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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/

J IS FOR JAPAN

Japan has played a major role in the toy industry globally. At one point in time Japan was a major source of toy production (going back to the 1970s). Following the decline of toy sourcing from Japan as the economy soared and brought Japan to the forefront of the global economy heading into the 1980s, Japan built into one of the major toy markets of the world. For a long time, Japan was 2nd in size only to the U.S. market, before being overtaken by China a few years back. Japan is still today though the 3rd biggest toy market in the world, which is surprising to some people as most ‘Western’ toy companies spend so little time looking at Japan. Japan is so culturally different versus other markets that it can be quite confusing for companies looking to sell their products into Japan, but nevertheless the sales potential is significant if you can find a way to enter the market!


The other major contribution by Japan to the global toy industry is the wave of animation and product concepts which keep on coming out of Japan’s quirky companies. From Tamagotchi to Takara Tomy, and from Pokémon to Power Rangers, Japan has been a major contributor to kids’ entertainment content and toy development. Pokémon of course is one of the biggest toy franchises ever, and with Hasbro acquiring Power Rangers for around $500m there can be no doubting Japan is a good place for western toy companies to go hunting for opportunity.

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/

I Is For Innovation & Inventors – A To Z of The Toy Business

INNOVATION

If you look back at old toy catalogues or watch old toy adverts on YouTube, there is an awful lot of similarities between today’s toys and the toys of yesteryear. So much so in fact, that some people in the toy business focus more on sales and marketing spend than they do on innovation and genuinely trying to find something that hasn’t been done before.

What innovation does though is to create more compelling play experiences, and incremental sales opportunities.

Thinking about how innovation applies to the toy business, the most obvious example appears to be Furby. Your very own electronic furry pal, capable of interacting with children and of seemingly coming to life. But innovation is not always about whizzy technology.

An area of the toy business which was once unfashionable for major companies but which now drives the industry overall is pocket money and collectable toys. Before the global financial crisis of the late noughties, major toy companies tended to pooh-pooh selling toys at such low-price points, as it is so much harder to justify product development and marketing against lower priced products…that is unless the lower priced products sell in ridiculous quantities, which is what has been happening for some time now in this category. As such, the ability to deliver great play based on a much more limited spec has led to wave after wave of innovation from Shopkins through to L.O.L. Surprise!

INVENTORS

We can’t discuss innovation in the toy & game business without also talking about the mighty role of Inventors in our industry. Those outside the toy business don’t realise the critical role that independent inventors play. The fact that major toy & game companies have teams of Inventor Liaison staff shows just how important external concepts & ideas are in terms of feeding the everlasting churn of product development. With more than two thirds of toys being new on shelf each year, there is a huge volume of concepts needed. Inventing though isn’t a career path for the light-hearted, with many great concepts not finding their way to market, and royalty payments coming a long time after the original work was done by the inventors. We estimate though that there are around 100-200 full time toy & game inventors globally making a full time living from creating toy & game concepts…and after all there are certainly worse ways to earn a living!

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/

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