a real pilot. The MICRO-TIGER comes fully assembled and ready to fly. It requires five AA alkaline batteries (not included). Launch date: June 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 21146      (added 10/29/2008)
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MSRP: $19.99
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Wooden Toys



Healthy breakfast, refreshing snack-time treat? Whatever the occasion, kids can cut into this 17 piece set of bright colored wood fruits, such as kiwis, oranges and a big slice of melon. Velcro rounds between the segments serve the dual purpose of holding the uncut fruit together and creating a satisfying crunch sound as the included wooden knife slices right through. It comes with a wooden crate in which to store the food.
― “Anything Melissa & Doug. Play food is probably the best,” Linda Hanzelko, owner of Timmy's Toy Chest in Lake Mary, Fla., told TDmonthly regarding best-selling wooden toys.
― “All wooden cutting food from Melissa & Doug” sells well, added William Bingham, owner of Firefly Toy Shop in Milford, Pa.
― Seven of 56 retailers surveyed said cutting food was a top-selling wooden toy.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22432      (added 2/9/2009)
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MSRP: $34.99
Age Range: 12 and up
Launch Date: January 2006
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



This popular card game now comes in a solid wooden storage crate to be preserved for generations. It’s designed for 4 to 10 players, comes with 756 Red Apple Cards, 252 Green Apple Cards and two Deluxe Card Trays. Kids and adults can have fun by making outrageous comparisons that go beyond just “apples-to-apples.” Matt Mariani, director of marketing for Out of the Box Publishing, told TDmonthly, “It takes only 30 seconds to learn. A complete game takes less than 30 minutes to finish. The conversations around the table while playing the game are the focus.” Launch date: 2006.
— "Apples-to-Apples by Out of the Box: just got more in because people still want it, even after the holidays," said Karen Williams-Fox, owner of Woodbury Mountain Toys in Montpelier, Vt. Five of 31 retailers said the game was one of their best sellers for Christmas 2006.
— “The word is out about this game for adults as well as kids,” Owner Elaine Hackney of Boing! JP’s Toy Shop in Jamaica Plain, Mass., told TDmonthly in summer 2007. “We carry all the versions. It’s so much fun ... a must at our family reunions!”
— An Apples-to-Apples sale a day helps keep the bill collector at bay, retailers have told TDmonthly (in so many words) bushels of times, and so it’s been honored with a TDmonthly Top Seller 2007 award.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9733      (added 10/23/2006)
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MSRP: $240.00
Age Range: 3 and up
Launch Date: January 2009
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Eco-Friendly
Dolls - Accessories
Furniture & Decor



From the sustainably-minded Plan Toys company comes a dollhouse built with many of the latest advances in green engineering in mind. The house itself is made out of recycled rubberwood accented with safe vegetable dyes for color. It includes a retractable canopy wall made from organic cotton, a wind turbine, solar panels and recycling bins. The house is available furnished and unfurnished. Launch date: 2009.
— Plan products were named as best sellers at Green Frog Toys in Portland, Ore., in March 2009. “They’re eco-friendly and beautifully designed and made,” Owner Patricia Fiedler told TDmonthly.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22702      (added 3/4/2009)
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MSRP: $8.98
Age Range: 5 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games
Dice



This addictive, fast-paced dice game is now available in a blue tin box. This edition includes three specially marked LCR® cubes. The game itself retains its original simplicity where the roll of the dice determines which players to the left, right or center get the chips; the winner being the player with the chips at the end. Simple, fun and even educational for growing minds. L-C-R also comes with 24 playing chips and game instructions. The game is designed for three or more players.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 18409      (added 4/15/2008)
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MSRP: $29.99
Age Range: 3 and up
Launch Date: September 2009
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Construction
Eco-Friendly
General Toys



These eco-friendly construction toys were inspired by children's board books and come with landscape and character pieces. Each set includes flat panels printed with colorful, water-based ink and slotted building blocks made from earth-friendly Sprigwood. The Palace and Barnyard are large sets. There are also medium sets: Construction Site, Ladybug Adventure and Safari Adventure (MSRP: $19.99). Large sets are 90 pieces; the medium are 60. Launch date: Fall 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22483      (added 2/16/2009)
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Age Range: 4 and up
SKU or Item #: 4264
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Pretend Play
General Toys
Creative Activities



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)
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Age Range: 2 and up
SKU or Item #: 5105
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Wooden Toys
General Toys
Infant & Toddler



This wooden pull-toy makes rhythmic click-clack sounds as it moves along. The toy measures approximately 3” x 10” x 3-1/2” and is intended for children over the age of 19 months.
— “Plan Toys’ Alligator is very good. We sell about one a week,” Dennis Hostedder of The Toy Store in Atlanta, Ga., told TDmonthly.
— “Plan has really moved up and really picked up,” Barbara Fineblum owner of Barston’s Child’s Play in Baltimore, Md., said in March 2008. Five percent of the 40 retailers who spoke with TDmonthly in March 2008 named Plan Toys as their most popular infant and toddler manufacturer.
— Plan Toys’ alligator and walk ‘n roll are top sellers at Moon Rabbit Toys in Santa Fe, N.M., Owner Shana Hack told TDmonthly in early summer 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 18637      (added 4/29/2008)
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Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Designer Toys



This 4" wooden designer toy echoes the character found on tee-shirts and other trendy clothing items. His wire legs and arms bend, too.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22709      (added 3/5/2009)
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MSRP: $12.00
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Card Games



Killer Bunnies is a fast-paced, action-filled card game, in which players must try to keep as many Bunnies alive as possible, while eliminating opponents' Bunnies. The problem: Opponents are armed with weapons and will stop at nothing to keep players from winning the game, which can get dreadfully vengeful, horribly nasty, hilariously messy and just plain fun. Killer Bunnies are back again and sporting new Specialty Bunnies, which make taking double turns a snap. The Violet Booster Deck adds another 55 cards to an existing set, plus a clear 20-sided die.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7324      (added 3/27/2006)
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Age Range: 8 and up
Launch Date: April 2008
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Board Games
General Games



This "curious game of clever connections" challenges two to four players to compare and identify SETs on the dice with those on the board, scoring as many points as possible by making SETs up, down and across the game board. Playing time is 30 to 45 minutes. Launch date: April 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 17655      (added 2/21/2008)
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MSRP: $29.95
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational
General Games



Designed to fuel kids' passion for produce, players learn to group 95 fruits and veggies by color, identify the health benefits linked to the colors and how fruits and veggies keep your body growing strong and healthy. Bonus features: How to make green smoothies using green veggies and fruits, user-friendly charts and resources, information sheets and a coloring activity. For 2-30 players.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 20689      (added 9/23/2008)
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MSRP: $69.99
Age Range: 3 and up
SKU or Item #: PC020
Launch Date: February 2005
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Vehicles - Riding
Preschool
Outdoor Fun



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)
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Wholesale Price: (Log in to view)
MSRP: $19.95
Age Range: 8 and up
SKU or Item #: 41411
Launch Date: November 2007
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Toys
Yo-Yos
Balls



The Aqua Shiva is UV reactive and looks amazing under a black light! Each liquid-filled ball features a soft outer shell that serves as a flexible casing for the liquid, allowing for an easy, comfortable grip. Rather than a central metal weight like standard Astrojax, the dynamics of the Aqua's fluid flows lowers the rotational inertia of the balls to provide smooth orbits and prevent tangling of the string around the center ball. The string length is adjustable and stringbuds at each end of the string allows for quick and easy tuning. Launch date: November 26, 2007.
— “The newest generation, Astrojax is destined to become a classic toy,” Jim Marielli of Astrojax USA told TDmonthly.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 16819      (added 12/28/2007)
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Wholesale Price: (Log in to view)
MSRP: $99.95
Age Range: 3 and up
SKU or Item #: EZY-001
Launch Date: May 2007
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Vehicles - Riding
Outdoor Fun



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:
SOUTH
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11949      (added 3/16/2007)
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MSRP: $29.99
Age Range: 5 to 12
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games
Board Games



Europe´s 2002 game of the year, Blokus is a strategy game for the family. It's similar to the ancient Go Game — the board is a grid and players use their pieces to try to control as much territory as possible. The game pieces are in four, 21-piece sets of varying shapes. Each player chooses a color and works on expanding his  territory on the board while blocking others from doing the same. Each new piece laid down must touch at least one other piece of the same color, but can only touch at corners, not along edges. The game ends when all players have been blocked from laying down more pieces. Points are deducted for pieces not played, and the player with the highest score at the end, wins. Blokus comes with a game board with 400 squares, 84 game pieces (red, green, blue and yellow), and instructions.
— In spring 2007, Sally Lesser, owner of Massachusetts’ Henry Bear’s Park, called Blokus a “consistent best-seller” at her three stores. It's also tops at Juggles in Wakefield, R.I., and Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash. Six of 63 retailers named Blokus as their overall best seller in September 2008. Three of 52 retailers named Blokus as one of their overall top sellers in November 2008. Blokus is no longer distributed by Educational Insights as of 12/4/08.
― “No. 1 is Blokus,” Linda Hanzelko, owner of Timmy's Toy Chest in Lake Mary, Fla., told TDmonthly when asked about best-selling games in early 2009. “It's an easy sell. It's one that people come back later and say 'You were right.'” In late 2009, Lori Hershman, owner of Evan's Toy Shoppe in Hamden, Ct., estimated sales of about 34 units monthly. Six of 38 retailers called it a best-selling game in Feb. 2010, selling from three to 150 units per month.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3721      (added 5/27/2005)
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MSRP: $24.95
Age Range: 6 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



Requiring no reading from its players, Qwirkle is a simple-to-learn but stimulating game based around matching the attributes of the game play tiles. Players build rows and columns by placing tiles adjacent to tiles they share an attribute with (shape or color), and score bonus points if they can think ahead and put a tile down touching multiple other tiles. While the game is easy to understand, a good eye and quick thinking make Qwirkle challenging enough for a wide range of ages to play together.
Awards: 2011 Speiele des Jahres (German game of the year).
― “We sell a lot of Qwirkle,” Sue Banducci said of popular games in her Danville, Calif., store, Games Unlimited. “Qwirkle was best-selling over Christmas,” said Shirley Reilly, owner of Let's Play in Hillsboro, Ore., in January 2009.
― When asked about his top-selling games in early 2009, Tye Steinbach of Thinker Toys in Portland, Ore. told TDmonthly, “It was probably Qwirkle. We're not huge gamers in our family, but it's really fun.”
— Four of 44 specialty retailers named Qwirkle as a best seller in late fall 2009. Ages & Stages Toy Box in Golden, Colo., sells about 10 Qwirkle games per month, Manager Holly Anvers told TDmonthly.
— As of 12/17/2012 this product had 4.8 out of 5 stars from 483 reviews on Amazon.com and was No. 6 on the top 100 bestselling toys and games. Pros: Exciting; intellectually stimulating, easy to learn. Cons: Some said it took too long to play; only had 3 reviews less than 3 stars, however.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22437      (added 2/9/2009)
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Alison MarekWriter's Bio: ALISON MAREK is an award-winning writer, director and cartoonist whose work has been published by Fairchild Publications and DC Comics (Piranha Press), broadcast on Showtime and other cable networks, and viewed worldwide in film festivals. See her short films and print work on www.alisonmarek.com. Watch her nefarious villains in the web series www.MuggsMovers.com. Get inspired by her cartoons "Daily ARFFirmations to Unleash Your Inner Fido" at www.ARFFirmations.com. Phew! And then ...  Read more articles by this author

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