Opposite attracts

The magnetic toys market has been hit by some of the worst kind of recall publicity over the last 18 months, stalling its rapid progress. But greater attention to safety and some radical redesigns could yet put it back on track...
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THE UK’S FIRST MAGNETIC building sets range, Geomag, was launched in the second half of 2002, but the real hype didn’t kick off until 2004 when Magnetix and Supermag were introduced.

At that point the magnetic building sets market was worth £13m, but a year later, when Magnetix opened up to a wider distribution the magnetic ranges reached a high with an average price of around £16.50 and a total value exceeding £20m (source: NPD Consumer Panel).

In its peak year, magnetic ranges accounted for nearly a fifth of the total UK building sets market, which is considerable, compared to, for example Germany, where this type of product never really got off the ground. That said, in Italy and Spain magnetic building sets did flourish in their first years.

A quarter of the Italian building sets market came from magnetic sales in 2003 and just under a fifth of the Spanish building sets market was accounted for by magnetic ranges in 2004 (source: NPD EPoS Retail Tracking Services for Italy and Spain). A few years down the line, however, the novelty has worn off slightly and sales are coming down.

As a result of the introduction of magnetic ranges, the building sets market grew thanks to new customers as well as existing ones who wanted to experience the new type of building set.

Boys aged five to ten were particularly interested in playing with the likes of Magnetix, Geomag and Supermag. With the launch of pastel colours, manufacturers also tried to attract girls, but as it is in the rest of the building sets market, this proved
a lot harder.

Over the years, average prices have come down to be more in line with the average price in the overall building sets market. To innovate their ranges, Magnetix and Supermag introduced licensed products in 2007 (Spider-man and Doctor Who respectively). In addition, the former also branched out with items such as Magna Man, Mag Warriors and I- Coaster, as well as Magtastik and Maganimals for pre-schoolers.

Currently, Magnetix is more or less the only magnetic range left in the UK and the recent difficulties the brand had to face is not helping the magnetic market as a whole. That said, will the relaunch of Magnetix later this year and the return of Geomag bring a fresh new boost to the British magnetic market?
(source: NPD)

TOMY 020 8722 7300

Tomy is expecting continued growth in its Thomas and Friends pre-school range with the launch of a number of new additions in 2008. Included in the new offering is
Connect & Sounds Thomas (£14.99, suitable from 18 months) which uses magnetic coupling to bring a unique element to play. Young engine drivers can connect the Thomas engine to Annie, Troublesome Truck or Jet Engine to hear real engine sound effects with the magnetic coupling used to hold the engine and trucks together.
De-coupling the engines triggers more sounds and pushing the trains along creates engine noises and the Thomas theme tune.

Antonia Palmer, Tomy UK marketing manager for Thomas & Friends comments: “We have had a great reaction from everyone who has seen Connect & Sounds Thomas and with a heavyweight TV campaign later in the year we are confident that we have a pre-schooler favourite on our hands.”

Nintendogs Trick Trainer pups each come with their own magnetic Nintendogs bone. The bone can be used to move the pup’s head from side to side by touching it to a magnetic point in the pup’s nose and to lift his left paw and wag his tail.

FLAIR 020 8643 0320

Flair’s magnetic range features Thomas & Friends, Peppa Pig and the cast of In the Night Garden. The Thomas Magnetic Playset contains background scenes and three sheets of magnetic pieces. Children place the scene in the open tin and decorate with the magnetic pieces to create a storyboard.

The Thomas Magnetic Let’s Count Playset enables a child to learn all about counting with Thomas & Friends. Match up the magnetic numbers with the pictures in a simple game of 1-2-3. An In the Night Garden Magnetic Playset will be available from the autumn. Characters such as Igglepiggle and the Ninky Nonk can be added to familiar settings taken from the programmes.

Magnetic drawing is featured in the new Mini and Mega Doodlers. Peppa Pig and In the Night Gardenare the character themes of two new Mega Doodlers which incorporate a fully moulded doodling board with character detail, stamps and drawing tools. The Mini Doodlers are also available as Bob the Builder and Igglepiggle shapes with mini doodler tummies.

Other magnetic offerings from Flair include a selection of wooden magnetic toys and accessories from Melissa & Doug. These include the My Magnetic Dress up Doll Set with a free standing wooden doll to dress with magnetic clothes, plus best selling wall charts such as the award winning Responsibility Chart with a new design for 2008.

JOHN CRANE 01604 774 949

GoGo Toy has new a magnetic counting and alphabet games on offer, distributed through John Crane. Learn the Alphabet comprises lower case magnetic letters housed behind a Perspex screen then with the use of the magnetic wand, little fingers can pick them up and place them in the correct alphabetical order. It’s not as easy as it looks though. Toddlers will learn to position the letters the right way up as they learn finer manipulative and recognition skills.

Also available is the Dino Egg Counting gamefor pre-schoolers. The game works with a magnetic stylus that is used through the Perspex to pick up and deposit the eggs. Players must pick up the tiny, yellow ‘dino’ eggs and deposit them in the right space. Each portion is numbered and the correct amount of eggs must be delivered. Just like Learn the Alphabet, it’s all housed safely under a clear Perspex cover.

GREAT GIZMOS 01293 543221

The 4M range from Great Gizmos combines magnets with science and craft activities.
The new Magnetic Tile Art takes miniature ceramic tiles and turns them into magnetic pictures. The kit contains 12 tiles that children can decorate with the paints included. By adding the rubber magnets, they turn into fridge magnets. Mighty Magnet Glow Marbles can create glow-in-the-dark sculptures. In addition, the pack contains full
instructions for creating games using magnetic power.

The learning experience continues with the Kidzlabs Super Magnet Kit. This includes super powerful magnets that transform into different magnetic gizmos for various games using the facts and detailed instructions contained. Finally, to explore and experience the invisible power of magnetism, the horse-shoe shaped Mighty Magnet is a super-sized magnet which can be used for simple experiments and games.

FIESTA CRAFTS 020 8804 0563

Fiesta Crafts’ award-winning DooWell range has been expanded this year with a host of new products, including Alphabet Animals. Each magnetic piece presents a different friendly animal for every letter of the alphabet and the accompanying six-page panel book is ideal for stories and fun with simple spelling.

For travel entertainment, I Spy combines the convenience of magnetic play with gameplay to keep the boredom at bay during long trips. The colourful fold-out magnetic board with its 24 moveable, illustrated pieces is ideal for one or two player use, encouraging youngsters to improve their observational skills in an enjoyable manner –and the pieces won’t get lost under the car seats.

MEGA BRANDS 01844 350033

Mega Brands claims that it is gearing up for the biggest launch in the history of magnetic construction with the innovative MagNext range. Set to launch in August, MagNext is a complete re-working of the magnetic construction concept, with intricate new pieces including the quad-bar, tri-bar and dual-bar offering multiple interlocking points, kids can create more detailed builds with greater variety.
Designed in conjunction with Intertek, which is one of the world’s leading safety organisations, MagNext has been engineered to a new standard of product safety.

The first release of MagNext will offer a range of versions covering a variety of price points, from a Trial Version to the Ultimate Assortment. There will also be some case sets available, including the Organiser Case and the MagNext 360 Magna Case. Both can be used for storage and presentation and come with an assortment of MagNext pieces and Special Parts. MagNext Extra adds collectability with additional parts such as chains and wheels to put motion into builds, while girls are catered for with the Girls System.

The biggest and best part of the MagNext range arriving this autumn is the iCoaster – described as ‘a revolutionary experience in creative construction and musical alchemy, combining sight, sound and speed with extreme magnetic force, high-tech design and some ultra- cool physics’.

To engage kids, Mega Brands has a host of activities planned including a PR campaign to reach the core target of boys aged six to 12 through kids comics, TV, promotions, viral activities and events. Retailers will benefit from a TV advertising campaign scheduled to kick off in August and running right through until December.

DKL 01604 678780

DKL’s Uniset range offers a line of magnetic travel puzzles. Suitable for ages three and up, each Magnetic Puzzle is in a book format with four board pages, each page comprising of a pictorial background with magnetic puzzle pieces to recreate the scene.

At the bottom of the Magnetic Puzzle book there is a tray to store the puzzle pieces. The degree of difficulty increases as the puzzlers progress through the book. Uniset covers licences for popular film and television characters including Thomas the Tank Engine, Barbie, My Little Pony and Superman. All products are completely portable and practical as the pieces stick to the page rather than falling on to the floor.

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