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Toy Fair trend spotting

By It's My Life on March 1, 2011 2:04 PM | No TrackBacks

As you hopefully know, IML is a non-commercial website; we don't directly sell or advertise anything. That doesn't mean we're not aware of what's out there for tweens and their families to buy. We like to watch what hits and what misses...and of course, what IML'ers will be talking about on our You Said It pages.

Last month, we attended the American International Toy Fair (just call it Toy Fair) in New York City -- the U.S.'s largest convention of toy manufacturers, sellers, designers, licensers -- to get a handle on what will be competing for your cash in the coming year. We walked around for hours checking out thousands of new (and classic) games, dolls, puzzles, action figures, name it. It was sorta like getting a guided tour of Santa's workshop, but instead of jolly elves hammering away on wooden horsies, we mostly saw lots of men and women in well-pressed business suits trading business cards and writing up sales orders.

So here's what we noticed:

IMG_3015.JPGWeird stuff. Sparkly rainbow unicorns and cuddly teddy bears are classics, and there were tons at the convention. These things will never go out of style; the names and brands may change, but the adorable, huggable heart of them remains the same. But if your taste in playthings is a little more dark or macabre, then there will be plenty aimed at you too. We liked the movie monster statues and creepy bobble-heads, the gorily wounded stuffed animals and collectible zombie/gothic kid dolls. There we also action figures based on unexpected movies, like "The Big Lebowski," and we like the trend of making products out of "cult" properties.

IMG_3021.JPGSuperheroes. Whether you're into characters from Marvel, DC or Indie companies, there will be lots of goodies to tempt you. Superheroes have ruled the movie box office for years now, and they're doing bang-up business in the toy world too. We especially loved the cutesy kid and baby versions of the comic heroes, like the plush Hulk, Wolverine, Iron Man and Thor. It's funny how toy manufacturers are always trying to find a new angle on something that's been around forever.

IMG_3024.jpgDécor. A number of companies were showcasing stuff to help decorate your favorite spaces. Two different booths offered cool removable locker stickers (basically big adhesive-backed posters) with groovy images, colors and patterns. It seems that more and more companies want to take advantage of the trend towards tricking out your locker.

The "next Silly Bandz." We saw one company hoping for that title: they make little plastic charms with loops that let you hang them on anything you want. Our prediction? Who knows! There are lots of cool products out there, but only some are lucky enough to get the right publicity and catch on.

Character domination. Branding is still the key to selling toys, so companies are eager to cover their products with pictures of the most popular characters from movies and TV. And hey, we like Spongebob and Buzz Lightyear as much as anybody, but do they have to be on EVERYTHING? We wish these toy makers would show a little variety within the brand and use more than one piece of artwork...we saw the same exact image of the same exact character on everything from puzzles and posters to furniture and tableware.

One thing that still surprised us was the sheer quantity of stuff out there to give young people the gimmees. As it gets cheaper and cheaper to make things, there are more and more things to be sold.

If none of this is earth-shattering, that's because there doesn't seem to be anything truly fresh and exciting on the horizon -- and maybe that's the point. While a new product may seem super cool and different at first, it's often similar to something that came before...maybe just with a twist to get you to buy it.

Does it sound like we're trying to get you to be savvy consumers of toys? Well, of course we are! We've got more tips on how to savvy up in our Spending Smarts section.

So what are your predictions? What will people be putting on their birthday and holiday wish lists in 2011?

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