Toy industry unveils 2013 holiday lineup
The American International Toy Fair has some serious implications for toy companies' bottom lines.
The holiday season may seem like a distant memory -- or perhaps more like a recent credit card statement. But it's never too early to start planning for the next one, especially if you're a parent.
At least, that's what the toy industry hopes you're thinking as it gathers in New York this week for the 110th American International Toy Fair. Billed as the "largest toy and youth product marketplace in the Western Hemisphere," the event brings in more than 1,000 toy manufacturers, distributors, importers and sales agents -- all actively hawking their wares.The fair is produced by the Toy Industry Association, whose more than 550 toy manufacturers and importers reportedly account for an estimated 85% of the U.S. domestic toy market.
So this isn't just a game of checkers we're talking about. According to The NPD Group, overall U.S. retail toy sales totaled $16.5 billion last year. That's down slightly from 2011. There were some bright spots and signs of a recovering economy, however, as consumers pushed toy sales over the $5 billion mark in December for the first time in three years.
So this industry-only event has some dead-serious implications for toy companies -- who are working hard to convince the 20,000 or so retailers in attendance that their product will become this year's breakout amusement.
So far, some apparently adult-oriented diversions are making a buzz at this year's fair -- things like figurines and other spin-offs from upcoming movies and cable TV shows. Need a "Breaking Bad" action figure? They've got one.
Interactive toys are also making a splash. There's a plush doll called Ubooly -- a "smart toy" that can talk and play games with you via an Apple (AAPL) iPhone or iPod. Slide your device into the Ubooly, says the Apple website, "and watch your friend come to life."
There are also updated versions of toys that even parents may be familiar with -- such as new Hot Wheels sets by Mattel (MAT), a digital Barbie vanity mirror that allows mess-free makeup experiments, and a softer and fluffier Play-Doh.
"We're reinventing older brands so that kids can rediscover them as if they were new," John Frascotti, chief marketing officer for Hasbro (HAS), told the Los Angeles Times. "A 5-year-old doesn't know or care that a toy has actually been around for decades."
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