Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Timeless Appeal Of Action Oriented Toys

The Timeless Appeal Of Action Oriented Toys

There are plenty of play patterns that have lasted the test of time. One such play pattern is ACTION! Action in this context includes both action figures and toys which involve or provoke large degrees of physical activity. In recent times Nerf has grown into one of the largest and most successful action oriented toy brands, however, the play pattern of toy guns is hardly new – dating back to when past generations would play at being cowboys or soldiers to a far greater degree than is prevalent today, cap guns and other types of toy guns were very popular.

The high energy levels of children is not something that has changed particularly, nor does it seem likely to change. At the time of writing (during the COVID-19 pandemic with vaccine rollout not yet taking effect on a mass scale), parents of young children around the world have experienced first-hand the high energy levels of their children. The reason why schools have break times during the day is not just to refresh and rest young brains from becoming so tired that they can’t concentrate. The primary reason for break time is to let children run around and expend physical energy so that there is a reasonable chance of getting them to sit relatively still and concentrate on school work afterwards! The fact that breaks for physical activity are built into the fabric of educational institutions across the world should tell us everything we need to know about the underlying drivers of active physical play.

The trick to delivering successful toys into this space is to offer toy products which both inspire imaginations and facilitate ‘WOW’ and boisterousness in a compelling way. Start with that remit to your product development teams and you shouldn’t go far wrong!

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Entering China’s Domestic Toy Market With Jacqueline Vong of Playology International Inc

Entering China’s Domestic Toy Market With Jacqueline Vong 

In the latest episode of our PLAYING AT BUSINESS podcast, we interview Jacqueline Vong of Playology International Inc. Her story is both compelling and unique due to her experience working in the toy trade in both North America and inside China’s domestic toy market. With China now ranking as the world’s 2nd biggest toy market we find out how toy companies can enter the ever growing Chinese toy market.

We also discuss the practical challenges of doing business in China, as well as taking a look at Playology’s work in the area of content distribution.

You can listen to this podcast episode here:

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5 Key Reasons Why Parents Buy Toys

5 Key Reasons Why Parents Buy Toys

When you think about it, this could be the most important question in the toy business. Not being able to answer that question suggests a lack of understanding of the purpose of your business and products. The answers to this question are not necessarily deeply engrained enough in the processes and mindset of most toy companies. The smaller a toy company is, the more they tend to operate at the whim of their key buyers due to a lack of leverage and strength in the relationship. The challenge though is that if you just jump as and when the buyer instructs, you can miss the fundamental question of how or why you are going to get the product sold off their shelf/sold on their e-commerce site. A product which ships into retail but doesn’t ship out does nobody any favours.

Therefore, the question of why parents buy toys should be asked and thoroughly understood for every single product. There are very few secrets in today’s world – there is so much information out there and so many communication and interaction platforms that understanding consumer purchase motivations has never been easier.

Here are some of the more obvious reasons for parents buying toys:

  1. To aid the education/development of their child
  2. To keep their child (constructively) busy for a while so they can get some peace/rest
  3. To feel like they are good parents doing a good job with the upbringing of their children
  4. Because the child pesters them into buying a toy, even if they don’t really want to
  5. To facilitate a social experience

There are of course many other potential reasons for parents to buy toys, but these 5 factors are some of the most important. Each of these is quite different in terms of the mindset and purpose of the purchaser and the intended recipient, which in turn should lead to different marketing hooks, different consumer for advertising/communications and for product characteristics.

So, for your latest new products are you clear why parents would buy them?


We run a Consultancy business for toy & game companies. We work with major toy & game companies through to start ups and one person bands. For more information on how we help toy & game companies grow their distribution around the world:

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How To Get Ahead In The Creative Play Category

How To Get Ahead In The Creative Play Category

The creative play category is one of the most timeless. Children have been playing in a creative way with some basic components forever. The challenge though is to try to provide something more than the child or parent can cobble together themselves out of whatever stationery is hanging around.

From a consumer perspective, the key insight is that creative play tends to be a parental driven purchase, which means we need to appeal to the parents wants and needs as well as delivering an experience which feels like it delivers value for money, helps the child to create an admirable end result and occupies the child for long enough for the parent to get some respite.

Parents wants and needs are fairly simple in terms of this type of product – they want to actively and productively occupy their child, they want to feel like they are a good parent for aiding the development of their child and they want to help their child to feel proud of their work in order to boost their self-confidence and self-worth.

These consumer drivers are so different to many of the more headline grabbing toy categories i.e. collectable toys where the child and their social circle combined with entertainment content of some description is the overriding dynamic. Whereas children don’t consider value so much because they have a lesser developed sense of economic ‘value’, parents are very driven by value perception.

One of the biggest and most recurring feedback points when speaking to parents about creative play sets is a much-repeated observation that they could buy all the components separately more cheaply than the kit or product offered as a creative play set by a toy company. The usual way round this is to add some kind of distinct feature – like a plastic unit or moving part which ramps up the quality or quantity of the child’s output, and which can serve as a central point in a TV advert, video review or influencer video.

We have consulted with more than a dozen creative play companies/brands, and in some ways it is a more straightforward and predictable category than others because it doesn’t see the major content driven ups and downs associated with other categories, but it is also not easy due to high consumer expectations. In the end the path to success entails understanding the consumer drivers for the category and delivering to those.


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Roll On 2021 – An Exciting Year Ahead For The Toy Business

Roll On 2021 – An Exciting Year Ahead For The Toy Business

We made it! 2021 is now well underway after all the turmoil of 2020.

Demand for toys & games remains strong overall, with a number of positive market drivers supporting future performance. As vaccines roll out across Q1 & Q2 2021, we may find it hard to anniversary some unusual peaks of trading outside of Q4, but overall demand is strong.

We face the genuine prospect of the end of the Covid-19 pandemic at some point in the next 6 months, which should make our work easier and less stressful, although we can expect that a significant proportion of staff will negotiate more working from home going forward.

In 2021, we should see the return of toy trade shows in some shape or form. While some people raised cynical eyebrows at the rearranged dates for some of our leading trade shows, they now look likely to happen, albeit how similar they will be to ‘normal’ trade shows in the past is yet to be seen.

There is a mass of backed up entertainment content waiting to be released in cinemas & to on demand which should have a favourable impact on topline sales at some point within 2021.

But above all, we still have a vibrant and resilient industry coming towards the exit point of the pandemic, for which we can be truly grateful.


Have you listened to our PLAYING AT BUSINESS podcast? We analyse key areas of the toy and game business, we interview leading people in the business and we discuss major trends and changes across toys & games. You can listen to numerous episodes here:

Growing An International Board Games Business With Emile Kalis, Co-Founder of Identity Games

Growing An International Board Games Business With Emile Kalis, Co-Founder of Identity Games

Episode 13 of our ‘Playing At Business’ podcast just went live.

In this podcast episode we interview Emile Kalis, co-founder of Identity Games. The company was founded in The Netherlands in the 1990s, and has since established international reach with numerous great games achieving sales success across multiple markets. In this podcast Emile talks us through his journey in the board games business, and shares key insights he learnt along the way. A fascinating listen for anyone interested in the board games business. We also find out what the difference is between The Netherlands and Holland – we’re always trying to do our bit to raise cultural awareness!

You can listen to the podcast on this link:

To check out other episodes of the Podcast, please click here:


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Disney Outlines Master Plan For Next Few Years – Major Implications For The Toy Business

Disney Outlines Master Plan For Next Few Years – Major Implications For The Toy Business

Disney recently unveiled a multitude of content plans at their investor day. For the direct source material for this, check it out here: there is a presentation and a video available. The most succinct list we found of new content announced with dates can be found here:

The major news abounds. The major news as far as those in the toy business are concerned is as follows:

Firstly, Disney has reinforced their strategic pivot to in home viewing with the announcement that there are 10 more Star Wars ‘TV’ series and 10 Marvel series coming to Disney+ in the not too distant future. This in itself is not surprising following the massive success of The Mandalorian, but it is the scale of commitment which is most notable. 20 different series is a massive undertaking, but when you start to think through all the worlds, characters and elements of the Star Wars and Marvel franchises it is not difficult to identify even more potential beyond the recently announced plans. With Disney+ now at over 86m subscribers and with forward projections for 300% of those subscriber numbers Disney+ has made it, and clearly therefore needs more content to support the success so far to ensure subscribers don’t fade away.

Secondly though is a strong forward movie slate including new movies from Marvel, Pixar and further instalments of the Star Wars franchise. While Disney appear to be ramping up their direct to consumer offering, they are also continuing with major blockbuster movie production, which should lead to plenty of footfall in movie theaters again once the pandemic clears.

What does all this mean for the toy business though? Well the good news is that great content based on known franchises has been shifting toys and games off shelves since the first Star Wars movie effectively ‘invented’ mass market toy licensing from movies back in the 1970s. So, while Disney+ is grabbing the headlines and the lions share of proliferated content by volume, major box office releases are still on the menu with a lot to be excited about. Therefore, the toy business should win from this because there will be broader content offerings across multiple sub brands which will offer plenty of opportunity. Moreover, while many cynics may have originally doubted that content via streaming could deliver major sales success for licensed toys when we have become so used to the movie model, The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda have clearly disproved that. The major challenge though is to ensure that we can get product on shelf for long enough, with enough of a gap before the next wave of content to ensure that product sells through and retail inventory is healthy.

There is an argument that has been made to our team multiple times from various different toy companies that the frequency of Star Wars movies in recent years did not leave enough time in between for toys to be cleared through retail in time to allow for clean shelves for toys based on the next instalment. Doubtless though lessons will have been learned, and above all the major challenge comes when the same characters from the same overall franchise are on shelf at the same time but from different movies or content series, this is when bargain retailers will tend to bring out large quantities of undersold previous versions and undercut the market.

The other effect we are likely to see of Disney’s massive ramp up in content output is a growth in market share for licensed versus non-licensed toys. We have had a couple of years where licensed toys played less of a role than they perhaps had in previous years, which in turn created growth in evergreen perennial brands and on trend toy items. Now the pendulum is looking like it will swing back towards licensed toys for a few years ahead. Either way though, Disney is making bold strides and looks set to be an ever more critical partner for the global toy and games business going forward.

We run a Consultancy business for toy & game companies. We work with major toy & game companies through to start ups and one person bands. For more information on how we help toy & game companies grow their distribution around the world:

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UK Toy Retail Visits Report – December 3rd 2020

Like many in the toy business, one of my favourite things to do is to get out into stores and take a look at what toys and games are on sale, what seems to be selling well, which toys have been marked down, to check where the toys are manufactured and many more things.

I have many happy memories of wandering around toy stores around the world on my travels. One of the least flexible dates on my calendar is a day in December each year of inspecting toy stores and toy aisles across retail in my home market – the U.K. Over time there have been many changes in UK retail, with some store chains coming and going, with a varying product mix and ever-changing product trends. The thing that stays the same is the joy of seeing all the hard work of hundreds of thousands of people across the toy trade out on display, and then to see parents and children pick up the products. In fact, one of the most valuable and insightful things you can do in the toy business is to eavesdrop on conversations shoppers are having related to pricing, and to observe the ding-dong process of pester power and to understand the decision making factors which you don’t necessarily get to hear sat at a desk somewhere.

This December looks like being particularly challenging in UK retail due to a combination of not enough delivery capacity, overloaded ports, chaotic government policy and varying Covid-19 restrictions by location.

With all this said I ventured out on Thursday 3rd December on my tour of toy retail in the North of England. This was the day after UK national lockdown #2 had been lifted. While some restrictions remained in place all retailers were allowed to open in the areas I visited. Stores visited included Smyths, The Entertainer, Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys, Argos, B&M, Home Bargains, Forbidden Planet, Debenhams, Waterstones and WH Smiths. Footfall was fairly strong for a wet Thursday lunchtime, although the weekend shopping days may deliver more insights into footfall year on year. In theory footfall should be very high up until Christmas for a number of reasons: people having been locked down and wanting to get out, the now very pressing need to shop for presents for family and friends and over stretched delivery capacity both into retail and out of retail.

Toy shelves looked well shopped, and in some cases decimated which bodes well – although gaps on shelf are often a sign of the restocking efficiency of the stores, one merchandiser did advise me that there was very little stock left in the back either. Replenishment is going to be big struggle for UK retailers dealing with chaotic ports and chaotic delivery schedules, but fingers crossed as much stock as possible makes it onto shelves. There is a definite risk of inventory hangover heading into January 2021, but in the manner of some toyfair booths which look terrible until right before the end of stand building, hopefully December retail sales can come together in a final manic rush of frenzied consumer spending and highly pressurised logistics.


ARTICLE WRITTEN BY STEVE REECE. Steve is a leading toy and game industry Consultant with a massive propensity for eating ice cream. For more on him and our Consultancy services:  

Playing At Business Podcast – Episode 12 – Marc Fayad, Splash Toys

Playing At Business Podcast – Episode 12 – Marc Fayad, Splash Toys

In case you haven’t checked out our PLAYING AT BUSINESS podcast, you can find it here: 

The podcast is all about the toy & games business. In the first episodes we reviewed toy product categories and looked at trends and consumer insights. The next series of episodes will feature interviews with interesting people from across the toy & games business.

In Episode 12 of the Playing At Business podcast we interview Marc Fayad of Splash Toys. In the interview we talk about Marc’s own journey in the toy business, we find out more about Splash Toys and we hear all about their new product launch: Sneak’Artz. To listen to Episode 12 of the Playing At Business podcast, just click below:

The Value Of Department Stores To The Toy Business

The Value Of Department Stores To The Toy Business

Department stores have historically played an important role in the toy business. One of the many benefits they tend to bring is supporting a broader and more diverse product portfolio. Since department stores tend to have higher overheads and therefore need to work with higher margins than discount stores or grocery retailers, they are structurally incentivised to take a significant ratio of products you won’t find in cost cutting bargain basement retail stores. By listing a different product range department stores support the broader health of the toy industry overall, as well as acting to inherently encourage new suppliers and new ideas more than some retail channels.

These though are difficult times for department stores. At the time of writing, Debenhams in the UK have just entered into the liquidation phase of the administration that began earlier this year. While Debenhams has struggled for a few years, the pandemic and resultant lockdowns appear to have been the final nail in the coffin. Debenhams leaving the market will leave a big gap, which doubtless other retailers will be quick to try to fill, but they won’t all have the same impact on the market of diversifying product ranges and accessing different consumers.

Department stores are a primary venue for the most undervalued, underutilised and arguably most effective marketing method – that being the in-store demonstration. Due to having more spacious environments, and due to being a nicer and more relaxing environment versus a grocery retailer or discount store, shoppers will often dwell longer to try something out if it looks interesting. Logically the best place to spend marketing funds should be at the point of sale, yet while toy companies queue up to pay for advertising on Amazon to raise their profile, very few fully commit to encouraging shoppers to buy in physical stores. Normally those companies who do focus on in store marketing and demonstration are among the most successful companies in the industry.

Following on from this, one area of improvement for many department stores is to make more effort to physically reach out to bring shoppers into stores. Often they have more staff versus discount chains, and you can often find staff milling around without customers to serve, yet outside the door hundreds of people can be walking past (in normal times that is, maybe not currently depending on local lockdown rules). Department stores could utilise the fun and wow factor of many toy products to entice people into store. A good example of this is Hamleys flagship store in London, at the door at point of entry there is always somebody doing something funny like juggling, blowing bubbles or something else to create a sense of fun. Perhaps Department stores could learn from this approach and take more steps outside stores to entice shoppers in.

Department stores have historically been an important part of the toy business, but times are tough, those store chains which evolve will have a better chance of being a part of the toy business in the future.


We run a Consultancy business for toy & game companies. We work with major toy & game companies through to start ups and one person bands. For more information on how we help toy & game companies grow their distribution around the world:

For more articles & insights on the toy and games business, sign up here for our free e-newsletter sent straight to your inbox: