9 Biased Perceptions You Should Know in Toy Business

Even as a business owner in toy business, we had a myopia in the way of our thinking and seeing. For example, you can't facilitate our stores with a nice playground as this is only allow kids to play only and not to buy toys. Other bias perception also take place in merchandising area, where as the more dense the products or number of SKU the more sales will be achieved and the more productive the selling space Other wrong perception also occurred in many other areas such as in branding, pricing, shrinkage, and in other strategic things. Hope this “9 Biased Perceptions You Should Know in Toys Business” helps you to avoid unnecessary failures while running your own toy business.

1. Toy business is all about seasonal passages.

Data shows us that during a period of 12- month, sales performance is noticed to be flat. However, there is a spike during Summer School Holiday and Xmas or Lebaran. But if we go through from Q1 to Q4 there apparently no significant spikes. The sales in Q1 is about 23% and Q2 which is has half part of Long Holidays is only 21%. The spike is on Q3 at 24% which has another half part of Long Holidays. And then the increase continues to Q4 at 32%. Q4 as we knew is the most festive season in the year for toy business.

So if you take a look at these data there is no outstanding increase of sales performance from quarter to quarter. I can say that we can sell toy product everyday and there is no month with no sales. Yes Q1 is the weakest period of sales, but still we can achieve a 23% contribution. So the challenge is how to “deseasonalize' toy business so you can enjoy better sales even during the hard and weak seasons. So the biased perceptions that we can only sell toy product twice a year is very wrong. We can sell it everyday!

2. There is no room to do partnership with competitors.

As your company grow, number of stores increased, points of distribution mushroomed, and your market share increased significantly, you feel that you don't need other player on market. You feel that it's the time ignore them. Old paradigm says that you can't cooperate in any ways with your competitors or other player in the same market. In fact is now we can do partnership with other player, it hasn't to be competed but in some cases we can do cooperate each other.

Business megatrend is shifting from frontal competition to cooperation, mergers, acquisitions, of just mutualism contract executions. For example here we can see big players in their respective market are hand in hand each other; Toyota - Daihatsu, NASA - ESA,  IBM – Lenovo, Suzuki – Maruti, and also in toy business; Mattel – Fisher-Price (formerly are two different leading companies before they mergered in 1993. Other examples of partnership or cooperation in toy business are: Tomy - Takara,  Airhog – SpinMaster – all Airhog product is marketed by SpinMaster, DSI Toys – Meritus, etc.

Even for a smaller scope such in mall events, why you shouldn’t hand in hand with the market leader to do a strong concept of retail execution? Hot Wheels is the market leader in diecast market worldwide including in emerging market like Indonesia. SIKU is a newcomer brand in Indonesian diecast market. Instead of competing and killing each other, now they enjoyed a unofficial arrangement in concourse events. Hot Wheels is continued as market leader without losing market share, SIKU is enjoy traffic, crowd, awareness and get significant growth in it’s chosen nice market. What a brilliant business strategy! In business you can’t beat the market leader, it’s wiser if you’re aiming for number two or as a second brand. Does it shock your current perceptions in toy business?

3. Cheap price will encourage high price sales.

This is another biased perception. It is not recommended to put cheap items in front of expensive ones in the same category with expectation that the expensive ones will sold. You can’t do fishing your customer with cheap price items to sell the higher price ones. All you have to is by focusing you normal price items in different focal area, or just in their homeshelf. You can do flashing the cheap items, slashed price items, discounted items by purpose in one dedicated focal area for promotions or clearance. You can’t mess them out and no focus. Dedicate both homeshelf and promo area for your brand, manage your promo areas (endcaps, main aisles, COC, etc) wisely, and you can’t be wrong.

However, we surely can sell novelty, generic and cheaper toy products as a “shut-up toys”, but it can be dangerous for your toy business when you endcaps, promo areas, and other focal points dominated by those kind of products.  You can’t make money with limited selling space through cheaper products or very seasonal items. For long term toy business, only branded product and long term brand that can pay your rental charges and make money.

4. No need of branding and marketing in toy business.

There is a bias perception when you think that your toy products don’t need any effort in branding and marketing as they are very seasonal. Please understand that toy is also a lifestyle product and there are two types of toy products: Seasonal Related Toys and Evergreen Toys. The first one is toy that related with season, novelties, trends, movie items, with short life cycle. And the second one is toy product with stronger concepts, higher values, and deeper meaning for celebration, gift giving, collectibility, hobby and lifestyle purposes. Both of those toy products should be sell not just as selling plastics. You need to wrap and pack it with the concepts and values: good materials, cheap yet strong and fun, safe toys, very educating, good value for money, investment for children developments, fun yet simple, high collectibility, best for baby’s headstart, etc.

It’s all about marketing as you need to add a value even for a stupid and tiny product like jumping beans or tattoo to a giant life size animal that equal to a real car selling price. When you sell jumping beans, you sell a series of collectible jumping fun. When you sell Hot Wheels you are selling speed, actions and adventures. You are selling real diecast car with high value, more metal and details, and yet licensed and collectible when you sell SIKU. Another example, Viking Toys delivers 5S’s concepts of simple, strong, soft, silent, and safe. You are about to sell developmental toys and early learning tools when you sell a baby toy, etc. Everything is about the concept behind the product that should be elaborated when you sell it. 

5. The more SKUs the more productive your toy stores.

Number of of SKU (Stock Keeping Units) is not one single variable that determine your sales turnover. The key is you have to rationalize what makes you store become productive in term of number of SKU, products mix, products adjacency, planogram, and other factors related. When we walked into the store, the first thing that felt by the consumer is the atmosphere of the store. When the store was so crowded - aisle in the store is too dense and filled with piles of promo stuff (bulkstacking) and not enough space to move freely, including when visitors must bring the stroller, then your stores become uncomfortable which ultimately makes the consumer does not stand to be in the store any longer. And later they presumably will not come back again. You do not sell rice, hardware, basic tools, or grocery items where more stock will lead to more productive. You do sell toys as a lifestyle product!

In toys business more often applicable law "less is more, more is less". For example 100 SKU with 3 backwalls with a turnover of 20 million a month, may be increased on it’s sales by rationalizing it to be only 50 SKUs with 2 backwalls. In other hand, when so many kinds of products in stores are not arranged through the right and smooth adjacent, when each brand is not displayed in their proper plan-o-gram, when there is no focus on the themes, the store starts to look messy, not neat, the final result is there is no direction for your customers. Same thing when we go into the wilderness with hundreds of thousands of species of plants and animals with no path, then most likely you will get lost and do not know where to go.

When it happens in toy stores, most likely your visitors will also "get lost" and do not know what to buy. It is important to create a convenient, playful and cozy store, no need to fear customers will just "leave" her home to play in the store. For baby area, it is important there is a sofa for pregnant mothers rest, the store needs to have nursery room so they remain comfortable during shopping in the store. Especially if you want to sell the fun, friendly environment, or adventurous and unique plaything selections fun experiences, then you should not assume every cubic inch of space is the area of sales!

6. Play area / open displays only engage children in playing and not buying.

In toy business this old perception is wrong if display has no effect on sales. You're lucky if you have toy product that make children become engage and comfortable playing with it. That means your product can be accepted by the children, united in their everyday activities and become part of his lifestyle. For children playing is their work. Similar with you who work in the office for 8 hours a day more often is never enough. And you frequently bring your jobs home. Same thing happen with the children, playing in store for only a few minutes definitely is not enough for them. They need toys that can be brought back home to be played at any time and or for their collection.

Your challenge is how to make the product "alive" and have "soul" so exciting to be approached, heard, seen, touched, tried, and purchased by consumers! Beside a hands-on and smart promoter in-stores, most of successful toy brands in the world have play area or displays as an effort to engage with their customers such as in Lego, Hot Wheels, Beyblade, Battle Strikers, Fisher-Price, Nerf, Airhogs, Uno, Playdoh, Monopoly, Twister, Tickle me Elmo, Tomica, and many other brands. They have play area, playland, open displays, play mat, tracks, or just showcase of collection that can be played or just seen for hours.

7. Our preferences are reflected children preferences.

Most of toy merchandisers and toy business owners choose products based on their own preferences and feelings of these products before they are sold or distributed. Sometimes we forget that the user of the products is not us but the kids or anyone else. Therefore some failure products often happens when we start business in this way.  Children has their own preferences on toy products. For examples, Mega Blocks Dragon Egg’s green color is apparently the most slow moving items comparing to other SKUs, Hot Wheels Speed Racer is not selling while everyone in Mattel was very confident that this property will booming, Iron Man R / C from Silverlit also has the same sad story and doesn’t sell well, Lego Duplo common response in the market was not good probably because of its large block can not be connect with other Lego series, and parents think better to buy the “real”  other Lego as a hedging on it for a higher age and product’s lifetime is longer. Now you easy to find Duplo with discounted price! And there is more other sad stories of failure in toy business.

Even toy product that successful in one country do not automatically get the same response in other country. So what we think is good in toys is not necessarily good for the kids, not necessarily good for the market. The best solution is actually to conduct focus groups before launching the toy, but it takes time and is not common in general toy business in emerging market.

8. Excessive worried of product shrinkage.

Is nothing wring with stricted loss prevention controls. So if you have set your business with good practices of such control to protect shrinkage then you don’t need to feel excessive worries. Toy business is a business related to the children that should not be "restricted", "suspected". You have to trust children or parents as your cutomers, and they can be considered “dishonest" and treated with other exaggerated negative stigma. Toy business is a business which need to be very friendly, full of confidence, and conducted in the atmosphere of fun, interactive, direct, participatory, cheerful, and other activities as reflected in the children’s life. However, it agrees that certain products placed in glass or acrylic case and locked when it comes to collectible, contain some small objects, high priced and easily lost.

Depend on what type of the event for another instance, if you do an event in the atrium mall but you put a fence around the atrium and excessive barricade that only made the psychological barriers to the children entering to the exhibition area. Not only was the concept of the exhibition is to be ugly, unfamiliar and not welcome but also make you a prisoner in your own cage. Actually yo already had a multiple control for your loss prevention. There is a sales assistant at every corner, there is a CCTV system, there is a supervisor, there is a security person, there Sensormatic, there is a POS in certain places so that consumers do not carry goods before it paid. That’s all enough!  You should never start a business with a suspiciously paradigm to your consumers. As you know, only by believing into your customers will gain the trust of them to toys you sell.

9. Self-righteous in toy business.

Seeing that what we have done proven to be a trendsetter, benchmark, or reference for other players or followed by others, is sometime makes us has already done the ultimate right thing.  Biased perception and complaisant attitude like this will only make you arrogant and myopia (nearsightedness) in view of future business challenges. Toy business is very dynamic and highly market-driven. What now we think is right is a moment of truth. Market is constantly changing, toy business is changing, the most sensible is to open up your mind to new inputs, learning new things, including learning from competitors.

Besides, the truth is actually very subjective, and highly influenced by many things: background of previous experience in doing business, competitive environment, etc.. Self-righteous attitude will close the opportunity to learn and change. Nothing is eternal, including the "truth" itself that we claim today. Good toy business should grow with the children and family, inspiring their days in making the best possible start in their development and better life through play.

5 Ways to Involve Yourself in Children's Play

The basic question is “Why should I have to involve in my children’s play?" The answer is just because  your involvement with your children will lead to a quality time and your closeness with your family. This will also help you to make sure your children are getting the most out of the toy benefits and keeping safe while playing.  For your review, here are 5 ways to involve in your children’s play and as guidelines that may be helpful:

1. You need to talk with your children.
When you involved with your children in playing, make sure you value their play and talk to them about their play. This is very important to show your expression and caring to them and at the same time appreciate them on what they play. For example if you can say “I love the way you’re playing”, “Excellent maneuver with that RC my son!”, are some of validating statements that will encourage your children to get closed to you and appreciate your presence as parent. In infant or toddler, talking with your baby will spark their capability to express their feeling and produce first words.

2. Don’t missed the early years.
Some parents are missed the early years of their children. Dr. Montessori, once said that “Working with children older than 3 years is too late to have the most beneficial effect on their life”. It’s very important to give your children the best possible head start in their lives. You need to spent your time to involve with your children when it is appropriate, especially during the early years (infant, toddler, and preschooler ages). By engaging in children's play, your children will get the clear message that their play is important and valuable.

3. Create a environment that playful.
Don’t just play with them. You need to be there with all your heart, full of laughter, and fun. Pleas create atmosphere that really playful. Go to the store nearest you and consult your concern as it’s very important for you to get playthings which your children can engage, explore and adapt in playing process. Some outdoor play, educational toys, baby toys, cars that run on tracks, RC, or bricks, are some of good examples for this purpose. You can do talk, race, or hand in hand while playing with your children.

4. Propose new experiences.
You need to be creative when playing and involving with your kids. Playing is very dynamic activity and sometime play appears to be stuck, no more interesting, and unproductive. Then you have to offer new ideas, prop, change the rules, propose new roles, or give them a new experience, such as outing, a field trip, or just like one my favorite activities my kids – camping.

5. Safety is number one concern.

As adult we have to keep in mind that safety is top priority for every playing activity. We have to identify which children’s play which has led to risks for our children and their peer in playing. We need to make sure and check the materials, tools, equipment for safety. And last but not least is we have to make children aware about any hidden risks or problems that potentially happen during children’ play. Children should alert for any possible harm in their physical challenges that should be accomplished during their play.

3 Stages of Playing Patterns You Should Know as a Parent.

Most psychologists and experts agreed that playing is a form of child’s work. As your children grow, playing has more complex meaning for their development of mental and physical. By understanding the stages of playing patterns in children development parents will have opportunities to push children's stages of developments reached optimally.

1. Sensorimotor Play.
Sensorimotor Play is the first stage that apparently occurred from newborn to the age of three. In this stage, playing is more emphasized on skill development for gross and fine motor skills. Throughout this stage children are challenged by their environment to produce their first accomplishments. Meanwhile in the physical developments areas, child are learning to master hand-eye coordination, and also learn learn basic cognitive skill through cause and effect. In this important stage of playing pattern,  children are developing path to what we called simple problem solving skill. Parent’s involvement through playing together with their babies is significant during this sensorimotor stage to build of closeness and to ensure that baby get the most out of their developmental toys.

2. Pretend Play.
The next step when baby reached 1 year, they will show a Pretend Play where they learn to imitate what have been done by their siblings and the adults. During this stage they start to understand symbolic patterns. This stage continuous until the kindergarten ages. In this pretend play stage, playing is becoming more complex as  children performed a role play with day to day matters where they’re very familiar. The presence of toys and other children will help them to get exercised and at the same time engaged with new meaning. Other expert also called this stage as sosiodramatic play as most of the time during this stage are utilized by babies to interact with others and environment.

3. Rules of the Games.
By the age of 5, children are entering the stage of Games with Rules. This stage is characterized by ability of justification play patterns or games. Children already knew how to deal with plaything that has special mechanism. During this stage children are developed more advance their sociodramatic play that eventually is becoming more tangible. They are started to understand certain concept such as terminology of competition in playing. The involvement of you as a parent is getting loose at this stage as they have their own preferences in picking their playing patterns and kind of activities including “working” with their toys.

12 Best Dollhouses for Children and Teenager

Dollhouses are one of the most famous toys for girls ages 3 and up. Most of leading toy manufacturer such as Mattel, Playmobil, International Playthings, Step 2, Melissa and Doug, produced dollhouses for your children and teenager. There are also dollhouses produced by leading wooden and bamboo toy manufacturer such as Hape/Educo from Germany and Plan Toys from Thailand. Mattel (as the umbrella for superb brands Barbie, Fisher-Price, Disney Princess, etc) is by far the major Dollhouse maker for young children in toy business.

The following list includes large, wooden/bamboo dollhouses, collectable dollhouses, and dollhouse for entry level that suitable for preschooler. The list doesn’t include price (just surf the internet should you want to buy), but you can also drop by leading retailers nearest to you. As everybody knows, the price (I preferred to use “investment” terminology) for single Dollhouse is apparently not cheap. The great thing for this imagination-builder toy is it can be passed down from sibling to another or even from one generation to another generation. Here are top 12 list of best dollhouses for children and teenager. (Pictures are copyrighted by respective brand owners).

Playmobil My Large Grand Mansion Dollhouse
Playmobil is big toy brand in Europe and getting noticed by parents in the US as the biggest market most of leading toy brands. In Asia this brand still need to be developed to grow. Playmobil is leading toy manufacturer from Zirndorf, Germany. They produced series of Dollhouses such as this Large Grande Mansion. It comes with a working doorbell, two staircases includes two figures, flowered window boxes and has space for seven set of accessories. Playmobil My Large Grande Mansion Dollhouse also has shutters that can be closed and the curtain that can be replaced or changed. You can have this Mansion furnished with series of furnitures and accessories that sold separately. If you have daughters aged 4 to 10 then this is the excellent Dollhouse to have.

Fisher-Price My First Dollhouse
Fisher-Price has a simple dollhouse with excellent quality that recommended for children ages 2 and up. This My First Dollhouse from Fisher-Price – the 3rd world’s largest toy manufacturer, comes with large figures and very easy for small children to hold and pose. It has all the heritage of traditional Fisher-Price’s intrinsic values which are very focus on product benefits to the children development. You can have other accessories that also sold separately include stroller, tv room, sister's room, parent's bedroom, and baby's room.

Disney Princess Ultimate Dream Castle
Mattel – the world’s largest toy manufacturer, as mentioned above has developed strong range in dollhouses including this Ultimate Dream Castle from Disney Princess. One of the uniqueness from this 3 storey tall princess castle  is it has over 50 different play pieces that already included in the pack. However, individual princess dolls are not included and you have to buy separately. Each room in the dollhouse is themed and designed for different Disney Princess dolls. This is truly a perfect dollhouse to place the series of Disney Princess dolls, if you don’t have a spacious room in your home.

Fisher-Price Loving Family Grand Dollhouse
If you want to have a dollhouse with extra large rooms, this Victorian dollhouse can be an option. Fisher-Price Loving Family Grand Dollhouse is recommended for chidlren ages 3 and up, it comes with eight extra large rooms. The unique proposition of this dollhouse is it has a wide opening to accommodate children multi playing activities. With the excellent quality form Fisher-Price, this dollhouse has everything you need to make it playful: figures of baby twins, Mom, Dad, dining room table, two chairs and two booster seats. However you can add series of playsets that can be purchased separately such as  the living room, kitchen, outdoor barbeque, bathroom, laundry room, baby room, kids room, living room, small office, dining room, and nursery room. This dollhouse is perfect companion for your little ones to keep busy and engage with positive activities through out their play times.

Playmobil My Take Along Dollhouse
Another cool dollhouse produced by Playmobil is this My Take Along Dollhouse. This dollhouse is the right choice if you want make you beloved -  little ones keep exciting on the go. Just keep in mind this nice dollhouse is recommended for children ages 4 and up. This portable dollhouse comes with all the accessories such as figures of two parents, a child, a baby, completed with cradle and a stroller, dining room furnitures, rocking chair, and accessories of  kitchen. This is truly a smart companion for your daughter while playing at home and on the go as well. 

International Playthings Calico Critter Luxury Townhome
If you have a 4 to 8 ages daughter  this  Calico Critters Luxury Townhome, produced by International Playthings is a good alternative. It comes with Calico Critters – mini animal that very adorable and have a smooth, soft, and velvety skin. This luxury gift of townhome is everything your expect for a dollhouse and a perfect plaything for your children. The differences with other dollhouse is that the flexibility of staircase and floor which is completely rearrangeable. It facilitated with 4 rooms with the lights turn on and off. And the room divider is awesome as your child can have an additional room or playspace.

Educo All Season Dollhouse Furnished
The advantages of this dollhouse from Germany’s based toy company are very interactive and basic-furnished already. Children can easily rearrange the roof to adapt the season, move the stairs, etc. However, the furnishing are not so complete but the modern rug is a plus point. This dollhouse featured with non-toxic finishes, and the highest quality standards.

Barbie 3 Story Dream Townhouse
Another famous dollhouse gift is Barbie 3 Storey Townhouse by Mattel. This dollhouse has all the accessories such as chandelier that glows, dining area, kitchen, fireplace, TV flat screen, bathroom, canopy bed, and and alsoi tiki lights. Is comes with one bed, 2 dining chairs, light up chandelier, shower, bathroom sink, kitchen counter with accessories, an elevator, an outdoor whirlpool tub, a doorbell that ring and a toilet that "flushes!" It really recommended for daughters ages 3 and up.

Melissa and Doug Fold and Go Mini Dollhouse
As an alternative to Playmobil take along dollhouse, this Melissa and Doug Fold and Go Mini Dollhouse is good companion to your daughter while on the go. This is portable and made up of wood dollhouse. It includes wooden play figures, amazing 11 pieces of wooden furniture (chair, bed, bathroom, toilet, table, tv, chair, etc.). And also has a great mechanism which is this dollhouse opens and closes so it capable to store all pieces fit the inside which is great for both at home and travel playing.

Step 2 Grand Balcony Dollhouse
Step2 from US also has great Dollhouses, but as you may have aware that all Step2 products are mostly made up of plastic.  One of the dollhouses is this Grand Balcony that has a large front porch with a balcony. It includes 3 levels for children and teenager to play with using up to a dozen inches high dolls. A minimum assembly is required and the accessories of dolls and furniture are sold separately.

Plan Toys My First Dollhouse
Plan Toys from Thailand also produced dollhouse that suitable for children ages 3 and up. This wooden dollhouse has 4 rooms inside the dollhouse. But if you decide to get this finest dollhouse for your children and teenager you need to buy all accessories including a bedroom, bathroom, living room, kitchen or dining room, and people that are sold separately.

Plan Toys Green Dollhouse with Furniture
This rubberwod dollhouse is made by by Plan Toys with very eco-friendly and and non-toxic finishes. It comes with everything green features such as passive solar design, a turbine powered by wind, a panel of solar cell with electrical inverter for generating electricity, a recycle bin, a rain barrel, a temperature control mechanism using a green fa├žade, and a canopy that can be pulled down preventing or allowing the shade, wind and sunlight coming through. An excellent dollhouse with future oriented and surely will educate your children and teenager to learn green features and how to live with in harmony and respect to nature.