This article was originally published in the 2013 Toy Fair Times, and is republished on PlayHappens with permission from the author.
Can’t wait until Toy Fair opens on February 10th to discover the hottest new toys, games and youth entertainment products of the year? Before you dive into the thousands of new toys on display, TIA trend specialist Adrienne Appell offers some sneak peeks at the trends that will be spicing up store aisles in the coming months.
Toy Fair Times: Can you explain how and why toy trends change over time?
Adrienne Appell: Toy trends are constantly evolving. We’re a bit of a hybrid of fashion, which can often by cyclical, and technology, which is constantly moving forward. We are able to keep the classics … bring back retro … and infuse new technology … all at the same time. And of course we always leave some room for surprises!
“Everything old is new again” is a perfect description for one of the major trends for 2013. Just like bell bottom jeans and neon colors, things loved by generations past can grab hold of another generation decades later. Lately, a lot of nostalgic characters and brands are re-emerging to catch the eye of parents and grandparents and bring back wonderful memories of their own youth. There are also so many toys that simply never go away – kids have always loved puzzles, classic board games and stuffed animals.
Toymakers are always looking for exciting new ways to take their products to the next level – in terms of play value, production or technology components. As technology advances and becomes more inexpensive to produce you will continue to see our toys become more innovative. Technology is being used to enhance play patterns and make the product more engaging or educational. It’s not a matter of placing tech in every toy; it is using technology in a way that is going to make the toy even better. Just think a few years ago nobody had ever heard of an “app” now we have a whole category of toys dedicated to them. I can’t wait to see what is next on the horizon!
Toy Fair Times: So, what are some of the “surprises” that might be in store for us at Toy Fair?
Adrienne Appell: Through preliminary trend-tracking, we’re seeing that the industry is really starting to re-embrace the tween/teen market. While there have been toys and games targeted to this age group in the past, the majority of toymakers have shied away from developing entire lines for older kids. During the “KGOY” (Kids Getting Older Younger) phenomenon a few years ago, the thought was older kids were beyond the age of playing with toys and more interested in technology and electronics. Now it seems that socialization and wanting to interact with others is paramount in the way older kids are playing. A great example is Words with Friends – kids are playing online (and offline with the traditional Hasbro game) – but they aren’t playing alone. This is a big opportunity for the toy industry.
Licensed products are also continuing to grow in popularity, especially for the older crowd (even adults!) who are attracted to items based on favorite television shows, pop culture icons or apps.
Toy Fair Times: What other elements of pop culture are driving toy trends in 2013?
Adrienne Appell: The runaway success of reality television shows – particularly those that celebrate the creativity, talent and skills of contestants – have inspired a new range of toys, games and crafts that encourage kids to build skills across several areas, such as cooking, fashion, design and performance arts. Keep your eyes peeled for a HUGE selection of playthings that will get kids of all ages busy creating their own runway fashions, concocting the trendiest and tastiest dessert and more!
Toy Fair Times: Looking back, can you think of any ‘mainstay’ trends from the past couple of years?
Adrienne Appell: There are definitely some trends that aren’t going away anytime soon. Shoppers always love to purchase toys that pack a lot of punch for the price. Lower priced items that can be gifted for everyday achievements or “just because” are perennially popular – especially those that are a part of a bigger world (think: small collectible figurines).
Building on that trend, we are seeing tons of low- to moderately-priced products that are complex, engaging and most of all, practical! To give a rough idea of what I mean, picture a nightlight – which can also be taken on the road as a portable flashlight – featuring a recorded bedtime story and music. This type of toy serves multiple purposes, making it a great choice for money-conscious parents.
Stay tuned for TIA’s top trends for 2013 – which will be officially announced at Toy Fair. For trend spotting throughout the year, be sure to visit ToyInfo.org.
For information about becoming a TIA member or attending one of TIA's go-to-market events including Fall Toy Preview and Toy Fair, please visit www.toyassociation.org.