The Toy Industry’s Never Ending Cold

In my last posting, “What’s Wrong with the Toy Industry?,” I expressed concern with what appears to be a toy industry that has become chronically listless.  It is a bit  like a person with a cold that just won’t go away.

But why does it seem like the industry’s mainstay companies are running in place?  Is it possible that what worked so well in the 20th century doesn’t work so well in the 21st

Here is what I see as some of the reasons:

More Play Supply than Demand

Traditional toy companies no longer compete just with other traditional toy companies.  The play industry has become enormous with children and adults having choices their parent’s never imagined.  Play platforms like consoles, tablets and smart phones run video games and apps; all of which consume time that used to be devoted to traditional toy play.  In fact, kids have less time to play than they ever did.  One report states that a child’s free play time is down 8 hours  per week from 25 years ago.

The Magic is Gone

The magic has gone out of toy retailingWal-Mart, Toys R Us, Target, Mattel, Hasbro and Lego dominate the toy experience.  When you have this kind of confluence you get a sameness of product mix.  Predictability is the enemy of magic.  Do children still beg to go to the toy store?  Not so much;  why when they can find plenty of magic on their iPad.

Too Many Super Hero Movies

Super hero movies don’t drive toy sales the way they used to.  Perhaps it’s because there are just too many movie heroes and too many parts 2, 3 and 4.

Action Figures Have Peaked?

Boys have so many play choices via the Internate that maybe basic action figures have peaked as a form of play.   After all, nothing lasts forever; just ask those who make models or toy guns.   

Bricks and Mortar struggles

Bricks and mortar retailing, upon whom the toy industry massively depends, is steadily losing ground to the Internet.  (Amazon now accounts for 6% of toy industry sales…Kmart / Sears account for 3%).   As they fare, so fares the toy industry.

What can be done?  That in my next posting.

One thought

  1. It is a serious issue that all industry members should not ignore.
    We don’t want to see the day when traditional toy trade becomes former video rental, or CD retail business which have been vanishing.
    Part of the reasons why the industry seems to loose grip could also be – the industry might be missing some very important points – The importance & theories of Play have long been ignored.
    Why there have been great ideas from old school toy makers who did not have any business nor design background, had made such historical successful items? And why when the trade is filled with more educated professionals, we get less surprises?
    My personal observations of the industry,….most great talents who have a grip on play theories or fun sensitive eyes should more possibly be born before the console era (before or around the 80s’), that means some part of their lives actually depend on traditional toys & have intensive on-hand experiences. But the darker side is, there are less and less active talents in the industry & even worst, the industry seems to offer less rooms for her life savers.
    We had so many N.P.D. meetings focused on marketing, retail points, cubes, trends, emulate this, kill that, timing, strategies, line extensions, packaging illusions,….meetings purely focused on sales with very little concerns of the core value? Is this item really fun to play with or how long will this play pattern last?
    In short, we could have great great photos, copies, great TV ADs with heavy FXs, fully packed in-pack card items which give illusions that some toys look great & hit our customers’ impulses. But will this work for smart shoppers in a long run? We think we have heard more answers then ever.
    How many times we have been excited by the item’s great looking at the packaging & get bored or disappointed a few hours or minutes after taking it out from the packaging?
    in the nutshell, if the item itself is not fun & does not have certain longer lasting play values, continuous disappointments might ruin the industry.
    From my personal point of view, we might be in a situation like having groups of food critics or management teams of restaurants who seldom cook, getting their hands dirty at the kitchen, preparing great looking dishes(sometimes not)which taste funny & discouraging regular guests.

Leave a Reply