Hoping to improve this year's already $700 million sales shortfall, toymakers are gearing up with big plans for the fourth quarter armed with products recently exhibited at TheTimetoPlayMag.com Holiday Showcase.
Characterized as "a tough year" so far by the magazine's ceo and editor-in-chief Jim Silver, toymakers have been challenged by lagging sales at the box office, a soft spring/summer selling season, and looking ahead, six less days for holiday shopping and an early Hanukkah.
For this reason, those harder to find items will be harder to find driving more consumers into stores hunting for popular products earlier than ever.
Retailers have already begun to lure consumers with free layaway, price match guarantee, reward dollars, exclusive products and aggressive social media campaigns hoping to capture the first dollars of the holiday season
Interestingly, infuriated shoppers slammed Kmart on its Facebook page when it launched its Christmas campaign more than 100 days before the holiday to get a jump on the competition. Keeping the momentum going, the retailer created its Fab 15 list featuring its top picks for the holiday season including an exclusive 2013 Barbie Collector Auburn Hair Holiday Doll.
Not to be outdone, Walmart turned to 1,000 kids (ages 18 months to 10 years old) when developing its "Chosen by Kids" top toy list for classic and new toys. The top 20 toys will be grouped together throughout the season in special in-store displays, on Walmart.com and in newspaper circulars around the country.
Toys "R" Us also announced aggressive plans including a loyalty program where members can earn up to 10% back, up to 100%, on qualifying toy purchases through October 31. An e-gift card will be delivered in November allowing them to complete their holiday shopping. Its return policy has also been extended through January 25.
Now that retailers have set the stage for the all-important holiday season, let's see what will be filling shopping carts in the weeks ahead.
Monster High will definitely scare up interest with its 13 Wishes Doll
Assortment with two new friends Gigi Grant (daughter of a genie) and
Twyla (daughter of the Boogie Man). Each
doll comes with a pet, diary, brush, doll stand and character-specific
Toys "R" Us and Justice already committed to The Beatrix Girls, a brand new collection of four pop star dolls that will allow girls to collect original music, join their fan club and vicariously live the fantasy of being a pop star through play.
Also new is Pinkie Cooper and the Jet Set Pets from Bridge Direct which lets girls follow the adventures of Pinkie and friends Ginger Jones and Pepper Parson via a blog Pinkie Post. The line also includes a collection of pets and fashion accessories.
Fairytale characters in a modern day high school setting is the backdrop for Fairy Tale High with teenage Snow White, Rapunzel, Belle, Sleeping Beauty, Little Mermaid, Alice in Wonderland, Tinker Bell and Cinderella brought to life as they might have been before they became fairy tale princesses. A series of webisodes and eBooks will showcase each character's teenage story.
On the entertainment front, kids TV favorites Doc McStuffins, Disney's Sofia the First, Chuggington and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are sure to generate foot traffic. Look out for Doc McStuffins Get Better Checkup Center from Just Play as one to watch as well as the Talking Magical Amulet from Jakks Pacific and the Chuggington StackTrack line from TOMY with playsets that lets kids build tall, spiraling layouts. Two movie standouts "Despicable Me 2" and "Planes" will get play on retail shelves with Thinkway Toys creating several exclusives for Toys "R" Us including talking GRU, Agnes, Dave and Stuart as well as talking minions available in multiple channels. For "Planes," the company creates Talking U-Command Dusty, a remote controlled plane with sound effects.
Nestled alongside some traditional toys will no doubt be technology-driven products such as tablets. Category leader LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc. debuts the LeapPad Ultra with more memory, a bigger 7-inch screen, peer-to-peer play and a library of more than 800 interactive educational games, creativity apps, eBooks and videos.
Sharing the spotlight will be the VTech Kid Connect2 communication app for the InnoTab 3S. The new app allows kids to be connected with their parents and friends through both tablet-to-mobile and tablet-to-tablet communication. TechnoSource also showed off its new Kurio Android devices for families with kids including the Kurio 7S, Kurio 10S and Kurio Touch. The Kurio 7s and 10s contain a pre-school through 6th grade learning system as well as apps from Disney/Pixar's Cars 2, Disney Princess and Marvel's The Avengers.
The cute factor is kicked into high gear with Fisher-Price's Skate & Spin Dora & Boots with the two Nick faves skating side-by-side, doing spins or skating in a conga line.
Goliath Games puts an interesting spin on game play with HolograFX which allows children to create holographic images with the use of hologram theater, magician-quality illusions and an app.
Iron Man fans will be able to send their own superhero soaring through the air at incredible distances of over 200 feet with the new RC Extreme Hero from EB Brands.
Mega Bloks takes on Activision's Skylanders SWAP Force with several detailed playsets including Flynn’s Rescue Ship complete with working launcher, lander and crane as well as Magna Charge, Hot Head, and Flynn characters with cool new light up powers.
Big hugs will be delivered with Hasbro's Big Hugs Elmo, a 22-inch lifelike interactive Elmo with flexible arms and a soft head. Furby Boom which combines physical and digital play and the ability to hatch digital Furbling friends is another one to watch. The free app will be available for download at the App Store and Google Play.
Some battery-free fun for preschoolers includes Magic Fun Dough from Rose Art with six theme kids: three each for boys and girls. The dough is formulated to absorb colored transfers without changing the color or texture of the dough, making the dough last for endless creative play.
I'm really excited about all the new and interesting products that will fill shopping carts in the weeks ahead and hopefully fill kids hearts with a lot of joy!