Author Archives: rgrif96

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Toy news update: Bootleg battles (FINALLY), Mattel is dying, Hasbro powering up, and Funko is OVER 9000!

Greetings, FigWizzers!

I’ve been busy with working a new job back in IT but this time a focus on building business!! As a veteran pioneer of the e-commerce landscape and a proven brick-and-mortar business battler with the bumps to prove it, I’m on the hunt to grow money this time with business partners!! More on that later. Now lets get down to the fun part Toy news!!

1) MGA’s head honcho Issac Larian has been busy working on busting the bootleggers of the popular LOL Surprise dolls. According to an article release by toyworldmag.co.uk, MGA hired investigators, lawyers, and even personal action against a retail shop producing counterfeit products. Although this is a new, aggressive move by a major toy producer here in the US, the hobby industry has been fighting counterfeits FOREVER.

I can remember bootleg Gashapon and Banpresto figures as far back as 2001 when I started my own business. Bootlegs are never as good as the original, but as time goes on and if no action is taken, they do become ‘acceptable’ but the general audience.

This is always dangerous on multiple angles including consumer safety brand integrity, and a legitimate business bottom line including authorized distributors, retailers, licensees, licensors, and producers. Its especially dangerous when the target market happens to be kids 12 years of age and younger.

I had to deal with bootlegs and because my niche was small enough, it wasn’t too hard for real collectors to be aware. Some companies took matters into there own hands by creating ‘authorized retailer’ lists on their websites and creating videos showcasing authentic vs bootleg. As a matter of fact, here’s one from my old site that I contracted out many years ago (thank you, Ryan!).

Ultimately, in order to stop this at least from China, the biggest proponent of counterfeit everything, is to tax them to high heaven. As bad as it sounds, the tariffs that are being applied should also include toys not just for the the protection of the businesses, but also for the safety of the consumer. This should go all the way down to any package, not just cargo ships, very similar to the way Brazil’s customs controls their packages. The proposed tariffs might already have this in the list, I’m not sure. Let’s hope so.

https://toyworldmag.co.uk/world-news/mga-cracks-down-on-chinese-counterfeit-l-o-l-surprise-products/

Mattel recently announced a significant layoff movement due to its forth straight quarter of losses. Not a good sign for the once powerhouse of toys and iconic figure of the Toys That Made Us documentary. I feel this will make the company very susceptible to an actual purchase before long, and Disney may very well be a dead ringer for this. After all, the princess dolls from Mattel were always known to be MUCH better than what Hasbro produced, and Disney from what I understand doesn’t really have a fleshed out toy division. It helps that Mattel is located in the the same town as Disney. If this happens, you can probably assume that Hasbro will probably lose A LOT of what’s making them hot right now.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-mattel-layoffs-20180725-story.html

Speaking of Hasbro, they are currently killing it with its collection of licenses and especially its games, that have propelled it’s stock to grow instantly over 10%. With Hasbro’s claim that D&D is at an all time high, and with its positive sales of Marvel and Star Wars toys, even in a year where toys felt a fatal blow with the vanishing of TRU, Hasbro is confident that it’ll stabilize by 2019, which is an amazingly strong sign. Articles talk about Hasbro and Mattel possibly merging, which would be good for Hasbro so they could have a Los Angeles office, but as the new CEO of Mattel has a history of selling out to Disney, I still stand by my initial prediction. I definitely look to see more come from Hasbro. Maybe they can cause a collector’s craze as intense as Funko has just recently.

https://money.cnn.com/2018/07/23/investing/hasbro-earnings-mattel-toys-r-us/index.html

What was that about Funko? Oh, that the offer to sell the Funimation SDCC exclusive on Funimation’s site crashed the server. For a site that hosts high def streaming shows of fan favorites like Dragon Ball Super, you can only imagine the amount of traffic needed to bring an entire platform to its knees. That’s exactly what happened according to an article on Polygon. Apparently, the day it went up for sale for a mere $24.99, the system broke within hours forcing Funimation to pull the item from its store and apologizing to all those looking to snag the coveted metallic version of the character Whis from Dragon Ball Super. Its hard for me to believe that this figure is so much in demand as I have sold this particular character in other forms for over 2 years. I admit, Funko is doing it right! Its currently selling for about $200 on eBay and other retailer sites.

https://www.polygon.com/2018/7/24/17609492/dragon-ball-super-whis-funko-pop-sdcc-2018

I’m sure you’ve seen all the coverage you need for Anime Expo and SDCC, so I won’t go there. That’s all I got for now.

Thank you, and I’m glad to be of service.

– The Keep


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The haunting, handwritten sign hanging from the inside of the Toys R Us on Jefferson Blvd in Culver City, CA.

Quick Update, Anime Expo, TRU Farewell

Category : Blog

Its been about two months and I’ve been a very busy bee making things happen on the e-commerce front again. Since TRU vanished in glorious fashion, all eyes have been on Amazon. Normally, its difficult for professionals that aren’t intimate with selling on Amazon to get familiar with the platform. Fortunately for me, having been a store owner of all things anime, I’ve got spare inventory that I can play with.

I have renounced doing direct e-commerce with the closure of my core website, PowerAnime.com, but I have taken an interest in promoting drop ship service for my inventory. So, I don’t directly sell anything to consumers; I pull, pack, and ship items that are sold by other B2C sellers. I feel this is an area that’s severely undeserved and in desperate need of strategy. I’ll be sharing more info in the future. In the meantime, I’ll be posting my offerings for view here via my wooCommerce plugin at http://www.figwiz.com/shop . If you’re interested in the dropship program, send a message directly to me.

Anime Expo has come and gone, and this year, I passed. Honestly, I didn’t really miss it as either a fan or a pro even though this was the first time in the last 17 years that I didn’t attend. But, as I see the posts from associates and long time customers, I get this itch in the back of my head that says I should have gone. It looks to have been an amazing event, and to see it thrive without me was both a sad and proud moment for me. With My Hero Acadamia all the rage, special appearances by the King of Fighters character artist and the creator of Devilman (Go Nagai), and the breakthrough showing of Tokyo Pop and Sean Danconia’s Supapop art, this was a monolithic showcasing of where this genre is headed.
Deep down, the fandom and subject matter are something of a heavy significance to me, and I’ll definitely try to do more to make an appearance next year.

I’m continuing to refine my trade with Amazon as I await my new home studio for my youtube channel and twitch streaming. Its been 18 months in the making, so its long over due. As a self proclaimed organically grown nerd of the 80’s and 90’s, I’m looking to feature truly geeky content including toy talk, gaming fits, app development, hobby shop retail talk, e-commerce trade tips, trading card game features, and gaming tournament etiquette. Oh, and giveaways… lots of giveaways… I’ve seemed to have amassed a large swath of bins containing mountains of loose figures and lifestyle goods from my adventures in retail. So, I’ll have a feature of me unboxing some pre-unboxed stuff.

– The Keep


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Been busy… found a new obsession along with some toy nooze…

Its been a while, but in the last week, I finally got permission from Amazon to start selling again! I was banned sometime last year… that a whole ‘nother story, but now I’m back in action, and this time, I wanted to better streamline my process for updating quantities, changing pricing, and managing primary inventory levels across multiple 3rd party selling venues. Using some fancy formula finger work along with my penchant for spaghetti coding, I’ve created a whole basic management system using Google Sheets! More on this later as e-commerce interactions have been something of an on and off hobby of mine for the last 17 years.

In toy news, lots of good things!

1) Retro Nintendo consoles have just been announced for release later this year! This includes the popular NES classic that sold out immediately a few years ago, and a new Japanese ‘Fami-Com’ system that features all Shonen Jump games in celebration of the titular magazine’s 50th anniversary!

Retro gaming is definitely one of the hottest tickets outside the Disney juggernaut with great history, an appreciation for 8-bit designs, and a slew of wild, organically loved licenses of yesteryear. Nintendo has really been the only system maker who’s retro systems actually see any type of demand which goes to show how much of people’s childhood they control over the likes of Sega and Atari. I personally am looking forward to the Fami-Com edition. It won’t be available in America, so I might need to try and pull some favors with some connections in Japan to make this happen. I do feel it’ll be a hot ticket, and with TRU out of the picture, I can see other major retailers owning up to bigger chunks of business and also related venues like Hot Topic and Box Lunch which do cater strongly to gaming lifestyle goods.

2) TRU is closing out fast and it was revealed that the company will be shelling out around $350M just in bankruptcy fees.

No toy news would be complete without something on TRU nowadays. Its a rough time. With workers, executives, and politicians weighing in on the demise of TRU, the job loss count has been calculated to be anywhere around 30,000 (B. Sanders) to 133,000 (I. Larian). Seems like there’s still money to be had, but on the legal side of things. Painful to hear and it doesn’t make these growing pains any better. Note to all those former TRU workers: its easier than ever to get into selling online. You’ve got the experience, and the industry doesn’t have an official voice yet. Get heard, get to selling, and get paid.

2) MGA is killing it with their victory judgement of $1.1M and injunctions on overseas counterfeiters of the popular LOL Surprise product.

Though I’m pretty sure they’re not the first, MGA has proven that even in this day and age with internet everywhere and the ambiguity of world wide licensing control, protecting one’s IP is still achievable and enforceable. For the longest time in my own specialized industry (anime collectibles and media) bootlegging and counterfeits are of an enormous burden on all who are trying to make an honest living selling it here in the US. It was particularly troublesome in the late 2000’s, and even today, you can jump on EBay or Amazon and find fake products being offered form international sellers by the tank load. Most I’ve talked to including licensees, licensors, and distributors claim chasing these sellers would be extremely expensive financially. And being there were larger avenues of selling available for domestic product, the official goods should drown out the bootlegs. As more and more of these ‘larger avenues’ start to disappear though, the reality is starting to set in that in the long run, not addressing the issue early will not only cost a company financial trouble, but IP integrity trouble as well. To all IP holders out there, your IP IS your business in my opinion. Protect it at all costs. Now if we can extend this to that pesky parallel import issue…


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Toy News Review – 4/25/2018 – TRU buyout stumbles / Mattel Setup

Its been a few weeks, and in that time, so much has come forward with toys. Two of the biggest stories are coming from separate ends of the industry and could have major consequences.

First off, the continued drama of Toys R Us keeps us on edge as the $900M bid by Isaac Larian, CEO of MGA, is denied as reported on the ICV2 website. Doing a little basic math would suggest that although $900M sounds like a good chunk of cash, that amount wouldn’t even put a dent on the estimated accrued interest for the past 10 years, let alone the value of the assets including inventory and land. Mr. Larian has told his legion of followers that he’ll continue to pursue an opportunity for a buyout. Whether Mr. Larian does or does not get the deal, he’s already won the hearts and eyes of toy lovers everywhere with his efforts. I sense this was part of the plan from the get go. Should TRU disappear, Mr. Larian has personally positioned himself to be the biggest marketing asset his company has with so many serious toy enthusiasts and industry professionals following him. It sounded a bit fishy when Mr. Larian made the call to the 30k TRU employees to follow him on LinkedIn. Of any toy CEO, he’s made the most noise in a positive way that’ll burn in the minds of all who work in the field.

Outside of the US, TRU has found saviors in key markets including Asia, Australia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and even Canada according to the source on ICV2 and cbc.ca websites. So, the brand will continue to live somewhere in the world.

Moving on to other news, major toy industry juggernauts are having a roller coaster of a time with announcements as Hasbro announces a $133M sales decline for the first quarter of 2018 vs 2017 with almost half as a result of the TRU closure, and Mattel announces its moving in a new CEO.

Hasbro confirms with a statement that the decline was anticipated, and precautions have been set in place to limit competition in Q1 and Q2 with the TRU liquidation and to expect some loss until 2019. The steady acquisition of clients over the last three years has opened over 20K new locations for Hasbro to help compensate for the TRU loss. I guess its no big shock there.

Mattel on the other hand, moved in a new CEO, Ynon Kreiz, former CEO and chairman of Maker Studios. Mr. Kreiz is bringing in a wealth of experience in media marketing and children’s entertainment which is something Mattel has lagged tremendously over the last few years to rival Hasbro. When seeing this post on linkedIn, commenters were quick to point out that Mr. Kreiz had extensive experience in dealing with Disney as many of his past companies were acquisitions to the mega-media company including Maker Studios and Fox Kids Group Europe. This setup could possibly position Mattel to be bought by Disney as its toy division that Disney, a division that has never really made a name for itself. It makes sense with the dying value of Mattel for Disney to swoop in and pick it up as many analysts feel its undervalued, and under the leadership of a proven business general, it should really be too long before it happens.

Lots of excitement in the air! Let me leave you with this bit of Japanese marketing genius. Should Japan do more of these commercials, they’d rule the internet.


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TRU gets a bid from a toy Isaac Larian – An Opinion

I just saw a post shared on LinkedIn by the nypost.com detailing a deal proposed by Isaac Larian, head honcho behind toy mega-brand MGA.

In the article, it states that Mr. Larian has been busy collecting funds through his personal assets, crowd funding (gofundme that raised around $52k), and silent investors at a tune of a whopping $1 billion. This would be for a few hundred top performing TRU/BRU stores in the US as well as the Canadian division. He’s given TRU just under 10 days to answer.

This most certainly sounds like a very honorable thing to do, but unless the silent investor group names end in Bezos, Zuckerberg, Brin, Page or Musk, there’s going to be SERIOUS new grounds to be gained.

Mr. Larian does try to comfort everyone on LinkedIn by announcing his excitement for the highly innovative idea for the store that he has yet to reveal all while taking some cheap shots at Mattel… granted if what was said was true, then they rightfully deserved it. Personally, I have a sneaking suspicion that Mr. Larian made a ton of noise on LinkedIn as a ruse for the attention of the masses especially the soon-to-be TRU alumni. I’m sure he does care about the industry as he’s been a part of it for so long, but really I find a great deal of his appeal to the public as a stunt to grab more eye-balls, the currency of the internet. The eye-balls you control, the more value you will produce in this day and age. So, really whether he goes through with his bid or not, he’s already got the eye-ball attention of all lovers of TRU. Quite brilliant.

In this interview with Fox Business found on YouTube, the interviewer hit him with the obvious question about how to even continue the TRU business, and I didn’t really hear a convincing answer coming from Mr. Larian.

Physical retail is a massive beast of an operation, and its completely different from the business of marketing or the production side of things. Even top US brick and mortar retailers today are barely hanging on, and to find someone who is remotely capable of making this into a reality will be a miracle. Most high level execs I’ve known have very little understanding of the operational pressure involved with retail as most think its nothing more than the same thing as their current business with numbers be all there is to it. I saw this disconnect with my former employer where executives from all around the world simply had the completely wrong idea about retail execution. It finally came to fruition when the company hit its breaking point and its restructure practically dissolved into little bits and pieces of its former self.

Although my opinion on this isn’t for the better, I can see how its not impossible if Mr. Larian enables someone with a massive amount of social clout to make this happen. And its got to happen FAST. The $1 billion is for keeping the stores as they are: hemorrhaging money. They’ll need to do some serious renovations to make it worth peoples time, and who know how much that’ll cost.


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Perspective on The Toy Association Perspective: #SaveToysRUs

In an article I saw posted in LinkedIn, Bob Wann, chairman of the The Toy Association Board of Directors, explains the group’s belief on why brick and mortar stores like TRU are important, and offers their support.

Basically, physical stores have been a cornerstone in the industry for customer discovery and purchasing, which I totally agree with if the opportunity presents itself. Having had both a physical and online store for so many years, I can most certainly understand how the power of the in-person presentation is much more effective in persuasion of purchase. This is where the true artistic art form of character building salesmanship comes into play from the store display, initial greeting, product showmanship, the closeout and the follow up. These elements build a stores ‘character’ and encourages true future customer engagement.

Though I do agree with the idea and I certainly want to save TRU, the statement leaves questions about a few points mentioned that never really get addressed.

The first is in the very beginning of the statement: “seismic, disruptive change.” Its followed with concerns of confusion, uncertainty, and ‘far worse’ news of the closing of TRU making it sound like the idea of change is bad in my opinion. This is really just a set up to express a sort of relief when it goes on to mention the possible salvation of a number of TRU stores that might happen. Saving TRU sounds like a good idea, but in its current state, it would make for tough business.

If anyone took a wide lens look at business in general today, every industry is going through massive change, and its always for the better of the consumer. From everything that I’ve been taking in from tech to toys, ‘disruption’ is something we are trying to achieve (market disruptor, anyone?).Everything from taxis to takeout, from physical fitness to mental wellness, and even employment has gone through ‘disruptive change.’ Most of the business tactics before the disruption were good for the industry as they were, but admittedly, I find the new change to be better. Its forcing stagnant, complacent companies to finally take the initiative to innovate, and the toy industry is long overdue compared to others. I’m still waiting for my real deal Hover Board, not the chintzy, explosive Segway wannabe.

The second issue I have with this statement is that although it explains that in-store discovery is important and touch/feel/play is magic, it doesn’t really explain any way on how to get customers back in stores. I mean, its great if kids can do this, but how can that happen if they never go in? This latest bankruptcy is not the first rodeo for TRU, as financial issues stem as far back as 2005 when they made the loan deal that locked them into a losing game according to the Fortune article here. So, this should indicate that simply having a place to go doesn’t really bring in an audience. Let’s be real here: kids don’t play with toys the same way they used to. Kids don’t play to entertain themselves so much as they want to entertain others or to watch others entertain them. This is why the surprise style toy is so big. Its also why discovery is no longer done in store for most people, its done on social media. From what I’ve seen with most hot toys recently, people discover items not sitting on shelves in a store, but in YouTube box openings, convention reviews, and a network of friends. That’s not the same as thinking the majority of customers discover items in-store.

Speaking a little on the TRU finances, I’ve read where people mention that TRU would have been profitable earning $350M in 2017, but they had something like $400M in interest payments from there 2005 deal. In other words, TRU was not profitable. I can’t understand why people don’t see that. Its akin to saying, ‘I would have made $1M in sales if it wasn’t for that pesky $1.5M in production costs.’ Obviously, no money earned.

Should the industry band together and save some existence of TRU, I’d like to suggest a few tips on what to consider in observation of the masters of the next-gen retailer, Amazon.

1) Lead the industry by having useful information. If you ask any modern consumer, and I’m hoping the industry as a whole is targeting modern consumers, they will all tell you the first place they look for pricing/availability is Amazon. Why does Amazon get to be the first option for TOYS? They’re not even a toy website. Change that. News, special promotions, offers, and release schedules should be found at TRU’s website. I’m not talking about TRU info, but all this info from toy producers. Create a website plan where product producers can curate and merchandise their products directly on TRU’s website. Add that to the marketing arsenal of the retail shop, and you’ve solved two problems in the industry: modernize TRU to compete with Amazon, and build an effective way to market for toy manufacturers to an endemic audience without needing to branch out of the industry. Facebook and Instagram are great for outside the core toy audience, but these platforms are far from ideal for the industry.

2) Earn consumers trust. In a recent article on Inc.com, its stated that trust is just as important as price in the modern retail environment. Although traditional ways of gaining trust through donations are fine and dandy, more is needed today including visibility of the personnel. Every once in a while, Jeff Bezos would put out a scanned copy of an announcement for upcoming news for amazon right on the front page. I can’t believe 100% that it truly is Mr. Bezos who’s doing that, but the perception is endearing for most, and it makes anyone who visits Amazon’s site more comfortable. Another way would be to foster a strong network of influencers from various social media platforms. YouTube’s been under a lot of heat recently with misguiding kids to inappropriate info, and as YouTube gets more and more saturated with this type of content, its more likely kids will fall in to this trap. Build a ‘toys only/approved, authorized influencer’ platform just for toys accessible through the site and a proprietary app. This will keep kids glued to the smart phone in a self contained environment of just the appropriate subject matter. Also, feature influencers with appearances at various locations around the country. Everyone loves a local celebrity.

3) Have the products people want. At this moment, I can order something from Amazon, and have it ready to pick up at a locker location by the end of the day. Its always a good thing when the store you go to always has the one thing you’re looking for in stock when you get there. I know pick up services have been around for a while, but the difference here is Amazon has EVERYTHING available including exclusives from everywhere. Will TRU be able to do this? Maybe they can partner with Hot Topic or GameStop so whenever they get exclusives that TRU can offer them as well, or TRU can simply capitalize off the fact that they get the ‘first to market’ news and offer before the rest of the industry. This move can ruffle some feathers with clients, but this is a key component to the success of Amazon.

4) Make the process quick. When I go to an Amazon locker, I scan my smart phone and a locker pops open for me to get my product. TRU needs that same convenience. Most online pickup options have me waiting in the Customer Service line, behind all the returns, then waiting for the clerk to figure out who I am and what I’m doing there, then waiting for the clerk to find my product. Add pickup lockers, in the middle of the store so people can grab there goods and get a good view of all the impulse items along the way.

And now this journal entry is three times longer than the original statement released… Just some bubbling ideas that popped in my head when reading the statement from the Toy Association. Embrace disruption, and lead the industry as you were meant to do.

About The Toy Association

Founded in 1916, The Toy Association™, Inc. is the not-for-profit trade association representing all businesses that design, produce, license, and deliver toys and youth entertainment products for kids of all ages. Our 950+ members drive the annual $27 billion U.S. domestic toy market, and our organization has a long history of propelling the health and growth of the toy industry, which has an annual U.S. economic impact of $109.2 billion.

http://www.toyassociation.org/ta/about-us/toys/about-us/about-us.aspx


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Toy News Review 4/5/2018

Here are my thoughts on some recent toy news:

KB Toys Announces its plan to open 1,000 pop up toy stores!

https://icv2.com/articles/news/view/40053/owner-kb-toys-brand-hopes-open-1-000-pop-up-toy-stores
https://www.retailwire.com/discussion/kb-toys-plans-a-christmas-comeback/

There seems to be a great deal of wishful thinking on the side of KB Toys in the wake of the TRU collapse. Though it sounds like this holiday season may be saved for toy retailers, the idea of ‘we’re creating a physical shop with a grander experience’ is dead. Unless you can create Disneyland, there is no retail experience that i can think of that can motivate people to go to a physical shop anymore. And that should say a lot coming from a guy whose sole livelihood depended on engaging retail experiences for over 10 years. Some more service based businesses can pull this off, but if the bottom line of your physical business is to sell actual products, its not going to work.

Long term customer loyalty and community are the keys to any physical business, and its extremely difficult to do that in this very expense age. If the idea of a toy shop is simply going to be seasonal pop up shops like the Halloween store, it’ll be sustainable, but with a limit and a much lower market relevance.

The only way any new physical brick and mortar operation will succeed will be when retail real estate prices collapse. Products are already being produced at the lowest possible cost with the cheapest possible quality before becoming toxic, and the cost of employees is rising, but that’s a resource that is directly responsible for income for the business and can be tuned to grow substantially in a relatively short amount of time. retail real estate prices both purchasing and renting, will need to adjust in order to make shops a viable business opportunity. As online sales continue to take market share, the cost of retail leases needs to adjust along with the diminishing profits of a business. It won’t ever happen because managing land is a business in itself, but maybe this is just a sign of the times where toy stores are simply not needed.

Even the comments in these articles hit on some common sense hurdles that a ‘guest KB Account’ tries to counter, but falls into that ‘wishful thinking’ category with answers with no real substance. Each answer had already been debunked by failed business attempts in years passed. The most positive point is echoed as ‘that’s an good idea.’ Good idea, yes, but a bad business.

Amazon buys into LotR TV Series deal

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/how-lord-rings-tv-series-landed-at-amazon-not-netflix-1099213

Massive deal considering the movies hold up well today almost 20 years later. Even the Hobbit trilogy stands up against time even those the story and musical numbers were lame.

With this mega video license will also come a windfall of opportunity for licencors if Amazon doesn’t own all of them for the TV series as well. What better advertising on Amazon can you get than from a property owned, viewed, and already promoted on the biggest selling platform in the world?

Amazon could probably quite easily produced every single product in a licensing catalog if it really wanted to with all the intel its gathered over the years from white label manufacturers from all around the world and the insight that tells what the hottest type of items sell to specific age demographics for specific licenses. I’m expecting this to be THE next must-binge series after Game of Thrones.

Toymakers struggle to crack the code of what kids want

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-big-toymakers-troubles-20180402-story.html

This isn’t new news. This is what the toy industry does on a daily basis. More attention is given now that the primary leverage toymakers once had with TRU and other larger retailers looking to try new things disappearing, and the great retail expanse of the online world is still a unbelievable mystery to long time industry veterans who’ve fallen far behind other industries like gaming.

The article highlights for me a few glaring realities: toys nowadays have fallen victim to the ‘fast-fashion’ production model where cheap, disposable products are the norm. Toymakers need to find a new model in building a brand from there own marketing efforts and be less reliant on retailer marketing. Movie toy tie ins just don’t seem to have the same effect as they once did, and Makers need to go global to find growing markets. There is a point at the nd where it mentions parents will want to give their kids STEM toys or share Star Wars, but that sounds like buying toys more for the parents than for the kids. I’ve never heard a kid as for a STEM toy, and if it were so popular, then why is Lego falling? Regarding Star Wars, after the last movie, my kids want no part of it.

So long Minecraft: Fortnite passes Minecraft in YouTube viewership

https://www.vg247.com/2018/04/02/fortnite-officially-surpassed-minecraft-youtube/

Finally, that repulsive, beta-looking, blocky ‘game’ design can be laid to rest and finds its place among other dying Microsoft gaming products in the shadows of greater titles and experiences.

I’m guessing this is where the early Minecraft audience went after growing up. They made Minecraft big then, and the same generation is now moving on to Fortnite. This is a generational trend someone needs to take notice. Minecraft is really old hat nowadays, and with no true innovation coming up, I can’t see it growing any larger for Kids than it already has. It may have buy in with the educational system, but as far as kids and the passion kids have, that phase has passed. If I had to give an example: its like when I was given a Captain Planet figure from my school because it endorsed the TV show. You didn’t really want it, but the idea was good from the school. What you really wanted was the new TMNT Casey Jones figure. That was passion.

I expect Fortnite to continue to grow as it fosters stronger community through open channel communication as well as competitive play which is addicting by human nature.

Small business and how to do it

https://icv2.com/articles/news/view/40003/mining-outside-diamond

Great article that puts many touchy subjects for small business owners out in the open including a list of distribution resources. Definitely worth checking out for any small business owner.


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Walmart + FedEx = Losing Partnership

Recently, news outlets have been spouting out how Walmart is positioning itself to take on the beast that is Amazon by strengthening their partnership with world renowned shipping brand, FedEx. This news coming off of the sad release of TRU’s announcement was seemingly put into affect to comfort those shopping consumers that of the the major players is looking to foster more convenience that casual buyers are always looking for. Sadly, this type of partnership is too little too late.

In an article released on the CNBC website, Walmart will be installing FedEx offices in 500 of its stores in its ‘race against Amazon.’ The proposed benefits with these offices in place don’t sound very progressive. As a matter of fact, they sound rather traditional which in this environment is a dangerous way to proceed. One of the benefits was said to be that visitors to FedEx have boosted foot traffic in Walmart… that’s one hell of a shopping impulse. It almost sounded insulting that FedEx would have the gall to suggest they would be responsible for any type of bump in traffic. However, I wouldn’t totally discount it because it could be a telling of how much Walmart is actually hurting. I’ve been to many FedEx offices. Believe me, there isn’t all that much traffic to be proud of. Maybe a Krispy Kreme shop in the heyday of doughnuts, but a mad crowd at FedEx? Please…

The article goes on to discuss the other benefits told to them by the partnering companies including local pickup convenience and possible temporary storage space usage… which I don’t think there’s a serious demand for. I could be wrong, but I definitely have strong doubts.

Of course, nobody really addressed the elephant in the room… how is this actually going to lend advantage to FedEx or Walmart against Amazon? Amazon outclasses Walmart in every wholesome sense in product and service, and Amazon’s also started to take point on its own logistics leaving both of these legacy businesses wish they were somewhere else.

“But Walmart’s the leader in low prices. They’ve always go that!” This is true, but this will also be their downfall. See, Walmart’s always been the low price leader, but you’ve got to have an industry to lead. Too many industry icons of retail have fallen off with more to come, and if Walmart is the only player in the game (brick and mortar convenience store), it becomes the only price. The company will then need to look at the leaders on other platforms which leads to Amazon, but before Walmart can ‘lead in low price’ Amazon will have already made its money and moved on to the next thing. And the prices for new items on Amazon pretty much put Walmart in check to where they won’t win on leading unless they lose… strange turn of phrase…

In addition, Amazon’s actually got Walmart beat on inventory as well since a Walmart can only carry some much stuff in its own stores regardless the size, and its always got to manage turnover or pay the price. With Amazon, you get everything that’s offered in Walmart PLUS the rest of the world as 3rd party sellers are Amazon’s decentralized buyers, suppliers, shippers, and marketing team to say the least. And in a more genius move, Amazon offers the FBA for 3rd party sellers where independent retailers pay Amazon to hold their inventory for them. Can Walmart get any product partner to pay for warehouse storage? Not likely ever. Amazon still wins.

As far as FedEx, Amazon’s already making tremendous strides in delivery. With Amazon doing same day delivery, local pickup lockers partnering with 7-11 convenience stores, and drone shipping experiments, FedEx should be worried as well. Amazon is poised to have its own proprietary logistics just for their service and they’re very close to sealing that deal. This has all delivery services including DHL, FedEx, UPS, and even the Post Office, in a massive scramble to fill the hole that’ll be left once Amazon takes in its own shipping business.

Strangely enough, I think this FedEx/Walmart partnership will seem at face value a good idea, but it may very well simply help strengthen Amazon! If a person registers as an Amazon seller, posts on Amazon any products that are in Walmart like an exclusive Funko Pop, and actually gets a sale, that person can then go directly to the FedEx office to ship it out. Walmart and FedEx get there cuts, but so does Amazon. Crazy right? As a seller myself, I do prefer to use USPS because of the better rates for the comparable service, but the convenience of having a FedEx office right at my point of purchase might just give a little more benefit to FedEx over anyone else in this dated relationship. I might use FedEx to get something to someone if I was in an extreme rush, but I think I’ve done that perhaps twice in 20 years.

This collaboration won’t be a disaster, but it won’t have any long term impact as it has no way of controlling any advantage over Amazon. With 80% of online holiday sales already under Amazon’s grip, the future of retail as a whole will more than likely follow along side leaving any competition who think brick & mortar first in the dust.


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Toy Industry Armageddon – The Beginning of the End – Part 1 – Problems

Category : Blog

News nowadays in the toy industry is really depressing. So much is going on with only a handful of winners and a whole string of losers waiting to take the deep plunge of bankruptcy if they haven’t already.

I’ve played a number of parts in this evolving industry from budding retail store owner, edgy online entrepreneur , collapsing brink and mortar store owner, dated web retailer, 3rd party online sales partner, and pro-level global brand manager.

having been a part of all this, I’ve come up with a few thoughts on some of the wrong things I feel many in the industry have fallen victim to. In most cases, they could have been avoided with a simple change of mindset like the evolution of a marketing strategy, but some situations were unavoidable and destined to happen (RIP my brick and mortar).

Let me make my first point with marketing since that’s rather fresh in my head since my most recent job exit.

In this day and age, its hard to think that staple names of any industry would miss the mark when it comes to social media. Consumers are using it, its growing exponentially, and its totally free! who wouldn’t want to use this tool? The aging toy industry. I guess there was a time that larger toy manufacturers got wind of the idea that Social Media for kids was bad… at least that’s the excuse I was told. Maybe at one time this was a bit of a riskier move, but to still have this mindset in this day and age is practically ludicrous, especially if you’ve got legacy licenses that actually appeal to adults.

To the industry insider’s credit, the rule on social media sites is that individuals under the age of 13 can’t start an account with Facebook, YouTube, or other social platforms. So, I could see that perspective, but what I don’t think was realized is that the people who actually buy the products, the adults, social media was the ultimate resource! In addition, though a child couldn’t start an account, that’s not going to stop them from viewing the social media site (YouTube, anyone?). Such a wasteful opportunity to miss out on when a child goes to their parents to ask about a toys and the parents look on Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram to find nothing but amateur, public access style video reviews that wouldn’t hold a candle to what a real marketing master to present. I really felt the excuse was more of a cop out to not learn a trend that was mostly unfamiliar at the time, and to this day, its still a mystery to most I’ve worked around.

If you look onto the biggest names in toys right now, you’d be surprised at how pitiful some of those social media numbers are. Looking quickly online, Mattel, Jakks Pacific, Bandai America, MGA Enterainment and Spin Master don’t even have a combined Facebook following that reaches 500k people. Who’s doing it right? Hasbro with 3.4M, Funko with 757k, and the king of them all Lego with a commanding 12M followers.

‘Well, its not about the company, but the brands that are promoted. Those are the labels that sell.’ I can see this as a possible argument as MGA Entertainment has an abysmal count just over 200 followers (yes, that little), the official Bratz Facebook page is just about to tip 900k.

From the latest Toy Industry analyst reports, they say if a toy company doesn’t have a YouTube strategy, you better have one very soon. I feel if a company is just now getting to this, the future seems dim.

Social media with the media trifecta (FB, YT, IG) are essentials in the modern marketing age. I’ll explore more about why older marketing (TV, web banners, movie tie-ins) are having a tough time.

Stay tuned for additional topics in this stream of consciousness such as customer shopping behavior, brand exposure, production buildup, retail partner buyer knowledge, consumer media consumption, collectibe nostalgia and the playing patterns (or lack of) with ‘kids.’


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TRU is closing, and kids don’t care, but I do

Category : Blog

You knew this was coming. Don’t kid yourself.

This was all part of the inevitable just like other mighty legacy titans of retail before it. Its a similar story to Sports Authority, Tower Records, The Good Guys, Circuit City, and Radio Shack. The only difference here is that now it feels its directly affecting kids and we can’t help but to try and ‘save the children.’

But lets be real here; kids aren’t into TRU anymore. Kids are barely into toys nowadays.

My definition of a ‘kid’ since my early childhood had been little people between the ages of 4 to 14. Kids actually played with toys back then. That age range has slowly gotten smaller and smaller heading towards the younger years. Nowadays, I feel the term ‘kid’ is between 3-6, and then beyond that, we’ve got tweens and teens who now adopt a new toy that many old-school, plastic printing, major players are afraid to recognize: smart phones. The age shrinkage isn’t going to stop either as smart phones and other devices are quickly becoming the Swiss Army knife of automated babysitting for the busy modern day parents. What toy can you think of that can double as a scientific calculator and a baby rattle at the same time? Now, the deceptive ambiguous term ‘kid’ should die along with the TRU brand.

If there was anything I could do to save the business, I would. It was a treasure in my childhood and it still the ‘go to’ whenever I feel the urge to scratch the toy itch. However, due to the rapid evolution of shopping in the the US, the stale, rigid processes of aging legacy business, and the ever changing interests of the youth, it was just a matter of time.

With most industry people and news sources stating that this will be a loss for kids, but if you notice, it’s not the kids next to the adults that are expressing emotion, but the kids inside the adults. Modern kids don’t know TRU. Unless they have a family member that works for the company, Geoffrey the Giraffe would be nothing more than a retro meme with a damn catchy theme song that old people can sing by heart. I saw a video of a costumed Geoffrey walking into a classroom to meet a group of 6-8 year old kids. The confusion on their faces was priceless. They didn’t know who the hell Geoffrey was. How could they? With zero awareness made through any standard media modern day kids consume, this visit was more of a surprise introduction than anything else. At these kids’ age, they should have already known the theme song.

If TRU was seriously important for kids, I don’t think Walmart and Target would have been such a threat. Its not like those companies are promoting any better. I do feel both Walmart and Target have a better online presence than TRU, but that’s not saying much since they are all pretty atrocious and pale in comparison to the online juggernaut.

From this, I’ve learned that my idea of creating an engaging experience at a retail store might not work after all. I was a big believer that if you created an event out of a place, it would be worth it to go there. This works well with serialized magazines and media as well as competitive types activities like card games. However, if a store is simply touted as simply retail, and if you can’t sell it better than the next guy, regardless of all the bells you ring or whistles you blow, you won’t get the business.

TRU needed to become the leader in toy news not only for the industry, but for the partner companies. By being the initial source, it would have made for the perfect chance to catch customers online to buy right then and there, or at least guide them to the store closest to them.

I do feel they needed to reduce store especially after hearing that there were over 150 stores that were within a 15 minute drive to one another. That seems extremely excessive in this day an age. If they would have closed those stores during the first restructure over a decade ago and reinvested it into the online strategy, we could have been looking at a whole new eCommerce landscape.

There is no separation between physical retail and online retail. Retail is retail. The product you get at a store will be the same product you get online. Even when a physical retail store gets an exclusive, you can best believe it’ll be online, Amazon specifically, within the first hour that the first store offers it. Scalpers know this all too well. If online retail is only a fraction of the whole revenue, boil those numbers down by how much it cost to make each dollar and I’m pretty sure you’re profiting much more via eCommerce. Plus, any lack of sales online is made up for the compounding interest of online marketing through social media promotions. The whole box opening phenomenon should have been a trend TRU invented.

To look for a silver lining, I hope this will open up the doors of the long time stubborn, pretentious toy producers to partner with small business entrepreneurs without the need for a $500k yearly minimum guarantee or manditory EDI integration. Its not about selection anymore. Its about diversifying your client portfolio. If that means hiring more staff for account management and order processing, do it.

Will the brand name continue to live after this? Probably as an online store for a while before just fizzling out. Just go over the list of names of ‘unforgettable’ legacy business mentioned earlier in this article, and you tell me.

To me, its just water under the bridge. Toys will survive by evolving, and business will go on as usual.


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