Spielwarenmesse: Interview TOYS: how toy retailers position lifestyle

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01. February 2017 / Movers & shakers

Interview TOYS: how toy retailers position lifestyle

from Harald Hemmerlein /  Show comments

Sibylle Dorndorf has been the chief editor of 'TOYS' and '1st Steps' - both published by Göller Verlag - for many years. The industry expert recognises that the share of lifestyle products at well-assorted toy retailers has been progressively on the rise. Here, Dorndorf presents an optimistic outlook on the situation for toy retailers.

Spielwarenmesse®: For some time now, Spielwarenmesse has been merging special offerings for the Lifestyle Products category. Traditionally, the toy sector does not focus overly on lifestyle. Is this impression wrong?

Sibylle Dorndorf: I believe so, yes. I would take it even further and say that any good toy outlet that does not abide by the '10 commandments of retail cooperatives' when it comes to its product policy, offers more lifestyle than some of the supposed of-the-moment stores that merely copy and cannibalise trends. There have been many great changes in this field. The toy sector has "grown up", meaning on the one hand that it intentionally focuses on an adult target audience while on the other also showing the courage to be cool for kids.

There are products galore. And it is small manufacturers who are making a name for themselves. Or, for example, suppliers of wooden toys who used to be belittled. You can now find great tableware for kids, but also items of everyday use that are just a little 'different'. There are vehicles for kids that you will want to use as an eyecatcher, to decorate your entrance! There are diorama landscapes that are just so outrageously bizarre that you will want to integrate them into your interior. And then there are games that are perfect design items ... take a stroll through a good toy shop and be sure to bring some bucks because there is no way you will be going home empty-handed!

Spielwarenmesse®: '1st Steps' is a specialist publication of yours that concentrates on everything for children, including fashion. For the toy trade, lifestyle takes up an even more important role in this field than before. Does this present an opportunity for the toy trade to come off as trendier by expanding its product range?

S.D.: The toy trade need not expand its assortment in a first step and run after every trend but initially should think about who they want to address and what makes that specific target group click. That is precisely what the baby sector is doing. It naturally has more to do with young parents as prospective buyers because babies are a little too young to make buying decisions. The toy industry, however, always addresses the child first. It therefore seems obvious that the baby industry comes across as much smarter, and presents itself in a much more modern way, than the toy industry does. After all, they aim to sell high-price status symbols like strollers and furniture for a nursery - and beyond that, a new lifestyle!

A stroller’s brand today indicates the affiliation with a certain social class, style, or with mum’s or dad’s look. The same goes for the family car. For toys, this is different. But I would indeed say that both industries can learn from each other. The toy industry often sells itself below value. No way would you find a stroller featuring a bunny design today, or mum-to-be fashion that sports a kitchen look - yet when you take a look around some of the toy stores, it feels like stepping back in time. A pity really, considering that children indeed know how to distinguish between trash and trendy!

Spielwarenmesse®: I have the impression that the number of traditional retail outlets is on the rise that sell home décor only. Is that the case and which opportunities do toy retailers have when including this new distribution channel?

S.D.: A growing number of toy retailers see themselves as taking care of the needs of families, of people aged anywhere between 0 and 99. And that is a good thing. Of course, there are products that meet the preferences of this target group such as, for example, decoration, snuggle pillows, playful blankets, little bags, fashion jewellery, great lamps for children’s rooms, collectors’ items and much more. The fact that items like that are largely seen as gift items is surely a good thing. It means that the toy retailer can attract even more traffic. The shopper’s journey suddenly directs a totally new, smart clientele their way. And what’s even more: They no longer run after discount stores but instead, set the rules because they move outside the mainstream and therefore outside of the common price discussions and discount battles.

Spielwarenmesse®: For people with different cultural backgrounds statements about their individual lifestyle are of varying significance. Which particularities do you record in that regard - apart from economic requirements?

S.D.: I believe that every society, every culture and at any given moment, has always had and still has a non-verbal communication about the way one dresses, and the items we surround ourselves with. This is how people 'recognise' one another 'from afar'; they relate to each other, meaning that, if they master the language of these statements, they live with less fear. It is also correct to say that there are indeed social classes that define those statements exclusively by consuming specific brands.

And even toy preferences differ considerably. Large, colourful, cheap tends to be born out of necessity - and out of the desire to make a child’s 'big wish' come true, to raise its status. That means it has to be the latest mobile phone, or their own television set. Families that are socially better off pursue different values. They tend to favour a less-is-more approach. Because their children - as children - already enjoy a status.


Discover trends and new toys from the product group Lifestyle Products live at the Spielwarenmesse® 2017. Buy tickets now!

 

Author of this article:

Harald Hemmerlein

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