How do you battle Star Wars, Bob The Builder and King Kong? The makers of non-licensed playsets have found that the way to sell without a big name character is by promoting recognizable scenes — those that revolve around animals, pirates, rescue vehicles and religious stories. TDmonthly Magazine talked with manufacturers, retailers and consumers to discover the top selling non-licensed playsets.
| “The Noah’s Ark story is simply one of the all-time great stories ever — religious or secular. It’s got good characters, lots of action and animals.” — Tom Jetland, Do It Toys
Maggie Qiu, managing director for HaPe International Ltd. (ToyShow), pointed out that her company’s Construction Roadworker playset "is a top seller. (As is) the whole Woody Click line that started in 2005. It has so many possibilities. All the construction sets are selling well, as are the policemen and helicopter set.”
Oompa Toys in Los Angeles, a leading purveyor of high quality European toys, ranks Woody Click playsets as some of their best selling.
Christine Pelletier, manager of Bavarian Toy Works in Chillicothe, Ohio, pointed out that boys love “any construction playset. The Playmobil does very well.”
Barbara Ann Murray of Venice, Calif., concurred. Her “mature” 3-and-a-half-year-old boy loved the Playmobil Pirate Starter Set: “I hope that his love for the pirate theme lasts a few more years, when I think the more intricate Playmobil Pirate Ship will be better age appropriate.”
Christine also mentioned that the Small World Toys playsets are “doing very, very well.” They also have a pirate ship under the Ryan’s Room brand which is an Oppenheim Platinum award winner.
A higher end playset that almost works as a boys’ dollhouse, is the Casa Rustica Treehouse Fort by Selecta Spielzeug. Christine Pulliam, a representative for Selecta, told TDmonthly that they “sell quite well.” As Deb Pruitt, owner of Polka Dots in Navarre, Fla., has it described, the Casa Rustica is “The most beautiful adventure playground in the world!”
And across the board top sellers are the Noah’s Arks. Tom Jetland of Do It Toys in Boise, Idaho, thinks that “the Noah’s Ark story is simply one of the all-time great stories ever — religious or secular. It’s got good characters, lots of action and animals.”
Playset sales bear this out: “As I understand it,” explained Marilyn Chalais, representative for the German company Holztiger (ToyDirectory) and Imagiplay (ToyShow), both of whom have a Noah’s Ark product, “All Noah’s Arks sell very, very well. The Holztiger’s is very high end, but there’s a market for it, and what’s interesting in the Imagiplay’s ark is the animals aren’t duplicates, but real male and female.”
Imagiplay’s president, Barbara Aimes, said they were “selling phenomenally, and we don’t even have packaging for them yet. They are transgender,” and the fact the animals are male and female, “it doubles the play value.”
Even Fisher-Price has a Little People Noah’s Ark, which is one of their top selling playsets. As Nancy O. Zimmer, a mom of twins in Arlington, Mass., related, her two loved the “‘twin’ animals. It’s perfect!”
Don’t want to ride the coattails of a licensed character? Look to non-licensed playsets and discover an imaginative route to greater sales.
No construction site is complete without people to help control traffic and haul away debris and dirt. This set contains just the right pieces for the job. Two Woody Click figures have a wheelbarrow, shovel, traffic cones and traffic signs at their disposal — perfect for traffic control around any preschooler’s construction site.
All animals fit into the ark (like the story says), and it folds up for storage. The deck has a removable drop-through door that can be used to put things in and take things out. It includes two of each animal — giraffe, zebra, lion and lamb — plus figures of Noah and his wife. Play pieces include two food baskets, a tool box and a flag with rainbow label on one side and cloud label on the other.