Author Archives: steve.reece@vicientertainment.co.uk

O Is For Outdoor Toys, Ole Kirk Kristiansen, Optimus Prime and Operation – A To Z Of The Toy Business

O Is For Outdoor Toys, Ole Kirk Kristiansen, Optimus Prime and Operation – A To Z Of The Toy Business

OUTDOOR TOYS

This category brings to mind sandy beaches, playing fields and back yards, along with boisterous energetic children playing with outdoor toys. The benefit for toy companies of course in running products in this category is counter seasonal cashflow. While most toy companies tend to have minimal revenues in the first half of the year, companies selling outdoor toys can achieve significant sales to balance out the cashflow challenges of being reliant on back end of year sales. Brands like Nerf, Frisbee and Bunch O Balloons enjoy strong sales at a time of year where most other toy companies are in the red.

 

OLE KIRK KRISTIANSEN was a Danish carpenter who founded Lego way back in 1932. Understandably based on his profession, Lego’s first products were wooden toys. The move to plastic toys came about when the company purchased an injection moulding machine in 1947. Not all was plain sailing though, the Great Depression hit Denmark and hit sales of non-toy products which acted as the spur for Mr. Kristiansen to enter the toy business. Then in 1942 the Nazi’s occupied Germany, and soon after a fire destroyed his factory and stock. From these humble beginnings, Ole Kirk Kristiansen and his successors have grown Lego into the largest toy brand in the world. Therefore, it would be a strong argument to make that no other individual has had a bigger long-term impact on the toy business than Mr. Kristiansen.

 

OPTIMUS PRIME

The Transformers brand has been with us since 1984, and the most prominent character in the Transformers universe is of course Optimus Prime. The leader of the Autobots in their endless struggle against the evil and duplicity of the Decepticons, Optimus Prime is an iconic character and toy. As the Transformers brand evolved into a successful movie franchise, so Optimus Prime stepped to the fore of the movie world – bringing Transformers to a whole new generation.

 

OPERATION

When thinking of classic board games, Operation is normally towards the top of the list. Invented by John Spinello (an industrial design student) back in 1964. The game features fairly basic technology whereby players have to try to remove ‘organs’ from a patient without causing the buzzer to buzz and the nose to glow red. In more recent times licensed co-branded versions of the game have launched with a fair degree of commercial sense. Licensed versions brought to market include Star Wars, Shrek and Spider Man as the central character/patient.

 

We run a Consultancy business helping toy & games companies get ahead. For more information, check out www.KidsBrandInsight.com/services

Our Managing Director, Steve Reece, works with a limited number of companies as a non-executive director, independent board director and as a board advised. If you are interested in finding out more about this, check out the link to our service above.

 

5 KEY FEATURES OF SUCCESSFUL NEW TOY LAUNCHES

5 Key Features Of Successful New Toy Launches

Every year hundreds of thousands of new toys come to the market globally. The majority of these toys achieve an acceptable amount of sales, but comparatively few – probably as little as 5% or 10% achieve real success. Partly this is due to statistics, with so many new toys many will not achieve full distribution, and even fewer will achieve physical prominence in retail.

There are though 5 key features of most successful new toy product launches. None of these are likely to surprise – these are quite basic points, but they are so fundamental that we feel it is worth running through them:

 

  1. Obvious & compelling product features

Children are not that complicated…unlike adults with all their social niceties, angst and complexity. Toys for children should therefore usually offer a very straightforward product concept/proposition which is clear, obvious and above all compelling. A classic example of this would be the Hatchimals Wow product from Spin Master, where the character has a large extending neck which extends to a very surprising extent – the clue is in the name ‘WOW’! Children find this type of WOW very compelling. If your product concept is very complicated and takes a lot of explaining the odds are that you won’t achieve success with it.

 

  1. Packaging which showcases the best of the product

Packaging is the most fundamental marketing tool in selling toys & games. The bottom line is that anyone looking at your product will decide to buy or not based as much on the packaging as the product itself. Complicated packaging which fails to show what the product is about usually does not work. We recently worked on a project running a ‘post-mortem’ on why a major new product launch didn’t work. The reason for launch failure turned out to be the packaging. The product was basically cocooned in an artsy container which said nothing about the product or why a child may want the product (!).

 

  1. Effective marketing to the right target market

Note that this is not necessarily about the biggest budget, because money is easily wasted in toy marketing. The critical success factor is effectiveness, how can you present the product to the most potentially interested consumers for the most efficient cost, with a message and product demonstration which is both compelling and clear?

  1. Retail support

Not every product will achieve full mass market distribution, and sometimes that’s fine based on how niche the product and product category is. But without retail support, success is unlikely. One of the major risks toy companies face is developing and investing in products which don’t get picked up by retail. The bigger the company, the more likely it is that major product launches will be picked up, but every toy company can tell a story about a major retailer refusing to back a big new product launch and effectively killing the product in the process.

 

  1. Effective merchandising

There are so many products on the market that trying to stand out from all the other brightly coloured and eye-catching toys can be very difficult. Aside from the joys of trying to rank online via complex algorithms, actively investing time, effort and marketing funds at the point of sale is a critical area of concern. From ‘Try Me’ features on products which need to be played with to close the sale, through to CDUs, FSDUs, video displays and more, this area typically yields much greater ROI on marketing investment by way of increased sell through than traditional broad blast marketing.

 

We run a Consultancy business helping toy & games companies get ahead. For more information, check out www.KidsBrandInsight.com/services

Our Managing Director, Steve Reece, works with a limited number of companies as a non-executive director, independent board director and as a board advised. If you are interested in finding out more about this, check out the link to our service above.

 

Trademarks, Patents and Legal Protection For Toys & Games – Practical, Commercial Insights

Trademarks, Patents and Legal Protection For Toys & Games – Practical, Commercial Insights

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This article should in no way be taken as offering legal advice, neither the author (writing on a work for hire basis) nor the publisher intend or are even qualified to offer legal advice. We highly recommend anyone needing advice in this area to seek qualified, legal expert help. This article is intended to offer practical and commercial perspectives on how product creators can protect their work. Furthermore, not every area of legal protection mentioned in this article can be applied to every country, the law obviously varies from country to country – so take local expert legal advice where required. In short, you wouldn’t go to an automotive mechanic to fix you teeth would you – so please do more diligence on this topic than just reading this quick summary commentary! (Don’t you just love an article which starts with a full paragraph legal disclaimer!).

Anyone who has worked in the toy business for a while encounters some kind of IP (intellectual property) infringement or ‘me too’ product. It can be challenging to take effective steps in such circumstances. So, we’ll take a look at some of the standard legal protections you have available to you & discuss the practicality of these. Then we’ll look at more commercial/pragmatic solutions outside the remedies of the law.

TRADEMARKS

Brands are a big thing in the toy & game business. Brands get sold for big money e.g. Mega Bloks $500m+ usd, Hit Entertainment’s portfolio of brands including Thomas the Tank Engine for $680m usd, Marvel Entertainment $4billion and of course Lucasfilm, owner of the Star Wars brand for $4billion.

What trademarks allow you to do in practical terms is to register proprietary ownership of a brand. That can be a text-based trademark i.e. the brand name, or a design trademark, the most obvious and iconic example of which would be the Nike swoosh logo.

If you have a registered trademark and another company launches a product featuring that trademark, then you have clear legal remedy i.e. if you take them to court you have an obvious claim. In reality any kind of legal action carries costs and risk, but a registered trademark gives you strong legal protection if you have the means and wherewithal to defend it.

Different countries or regions have separate trademark registration systems and processes, so it can take some paperwork and cost to register in multiple markets, but for instance, in the UK you can register a trademark for around £200 gbp, which is not a prohibitive amount for most companies.

PASSING OFF
Passing off refers to a company trying to ‘pass off’ their products as those of a different brand they don’t own. For example, you may notice that in the toy market there are lots of blocks that look the same shape and look of Lego blocks. It could be argued in a court of law (& most probably has been argued at some point we guess) that these blocks are passing themselves off as Lego. But what these ‘me too’ products don’t do (at least not if they have any sense) is to add the Lego brand name to the products, because that would be both a trademark infringement and a clear example of passing off.

PATENTS

Patents protect technical invention (at least in theory). By outlining a clear technical innovation, the patent applicant can seek to obtain a patent which ensures their ownership and sole control and commercial usage of that innovation. The challenge, as with all things related to the law, is that practically speaking to enforce a patent is immensely costly, and therefore, within the realms of toys & games unlikely to be practically enforced by most companies.

OTHER LEGAL MECHANISMS AND PROTECTIONS

There are some other protections and actions companies can take. The most practical of which is probably a ‘cease and desist’ letter. It should be quite obvious what that letter does, it instructs the alleged infringer to cease and desist their infringing. Practically speaking, in some blatant cases, where it is obvious a company is infringing the legal rights of another company, an aggressively worded cease and desist letter may be enough to stop the infringing. The cease-and-desist letter also pre-notifies the alleged infringer that legal action may be taken if they don’t stop, at which point in time, the alleged infringer could also become liable for damages and paying the legal costs of the other party.

Litigation may at some point become necessary (in which case, for heaven’s sake don’t rely on a free article on the internet, get qualified legal advice!). There are various strategies for approaching this which go way beyond our expertise but be prepared for a lengthy bitter battle which will put a lot of money at risk and take your time away from managing your business.

Sometimes, practically speaking, some degree of imitation in the marketplace is inevitable if you are successful. Sometime the best approach is to keep trying to develop the next big product and staying ahead of the competition.

 

Our Managing Director, Steve Reece has worked as a toys expert witness and a board games expert witness, for the Royal Courts of Justice in London and the Hong Kong courts. To find out more about this, just click here: https://www.kidsbrandinsight.com/expert-witness-toys-board-games/

 

Have you listened to our Playing At Business podcast? We talk about selling toys & games, interview successful people from across the toy business & we look at key trends in the toy & game business: https://playingatbusiness.libsyn.com/

N Is For Nerf, Novelty & Nintendo – A To Z Of The Toy Business

N Is For Nerf, Novelty & Nintendo – A To Z Of The Toy Business

NERF

Nerf has been around for more than 50 years as a brand. Originally a brand focused on outdoor sports toys, the brand came to the fore with a soft foam throwing ball in the shape of a football (that is an American football, not a European football/soccer ball!). In the last 10 to 15 years though, Nerf has moved up the ranks to become one of the biggest and most successful toy brands in the world via the dominant position the brand has in the foam blaster category of toys. There are many different variants of Nerf guns, from small to massive, and from single to multi-shot, but the core remains the same, a toy gun firing a soft foam projectile which kids just love to play with! In recent years, a number of licensed Nerf toys have come to market including products based on the video game Fortnite and long running Star Wars franchise. Little known fact: the original idea behind the Nerf brand came from famous inventor Reyn Guyer, who also invented the classic Milton Bradley game Twister.

 

NOVELTY

Novelty or ‘new news’ are common demands from toy buyers. The toy industry features literally millions of products, with more than 65% of toys new on the market each year. That is just a huge amount of product development ‘churn’. The toy trade therefore is in a perpetual cycle of develop, produce and sell. When toy companies present to retail buyers around the world, they inevitably want to see what’s new, and many of these new toys become the hottest toys at Christmas.

 

NINTENDO

The Japanese company Nintendo has had a significant impact on the global toy industry for two primary reasons: 1. The effect of their iconic console gaming machines on the broader toy business 2. Their iconic characters which have spawned strong selling toy products over decades. These famous characters include Mario & Luigi, Zelda and Donkey Kong. Nintendo started life way back in 1889 producing hand crafted card games, fast forward to today and the company had revenues of nearly $16 billion usd in fiscal year 2021. To put this in context, that’s nearly three times bigger than the largest toy company in the world. The video console business actually spawned out of and away from the toy business back in the 1970s and 1980s, and Nintendo’s iconic handheld gaming devices – the Gameboy & DS have had a long-term cannibalistic effect on toy sales, at the same time as driving sales of toys based on Nintendo characters.

 

We run a Consultancy business helping toy & games companies get ahead. For more information, check out www.KidsBrandInsight.com/services

Our Managing Director, Steve Reece, works with a limited number of companies as a non-executive director, independent board director and as a board advised. If you are interested in finding out more about this, check out the link to our service above.

 

 

STRAP IN FOR A TURBULENT Q4 IN THE TOY BUSINESS

STRAP IN FOR A TURBULENT Q4 IN THE TOY BUSINESS

We’re heading into the ‘sharp’ end of the year for the toy trade, with a challenging cocktail of price increases, varying levels of inventory and consumers hungry to provide good times for their families after more than a year and a half of a grinding pandemic.

Things are certainly going to be ‘interesting’ this Christmas season! The good news though is that consumer demand remains strong, and at no other time in living memory have hard times (economically or otherwise) lead to a decrease in toy demand.

So, what’s going to happen? Well, we can expect the hottest toys to sell out even earlier than usual. We can also expect inventory in retail to be cleaner than it ever has been before, and we can also (hopefully) start to see the softening of the supply chain issues that have plagued the toy business in 2021 as we start to look forward to 2022.

Hopefully we won’t see too many containers of toys arriving after the peak sales window, because with toys being in and out in a single selling year so often, stock arriving after season is not a recipe for success.

In the UK, retailers The Entertainer and Smyths have warned consumers to buy their toy gifts as early as possible this year to avoid disappointment. In the USA, MGA Entertainment’s CEO Isaac Larian has warned consumers of a toy shortage, as has Jay Foreman of Basic Fun.

Q4 is usually frenetic in our business, but this year will be more frenetic than ever as available stock sees more demand than ever before.

One way or another though, our ever-resilient business will come through this, and we can expect to see at least a little softening of the shipping issues which have been so bad this year as we head into 2022, with more containers available, buying patterns returning to more usual patterns and general adaptation across supply chains.

 

We run a Consultancy business helping toy & games companies get ahead. For more information, check out www.KidsBrandInsight.com/services

Our Managing Director, Steve Reece, works with a limited number of companies as a non-executive director, independent board director and as a board advised. If you are interested in finding out more about this, check out the link to our service above.

 

M Is For Mattel, Monopoly, MGA, Marvel & My Little Pony – A To Z Of The Toy Business

M Is For Mattel, Monopoly, MGA, Marvel & My Little Pony – A To Z Of The Toy Business

M is one of the most important of all letters when it comes to the toy business. We have some real behemoths in this instalment.

MATTEL

Mattel was founded way back in 1945 by husband-and-wife team Ruth & Elliot Handler, along with Harold “Matt” Manson (who soon exited the business due to ill health). The company’s iconic toy brand Barbie came to market in 1959, quickly becoming the best-selling toy for the company. Barbie today is still a global market leader in the toy Doll category and is a massive profit generator for Mattel. In recent times Barbie has been adapted to meet the times we with a broader array of looks, shapes and other variations. Mattel launched Hot Wheels in 1968, originally the product line was designed by a bonafide rocket scientist and a real-life car designer. Fisher Price makes up the third side of Mattel’s triangle of iconic brands, having been acquired by Mattel back in 1993. Mattel today remains one of the biggest toy companies in the world, and after a few rocky years looks set to be on an upward trajectory again.

MONOPOLY

THE iconic board game has sold more than 275 million copies since Parker Brothers released their version of the game back in the dark days of the great depression in 1935. Parker Brothers originally rejected the game because it was “too complicated, too technical, [and it] took too long to play”. The game is famous for causing (mostly good natured) family arguments and for games that last for hours and hours, or even days. Generation after generation has enjoyed teaching the game to their children. Today there are many, many versions of Monopoly, with numerous companies who produce local and niche versions around the world. A DVD game version and multiple video game versions have been launched. The Monopoly world championships event seeks to crown the world champion player, and there is also a variety of successful fruit and quiz machines.

MGA ENTERTAINMENT

MGA has been one of the most disruptive toy companies of all time. The company shot to the forefront of the toy business with the launch of Bratz dolls in 2001, which took significant market share from Mattel’s flagship Barbie at the time. But MGA wasn’t done disrupting, in more recent years, L.O.L. Surprise! Has been a phenomenally successful product line which appears to have all the hallmarks of a long-term brand. Aside from the Dolls category, MGA Entertainment also owns iconic U.S. toy manufacturer Little Tikes, having acquired the company from Newell Rubbermaid in 2006. Little Tikes iconic Cosy Coupe product has sold millions and millions of units over time, and is itself considered an iconic toy in the U.S.

MARVEL

In the last decade or so, Marvel has played a massive role in the toy business, with the ongoing cinematic universe being the highest grossing ever with box office takings in the region of $23 billion usd. Superheroes and villains have long since played their part in the toy business. Marvel is in many ways the modern-day cinematic representation of this. Since being acquired by Disney for $bn usd back in 2009, Marvel has been a blockbuster movie making machine, and has significantly boosted the toy business overall, especially Hasbro who have produced many iterations of Marvel toys to mush commercial success.

 MY LITTLE PONY

This super cutesy line of ponies first came to market in 1981 as My Pretty Pony before becoming My Little Pony in 1982. There are have been several phases in the story of M.L.P., with numerous relaunches over the decades. The brand has sold well in excess of 100m toys over time, and spawned numerous TV series and movies.

 

We run a Consultancy business helping toy & games companies get ahead. For more information, check out www.KidsBrandInsight.com/services

Our Managing Director, Steve Reece, works with a limited number of companies as a non-executive director, independent board director and as a board advised. If you are interested in finding out more about this, check out the link to our service above.

 

China’s Delivery Robots & Online Gaming Limitations: Implications For The Toy Business

China’s Delivery Robots & Online Gaming Limitations: Implications For The Toy Business

Things affecting the toy business seem to keep on occurring in China with a frequency we don’t see in other countries. We’ve written at length about supply chain issues & the ridiculous price of container shipping right now. But this week there have been two more occurrences in China which may affect the toy business.

Chinese Tech Giant Alibaba Announces Increased Role In Delivery For Robots

Alibaba have announced that they will be rolling out 1,000 delivery robots in China to manage the final delivery of parcels bought via online shopping. This is important because China tends to be at or near the forefront of e-commerce and m-commerce. One of the primary drivers is the volume of Chinese people in China who are buying via e-commerce, with over 1 billion people shopping this way versus approximately 300 million people in India and c. 250m in the USA. Therefore, China is dealing with the largest challenges in terms of fulfilling a ridiculously high number of people ordering and needing delivery.

Bearing in mind how critical Amazon now is in major Western toy markets, what happens with e-commerce in China is likely to be adopted by Amazon in the West at some point if it proves to be successful. For sure there are many challenges of robots operating in urban environments and it can’t be easy to ensure hey drop off parcels in the right circumstances, but the future is here already as far as robot delivery is concerned.

When we think about some of the labour shortages affecting delivery services recently, robots could well offer part of the solution.

 

China Limits Online Gaming Time For Children

Big news coming out of China recently with reports that the government will limit online gaming time for under 18s to a maximum of three hours per week in a move aimed at reducing gaming addiction, poor eyesight and other social factors. This could be good news for the toy business, as those children who can’t spend time & money gaming as much as they would like may buy more toys or have more toys given to them. It I hard to estimate what positive impact this could have on toy sales, but it seems likely to offer a systemic boost going forward based on how long children will spend playing video games if left to their own devices!

 

We run a Consultancy business helping toy & games companies get ahead. For more information, check out www.KidsBrandInsight.com/services

Our Managing Director, Steve Reece, works with a limited number of companies as a non-executive director, independent board director and as a board advised. If you are interested in finding out more about this, check out the link to our service above.

L Is For Lego, Leapfrog, L.O.L. Surprise! & Lincoln Logs – A To Z Of The Toy Business

L Is For Lego, Leapfrog, L.O.L. Surprise! & Lincoln Logs – A To Z Of The Toy Business

LEGO

Lego is arguably the most iconic toy brand, played with and enjoyed by many generations. Playing with Lego has been proven to advance the capabilities and skills required for STEM careers, and as such millions of engineers and scientists owe part of their success to having played with Lego when they were young. Lego is both the biggest toy company in the world (by $sales) and the biggest toy brand. The entirety of their just under $7billion USD revenues derive from the Lego brand. There is no other brand which comes close to achieving this level of revenue from one brand.

Lego as a company first began way back in 1932 when Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen started making wooden toys. The earliest forerunner of the now iconic and ubiquitous Lego brick came to market in 1949. Lego today trades around the world, dominating the Construction toy category in nearly every market. The company also has hundreds of retail stores selling their products. The latest plans from the company suggest growth to around 800 retail stores in the short term.

 

LEAPFROG

Leapfrog has been a market leader in electronic learning toys since back in the 1990s. when co-founder Michael Wood found it hard to teach his son to read and developed a prototype for what would become Leapfrog’s ‘Phonics Desk’ product. After battling with VTECH to lead the kids educational tablet device market, Leapfrog was eventually acquired by VTECH for a reported $72m USD.

 

LOL SURPRISE!

L.O.L. Surprise! Has been a sales juggernaut since launch back in December 2016. The brand was launched on the back of the massive unboxing trend but has since extended into a full Doll & consumer product licensing brand. There have been very few toys over time which have launched and hit No. 1 best selling toy and then stayed in the market with further brand extensions. We expect L.O.L. Surprise! To be a long-term perennial brand going forward.

 

LINCOLN LOGS

Lincoln Logs is an iconic construction toy which was first invented around 1919 and was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in the USA back in 1999. According to reports, the inventor, John Lloyd Wright modelled the toys based on a Japanese hotel design for which his own father was the architect. Wright was also influenced by Abraham Lincoln (hence the name!) and the frontier history of the USA.

 

Do you need help to source toys & games? We help people from all around the world to find reliable, cost-effective factories. We have delivered $tens of millions in cost savings for our clients. For more information on how we do this, check out our services here: www.KidsBrandInsight.com/services

 

Have you listened to our Playing At Business podcast? We talk about selling toys & games, interview successful people from across the toy business & we look at key trends in the toy & game business: https://playingatbusiness.libsyn.com/

 

 

Container Shipping Crisis – What Happens Next & How Does It End

Container Shipping Crisis – What Happens Next & How Does It End

Things are getting ‘interesting’ in terms of logistics and the toy & game business. We’re heading into what could be the most disrupted Q4 peak trading we have seen in living memory. This is not directly due to the pandemic which is still puttering along despite high levels of vaccination in most major markets by now. The issue is shipping.

The vast majority of our toys & games are manufactured in Asia and are therefore mostly reliant on shipping and containers. As we have all seen, there is a real sellers’ market operating right now, which means that shipping costs have soared and container availability is restricted.

We just saw that the major corporate toy companies have reported the shipping issues to the stock market but have largely predicted that their sales and margin will be largely unaffected due to their strength, due to agreed price rises with retailers and a diverse supply chain not completely reliant on chaotically overloaded Chinese ports.

For smaller companies though this could well end up as a very uncomfortable year with real challenges keeping stock on shelves in peak season.

So, what happens next apart from ongoing chaos in the shipping sector? Well, we expect to see very significant backlash on shipping companies and the industry as a whole. Politicians around the world have largely ignored the loud noises coming from toy & game companies, but in the back end of the year, empty shelves will mean lost sales for retailers which means less jobs and lack of ‘stuff’ to buy for Christmas. We predict that the resulting consumer and media backlash will prompt politicians to react aggressively (albeit belatedly).

Competition and monopoly laws are some of the most draconian in major markets. We expect to see shipping companies getting punished and fined for their profit gouging during this time of crisis.  That though won’t in itself increase the number of available shipping containers and ships. But it will probably lead to some degree of price capping and increased regulation. Of course, enforcing such assertive actions can be hard on multi-national companies, but nevertheless we expect to se a backlash which should make the issue a lesser problem for 2022.

The other major consideration is when can slack build up again in the shipping demands so that ships and containers can make their way back into the normal way of things? Well, there are two obvious time periods for this to happen: Firstly, the lull in between/after back-end products and spring-summer items should allow some kind of reset. Secondly of course is Chinese New Year where factories in China to all extent and purposes close, often for the best part of a month.

Product development slates for 2022 and 2023 are likely to be impacted. Any toy & game company which is badly affected by the current crisis is likely to curtail product development to a degree to protect cashflow and to focus on fewer bigger things. If this also happens in other industries and sectors than that also should help to bring things back to normality.

Finally, we can reasonably expect that the Covid-19 pandemic is going to be on a downward trajectory overall from hereon. There are quite possibly going to be new waves and mutations which could cause issues, but nearly all of humanity has survived, and vaccines are going to keep on being updated and developed in line with the mutation of the virus. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect a slow road back to previous normality, with Covid being something countries need to manage along with influenza and other medical issues. So, the reality is that the current sellers’ market is not likely to be prolonged, but that doesn’t make it any easier to manage the immediate challenges we are facing.

K Is For Kenner, Karma, Korea, KB Toys & Ken – A To Z Of The Toy Business

K Is For Kenner, Karma, Korea, KB Toys & Ken – A To Z Of The Toy Business

Kenner

Kenner is best known for being the company who introduced Star Wars toys to the market, producing more than 100 unique figures and selling more than 300 million units between 1978 and 1985. Today nearly every family movie has licensed merchandise including toys. Star Wars started all that. While it seems an obvious opportunity today, back in the 1970s Mego (the prevailing figure toy company of the time) turned down the opportunity to produce toys based on the Star Wars franchise (possibly the biggest mistake in toy business history?).

Kenner stopped producing Star Wars toys after the initial trilogy of film releases faded away, but restarted again in 1995. Kenner also brought to market other iconic toys aside from Star Wars including Easy Bake Oven and Spirograph. Kenner Parker was acquired by Tonka in 1987, which in turn was purchased by Hasbro in 1991. Star Wars figures remain a key product line for Hasbro through to this day, making Star Wars toys one of the most important, commercially successful and iconic toy ranges of all time.

 

Karma

The toy industry is often a surprisingly small place. If you operate by screwing people over, it tends to be quite likely that you will get some kind of karmic payback. But also, if you are good to the people you meet over the years around the toy trade shows and in between, then you will build many lasting fruitful business relationships and friendships.

 

Korea

Korea is not normally an area of focus for toy & game companies, but with a population about the size of England, and with an advanced economy, consumer products sales in Korea can be strong. Obviously, there are some significant language and cultural barriers to doing business there, but nevertheless, for companies looking to grow their export sales, Korea deserves consideration.

 

KB Toys

KB Toys was a leading U.S. specialist toy store chain, which at one point in the 1990s had more than 1,300 stores. The company originally started as a wholesale ‘candy’ store back in 1922, and the chain lasted for just under 90 years, being in business for longer than Toys R Us in the USA. As such KB Toys was a pivotal player in the growth of the toy business, and many still mourn the loss of the 2nd best known toy specialist retail chain.

 

Ken

Behind every great woman is a great man! Ken became part of Barbie’s world since 2 years after her own launch in the market. Although the pair separated for a spell in the noughties, Ken has been known and loved by generations of children. He also appeared in the third instalment of the Toy Story franchise playing a baddy. Not a lot of people know that Ken was named after the son of Mattel founders Ruth & Elliott Handler.

 

Do you need help to understand the toy & game business? We help people from all around the world to understand and successfully enter the toy business. For more information on how we do this, check out our services here: www.KidsBrandInsight.com/services

 

Have you listened to our Playing At Business podcast? We talk about selling toys & games, interview successful people from across the toy business & we look at key trends in the toy & game business: https://playingatbusiness.libsyn.com/