|The strongest mainstay for faith-based merchandise is still the children’s storybook.
As is media, so go toys. Mel Gibson’s 2004 film, “The Passion of the Christ,” was a surprise blockbuster (one of the top-grossing films of all time), and 2005’s “Chronicles of Narnia” is following in its footsteps. Faith-based product is now mainstream, and the toy industry is jumping on the bandwagon big time. TDmonthly Magazine looked at the surge in faith-based merchandise and how a once-niche market became middle-of-the-road in a big $7 billion plus way.
Gerald Galison, president of Galison/Mudpuppy in New York City, has a theory. “There is an abiding interest in ideas and images from the past, but there are peaks and valleys,” he said. “I think that 9/11 and general world turbulence is a factor in this, affecting the move toward religiosity.”
Hasbro has seen the trend and is stepping up its Easter offerings, encouraging parents to expand their thoughts beyond the traditional chocolate bunnies and swirled egg dye and add to their Easter baskets Play-Doh-filled bunnies, chicks and eggs.
Scott Thompson, Christian market sales coordinator for Carson-Dellosa Publishing, has found a huge seller in the Teach & Toss Beach Ball which is color-coded with memory verses and Bible stories. “This has just been an incredible tool — different and interactive — for all ages. We test-marketed it all the way up to high schoolers.” Thompson also found the Narnia merchandise selling steadily since they introduced it in May of 2005 (months before the movie came out).
Gary Grenada, of Kid Kraft Furniture out of Dallas, explained that “we have a very big line of Judaica items that we do. My boss and his wife are religious, and they wanted to give back.”
One of the fastest growing markets in the faith-based realm is the dolls. TadPals LLC’s (ToyShow) Holy Folks are brand new to the marketplace, as is HF Corporation’s My Loving Jesus Doll. Each moves beyond the serious/realistic Christian dolls of the past and strives for a friendly, cuddly approach.
Susan Pruett, manager of Kilmarnock Toy Store in Kilmarnock, Va., carries Holy Folk: “We’ve had the religious influence here, naturally.”
“You’d want the new dolls whether you were religious or not,” commented Boyd Voight, co-owner and buyer for Tons Of Fun in Rochester, N.Y. “We used to keep them in their own section, but now we put them with the other dolls, and everyone seems to like them.”
This is all good news for specialty retailers, who can better move a product that may not be available through other channels. Dr. Amy J. Horne, owner of Rockin' Rhyme Story Time, said that although her faith-based products are currently primarily in gift shops, “We are hoping to get into Christian chain bookstores soon,” she admitted. “This has been difficult because most Christian chain stores will only purchase from vendors that are members of the CBA. Unfortunately, you cannot apply for membership in the CBA until you have 10 Christian accounts.”
Meanwhile, Daina Bennett, CEO of Educational Material Distributors (ToyDirectory), said her company’s new product, The Books of The Holy Bible Learning Activity, received a positive response when test-marketed to Christian schools and daycare centers.
One of the great stories of all time, and always interesting for children, has been Noah’s Ark. Many companies feature some Noah toy in one form or another. Excellent-selling examples are ImagiPlay’s (ToyShow) wood-puzzle play set of Noah’s Ark, as well as Alphabet Alley’s (ToyShow) magnetic version.
The strongest mainstay for faith-based merchandise is still the children’s storybook. According to Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s (ECPA) Pubtrack Reporting System, sales from 2004 to 2005 saw a 2 percent rise in unit sold, 2 percent rise in sku count and a 1 percent rise in total sales. This is in a market that saw an overall decrease of between 3 to 5 percent in sales during the same period.
“Interestingly, this increase comes from a broad-based increase in the overall genre, and not from just one or two top sellers,” commented Kelly Gallagher, vice president of development and research for the ECPA. “This type of growth usually signals a strong and steady growth period for a category, in that both backlist and frontlist titles are sharing in the growth.”
Faith-based products have risen and are now an industry unto themselves. Look to see more expansion is this genre, as well as a greater range, as it becomes more international. At the moment, specialty stores (Christian book sellers, etc.) own the lion’s share of the sales, but smart retailers are getting the “word” and diversifying into this lucrative arena.
Designed to help children of all ages learn memory verses and remember Bible story lessons, these two 10” beach balls provide a fun and active way to teach God’s Word. Ideal for all age groups, they come with an activity guide offering several different activity ideas and variations of games to play. Each ball has seven programmed questions or instructions.
A set of 4 holiday puzzles provide great value, while celebrating positive play habits. Each peg puzzle set comes in a colorful wooden puzzle rack to make storage simple, and includes 1 Chanukah Puzzle, 1 Shabbat Puzzle, 1 Passover Puzzle, and 1 Rosh Hashanah Puzzle.
The Holy Folks Jesus doll is another plush classic from TadPals, the creators of the world’s first mass-market-friendly faith-based plush. This 16” premium plush doll comes individually packaged with detailed magnetic hands and a shepherd’s crook. The Holy Folks Jesus doll is the perfect example of love and faith for children ages 3 and up. Jesus’ unique and entertaining magnetic functionality allows children to “play and pray” with their new best friend!
This soft, cuddly and washable Jesus doll was designed to give comfort to children of all ages that are in need of warmth and compassion, while reinforcing their faith and courage. He’s 16” tall with outstretched arms just right for hugging. The doll includes a short story written on a scroll for use as a tool for discussions about Jesus' life. The doll was launched in 2005.
This 12" plush brown bear with polyester stuffing wears a white sweater with Blessed 127:3 embroidered either in pink or blue on the front. The 36-second instrumental lullaby, "Blessed 127:3*," is activated when the bear's left arm is squeezed. Blessed 127:3 lyrics accompany each bear; Caregiver can personalize lullaby, by adding the child’s name and subsequently, sing lullaby to the child.