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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:

  • 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.

  • 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 (!).

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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

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.

Why Toy Catalogues Are So Effective For Retailers

Here in the UK, the nation’s children historically pulled together their Christmas wish lists with the assistance of the bulky Argo catalogue. Argos reportedly printed 20 million of these copies until they stopped the catalogue in 2020 – just to put that in context there are estimated to be around 28 million households in the UK, so they were printing nearly one for every household.

On a recent visit to a Smyths Toys store in the UK I picked up a copy of their catalogue, which was pallet stacked on 2 pallets outside the entrance to the store. The print and production costs of this type of catalogue are obviously significant.

So why would retailers be producing catalogues in this day and age of social media and online media consumption?

Well, the answer to that is the way children choose what toys they want for Christmas. I have conducted several research studies historically looking at how and when children pull together their wish lists – this is obviously critically important for toy companies to understand, because media buying may need to be adapted to make sure communication is maximised at the point in time when children are actually making their choices, which is often surprisingly far in advance of purchase by parents. This varies significantly by market, but in the UK, Christmas lists can be finalised anytime from September onwards, with the October half term holiday (around the 3rd week typically) is normally the kick-off point for peak season sales for toys.

What catalogues allow children to do is to review a significant selection of toys, so they can enjoy the experience of looking at lots of aspirational products, before eventually making a choice and passing that onto their parents. From the parental perspective, this exercise and the catalogue itself are very helpful, because not only can they see whether the toys their child requests are appropriate and meeting with their approval, they can also see the price and how that and everything else compares with the obvious competition. For example, some households may prefer to buy a generic version of something over a higher priced brand, or to change their child’s choice for some other reason of values, taste, socialisation or play value.

So, while the UK may still be getting used to the absence of the Argos catalogue, there is no doubt that catalogues will continue to be effective for retailers both in the UK and around the world.

We run a Consultancy business helping toy & games companies get ahead. For more information, check out

We also run a Strategic Sourcing Consultancy advising toy & game companies around the world on their Sourcing strategies, reviewing their vendor base & suggesting improvements. To date our Sourcing services have saved our clients $tens of millions. For more information on how we can help, just go to:

Global Toy Industry Outlook 2022 – Ep 48, PLAYING AT BUSINESS podcast

The following is a script for our latest episode of the Playing At Business podcast. To find out more about the podcast, or to listen to other episodes, just click here:

To listen to this specific episode, please click here:


Hi, welcome to Episode 48 of the Playing at Business podcast.

  • I’m your host Steve Reece.

  • In today’s episode we’ll be taking a look at the Outlook for the Global Toy Business for 2022.

  • Before we get onto that, if you would like to find more news, analysis and insights on the toy & game business, check out:

  • – all about the toy business

  • – all about the board game business

  • You can sign up for our Free email newsletter – the Reece Toy & Games Report on those Blog sites, sent out most Fridays with link to our latest published content including notification of new podcast episodes

  • If you find this podcast, or those Blog sites interesting or insightful, please do share them with your friends and colleagues in the business – we want to provide free to as big an audience as possible.

  • We offer consultancy services to toy & game companies:

  • In particular, I work as a board adviser or non-executive director for a limited number of companies, check out

  • We also provide Strategic Sourcing Consultancy via

  • To find out about sourcing Toys & Games in India, check out

  • So, at the time of recording (towards the end of October 2021), the jury is still out to some degree on how the toy market will end up in 2021.

  • According to NPD Data (NPD by the way is the leading provider of market data on the toy business globally, highly recommend you check them out if you haven’t already)

  • The major Western toy markets including the USA, UK, France & Germany etc were up YTD to end September by 13%, which bearing in mind how good 2020 was for the toy business overall with locked down parents bingeing on toys & games for their kids, is another stellar performance so far in 2021.

  • Hasbro & Mattel have just released their results for Q3 2021, and their results were very good in the circumstances with Mattel reporting a sales uplift of 7% YOY (on a constant currency basis) & Hasbro reporting an 11% uplift YOY for the 3rd

  • Q4 is by far the most important quarter though of course, and we don’t yet have a measure on how that will pan out. The major question is to what degree will all the supply chain issues we have experienced led a to a stock shortage as we get deep into Q4.

  • Overall, though, we have a lot to be grateful for in the toy business, with almost ridiculous levels of robust demand seemingly in all circumstances. And however, the numbers wrap up for 2021, they won’t be bad overall. Profitably may take a hit in 2021 however for some companies due to cost inflation, but even there it looks like we may have finally managed to push up some seemingly permanently fixed ‘hard’ price point brackets that have needed to go up for a very long time – as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining!

  • Moving onto 2022 then, there are some clear uncertainties that we need to contend with and consider:

  • The ongoing issues with shipping costs & container availability

  • Power cuts in China’s manufacturing zones

  • General cost inflation in China on an ongoing structural level.

  • The tail end (I hope!) of the pandemic

  • High inflation across the world as the massive quantitative easing / money printing exercises effectively devalue currencies around the world.

  • But there are also some positive drivers for the year ahead, including:

  • A strong movie slate, which is usually a major driver of the toy business.

  • Continuing robust consumer demand for toys & games

  • Economic growth

  • Financially healthy toy companies with money to invest in new product development

  • The return of key trade shows such as Spielwarenmesse in Nuremberg or New York toy fair.

  • Looking at the potential headwinds first then:

  • The shipping crisis is likely to roll into 2022. There doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus on what will end it. There are a couple of opportunities for things to reset at least to some extent though:

  • Chinese New Year – this is normally a slack period when factories are closed, and even after they reopen output takes some time to ramp up.

  • Reduced production due to power shortages in China.

  • Potential resumption of normal buying patterns – if you remember, what instigated this shipping crisis was the unseasonal surge in purchasing from locked down consumers in major Western markets. Consumer purchases in April, May and beyond were completely and utterly out of kilter with normal buying patterns, which drew shipping capacity away from fulfilling the usual peaks in consumer demand heading into Q4.

  • Government action to address the crisis to try to stem the tide of inflation vs other more painful measures – governments now have so much debt themselves, that the traditional inhibitor of inflation – raising interest rates is potentially unviable, whereas threatening a few shipping companies with aggressive measures if they don’t take steps to reduce costs will eventually be an easier and more popular step to take.

  • The bottom line though is that we don’t know when these factors will take effect, and as a result we should expect continued disruption heading into 2022. While there are bound to be issues still though, it seems unlikely that the situation can get worse in 2022, and the chances are it should get significantly better!

  • The next potential headwind to consider is the pandemic itself. At the time of recording, cases are rising again in the UK as the seasons change and people spend longer inside. Some Australian cities and regions have only just come out of aggressive lockdowns, and so the pandemic has far from abated. However, medical understanding of the virus, healthcare and treatment of those with the virus and of course ever-increasing numbers of vaccinations should at the very least prevent the same level of issues as we had initially and in subsequent waves to date. Either way for the toy business though – lock down drove demand upwards and coming out of lockdown seems to have driven demand further up again. While further waves of this blasted virus would not help the shipping crisis most probably, our industry seems set to thrive regardless!

  • High inflation is the next negative factor to consider. Inflation is rife, I have to profess to being profoundly cynical about official inflation figures, I suspect the real inflation rates people are feeling are more like 10% than the 3 and 4 percent figures professed by officialdom. For life in general, this level of inflation is a really bad thing for reasons that are probably beyond the scope of this podcast, but the question is what does this mean for the toy business?

  • Well for a start, as referenced earlier and as I have written about recently on, we have an opportunity to finally shift upwards price points which have been locked in for a ridiculously long time against all logic and comparison. In the UK for instance, a ‘pint’ of our local beer costs around £5 to £6 today. Twenty-five years ago, when I was a fresh faced University student the cost was somewhere between £1.50 to £2 – so beer has seen something like 300% price inflation in that time. Toys on the other hand have been largely the same price since then on a like for like comparison.

  • That’s clearly completely ridiculous! We have been imprisoned in artificially low price point brackets by aggressive retail discounting and pressure while other categories lapped up annual inflationary increases.

  • So, while inflation in general is bad, a reset on standard price point brackets upwards may offer lasting benefit to the toy business.

  • Supply chain diversification is set to continue to be a key trend and issue for 2022 and beyond. Many factories I speak to in China are really struggling to be profitable, and there is no great future for factories with no prospects of profitability. This is going to be one of the biggest ongoing challenges for toy companies not just for 2022, but for the next decade. If you want my take on this – go to YouTube & type in ‘Toy Sourcing: The Next 10 Years’, and you should find a video presentation I recorded which explains why China will not remain the sole primary toy manufacturing hub going forward. If you can’t find that video, feel free to reach out via the ‘Contact’ pages of our websites & we’ll share the link to the video directly with you.

  • Moving now onto the reasons to be cheerful and optimistic about 2022:

  • As we already discussed demand remains strong, there is unlikely to be a very significant drop in 2022.

  • There is a massive movie year on offer in 2022, although release dates are subject to change, Disney’s 2022 slate includes a new Dr. Strange movie, Lightyear (the origin story of Buzz Lightyear), a new Thor film, a Black Panther sequel, and potentially Avatar 2 at the end of the year.

  • Traditionally a big movie year has uplifted the toy market by a factor of 2-5%.

  • Also, in addition, Disney+ continues to grow which is proving to be another major driver of toy sales.

  • Economies are still growing despite the pandemic, and disposable income is growing in developing countries which in turn is set to push toy purchasing up over time.

  • And of course, last but not least, toy trade shows should return in force in early 2022, which should help many toy companies more effectively advance in 2022.

  • So, while I must admit I am naturally an optimist in general, and specifically about the toy business, the drivers for 2022 do seem to look good overall. While we may not see double digit growth again after what looks like two years of achieving such heights, the market should remain strong.

  • These may be turbulent times, but the toy business is managing it well, and the outlook is good heading into 2022 and beyond


  • And that’s about all we have time for on episode 48 of the Playing At Business podcast

  • So, we hope you enjoyed this podcast if you did, please give us a good review or rating on the podcast platform you are listening to, and a reminder again to check out our Blog websites: and

  • Please share the podcast with your friends and colleagues in the industry and stay tuned for new episodes coming soon!

  • If you’d like to find out more about our Consultancy services, which we have delivered for more than 100 companies around the world at this point, please visit In particular, I work as a board adviser or independent director for a limited number of toy & game factories. So, if you would like senior level advice, resource and inputs to help you drive growth in your business, feel free to get in touch.

  • For information on our venture helping toy companies find manufacturing in India, just head to

  • For Strategic Sourcing consultancy go to

  • That’s all for now, I’ve been your host Steve Reece, this has been the Playing At Business podcast and we’ll see you next time.

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