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#18 The Ever Growing Impact Of Amazon As A Launchpad For New Toy & Games Companies

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In the Toy & Games business Amazon has been a hot topic for a long time now. I can clearly remember ordering from Amazon in the early noughties and becoming hooked on the ease of ordering at a time when many people still relied on ultra slow dial up internet connections at home! Twenty plus years on since then Amazon is a major player in the market, and is spoken about in the same breath as such mighty retail behemoths as Walmart, Target, Carrerfour and others. Those of us who have been in business throughout these two decades of massive growth for Amazon have typically grown our own Amazon businesses alongside Amazon’s own rise. BUT one area which I see as being under appreciated by established players in the Toy & Games business is the power of Amazon as a launchpad for new businesses.

In the last five years or so, an increasingly prevalent part of my Consultancy business has been advising relatively new companies who launched via Amazon and who have achieved considerable success on Amazon across multiple markets who then need help to understand and access ‘Traditional’ distribution for Toys & Games. I’m not going to share the trade secrets of my clients, but I can share the following data without revealing any confidential information: my recent clients include multiple companies who have achieved revenues of $10m+ via Amazon alone, from a standing start and from companies and people with no track record of any kind in the Toy trade. I have advised companies who were in effect a single person running a $multi-million business, through to companies who have had several rounds of investment funding and teams of 100+ people. Many of these clients partnered up with my toy industry contacts and are now strong players in the Toy business, having started out just selling direct with a small team on Amazon.

This is a real and growing sector which is having a strong influence on the overall Toy & Games business. If you look at the top sellers on Amazon, while there are plenty of well-known brands from long established Toy companies, the top 50 or 100 products generally include a significant number of products from smaller Amazon focused companies.

The first major product/brand which I can remember building significant commercial success via Amazon was Cards Against Humanity. (If you remember an earlier example, please add in the comments box!). This simple but thoroughly compelling game concept was initially funded by a successful launch on Kickstarter, which saw the game exceed the original funding goal of $4,000, eventually hitting more than $15,000 pledged. This was a strong result based on the average Kickstarter campaign at that time, but hardly worthy of mention in terms of the overall Games category. However, the game was widely pushed and sold very well via Amazon before traditional distribution was accessed. By May 2013, estimates suggest that the game had generated an estimated $12m in revenues, which clearly represents a massively successful product launch by any standards within the Game category.

Why and how then can companies without track record, and without following all the standard ways of operating in our industry achieve so much success on Amazon…


1. Capabilities Specific To Maximising Via The Amazon Platform/System

It seems clear that if you build your business based on selling to mass market box shifting retailers then the needs of these customers will drive your organisational setup, structure and capabilities. If you prefer to focus on specialist Toy retailers and independent or ‘mom & pop’ sales outlets, that will also push your capabilities and structure in a different direction. But in both these cases your efforts will be focused on a). Persuading these retailers to buy your products b). Persuading consumers to buy the products from these retailers c). Managing the process of producing & delivering inventory to the right places in the right way as per the needs (or demands!) of the retailer.

On the flip side, if you start with Amazon as your only sales channel you probably won’t invest in hiring top Sales talent who have relationships with your key customer targets, you probably won’t do broad stroke ‘shotgun blast’ style marketing campaigns and you won’t need to worry so much about a disparate set of 3rd party logistics arrangements.

Those companies who sell only on Amazon instead tend to invest in more technical knowledge – knowing how to work the Amazon system overall and knowing how to work with and in sync with Amazon’s algorithms which drive much of how Amazon decides which products to show which website visitors.

Whereas established Toy & Game companies have to balance the resources and structure needed to drive sales via Traditional channels with the requirements of Amazon, which is always going to represent a split focus, companies who launch with Amazon alone from the start instead grow the necessary departments to win on that platform.

2. Focus On Growing Sales On Amazon

Which leads nicely into the second key factor driving success for these companies who launch on Amazon first and foremost…and that is focus on the needs and concerns of this one platform/retailer only. When I talk to Toy distributors these days about taking products from my clients and selling into their markets you routinely find among the first few questions comes the requirement to be able to manage Amazon in their market to try to finesse things to cause less disruption to their other customers. This disruption is caused of course by several factors, but perhaps the weightiest factor is Amazon’s impact on retail pricing.

Whereas we normally look at key price points in traditional retail channels, with every price ending neatly in .99 i.e. $9.99, $14.99, $19.99 and so on, and with clear expectations of product specifications at each price point. The algorithms on Amazon do not automatically follow those old rules. In the end, Amazon allows us to bend many so called ’hard rules’ from packaging sizes and formats through to price points, and those companies who have the focus and therefore flexibility to amend their approach to maximise results on Amazon as opposed to sticking to rigid format from other retailers tend to do particularly well on the platform of Jeff Bezos.

3. Product Selection & Development Based on Amazon Alone

The other key point here is that while Amazon is a major customer for nearly every medium to large Toy & Games company out there, product development for those Toy Co’s tends to be driven more by the reactions and inputs of other major retailers. In the same way as retail Exclusives can be good sales drivers where the Exclusive product really fits that retailer, so these companies who focus solely on Amazon can develop products around what will work best on the Amazon platform. The most obvious example of this would be a product range with multiple iterations – just for the sake of illustration, let’s look at the iconic Monopoly board games brand. If you are trying to sell to Walmart, Carrefour, Smyths Toys or others, you will only get a limited number of versions on shelf - even for an iconic brand like Monopoly. In fact, 20 years ago, I remember joining a meeting at Hasbro with one of the major UK retailers with my role being by way of brand support to the sales team. The retailer advised that they would only take 3 versions of Monopoly, and firmly outlined that the number of SKUs would not change, but he was open to which three versions to select, and asked the sales team for advice on which versions would work best based on his stores & consumer profiles. Bear in mind this is Monopoly - a brand with many many product iterations, and a major retailer could only fit 3 versions into their planogram, and therefore opportunities in that case inevitably become about focus on fewer bigger things, and not about adding more and more SKUs.

We don’t have this restriction with Amazon. In practical terms there is not really a limit to how many Monopoly games could be (and are) sold on Amazon. When you type in ‘Monopoly board game’ into the search box on, more than 1000 results are returned (!).

Moreover, when you choose to buy, or even look at one product within a range, Amazon will tend to show you other products in that range, and in the future will suggest more items similar to what you previously bought before. Therefore, Amazon will tend to favour those brands which have multiple product iterations with some points of difference maybe driven by theme, consumer target, size, price point and so on. This therefore logically pushes companies who have a successful product to focus on brand extensions first, ahead of developing completely new items. Whereas with traditional bricks and mortar retail, the limits to how many products they can take per brand pushes us towards developing more totally different products across multiple product categories.

4. Driving Sales Via Amazon’s In-Built Marketing Options

I count myself as fortunate to have been trained in classic ‘blue chip’ marketing in the pre digital age, because the fundamental principles of marketing apply more today with a bemusing number of marketing options and platforms than ever before. Amazon offers several ways of driving success via marketing activity. At the most basic level is the product listing, which favours more product images, video and strong and slightly longer than is typical copy. Then we can look at the paid for marketing options. The challenge for those coming at Amazon as an addition to their Traditional distribution is that the marketing %ages which work in general in the Toy & Games business are lower than those who don’t have the same organisational cost structures can profitably justify. This again gives those companies solely focused on Amazon an advantage, not only can they afford to spend more per unit on Amazon marketing, but by being solely focused on this platform their entire organisation is deeply engaged in the ins and outs of the platform.


From a boring financial perspective, the Toy business is primarily a business concerned with risk management. OK, it’s also great fun, our products are cool and we get to make a positive impact on millions of young lives…but nevertheless from a business perspective, our business is about managing the risk of product launch failure. If you think about both retailers and distributors, they actually have a terrible business model, whereby they have to invest more in each unit than they make back in profit. So, they want to work with known and trusted products and brands which consumers will buy in sufficient numbers to avoid inventory hangovers.

Well guess what, a top seller on one platform or in one retailer is usually a safer bet than something completely untried and untested. Therefore, when distributors and retailers are offered products which they haven’t seen before, but which have already sold millions of units, then they are usually quite keen to take on those products, because consumer demand is fully proven.

I have been fortunate enough to have worked on some of the very best-selling products and brands in our industry, and unlucky (or stupid) enough to have worked on some of the worst selling. and the funny thing is I take exactly the same approach to selling each time, often meeting with the same people I have dealt with and met with for a couple of decades…and sometimes the products I am working on have clear appeal and are very compelling for the people I am presenting them to and they can’t wait to buy them. And sometimes they are literally of no interest whatsoever! My approach is the same each time, but the propensity to buy comes down to the product proposition – does it tick the boxes for the people I am presenting to. Anyway, the point is this – those product ranges I present which are established already on Amazon and are clearly appealing to Amazon’s consumer base are typically fairly easy to sell. OK, you sometimes have to talk to a few different partners before closing deals, but the fact that these products already have a commercial track record of success makes them more appealing than many others. Of all my clients who enjoyed success on Amazon first, all have gone onto achieve success via other distribution channels – my role is to accelerate the success they would most probably enjoy eventually regardless of my input, but if I can save them a couple of years by way of the right introductions that would seem to be a worthwhile outcome all round.


So, what does all this mean for the rest of the Toy business? Will Amazon continue to be a springboard for new Toy & Game companies? Will there be more companies building fairly large-scale businesses out of left field? In short, I believe the answer is absolutely yes!

There are some clear advantages for companies launching on Amazon and focusing on building up that business first before looking at any other distribution channels. Amazon is not going away – in fact, there is an argument to suggest that as artificial intelligence advances, Amazon as a leading tech firm with massive resources and grasp of technology may move even further ahead in a competitive context.

Either way, we can learn a lot from these companies who build their businesses on Amazon first and then to look to rollout further into other distribution channels. But there may also be a myriad of successful distribution opportunities out there for those companies quick enough to spot successful Amazon focused companies who need a helping hand accessing other distribution channels.




We are living through times of massive change and disruption. Technology is advancing at a frighteningly quick rate, and the very fabric of society has been changed by our adoption and development of new technologies.

However, despite that there are 5 unchanging fundamentals of the Toy & Games business. In this podcast we take a look at these fundamentals that have not changed for decades and are unlikely to change in the coming decades despite the huge technological change we have seen and are yet to experience.


There are some recurring characteristics of bestselling Toys & Games. In this episode we run through the 5 most important features. This is not so much creative inspiration as it is a ticklist for new Toy & Games products in development.


Regardless of which country is your home market, the opportunity outside your borders is this episode we take a look at some simple ways to significantly increase your export sales of Toys & Games.


If you want to find out more about my Toy & Game business consultancy services, please just click the link below. Our company has helped hundreds of Toy & Game companies to get ahead and grow sales/make more profit. I have worked on all product categories across a 20+ year career in Toys & Games, and genuinely love sharing knowledge, contacts and facilitating greater success for our clients.

As per the content of this newsletter, if you have successfully established a business selling via Amazon and want help, advice and hands on help with setting up distribution into ‘Traditional’ sales channels for Toys & games, you can find out more about our Company services & get in touch here:

Sign up for my free e-newsletter and receive all the latest reports, analysis and insights on the Toy & Games business: sign up for free here:

A Deeper Examination Of The Kidult Toy Space: Consumer Segmentations

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Of all the many areas of the Toy business I comment on or write about, the ‘Kidult’ space has been the most in demand across the last year or so. I have various articles & podcasts already out there on this topic, and some more articles in the works with leading Toy trade publishers.

The one area though which I haven’t explored in depth, and which I haven’t seen defined clearly elsewhere in the same way as many things are defined in the toy industry is the segmentation of this market. ‘Kidult’ is a very easy label to apply, but it is currently being applied as a blanket term to some very different groups of people, whose only link is often just having an age that is measured in double figures!

In order to maximise the opportunities in the ‘Kidult’ space we need to be clearer about the different consumer segments making up the market. The marketing message we need to give to a model train devotee in their 60s for example would be very different from that we would need to give to someone in their late teens who is collecting Marvel action figures.

Before I get into my attempt to segment the ‘Kidult’ space, I just want to caveat this article with the admission that I don’t have all the answers on this. This is just my take, and I would very much welcome all and any feedback as to where I have got this wrong, and where I have missed sub-segments who you know your products are currently appealing to and selling to.



This first segment is one of the oldest and most established. Anyone who has visited Spielwarenmesse in Nuremberg will recognise that Models are still big business, there are literally hundreds of exhibitors showing off fine models which are often ultra detailed and super authentic. They also often work in the sense that they move around in the way the subject of the models would.

Sub segment A: Railway Models – many generations of children have had model railways running around on a fixed board or in a loft, but their interest is often driven or supported by adult enthusiasts in their family i.e. fathers or grandfathers. This is predominantly (but not exclusively) a male hobby. Different generations can connect via their interest in model trains. Often they are more excited by different trains from different eras based on their own life experiences.

Sub segment B: Military Models – there is a substantial market in military models. In many ‘Western’ countries militarism is discouraged, but even there military models represent a good niche product segment. In some other countries militarism is less discouraged, and as a result military models can be big business. Even before the horrific invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s Russia, ex-Soviet countries were more strongly into military themes and models for example.

Sub segment C: Automotive Models – from slot car racing through to super detailed beautiful die cast miniature representations of classic cars and prestige vehicles Automotive models are a significant segment of the Models segment of the ‘Kidult’ space.


Gameplaying is primarily driven by those seeking a social experience. This makes it distinctly different from most other product areas included under the ‘Kidult’ banner, in that a game is in effect primarily a social experience as much as it is a physical thing.

Sub segment A: Model/miniature-based gaming – the most obvious example of this sub segment of Gaming in the Kidult arena is the Warhammer franchise from Games Workshop. For the last full year trading results released, Games Workshop was showing total revenues of over $500m USD, so this is clearly a significant segment in monetary terms.

Sub segment B: Collectable Card Games and Trading Card Games – the most prominent example I can think of here is Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast’s hugely successful Magic: The Gathering franchise. I remember conducting consumer research for Magic: The Gathering in Europe soon after Hasbro acquired the brand. As a closet geek, I have to say it was one of my favourite brands I worked on in my Hasbro days, but even so, I had no idea back then that Magic would become a $billion brand and such a major player in the Toy & Game business overall. The funny thing is back then the major attraction for Hasbro was the Pokemon TCG rights, and Magic: The Gathering was honestly not really understood by the majority of Hasbro’s mass market box shifting teams I worked in back then. So massive hats off to Hasbro for both the brand development strategy over time, but also for allowing Wizards & Magic to thrive. The consumer for Trading Card Games is typically highly knowledgeable and super enthusiastic, and so authenticity and maintaining credibility are important with this type of consumer.

Sub segment C: Core (or Hardcore) Gamers

Anyone who has attended Gencon or Essen Spieltage has experienced this consumer segment en masse and in the flesh! Wandering among tens of thousands of unwashed hardcore board games devotees is quite an experience. Typically, this type of Gamer and this type of ‘Kidult’ will be well educated and fairly intellectual, largely because to play really in-depth Games requires a lot of rules and mental acuity. I remember asking for a demo of a game at the Essen show, and advising the demonstrator that I only had 10 minutes. Rather than try to show me how the game played physically, he recited the instructions perfectly in a dull monotone for all of the ten minutes. I have to admit that I left him none the wiser as to how the Game played, because my brain is not flexible enough to instantly translate a 10 page rule book into a clear picture pf how the game played!

Sub segment D: Mainstream Party Games

This is almost the opposite end of the spectrum, again illustrating why the term ‘Kidult’ is far too broad and vague to be of much practical use. This type of game is normally simple in concept and simple in gameplay to quickly attract mass market audiences. The obvious examples I can think of are Games such as What Do you Meme, you could also include such classics as Trivial Pursuit and Cranium in this category. Although the makers of this game may be horrified by this classification, I would also place Cards Against Humanity in this sub segment due to a). the simplicity of the concept and gameplay mechanic and b). due to the sheer volume of games sold. In short, this sub segment covers any adults who play simpler Games with other adults, using the game as a social facilitator and group entertainment activity.


I think most people working in the Toy & Game business will identify with this segment. Many of the people I have worked with have a big kids approach to our business. We are lucky to be of the generations where maintaining a child-like outlook is not considered ridiculous and inappropriate for adults…

Sub segment A: It’s for my kids (!). This sub segment is pretty obvious – we all know a Dad who keeps buying big fancy Toys ‘for his kids’…when in reality he wants to play with that high spec RC product himself! This is an important dynamic though, because a product which brings together parent and child can create a strong emotional bond and create nostalgic feedings…and emotions and nostalgia can be really effective for driving Toy sales.

Sub segment B: Affinity based i.e. just love RC or shooting (Nerf) – this sub segment of ‘Big Kids’ is more about a ‘Kidult’ with a strong affinity. Some adults just love RC cars, or shooting, or some other play pattern, this love of a particular play pattern can stick with them for life. This can lead to very high lifetime customer value over a long period of time.

Sub segment C: Active i.e. Frisbee, skateboarding, stunt scooters – this sub segment is fairly self-explanatory. This can be teenagers, people of college age, through to parents trying to stay active with their families.

SEGMENT 4: Collectors – Affinity – the impulse to collect can be one of the most powerful instincts Toy companies can depend on. I would argue that the massive success of Funko over the last decade and a half (notwithstanding their recent blip) has been largely driven by their brilliant harnessing of this collectors instinct. Most adults really like something that can be turned into a Toy, whether it’s a major movie hero like Spiderman or Thor, or whether it’s a more obscure character, Funko and many other companies deliver to the impulse to own pop culture related merchandise.

SEGMENT 5: Collectors – Investment Driven – these collectors are collecting in the hope that the Toys they collect can be worth more money in the future than they are today. Needless to say some Investment Driven Collectors will be more financially successful than others, but in most cases the products will not even be unboxed, and as such this sub segment is attracted by strong brands, niche limited edition product runs and aesthetically attractive products.

In case you think it’s a nonsense to consider making money from Toys, consider the reports on the following weblinks. The first is a report suggesting that collecting Lego products could offer better investment returns than Gold! The second report is a website dedicated to investing in Lego products.

SEGMENT 6: TECHNICAL BUILDERS & CONSTRUCTORS – arguably the specific Toy product I refer to most often in relation to the ‘Kidult’ space is the Lego Millennium Falcon product which retails for in excess of $700 USD. I know 4 grown men in my social group, who don’t work in the Toy business, who own this product! If you tried to tell people from my grandparents generation that grown men would own a Toy which cost this much money they would genuinely think you were crazy. This reinforces one of the primary principles of selling to ‘Kidults’ – they can spend as much as they want on Toys unlike your average 4 year old who is totally beholden to their parents. Therefore, the classic Toy price point limitations don’t necessarily exist in the Kidult space. If the product is aspirational enough and offers sufficient value, pricepoints can be far greater than classic pricepoints like $9.99 and $19.99.

This sub segment primarily consists of those who enjoyed building Lego, Meccano or other Construction systems when they were kids, and who still love that process now as adults.


Every attempt at consumer segmentation is eventually found to be incorrect and incomplete, because human beings are quite complicated and difficult to define. This however has been my attempt to dig deeper under the bonnet of the juggernaut called the ‘Kidult’ segment. Just to illustrate how insufficient these types of consumer segmentations are, I would myself identify and align myself with 5 out of 6 of the categories highlighted above. But nevertheless, I hope to stimulate further discussion and greater understanding of the over simplicity of applying the ‘Kidult’ label across the board. If you think I missed any consumer segments or sub segments in the ‘Kidult’ space, please do reach out and let me know :)


Here’s the latest episodes of my Playing At Business podcast:


There are some recurring characteristics of best- selling Toys & Games. In this episode we run through the 5 most important features. This is not so much creative inspiration as it is a tick list for new Toy & Games products in development.


Regardless of which country is your home market, the opportunity outside your borders is this episode we take a look at some simple ways to significantly increase your export sales of Toys & Games.


In this episode host Steve Reece talks about his experience helping more than 100 Toy & Game companies find manufacturing around the world, and he shares 5 key tips for finding & validating new Toy factories. We look at why most companies make a massive mistake by focusing on manufacturing cost as the primary assessment factor for a new Toy & Game factory, and much more.


If you want to find out more about my Toy & Game business consultancy services, please just click the link below. Our company has helped hundreds of Toy & Game companies to get ahead and grow sales/make more profit. I have worked on all product categories across a 20+ year career in Toys & Games, and genuinely love sharing knowledge, contacts and facilitating greater success for our clients.

Sign up for my free e-newsletter and receive all the latest reports, analysis and insights on the Toy & Games business: sign up for free here:


What a very great pleasure to be back in Nuremberg after the Covid-19 induced hiatus of the last couple of years! As I write this I am exhausted from the sheer volume of great toy & game people I have met across the last 5 days. From Wednesday until I left on Sunday I had relentless back to back meetings with old friends and strong business contacts....nowhere else can you meet so many great people and useful business contacts.

These shows are always experienced subjectively i.e. my experience will always be different from yours. Maybe you had a booth which got less passing traffic or maybe your key retail buyer didn't swing by - but from an objective perspective Spielwarenmesse 2023 can only be viewed as a triumphal return and a great success. I will let the Spielwarenmesse team announce their numbers and metrics, but there were no shortage of people walking the many many Halles based on my own observations.

According to numerous first time attendees I spoke to, the sheer scale of the show is both highly intimidating and wondrous at the same time. The big and mighty are there from all around our industry, so arguably if you didn't create good opportunities there it's more likely to be down to your own failings, because the vast majority of the couple of hundred people I spoke with said the show had been great. As ever though, success comes from effective follow up after the show - a positive reaction to products & good conversation at a trade show is normally some distance and several further interactions away way from the the hard tangible proof of success that a purchase order represents!

The broader perspective is that the Toy market is sailing through some rough waters with the tide against it from some directions. Nearly every major market was flat at best or down in 2022, and that's hardly good news - one of my contacts informed me that the market in Germany was down 5% for example in 2023...but that the regression comes on the back on a couple of great years. And as I keep repeating to those willing to listen - our industry is performing a lot better than many other industries we could be working in.

I greatly enjoyed returning to the Toy Business Forum presentation program this year. I repeated the topic I spoke about back in 2013. This time I looked at what predictions I got right last time, which predictions I got horribly wrong and looked forward making predictions about what will and what won't change in the next decade. (Presentation recording will be shared soon). As is often the case at these shows, I met many enthusiastic new market entrants after my talk, and I could not escape for sometime after the presentation

As far as the outlook for the Toy market across Europe in 2023 is concerned, the feeling was a little on the grim side. The one word I heard most often throughout this year's show was 'inventory' - in warehouses and sitting out in retail. While the mood was upbeat overall, the high energy of the show has to be set against a cloudy outlook. Fingers crossed 2023 goes better than many attendees & exhibitors expected based on the conversations I had.

Spielwarenmesse - Nuremberg Toy Fair 2023...great to be back!

Our company has been Consulting with Toy & Games companies for more than a decade. We have helped hundreds of companies to advance their businesses through our advice & proactive introductions to relevant commercial partners. Please get in touch if you think we can help you.

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