As retailers begin stocking shelves for 2005, the big question remains: what will be a hot sell in the new year? Of the many resources available, one good place to begin research on toy trends is at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, where the Toy Industry Association (TIA) returns with its annual American International Toy Fair from Feb. 20-23.
Jean Butler, TIA´s director of membership and business development, explains in a press release that several changes will be made to this year’s show to reflect the changing toy industry. “Our most recent surveys revealed that more than 5,500 Toy Fair buyers were interested in books and audio products, and more than 2,000 buyers said they would like to see candy-related items at the show,” Butler said. One new sector will focus on novelty candy, located on level one in what is being called the “sweet spot,” while existing categories will also be receiving makeovers. “Model Hobby,” for instance, will capitalize on the technology craze by including more tech-related products and being re-named “HobbyTech.”
The TIA recognizes that toys these days cause global sensations. “We are working towards expanding the international audience at the show,” Bossard explained. While last year’s show drew representatives from 87 countries, TIA has hired Energy Public Relations, a public relations firm based in the United Kingdom, to attract even more foreign buyers to this year’s show. Even the Toy Exhibition at Nuremberg has bumped their show’s regular slot on February 13-15th so that buyers and sellers can make both shows.
“Kids today were born with a computer mouse in their hand,” Reyne Rice, toy trend specialist at TIA, said, and accordingly this year’s show will meet children’s growing demand for new technologies. Special interactive plush toys are “magic” for 2 to 4 year olds, according to Rice, who noted that they are popular purchases among grandparents. Tiger Electronics´ Fur Real Newborn Kitten is a cutting-edge unisex item that, like a real pet, wakes up purring and raising its head when stroked. Small children will delight with Vtech´s slower-paced video game, V-Smile, and educational tool, Smartridges. By using shows with popular characters, Fisher-Price’s InteracTV encourages education.
Older kids will find an “army of new action figures out there,” Rice explained. The “Batman” series on the WB has made Mattel´s Justice League characters a must-have item, while anime character action figures with accompanying trading cards remain popular. G.I. Joe still sees a lot of action when it comes to sales.
Futuristic vehicles like Nitro Battlerz from Radica, an extension of the successful Hasbro´s Beyblade line, accelerate into 2005. The innovative Formula Fuelers by Hot Wheels allow kids to mix up their favorite juices with Nitroz2 to discover which one propels the car faster.
For the girls, mini dolls are still stylish. “Polly Pocket brought back mini dolls and Bratz fueled the fire,” Rice said. In this constantly moving world, mini dolls are portable but remain detail oriented and great for display. Retro lines, just as in other industry segments like clothing and television, remain popular.
Just like last year, no one expects one hot toy to prevail. Rice explains that children increasingly have exposure to more stimuli and enjoy multiple interests like sports, computers and martial arts. That broad focus may be beneficial to parents because kids will not be overcome by a look of disappointment when their fad of the moment is sold out.
For more information, please refer to previous articles TDmonthly Magazine has written on Toy Fair.
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