Posted by Barry Silverstein on February 12, 2010 10:46 AM
Toy Fair, kicking off in New York this weekend, is the big show for new toy introductions. When toy manufacturers display their wares this year, analysts expect them to be conservative as the recession subsides, pitching value more than price.
"You will see the manufacturers emphasize how much play time or value the kid gets out of the toy and then talk about the amazing price associated with that play value," says Anita Frazier, an analyst with market research firm NPD Group.
Toy makers will focus primarily on two areas – going green and leveraging technology – to boost sales in 2010. For the first time, Toy Fair will include a "green pavilion" to highlight environmentally friendly toys. It's a response to retail buyers who said last year they wanted more "eco-friendly" products to market to consumers.
This year, for example, Hosung, maker of the miYim organic toy line, will feature toys designed in association with anthropologist Jane Goodall as an alternative to chemically treated toys. WHAM-O will introduce a line of biodegradable preschool toys. Eco-friendly toys come with a price, however, since they are often made from organic materials that are safer for children.
Technology will also play an increasingly important role in this year's toys. As reported earlier, Mattel plans to offer "Puppy Tweets," a toy that sends Twitter messages from a dog's collar. Wowwee will introduce "Paper Jamz," an inexpensive touch-sensitive electric guitar. Hasbro will launch high-tech refreshes of some of its classic games: A new version of Monopoly will feature an electronic console, and a variation on Scrabble will include electronic "Flash Cubes" that recognize words formed when the letters are placed beside each other.
Perennial favorites like Hasbro's Play-Doh and Mattel's Barbie, both fifty years old, will still have a presence, but they'll be updated in keeping with modern tastes.
This past holiday quarter, unit sales of toys went up almost 4 percent from the previous year, according to NPD Group. Toy makers are looking ahead to a 2010 holiday season they hope will be equally strong.