As some 22,000 buyers converged in New York this month to preview the hot sellers at the American International Toy Fair, supermarket retailers said they are concentrating on carrying better quality toys with higher price points that have name-brand recognition. Those polled by SN were anticipating strong seasonal and holiday sales for toys, especially licensed products, in 1994. Barbie dolls, licensed Disney products, Hot Wheels, puzzles and games would continue to be strong sellers this year.
In coming months, retailers said they would increase shelf space for children's and adult toys and board games in regular in-line sections and on special floor displays.
Said Joe Sinkula, director of general merchandise, health and beauty care and pharmacy for Haggen, Bellingham, Wash., "Parents want a better quality product for their child, and if we're going to compete at all in this category we've got to offer them quality at a reasonable price."
Haggen plans to upgrade its toy line with higher priced items such as Barbie Dolls as opposed to the "shut 'em up, lower-end toys. "Shut 'em up type toys are those a mother gives to her children so they'll be quiet as she shops. Although we'll never get totally out of that kind of $2 to $3 toy, our focus for our everyday mix will be away from shut 'em up to quality toys from name-brand manufacturers, priced up to $12," said Sinkula.
Sinkula said supermarkets have to compare the return they are getting with and without a national-brand toy program.
Strong toy sales last year have prompted Cannata's Food World, Morgan City, La., to create new 16-foot, year-round toy departments that offer puzzles and games for children and adults.
What has worked best for Cannata's are "licensed characters like Disney, which we're definitely giving more emphasis in our toy program," said Warren Guidry, nonfood buyer-merchandiser.
"We've done well with licensed toys at medium prices of $10 and under, placed in a 16- to 20-foot seasonal section for holidays and other times, including Valentine's Day, Easter and Christmas."
At a promotional area, seasonal in-and-outs of assorted puzzles and board games priced up to $15 generate 70% to 80% sell-through rates without advertising or promotional support, Guidry said. Such promotions on toys are displayed monthly. AG Distributors, Gardiner, Maine, will offer plush toys in several price ranges for Christmas, Valentine's Day and Easter. "We'll try and offer something in each price range: $3.99, $5.99 and $8.99 to $19.99 for a large rabbit for Easter," a buyer said.
AG's retailers reported healthy sales last year in the third quarter with promotional dolls, and in the fourth quarter with Aladdin toys and Barbie dolls. This year, they are looking forward "to whatever is hot."
Last year good sellers included 100-piece puzzle sets for children and 500-piece ones for adults, and a set of Seven Dwarf figurines boxed at $7 each.
Toy departments at Pay Less Supermarkets, Anderson, Ind., are set in eight-, 12- or 16-foot sections. During the holidays Pay Less features a Mattel toy center, a freestanding four-sided, 4-foot display containing licensed products like Barbie Dolls and Hot Wheels.
Dick Sizemore, nonfood merchandiser, said the display "enables customers to shop for the better items, including Barbie clothes. Last Christmas, for example, we brought in cars, trucks, trains, and dolls that ride bicycles and play music."
Pay Less will also take a firm position in plush products this year "as we're pretty strong in soft toys too."