Affordability — Toys Driven by Value-for-Dollar, Attention to Detail and Pennies-per-Play

Second in a series exploring the 4 A’s of 2010 Toy Trends

Extending into 2010 is the economy-focused trend that became evident in 2008-2009.  Consumers who are keeping a firm hand on their wallets and retailers who are still managing inventories very closely have each found that toy makers are continuing to pump up their products this year with details to delight both kids and adult collectors at price points under $25.

Demonstrating the trend for economy-priced items in a dollars to units comparison, leading market researcher The NPD Group reports that retail dollar sales for the toy and game industries increased 1% from Jan - June YTD 2010 versus 2009 while retail unit sales increased 3% for the same time period versus year-ago comparisons.

Although price is of obvious importance to cash-strapped parents, results from the 2010 Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index indicate that consumers are not buying based on price alone. Earlier this year, the survey polled 33,500 consumers of 518 brands in 71 categories, and responses showed that consumers are relying heavily on their perception of value when deciding which brands to stay loyal to during the recession.

“This year we are seeing more toys than ever before that incorporate multiple levels of play for a very attractive price,” said Reyne Rice, Toy Industry Association (TIA) toy trend specialist. “Families will be delighted with the fresh and fun choices they will find on the retail shelves now and into the holiday season.”

According to Rice, factors such as value-for-dollar, attention to detail, and pennies-per-play are all enhancing play value.

Toys that come at low price points generally can’t be beat. Options under $20 include Hasbro’s FurReal Friends Snuggimals Puppy and Cepia’s Zhu Zhu Pets (both only $7.99), Lego Puzzle Games- Lava Dragon ($14.99) and Kids Give Travel Charmers ($19.99).  [For more examples, see the Reyne Talks Toys video “A is for Affordable” | March 2010.]

Another key affordability factor is the extended play value that comes from construction sets, arts and crafts projects, and child-sized role play activities that let kids play again and again with different results. Products that provide a new play experience even when they are played with over and over again are highly valued, explains Rice.

Categories that offer this pennies-per-play appeal include games that provide new ways to play … both cooperative play rules and competitive play rules are often included in the instructions, providing different learning experiences, and skill-leveling game components allow multiple ages to play the same game together.

Game-makers have also begun offering shorter-play game experiences at lower price points to appeal to on-the-go consumers who don’t want to dedicate an entire Saturday afternoon to a board game. Affordable game options in this category include Briarpatch’s Grab N Go Games, Mattel’s To Go Games and Hasbro’s Travel Games, which include card games that capitalize on popular board game play: Yahtzee Hands Down, Sorry Revenge, Scrabble Slam and Monopoly Deal. Other best-sellers include Learning Resources’ Take N Play Go Anywhere Games in magnetic travel tins, ThinkFun’s Zingo-to-Go and the ever-popular Bananagrams, which comes in a convenient zip-bag carry case.

Even within the traditionally lower-priced categories, collectors are noticing the highly-detailed sculpting of dolls, figures and accessories.  New offerings in action figures showed a return to the affordable 3 ¾ inch scale action figures for Iron Man II, Star Wars, GI Joe and more, providing extra features such as multiple points of articulation, detailed sculpting and extra play accessories. Hasbro’s Iron Man II action figures added transparent collector trading cards, allowing fans to customize Iron Man’s armor. Collectors at last week’s Comic-Con event in San Diego, California, for example, were thrilled to see the attention to facial sculpting and authentic design details in Jakks Pacific’s UFC Figures and Mattel’s new WWE Flex Force collection.

These are just a few examples of the many products currently on the market that appeal to value-for-dollar, attention to detail, and pennies-per-play. In uncertain economic times, consumers and retailers gravitate toward tried and true brands that they know and trust. Companies looking to succeed in this competitive marketplace need to communicate why their product is beneficial to consumers.