Last year in the Popcult Toybox I sort of downplayed the significance of the New York International Toy Fair, since most of the retail deals that made the fair important in the past were now worked out weeks or months in advance in private meetings between the largest toy companies and the big two toymakers, Hasbro and Mattel.
However, this year Toy Fair takes on a renewed importance because the industry is in flux. Sales are flat. Some catagories are growing a a rapid pace while others are spiraling downward. Recent layoffs at the big two mean that there are a lot of experienced and capable toy industry professionals out there to start up new companies or revitalize minor players.
Over the next week and a half, PopCult will be running a lot of items on Toy Fair and the toy industry in general. We will have news on new products, reviews of new toys and some speculation on what the future may bring.
One key item of interest is in the action figure segment, which is not doing well. GI Joe, the first action figure, is celebrating fifty years since his introduction this year, and the anniversary is extremely low-key. In fact, while Hasbro is promising some kind of observation of GI Joe turning 50, it’s not clear what that will entail. We should have some details this weekend, but they may save some announcements for the Official GI Joe Collector’s Convention, which takes place in Dallas in April.
Either, Hasbro is doing very little at retail to pay tribute to GI Joe, or they’ve kept their plans so close to their vests that nobody has any inside information yet. What I’ve heard is that retailers have resisted what Hasbro has pitched, so it’s likely that whatever product we see will be modest and possibly a store exclusive. Hasbro is playing this so low-key that the news stories, which have been circulating for the last week, did not originate from Hasbro, but from a museum promoting a GI Joe-themed exhibit.
Construction toys, on the other hand, are experiencing very healthy sales, and that will only be helped by The LEGO Movie. We have lots of news coming from that area too.
The Fashion Doll and Die Cast Car segments continue to be ruled by Mattel. We will bring you the latest news on Barbie, Monster High and Hot Wheels.
So, for the next week or so, expect PopCult to be heavy on the toy news. Our regular features will also be in place, and the next episode of Radio Free Charleston might just drop early to tie in with a special weekend surprise, which we can’t tell you about yet. So, stay tuned…