Where do you hide your toys?

According to Walmart’s new survey of parents and kids:

Parents are in the dark when it comes to knowing whether or not their kids find their gifts ahead of Christmas. Nearly twice as many kids as their parents say they found their gifts before the big morning (23 percent vs. 14 percent). The top hiding place? The closet.”

I remember as a kid that I was crushed when I discovered all of our holiday presents in a shower (that no one used). Pretty much game over on the whole fantasy aspect of the season.  On the other hand, our Easter candy was always in the trunk of the car. I used to think it was odd that the Easter bunny had a key to our car, but as my brothers will attest, I believed almost anything.  Later I thought the location of the candy had something to do with the fact that we were Jewish. But in the end my mother told me, it kept her from eating the chocolate ahead of time!

The same survey reported that nagging your parents does work. That kind of makes me sad.






Supporting Your Local Toy Store

While the big guys like Walmart, Toys R Us, and Target are having an all out price war, don’t forget your local mom & pop toy stores.  It’s true that  none of these stores can compete on price for mass market products–but that’s only part of the story.  Small toy stores tend to offer toys that are available only to the specialty market.  Some of our favorite toy companies have made the decision to stick with the independent toy stores rather than compete for shelf space in a big box store.  So there are toys here that you won’t find elsewhere.  The other major reason to shop in a small store is service.

When Joanne and I are going through toy fair, we always marvel at the toy buyers who not only have to look at all the new toys (which sounds fun, but gets physically draining after a day or two) –but they have to put their money on the line.  Most aren’t part of big chains but individual store owners that have come to know what works and what doesn’t.  They tend to really know their product line and since they want to build a relationship with their customers, will not push something just to move it out. That kind of relationship at retail is becoming a rare commodity.

So with that in mind, this Saturday ASTRA (the American Specialty Toy Retailers Association) is holding a nationwide Neighborhood Toy Store Day.  You can check on their website to see what special events your local toy store is hosting.  Sounds like fun.

Toy Wars and George Costanza's shrinkage factor

Even though most of us haven’t even contemplated buying our Halloween candy yet (ok, I’ve contemplated but I haven’t bought any yet), the major box retailers want you to think holiday toy shopping TODAY!  Walmart has expanded its offer of  toys for $10 to 100 items…KB Toys saw that and raised it to 200, and Target is  trying to match prices.  There’s free shipping to be had…and if you’re really sharp, you can find certain Barbie dolls for as little as $5.

So what’s a toy consumer to think?

1. Toy prices are getting a much needed adjustment. All of that toy safety testing costs a lot –and if you’ve bought a toy recently you’ll know that the added expense has been passed on to consumers.  While we don’t rate toys based on price, we have had sticker shock here as we’ve watched the prices just continue to climb for the past two years. So from this point of view toy wars are good, very good.

2. Less Inventory. If there’s something your child wants for the holidays, buy it early.  Tight inventories is another way retailers have protected themselves this year.

3. Shrinkage…

One of the trends we’ve watched this season is shrinkage…which always makes me thing of Seinfeld’s infamous shrinkage episode with George in the Hamptons.

Toy makers are making many of the same type of toys they used to…but smaller…much smaller…and much less expensive.

For example, last year we featured Playskool’s $300 Kota My Triceratops Dinosaur. This high tech dino-wonder was big enough for your child to sit on! Rec_kota

This year, the same manufacturer is offering Kota & Pals  Stompers – TriceratopsRec_tristompHe walks on my desk. Watch the video. He’s very cute and he actually walks (something the big guy can’t do)…but still, this is what the price wars mean.

So does this mean you should buy only $10 toys this holiday season?

There are in fact lots of toys for $10 and under that are really great. We have many award winners that fit the bill, but buying lots of “stuff” seems like a mistake in the long run. Keep in mind that 60% of our toy dollars are spent this time of year…so bringing home toys that will have lasting play value makes more sense in terms of having toys your kids will play with after the holidays are over.

Open-ended toys and supplies are a better bet. I love novelty toys as much as the next guy…and there are some on our list this year.  The holidays are about making dreams come true, but if you’re looking to make your dollar stretch…buying more open-ended toys is the way to go.  Art supplies, games (that are played again and again), blocks, pretend props (toy kitchens, dollhouses), and toys for active play (ride-ons, sporting equipment)…all will be enjoyed  for a long time and played with differently as your child grows.

Pool your resources. If there’s a toy that your child really wants that costs a little more, have your family chip in. Much more fun to get the present you wanted, then lots of little token gifts from aunts and uncles.

The olden days. There was a time when we didn’t go to the toy store with a shopping cart.  We got fewer toys…not necessarily a bad thing.

Get Your Screwdriver Ready. One way to keep prices down…toy makers leave more for parents to do. Many toys don’t even come with the pre-drilled holes.  If you’re handy with a power drill/screwdriver, you’ll be fine. If you’re not, we warned you.

Make it count. We started the toyportfolio with the tag..we test all the toys so that “you don’t waste your money or your child’s time.”  So  no matter what your budget, we’ve tried to take the mystery of finding a great toy.   So take a look at our Platinum List!