Toy manufacturers seek balance in incorporating digital into toys while leveraging brand licenses to lure consumers. Shartia Brantley reports.
Toys, such as Lego, continue to be staples in a child's toy box, but the technology inside or connected to the toys has evolved. Major manufacturers attending the Toy Fair in New York say they have embraced technology and do not see it as competition. However, Millennial parents seek a balance between physical toys and on screen/digital experiences. John Frascotti, President, Hasbro Brands: SOUNDBITE: JOHN FRASCOTTI, PRESIDENT, HASBRO BRANDS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "They are concerned about the amount of time that their children are spending on digital devices. And, so, what we are doing is continuing to offer rich play experiences with brands like Play-Doh that are open ended, free play, with Nerf, with My Little Pony that really for a period of time during the day take the child off the screen." Another trend at the fair: the strength of licenses with brands such as DC Comics, Marvel and Star Wars. This has boosted companies such as Lego. Michael McNally, senior director of Brand Relations, Lego Systems: SOUNDBITE: MICHAEL MCNALLY, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF BRAND RELATIONS, LEGO SYSTEMS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "A lot of today's parents actually grew up playing with Lego when they were children so when they see their favorite super heroes on the big screen, and it's in Lego form or Star Wars on the big screen and they are Lego form, they're like, 'Bring it on.'" Toy sales rose by seven percent in 2015 and is poised for continued growth. Sean McGowan, Independent Toy Industry Analyst: SOUNDBITE: SEAN MCGOWAN, INDEPENDENT TOY INDUSTRY ANALYST (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I'm thinking the industry will see another up year, maybe not as strong as it was last year, but that was a positive surprise. So, I think, the low- to mid-single digit growth, and this is the first time in a long time that we've seen so many years of growth in a row." McGowan says brand licenses and relatively clean inventories at retailers provide the foundation for growth.