Leading industry journal covering the global toy industry including practical 'how to' articles, research, industry reports and insights.

20 October 2016 ~ 0 Comments

A-Z Of The Toy Industry – B is for Brands!

A-Z Of The Toy Industry – B is for Brands!

Steven Reece

The number one factor in the long term success of many toy industry heavyweights is BRANDS!

And more’s the point, not just any brands, but brands which are self owned/controlled i.e. not 3rd party license brands. Although 3rd party licenses are a huge part of the toy industry, self owned brands deliver stability, profitability, equity, extendabilty and security for toy companies.

But don’t just take my word for it…just take a look at the biggest players in the toy company. My ex-employer Hasbro has a weighty brand portfolio, including Transformers, My Little Pony, Play-doh, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit etc. Mattel has Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher Price, Thomas & Friends etc.

And you don’t get bigger in toy brand terms than Lego – the ultimate toy brand. In fact, lego is probably the best example of a brand management driven company I can think of. If you look at Lego’s website, they have no fewer than 34 Lego sub-brands or co-brands, driving huge global toy sales in excess of $6billion – all from the foundation of a small plastic brick! The sheer brand extendability of Lego should be a case study for anyone serious about the toy business.

Smaller companies won’t have such brand behemoths in their portfolio, but critically they won’t ever get them if they just keep chasing the next hot license ad infinitum. Building brands can be slow, hard work – a fledgeling brand is a much harder sell than a proven hit license, but the long term bounty that established brands can deliver is priceless…

by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight www.KidsBrandInsight.com,  a leading Consultancy to toy companies around the world, which helps companies with product reviews & awards, find the right toy & game factories, consumer research test their products with kids and parents and secure export distribution/market entry around the world.

05 October 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Toy Industry A-Z – A is for Action Man

Toy Industry A-Z – A is for Action Man

Steven Reece

For those of my generation in the European toy industry, especially those who worked for Hasbro, Action Man is a huge iconic action figure brand.

Action Man was officially launched in 1966 by Palitoy, as a spin off under license from Hasbro’s G.I. Joe.

Image result for hasbro action man logo

Over time, Action Man moved with the times, from being a primarily military figure to being more of a modern day hero/adventurer.

The accessories and features were always much talked about in the playgrounds of Europe, with older generations referring to ‘Eagle eye’ Action Man and more recently accessories like blowpipes or karate weapons etc.



I was fortunate enough to market research/playtest many Action Man products and adverts (albeit 15 years ago), and while I won’t be giving away any trade secrets, it will be no surprise to anyone if I highlight just how much kids loved Action Man.

While Action Man is not commercially available any more, it remains a huge and iconic part of European toy history.

For more information on the history of Action Man, the Wikipedia page is quite revealing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_Man

To see reviews of some of today’s top action figures, check out this page on The Toy Verdict website: http://www.thetoyverdict.com/category/action-figures/

by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight www.KidsBrandInsight.com,  a leading Consultancy to toy companies around the world, which helps companies with product reviews & awards, find the right toy & game factories, consumer research test their products with kids and parents and secure export distribution/market entry around the world.

26 May 2016 ~ 0 Comments

How To Turnaround Failing Toy Companies


Steven Reece

The nature of our industry is such that one bad selling cycle can adversely affect our ongoing stability and even threaten the survival of our businesses. Anyone who has had the experience of working in, with or even owning a failing business can tell you just how quickly the rails can come off. However, there are usually certain underlying issues that have a negative effect which builds over time. Poor stock management, betting the house on product launches (when we know more products fail than work!), failing to hire & motivate good people etc.

The most important thing about a failing business though is to recognise how much emotion and inertia play their part. Logically it is obvious that if certain practises got you into a great deal of trouble, then a significant change is likely to be needed to turn things round. Easier said than done perhaps, but critical nevertheless.

Here’s some suggestions to help if you happen to end up in a failing toy company headed for the wall:


Cut Your Cloth Accordingly – one of the things which struck me most about the comparatively recent change in management at Tesco in the UK was that the new broom coming in got rid of the company jets…if there was ever a symbol of a bloated corporation it’s a whole separate company owning the corporate jet fleet! But it isn’t just massive companies that allow themselves to get soft around the edges over time. So the first thing I advise struggling toy companies to do is to actively reassess what’s critically important and what can be cut.


Slash the red pen – the next level after cutting the cloth is to start slashing. if your company is in real trouble and it’s very survival is in the balance, then you are best to cut hard and fast. What can you cut? People, premises, products, marketing, stock. All of which leads to very difficult decisions, none more so than looking at headcount & potentially letting some valued and/or long standing staff go. For some companies, the hardest decisions relate to stock. Let’s be really clear – nothing kills toy companies more than excess inventory. Over stocks tie up cash, incur warehousing costs, reduce efficiency and cause sales teams to lose focus on selling good products. The major global players in the toy industry have stock holding targets for every month of the year, and above all for year end. If you ever wondered how on earth a really strong product ended up in clearance channels, it’s probably because the executives in charge didn’t want to lose their annual bonus due to being over the year end stock level budgeted. All the excuses will come out – the customers won’t like it (they won’t, but in practise all retailers accept it as part of the game, and their number one focus is their own stock levels), that’s good product we can sell again (maybe, maybe not, but you can always manufacture it again…if you can clear out at close to cost, do it!) and the best one of all – “but I really like that product” (sounds ridiculous, but is the reality in many cases with smaller owner managed companies!). Take those tough decisions now, or else the administrator will soon be along to make them for you as you’re shuffled out the door with nothing!


Introduce robust processes for everything involving spending money – when you work in a global corporate company you find that everything is driven by process, when you work for a smaller company, often you find very little is driven by process. And frankly it isn’t that process is fun, it isn’t – it can be very boring, repetitive & can sometimes stifle the life and energy of a company if taken to excess…BUT if your company is in trouble, then either you didn’t have enough process or you had ineffective processes. Investment decisions (yes, launching a new product is in essence an investment decision) should be scrutinised. If you don’t have the structure to scrutinise in house, it’s not too hard or costly to buy in some expertise to add an outside voice/provide some devils advocate to ensure the product or marketing plan has been well thought through/considered (my company can help, email for more details!). Moreover, if you are ordering stock (the biggest cost item a toy company has by far), you had better have stringent processes…have you analysed/considered last years ordering pattern? How firm are those retail commitments? How soon can you get a read on EPOS data etc.


Skilful cashflow management – this is one of those things you have to learn the hard way – a sale is not a sale until the money is in the bank, so make sure your accounts receivable is up to date and aggressively but constructively managed/chased. For creditors, every business has come across customers in tough times who aren’t paying on time. The trick is to negotiate payment delays versus just not paying anything. A dose of honesty, humility and a later payment date met will create good faith you can take forward versus constantly screaming creditors taking up management time ongoing.


Lowest hanging fruit product lines – this is not the time to bet on a major new risky product category. A consolidation year with potentially dull ‘bankable’ products is the way to go. Speak to your retailers and ask them what they want, then deliver it. Relaunch old favourites left in the vaults for a while, or extend an existing proven product range/brand, as getting it listed is going to be easier/less risky. Bottom line – play it safe for a year or two to rebuild the foundations and security.


These few tips may help to a degree, although they don’t go anywhere near recognising how traumatic business failure can be, but the bottom line is that facing reality and taking (often tough) action accordingly is the only way proven to work.


by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight www.KidsBrandInsight.com,  a leading Consultancy to toy companies around the world, which helps companies with product reviews & awards, find the right toy & game factories, consumer research test their products with kids and parents and secure export distribution/market entry around the world.

28 April 2016 ~ 0 Comments

How To Grow Toy Companies


Steven Reece

The number one topic we get approached by toy companies to help with is GROWTH.

How can we grow our business? Only the fortunate few see ongoing sales growth ahead. In a mature industry, many companies stagnate in sales terms, even though they are working harder and harder. There are of course a few companies where (possibly very sensibly) owners want stability more than growth, but overwhelmingly we encounter companies looking to grow one way or another. So here’s some quick points:


1. Sell more! Yes, it’s completely obvious, but actually asking the question ‘how can we sell more’ leads companies to review their presumptions, structure, focus, employee incentivisation etc. An effective growth plan needs a fundamental commitment to sell more, it won’t just happen. It might mean selling more to existing customers, opening up new channels in existing markets, distribution partnerships, export sales, overseas offices etc., but in the end it comes down to an organisational commitment (not wish, but commitment) to sell more. It will likely involve investment, and it will almost certainly involve increased overhead (which needs careful risk management), but your business won’t grow unless you confirm a growth plan.


2. Clear financial targets – a general plan to grow won’t inspire your teams in the same way as a solid clear sales figure will. Whether it’s $1m, $10m or $100m, pick a figure, work out a plan to get there & then make it a clear organisational goal. I once worked on a project where the company struggled to know where it was going on a product category, the plan was frankly a little vague and ‘floaty’. We confirmed a fixed $amount, and by way of almost bragging that we were going to hit that target incessantly we got there eventually. The target was completely arbitrarily selected for being a nice round number – $50m, a previously inconceivable amount. And so $50m became the battle cry (from $0m at the start), and we got there. There were many reasons for that success, but a major reason was the drive to hit that specific sales figure. (isn’t human psychology a remarkable thing!)


3. Diversify (low hanging fruit) – my company consults with toy companies in various different product categories, and so we see how similar most toy products/categories are. Yes, there are some differences, but they typically aren’t that great and the barriers to breaking out into other categories are not usually so great! Yet routinely when asked to help toy companies grow, my company has encountered companies struggling to expand product line for no particular reason beyond a kind of habit of working on a particular type of product. Off the top of my head, I can think of 6-8 companies we have Consulted with who need or want growth, but who have struggled to get their collective heads around this concept. The reality is this – if you are working on plastic toys of one kind, what stops you from expanding your offering to another kind of plastic toy? The customers will be largely the same (although the Buyer may change, but that’s hardly a major roadblock), the marketing channels will be the same, the manufacturing processes/QA will be the same or at least similar, so why wouldn’t you? The same applies to puzzle companies who don’t do many board games or fashion doll companies who don’t do action figures etc. Yes, there is a degree of positioning/being indentifiable as a player in a particular niche, but a). that positioning advantage is probably over rated in terms of importance/impact and b). once you are supplying retail they have an innate organisational impetus to take more product from you to reduce their number of suppliers as per standard purchasing efficiency models. Typically, companies have to get over their own mental baggage of past failed attempts to launch new products in new categories…erm, well most new toy launches do fail – let’s look at the stats: between 2/3rds and 3/4 of all toy skus on sale each year are new products! And, even more remarkably, the c. 1/3 of products which carry forward each year deliver c. 2/3rds of the sales! So in effect we are stuck in a kind of illogical new product development & launch cycle, it’s hit and miss, so don’t expect everything to work – in existing categories or new ones! Product launch failure is a natural part of a toy company growth cycle. So, are there any similar product categories you can expand into?


4. Acquisition – if you look at some of the biggest players in the industry, they are relentless acquirers of brands & companies. Some acquisitions deliver more long term benefit than others, but regardless, if you look at the brand portfolios of Hasbro, Mattel, Spin Master & others, acquiring other companies is a major part of their growth. This may seem unhelpful for smaller companies, who may perceive that they don’t have hundreds of millions sat in the bank waiting for a company to buy. However, this is potentially ‘small thinking’, because it’s about growth as a strategy, not about massive scale. Maybe there’s a ‘one man band’ who has established a niche position which would bolt on nicely to your company and who would take a few hundred thousand to sell up. Maybe there are financing options you haven’t considered. Don’t get me wrong, you should never acquire for the sake of it, and a bad acquisition can be very very risky, so it needs to be managed/ringfenced with prudence and caution, but nevertheless this is a proven growth strategy.


5. Build on a stable platform – regular readers of my articles may roll their eyes here, but yes, a strong stable proprietary brand portfolio gives you a strong growth platform. Stepping aside from the roller coaster/hamster wheel of selling licensed products, building your own brands is THE long term growth driver. Brands are great, because they can be extended, co-branded with licenses, licensed into other forms of merchandise, turned into standalone content iterations etc. Even more importantly – the number one point we make when Consulting with toy companies is that we shouldn’t only look at growth in terms of SALES, it’s critical that we also look at EQUITY value i.e. we may have added to our sales by introducing a new licensed product range, but is our company actually worth any more when we will just lose their rights in 3 years or so? The answer is most probably not! Brands are THE major driver of toy company equity value. Distribution can be bought, hired in or otherwise accessed. Great people are essential, but they don’t and never will ‘belong’ to the company. It all comes down to brands!


by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight www.KidsBrandInsight.com,  a leading Consultancy to toy companies around the world, which helps companies with product reviews & awards, find the right toy & game factories, consumer research test their products with kids and parents and secure export distribution/market entry around the world.

26 February 2016 ~ 0 Comments

5 Features Of Successful Licenses For Toys…


Steven Reece

At this time of year (post toy fair) some of those promising conversations with Licensors/brand owners are probably getting to a fairly advanced stage, and the ‘should we or shouldn’t we’ question is probably at the fore.

There is no doubt that licensing is one of THE major drivers of the toy business, and in fact, has become increasingly important in recent years, not less so, as the global movie slate has become so much sharply managed with few or no ‘fallow’ years in terms of toyetic movies.

However, anyone who has played the licensing game will have their fair share of horror stories in terms of licenses which didn’t work at all for toys. Personally speaking, I have launched many successful licensed products which absolutely flew out of retail, but have also launched some real dogs! The other important point is profitability…many top selling products I worked on/managed were very poor performers in terms of profits for various reasons. I also made/stumbled blindly into one of my biggest career mishaps via licensing, costing an unexpected $1.5m.

So how can we know whether a license is going to work for toys, well here’s 5 things to look for:

  1. Substantial media impact – if you are looking at licensing an entertainment brand driven by media, then logic suggests that you need a brand which has a strong media footprint i.e. a blockbuster movie, extensive TV programming or online metrics. And let’s be clear just being on TV or on You Tube is not enough – you need to have clear metrics i.e. 3 x 30 second episodes viewed by 7 kids is not going to drive toy sales, but 52 episodes hitting millions of kids just might!
  2. Strong brand – this one is a little less tangible, but nevertheless critically important! A weak, nearly generic brand with huge media footprint may not have enough brand recognition/kudos to help sell toys.
  3. Longevity – if we look at some of the biggest drivers of licensed toy sales in the past few decades, Star Wars & Power Rangers are consistent performers. This means that while products might need to be changed/developed around new iterations/characters as the content evolves licensees can be fairly sure that the brand will survive for the length of the licensing agreement. paying licensing royalties on a brand which already died away is very annoying and damages profits (as he shows off his been there, done that T shirt!)
  4. Toyetic – some brands are just not suited to making top selling toys as derivatives. Others have clear potential but only for a very limited array of products, while others can support a vast range. One of the biggest movie blockbuster franchises of all times targeting kids, which is much loved and has a huge footprint was a comparatively poor performer in terms of toy sales. So even if a brand is huge, it needs to have clear and obvious potential for toy product lines.
  5. Profitable terms – there comes a time in every toy person’s working life when they will have the chance to take on a clear hit license with strong potential for toy sales, but where the financials just don’t stack up. If you’ve been around the block a few times you will have both taken those things on & lost money AND let them go to competitors and rued the lost sales opportunity. The reality is that there is always another license out there. Kids entertainment brands/content is absolutely saturated. In my experience arguments about strategic importance and secondary benefits i.e. if a retailer lists this license they will take some of our other products may have some reasonable, rational sense to them, but the bottom line has to be – no profit, why bother’?

There you go, a quick snapshot of 5 factors to look for in terms of toy licenses. Needless to say this is not a complete list of all factors, nor is it in enough depth to become your sole guide to toy licensing, but it may just help a little…!

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by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight www.KidsBrandInsight.com,  a leading Consultancy to toy companies around the world, which helps companies with product reviews & awards, find the right toy & game factories, consumer research test their products with kids and parents and secure export distribution/market entry around the world.


24 February 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Is Toy Retail Dead In Manhattan? (No It’s Alive & Kicking!)


Steven Reece


Once upon a time there were two major Toy retail landmarks in Manhattan – FAO Schwarz and the Toys R Us store on Broadway. In fact, one of my first memories of the toy industry is being shown round these two outlets by my first boss at Hasbro. And for me (and for many international visitors) a major part of our annual pilgrimage to New York for the Toy Industry Association’s American International Toy Fair each year in February was a trip to these showcase retail outlets. It’s not necessarily that these were the best merchandised two toy stores or that their often very crowded shopping experience was entirely pleasant…instead the point was it was an easy way to see what was on sale, what the major brands were focusing on and was a quick reference point to a broad cross section of the US toy industry.

While Walmart and Target may drive significantly higher volumes for numerous products and for many toy companies, their store format (and arguably their demographic) doesn’t appear to be best suited to Manhattan’s real estate/consumer base, and also their range of toys is not usually so broad as could be found in the TRU on Broadway, so as a reference point these two now absent specialist toy superstores will be sorely missed!

However, there is a reality outside of these two flagship locations – that there remains today dozens of retail outlets on Manhattan where you can purchase toys, and even have a ‘retail theatre’ experience. In and around this years New York toy fair we visited an absolutely splendid example of the Disney Store in Manhattan, which in this day and age features a vast array of top toy brands inc. Star Wars, Marvel, Disney, Frozen etc. We also perused a Lego store and an American Girl store each of which is clearly targeting both the c. 1.6million Manhattan residents and tourists alike. There are also numerous specialty toy retail outlets in Manhattan, as well as a number of generalist retailers who also sell at least some toys (drug chains, kiosks, department stores) etc.

So the reality is that while we may have lost a couple of high visibility toy stores toy retail in Manhattan is still alive & kicking, in fact appearances suggest it is thriving, just in different formats!

The following images reflect just a few of the outlets we viewed, and needless to say all logos, trademarks and intellectual property featured belong to the rightful owners.



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by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight www.KidsBrandInsight.com,  a leading Consultancy to toy companies around the world, which helps companies with product reviews & awards, find the right toy & game factories, consumer research test their products with kids and parents and secure export distribution/market entry around the world.

21 February 2016 ~ 0 Comments

2016 New York Toy Fair – A Success Despite Near Arctic Conditions

2016 New York Toy Fair – A Success Despite Near Arctic Conditions

The 2016 TIA Toy Fair in New York hit all the right notes, despite severely cold weather! The first two days of the show saw outdoor temperatures as low as minus 18 Celsius (around zero degrees Fahrenheit!). Such frosty conditions didn’t appear to affect visitor numbers though. In fact, the showcase Play Fair event next door (featuring god forbid large numbers of children interacting with toys as an add on to a trade show, and due to the cold conditions, the queue of excited kids was re-routed inside. Fortunately the huge Javits Center foyer/entrance hall easily swallowed up the extra traffic without unduly congesting things.

Bearing in mind the huge snow storm a few weeks before the show, which would have undoubtedly had a greater impact, perhaps a few shivers is a small price to pay for a trade show which offers a simple opportunity to access the world’s largest toy market by far. For those used to the highly fragmented European toy market, North America offers potentially huge volumes with a fraction of the complexity. Businesses with comparable infrastructure can do even greater volumes in North America than they would be likely to do in Europe, or in fact nearly any other region.

Overall, most of the people we spoke to are optimistic about the state of the toy market, so here’s hoping that optimism is fulfilled in 2016!


05 February 2016 ~ Comments Off on MERGERS GALORE: The Toy Industry Goes Merger Crazy!

MERGERS GALORE: The Toy Industry Goes Merger Crazy!

MERGERS GALORE: The Toy Industry Goes Merger Crazy!

Steven Reece

There has been some BIG news in the world of toys this week, with Bloomberg letting the cat out of the bag in terms of a Hasbro and Mattel merger, plus the announcement concerning VTech acquiring Leapfrog for the perhaps surprising amount of $72m (reported amount).

So wow, there’s some impactful headlines, but what is the reality? Has the toy industry gone merger/acquisition crazy?

Well actually, no – it certainly hasn’t just suddenly ‘gone’ crazy – in fact the history of the toy business is littered with acquisitions, mergers and however else you might technically describe two companies turning into one! The most obvious example of this would be my ex-employers Hasbro, who have been (historically speaking) magnificently successful in growing by acquisition including Wizards of the Coast (Magic: The Gathering), Waddingtons, Coleco Industries, Tonka Corp. (inc Parker Bros), Cranium, Trivial Pursuit etc…and that’s just one company with only the transactions I can remember off the top of my head mentioned!

The toy industry is in a sense structurally set up for acquisition with it’s preponderance of family founded and owned companies (Hasbro, Mattel & Lego all started as family companies). What often happens with family cmpanies is that not all generations want to take on/are offered the chance to take up the reins to the family business. Somewhere down the line one elder statesman or another decides either his or her offspring aren’t up to it or aren’t interested and reaches for the golden parachute!

So now we’ve established that all this talk is part of an ongoing cyclical process, let’s consider each of this week’s announcements:

Firstly Hasbro/Mattel merger, or Mattel/Hasbro merger to avoid favouritism! Firstly I can state very clearly as an ex-Hasbro employee that there was no love for Mattel within Hasbro corporate culture in my day, which I’m guessing hasn’t changed and I presume (although don’t know for sure) that the same applies back the other way. So why would they consider a merger? Frankly, I don’t know if there’s a legal/fiduciary obligation to make a documented effort to engage or not, but a merger between these two toy industry behemoths would certainly create a monstrously powerful machine, as well as significant ‘synergies’ – that cold hearted overly positively worded way to describe the misery of mass layoffs. The leading player in Girls/Fashion dolls and the leading player in Boys/action figures would make quite a combination…but I can’t see how it’s a likely move bearing in mind the East/West coast locations and the likely resistance to the change. In actual fact I would speculate that a takeover bid would be more likely, as from what my limited understanding of corporate finance suggests, that doesn’t need to be compliant/mutually agreed transaction and both companies could presumably access sufficient funds to make such a deal happen. Yet if that were likely, surely it would have happened when Mattel’s share price was languishing lower than it is now a fw months back? Anyway, I’m sure there will be more rumour to come on that one, but I’d bet against it happening any time soon if I were a betting man!

Onto VTech & Leapfrog…that is one very exciting transaction for VTech, because they both bring their biggest competitor under their own control, but also have an opportunity to significantly leverage up in the North American market where Leapfrog is so strong in terms of trade presence and consumer recognition/affinity. There is no doubt that the explosion in kids tablets presented both companies with a huge sales opportunity, but the question with all technology is always how do you manage the lull between technology waves…seemingly with kids tablet sales appearing to peak/level off, VTech may have managed the waves better. Either way expect to see VTech’s already highly influential position ramp up to new levels in the kids electronics/ELA categories!

PUBLISHERS CAVEAT: Please note any discussion above is not based on any knowledge or insight, is just speculation/opinion and should not be used in any way to influence financial investment decisions…such decisions should only be taken with the advice of qualified experts of which Steve is not one!

by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight www.KidsBrandInsight.com,  a leading Consultancy to toy companies around the world, which helps companies with product reviews & awards, find the right toy & game factories, consumer research test their products with kids and parents and secure export distribution/market entry around the world.

05 February 2016 ~ Comments Off on Knock Offs In The Toy Industry…Is Imitation The Sincerest Form Of Flattery?

Knock Offs In The Toy Industry…Is Imitation The Sincerest Form Of Flattery?

Knock Offs In The Toy Industry…Is Imitation The Sincerest Form Of Flattery?

Steven Reece

The toy industry (like many brand dominated consumer products industries) has a significant problem with knock offs i.e. people ripping off a product. Recent high profile cases have shown that even retailers are not immune to looking for an easy win/quick buck using someone else’s brand without necessarily paying for it!

The reality is that branded products command a premium versus generic products, and so they will tend to sell more than generic products. The challenge for toy companies is to find an effective way to robustly protect brands/properties.

While trademarks and ‘passing off’ legislation offer some protection, they need to be actively managed and enforced, often at some cost/legal risk.

There appears to be a difference between ‘me too’ products and an actual rip off/knock off product. For instance let’s say you are active in the creative play category and you create a new play pattern, you launch a product and it’s a huge success…the outcome is likely to be a). good sales initially and b). after one or two selling cycles, your competitors will have cottoned on & will have similar products. This would be regarded by most as pure competition, and the only way to beat it is to keep on innovating, leverage customer relationships and deliver cost effectively/with good marketing.

At the furthest end of the spectrum the other way though is the blatant knock off, either an illegal copy of the product using the same brand name but not manufactured/supplied by the brand owner, or the blatant knock off with just the tiniest (often hilariously bad/ill thought out) amendments to make a token but presumably legally insignificant change!

While walking between show rooms in Hong Kong we noticed a street toy stall selling something called “Deformers” which looked almost entirely like a Transformer toys. While such names and bad copies can be amusing at first view, actually they are symptomatic of a problem which costs toy companies and brand owners fortunes.

This is obviously not a new issue, one of my first memories of the toy industry is seeing Hasbro’s Legal Counsel striding around the Nuremberg toy fair (in the late ’90s) issuing cease & desist notices to Far East vendors of products he deemed to be infringing Hasbro’s intellectual property.

So new or old issue, the problem of knock offs is not going away…the reality is that the more successful you are the more likely your products/brands are to be knocked off, so from one perspective it is a problem of success, not that this makes it any less frustrating!


by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight www.KidsBrandInsight.com,  a leading Consultancy to toy companies around the world, which helps companies with product reviews & awards, find the right toy & game factories, consumer research test their products with kids and parents and secure export distribution/market entry around the world

30 January 2016 ~ Comments Off on 2016 Nuremberg – Spielwarenmesse International Toy Fair Review

2016 Nuremberg – Spielwarenmesse International Toy Fair Review

2016 Nuremberg – Spielwarenmesse International Toy Fair Review

While the show still rumbles on, my own time here for the 2016 Spielwarenmesse is coming to an end. One more morning of frantic dashing around labyrinthine halls, and of meetings with old friends, potential new friends and anywhere in between.

According to my gadget, I’ve walked 36 miles in 3 days, and physically speaking it seems like more! For those of us from the UK contingent who have ‘done’ Nuremberg back to back with the BTHA UK toy fair, there is an even greater air of fatigue and dishevelledness (if that’s even a word) than usually at the end of this great vast show in Bavaria! There have been times this week when I felt like I lived in a permanent world of trade show madness, and the thought of my own bed begins to loom large in my mind.

Such self pitying grumblings aside, both shows have been very good in terms of quality of product and innovation on display, in terms of powerful new and existing licenses and in terms of the level and breadth of people in attendance. Although it’s entirely subjective, I saw/met with everyone I would expect to and found less people ‘missing’ from the UK show than expected.

The buzz around both shows, and the general atmosphere seems overwhelmingly positive in a trade where it’s usually made quite clear if things are tough! In general (as I’ve written elsewhere we do seem to be in a golden age where unbelievably strong movie slates featuring toyetic blockbuster after toyetic blockbuster just keep rolling in wave after wave. So as the saying goes, when the sun shines make hay!

As usual the level of detailed organisation at the Spielwarenmesse has been amazing. This year I accidentally stumbled upon yet another example of this. I inadvertently found myself in the first aid bay, where no less than 5 upstanding medical professionals oversaw my highly trivial treatment (a Paracetamol for raging headache, I’m unwilling to reveal the cause of the headache but you can probably guess). Despite the medical ‘overkill’ involved, it is nevertheless very reassuring to know so much preparation and attention to detail is in evidence throughout the toy industry’s biggest showcase.

So thank you Germany, thank you Spielwarenmesse, another great year, and let’s all hope the listings and sell through resulting are as good as the show!