Observations from a toy industry survivor (February)

Christmas brought us a wave of good and bad news again and I will kick off this month with a tale of canny product development in the US.
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Squinkies are going to be one of the hottest toys this year in the US says Toys 'R' Us CEO, Jerry Storch.

Described as small eraser heads figures that “girls just love”, Squinkies are great as collectibles because you can get into the craze at virtually any price level. You can start with a small pack, buy houses and all kinds of things to play with your Squinkies to interact with each other. And there are hundreds of them.

This really is a toy phenomenon at its simplest, most base level, stripping out all need for the technology or character licensing endorsement that might add USPs but burden product development with considerable investment and cost that is inevitably reflected in the retail price.

Squinkies was born out of the developer, Blip Toys', correct call that the US consumer is under financial pressure like never before and is demanding affordability.

“Demand is tight,” says Laura Phillips, SVP for toys at Walmart. “Mom doesn’t feel bad. ‘I can get into it and my child can really enjoy it,’” she said. “That matters in this economy.”

Always looking to steal a lead on the competition, one retailer in the UK seems to have shot itself in the flipper. How many times have you been told that what toy retailers need is more in-store theatre? Well, it seems that you can take thing a bit too far as Hamleys discovered when it received a hail of abuse from animal welfare experts for treating animals like “living toys” after advertising an event as a Christmas treat for kids featuring live penguins.

Details of the event were quickly removed from its website. Hamleys was also planning a reindeer event.
What’s the old adage? Never work with animals and kids?

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