TDmonthly Magazine!
June 2006 | Vol. V - No. 6


Lions and Tigers and Arks — Oh My!

Current Trends in 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
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.

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.

MSRP: $7.99
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Play Sets

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.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8018      (added 5/26/2006)

MSRP: $24.99
Age Range: 4 to 7
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Play Sets

The buried treasure is in the hands of those pirates. Can the Royal Soldier get it back? This Starter Kit features a playscape, fully accessorized figures and an assortment of props to create a first-time Playmobil adventure. Starter sets can also add on to existing Playmobil collections. A carrying case makes these sets easy to store and portable enough to take anywhere.

— “Playmobil [is a top seller],” said Katie Culotta, owner ofVictoria's Toy Station in Baton Rouge. “They like building it.”

— Playmobil is popular with boys and girls because “their parents grew up with it,” reported Amanda Toupes, manager ofMagic Box in New Orleans.

— Pirates are still a hot trend for boys, retailers and manufacturers report.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8019      (added 5/26/2006)

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: $39.99
Age Range: 1 to 5
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Play Sets

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.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8022      (added 5/26/2006)

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Writer's Bio: Mark Zaslove is an entertainment industry veteran in developing content (writing, directing and producing television and feature films) for the major studios, including Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing and recipient of the Humanitas Prize (for writing uplifting human values in television and movies), Mark is also Head of Content Development for Nice Entertainment. Read more articles by this author

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