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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.

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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5 Top Tips For Board Game Inventors & Board Game Start-Ups…

Posted in Uncategorized on 10 October 2014

5 Top Tips For Board Game Inventors & Board Game Start-Ups…

Seems like every other person who approaches our company has invented a ‘new’ board game…which is great, because the board games category historically relies on independent board game inventors to inject new life into the category in terms of stretching the boundaries and looking at things differently from the established experts and established board game companies.

The challenge though is that those outside view factors are often what creates most problems/challenges for the inventor in terms of a lack of commercial and industry understanding.

So here’s some top tips to help:

1. Playtest (and tweak) Your Game (until you are thoroughly sick of it!) – there are a few companies who don’t play games they publish, but in nearly all cases your game will be playtested by professional games developers. So if you submit to them and they discover obvious fundamental flaws in it before they’ve even finished reading the rules, how much chance do you think you have…? That’s right, not a lot. Games get rejected for the most ridiculously minute reasons, because there are so many to choose from, and a decision to manufacture a game is the most significant financial risk a board games company makes. So for heavens sake make sure you have playtested it and that other people genuinely enjoyed it/wanted to play it again.

Let me give you an example – I recently introduced the game ‘Dobble’ or ‘Spot It’ as it’s called in some markets at a dinner party after several glasses of wine to a crowd of non gamers who were very cynical/not that interested in playing a game at that point. Within 60 seconds of starting to play the game it was absolute pandemonium because the game was so great, so compelling, so immersive, so tense and so much fun. Do you get that reaction from your game…? Because that’s the type of game you are competing with!

2. Research What’s Already Out There – there are so many games already in existence, and so many concepts floating around that it sometimes seems like everyone has already seen everything before – certainly when you pitch board games companies they will clearly be trying to place the game as ‘like’ such and such a game, except maybe a bit different because…

So to save yourself and them time, and to risk losing your credibility, go to www.boardgamegeek.com and search their online database of board games, so far it’s easily the most extensive games database I’ve encountered.

3. Understand the business model/royalty structure – I was once harangued by a want to be games inventor at a trade show when I was trying to sell to retail customers. The gentleman in question was berating me because I dared to suggest that he the mighty creator of the game concept would only get a 5% royalty. The reality is we could debate royalty rates paid to toy and game inventors until the cows come home, but the bottom line is that you are likely to be offered royalty rates in the region of 5%, and if you have a great concept/some one really wants it you may be able to push that up to 6% or occasionally 7%, but beyond that it’s very unlikely. So aggressively pushing for significantly higher royalty rates is likely to leave you disappointed/alienate and/or switch off the games company you are talking to.

4. Things take time, don’t be a pest – even in small companies where one or two people make the decisions, they have businesses to run beyond your concept submissions! If you have been asked to submit a physical prototype, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for confirmation of receipt, but from that point you would be lucky if you got feedback within a month, and in most cases would be more like 2 months. The more you pester during that time the more likely you are to switch off the person you’re dealing with, or to push them to a quicker conclusion than is necessary, which mostly means a quicker ‘no thanks’. Some companies / people are better at responding than others, so based on my experience I would suggest contacting them every 3-4 weeks after the first month has passed unless they suggest otherwise.

5. Invent more than one game – without being disheartening the odds are stacked against you in the board game invention/concept creation business. Major global companies review as many as 2000+ games concepts each and every year in order to select a handful to launch (maybe!), and even smaller companies can review 300-500 concepts every year to again launch a few. So the odds are against you. The way to increase the odds in your favour is to have multiple concepts to present (of equally high quality/appeal). Presuming all concepts are equal (not actually true, but anyway!), if you submit one concept to a global games company, you have c. 0.05% chance of being successful, whereas if you submitted 10 concepts you would theoretically increase your chances to 0.5% or one in 200. With smaller companies, one submission gives you a c. one in 400 chance or a 0.25% chance of placing a game, 10 concepts would give you (again theoretically) 2.5% chance, or one in 40.

You will see stories about the inventors of classic games who only invented one game before they had a global hit on their hands – well congratulations to them, but if you want to know how the professional inventors do it, you can be assured that they have a much greater output.

That’s it for now, but if you found this useful you might be interested in our advisory call service where we talk through your concepts, the business and how you can increase your chances of succeeding in it: Expert Call service

 

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KIDSPLAYTEST™ – OCTOBER 2014 Research Session

Posted in Uncategorized on 24 September 2014

 

KIDSPLAYTEST™ – OCTOBER 2014 Research Session

 

KIDSPLAYTEST™ offers a budget research service to companies in the kids entertainment space. We regularly test toys, games, apps, TV/film content and anything else in this area.

 

The main concept behind this proprietary methodology is to deliver commercially savvy consumer insight at an amazingly affordable price. By testing several concepts/content iterations during the same session we can deliver strong insight and consumer feedback for significantly less than a standard research project.

 

This method is not suitable for complicated products or for complex issues, as it’s more about getting a thumbs up or thumbs down from your target market, but we do also conduct more in depth research projects as instructed by clients using various qualitative methodologies.

 

The October session for KIDSPLAYTEST™ offers maximum 4 slots, with one having already been sold, so if you would like us to test your product/concept/content, please book asap to avoid disappointment.

 

For more details / to book, please click here:

 

http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/kidsplaytesttm-october-2014-session-tickets-13281281671 

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The Inaugural UK Toy And Game Inventors Workshop Is A Great Success…

Posted in Uncategorized on 22 September 2014

 

Retail & Consumer Panel Image

 

The Inaugural UK Toy And Game Inventors Workshop Is A Great Success…

I recently attended the first UK Toy & Game Inventors Workshop in Central London.

The event was produced by Toy News, a leading UK toy trade magazine.

Panel sessions and presentations covered such topics as how successful toy and game inventors made it, toy safety and a look at what retail and consumers are lookin for in terms of toys and games.

It was my great honour to chair the consumer and retail panel, and a lively session provided greater insight into what happens on the other side once an inventor has licensed their product. The reality is that while that may seem like the defining moment of success, it’s often only the first hurdle!

When I speak to new inventors, I always suggest they need to look at two things beyond placing their product with a toy company:

1. Why would a retailer list their product/put it on the shelf versus all the other thousands of products they can choose from? (Note: “because it’s a great game/toy” is not a particularly effective, as that’s what everyone says – you need a rational reason/advantage/benefit!).

2. Why is a consumer going to take the product off the shelf, take it to the tills and spend their hard earned money on it versus all the other products they can think of?

Anyway, the event went down so well, I’m looking forward to seeing it grow in importance and to seeing it as a regular event on the toy industry calendar going forward :)

 

 

 

 

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The Understated Majesty Of The Carry Forward SKU…!

Posted in Uncategorized on 14 August 2014

The Understated Majesty Of The Carry Forward SKU…!

In a business where between 2/3rds and 3/4s of all product is created new every year, it’s easy to see why we sometimes become over focused on the new products we develop and introduce.

The major challenge I make to toy and game companies though is how they can make their businesses focused on reducing that percentage versus becoming embroiled in a never ending new product development cycle.

Because developing new products costs – it costs in terms of R&D time and investment, in terms of inventory risk against untried products, in terms of opportunity cost and in terms of marketing investment at risk.

Note the over emphasis on RISK (no, not the board game, although that is one of my favourites!). The point is that while it might be fun, it might be exhilarating and it may be career enhancing for your team to develop endless new products, the reality is that your business should be actively working towards developing less and less product on an ongoing basis.

And here’s how you do that – carry forward product! Carry forward product needs no R&D investment, can get away with less marketing investment, and as long as the product sold through well last year is a more quantifiable entity than a new product from a retail perspective…all in all it’s a substantial profit opportunity versus new products.

But so often companies focus on the new and glitzy. For instance, how many sales people are incentivised on maximising carry forward listings? In the companies I have worked with and/or for, the answer is not enough!

Clearly you need to have successful products in a space which doesn’t dictate constant renewal i.e. consumer gadgetry, but if you operate in a traditional category where products do routinely carry forward, are you doing enough to ensure your business is focused on maximising the carry forward opportunity…

…because those products may receive a lot less attention and fuss, but they can represent a highly significant portion of your profits with a bit more love!

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Where Are The Drivers For Traditional (Board) Games…?

Posted in Uncategorized on 01 August 2014

Where Are The Drivers For Traditional Games?

These are interesting times for Traditional Games (by which I mean Games made from cardboard and plastic). The category has been apparently under attack for more or less my entire life from some form of computer/video/digital format. And yet the category is still there, and in nearly every home across the world, there is still at least one copy of Monopoly (often more), and many other such classics.

A query which I hear often is ‘what is the future of Traditional Games?’, especially in the face of the on-going App revolution, the online world and screen obsession of today’s children. Yet despite some tough years, and some loss in market size, the category is very far from going away. In fact the category is still worth somewhere between $5-8billion globally (depending on which figures you believe).

For certain, downward trends are always disconcerting, and need to be carefully analysed, however, in this industry we often seize on the trend, and forget that regardless of whether a category is going up or down, market size still mostly dictates the degree of opportunity.

If we look at the positive factors for the category currently, it’s clear that Licensed Games are originating from both the traditional media, and new media. Mattel’s success with Angry Birds in the Games category would be evidence of a change in where Brands come from.

What is perhaps more concerning is the move away from Traditional Family Games as a popular pastime (this is a global trend, even if not the case in some markets). The past decade has seen big news in the Adult ‘Party’ Game arena, and in the Kids arena, but less so in the Family category. From my perspective based on research I have conducted, and the many people in the industry I discuss this topic with, this is the greatest cannibalistic effect of digital gaming. Where parent and child play together, the frustrations and limitations of playing together via a cardboard/plastic format versus the flexibility, instant gratification and lack of mental engagement needed in digital games has undoubtedly adversely affected the opportunity for Family gaming. (Although please note, this trend is a global generalisation, and applies most in the USA & UK, not so much in Germany for instance which has a strong Family Games culture). The other balancing factor here though is that while actually playing Family games may be under pressure, the reality is that Family board games are often bought from a rose tinted nostalgic view of how ‘we used to play when we were kids’, and so I see sales of such games continuing for at least another generation, even if actual playing has diminished.

This trend towards Adults & Children having their own separate games will continue in general, however, there is one exception. That being the global phenomenon Gameshow Licensed Games. Historically speaking, the Traditional Games category has seen it’s ups and downs, driven to a significant degree by the hot TV Gameshow products such as Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and Deal or No Deal. When these shows have been hot and fresh, the Games category has been up, when they have aged or faded somewhat in terms of mass appeal, the category has gone down. These particular two Gameshows drove many millions of units of Games sales, because consumers were exposed to the gameplay daily or weekly at least, and so could quickly understand how the boxed (or electronic) Games would play.

The reality is that while there have been some fairly popular Gameshows that have made it to a few countries, there has not been a Global smash hit since Deal or No Deal. The TV industry it seems has moved on to a degree from Gameshows as the hottest genre of TV programming to Reality and Music talent shows. But as in the Toy industry, all these things are cyclical. And when the hot Gameshows are around, the whole Games category gets a boost in terms of number of Games skus listed, as well as general consumer interest in the category.

And so, for those who predict the death of Traditional games, think again, they are very much still alive, and who knows, the next hot Gameshow, or smash hit party game may be just around the corner!

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