Outside Interests

The outdoor market is one of the biggest sectors in the industry, and was worth £361 million for the year up to September 2008. But it is seasonal, and more than any sector, largely dependent on uncontrollable factors such as weather. NPD offers some insight into how it fared recently?
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Hy-Pro says it has revolutionised in-line scooters with the launch of the Phantom. The new scooter features intense white headlights and green rear lights that respond to the user’s every move. Kids can create their own cool light show on the Phantom and when they jump off, the lights automatically start flashing red. After a couple of seconds they start glowing red, bringing the dark spirit of the Phantom to life.
The Phantom is aimed at six year-olds and over.


Outdoor toys and equipment are a major part of this year’s hot property from Character Options – the HM Armed Forces collection.
Camping out is a key activity of the great outdoors and combining this with the action and adventure synonymous with military operations is the ethos behind this area of the brand. As part of the launch, a wide variety of outdoor activity and role-play lines will be available and are officially licensed by all three services.
Working with the Royal Navy, Army and RAF, a collection of outdoor activity toys has been produced including a Field Tent and Camouflage Netting, a Metal Detector, Personal Role Walkie Talkies, a Tracking and Navigation Set and a Stealth Kit.
While creating the collection, attention to detail has been key with many items being tooled on actual equipment used in the field. All the products are designed to complement the action figures and vehicles range.
HM Armed Forces will be launched at retail on VE Day (May 8th) together with a marketing drive that is the largest in the company’s history.


The Oball, which is part of the Rhino Toys range from America, is now being distributed by Crazee Thingz in the UK.
It is designed to make catching easier and children almost can’t help catching it, as the web of holes gets caught in their fingers.
The Oball comes in a range of sizes. The four-inch original, for example, is lightweight enough to play with indoors without fear of breaking anything.
The Oballs are suitable from birth up to any age, making the ball a long-term favourite. The company also claims that the ball will never burst, while there is also a rattle version to give further appeal to the youngest Oball fans.
The balls have already won three Gold Awards – the product has scooped a Pratical Pre-school gong, a Good Toy Guide award and the rattle version surprised the UK’s largest baby retailers and manufacturers by picking up the Best Newborn Toy at the Mother and Baby Awards.


Aqua Attack is an air-powered water blaster combined with a scooter. The built-in water pump is operated by pumping at the lever on the handlebars, enabling streams of water to hit a target up to 20ft away.
The RipStik Caster Board allows for acceleration without pushing. Its twisting motion moves you forward. The 360-degree inclined casters and pivoting deck provide a carving motion. A concave deck and traction plate provide increased foot control.
Finally, PowerWing is a three-wheeler craze from Razor. Users move their body from side to side to get going.


Zoom-O is a new range of outdoor shooters, launchers and catchers which can be used alone or together with friends.
The Zoom-O Ball Shooter kicks off the collection and comes with a catcher and two soft foam balls. The balls are launched from the catcher when the trigger is depressed and the object is to catch them again.
The Zoom-O Disc Launcher, Xtreme and Trigger Fire are the fire and catch gizmos from Zoom-O and are joined by a gadget that requires balance and co-ordination – the Zoom-O Zero-G. With Zero-G, the object is to float the ball or disc on a cushion of air and watch it levitate 12 inches from the handheld gadget. Once mastered, you can progress to floating both disc and ball at the same time.
A floor based Zoom-O, meanwhile, launches larger discs up to 13 feet in the air where they will hover before floating back to earth, to be caught by those below.
Alternatively, the firm has recently launched a licensed scooter for the boys brand, Gormiti. The scooter features adjustable handlebars that fold away for storage and rear wheel braking and bears the Gormiti design on the footplate and axle.


For 2009, MV Sports’ best selling Ben 10 range will be boosted by the addition of a new Alien Force range, spearheaded by the revolutionary Omnitrix Scooter, which communicates with the owner.
Thomas & Friends is refreshed with a Full Steam Ahead sound feature whereby the faster the child travels the faster Thomas’ engine sounds become.
Barbie receives a makeover with the introduction of a Beauty Secrets range that combines wheeled toys with beauty treats and carry cases.
In The Night Garden also sees new products, while Bob The Builder celebrates his tenth anniversary with a new toolbox and tools range.
Transformers returns to the big screen in the summer and MV hopes to repeat the success of the first movie by incorporating transforming lenticular graphics on its products.


2009 looks set to enhance Smoby Toys’ reputation as an outdoor toy specialist as it introduces the UK market to a German classic – Big’s Bobby Car.
The car is one of Germany’s most popular and enduring toys and is apparently the most successful ride-on vehicle in the world.
The Bobby Car is robust enough to support the weight of an adult and, as well as the red original, the range now includes Winnie the Pooh, Cars and Hello Kitty licensed versions.
Designed to encourage children to play actively outdoors, Bobby Car was recently redesigned with a hollow for the knee, so that older or taller children can use it, as well as little tots.
The Bobby Car’s robust design and high play value sits comfortably with Smoby’s existing range, including the innovative U-Turn slide and Duplex House, a sturdy two-storey outdoor playhouse.
Standing at two metres tall, the Duplex House features a barbecue area, a dining table with stools, a conservatory with blind, and a front door with electronic chiming doorbell.
Meanwhile, the U-Turn Slide, launched in January, is sure to be a hit in the summer months.
The first of its kind in the UK, the product stands at 190cm in height and features a 380cm long slide with a full 180-degree turn at the top.


Viking Toys Jumbo and Super vehicles are chunky plastic toys suitable for outdoor and indoor play, where function rather than unnecessary details are given priority. Mud, sand and grass will not hinder use and dirty toys can be cleaned in the dishwasher. Designed to withstand all weathers, Viking vehicles will not fade in colour or crack if exposed to long periods of sunlight or cold.
Viking is committed to toy quality and safety and the Jumbo/Super ranges feature tough plastic and rustproof 4mm stainless steel wheel axles, ensuring the vehicles are made to endure even the most brutal ambush from adventurous youngsters.
Viking toys have no sharp edges and have durable, soft rubber wheels.
New for 2009 is the Sorting Box which is a vehicle and a shape sorter with three colourful shapes to fit in the appropriate holes. More vehicles in the range are an Ambulance, Recycling Vehicle, Fire Engine, Plane, Helicopters and trucks.
Jumbo Supersize vehicles come with one or two figures and have moving components relevant to their purpose, for example, the fire engine ladder extends. The vehicles are suitable for children as young as one. Viking also offers multiple vehicles sets specifically intended for educational establishments.


Dogs are a new theme to join Great Gizmos’ ride-ons collection and Domino the dalmation and Goldie the labrador are two pups that are sure to make perfect pets. Each dog has a solid wooden head and tail and floppy ears and colourings to match its breed, while a sturdy steel body, plastic seat and chunky wheels ensure a comfortable and smooth ride.
Great Gizmos’ range of classic ride-ons and pedal cars make great outdoor toys and provide plenty of opportunities for kids to become mobile. There are many different designs to choose from catering for ages one to seven.


Halsall is developing a range of Toy Story wheeled toys and protection gear for autumn/winter. The range will support the new 3D theatrical re-releases of Toy Story 1 and 2 premiering in UK cinemas towards the end of 2009 and spring 2010 respectively, followed by Toy Story 3 in summer 2010.
Also new are wheeled toy designs with Star Trek and Hello Kitty. Halsall also has new Bart and Lisa scooters and protection. In addition there are extensions to existing wheeled toy ranges such as Fifi and the Flowertots, Baby Annabell and Baby Born, Hannah Montana, Roary the Racing Car, Spiderman, Scooby-Doo, JCB, WWE, Wall-E, Batman and Gogo’s Crazy Bones.
Halsall is also the exclusive UK distributor for the Gazillion Bubbles range. For inflatables, Halsall has a new range of Disney Fairies outdoor toys. New lines for Fifi and the Flowertots encourage play with Fifi and her friends in the garden. A Bean Bag Target Game, Hide & Seek Flowers Game, Giant Garden Ludo and Round the Garden Play Mats provide outdoor Fifi fun, while new wheeled toys feature Fifi sounds including a trike, scooter and 10-inch bike.
The Roary the Racing Car range of wheeled toys and inflatables also features some new additions. The Silver Hatch Thrills and Spills outdoor game provides an easy-to-play race around the play mat track to the finish line. Also new are a Five-in-One Target Game and Bean Bag Throwing Mat.
The Barbie outdoor toys and inflatables range for 2009 follows the theme of ‘nature and nurture with Barbie’. Halsall introduces girls to horticulture with a Barbie Wheelbarrow Set including a watering can, spade and fork. For outdoor play, there is a new Barbie Tennis Trainer, a Five-in-One Target Game Set and a Patio Set.


Hasbro’s Nerf Dart Tag brings interactive blasting games to the great outdoors. There are three different sets to choose from – Dart Tag Deluxe, Dart Tag Strikefire and Dart Tag Crossfire. Each set features up to 15 game suggestions.
The games encourage players to be alert and use their skills to avoid being tagged. Each set comes with velcro scoring vests that players wear for opponents to aim at, so it takes some cunning and planning to win the games. The soft foam darts stick to the target vests so players can see when their opponents have been tagged.
Dart Tag is easy to set up and play and can be used anywhere – in a park, on the beach or in the playground.
Each set is suitable for age eight and up and retails from £9.99 to £34.99.


The Clubhouse Swingset combines a playhouse and swings in one, saving on valuable garden space. A climbing wall, challenging rope ladder, large slide and fun steering wheel are key features, with the swing set comprising two swing seats and mounting hardware.
Wooden play systems are a key focus for Little Tikes this year. Each product comes with a ten-year warranty on wood rot and decay and a five-year warranty on all structural bolts, steel brackets and component parts.
Little Tikes’ Oslo and Stockholm wooden swing sets feature treated wooden frames and powder coated metal parts.
The Oslo set, for ages two and over, offers two swing seats and a disc swing. For further play functionality, the Stockholm set comprises two swing seats, a disc swing and a glider with high back rests.
Space saving combination products also feature highly in the Little Tikes wooden play system range.
This includes the Strasbourg Wood Swing ‘n’ Slide swing set, which offers a swing seat, two seat glider with foot rests and swing seat and disk swing, platform, plus 180cm long giant slide.
The London Climb ‘n’ Swing slide and Marlow Climb ‘n’ Slide Bridge swing sets offer multi-functional play. The London set combines two swings, a climbing rope, a giant slide and a climbing tower with walkways.
Meanwhile, the ultimate play system – the Marlow set – consists of a swing, glider with foot rests, disk swing, 180cm giant slide, platform with suspension bridge walkway, tall tower with two climbing platforms, climbing rope and wood slat wall obstacle course.
All products are suitable for children aged three and over.


Mookie Toys is continuing to grow its licensed toy range with key partners.
2009 sees the company deliver the new Thomas Swingball in partnership with Hit Entertainment.
Swingball is exclusively distributed worldwide by Mookie Toys and with new unique features, the latest offering includes Thomas and Percy moving around the track as the ball swings around the pole. Swingball is now officially one of the top ten best selling toys of the last ten years. The unique lid and base construction allows all the game components to be stored inside and the integral handle makes it easy to pick up and play.
The soft, safe foam ball allows children from three years of age to develop hand eye co-ordination skills while exercising.
A full marketing campaign and PR strategy is in place, ensuring increased brand awareness.


RC2’s Britains Big Farm features an expanded collection of new interactive models designed for realistic outdoor role-play in 2009.
Built in 1:16 scale and rugged enough to withstand demanding play situations, Big Farm licensed models boast realism such as under-bonnet engine detail and removable tractor wheels, plus interactive functions including realistic engine sounds and flashing lights.
New for spring is the Hitachi 200LC Excavator (£39.99) – a detailed, excavating vehicle with moveable digger arm and bucket with hydraulic system. Meanwhile, also joining the stable of vehicles is the Bobcat S300 Skidsteer (£16.99).
Britains Big Farm expands its tractor range in 2009 with the John Deere 9530 4WD (£39.99) – an agricultural workhorse featuring chunky tyres. To complement the range of tractors, new accessories are available to enhance outdoor role-play. The Tillage Train (£16.99) and Cultivator (£14.99) attach to the rear of any Big Farm tractor,
Also launching this spring is the Chevrolet Pick-up Truck (£29.99) and a remote controlled John Deere 6430 Tractor (£49.99) – the first RC product in the Big Farm line-up.


New for spring/summer, Vivid Imaginations is introducing the 3D Shark Bite Water Slide (£39.99).
The slide is approximately five metres in length and comes with 3D aqua goggles. Also available is the Splash Bomb Water Slide (£47.99) – just grab the board, slide down the four metre inflatable and make a splash in the giant inflatable splash pool at the bottom. The company is supporting the new collection with a TV campaign and PR coverage.
Vivid Imaginations has a range of pre-school outdoor toys to keep kids active. For the girls there are the Fifi Roller Skates (£12.99) with adjustable sizing and for the boys there is plenty from the Roary outdoor range. Ride on Roary (£32.99) is a vehicle for pre-schoolers to get ‘out and about’ on and features Roary sounds.
Other Roary outdoor toys include adjustable skates to fit children’s shoe sizes 5-11 (£12.99) and the Roary Scooter, which comes with three wheels to offer extra stability (£22.99). Vivid is supporting its pre-school outdoor toy range with a national press campaign targeting parents.


Worlds Apart’s range of Pop Up play tents are ideal outdoor toys. The firm has secured a strong licensed portfolio in range, covering Disney Princess, Thomas & Friends, In the Night Garden and more, with distribution in all major UK toy retailers.
Brand new for this year is the Peppa Pig Wendy House. Suitable for children aged two plus, this play tent features all the characters from the TV show. The tent features an easy-to-assemble pop-up design that folds down neatly for compact storage.
The In The Night Garden My First Combo is also new for this year. Suitable for children from 12 months and upwards, this two-in-one pop up play-set has been designed in the ‘My First’ size especially for younger users. Featuring Iggle Piggle and all the show’s characters, the tent and tunnel can be used together or separately. As with all the Worlds Apart Pop Up play tents, the My First Combo is also suitable for outdoor or indoor use, whilst being compact and easy to store.
A selection of colourful generic tents at a lower price point are also available. From wendy houses to fairytale castles, garages, market stalls and even a Ninky Nonk play-set, the Pop Ups offer retailers a range of outdoor toys giving children instant play environments.
Worlds Apart will continue to support its Pop Up range with ongoing PR and marketing activity.


Added to Danbar’s catalogue for 2009 is a selection of Dream Cars – licensed, digital-proportion, full-function radio controlled vehicles presented in aluminium cases.
Available in an array of scales, designs on offer include the Subaru, Lamborghini, Mercedes or Ferrari.
Continuing its success with flying toys, Danbar is also revealing new additions to its range. The Knight Hawk Pro now comes in 3D mode for improved manoeuvrability, with wide-range precision control and a resilient fuselage manufactured from the latest complex compound material for flexibility, strength and lightness.
The World of Combat toys (miniature infra-red helicopters, Ground Targets and Air-to-Air twinpacks) are also being released with improved three-channel functionality.
The SuperNova 3D ‘copter is also new and is a full-function R/C flyer.


John Crane now offers three versions of the First Bike from Branching Out. The pink model is decorated with hearts and flowers and is ideal for little girls, while the racing red version has scarlet swirls decorating its wheels. The new addition for 2009 is the First Bike in royal blue.
Each bike has a padded seat and easy grip handlebars and the chunky pneumatic tyres allow a safe ride. The wooden bikes have height adjustable seats so they will remain favourites even as tots grow. The blue version also boasts a carry handle.
John Crane now also offers a bike stand for retailers to make the most of displays in-store. Made from natural wood, the stand will keep the First Bike upright and looking its best.


London-based lifestyle company, The Extreme Group, has launched a new range of Power Kites into the retail market. Following the success of the Extreme skate range last year, the company has added to the expanding hardware family with four new signature kite styles.
In keeping with the Extreme Hardware philosophy, the collection of Extreme kites are said to offer those with a taste for adrenaline a chance to get involved and be active safely and at affordable prices.
The firm also offers a wide range of skateboards in various designs, colours and sizes.
Debut Sport is the licensee for the Extreme hardware goods. Debut Sport is a production and distribution business specialising in the youth market. It provides a range of sports and leisure products and is currently one of the largest UK suppliers of gaming tables.
The Extreme hardware range includes a wide variety of ‘extreme’ sports products such as skateboards, mountain boards and in-line skates, helmets and protective gear. In addition, the firm offers a design facility enabling companies to tailor products to a client’s exact specifications. Existing customers include Argos, Homebase and Toys R Us.


Ballooppa is a new football game from TP Toys that is designed to improve accuracy, passing and shooting skills. There is an integral ball attached by a rope, which means no more running after lost balls or damage to the garden.
A rotating connection joint prevents the cord becoming entangled during play and it can be adjusted to suit all garden sizes. Ballooppa is easy and quick to assemble and can be packed away for storage or left in the garden all year round.
Aimed predominately at children aged six to 14 years, Ballooppa can be played alone or with friends.
Ballooppa is available online and in a number of leading retail outlets, such as Tesco, Toys R Us and John Lewis and retails at around £34.25


Martin Yaffe is the new master toy licensee for LazyTown and is offering a collection including play balls of various sizes, including a 16-inch Playground Ball and four-inch Foam Balls, with Skipping Rope, Hoppers, Boom Bats, Tennis Set, Bat and Ball Set and Go Go discs, which are all available in Stephanie pink and Sportacus blue designs. Wheeled toys also feature in the range, with new Skateboards, In-line Trainer Skates, Two-Wheel Scooters and Folding Scooters available in both designs.
The first Fisher-Price wheeled toys hit the shelves in spring/summer, including the Grow With Me Scooter and Deluxe Trike, both of which are designed to grow with the child. Also available is the Brite Rider Scooter, which has vibration activated flashing lights on the board.
New additions to the Little Princess range are the Trike and Scooter, both of which have a crown-shaped bag on the front for children to carry their belongings. Also available will be the Greenhouse Play-set, which is based on the location seen in the show and comes with accessories including a watering can and plant pots.
Power Rangers Jungle Fury products include a Folding Scooter with flashing lights, In-line Trainer Skates, which can be used as inline skates or quad skates, Two-wheel Scooter and a Helmet and Pads Set to keep children safe.
A new range of Born to Play’s own brand of wheeled toys is also on offer including a Born to Play Truk-ter, which can be used as a ride-on, scooter or scooter with trailer and the Born to Play Trainer Bike.
A range of play balls is available from new licence, Ben 10 including the Playground Ball, the 8.5-inch Ball, PVC Ball and four-inch Foam Balls. Also available is an Inflatable Chair.
New additions to the In the Night Garden collection include the Boat Rocker, a replica of Igglepiggle’s boat; The Inflatable Sand and Water Play Centre with accessories. Also new is the Crazy Golf Set, with a gazebo, Pinky Ponk, Night Garden bridge and Makka Pakka’s cave.
Also new are the furniture products, including Patio Sets, available in Bob the Builder, Disney Princess and Thomas & Friends designs and Gazebos, which are available in Disney Cars and Disney Princess designs.


IMC is offering a range of licensed walkie-talkies for use either indoors and outdoors.
Complete with on/off LED indicator, volume control and a flexible safety antenna, the walkie talkies are supplied in a variety of designs including licences for both boys and girls. Designs include Ben 10, Power Rangers, Spider-man, Cars, Toy Story, Disney Princess, Fairies and Dora the Explorer among others.


Aimed at early years, Kiddimoto’s award-winning range of wooden balance bikes are the ideal learning tool for the next generation. Without pedals or brakes, Kiddimoto teaches children of balance and co-ordination skills in a controlled manner.
An ideal first bike, Kiddimoto bypasses the need for stabilisers, allowing children to quickly move to a pedal cycle.
In its fifth year of production, the firm continues to develop the range to offer new products to the market. Continually evolving, the line now features a Superbike, Scrambler, Scooter and Chopper design.
The new Heroes range offers the motorcycle enthusiast the additional benefit of supporting the riders who have achieved World Champion status in this sport as they receive a percentage of all sales on a quarterly basis. The firm ensures these deals are direct, not via the manufacturers they rode for, so that the families benefit.
In-store, meanwhile, Kiddimoto has a proven range of benefits from providing point of sale display products, to entertaining children while parents shop.
A range of accessories is also available, including a choice of tough wearing plastic wheels, new smooth rubber tyres or the detail of underseat exhaust pipes.
The bikes are constructed from natural birch plywood (recyclable) and are decorated with child safe paint. The products are CE approved and are a British design. The Superbike, Scrambler and Scooter retail at £89.99, the Chopper costs £99.99 and the Heroes range retails at £109.99. The products are suitable for children aged two to six years.


The latest addition to Learning Resources’ outdoor range comes in jumbo form. Small people can see on a big scale when venturing outdoors with the help of new Jumbo Magnifiers. These colourful, robust magnifiers are designed for small hands to carry around, also allowing children to observe and not disturb small creatures with their built-in hands-free stand.
Discover the finer details of a fly, ant, bee, ladybird, grasshopper, butterfly and dragonfly with Learning Resources’ realistic-looking Jumbo Insects.
These seven insects give children an insight into the world of mini beasts so they know what to look out for in their own garden.
The GeoSafari Talking Microscope from the company will help solve those great outdoor mysteries.
The first microscope comes with common insect slides to enlarge smaller creatures encountered on outdoor expeditions. Children will also hear insect facts read aloud, which can later be tested with the Talking Microscope’s interactive quiz game.


Whilst building sandcastles on a beach with his son, then watching with disappointment as the water disappeared from the moat into the sand was the inspiration for Ian Thompson to design a device for keeping water around a sandcastle.
The sandcastle moat and play-set solves the age-old problem of water soaking into sand from a beach sandcastle moat. It can also be used in a sand pit in the garden.
More images on the firm’s website show some other ideas for the moat, from a local Nottingham playgroup where the children have used the product for creative play.
The simple plastic ring comes with three colourful boats, and can also be used on the lawn or on the nursery tabletop or floor. Other floating toys can be added, such as rubber ducks.
SandPlay is manufacturing the product in Nottinghamshire and is actively seeking interest from distributers, retailers and licensors.
The moat design is already registered with the UK Patent Office, EU and WIPO, while it is also US Design Patent pending.


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SECTOR GUIDE: Outdoor toys

The outdoor and sports toys sector was worth £363m in 2011, up ten per cent thanks to some extremely mild weather and, unusually, enjoys two peak periods. We take a look at what some of the key players are promoting this year.


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According to the British Retail Consortium, UK sales fell 1.2 per cent on a like for like basis from March 2008 with some unseasonably warm weather this March benefiting clothing, footwear and outdoor leisure sales.


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