Affordable, Fun, Fast: The Impulse Category

Space on any retail shelf can be hard to obtain. With only a limited amount of space to go around, companies have to compete fiercely just to be seen. But there is one toy category that is often found outside of the toy aisle—and likes it that way. Found in bins or by the checkout line, the impulse and novelty category has established a place in today’s toy market that separates it from the standard products of the category and makes it a unique facet of the business. “Mattel has tracked toy shoppers behaviors and attitudes over the years and has seen women expressing an increased focus on managing money and time spent toy shopping,” says Pam Greer, senior director of customer marketing and consumer insight at Mattel. In today’s tight-pursed and time-conscious retail environment, the impulse category has never been more important to retailers or to manufacturers in making sales and attracting consumers.

Impulse products have always been an important category for retailers. When people keep a close eye on their budget, the category’s importance increases. “More than ever, price points are key,” says Jennifer Devine, director of marketing at Basic Fun, a division of the Good Stuff company. “Retailers are looking for them, consumers are looking for them, and impulse has them.” Most manufacturers interviewed agree that the sweet spot for impulse product today is between the $3.99 and $5.99 range, with higher end products pushing the envelope at $9.99. Basic Fun has also developed a line of low-price electronic toys, including carabiner games, which can go as high as $19.99, but still occupy the impulse niche due to their comparative low pricing and high profit margins for retailers.

Impulse has also become an extremely important category for licensors. While major brands will always find consumers for their main toy and product lines, parents can’t afford to buy a child the latest products every time they go to a store. Licensed impulse products, such as the Disney-licensed Pook-a-Looz collection from CDI, a division of Jakks Pacific, give consumers a more affordable way to interact with the brand. “You can buy into a brand without breaking into the bank,” says Herb Mitschele, senior vice-president of sales at CDI, “and for retailers, it’s easy to display and easy to make it work.”

The impulse category has seen a great deal of success in the past year mostly due to Silly Bandz, from BCP Imports. The line has made retailers, licensors, and even other manufacturers sit up and take notice. CDI’s Mitschele notes that the success of Silly Bandz products has been beneficial to the category as a whole, since the success of one impulse product line has opened up new avenues of distribution for other manufacturers. According to Mitschele, CDI has been able to establish programs this year with retailers that have previously avoided the impulse category, thinking of it as a low-profit business or feeling the space could be used for other retail opportunities. “More people are paying attention to the category,” says Mitschele, “and we’re certainly going to capitalize on the success that we’ve already seen.”

Perhaps what has really allowed impulse products to blossom in the past year is the category’s ability to adapt to a changing marketplace. “We’re pretty much in every kind of store you could think of,” says Mark DiPasquale, director of sales at PlayVisions. “If you have a cash register, you can sell our products.” And in any category, if you have a product that can sell, then you have a success.

  • PlayVisions: Aquattacks


    The Aquattacks are the latest version of PlayVisions Water Wiggles, featuring new monstrous decorations and features.

  • CDI: Pook-a-Looz


    Working with the Disney brand, CDI has developed a full line of Disney novelty products called Pook-a-Looz, which features stylized Disney characters as key chains, wind-up toys, and more.

  • Imperial: Googly Bands


    Imperial has released the sculpted rubber band sets known as Googly Bands in a number of themed collections, including animals, events, and more. The company has also just signed a deal to produce Googly Bands with multiple Hasbro brands.

  • BCP Imports: Yo Gabba Gabba Silly Bandz

    BCP Imports:

    BCP Imports has created a collection of Silly Bandz based on the characters from the Yo Gabba Gabba television series.

  • Basic Fun: Hello Kitty Coin Keeper

    Basic Fun:

    Basic Fun has teamed with Sanrio for a line of Hello Kitty impulse products, such as this Hello Kitty coin purse, called the Hello Kitty Coin Keeper.