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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.


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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!


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


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


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


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


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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Sources I use for industry news

Part of my daily routine in order to stay somewhat informed on major industry and geek news is to take about an hour at the beginning of the day to comb through a few key media sites for tidbits to spark conversation and deep thoughts that help stimulate the rusty idea engine atop my shoulders.  Here are my initial ‘go to’ news sources outside of the social media ‘fake news’ generators:

http://news.google.com – pretty standard, but by this time, the google news algorithm has learned what I look for and will normally have some super filtered leads on alternative news site at the ready, and even some great general industry reads in the business section.  This is the fastest way I hear about the breaking news to all the major retail partners and their business alignment.  Guys like Barnes & Nobles, TRU, Mattel, and even Bandai.

http://www.linkedin.com – LinkedIn can be one of the fastest, most powerful news sources in any particular industry as it networks the combined brain trust of the contact list you build.  This is why I’m highly against simply connecting with just anyone out there whose looking to just build a hyper inflated number of contacts. Its not the size, its how you use it… and should you think otherwise, you’re fooling yourself.  Quality over quantity. And the news feed is the proof: when you’ve got socially active CEO’s of major industry companies making statements, or articles liked by industry peers, its all that more relevant to your understanding of your profession.  Its so interesting too that we not only get relevant news feeds, but you also get the see the credibility of the poster and any other related parties (be it individual or company) through THEIR linkedIn profiles.  Sign up if you haven’t already, and start connecting.

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com – this source is a bit more specific to my particular industry, so I can’t imagine too many other professionals needing this unless you want a very thorough source for news, history, and culture of the anime ‘otaku’ culture in the US and abroad.  Based in Canada, this source has been a primary ‘go-to’ for almost two decades, and it hasn’t stopped.  A large portion of the community are old schoolers who have weathered the anime trend in the US from as early as the 1980’s, so the depth of discussion can be intense.  Recently, the site has announced that its needing help coming up with funding to continue providing anime news for free.  Hopefully, they can find a funding mechanic that works for them and traditional banner advertising and global begging are a dying trend.

http://www.kotaku.com – another nichey type site that showcases news on general geek culture topics with a noticeable affinity towards video games.  Admittedly, I’m less excited about the articles here as it sounds like most of its written by middle schoolers, but there are the occasional gems that pop up that are timely, to the point, and insightful.

http://www.icv2.com – domestic geek culture in general with a focus on US comics, movies, card games, and board games.  They also post on major industry retailers including close coverage of the Barnes and Noble and TRU fall out.   So this site can be a great source for industry purchasing trends.

http://www.bloomberg.com/businessweek – from niche industry sources to industry business news, bloomberg is a great place to keep up with the pulse of major toy players including retailers and manufacturers, and the business insight that follows.  Certainly worth a look as I’ve seen where articles address the concerns with stakeholders rather than representatives of a business which lends to a very direct, and even brutal, perspective on things.  I’ve noticed its been getting a bit more political, so as long as you don’t mind wading though all that without getting too mad, you might find some goodies.

http://www.businessinsider.com/ – Hot news article dump about higher level industry news and some tech insight for possible gaming or lifestyle application for the future.

https://www.youtube.com/feed/trending?gl=US – its a both sad, but good thing to have a trending youTube source.  This allows people to see what’s hot in the video verse.  In some cases, you discover some break out influencers if the right mix of hype, release and product hit the scene at the right time.  It also highlights some of the trouble things people are looking at.  I normally look to this feed to see what kids are into as this is a mainstay for any babysitter nowadays.  I’m sure the majority of viewers are not kids, but the idea that kids can be exposed to recorded disasters that are ‘rewarded’ for trending its troubling for me.  I digress.  The video source is in my opinion a necessary evil that can reveal a good deal about the interest on pretty much anything you can think of in the video world.

https://trends.google.com/trends/ – Last, but not least, google trends page can delivery some very interesting info on trends by various demographic filters including estimated age and geo-location.  I don’t really catch as much news here as I do more of a macro view of the health of subjects.  makes for great watercooler talk at the office for anyone else whose actually passionate about the industry.

This are my sources. Do you have any to recommend?  Let me know if you have a moment.

RT Griffin aka The Keep

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Hello, curious onlookers!

Category : Blog

Welcome to the Figwiz Media Project, home of The Keep, and personal posting place for the brain dumpings of hobby collectibles industry veteran Reginald Griffin.

This site will be a living work in progress with what needs to be more frequent updates and postings.

I’ll be focusing on inspired ideas and concepts from my many years knee deep in geek cultures.

Stay tuned for more should you want to discuss anime, pop culture movies, video games, database administration, and industry analytics with a perspective from an aging geek of things.

– RT Griffin aka The Keep

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