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

06 June 2017 ~ 0 Comments

Toy Market USA: An Inside Look…

TOY MARKET USA: AN INSIDE LOOK

We recently supplied on the American toy market to Spielwarenmesse.de, the official blog of the Spielwarenmesse-Nuremberg International Toy Fair.

The article looks at the largest toy market in the world & how best to approach it:

http://www.spielwarenmesse.de/magazine/article-detail/advice-for-the-us-toy-market/?L=1&cHash=9fc1d0d2bc5adcff49c50702ee7b7540

06 June 2017 ~ 0 Comments

Indian Toy Manufacturing – Do You Believe The Hype?

INDIAN TOY MANUFACTURING – DO YOU BELIEVE THE HYPE?

There has been much talk & speculation of late that India could be the ‘new China’ for toy manufacturing.

We recently posted this article looking at the truth behind the hype:

https://www.toyteamindia.com/single-post/2017/06/02/Indian-Toy-Manufacturing—Believe-The-Hype

06 June 2017 ~ 0 Comments

Toy Clearance: The Art Of!

TOY CLEARANCE: THE ART OF!

We thought you mind the following article on toy clearance interesting.

There’s no doubt that toy companies who fail to closeout stock in a timely fashion are more likely to suffer cashflow issues. Read more in this article:

http://www.kidsbrandinsight.com/?p=404

06 March 2017 ~ 0 Comments

Indian Toy Manufacturing: 2017 Update

INDIAN TOY MANUFACTURING: 2017 UPDATE

Steven Reece

It has been a little while since I last wrote on Indian toy manufacturing. In the meantime I have travelled to/in India numerous times viewing major toy factories, speaking to indian toy factory owners/management teams & touring toy companies around some of these facilities.

This increasingly important toy manufacturing hub has only grown in importance, stature & scope of activity since my last article on this. I now also have personal experience to reflect on. While not every product will be cheaper from Indian factories, I would say that around 60% of products I have seen costed have been cheaper than existing vendors in other countries. Moreover, I have seen first hand on these products toy companies saving anywhere from a few percent up to as much as 15% on some products.

I previously outlined why I believe only India can offer a true long term alternative to China in terms of being a major global toy manufacturing hub. As China looks to evolve it’s economy over the next decade, and as it’s increasingly affluent population move further away from low end production line jobs, India appears to be the only country set to take up the slack. With a near identical population to China, India is the only other country with anything like the scale/population to fill capacity for the toy industry (& other consumer product industries).

India also has a vast wealth of highly educated, experienced engineers, product designers and process managers, with expertise in injection moulded plastic & other core toy manufacturing competencies due to the strength of India’s automotive manufacturing sector.

Back around 2015, Hasbro hit the headlines via a Wall Street Journal article announcing they had shifted a significant amount of plastic toy production to India. But clearly that was just the beginning of the current trend towards Indian toy manufacturing. It was also the beginning of my own exploratory adventure.

Two years on, and there are some clear learning and updates which you may find interesting:

  1. There are a limited number of very high end toy factories in India – at the time of writing this (Feb 2017) there are around half a dozen or so toy factories in India at the top end. These factories are supplying the major corporate toy companies and their retail customers. Needless to say, these companies are in the perhaps envious position of having more demand than they can immediately supply. If we compare China where there are an estimated 5,000-10,000 toy factories, we can see that India still has a long way to go to even secure a fraction of market share versus China toy production. However, a success story will always attract others, and I would be surprised if the number of high end toy factories in India doesn’t start to grow from 2017 onwards.
  2. Indian toy factories can more easily pass ethical audits etc – due to local labour laws which favour/protect the employee more than in some countries, Indian toy factories tend to pass ethical/retailer/licensor audits without too much trouble.
  3. The standard/level of engineering & lean manufacturing processes is very high – you may be surprised to hear that India is a MAJOR automotive manufacturing/engineering hub. India was recently estimated to manufacture c. 24m vehicles per year. This puts India in the world’s Top 5 biggest automotive manufacturing countries by units produced. Moreover, these cars are not all being made for the Indian domestic market – they are also being exported – with $1.2bn dollars of car exports to the USA for instance, Indian manufactured cars have over 8% market share in the USA. Brands with manufacturing plants in India include: JCB, Isuzu, Honda, Harley Davidson, John Deere, Honda, Toyota, Volvo, Ford, Mitsubishi, Mercedes, BMW etc. These major global companies employ cutting edge engineering in order to profitably & safely engineer & produce vehicles – which may have over ten thousand individual components per model. With c. 25m people employed in the automotive sector in India, there is a plethora of highly trained engineering & production people. Cars feature injection moulded plastic parts, simple & complex electronics, lights, sounds, switches etc. – all competencies important to the toy industry. India already has the capability to manufacture toys, the only question is how many of those currently producing cars/car parts will turn to toy manufacturing in the next few years.
  4. India is the only toy manufacturing country in the world with enough trained people to compare with China – India & China have a similar total population i.e. c. 1.3-1.4bn people. Whereas the toy industry has looked to countries such as Vietnam & Thailand for cheaper labour, these markets have nowhere near the scale of workforce as India does.
  5. Other consumer product categories are already manufacturing at large scale in India – other product categories such as textiles & pharmaceuticals already manufacture & ship on a large scale from India. Walmart for instance have surprisingly established infrastructure already in India, and so it is not such a leap for them to also purchase toys from India. In fact I know of several toy companies shipping large quantities of toys direct to Walmart, Target, Carrefour, Argos etc from Indian toy factories.
  6. Other toy companies have been through the learning curve already – undoubtedly there is a learning curve when factories start working with new product categories/standards/customer types. However, at this point, 2 years after Hasbro’s big move to India was made public knowledge, pretty much anything that needs to be learned/problem solved has been resolved. For sure, there are always problems/challenges to resolve in manufacturing, but at this stage these are no more in India then they would be anywhere else based on my experience.
  7. The infrastructure in India is more effective than might be thought – there is no doubt that India has a long way to go to create infrastructure to rival other major economies. In fact while talking to toy companies about India I have heard all kinds of horror stories, most of whichthough could not be traced back to an individual or company who had actually experienced the mishap in question. One of the ICTI audited factories I have worked with in India has shipped thousands of containers of toy products without any significant issue/hold up. The reality is that the automotive, textile & pharmaceutical sectors all have their own commercial deadlines and operations that would not work if things never arrived from India. In fact, for that matter, Hasbro who manufacture large quantities of Nerf products in India, have the same promotional/retail windows as any other toy companies, and due to their global distribution base/media planning have even less tolerance for delays/slippages than other toy companies. So based on my own experience I believe the concerns about the infrastructure in India to be hugely exaggerated. There are numerous bureaucratic hoops to jump through in India, Indian officials tend to be sticklers for documentation/ticking all the boxes, but this is not that different to many other countries out there. A further point to understand is that India is not a single homogenous entity – as recently as partition in the 1940’s there were dozens of separate states/regions/’principalities’. So you don’t get the same standards/infrastructure everywhere. However, if you find a toy factory near major manufacturing hubs used by global companies in other industries & near major ports, my experience to date would suggest you won’t encounter any more issues in India vs anywhere else. That being said if you find a factory 5oo miles into the middle of nowhere with no roads & a 20 hour drive to the port, don’t be surprised if that one has less reliable delivery!
  8. You can find top level packaging for toys in India – I have toured round several packaging factories in India (in different states/regions of the country), and have been very pleasantly surprised by the high quality of production, machinery & personnel – leading to really good quality packaging. Two plants in particular I visited are as good as any print/packaging factory I have been to – these plants, aside from supplying the toy industry also supply major FMCG brands such as Nestle, Cadbury, liquor brands, Procter & Gamble etc.
  9. India is nearer/takes less shipping time to Europe & the East Coast of the USA – sourcing from India saves shipping time for companies who ship to Europe and/or the East coast of the USA, although it does take a little longer to West coast USA.
  10. Indian business people/engineers are routinely fluent in English – English is the international language of business, and due to the British history in India, English language is taught to a high level in India. Most professional Indian people will speak fairly good English…albeit with a strong Indian accent sometimes! Generally though, communication with Indian toy factories is good because nearly everyone you would encounter on the customer facing side will have good English.

Before ending this article, I must declare a couple of points which don’t exactly make me impartial on this topic: 1. I have introduced over 40 toy companies to Indian toy factories & in some way my company has been compensated for this work, so you could say I have a vested interest 2. I love India…! What I haven’t captured above is the vibrancy of India, it is an exciting & exotic place to visit.

Hopefully you find this relook at Indian toy manufacturers interesting & useful, if you would like to find out more about the toy factories we work with in India, please just drop us a line via the website address below…

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

29 November 2016 ~ 0 Comments

A To Z Of The Toy Industry – G Is For Games!

A TO Z OF THE TOY INDUSTRY – G IS FOR GAMES

Steven Reece

The board games category is a longstanding pillar of the toy industry. In fact, board games go back millennia – ancient civilisations were found to have played table based games.

This category delivers a disproportionate amount of longevity & stability to toy aisles across retail. While you might find most toys on shelf are new in any particular year, board game shelves usually feature more carry forward products than new launches. So while retailers every so often feel the need to cut shelf space for board games, it typically returns over time as it is such a solid, stable component of a toy department.

From a consumer view, if you ask consumers what they think of board games (which I have done – at least 60 or 70 focus groups with kids, families and adults asking them about board games), you tend to get an overwhelmingly positive response. Adults remember the board games they played when they were kids with a rosy glow of nostalgia. Kids tend to relish the opportunity to show off, compete and hook some of mum and dads attention and precious time.

Business wise, board games have a couple of major advantages versus some other toy categories. Firstly, as the major component tends to be cardboard based components, which derive from trees/wood which are comparatively cheap, board games tend to offer healthy margins to publishers, retailers and factories alike. Secondly, there is usually less tooling investment overall for a board games company versus a toy company which significantly reduces product launch risk. Thirdly, because good board games tend to grow year on year due to word of mouth & recommendation, they require less marketing expenditure (overall as a category) and tend to carry forward year on year if they are any good meaning they tend to be higher profit than many toy categories.

In recent times, the board games category has become somewhat trendy again, due in part to the effect of crowd funding platforms like Kickstarter which encourage more original and risque games versus the traditional route to market.

One prediction I can make with very little risk of being wrong is that regardless of what new technology lies round the corner, the board games category will be here forever!

 

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.

23 November 2016 ~ 0 Comments

A To Z Of The Toy Industry – F Is For Fun!

A TO Z OF THE TOY INDUSTRY – F IS FOR FUN!

There are probably more lucrative industries out there.

There are probably quicker moving, more exciting, ever changing industries out there.

But there aren’t many other industries which are as much fun as the toy business!

This is a product driven industry – it’s all about the next new product launches or those classic carry forward products. And these products are great fun! While we might no longer be children ourselves, many people in the toy industry retain a strong ‘inner child’ which makes the industry continuously enjoyable to be a part of.

Of course we have our fair share of grind – retailer terms negotiations, financing, factory visits etc. But spare a thought for those poor souls in more mundane industries – imagine being the product development manager or marketing manager on tea bags, plastic tupperware or matchsticks!

The reality is that fun is a major driver of the toy industry. We piggy back the natural instinct of children to play – that is right at the heart of stimulating demand for our products.

 

18 November 2016 ~ 0 Comments

A To Z of The Toy Industry – E Is For Export

A TO Z OF THE TOY INDUSTRY – E IS FOR EXPORT

It’s very rare to come across a toy company, or any company for that matter which is satisfied with it’s level of sales. The home market rarely suffices, even if it’s the vast North American market. Export business is an important part of the strategy of most toy companies we have seen.

Here are some benefits of Export sales:

  1. Reduced reliance on the health of your home market/major domestic customers
  2. Protection against extreme currency fluctuations affecting your domestic currency
  3. Incremental sales opportunity
  4. Opportunity to justify overseas trips to source new products to sell at home by financing via Export sales business

 

However, it isn’t all plain sailing – we’ve seen plenty of companies go bust due to problems/disasters in their Export sales business. Here’s a few key pitfalls to look out for:

  1. Payment risk – it’s much harder to chase someone on the far side of the world for payment. LC/payment in advance etc should be considered/insisted upon to reduce risk of bad debt.
  2. Legal/regulatory risk – be aware that different countries have different laws & regulatory compliance frameworks, if you go waltzing in to a country in a cavalier fashion, expect to get the odd bloody nose!
  3. Trans border shipment – be aware that once you ship a container of product you lose control of it, and lose control of the ability to prevent it finding its way back across your border, so choose good partners/customers and monitor them closely.
  4. Lack of focus/opportunity cost – we’ve seen many companies chase the ‘shiny object’ of Export sales, when a few more phone calls to domestic customers would return equal return with less investment & distraction.

Via our Consultancy company – www.KidsBrandInsight.com we regularly advise companies on how to grow Export business.

11 November 2016 ~ 0 Comments

A To Z Of The Toy Industry – D Is For Disney

A TO Z OF THE TOY INDUSTRY – D IS FOR DISNEY

Steven Reece

If you had to objectively pick one licensor who has the biggest impact on/is most important to the toy industry, Disney would have to be top of the list by quite a long way!

With huge heritage, parental trust and an awe inspiring back catalogue of iconic characters/movies, Disney has played a huge role in the toy industry over the years. With the acquisition in recent years of movie behemoths Marvel & Lucasfilm (Star Wars), Disney catapulted even further ahead of any other kids licensor.

The market size of the toy industry has traditionally ebbed and flowed with the strength of the annual movie slate. When Disney, Lucasfilm & Marvel were separate entities we saw ‘fallow’ years, where the movie slate was considerably weaker than in previous years. One of the clear benefits to the toy industry has been the better alignment/balancing by year of blockbuster family entertainment movies, which has been enough to significantly increase stability in the toy business.

In terms of individual movie titles, Disney has introduced some of the biggest toy & merchandise selling brands of all time. From the gigantic success of Toy Story (in conjunction with Pixar), which lead to massive shortages of hot toys at Christmas (who’d have thought a movie about toys would be such a huge driver of toy sales!) through to the more recent sparkly juggernaut that is Frozen.

Disney corp brands are prevalent in all product categories, with different Disney brands often offering the strongest competition to other Disney corp brands! A quick web search on Amazon reveals an almost endless list of Disney toys: http://amzn.to/2fpQbIO

I’m not able to find any robust public domain data identifying Disney’s market share of the toy market, however, it is clearly a very significant player, and looks set to continue the leading role in toy entertainment brand franchises.

 

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.

31 October 2016 ~ 0 Comments

A-Z Of The Toy Industry – C is for Children

A-Z Of The Toy Industry – C is for Children

Steven Reece

Without children there wouldn’t be a toy industry.

However, you might be surprised at how few toy industry executives ever get anywhere near their end consumer interacting with their products. There are so many must do’s in the toy industry and so many functions that sometimes consumer research/interaction falls by the wayside because you absolutely must speak to retailers, you must hit marketing deadlines & stock ordering deadlines, QA standards etc. But none of that guarantees you have a product that your end consumer will actually want/buy.

It is not coincidence that the largest toy companies in the world i.e. Mattel, Lego & Hasbro spend significant time, money and resources on consumer testing.

Aside from children being crucial to our achieving our sales targets & ongoing success, we also have a burden of responsibility as our products can play a massive role in the development of the next generation of people. Having conducted over 1,000 focus groups with children and parents, and seen how precious children are and how much of a role our industry plays in their childhoods, I hold strongly the feeling of childhood being sacrosanct.

This is one of the reasons why I continue to conduct consumer research for toy companies (big and small), because it works for toy companies & it helps to avoid disappointed kids on Christmas morning. There is little more satisfying than making a failing product work.

Of course play patterns have changed over time, as has the living conditions of children. As research for this article I visited the museum of childhood at Sudbury manor in the North of England. This glorious display of play artifacts and the lives of children reminded me that children of my great grandparents generation may have been too busy working to spend too much time playing with toys.

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My parents generation had a lot of freedom to roam as well as the beginnings of mass produced toys to play with.

Today’s kids lack physical freedom due to health and safety and ‘stranger danger’, and so instead they have online/virtual freedom instead from quite a young age. This is why I believe Minecraft has been so successful – because children are free to roam the unformed world, much like past generations roamed the real world.

Such ramblings aside, the reality is that our industry is entirely dependent on children – our end consumer, best not to forget this!

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.

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.