The loss of live tradeshows this quarter has created a void in the annual search for specialty toy treasures. Luckily for us, there are reps. “We’ve found that retailers are looking more and more toward reps for help in product selection,” says Sandy Ruben. “They’re calling us to say, ‘Hey, I saw this product. It looks interesting, but I’m not sure if I should buy it. What are your thoughts?’ I think this practice will continue throughout 2021.”
Weighing in with both objective and subjective feedback is something toy reps are particularly good at, “but it’s important for us to have samples so that we can provide informed recommendations,” Sandy notes. The products featured here were among those he and his posse evaluated at the Dallas and the Atlanta gift shows, both in January, and during scores of Zoom meetings with sales managers.
During the evaluation process, the group spotted trends that may give these toy categories a boost.
Toys and games that encourage physical activity
The demand among parents for toys and games that get kids up, moving, and away from the screen is stronger than ever.
Kits and other activities that children can put together or do on their own
“Parents are more overwhelmed than ever with the demands of work, parenting and life in general,” says Sandy. “The kinds of craft and science kits they’re looking for are the ones kids can figure out by themselves without constant help. And the longer they’re occupied, the better.”
They’re back because they’re so helpful to kids during long sessions on Zoom. Over the next few months, Sandy expects we’ll see a burst of new options with tactile experiences for children of all ages.
It makes sense. “Skin Hunger” was recently identified by TrendHunters.com as a key factor in the bigger health & wellness/therapeutics trend for 2021.
The term describes a phenomenon prompted by the lack of physical touch for long periods of time, like the isolation we all feel by social distancing during COVID. As time goes on, the feelings of loneliness and stress due to lack of physical contact intensifies. Product designers are showcasing all sorts of solutions that range from hugging machines to weighted blankets. “These viable alternatives allow people to feel less lonely, and when this need is met, individuals are more comfortable and content,” says TrendHunter.
Providing insight for the list were the following toy experts.
Erin Griffin from the Erin Griffin Group, John Giacobe from RBG Sales, and Karen Bortle, Katherine Hodges, Tom Darnell, Melanie Minery, Don Smith and Sandy Ruben from Sandy Ruben & Associates
Emily Scheid from Hollipops, Christine Osborne from Wonder Works, Gwen Ottenberg from Imagine That Toys, and Stephanie Sala from Five Little Monkeys