TDmonthly Magazine!
September 2005 | Vol. IV - No. 9


Christmas Bombs and Booms

Nobody intentionally buys bombs. And what’s a bomb in one store may be a boom in another. In the hopes of helping retailers find the best products for their shelves, TDmonthly Magazine surveyed 16 toy shops from coast to coast to find out which toys fell flat and which flew high in Christmas 2004.

The Bombs

Sarah Evers, owner of Dancing Bear in Rochester, Minn. was certain that the re-issues of by Dream Pets by  Applause would set off a Beanie Baby-type craze. It didn’t. What’s doing well for her this year? “Everything!” she enthused.

Another nostalgic item that took a nose-dive was Lincoln Logs: Collector’s Edition by K’Nex Industries Inc. This re-issue didn’t move at Ralph´s Toys & Hobbies in Boise, Id., said manager Todd Golden. “They’re still collecting dust,” he said.

Toys that didn’t work as expected were the XTS Train System by Basic Fun Inc. and Sonic FX by Hoberman. The XTS “didn’t demo well” at Main Street Toy Shop in Columbus, said owner Gladys Griffin: “Little kids couldn’t keep it on the track.”

At The Next Generation of Stoughton in Stoughton, Wisc., owner Bobbi Dickerson was disappointed by Sonic FX. Customers may have been confused by the product, which includes a sound maker/DJ machine inside a movable strutted sphere.

Confusion might also have been at work when Trading Spaces by B-BEL sat on the shelf at Animal Quacker Limited in Raleigh, N.C., owned by Nancy Cox. B-Bel has noted that this toy sells best when parents understand that it’s really a craft kit rather than a playhouse.

The normally reliable Thomas the Tank Engine tanked out on Izilla Toys in Seattle, Wash. “I think that people who were shopping for large items went online for Thomas, which is silly because our prices are lower,” said owner Jude Larene.

The Booms

Lisa Worrell, owner of The Enchanted Door in Altus, Okla., had a great Thomas the Tank Engine Christmas last year, as did Nancy Cox, owner of Animal Quacker in Raleigh, N.C. The same was true at Ralph’s Toys & Hobbies, but sales have slowed down in 2005. “Part of it is competition from our big box neighbors, who are undercutting us pretty hard,” said Golden.

Golden was pleasantly surprised by The Explore America Puzzles by Dowdle Folk Art. “We sold 30 of them,” he said. Most retailers agreed that traditional toys not only did well at Christmas, but have continued to sell well throughout 2005.

Blokus by Educational Insights Inc. (ToyDirectory) was such a hit at The Toy Chest in Cary, N.C., that owner Terry Heath says they were sold out by November. Blokus is still on the “hot products” list of most of the stores that TDmonthly surveys every month.

A good year-round seller for most stores, Ryan’s Room Majestic Castle and Pirate Ship were especially popular last Christmas at Kidoodles Toys in Norman, Okla., said owner Linda Angel. Ryan’s Room dollhouses were also top sellers at Abikidabra Toys in Greenville, N.C., owner Alan Carson told TDmonthly.

Going Forward

So how does one avoid getting bombed? Mary Ellen Cerney of Dear Friends and Children in Duncan, Okla., has a strategy. She advises storeowners not to over-order products that are selling well. “You should ask yourself if you really need to re-order it … or just order something different,” she said. Conservative choices just might be the watchwords for a great Christmas in 2005.

What follows is more information on the products mentioned above.

MSRP: $23.95
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Puzzles & Skill

This puzzle bears the sunny portrait of the harbor in Marblehead, Mass. — birthplace of the American Navy. It is classic nostalgic Americana. Eric Dowdle is a folk artist who was raised in the heart of the Western United States and memorializes the nation. His work has been displayed in many galleries and historical pageants across the country and has won many awards. His work with the Amish is internationally recognized.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4391      (added 8/31/2005)

MSRP: $99.99
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Construction

This beautiful set contains all wooden pieces stained to match those of the original Lincoln Logs. Its red chimneys and green slats rekindle memories of classic Lincoln Logs building fun. The keepsake wooden storage case is individually numbered for true collector quality.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4390      (added 8/31/2005)

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)

MSRP: $7.95
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Plush

Dream Pets began 50 years ago when R. Dakin & Co. began importing electronic trains from Japan. To protect the trains during their long journey to America, shippers cradled them with a half dozen or so "velveteen stuffed characters." This cute and clever "packaging” created an unexpected stir of excitement and R. Dakin & Co., now a division of Applause, LLC, began to import these original Dream Pets by the hundreds. Applause has issued 24 new Dream Pets in their first new release.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4389      (added 8/31/2005)

Gender: Boys
Category: Rail Roads & Trains

This affordable train comes with an innovative track system that can be broken down into easy-to-assemble tiles. Sets have interchangeable, interlocking pieces that encourage group play. The engine and pull car design incorporate new MICRO styling, plus the technology of "kit/bit" racing car assembly, which makes it easy to pack up the train and take it anywhere. The trains are battery operated.

ToyDirectory Product ID#: 2994      (added 2/25/2005)

MSRP: $104.99
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Play Sets

Lift the anchor, raise the Jolly Roger and set sail for fun. The set includes a pirate ship, three pirate figures, two cannons, an anchor, a ship´s wheel, three sails, two flags, two rope riggings and an extendable plank. Assembly is easy for adults.

ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4388      (added 8/31/2005)

MSRP: $119.99
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Pretend Play

This fantastic medieval castle features a working drawbridge to keep the enemy out, moveable towers, walls and staircases to create unique castle configurations. The solid wood construction lasts a lifetime, and play figures are also available for Ryan’s Room sets.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4386      (added 8/31/2005)

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 Watch her nefarious villains in the web series Get inspired by her cartoons "Daily ARFFirmations to Unleash Your Inner Fido" at Phew! And then ...  Read more articles by this author


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