The Toy Industry’s Santa Claus Problem

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This is the first of three postings that will explore a notion that we as an industry do not attract a sufficient number of the best and brightest coming out of our colleges and graduate schools. 

All of us who work in the toy industry know the experience.  You’re sitting on an airplane or standing at a party when someone asks you the question:  “What do you do for a living?”  You reply that you are in the toy industry and then it happens; they become slack jawed, their eyes glisten and they grin.  After taking a breath they squeal:  “Wow that must be fun?” 

After you explain that, yes, it has its moments, they ask you:  “How did you happen to find a job in the toy industry?”  Now, I am pretty sure that circus people have the same experience but not a lot of other professions.  

I believe one reason that people act this way is because they never, ever thought about going into the toy business.  In fact, they really never thought about there being a toy business.  But why would that be;  one reason that occurs to me is that we begin life thinking that Santa Claus and his elves make toys and as a result believe that their production is magical and therefore not to be talked about.  If we do so, we shatter not only our illusions but that of those we love.

This would all make for a charming story if it were not for the fact that, as a result, an insufficient number of the best and the brightest come to work in the toy industry.  I will talk about that in my next posting.

2 thoughts

  1. Richard,
    I’m not sure I totally agree with your Santa analogy or the lack of interest among the bright and talented to enter the toy industry. I have found quite the opposite. There are those who walk among us who would like nothing better than to work in the industry.
    The problem as I see it are the lack of opportunities. Let’s face it; Santa isn’t looking for elves this year. The toy industry like any other industry has seen its share of downsizing and Asian outsourcing. In an era where seasoned design and development professionals, displaced by major toy companies, are forced into the role of “consultants” or “freelancers”, one has to wonder what opportunities avail for the bright novice emerging student. There may be another Christmas analogy, which is more appropriate…there is simply no room in the inn.

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