John Baulch highlights some of the key new product introductions he saw during his Far East trip.
This year’s trip to Hong Kong was always going to be dominated by conversations about trading negotiations and how everyone was going to cope with the effect of sterling falling by almost 20%. Nevertheless, new product remains pivotal to the health of the toy market – consumers weren’t quibbling the price of a Hatchimal, or waiting for a retailer to have a ‘3 for 2’ sale before buying one in the run-up to Christmas. And thankfully there was no shortage of great new product to see in Hong Kong. Here are just a few of the new lines which caught my eye:
Worlds Apart enjoyed phenomenal success with Selfie Mic last year, demonstrating that while its licensed portfolio remains a major focus, developing its own IP is also of vital importance to the company. No surprise then to see a great extension of Selfie Mic with the new Spin to Sing game, as well as the introduction of several strong new lines including Kikai Robot Warriors, battling AI robot vehicles which look great fun. There’s also a new jeopardy game which involves not only the risk of being urinated on by a plastic dog, but also of the whole thing being played back in slow motion on a smart phone for the amusement of fellow players. I can see that appealing massively to kids everywhere.
Infantino B Kids is in the process of adapting its business model; no longer just a private label factory, the new Sensory range is the perfect example of where the company is heading. Available on a domestic basis, it’s an attractive multi-sensory learning range that I’m sure will open new doors in the UK market.
Jazwares has launched First Act, a range of high-quality, realistic musical instruments that has great potential in the toy retail space, while its Roblox range, which launches at the end of March, is definitely one to keep an eye on; a cross-platform sandbox video game and app with 2.7 million users in the UK, Roblox already has a huge fan base and each product will include valuable game unlocks.
Make it Real is a new company offering a wide range of product in the stationery & fashion craft category. It’s a crowded sector, but Oliver Williams has plenty of experience in this area, and with his business partner he’s put together a great range aimed at the older end of the market. They’ve already secured some great licences, including Disney – there is one Beauty and the Beast SKU which is going to be absolutely massive – and the attention to detail and play value is evident in every kit. Dare I say it, but the sketch books blow Top Model out of the water. The Dream Guides are a really smart touch too.
Addo Play continues to grow its offering; as well as expanding existing ranges, it will be introducing five or six new categories in the second half of 2017. Sell through has been strong, particularly with the craft, dough and Pitter Patter Pets lines. Distribution has already been secured in 20 countries, and with Adrian Roche on board to help spearhead their push into the American market, further impressive growth looks on the cards for 2017.
IMC enjoyed another great year with its Club Petz and Cry Babies ranges, both of which have great new introductions for 2017. But the start of the show is Bambo, which the company has described as its most ambitious product yet, with two years’ development behind it. Well worth checking out at Toy Fair.
MV Sports has an enviable licensed portfolio, including top performers such as Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig, Thomas & Friends, Star Wars, My Little Pony and Shopkins. Battery-operated vehicles helped to drive the company’s growth in 2016, with the Batmobile being the biggest seller. The new version of the Batmobile – as well as the new Lighting Mcqueen – will no doubt be huge this year. With Hoverboards, licensed electronic scooters and the company’s own brands (Hedstrom, Kickmaster and Stunted) all performing well too, expect another strong year across the board (no pun intended…honestly!).
A large part of Spin Master’s 2017 range is still unfortunately under press embargo, but suffice to say there are some fantastic additions to the autumn winter range which we’ll be able to talk about in a month or so. In the meantime, Kinetic Rock is a nice addition to the Kinetic Sand range, I’m impressed with the PowerPuff Girls range and the Cardinal Games range could give Spin Master a significant lift in the category.
Interplay has extended its successful Fuzzikins range, with Cottontail Cottage looking particularly strong, while My Fairy Garden continues to perform really well in the UK and is growing rapidly in international markets.
The Be Amazing range is a great addition to Trends’ science offering, while the addition of the Thomas & Friends phone and tablet will undoubtedly strengthen its ELA range. Also, look out for Thumb Chucks, a new craze item from Zing which will launch at the end of March, as well as a new suitably gross toilet-based game from Mega Bleu.
Alpha Toys’ Infinity Nado takes spinning tops to a new level, with functionality not seen in this area before; the tops are bigger, stronger and more versatile. Drone Force brings a cool creature aesthetic into the drone experience – the Angler Fish is incredible. I don’t use the word unique very often, but this is one time when it is justified. Wave Racers include a clever feature, whereby you wave your hand over the car to generate the power to make it race round the track. And then there is Super Wings; programming goes live on Cartoonito on 6th February, with 52 episodes in the first series. An extensive range spans all price points, starting with blind bags at £1.99, and encompassing transforming vehicles, diecast, remote control and a hero playset. This could definitely be one to watch in the Pre-School space this year.
Simba Smoby has arguably its strongest licensing slate ever. The Cars range looks particularly strong, including feature radio control items, a workbench and a fantastic driving seat. Wissper will be a spring summer launch with the specialists which rolls out trade-wide in autumn winter; it’s a nice property with great story-telling that could well catch on. The Transformers range includes a selection of fantastic transforming diecast and radio control vehicles, with the piece de resistance a fully transforming vehicle which you control with your i-phone. It really is an amazing piece of kit.
Sambro is another company with an impressive licensing portfolio, with hot properties including Despicable Me 3, Cars, Lego Batman, Paw Patrol, Shimmer and Shine and My Little Pony featuring across a wide range of product categories. With the emphasis on design, quality and value, it’s just exactly the sort of range that retailers will be looking for in the quest to offer their consumers the hottest licensed products at the best possible prices.
Funrise made great strides in the UK last year. One third of all branded bubbles sold in the UK last year were Gazillion, while the introduction of the new Giant Bubble solution (and the Giant Bubble Power wand in particular) will surely see that figure grow this year. Tonka has also been successfully re-established in the market place, and with the successful TV campaign being repeated in 2017, as well as the introduction of Tonka Tinys, another strong year looks on the cards. And then there is Luna Petunia; a Saban / Cirque du Soleil collaboration which started airing on Netflix on 9th December, it’s a charming animation. Funrise’s accompanying range is beautifully-detailed and vibrant, and could well make a big impact on the girls’ market in 2017.