NEW YORK - Toy consumers are taking a more traditional approach to play.
This could bring big opportunity to supermarket toy sections, said industry observers at the American International Toy Fair 2006 here this month.
"As the result of a pendulum swing away from high-tech, there is a trend towards basic play things right now" said Reyne Rice, toy trends specialist and consultant, Toy Industry Association here. "Parents feel the responsibility to provide balance and a blend of high and low-tech toys for their kids."
Board games as well as learning and outdoor toys resulted in a lot of buzz at the show, observers said. Many featured what are said to be this season's hottest licenses including Nickelodeon's Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants, Lucasfilm's Star Wars, and Warner Bros.' Batman.
Although overall toy sales were down 4% in 2005, family board/action games were up 18% compared to 2004, according to a report from the NPD Group, Port Washington, N.Y.
Meanwhile, the youth electronics and communications category began to level off in 2005, with dollar sales having decreased 8% to $600 million, down from $651 million in 2004, the report said.
"Traditional board games always do well and now they are overlaying the value of the license," Rice said. For example a new Disney-licensed "Pirates of the Caribbean" game from USAopoly, Carlsbad, Calif., mimics a game played by the main characters in the movie, she said.
Simple licensed toys are perfect for supermarkets, although "there aren't many products that feature popular licenses at a low price point," said Jerome Trail, North American sales manager for Sandylion Sticker Designs, Marham, Ontario.
"The nostalgia of traditional toys lures you in and the license closes the deal," said Jim Christianson, senior vice president, specialty sales, Go Fly a Kite, Clinton, Conn., while displaying a SpongeBob kite that retails for $3.99.
Other updated features of traditional toys had a strong focus on learning and social interaction.
Yo-yos from Duncan Toys, Middlefield, Ohio, now sell for as high as $400 for the Freehand Magnesium Yo-Yo, but the supermarket variety yo-yos go for as little as $2.99, or $4.99 with the inclusion of a learning DVD for doing yo-yo tricks. "Yo-yos are an integral part of childhood. With the DVD, both parents and kids can learn together," said Jack Ringca, national yo-yo champ and part of Duncan's sponsored pro yo-yo team, while showing off his skills for potential buyers at the show.
Learning and exploration toys reached $400 million in 2005, a 6% increase from 2004, according to the NPD Group.
"Activity toys and simple play patterns always work well," said Lynn Rosenblum, vice president, business development, Overbreak, Sun Valley, Calif., maker of activity toys like the soon to be released "Foam-Struction," a foam building kit that retails for $9.99, and a new device called "Time's Up!" which automatically shuts off gaming systems or TVs based on a pre-programmed time allowance.
The device retails for about $30, Rosenblum said, but should receive great demand since a study from TV-Turnoff Network, Washington, found that 75% of parents want tools to help limit their children's TV and video game use.
Higher-priced items like "Time Out!" and "Scene It? The DVD Game," from ScreenLife, Seattle, still have the potential to "offset the lower margin brought in by more basic products," Rice said.