Cos. play on education, tradition to nab consumers’ toy dollars

Bendon Publishing does strong business in the drug channel with its licensed properties.

Consumers may be cutting their budgets, but when it comes to toys, there’s always room for a little splurge. Parents are more likely to cave when the toy offers educational value or is a classic.

Traditional toys are a mainstay of the category—particularly in the drug channel, where price points in the toy aisle rarely top $10. “Evergreen, classic games continue to be popular,” said Adrienne Appell, a spokeswoman for the Toy Industry Association. “They are affordable and have appeal across generations, particularly around the holidays.”

“Classic games like Monopoly and Candy Land offer great value, and because parents and even grandparents have fond memories of playing with these brands when they were children, they want their kids to have a similar experience,” said Gary Serby, a Hasbro spokesman. Serby said that Mr. Potato Head and Play-Doh, other classic Hasbro brands, are consistent performers.

Key licenses also impact the game and puzzle category. Walgreens and Bartell Drugs will be carrying Curious George and Dr. Seuss I Can Do That!, as well as ZimZala games from The Wonder Forge this holiday season. The Wonder Forge has secured game rights for a line of Angelina Ballerina preschool games and puzzles that include a board game, matching game and puzzles, which will debut in fall 2011.

Evergreen licenses are a big part of the children’s book category. Bendon Publishing, which markets board, sticker and activity books with 35 licensed properties, does a strong business in the drug channel. “Drug has been our second-largest channel behind the dollar stores,” said Bendon CEO Ben Ferguson. “Activity books with add-on features, such as crayons, stickers, posters or growth charts, and [those] priced below $2, have been a huge business.” Bendon has developed power wing and counter displays, particularly for the seasonal aisle, for CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid.

Small collectible toys also are a steady hit with consumers. “Collectability is key for kids—they collect, display and trade figures,” Appell said. “Sometimes these products are an afterthought for drug retailers, but they really hit the pricing sweet spot for the channel and have solid sales.”

Drug chains have been successful with Disney Fairies collectibles from Jakks Pacific. A key item is Jakks mini Magic Glow Fairies, with light-up molded wings, priced at about $10. The collection also features 9-in. fairy dolls that retail for $10.99.

“Disney Fairies line continues to be popular with girls this holiday season, boosted by the recent and successful movie release, ‘Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue,’” said Kim Ferguson, director of girls marketing at Jakks. “The $20 and under price point is very attractive to consumers this year, and many of our products fall into this category.”

For boys, Jakks is featuring Ultimate Fighting Championship figures and a new line of Total Nonstop Wrestling figures.

Science and educational toys continue to be popular with parents. “Parents are demanding more value from the toys they buy, and those that help inspire creativity and learning are at the top of the list,” said Joyce Baker, national sales manager for Fascinations. Baker expected the company’s AntWorks Space Age Habitat for Ants to be a hit this holiday season.

Fastest-growing toy categories

Action figures and accessories $1.6 4.0%
Arts and crafts 2.5 7.0
Building sets 1.1 23.0
Games/puzzles 2.4 1.0


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