NEWS ANALYSIS: Toys on loan

Toy libraries have been commonplace for a while now, but a new breed is emerging in the shape of toy rental websites, like, where customers pay for a collection of toys to be delivered each month. We asked industry execs what effect this is likely to have.
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Chris Spalding, Managing Director, EMEA, Leapfrog
“With the proven success of rental options in entertainment industries like movies and games, it is no real surprise that the toy industry would follow suit. In the current economic environment it may suit some families to access the latest toys and games.
As most rental sites collectively let bundles of toys, rental options can provide a smart way of getting a wide selection of products out to families, allowing for greater exposure of products. In addition, this is particularly true of those customers who prefer to sample the product before fully investing in a purchase and this can be a great introduction to a new range or brand.
However, there are also considerations to renting products. Here at LeapFrog, our brand ethos is to create products that grow with children and rental options may not allow for maximum use of the supporting content on offer. Our products are designed for long-term use to aid development and our connected database provides ongoing support, insight and content for families beyond the initial purchase.
Access to new and more expensive toys is likely to be a strong selling point for rental websites and, from a consumer perspective, it is likely that some people could use the service as a ‘try before you buy’ system. Similarly, new products that are in popular demand may also be more accessible to consumers via rental.
There is scope for toy companies to work with toy rental websites and ensure that the best consumer experience is provided. Ten years ago who would have thought online sales would be as much as they are? So all routes to market need to be understood.”

Helen Davis, Marketing Manager, John Crane
“Do toy rental sites benefit the toy industry? It’s a bit of a conundrum. There are pros and cons as I see it. Let me explain. John Crane products tend to sell to higher income families and toy rental sites tend to be used by middle/lower income families, so in essence our sale to the end-user has not been compromised. But we can make added sales by selling to the toy library itself. All of our toys are extremely robust (already selling well in schools and nurseries), so are an ideal purchase for a rental site.
That said, the parents who use the services will still purchase some toys, so if they are using John Crane toys through the library, seeing the quality for themselves may make them more conducive to buying John Crane if they see it in store.
However, higher ticket items such as our kitchens and dolls houses may just be purchased by the library and not the individual parent, due to cost and/or space.
In the short-term as the toy library sets up they will bulk buy these items to have a few in stock, but of course our toys will last a good many years and so repeat orders from the rental site will not be as forthcoming as we may desire.”

Lindsay Hardy, Marketing Services Director, GP Flair
“Toy lending libraries are not new and they have worked really well and, through toy award schemes, give manufacturers useful feedback about what’s popular with their clientele.
Toys that are suitable for being passed on from household to household tend to be quite robust, not have too many small pieces that can get lost and not have consumable content that gets used up.
That’s probably why things like wooden toys, robust outdoor play equipment and board games have done well with these organisations.
I don’t imagine it would have a negative impact on our business, in some ways it’s useful for sampling.
Is it an attractive proposition for the consumer? It might well be, as long as the toys are in good condition and complete.”



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