Sunday, December 17, 2006

DARPA Funds Remote Control Sharks

"From Undersea Spies: Turning Sharks into Robotic Sentries "It seems like science fiction, but the U.S. military would like to use sharks as underwater spies. The folks at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), who dream up the future of weapons and military systems, envision squads of sharks prowling the oceans with sensors that could transmit evidence of explosives or other threats.""

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What You Need to Know to Successfully Market Your Toys in the United States

A lot of children live in the United States. According to the US Census Bureau Population Pyramid, there are approximately 60 million plus children living in the United States between the ages of 0 and 14.

China, which has, you will have to admit, quite a different background than America, accounts for 75% of US toy imports. That’s $17,844,052,000 US. That’s a lot of toys.

Commitment: You will need to be fully committed to the venture. Halfway efforts don’t beget halfway results. They beget losses.

This means that you will need to have a national sales organization in place (they can be independent sales representatives), a sales manager in country, a stock keeping warehouse (the entire operation can be leased), and someone to handle accounts receivable and payable.

• Time: You will need to appreciate that US retailers work within a different time frame than do those in the Europe. Presentations are early, purchase orders are late, and ship dates will be within days or weeks of receiving the order. This can be a big challenge if your manufacturing is local. It can be a nightmare if it’s an ocean away.

The only thing worse than not getting an order is getting one and not being able to ship it so you will need to have some inventory staged in the US.

• Size: You need to be geared up to manufacture large runs. Orders can be very large. You know all about Wal-Mart, Kmart, and Target. There are, however, many other companies that are able to buy in large quantities as well. CVS Drug Stores has 5,375 stores, Kroger Supermarkets has 2,530 stores, and Dollar General Variety Stores has 7,700 stores. They all carry toys. (I have added a list of a few other large accounts at the end of this article).

Some manufacturers do not have sufficient equipment to produce the quantities demanded. My recommendation is to either have the capacity or don’t attempt to sell to these large retailers.

• Forecasting: You must work with forecasting that in the first years can be at times meaningless. The lack of a sales history combined with a supply source that is far away can create a major challenge.

My best suggestion is to hire a sales manager who has a history in your product category. He or she should have experience selling these accounts and accordingly be able to develop an inventory model.

• Patience: You must be in it for the long haul. In the US, like the rest of the world, you don’t just reap what you sow; you reap later than you sow and you reap more than you sow. Actually in the US, you sometimes reap a lot later.

You will typically see nice increases in years 2 and 3, and then hit a plateau in year 4. It is at that point that you will need to consider increasing your commitment in order to increase your business.

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How to Find a Great Rep

They Believe in It. “Anything you believe in, you can make a million dollars at,” proclaimed vendor Allan Caplan, president of Inkworks (Gift Guide). Winning reps carry samples and literature, noted Darrel Cresswell, president and general manager of Just Jump It. “Every deal they make, they introduce your product line.”

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Tiny Computer Is a Dickens of a Game

Worldwide sales, said a company spokesman, have surpassed 15 million units.

The Pocket 20Q now has several genre-specific variations, including 20Q Movies, 20Q Sports and 20Q Junior for kids.

The devices work through an artificial intelligence program developed by Robin Burgener, Burgener developed the game in 1988, and back in those days, he was running it from a computer floppy disk.

In 1996, Burgener opened a Web site - Sometime in the next few days, players will have played 20 Questions on the Web site more than 46,000,000 times.

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How to Tell If Your Rep Is Cheating

Their Percentage Is Too High. Ron Dukes, an independent sales rep with 30 years’ experience, said that large lines with hundreds of SKUs generally garner a 10 percent commission per sale. Smaller companies with just one product might expect to pay a rep between 10 and 15 percent. If a rep asks for an unreasonable commission, “Run!” Dukes advised.

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Teen Spending to Fall This Holiday Season

Teens will be spending less on holiday gifts. Fifty-seven percent plan to spend more than $75 on gifts this year, a three percent decrease from last year, and a five percent drop from 2004.The majority of teens (66 %) also indicated that that they plan on spending “less” or “about the same” as they did last year.

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Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Zizzle LLC Appoints New Sales Agency Fragel Sales Inc. of Royal Oak, MI as the Latest Sales Organization for Their Growing Toy and Electronic Business

Fragel Sales team of Mark Fragel, Brian Crane, Victoria Caherty, Sara Wheaton and Lisa Branchev will immediately take on the sales responsibilities for Sears Holding(Kmart), Walgreens, Meijer, Aldi, Kohls, ShopKo and others.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the highly professional and very successful Fragel sales team! Zizzle expects their involvement to further raise our level of service to many key customers which we all look forward to,” said Roger Shiffman, CEO and President of Zizzle.

Fragel will be responsible for Zizzle’s entire line of product including but not limited to the entire toy line supporting 2007’s blockbuster release of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, featuring highly detailed action figures, interactive playsets and innovative role play items. In addition, an extensive line of learning aids under the Hooked on Phonics license, various handheld electronic games and much more.

Pleo Manufacturer - Hon Hai to mass produce robot toys

Taiwan's electronics giant Hon Hai Precision has set its sights on the lucrative toy market by teaming up with U.S. toymaker Ugobe to produce Pleo, a next-generation robot dinosaur toy, officials said on Tuesday.

The official said the "life-form" Pleb is expected to hit the worldwide market in spring, but Ugobe will reserve 100 of the first batch for sales in Taiwan in February.

Caleb Chung, a toy inventor and co-founder of Ugobe, said Pleb is equipped with 34 sensors, memory cards, and more than eight computer chips able to process millions of data per second, thus making Pleb a virtual pet.

Initially, the toy would be sold at about 270 dollars, compared to other robot toys which can cost more than 2,000 dollars, Christopher said.

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Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Aging Baby Boomers Spawn New Tech Markets

"With the generation of Baby Boomers starting to enter their 60's, 75 million Americans will cross that line in the next 20 years. For the first time, though, this group will be composed of people who have grown up with technology. Enter a new industry: tech for the elderly that provides greater independence and better health, with an eye to users' privacy and dignity. Some examples (with pictures) would be the Pill Pets, stuffed animals with LCD's that tell their owners when to take their medicine, and Aware Car, which provides electronic warning systems to compensate for losses in reflexes."

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A toy story, YouTube-style

The $500 million radio-controlled toy industry just got YouTubed. TV ads and pitches on the Today show are no longer the only road to a holiday hit for the makers of remote-controlled toys, which count on grown men as much as kids to drive make-or-break seasonal sales.

Buzz from bloggers, viral videos, instant messaging, and subtle product placement in TV shows and movies are proving to be just as effective for some products. For instance, Silverlit Toys, the Hong Kong manufacturer of the Picco Z, has shunned traditional advertising. But thanks to bloggers' enthusiasm for the chopper, the company is shipping 150,000 units this holiday season - a whopping number for a radio-controlled toy.

Internet retailers did their part in pumping up the Picco Z craze by dropping videos on their websites and trolling online conversations to add links to the clips., an online radio-controlled-toy outlet in Los Angeles, posted its own Picco Z video and within two weeks sold 18,000 toy helicopters, says owner Kevork Kouyoumjian. "It's the hottest item we've ever sold."

Word of mouth - amplified by the Internet - has never been bigger for the $21.3 billion toy industry. Before the Web explosion, toymakers followed the Tickle-Me-Elmo formula: Unveil a holiday gizmo at a spring trade fair, run endless TV ads during cartoon prime time to hook the tykes, watch their parents duke it out in the aisles of Toys R Us, and wait for the resulting media coverage to drive more sales.

Then came Furby. In 1998, holiday demand for the electronic gremlin was spiked by online discussion groups (the proto-blogs of their day) and the first generation of Internet retailers.

This year Interactive Toy Concepts abandoned TV ads in favor of YouTube to promote its $70 Micro Mosquito radio-controlled helicopter. Like the Picco Z, the Mosquito flies from the palm of your hand indoors, but it looks like an insect with two green LED lights for eyes.

The company, based in Toronto, pushed the Mosquito at toy shows, loaded corporate videos on YouTube, and issued news releases that wound up on blogs such as and on hobbyist forums including One YouTube video of the Mosquito was viewed 103,429 times during just one week in September, making it at that time the No. 1 science and technology video on the site and the 43rd most popular overall, according to the toymaker.

If the online videos don't attract enough attention, toy companies are looking to an even bigger screen. Interactive Toy hired a product placement agency to get the Micro Mosquito on the popular TV show 24 and plans to keep demand booming after the holidays with the helicopter's appearance in Homeland Security, an upcoming movie starring Meg Ryan and Antonio Banderas.

Jay May, president of product placement firm Feature This, says his business increasingly caters to toy companies. At $36,000, a half-dozen cameos on TV shows cost a fraction of a typical $2 million holiday commercial.

The Internet is an interactive medium, of course, and toymakers are also tapping fanboys for product ideas they can turn into must-have gadgets. Toronto toy company Spin Master stumbled across its hot holiday seller, the Storm Launcher, when managers saw a YouTube video of a radio-controlled airplane posted by hobbyists Ernest Butler and Michael Connally. The Fort Worth, Texas, pair invented a plane that could fly, rumble over rocky terrain, and glide across water.

Within 48 hours of seeing it, Spin Master executives had Butler and Connally on a real plane to the company's headquarters, where they quickly negotiated an agreement to buy the rights to the toy. "We wouldn't let them leave without doing a deal," says Harold Chizick, a Spin Master marketing executive. "We knew if we didn't get it, someone else would."

The company needed to do no more than buy an ad in a toy magazine announcing the Storm Launcher's July debut; someone scanned the ad and posted it on Wattflyer, a radio-control-hobbyist blog.

The company sold out of its initial stock of the $100 toy in just three days. "The Internet has been vital to this product and how it got to market," Chizick says.

With demand continuing to rise, he expects to sell more than 150,000 Storm Launchers by year's end. (Spin Master also recently added to its arsenal of remote-controlled toys by agreeing to buy the Picco Z line from Silverlit.)

"You can't pretend you're a consumer to start the buzz online. People will figure you out," says Emily Riley, an advertising analyst at JupiterResearch in New York. Witness the mess Wal-Mart (Charts) found itself in when its paid blogger was smoked out in October. Companies should just admit that they're selling something, Riley says.

Toy companies like Spin Master are already seeking out kids online and counting on them to be the chief marketers of future products. "This is where the market is going," says Spin Master's Chizick.

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Monday, December 4, 2006

HandsOnToys Inc. - Toy Company Case Study

“To launch a company requires full-time participation,” Mr. Farrar said, “Many, many companies with good ideas do not get off the ground because they cannot put a business plan together. They can’t do the planning and thinking and the organization that is necessary. It is not a part-time job.”

they decided to pursue the market in the toy industry described as the Specialty Toy Market. According to Mr. Farrar this segment accounts for 5% of the $20 billion dollar toy industry, and is very entrepreneurial lending itself to a slower pace of product development and marketing than the mass market.

February was when the plan was at a point of being ready to be shopped out to potential investors with which to accumulate funds. All solicitations were done on a private level, no VC’s were employed and the company is a privately held company. Estimates of $1 MM were made for the amount of money the company would need to develop and bring the product to market.

It was during this same time of prototype development and business plan writing that the company had employed a professional testing laboratory to test their product under ASTM regulations. This was done to ensure it was a safe product to market, and that it adhered to all established safety codes created by appropriate regulatory bodies. These test results were included in the business plan as a testament to the product safety and further reinforcement of the thoroughness of the founders business development activities.

They had maintained a business model for the company of being a nearly completely virtual organization. All the manufacturing was to take place outside the company by being contracted out. The same is true for the package printing and manufacturing, the assembly of the product into its deliverable form, and the shipping. An adult rehabilitation house is used to employ handicapped workers to assemble the product and to handle all the shipping. “We know what we know and we know what we don’t know. We have no problem paying for the right kind of service and we went out after the best talent we could afford,”

Their perseverance and enthusiasm for their new business allowed them to meet their aggressive schedule and conduct their initial product runs and shipments in August of 1994

Despite this being a risky position to be relying on only one product for the sales and growth of a company, the fact that HandsOnToys is a start-up company makes sense that they are portioning their limited resources to best exploit the one successful product concept they have. As time progresses and the company grows, they can learn from their experiences with the first product launch to more effectively repeat the process when they are ready to launch a new product.

By proving the product during the 1994 Christmas season, we can now go to the retailer and use the 1994 Christmas sale performance to show new retailers the proven track record of the product. If we missed Christmas we would have missed a year.”

“We were not in the distribution channels yet, so we had to first convince retailers to buy it. We hired a sales force and brought the product to the gift show and put it on display. That is where we got the bulk of the initial orders. The follow up orders largely consisted of re-orders from those initial customers.” For HandsOnToys their strategy was a successful one based on sales of 18,000 units for the Christmas season of 1994.

When asked about the reasons for the product’s success Mr. Farrar made it clear that the basic concept and nature of the product is what makes it so appealing, “It’s a helluva lot of fun!”

That is the very intriguing nature of the entrepreneurial company which is its ability to be flexible and very reactive to situations that larger companies would have a more difficult time reacting to.

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Zizzle: A Swashbuckling Toy Success Story

Based in Chicago, Zizzle is a second act for Shiffman, who in the 1990s produced not only Furby but also Giga-pets and a batch of other electronic toys that topped many a holiday wish list. Having sold his company Tiger Electronics to Hasbro in 1998 for $335 million, Shiffman bailed out of toys for a time.

If iZ put Zizzle on the map, the Pirates toys kept it there. Playsets and action figures have been selling well, says Shiffman. "There are pirates toys we simply can't keep on the shelves.

While retailers don't disclose unit sales, Byrne reckons that Pirates alone have raked in at least $100 million for Zizzle.

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Saturday, December 2, 2006

Secrets of Successful Toy CEOs

How to Do Business When Business Is Play

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"Bible Stack-O!"

Bible Stack-O! is a challenging card game with multiple levels of play for younger and older players.
If you play your cards right, you'll learn the books of the Bible and a content summary of each of the books too. (For ages 8-Adult

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Bandai and Evolution Robotics Partner on Breakthrough Telepresence Robot

The NetTansor is an excellent example of how fast the consumer robotics market is advancing,” said Paolo Pirjanian, CEO of Evolution Robotics. “We see a growing demand for innovative solutions like ViPR that enable companies like Bandai, WowWee and Sharper Image to deliver breakthrough new products at consumer-friendly prices.”
User-friendly software powered by the ViPR vision system lets hobbyists and families create their own programs for NetTansor for a broad range of purposes, from practical to pure fun. Examples include programming NetTansor to automatically take and send a picture each time the robot drives by a pet’s bowl to show how much food is left, creating a flash card game to help a student practice his/her vocabulary skills, or having NetTansor dance and play a song each time a child holds up one of the picture command cards included with the kit.
Bandai will begin taking orders for the NetTansor robot kit for sale in Japan on December 16, 2006. The complete kit will sell for roughly $415. (US$)

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Toy of the Year nominees revealed

2007 T.O.T.Y. Nominees

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Professor says toys are the futur

Hong Rongshao, a professor at Taipei Education University and founder of the country's first Toy Research Institute, is confident about the future of the toy industry. Many university students are worried about not being able to find work when they graduate, but Hong proclaims, "Kids, adults, old people, sick people, and even pets love toys. This is one career path that has a great future, and you can be your own boss and make good money, too."
I believe that the domestic market's current difficulties are due to an inability to design good toys, and not because there is no money to be made in toys

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National toy chains are not playing games in fight for survival

National toy chains are not playing games in fight for survival
Consumers are expected to spend on average $153 on toys this season, about 12 percent more than last year, according to market research firm NPD Group of Port Washington, N.Y.

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The Hard Truth About The Hard Truth About Hated 'Clamshell' Packaging

In an effort to keep toys intact and music players from being pilfered, the consumer products industry has moved en masse into a style of wrapping that's more prison than package. The hard plastic clamshell container, with its fused seams, is so impenetrable it has even spawned its own safecracking tools: razor-sharp gadgets designed to slash through all that stuff.
"You want the virgin product -- the product that's untouched by human hands," Hine said. "Yet when you get it home, the very thing that kept the product pristine is what's keeping you from actually experiencing it. We want it both ways."

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Toy industry could face 2006 sales decline

The U.S. toy industry rang up $12.7 billion in sales this year through October -- down 2.4 percent from a year ago, according to market research firm NPD Group.
That puts November and December on the hot seat to pull in $9.1 billion in sales if the industry hopes to at least match last year's total of $21.8 billion.
That could be a stretch since NPD said November and December usually account for 33 to 37 percent of total year sales -- not the 42 percent needed to match last year's numbers.
"It definitely looks like the industry might be down again this year," said NPD

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Robots, reptiles ready to invade

Toy retailers are noticing these new-tech, savvy toys rocketing up wish-lists in New Zealand's $47 million toy market.

The Warehouse lists its top toys for boys as Roboreptile, an electronic dinosaur that has three emotions, attacks and whips itself into frenzy. Its predecessors, Roboraptor and Robosapien, have been top favourites for the past two years.

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Can toys cash in?

Toys can take advantage of what is expected to be a bumper Christmas on the High Street, according to the British Retail Consortium.
The BRC says consumers will spend more than £11 billion on Christmas presents over the next five weeks, with the figures ten per cent up on 2005. Goods to the collective value of £33 billion will be bought in December, an increase of six per cent compared to last year.


Friday, November 17, 2006


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Richard Gottlieb & Associates Invites Additional Information for the Toy Industry Sales Representative Directory

The new Toy Industry Sales Representative Directory found at is already a big success with numerous visits from manufacturers, retailers and sales representatives. Found on the Richard Gottlieb & Associates website, the directory is a free service to the toy industry.

Richard Gottlieb & Associates, LLC


New Company Aims to Become Toy Industry On-Line Portal

European Christmas spending seen up but gaps wide

With video games, DVDs and clothes at the top of wish lists, households will each spend on average 456 euros ($585) on presents and 839 euros on Christmas overall, according to a study by consultants Deloitte

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For G.I. Joe creator, the real action is in the Bible

Levine's latest line of figurines - Almighty Heroes - includes accessorized and poseable versions of Moses, Noah, David and Samson. As head of Shakopee, Minn.-based Family Values LLC, Levine says good vs. evil continues to be the most vexing issue facing humanity. He's convinced that his new toys will once again persuade America's youth to tip the balance and save the world - if only in the sandbox. The figures retail from $12.99 to $24.99.

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Angel Capital Association