While low price points remain the driving factor for impulse and novelty toy consumers, innovation and increased demands in the category have led to more offerings and better placement at retail. “In many cases, this category is the canary in the coal mine for the [toy] business,” says Jay Foreman, president of The Bridge Direct. “Products are quick and easy to get to market and, due to the low price points, are easy for consumers to buy and collect.”
For retailers, the consistently low price points (under $10) in the category make it one of the few that still guarantees a healthy margin, despite the uncertain economy. This coupled with demand has opened up floor space for impulse items at retail. “If you look at the hottest toys over the past three years, such as Zoobles and Squinkies, these are items that a couple years ago would have been found at the counter,” says Harold Chizick, vice-president, global communications and promotions, Spin Master. “But now, they’re mainline.” Spin Master, for example, offers top-selling collectibles Bakugan and Zoobles, which feature mechanisms that transform each from a sphere into a tiny character.
Impulse toys throughout the category are offering consumers a lot more for their money. “While kids will always love basic play patterns, consumers are expecting more simple innovation tied to them,” says Genna Rosenberg, senior vice-president, strategic marketing, communications, and business development, Imperial Toy.
As Rosenberg points out, innovation doesn’t have to be through technology. Innovation can also mean miniaturization. “Everything is getting smaller,” says Jenn Devine, director of marketing at Basic Fun, which shrinks toys and games into key chains and portable electronic carabiners for on-the-go play, such as the Hasbro classic Monopoly. Blip Toys and Zing Toys are also shrinking their offerings. Zing will build the collectibility of its Ickee Stikeez characters by rolling them into a smaller version of its novelty pop-up toys ZeeBeez to create Ickee BeeBeez. Blip will launch a new brand called Squinkie Zinkies, which will be as detailed as the original Squinkies but one-third the size.
For Blip, innovation is in the detail. “With Squinkies, we’ve been able to add a lot of different features at a low cost,” says, Bill Nichols, Blip Toys CEO. “Innovation can come through material, color, style, size, value, or feature.”
And the more variety an impulse line can offer, the more opportunity there is for product collectibility and repeat purchases. Many toy manufacturers now offer packs of collectibles so consumers get the instant gratification of being a collector with one low-priced purchase, Nichols says. Offering variety within an impulse line likewise gives retailers the incentive to work with a toy company because of its ability to quickly switch up its offerings in stores. Ja-Ru, Inc., and its retailers set up a plan so that consumers often see a different toy than what was there the week prior, says Danny Bergman, director of sales and marketing, Ja-Ru, Inc.
As the category becomes increasingly more competitive in terms of selection, a toy company’s ability to react quickly to demands is particularly essential for novelty, says Spin Master’s Chizick. “The most important thing is being able to hit the gas when you need it,” he says. “The timing has to be so that you’re able to satisfy some appetite in the market to maintain [a toy’s] level of hotness.”
Competition in the category will continue to grow in 2012. As the economy continues to stagnate, these inexpensive collectibles are expected to remain hot with a lot more manufacturers jumping on board with this trend.
With Imperial’s licensed novelty projector flashlights, kids can project images of their favorite characters in the dark. Flashlights include three projector slides that snap onto the flashlight head and feature graphics of well-known licensed characters. The Lalaloopsy novelty projector flashlight, pictured, is one of the newest additions to the line. Flashlights are for ages 3–9.
Basic Fun will expand its line of electronic carabiners in 2012. The carabiners allow players to enjoy their favorite games in a miniature low-priced handheld format. Pictured is the Operation Electronic Carabiner from Basic Fun’s 2011 line. New additions will include Fruit Ninja, Mattel Classic Football, and Hasbro classics such as Monopoly and Scrabble.
Blip Toys’ Squinkies Bubble Packs are tiny squishy collectible figures shaped like people, animals, and licensed creatures. Squinkies come in packs of 14. Each figure is housed in a tiny plastic bubble. Squinkies Bubble Packs for boys also include two battle dice for Squinkies battles with friends. Roll the dice for super attacks and avoid knocking out your Squinkies crew or you lose. Squinkies are for ages 4 and up.
The Bridge Direct:
The Bridge Direct offers a line of licensed Annoying Orange toys including plush, collectibles, and clip-on key chains. When squeezed, the 2.5-inch Talking Kitchen Crew Collectibles, the 1.5- and 2.25-inch Talking Kitchen Crew Clip-Ons, and the 3.5-inch Talking Fresh Squeezed Plush tell classic jokes and puns from the YouTube series. The 1.25-inch Mini Kitchen Crew Collectibles come in packs of 12. All items feature the well-known Orange character styles along with the rest of the Kitchen Crew, including Pear, Midget Apple, Grandpa Lemon, Marshmallow, and Passion Fruit.
Spin Master offers a line of small collectible Moshi Monster Moshling figurines that come in one- or three-packs. Each one-pack collectible comes with one Moshling figure and one card with a secret online code to retrieve one special item for your adopted Moshi Monster online.
Ja-Ru, Inc., offers classic novelty items such as the whoopee cushion, noise putty, and dart shooters. Its line of Flarp Noise Putty is a non-toxic moldable play putty that comes in six different scents: orange, lemon, banana, strawberry, pineapple, and grape. Kids ages 3 and up can poke and squish the putty to make great disgusting sounds.
Mattel’s Hot Wheels Track Stunts cars come in packs of five and can be used for turbo-charged racing around the playroom or with certain Hot Wheels racing sets. Hot Wheels Track Stunt cars are for ages 3 and up.
Zing Toys features a line of squishy, sticky collectible figures called Ickee Stikeez. Each Ickee comes in its own plastic pod and features a suction cup bottom that sticks to flat surfaces and makes a popping sound when released. The Ickee Stikeez series one includes 24 Ickee monsters, with series two and three of the collectibles expected to launch in 2012.
SqwishLand’s new paint-it-yourself DIY Sqwishland kits lets kids paint their own rare SqwishLander. Kits come with a five-inch unpainted Sqwishland character, six acrylic paints, and one brush. Use the included code to unlock the online gallery at www.SqwishLand.com/diy to register and post your design. Each month, the SqwishLand online community vote on a favorite DIY design, which could become the next Rare Sqwishlander in the game and at retail. An artist’s guide and detailed instructions are included.