In my last two postings (“What’s Wrong with the Toy Industry” and “The Toy Industry’s Never Ending Cold”) I have written about a toy industry that seems to have lost its mojo. It’s one thing to point out the problems; it’s another to propose fixes. So, here are 5 ideas:
1. Hollywood, Super Heroes and Toy Sales
The Hollywood super hero movie machine has done a powerful job of selling tickets. It used to do a great job of moving toys off the shelves as well. The result was a virtuous circle in which the movie launched the action figure and the toy sustained the interest in the home. That way, when the next movie came out, the fan would return for more.
An ability to drive ticket sales without the accompanying ability to generate sales at retail is therefore not only bad for toy manufacturers and retailers but is ultimately bad for the movie studio. A gradual receding of action figure heroes from store shelves, as is happening now, is going to mean an eventual drop-off in movie ticket sales; The virtuous circle become a vicious circle.
Bottom line, Hollywood needs to sit down with manufacturers and retailers and figure out how to create a seamless selling cycle that works for everyone.
2. Take Me to Toys “R” Us
Toys “R” Us is more important to the entire toy industry than any other retailer. Why, because there is simply no other mass market retailer as committed to selling toys than Toys R Us.
So, if I may be so bold as to give advice to the CEO of Toys R Us; I would suggest that whenever someone comes to him with an idea he ask them this question: “Will it make a child beg to go to Toys R Us?”
3. Return the Magic to Toy Retailing
When I visited the Japanese retailer, Yodobashi Akiba, I was struck by the variety and depth of inventory. I was also struck by the number of people shopping the store. Is there a connection between the two; I think so. Variety + Inventory = Consumers.
4. The Fight for Play Time
The toy industry lives and dies with how much time a child has for play. The loss of play time (recess is down to 15 minutes a day in many school districts and children now have 8 hours less free play time a week than they did 25 years ago) is killing the toy industry. The loss of time coupled with competition from a myriad of ways to play is eating at the economic base of the industry.
The industry lives or dies with play time. That is why it is essential that the industry and its members advocate for play as an essential element in creating mentally, emotionally and physically healthy children. The research is there that supports this notion and the toy industry should be making the case.
Will it be perceived as cynical; yes, by some. The reality is, however, that you can have more than one motivation for doing good…in this case a societal good and an economic good. And frankly, is an economic necessary. It’s not a time to be demure.
5. The Big Can Help the Small
It may seem absurd to think of a large company helping out a small, innovative competitor but hear me out. A large company, by investing in and providing resources to a small one, can improve the product landscape at retail and make for a more exciting retail experience. That in turns leads to a healthier toy industry and more sales for everyone.
It can also, if the deal is right, lead to the larger company being in a front row position to purchase the smaller one should it desire to do so. That’s good business.
So, those are some of my ideas. What do you think?