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The Toys They Are A-Changing!

With spring comes Easter, the “other” toy giving holiday. Yeah, along with Easter baskets, many parents buy toys for their kids to play with. So how has the economy impacted the purchase and sale of toys? Well according to this article I saw at, it’s not just the economy that is impacting the toy industry, but the change in how kids are playing with those toys.

First off, the economy. Parents are looking to purchase toys that will “last longer” for their money. Not just that the toys won’t break, but that their kids will play with them longer than, say, a day or two. Think about it. Toys, along with going out to eat at fancy restaurants and manicures, are not necessities to live and so are the things that tend to get knocked off folks list of must haves.

The other thing is how kids have changed. Kids are getting more and more savvy, they just grow up so fast, much of that having to do with the wealth of information at their fingertips in seconds thanks to computers. So toys are now having to change to keep up with them!

Personally, I like the idea of getting kids to use their imaginations! Get them outside! Find a stick and a rock and some dirt and make their own toys. Here is some of what the article said:

It’s called “age compression,” said Zack Oksendahl, assistant manager of the Toys “R” Us at Southridge Mall. What it means is children who are bombarded by more cartoon television than their parents ever dreamed of are simply growing up faster and outgrowing their toys more quickly.

“Kids are changing,” Oksendahl said. “I think it’s a lot harder for brands to compete for their attention.”

Gareb Shamus, publisher of Toy Wishes magazine, said retailers loath to take chances in a troubled economy naturally are drawn to established brands like Barbie, who turns 50 this year, and SpongeBob, who turns 10.

Barbie kicked off a year-long celebration earlier this month with a new commemorative version that briefly sold for the 1950s price of $3. SpongeBob will celebrate his birthday with commemorative Play-Doh set and by moving to special promotional space on the shelves at Wal-Mart.

“In order for these brands to stay relevant, they constantly have to keep generating products that make them stay relevant,” Shamus said.

“In this world, everybody is thinking of every possible way that they can leverage their franchise or their brand or their product in a way that makes a great product for kids,” Shamus said. “The more visibility a product has (through a known franchise), the more comfort people have knowing that their child is going to enjoy it, the more likely that product is going to be purchased.”

That’s also why Mattel this fall will launch a second version of Dora the Explorer via a series of interactive dolls that slightly age the preschool icon to make her more appropriate for girls ages 5 to 8. The move initially backfired when a silhouette of the new character released this spring with shorter skirt and longer hair sparked concerns among parents that Dora was being trampified.

Nickelodeon officials last week defended the new Dora, which they said will be tamer than anticipated and will exist alongside the younger version.

“The idea is Dora for more girls,” Leigh Anne Brodsky, president nt was this was created because moms said, ‘Help us.'”

While toymakers are looking for ways to hang on to customers, parents seem to be looking for ways to hang on to the same toys.

Oksendahl said the south-side Toys “R” Us has plans to expand its selection of books and construction toys, plus, “we do carry a lot more arts and crafts for girls than we ever did in the past.”

Sales of Legos and related toys also are booming, he said. The Danish manufacturer of toy building blocks saw an 18.7 percent increase in revenues in 2008

partly by tie-ins to “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” movies.

But the trend toward value is not universal.

Shaun Bequeaith, a manager at the Target store on George Mills Civic Parkway in West Des Moines, said Barbies and Legos seem to be selling fine without regard to the economy: “If people want something, they come and buy it, it seems to me.”

Some are making their own judgments about value.

Shawn Soli said her two sons now focus most of their toy attentions on handheld videogames and tiny, portable “Star Wars” action figures that come two in a box for $6.99. Soli said she is confident that the family’s roughly 80 little “Star Wars” toys are going to remain popular with both her sons, ages 4 and 7, and with their father for the foreseeable future.

The same goes for the portable Nintendo DS video games.

“They last forever,” she said. “It’s an investment.”