NEW YORK — The big trends at Toy Fair held here this month promise not to be too pricey for supermarkets to merchandise.
After five years of tech toys leading the way, consumers and retailers are asking what else there is. “The answer is ‘green’ toys,” said Reyne Rice, toy trends specialist and consultant for the Toy Industry Association here.
Consumers and retailers are searching for healthy, active toys with an ecology, astronomy or other science component, she said. “Because of the popularity of green toys, which have a lot of different price options, supermarkets will be able to carry many of the year's hot items,” she said.
In walking the show floor, SN noted classic styles of toys updated with modern, eco and socially conscious sensibilities.
One such line, MiYu Stones from Winscott, Gilford, N.H., is essentially a rock collecting game. However, the stones come with books and pamphlets that teach about geology. They have an interactive website that tells a magical story for each type of stone and, with every purchase, kids can go to the website and choose to support a branch of partner Unicef, which will receive 1% of the proceeds from their purchase. Opening price point for the game is $6.99.
“I'm calling the Web component of toys the cyber playground,” Rice said. “That combination of off-line play with a dedicated developmentally appropriate [element] is a big trend.”
At the higher end, SN noted the Idbids line of plush toys from Idbids, Atlanta, which features three characters: Scout, a cloud; Lola, a flower; and Waverly, a drop of water. Each 9-inch toy comes with a storybook and field guide made from eco-friendly materials to teach children the “iddy biddy” steps they can take to keep the earth healthy. The manufacturer's suggested price is $49.99.
Retro toys have also proved to be a lasting and affordable trend, Rice said. “For the last five years, nostalgia and retro have been popular with consumers and this year many classic brands are using anniversaries as promotions.” For example, the My Little Pony line from Hasbro, Pawtucket, R.I. is having its 20th anniversary, while Hotwheels from Mattel, El Segundo, Calif., is 40, and the Lego Brick, owned by the Lego Group, Billund, Denmark, is 50, she said.
SN noted the appearance of Mattel's ViewMaster toy at the show. “Classic, recognizable toys are likely to be purchased by Baby Boomers, who are now becoming grandparents, as gifts for their grandchildren,” Mattel spokeswoman Sandy Kensinger told SN. Price points start at $4.99.
For moms in their 30s, Winscott is reintroducing a popular line of dolls from the '70s, called Monchhichi. “Women in their 30s will see these in the store and remember them from their own childhood. This makes them a great choice for their kids,” said Gail Jackman, vice president of U.S. sales. Monchhichi dolls start at about $10, she said.
Underscoring consumer confidence in ecologically sound toys and toys with traditionally trusted brand names, the Toy Industry Association announced a proposal for a new toy-testing and safety-verification system during the show.
The program would consist of three major components: manufacturer/designer risk assessment documentation, process control assessment, and production testing, according to the proposal, which has been published for a one-month period of public review by the American National Standards Institute, Washington.
“Upon successful completion, the product or packaging would bear a seal or mark. Through retailer and consumer education, the presence of the mark will enhance confidence that any toy that bears it complies with all applicable regulations and consensus safety standards for the U.S. market,” the proposal says.
Most companies interviewed by SN at the show felt confident that their current testing procedures could be easily expanded to fit new safety standards and that consumers will look for the seal, although some thought an increase in product cost might be necessary.
“I don't think meeting the standards will be a problem at all, but some added cost will have to be absorbed somewhere along the line,” Jackman said.
Overseeing the initiative is the Toy Industry Association.