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• Creative playthings build buzz at toy fair - New York Toy Fair, February 2013
NEW YORK – A digital Barbie vanity mirror that allows makeup experimentation without the mess. Customizable figurines mounted on spinning tops that battle in a portable arena. New Play Doh Plus that’s fluffier and more malleable.
The hippest new toys showcased at the American International Toy Fair this week are interactive, adaptable and, often, more than a bit familiar.
“We’re reinventing older brands so that kids can rediscover them as if they were new,” said John Frascotti, chief marketing officer for Hasbro Inc., at the show in New York City. “A 5-year-old doesn’t know or care that a toy has actually been around for decades.”
More than 31,000 attendees – including 1,000 exhibitors – are congregating at the annual event, which is considered to be the start of a yearlong scramble to identify, market and occasionally copy the products expected to dominate the Christmas shopping season.
This year the hunt feels even more urgent. The U.S. toy industry had a lackluster 2012, with revenue falling slightly from the year before to $16.5 billion. Sales dropped even further compared with 2008, when they totaled $21.6 billion, according to research firm NPD Group.
Manufacturers, distributors, importers and buyers crowd the 366,000 square feet of space in the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center to display more than 150,000 products, including action figures, educational activities, bicycles, puppets, and video and board games. The fair, the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, began Sunday and lasts through today.
Toy analysts are already taking bets on likely trends.
One major buzzword? Construction playthings, and not just in the form of boys’ building blocks.
Build-your-own robots and action figures and do-it-yourself doll backdrops and doll clothes helped the building sets sector grow 19.7 percent last year – the largest revenue gain of any toy category, according to NPD. Analysts expect another boost in 2013.