TIAAdrenaline-pumping active toys and awe-inspiring robotics are among the hottest trends.

The U.S. Toy Industry Association (TIA) recently announced the top toy trends of 2017 at its 114th North American International Toy Fair. Among the hottest trends are collectibles 2.0, movie mania and up & active.  

“This year’s trending toys reflect the creative force and vitality of the North American toy industry, which is coming off an excellent year of 5 percent sales growth powered by industry ingenuity,” Adrienne Appell, a leading trend expert at TIA, said in a release. “With more room for innovation and a greater willingness to take risks, toymakers are pulling out all the stops to create highly ground-breaking products, reinvent play patterns, and refresh classic brands with cutting-edge technologies and exciting new licenses. Best of all, these toys build children’s developmental skills through collaborative, hands-on, and imaginative play.”   

A summary of the top six trends follows:  

Collectibles 2.0

Collectibles were a top contributor to toy industry growth last year (posting 33% growth with $1.8B in sales, per The NPD Group), and they are expected to maintain their popularity in 2017. This trend includes basic and affordable collectibles, collectibles that have multiple play functions, as well as some higher-priced licensed collectibles with intricate styling details for the most avid collectors and passionate fans. Collectible toys help children develop lifelong skills, including social skills (when negotiating and trading with friends), organization skills (as they maintain their collections), and perseverance (not giving up on the “hunt”).

Up & Active

Toys that encourage kids to get up and move – both indoors and outdoors – are on the rise. The latest active toys not only motivate kids to burn off excess energy, they are also engaging for the whole family and are more seamlessly integrated into other types of play. This trend includes tech toys that weave in active components, classic outdoor ride-ons, traditional games that incorporate physical activity, and digital toys that foster face-to-face play.  

Technology Trends

Toy companies are continuing to innovate and think outside the box as they incorporate engaging tech components into their products. The good news for consumers is that technologies that were just emerging a few years ago (like 3D printing) have become a lot more affordable for manufacturers, making high tech experiences more readily available at realistic price points. This year we are seeing a surge in augmented and virtual reality toys, drones, virtual pets, robotics, and more. Most importantly, toymakers are successfully leveraging technology to enhance traditional play patterns rather than replace them.

Oh So Classic!

Along with their high-tech counterparts, low or no-tech toys with retro and classic styling and materials (like wood) will hold their own after a strong 2016 (last year, games/puzzles and dolls were among the fastest growing toy categories tracked by NPD). This trend includes retro brands that are either reinvented or reintroduced for a new generation to enjoy. These toys are appealing to parents, grandparents, and kids, and are a great way to foster intergenerational play.

Movie Mania

Licensing has been a huge boon to the toy business for the past several years (capturing about 30% of total U.S. toy sales) and 2017 will be no exception, thanks to a wave of family-friendly movies hitting theatres. From two LEGO movies (Batman and Ninjago) to Cars 3, Smurfs: The Lost Village, and Beauty and the Beast, this might be the best year for movies (and toys with movie tie-ins) in recent history. Expect to see licensed toys featuring popular characters and stories across every single category – including ride-ons, plush, action figures, and puzzles.

From STEAM to STREAM?

The trend in educational toys that teach kids important concepts like Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM), isn’t going away. In fact, it’s getting more comprehensive thanks to a slew of exciting and engaging products that ignite kids’ curiosity. In 2017, expect to see Robotics incorporated into the trend – transforming STEAM to STREAM. And we can’t forget the learning component imbued in classic toys like puzzles, memory games, building blocks, stacking toys, and other playthings that teach critical skills like problem-solving, creativity, and critical thinking.

the bridge directThe Bridge Direct, a well-respected marketer of children’s consumer products, has entered into an agreement to merge with Toronto-based Tech 4 Kids. The company plans to use this opportunity to accelerate a roll up strategy, working closely with its merger and acquisition advisors and banking partners. The new company will target their products to a diverse group of mass market and specialty retailers around the world.

“It is no secret that industry stakeholders are looking to do more business with fewer and stronger partners. This makes it harder for smaller companies to stay relevant and competitive,” Jay Foreman, CEO of The Bridge, said in a statement. “Challenges facing the industry are compounded by the additional costs and complexities associated with meeting the increasingly high safety standards required by regulators, retailers and licensors. As a result, many industry business owners are looking for a way to scale up, reduce their risk or simply cash out.”

“It is our expectation to acquire or merge with new businesses every twelve to eighteen months. Our strategy is designed to offer these owners a convenient solution with access to global markets,” Brad Pedersen President and CEO of Tech 4 Kids said in a statement. “This move will provide a unique platform that will position us amongst the top tier of toy manufacturers in North America and provide the growth plan to reinforce our position as a key industry player.”

The new company will begin to show product lines at the Fall Toy Preview in Dallas in October. The head office will be located in Boca Raton, Fla., and offices will continue to be maintained in Toronto and Hong Kong.

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toy fair 2

Hundreds of thousands of innovative and skill-building toys and games will make their debut in New York City this weekend. 

This weekend, Feb. 18- 21, more than 25,000 people with gather in New York City for the 114th North American International Toy Fair – the largest toy, game and youth entertainment product marketplace in the western hemisphere.

Produced by the U.S. Toy Industry Association (TIA), Toy Fair will open its doors at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center Saturday, Feb. 18, showcasing hundreds of thousands of innovative and skill-building toys and games throughout the weekend.

An estimated 30,000 global play professionals – including 11,000 international buyers – will explore the massive 443,000 net square feet of exhibit space bursting with brand-new playthings from more than 1,100 toy companies.

“For more than a century, New York Toy Fair has seen the launch of countless timeless treasures – from Barbie and Mr. Potato Head, to Tickle Me Elmo and Silly Putty – and has evolved into a powerful gateway to the $87.4 billion global toy market,” Steve Pasierb, TIA president & chief executive, said in a statement. “With more than 100 countries represented at the marketplace and the U.S. toy industry coming off a very strong year, we look forward to seeing the global toy community raise the bar on creativity, ingenuity, and fun at Toy Fair 2017!”

Toy Fair will also showcase the year’s hottest trends in toys and celebrate their ability to transport kids to magical worlds through play. From skill-building creative toys to educational playthings for kids of all ages, Toy Fair will offer something for everyone.

In addition, Toy Fair will host several educational sessions that will cover toy safety, retail strategies, global market expansion, licensing, entrepreneurship and more. Toy Fair will also have special after-hours networking events throughout Toy Fair week. A full schedule of educational and networking events can be found at www.ToyFairNY.com.

GoDigital

YOU Technology discusses how to build shopper loyalty through digital offers.

By Cheryl Black, CEO of YOU Technology

More than 20 years after the Internet revolution, consumers have developed strong expectations for the ease and convenience it delivers. The most successful retailers navigated the Internet’s initial disruption by balancing the needs and realities of physical stores with growing consumer interest in digital experiences.

Over time, top retailers and new competitors met the challenge of evolving technologies and turned the disruption into a huge opportunity for themselves. The companies that didn’t are no longer with us or are shadows of their former selves. We see a similar challenge and opportunity in digital offers.

Very few people imagined the world of mobile as it exists today and no one can tell the future. But one thing is clear: The online world continues to evolve in unexpected and exciting ways. And so do the expectations of retail customers.

Take brand marketing in retail. Coupons, promotions and discounts are time-honored retail tools. The basic framework hasn’t evolved much since the invention of the shopping cart – or has it? Paper coupons still abound so they must be working, right?

Not exactly. More than half of consumers use a smartphone to find a coupon when they’re in a store, and more than three-quarters spend at least $10 more with each mobile coupon. The pace of digital adoption is skyrocketing. In January 2016, we reached three billion offers downloaded on our platform. By October, we passed four billion downloads. Just a few weeks later and 300 million more offers have been downloaded as consumers speed towards digital options that far surpass the paper world.

As with most Internet-related changes in business, the value is in the information. Integrated digital offers enhance the competitive stance of retailers through the basket-level transaction history they have been building for years. Who has better insights than retailers into the regular patterns of shoppers and their families who have built their lives in the community? Retailers can apply this knowledge to reward and support their loyal customers and attract and retain new customers.

Digital technologies and expertise let retailers reach shoppers when and where it makes the most sense in their lives. That helps to make customers and retailers happy at the same time. Based on our data, here are three key insights we’ve learned over the last 10 years at our integrated digital offers company, YOU Technology:

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