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Steven Reece We are a leading Consultancy to kids entertainment brands including TV, toys & games. Our services include cutting edge qualitative consumer insight and consulting with entertainment brands to maximise their merchandising potential.

What Toy Companies Should Know About The ‘Playground Effect’ As A Viral Sales Driver

Posted in Uncategorized on 12 December 2014

What Toy Companies Should Know About The ‘Playground Effect’ As A Viral Sales Driver

Toy companies often talk about ‘word of mouth’ and about playground crazes, but I wonder how many toy company people have ever been anywhere near a playground in the last twenty years?! How can we expect something to be a key sales driver if we actually don’t know a great deal about it, or haven’t really considered it since we were children ourselves?

In our 2nd of three articles looking at children and toys we look at ‘The Playground Effect’ in more detail than most people whose careers depend on it have usually considered!

The article is published by Spielwarenmesse.de – the official blog of the Spielwarenmesse (Nuremberg) International Toy Fair. To read it, just click here

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The Modern Phenomenon Of Toy Stockpiling

Posted in Uncategorized on 10 December 2014

The Modern Phenomenon Of Toy Stockpiling

Children today have so many toys. Yet often we in the toy industry look at negative trends and factors affecting our industry – the naysayers and doom mongerers abound.

Sometimes we need to acknowledge really positive trends which suggest our industry will be doing business for a long time to come!

Steve recently posted an article, published by Spielwarenmesse.de – the official website of the Spielwarenmesse (Nuremberg) International Toy Fair on the trend towards ‘Toy Stockpiling’. To read the article, please click here.

P.S. To receive notification of future articles, and for further toy industry tips, insight and services feel free to fill in your details in the form on the right hand side of this page and we’ll send you updates as and when we have them (you can unsubscribe at any time).

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UK Toy Retail Goes Crazy For Black Friday…

Posted in Uncategorized on 28 November 2014

UK Toy Retail Goes Crazy For Black Friday…

2014 appears to be the year that Black Friday has become THE kickstarter for peak season sales for the toy industry.

There is actually no logical reason/justification for Black Friday in terms of the UK holiday calendar, we don’t have thanksgiving, in fact after Halloween, we haven’t historically really had any single one off event that drives peak season sales – instead it’s been more of an extended period of activity, starting from the October school holiday (usually 3rd week in October).

Not any more. Due to the ever growing power of American retailers in the UK, namely Amazon and Asda, and due to the American dominated social media landscape UK consumers now see ever more American shopping culture in their lives.

Today (Black Friday 2014) has been an insane day in the UK already, with police called to shopping complexes to break up fights at one minute past midnight as the sale started, where seemingly every major retailer selling toys is going Black Friday crazy, and where due to huge online traffic I can’t even get onto Tesco Direct – the online shopping portal of the UK’s largest retailer – seriously, I keep getting a ticking clock saying ‘we’ll try to log you in again in 30 seconds’.

Adidtionally, we can already see that many retailers are trying to turn Black Friday into an extended event to maximise the sales impact – Toys R Us for example is calling out a 4 day Black Friday sale!

So that’s the situation, Black Friday is now THE kick starting event of peak season sales in the UK, with retailers trying to squeeze every last penny out of consumers and to shift as much product as possible earlier in the season.

Let’s consider whether that’s a good thing/what the impact of that is for the UK toy business:

Firstly, let’s be clear, retailers are going to sell bucketloads of toys today, and throughout the weekend. That has to be a good thing for the toy industry. What we need more than anything is substantial retail sell through and clean shelves to allow us to hit our resupply forecasts and to drive retail re-orders into the new year to kick start 2015. So in that respect the Black Friday phenomenon is a really good thing.

The second (more cynical) point to make is that there is clearly a lot of hype in terms of deals & reductions with varying levels of reality behind the hype! For instance, several retailers are clearly calling out ‘special’ Black Friday deals on stick they are looking to clear out. And in many instances we can see discounts on hot products that are actually not that impressive or compelling. That isn’t to suggest that it’s all hype, there are clearly bargains to be had, and as the very healthy UK discount store channel proves, products which clearly weren’t selling become much more appealing & sell much better at discount/bargain prices. So frankly, at the very least Black Friday will allow both toy companies and retailers to clear under performing lines during a period of frenzied demand.

In terms of the promotional/discount situation, this event clearly provides another opportunity for retailers to squeeze toy suppliers for additional funding/markdown allowances, but as long as toy companies stay strong on their key hero lines, the retailers can decide to blow their margins on discounting the hottest items if they like to drive traffic/footfall/sales volume.

For toy companies the trick to managing this period effectively must surely be to focus on ensuring slow moving products are cleared through to a). prevent stock holding hangover/heated arguments on carry forward stock levels into the end of the selling cycle for 2015 when we want to look forward to our next listings not back to our last listings and b). to end the year with cleaner warehouses and year end stock levels ourselves, with maximum cash in the bank to manage the next cycle.

So here’s the bottom line – Black Friday is good news for retailers and should be good news for toy companies as long as they stay strong and promote/fund discount activity on slower moving lines, not on the hot products which will sell anyway

P.S. To receive our e-newsletter with articles, tips and analysis on the toy industry just fill in your details in the form on the right hand side of this page.

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Insights Into The German Toy Market

Posted in Uncategorized on 26 November 2014

Insights Into The German Toy Market

In the last of three articles looking at the three largest toy markets in Europe we look at Germany.

For most people in the toy business, Germany is synonymous with the toy business. The fact that the world’s biggest toy trade show (Spielwarenmesse – Nuremberg International Toy Fair) happens there every year is at least partly the reason.

But there are many other reasons why. The German toy market is in many ways very distinctive/unique. To find out more, read the article on the official blog of Spielwarenmesse:

http://www.spielwarenmesse.de/article-detail/an-inside-view-on-european-toy-markets-germany/?L=1&cHash=9ae6bf3dea3c856943029eaf239a97ab

 

If you missed the previous articles in this series, you can find them here:

 

Insights Into The French Toy Market

http://www.spielwarenmesse.de/article-detail/an-inside-view-on-european-toy-markets-france/?L=1&cHash=3ceff0501deb3e1ee6733d125d2332b6

 

Insights Into The UK Toy Market

http://www.spielwarenmesse.de/article-detail/an-inside-view-on-european-toy-markets-united-kingdom/?L=1&cHash=6446e7446b4ca8c9515fbc56b3e7dffc

P.S. If you find this article useful and want us to send you links to previous and future articles published, offering insights, practical tips for doing toy business and for growing your international distribution, please feel free to fill in your details on the form on the right hand side of this page to be added to our email distribution list.

P.P.S. We work on an ongoing, retainer consultancy basis with toy companies from around the world helping them expand their distribution. We’ve helped to set up distribution worth many $tens of millions – drop us a line for more details!

– See more at: http://www.stevenreece.com/services/

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New Research Study Shows UK Parents & Kids Happy With Gender Labelling Of Toys…

Posted in Uncategorized on 24 November 2014

New Research Study Shows UK Parents & Kids Happy With Gender Labelling Of Toys…

In recent years the toy industry appears to have become an ever bigger target of criticism regarding gender labelling of toys.

We’ve had discussions with increasingly confused toy company people who have felt this backlash, but who firmly believe that they are providing a profoundly positive development experience for children based on the fundamentally critical role that play has in allowing children to develop, learn and explore.

To be transparent and open, I have myself been drawn into online spats with some of those who strongly disagree with gender labelling of toys. My objection to their objection (if that makes any sense) is that I have conducted many hundreds of research groups with children and parents over more than 15 years, and in that time it has become blatantly apparent to me that  the toy industry is merely a reflection of the broader world in terms of gender difference and definition of what the socially accepted norms are in this space i.e. the vast majority of parents reinforce the stereotypes, not always deliberately, but by default.

So I wanted to test my beliefs and learnings in the area of gender labelling of toys specifically to see whether I (& the toy industry) were fundamentally mis-representing the general feeling and sentiment on this issue, or did those who so strongly object to gender labelling fairly represent the majority.

Although some may be cynical about this, as a qualified, experienced consumer researcher (I entered the toy industry as Hasbro’s in house market researcher in Europe way back, and hold 2 market research qualifications, one with distinction) we started out with a hypothesis to test – that the vast majority of kids and parents (in the UK where the research was conducted) are happy and accepting of gender labelling of toys), and then did everything we could to disprove the hypothesis, and to find a general level of disatisfaction/objection with the status quo.

This was a self funded study, so frankly the only vested interest was ours – this study was conducted at our own cost, and in effect will help us promote our industry leading toy, game & kids entertainment content testing service: KIDSPLAYTEST™ more details can be found on this link: http://www.kidsbrandinsight.com/kidsplaytest/ 

Overall the topline finding of the study was that parents and kids included in our study clearly and overwhelmingly tended to accept, create and reinforce gender labelling and stereotypes. For sure there are exceptions to the rule, but they appear to be just that – exceptions. You could, in all fairness, rationally argue that just because a majority of people hold an opinion, that doesn’t make it right (the example used often to try to argue this point is that the majority of the UK population are supposedly in favour of capital punishment for certain crimes for instance). Frankly though, that kind of argument is beyond the scope of our research and our area of expertise/interest.

We wanted to get a definitive answer on one question only – are gender labelling and gender stereotyping out of kilter with consumer expectations, and does the toy industry have a commercial problem based on it’s current approach, or can it continue with business as usual on the basis that it is fairly representing general consumer sentiment?

The research report is just below – please feel free to read & draw your own conclusions…!

P.S. We conducted some of this research via our proprietary research testing methodology KIDSPLAYTEST™ 
We found that many childrens entertainment/toy companies find it difficult to justify research costs on standalone studies into their products/brands. The benefit of KIDSPLAYTEST™ is that we test concepts/products from multiple companies in the same sessions, thus allowing us to deliver industry leading research at a fraction of the usual cost. For the research minded, in effect KIDSPLAYTEST™ is a Qualitative Omnibus study. For more information/to book in your products, concepts or content for testing, click here:
P.P.S. If you found this interesting and want us to update you on future reports, articles, news, toy industry tips and analysis etc., you can sign up for our e-newsletter by filling in your details on the form on the right hand side of this page…
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Insights Into The Toy Market In France

Posted in Uncategorized on 18 November 2014

Insights Into The Toy Market In France 

In the second in my three part series of articles looking at Europe’s biggest toy markets (UK, France & Germany) we take a closer look at France.

France is one of my favourite countries – both in terms of the toy business and outside the toy business (I regularly holiday/vacation there!). It is a beautiful and wonderful country, with so much culture, history and amazing people.

However, it is not always the easiest country to do business in, certainly when compared with the other 2 markets this article series is looking at.

The toy market in France offers considerable opportunity – it is after all one of the top 5 or 6 toy markets in the world at any given point, but to wander blindly into a market with significant complexities is to invite often unforeseen consequences, and ultimately failure!

The article outlines some factors to be aware of, as well as general information on the French toy market.

The article is published on the official blog of Spielwarenmesse – the largest toy trade show in the world held every year in Nuremberg, Germany. Here’s the link to read the article and find out more about the Spielwarenmesse:

http://www.spielwarenmesse.de/article-detail/an-inside-view-on-european-toy-markets-france/?L=1&cHash=3ceff0501deb3e1ee6733d125d2332b6 

P.S. If you find this article useful and want us to send you links to previous and future articles published, offering insights, practical tips for doing toy business and for growing your international distribution, please feel free to fill in your details on the form on the right hand side of this page to be added to our email distribution list.

P.P.S. We work on an ongoing, retainer consultancy basis with toy companies from around the world helping them expand their distribution. We’ve helped to set up distribution worth many $tens of millions – drop us a line for more details!

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The UK Toy Market – Basic Overview…

Posted in Uncategorized on 07 November 2014

The UK Toy Market – Basic Overview…

The official blog of the Spielwarenmesse (Nuremberg) International Toy Fair recently published an article Steve wrote giving a basic overview of the UK toy market.

The article is the first in a series of three – with an overview of the German toy market and toy market in France to follow.

To read the article, just click here:

http://www.spielwarenmesse.de/article-detail/an-inside-view-on-european-toy-markets-united-kingdom/?L=1&cHash=6446e7446b4ca8c9515fbc56b3e7dffc

P.S. We work on a Consultancy basis with toy companies and board game companies seeking international / export distribution, if you need help exporting please feel free to drop us a line!

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KIDSPLAYTEST™ – Leading Toy Playtesting Service Now Booking For December Sessions In The UK!

Posted in Uncategorized on 05 November 2014

KIDSPLAYTEST™ – Leading Toy Playtesting Service Now Booking For December Sessions In The UK!

Our proprietary research program KIDSPLAYTEST™, which operates under the Kids Brand Insight brand, will be running again in December.

At the last session we researched products/brands for several clients, including toy collectables, outdoor toys, as well as a kids entertainment brand.

The background to KIDSPLAYTEST™ starts with a realisation on our behalf that toy companies and kids entertainment brands really need to test more with their target audience, but apart from the largest companies in the industry, consumer research for toys is not actually that prevalent. One of the reasons for this is a cost issue – toy companies routinely develop new products every year and tend to ‘chuck them at the wall and see what sticks’, and so it’s a more acceptable method for most companies in the toy industry to continue to invest heavily in R&D, tooling, inventory and TV advertising at risk than it is to spend a comparatively modest sum on reducing the risk of launch failure.

One other factor is that those companies who have used qualitative research by way of focus groups with children or discussion groups with kids have often found the research findings to be somewhat fluffy, and separated from the reality of the decisions and factors they actually have to consider. Because we only work on toys & kids entertainment content, and because we have worked on the brand and commercial/senior management side, our fusion of common sense industry knowledge AND consumer research experience leads to greater value and usable findings.

To find out more about KIDSPLAYTEST™ or to book, just click here: http://www.kidsbrandinsight.com/kidsplaytest/

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Why Toy Companies Need to Know All About The Developmental Stages Of Children…

Posted in Uncategorized on 28 October 2014

Why Toy Companies Need to Know All About The Developmental Stages Of Children…

I recently wrote an article on how understanding the developmental stages of children is essential for toy companies.

The article was published on Spielwarenmesse.de – the official blog of the Spielwarenmesse (Nuremberg) International Toy Fair.

Click here to read article

The article was written based on understanding developed in the work of our Consumer Research business focused solely on the kids entertainment space. To find out more about our toy focus groups and market research with children please click here

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Article On How Kids & Toys Changed In 15 Years…

Posted in Uncategorized on 15 October 2014

Article On How Kids & Toys Changed In 15 Years…

While conducting a pitch presentation recently for our market research services, we were asked what changes we’d seen over time.

We wrote an article outlining 4 changes we’ve seen in terms of kids and toys, based on research with thousands of children and parents. To read the article, just click here:

http://www.kidsbrandinsight.com/2014/10/15/4-ways-kids-toys-changed-15-years/

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