February 28, 2014
Last week, we got to check out the 112th annual American International Toy Fair® in New York. It is the largest marketplace of its type in the Western Hemisphere and is a wonderland of recreational products spanning from classics like dolls and puzzles, to radio-controlled vehicles and computer software, to necessities such as party supplies and stationery.
In addition playing with new gadgets and taking a trip or two down memory lane inspired by contemporary versions of childhood toys, we went to Toy Fair 2014 to learn how companies are selling and shipping their products. Here’s what we observed regarding toy fulfillment:
Tried and true toys like boardgames, action figures, puzzles, building blocks, and other familiar products are still going strong, but few seem to be selling B2C online. The majority of these products are sold B2B to large retailers, who then sell to consumers. Given the longevity of many products and brands, B2B sales have been a successful business plan, but excluding B2C channels can also mean a lost opportunity for more revenue.
On the other hand, robots, drones, bluetooth technology, phone controlled planes — anything controlled remotely — was hot. It was also neat to see an increasing number of brands developing toys that incorporate educational components and encourage kids to learn about science, math, engineering, technology, and art. Unlike the old school products, these tech and new age toys are being sold B2C as well as B2B. By selling to businesses and directly to consumers, these newer brands are able to increase their visibility, maintain more of their own branding, and control the relationship they develop with customers. When developing a new product, achieving a broad reach and creating a strong reputation is key, so multichannel sales are a smart move.
After a full few days exploring toy land and learning what merchants are curious about, we thought we’d share some basic advice:
- Don’t just focus on wholesale
This is fairly obvious by now, so I won’t go into too much detail, but the bottom line is that most brands need a strong online presence to be successful. There are tons of online store templates backed by strong platforms to choose from, so getting one started is easier than you may think. Create a category on your store that has your wholesale products and a form for small retailers. VAR’s (Value Added Resellers) want to know how to build a solution for small business or home market around your products; talk about this through a blog connected to your website. Blogging is another good way to generate interest, gain trust, and build a community around your product.
- Sell internationally
Overseas markets offer an opportunity for fast expansion. With a well-connected distributor, there’s tons of sales potential in bringing your product to foreign customers. It’s also smart to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket — by selling products in multiple markets, you build some stability in case one goes south.
- Small wholesale purchases, drop shipping, and vendor managed inventory
Strong distributors only make significant investments in proven products. For unknown or unproven products, they may ask you to drop ship to consumers (incurring costs of holding inventory, shipping, etc.) or consign inventory to them (so they only pay for what they sell). This lets distributors offload risk to you. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked to drop ship or ship to their buyers. Like everybody in the supply chain, they are trying to simplify their process as well, so prepare to offer them simple solutions.