Why That Awful Toy Deserves a Second Look
These Uncertain Orders Turned Out Better Than Expected
It’s natural to be hesitant about a toy you don’t know much about. But are you missing big sales by being too cautious? While speaking with TDmonthly Magazine, 66 specialty retailers weighed in on the products they were once wary of ordering for their stores … but now are awfully glad they did!
LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING
Marianne Kearns of Second Star to the Right in Bridgehampton, N.Y., said she thought the packaging for Snap Circuits by Elenco was “boring,” but she’s been pleasantly surprised to see that the product “sells really well.”
Similarly, Joel Hardy, owner of Magpie Toys in Red Lodge, Mont., was put off by the “homely” appearance of Melissa & Doug’s puppets in the company’s catalog. But once in-store, they shone (and sold) for their good quality and appearance, he told TDmonthly.
TRY MASS MARKET IF YOU CAN
Polly Pocket by Mattel is just one example of a largely mass-market toy that can also do well in specialty outlets.
“People seem to love those things!” said Marilyn Walker, owner of Play Fair Toys in Denver, Colo.
Although Carol Knight, owner of The Toy Store in Ketchum, Idaho, was once reluctant to bring in products that sell in big-box stores, “I do carry mass-market toys and they sell just fine,” she recently told TDmonthly. “I'm in an isolated area. I can sell that stuff.”
Raymond DeRouin, co-owner or Ouray Toys Inc. in Ouray, Colo., said his store used to avoid toys or games that required batteries, “because when I was a child, batteries were poor quality and ruined the toys.”
He has since found success, however, with battery-operated options from Wild Planet.
DO AWAY WITH CONVENTION
With Uglydolls by Pretty Ugly, it was a matter of taking a chance on a non-traditional toy, according to Kim Emigh, vice president of e-commerce at Growing Tree Toys in State College, Pa.
“We really liked them when they first debuted, but felt that the design and appeal was less toy and more gift — which can sometimes be a harder sell for us,” she explained. “But, we decided to bring them in and they have done great.”
Robeez shoes are a hot item at Next Generation of Stoughton in Stoughton, Wisc. “We didn't want to bring them in and I thought they were pricier than our customers would buy, but they've sold like crazy,” Owner Bobbi Dickinson said.
“There have been times when we've been reluctant to bring in higher priced items, and figured that [they were] not going to sell,” agreed Tye Steinbach of Thinker Toys in Portland, Ore. He’s found out, though, that customers haven’t flinched over the increasing prices of vehicles from Kettler and Bruder.
Below are these products and others retailers thought could be a bust — and turned out to be a boom:
Recommended for ages 6 months and up, this 11” snuggly plush character comes nestled in a peanut shell. Snuggle Pods Pea is also available.
— Gage Brownell, manager of Belmont Toys in Belmont, Mass., told TDmonthly in March 2009 his store sells about six Snuggle Pods a week.
— Two of 64 retailers named this product as a top-selling infant and toddler toy in spring 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 19458 (added 6/18/2008)
This feathery friend comes with a hangtag that grants its owner access to Webkinz World online, where it even has a special egg chair.
— “Enough said” was Jamie Burdette’s comment when he listed Webkinz as a continued best-seller in his store, LB Toys in Media, Pa., in April 2008.
— Nine of 66 retailers named Webkinz as their best-selling toy in May 2008. Donna Stone, owner of The Perfect Present in Suwanee, Ga., displays the plush in a glass case right inside the door and, on average, sells 790 Webkinz per month.
— In spring 2008, two of 55 retailers singled out Webkinz as their best-selling novelty toy.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 18537 (added 4/22/2008)
Snap Circuits make learning electronics easy and fun. Kids follow the colorful pictures in the manual to build exciting projects, such as FM radios, burglar alarms, doorbells and more. Parts are mounted on plastic modules and snap together with ease. “Children can play with this kit for hours and hours and still have not completed all the projects the snap circuit kits have to offer,” Walter Larsen, national sales manager for Elenco, told TDmonthly.
— One retailer said in summer 2007 his store sells 25 Elenco units monthly. Five percent of 64 retailers said in August 2008 that Snap Circuits are a best-selling science product, reporting average sales of six units per month. Four of 38 retailers echoed the same a year later. “They’ve gone back to this game six or seven times,” between January and July 2006, said TDmonthly's homeschooling mom Susan Ledford.
— Any time TDmonthly asks specialty storeowners about top-selling science toys, Elenco's Snap Circuits heads the list. This simple electronics kit appeals to both girls and boys. By making science fun and easy, Snap Circuits earned a TDmonthly Classic Toy 2007 award.
— As of 12/17/2012 this product had 4.8 out of 5 stars from 575 reviews on Amazon.com. Cons: One user said that her grandchildren were "not all that interested" in the Snap Circuits, and told her that they would prefer LEGOs on their birthday.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5252 (added 10/27/2005)
Wholesale Price: (Log in to view) MSRP: $4.00Age Range: 6 and upSKU or Item #: ZG111Gender: Boys And Girls
The ball can turn inside out to reveal a hidden post. Holding the post, kids can drop the ball to the floor and then watch it bounce back up. Kids can spin it, pop it and catch it.
— Two of 38 retailers named this fun little pick-up item as a best-selling novelty in their stores in summer 2009.
— “I made $700 in the last 90 days on ZeeBeez,” David Ekwall, owner of The Wooden Toy in Wethersfield, Conn., told TDmonthly in late summer 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 17919 (added 3/11/2008)
MSRP: $29.99Age Range: 13 and upSKU or Item #: 021853021042Launch Date: September 2006Gender: Boys And Girls
Players work with Jack Bauer as CTU’s leading agents to break up terrorist threats within 24 hours. During each mission, players follow clues that lead them to various locations on the game board. Launch date: September 2006.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9762 (added 10/25/2006)
MSRP: $5.99Age Range: 1 and upSKU or Item #: LC65833Gender: Boys And Girls
Completed with Fireman John and Fireman Conner, this fire engine makes siren and water sounds and is designed to carry other community members of Play Town.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 19459 (added 6/18/2008)
These new construction/craft kits from ÜberStix take the company's commitment to recycling one step further. When kids open the construction kit, they will discover that it requires more than just building it. The ÜBERSTIX LANDSAILER™ and ÜBERDRAGSTER™ are both working models that require Push Ups® ice cream pops for wheels, coffee stir sticks, straws and more. The LandSailer requires very little wind to move it across the ground. Kids can set up their own unique race courses for their working models — even build a speed ramp. "This is the first build system that rewards kids for recycling," ÜberStix founder Dane Scarborough told TDmonthly. "In doing the Scavenger Kits, we're starting a new category of toys."
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 16613 (added 12/17/2007)
This open-ended building set introduces kids to the spatial world of angles, color association and unlimited geometric design. With large components, this toddler-safe product offers the same open-ended fun kids find while building with WEDGITS Junior and Deluxe sets. The geometric shapes nest, and each set contains 15 pieces of primary-colored building blocks that can be configured in virtually unlimited configurations. The Starter Set is compatible with all other WEDGITS sets.
— “You can start very young with these,” said Patty Tepper-Rasmussen of Learning Tree in Oklahoma City, Okla. She sells approximately 10 to 12 WEDGITS sets each month. Idanna Smith of Juggles in Wakefield, R.I., named WEDGITS as a top seller in her store.
— “We came up with the starter set to meet the concerns of parents of toddlers regarding choking hazards. The pieces are big, so that all kids in the family can play with them without worrying about the littlest ones,” Rob McKinley, vice-president of sales and marketing for Imagability, told TDmonthly
— The simple, open-ended play afforded by Wedgits makes it a favorite at toy stores and earned it a TDmonthly Top Seller 2007
— Jillie Beans Toys & More
in Westminster, Colo., has carried Wedgits, a consistent best seller, since the store’s opening in 2006. “These are an educational toy and parents love that they start at age 1 and you can continue using the early sets even as the child grows older,” reported Storeowner Valerie Elsea in April 2010.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12551 (added 5/2/2007)
MSRP: $20.00Age Range: 0 and upLaunch Date: January 2008Gender: Boys And Girls
Puglee is super smart. She figured out that a great way to avoid getting a job was to get the worst possible grades ever! Only an F- would do. But here’s the problem... Puglee LOVES to read, write and count. So she gets all A’s no matter how hard she tries to fail! Puglee is also smart enough to know that life isn’t about getting a grade. It’s about the special bond she now has with you. Launch date: 2008.
— Uglydolls are a strong seller at The Gifted Child in Lenox, Mass., Owner Randy Austin told TDmonthly in summer 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 19327 (added 6/12/2008)
MSRP: $40.00Gender: Girls
This pretty little bassinet transforms into a straw purse with a cloth drawstring top, perfect for toting around baby.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 18050 (added 3/20/2008)
Each of the five scented pencils in this set comes in a freshness tube and is designed to retain its Watermelon scent for two years. Smencils are made from 100-percent recycled newspaper. Many other scents are available.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 19460 (added 6/18/2008)
Kids can tilt the cab forward to reveal a detailed replica of the engine, or incline the bed and snap it into place in an upright position. The vehicle features real tread tires, folding mirrors, doors that open and close and a back gate that opens. All of the Mack truck cabs are compatible with the implements designed for the front of the trucks, such as the mower and snowplow. The vehicle measures 25-4/5" L x 7-3/10" W x 10-4/5" H.
— “We're doing really well with Bruder …[especially] the big trucks and stuff. … We probably sell four a week,” Stacy Solie of Leapin' Lizards Toy Co. in Bend, Ore., told TDmonthly
in May 2008. “They are consistent throughout the year ... we do very well with Bruder,” said Tye Steinbach of Thinker Toys in Portland, Ore., when asked about the stores’ best-selling die-cast vehicle.
— In May 2008, three of 55 retailers singled out Bruder die-cast trucks as the best-selling die-cast vehicles in their stores. Margy Peine, owner of Tree House Toy Shop in Cumberland, Md., told TDmonthly
in October 2008 that her store sells about 12 Bruder trucks per month.
— Bruder trucks were named as top sellers at Piccolo Mondo Toys in Portland, Ore., by Owner Michelle Smith in December 2008. Bruder toys were on the top-seller list at Green Frog Toys
in Portland, Ore., in spring 2009. “They’re sturdy and detailed,” said Patricia Fielder, owner of the shop.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 19282 (added 6/9/2008)
Ernie Fire Engine comes to the rescue with his powerful friction motor and crew of firefighters. Little firefighters can ring his push-button bell and watch his revolving light before using the click-and-turn ladder to fight any imaginary blaze. The firefighter’s hand opens the back door to reveal two emergency barriers. Ernie is great for long-lasting role-play fun.
— “Wow is an excellent line of cars, especially for the 1- to 1½ -year-olds,” said Fred Rosenberg, owner of On the Park in Kingwood, Texas, in spring 2007. “It’s hard to find things as well made as [Wow] that you can actually sell to that age. In the fall , we brought them in, and they’ve done very well.” They’ve also become a best seller for Brain Station and Tree Town Toys in Ann Arbor, Mich., Owners Hans and Tricia Masing told TDmonthly in fall 2007.
— “This is my baby’s favorite toy. She plays with it every day,” shared TDmonthly's Baby Roundtable reviewer Sharri Hefner. She and her co-reviewers voted Ernie No. 1 for lasting value out of the 12 toys they evaluated from March to July 2007.
— Ernie Fire Engine is full of “wow” for toddlers — from its friction-prompted motion and siren to its friendly face and likable figurines. Doors that open and close, a workable ladder and attractive packaging also contributed to its receipt of a TDmonthly Top Toy 2007 award. Saving trips to the store to buy batteries (it doesn’t need them) helped, too!
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12722 (added 5/10/2007)
MSRP: $9.95Age Range: 6 and upGender: Girls
This activity book contains 20 pre-printed pages that can be torn out and folded into cootie catchers. It also provides instructions on how to make the craft as well as the fortunes that lie inside it.
— “I’m continually impressed by the quality of products coming out from this company even after 30 years,” Paul Faustine of Red Dragon Toys
in Brunswick, Maine, said in reference to Klutz books, which are a best-selling gift for girls in his store.
— Renee Nordhus, owner of ABC & Toy Zone
in Rochester, Minn., noted that Klutz crafts are the top-selling gift item for girls in her store.
—Three of 66 retailers cited Klutz as a top seller for girls’ gifts in a summer 2008 TDmonthly
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 19461 (added 6/18/2008)
The full body Baby Puppet is a perfect pretend pal. The cute character is easily animated with a working mouth. It's fun to play with and sure to inspire the imagination of kids, adults and drama departments alike. All Melissa & Doug people puppets have removable clothing and include a hand-operating rod. The Baby is constructed with super-soft quality fleece, measures 4" x 8" x 18" and weighs 11.2 oz.
— "We sell quite a few puppets from Melissa & Doug," said Char Mcaulay, manager of Toy Town
in Casper, Wyo., when she talked to TDmonthly
about store sales in the spring of 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13479 (added 6/14/2007)
The family of "My Name" products includes the following: Mugs, Keyrings, Drink Bottles, Piggy Banks, Door Plaques, Picture Frames, Gifted Bears, Gel Pens, Natural Crystals and Something Forever Jewelry.
— The baby mugs, children’s mugs and key chains in this line are best sellers at Clever Kids Toy Shop in Rochester, Minn., Owner Michelle Beyer told TDmonthly in late 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11419 (added 2/9/2007)
Now there's a way to store and display favorite gardening tools from Schylling. Rakes, shovels and a full assortment of outdoor gardening toys can all be placed in this display. The Wooden Barrel Display just might be the solution for parents tired of seeing their kid's toys splattered across the lawn and driveway. Kids can now make a game out of using their tools and storing them properly.
— "Mainly what we do [are] the plastics … the sand toys, gardening toys and things people can actually use in their yard. Schylling would be the biggest," said Jordan Walden, store manager at Finnegan's Toys and Gifts in Portland, Ore.
— "Little kid-sized rakes, shovels, brooms, trowels" are popular, agreed Mary Sisson, owner of Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash.
— The Wooden Barrel Display is part of Schylling's Little Farmer Garden Tools line of gardening tools.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11897 (added 3/13/2007)
Many collectors have been asking for a full body sculpt from Monika. She has also created a body with legs that can be positioned so the baby can both sit up and crawl! Ruby is 26" and done in vinyl. She has pretty, blue eyes and a cute, brunette wig with ladybugs on her pigtails. Monika has dressed Ruby in a pretty red- with white-dotted outfit edged in white eyelet lace. Also love her coordinating red-check sneakers. (Blanket and ladybugs not included). Limited Edition 350 pieces.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 18666 (added 5/1/2008)
These cheerful lime turtles with burnt-orange shells feature stitched detail and happy smiles on an ocean-blue background. They come with soft, flexible soles recommended by experts, easy slip-on/stay-on elasticized ankle bands and skid-resistant, textured suede soles. The shoes are washable by hand or machine and are made of quality leather with a lined upper. They include comfortable leather cushions that protect but are also breathable to keep baby's feet cool and comfortable.
— "I think Robeez are always good. It's not a toy but it moves faster than anything," said Christina Callan, owner of Interactive Toys, Crafts & More in Elum, Wash., when asked what would be hot for babies during Christmas 2007.
— In fall 2007, two of 54 retailers specifically cited Robeez when asked about hot-selling items, especially for the holiday season.
— "Robeez shoes are a reasonably priced addition to complete a gift package. The designs featured on our shoes often complement the toy being purchased," said Kelly Striemer, marketing specialist for Robeez.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 15287 (added 9/20/2007)
MSRP: $25.99Age Range: 4 and upSKU or Item #: 4137Launch Date: January 2008Gender: Boys And Girls
The Dream Garden comes with a magic fountain, a prince, a princess, a swan, a peacock, a unicorn, butterflies, a tree, flowers and more. The fountain features a waterspout that works with a hand pump. All pieces come stored inside an easy-to-carry box with a handle. Launch date: January 2008.
— Playmobil is a best-selling line at Aunt Jean’s Toys & Treats in Montclair, N.J., Owner Jeanette Lauture said in summer 2008. “I find this ‘gold standard’ to be awesome for girls and boys for a wide age range (1-1/2 to 12 years old),” she told TDmonthly
. “I’ve been selling this item since I opened [in spring 2007].”
— Jamie Burdette, owner of LB Toys
in Media, Pa., told TDmonthly
in July 2008 that he sells 60 units of Playmobil per month. “We go through them like there’s no tomorrow,” noted Bill Sartain, co-owner of Tutoring Toy
in Salt Lake City, Utah.
— Seven of 66 retailers named Playmobil as their overall best seller in summer 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 18800 (added 5/13/2008)
MSRP: $9.99Age Range: 4 and upSKU or Item #: 027084454239Launch Date: January 2007Gender: Girls
The Dance ‘N Groove party includes Polly and her gal pals – Lea, Shani, Crissy and Kerstie. Kerstie’s Hula-licious 12-piece set includes a hula outfit, a backdrop, a purse, a lei, a guitar, a bird and more. The Dance ‘N Groove dolls were designed in response to the current trend of reality shows and dance competitions. Launch date: January 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13670 (added 6/25/2007)
Remember sliding around on hardwood floors in your socks? Now enjoy the same fun on any carpeted area using these special skates. Strap them onto athletic shoes and you´re ready to glide. The smooth plastic with built-in toe grips lets users coast across carpet, yet they are safe to walk in. One size fits all. FunSlides was awarded Dr. Toy’s "10 Best Active Products" in 2004, The National Parenting Center’s Seal of Approval 2004, and, most recently, the IParenting Media Excellent Product Award. "Our toy has created a whole new category — toys and games that slide on carpet! It is a great toy that is fun and easy to demonstrate," Linda Willrich of Simtec told TDmonthly.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3330 (added 3/31/2005)
The fast-moving word game consists of 144 ivory-like letter tiles in a zippered banana pouch. Players place the tiles face down on the table and randomly select 21 tiles. They turn their letters right-side up simultaneously and proceed to form as many intersecting and interconnecting words as possible, rearranging their own letters as many times as desired throughout the game. Awards: TDmonthly Top Seller 2007
; 2009 TOTY Game of the YEAR, 2006 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal; 2007 iParenting; 2007 Parents' Choice Recommended; 2007 Dr. Toy Best Products. (Read Review
— This product has been making the TDmonthly
Best-sellers lists since 2007.
— As of 05/13/2011 this product had 4.8 out of 5 stars from 456 reviews on Amazon.com.
— Eight of 66 retailers vouched for its best-selling status in May 2008; seven of 63 did in Sept. 2008. Shani Watmough of Planet Toys in Rockland, Maine, said her store sells 60 per month. Fifteen of 38 named it a top-selling game in Feb. 2010.
— As of April 5, 2010, Bananagrams had spent 570 days in the top-100 best-selling toys and games on Amazon.com.
— According to owner Brett Sommer of Figpickels Toy Emporium in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, “It was the 2009 game of the year. The brilliant packaging definitely helps this product."
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8301 (added 6/19/2006)
MSRP: $5.98Age Range: 5 and upSKU or Item #: Box-0077 Card-0001Gender: Boys And Girls
This addictive, fast-paced dice game is as simple as looking left, center and right. The roll of the dice determines which players to the left, right or center get the chips, and the player with the chips at the end wins the game. It's simple, fun and even educational for growing minds. L-C-R comes with a storage tube, three dice, 24 playing chips and game instructions printed on the back of the packaging. Yellow, red, blue and green chips are available. The game is designed for three or more players. "L-C-R is fun for kids and adults. It's fast-paced with its own twist. Even teachers like to use it to teach educational concepts such as sense of direction," said Jill Smilanich, a representative for George & Company LLC.
— "L-C-R is still our biggest seller," Bill Rayment, co-owner of Toy Crossing
in Harbor Beach, Mich., told TDmonthly
— "L-C-R is our No. 1 seller," said Michelle Sahr, owner of My Little Red Wagon
in Stow, Ohio.
— “We have ordered ‘Left, Center, or Right,’ a new dice game from George & Company. We had lots of calls for those,” Sheena Brittan, manager of Weiner Dog Toys in Marco Island, Fla., told TDmonthly
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11310 (added 1/31/2007)
MSRP: $119.99Age Range: 1 to 5SKU or Item #: 8838-399Gender: Boys And Girls
The low center-of-gravity, wide rubberized tread with 9" front and 6-1/2" back tires, and steel frame make this Kettrike™ virtually tip-proof. All Kettrikes include a scratch- and fade-resistant synthetic powder coat that will keep them looking sharp through years of riding. Features include a comfortable, four-position, adjustable, high-back seat with an "S"-type frame that has five adjustable positions to grow with any child, parental-control locking mechanism, slip-resistant pedals, a rear step-plate and a push-bar. The bike is even tandem adaptable for additional riders.
— Over eight percent of retailers who spoke with TDmonthly in early 2008 shared that tricycles by Kettler International were their best-selling ride-on toys.
— “Kettler Trikes, across the brand,” David Hesel, owner of The Toy Shop of Concord in Concord, Mass., told TDmonthly, when asked what his best-selling ride-on was. “[We sell] about 80 units per year.”
— Lisette Demars, manager of Mrs. Tiggy Winkles in Tucson, Ariz., told TDmonthly that her store sells three Kettler tricycles per month.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 15780 (added 10/18/2007)
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Julie L. Jones has written articles for both newspapers and magazines. Before joining the staff of TDmonthly Magazine, she worked as a communications writer and provided editorial support for a market research company. Read more articles by this author
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