Dollhouses, a standby in the toy industry for over 100 years, are becoming hip once again. With the help of pop culture and unusual materials, toy companies have managed to revamp the segment to reach the next generation of playset enthusiasts. TDmonthly Magazine recently picked the brains of several innovators in the field. What follows are highlights from that discussion.
|"We do see a larger focus on the classical-styled homes and accessories in Middle America and greater success with ultra-mod and contemporary-styled pieces on the East and West Coasts." — Michael J. Heun, PlanToys
TDmonthly: What makes your dollhouses and playsets unique, setting them apart from your competitors?
Michael J. Heun, product manager, PlanToys (ToyShow): For PlanToys, the most recognizable component within the dollhouse category is the attention we give to high design. Plan has distinguishable design lines and a mod-theme inspiration that is reflected in such items as the popular Contemporary Dollhouse and Neo Accessory sets.
Susan Tice, product manager and public relations director, International Playthings Inc.: Calico Critters of Cloverleaf Corners differ from our competitors in several ways. First, the main figures, or "dolls," are flocked, articulated animals, such as cats, dogs, bears, bunnies and koalas. The animal families are universal and attractive to every child no matter what race or sex. (Yes, we have heard of boys playing with Calico Critters, too!)
Michael Korniat, vice-president of sales and marketing, B-Bel Inc.: Our Trading Spaces ( Watch Video) dollhouse playsets are targeted to older girls. It´s not about role-play with the dollhouse; it’s role-playing at becoming craft-y and creative. Girls paint and decorate the houses, and then they can play with them. The first attribute of Trading Spaces is the craft activity part.
TDmonthly: Is there any region of the United States or the world where your products sell better than others?
Heun (PlanToys): We do see a larger focus on the classical-styled homes and accessories in Middle America and greater success with ultra-mod and contemporary-styled pieces on the East and West Coasts. This is probably a result of the surrounding living environment, as children like to base their play experience on some form of reality.
Tice (International Playthings): Calico Critters can be found in specialty toy shops throughout the United States and Canada. Sell-through has been terrific in all of these areas, and authorized retailers are posted on our website as well so consumers can easily find a store in their area.
Korniat (B-Bel): In the United States, for some reason, we do really great on the Internet. Our catalog sales are huge. We have dealers all over the Untied States and Canada. Once the consumer understands that our product is about decorating, the parents appreciate that and pass that appreciation down to the child.
TDmonthly: What are your plans for expansion and future products?
Heun (PlanToys): PlanToys will continue to expand and innovate within this category quite significantly. Growing the category involves expanding out to new niches that we are not hitting right now.
Tice (International Playthings): We have begun offering Ready-to-Playsets. These sets feature a critter with detailed play accessories and a short story. It is the perfect gift for a Calico Critter fan and is also a terrific way for consumers to introduce children to the product.
Korniat (B-Bel): We’re coming out with new designs for the houses and expanding on our decorating elements. We will have slipcovers for the furniture and new types of glitters and paints.