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Spielwarenmesse: 7 trends in toys

The fair gathers the toy industry from 29 January to 3 February

  • Key4Communications

The Nuremberg Toy Fair, Spielwarenmesse, started its 65th year with optimism. The professionals we spoke with pointed to a positive end of 2013 and a good feeling for 2014, both for toy makers and retailers. On our tour of the exhibition, we identified the following trends:

1. Optimism. Spanish toy professionals closed the year with slight gains (+0.3%, according to the NPD) and have started 2014 with optimism. The caution among retailers during last year has resulted in low inventories that give everybody more leeway to launch new actions.

In fact, many exhibitors are launching a good amount of new products for the first half of the year, as is the case with LEGO, which introduced its new line of products related to The LEGO Movie, which premieres on February 7th, as well as its LEGO Junior range, for boys and girls between 4 and 7, aiming to fill the gap between LEGO Duplo and LEGO City players.

Playmobil also introduced new toys - 45% of its catalogue is made of new references, including redesigns. In 2014, the firm turns 40, and it will celebrate this anniversary with commemorative products. Also, most companies are extending ranges and strategies, as proved by Schleich – the firm wants to boost play sets sales, as well as incorporate more licenses (the Peanuts and DC superheroes will be beside the Smurfs at the stores).

2. Technology. Technological toys are increasing their presence in the market. For example, the main new launch of IMC Toys is the Invizimals range - the first brand for which the company acts as a global master toy. The toy maker will launch this collection in April, combining toys with augmented reality. In 2014 Vtech launches its Kidipets Touch 2, new interactive pets, and its Kidizoom Smartwatch, including video, photos and games, in addition to its tablets. Smartwatches are a trend to consider: Smoby is also developing another for the Spanish market, under the Violetta license.

Tablets are still a profitable product, especially if they offer educational content and good customer service, as is the case Clementoni. The toy maker explains that the main problem is the saturation in the category in the Spanish market: according to NPD data, there are more than forty models on the market, a unique situation that shows the Spanish tendency to exploit any trend as fast as possible, without taking into account any long-term strategy whatsoever.

3. Action figures. Following the success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 2013, toys targeting (mostly) boys can regain prominence and continue their growth trend. In addition to expanding the TMNT range, Giochi Preziosi also launches Atomicron, mini figures created by the author of Gormiti. Famosa enters the category with Mutant Busters, and Hasbro launches new toys in this segment for both Marvel superheroes and Transformers, as the fourth film opens in the summer. Mattel also boosts its Max Steel action figures range, hoping to meet expectations in 2013.

4. The strength of early childhood toys. Preschool brands continue to grow in importance, which is not surprising when you consider that children are leaving traditional toys and moving to electronic devices sooner. LEGO Duplo has introduced products for children starting one year and a half. Tomy aims to quadruple sales of Lamaze in Spain. Vtech’s early childhood line has grown by 16.6%.

5. More than a good deal. Although price is an important purchase decision factor, is not the only one, since consumers value other aspects such as value, respect for the environment and other product and ethical considerations. Many professionals suggest retailers channel not to bet everything on deals and promotions, not only because of the loss of margin, but also because consumers want to enjoy a complete shopping experience. Daniel Rossinés, General Director at Comansi, points to the need to streamline the selling point with actions that help refresh the concepts and support other communication activities. If not, clients will eventually turn to the internet, where they can compare prices and features, and enjoy the convenience of receiving the product at home.

It is true that, for example, Injusa has increased both production and sales of its most economical lines, but the company is still committed to their quality vehicles and outdoor toys. As Santiago Guerra, EVP at Bizak, says, brand is also growing in importance and "if the product is good, people will buy it."

6. Seasonality of sales. The concentration of sales during the season and especially in the last two weeks is a matter of particular concern for the Spanish industry. Consumers are used to last-time deals and promotions to the point that, according to NPD, the last week of the season recorded 13.3% of all 2013 sales.

This prevents proper planning of the season, along with a growing difficulty to replenish product in stores. Milagros González, Commercial and Marketing Director at Bandai, suggests that the solution is that "distributors and manufacturers work together and make a common front."

7. Diversification in brands. As for licenses, there was not a dominant brand as we saw the last two years with Monster High. Disney maintains a significant presence (Violetta, Sofia the First, and Doc McStuffins, in addition to its classic brands), and the Minions are increasingly widespread. Of course, the big toy makers are boosting their brands with licensing programmes, especially Mattel and Hasbro. Peppa Pig will remain important and we should not forget the weight of niche brands, as Mega Brands has demonstrated with its toys for Halo and Call of Duty.

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