Spielwarenmesse: Dolls and soft toys: invigoration through innovation & originality

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Dolls and soft toys: invigoration through innovation & originality

from Harald Hemmerlein

Dolls and soft toys are a must for any toy retailer. For children, they are a source of comfort and reassurance – for adults, they function as lucky charms, statements and fashion accessories. There is certainly great variety on offer, from teddies and cats through to baby dolls, with every conceivable look, price point and quality. Manufacturers use proven marketing approaches to try and give their products a USP: brand strategies, licences, price and originality.

Innovations are reawakening consumer interest in dolls and soft toys. A few examples from the many new offerings at the Spielwarenmesse® 2017 illustrate the diversity within this product group.

Feiste Pets by Goliath
Goliath: Feisty Pets

The enduring success of Schmidt Spiele’s Worry Eaters is well known. The company has followed this up with another innovation in the form of the Twonsters. Developed by idea factory aprilkind, these monsters are able to dramatically express their “emotions”.

The Feisty Pets from Goliath also help children convey their emotional state. Just press on a mechanism behind their soft ears to transform their gentle expressions into fighting faces, complete with rage-filled eyes and angrily bared teeth.

Storytelling guarantees lasting fun


The market is completely saturated with cuddly toys. Many are barely distinguishable from one another. You’ve got to have more than just cute characters to connect with customers nowadays. You need a real story.

Michael Gerharz, founder and owner of aprilkind, an idea factory for very distinctive stuffed animals

With Kruselings – Dream Guardians, Käthe Kruse has added a new series of adventure models to complement its range of traditional dolls. The five elfin characters have movable limbs like action figures and are aimed, along with their accessories, at girls aged between four and seven.

According to the framing, these ten-year old heroines lead a very normal life on various continents. But when summoned by a mysterious power – a glowing heart – they transform into the Kruselings, the guardians of Dreamland. They join with mythical beings and a young boy named Michael in fighting nightmares using their various talents. Their accessories include clothes, shoes, hair brushes, bags and “magical tools”, such as a paintbrush and telescope.


Simba Toys has given the Furlocks an original back story. These small, round, plush monsters called Furlocks have been living among people undetected and out of sight for decades.

Furlocks by Simba Toys
Simba Toys: Furlocks

The fluffy creatures from Simba Toys love to roam the region curled up as a ball. The Furlocks’ big saucer eyes peer out through a little slit, checking every now and then if the coast is clear. They then spring out of their balls and stretch out their feet and ears. Children decide for themselves when their Furlock should appear and transform from a cuddly soft ball into a cheeky monster.

Swap & Collect and Girl Power

Mattel basically “invented” the action figure segment with Barbie. The company has now added female wrestlers, popular in the US in particular, to its range by offering realistic models of the stars of the scene. The company hopes that playing with the WWE Female Wrestler Dolls will also boost girls’ self-confidence.

With L.O.L. Surprise!, the small dolls from MGA Entertainment with accessories to collect, the unboxing trend is taking off in the playroom as well. Although this may appear a simple ball-shaped package on a toy shelf at first glance, girls aged between six and nine love all of the unpacking and collecting involved. Young doll lovers have to gradually reveal what lies inside the packaging. L.O.L. Surprise! has seven layers of surprises in total, with the highlight at the centre – one of currently 65 dolls for playing with and collecting.

L.O.L. Surprise! | Series 1 Dolls |

It’s all about the design

Originality in the doll and soft toy segments is not simply reflected in unique back stories and special designs. Supposed boundaries between ranges are blurred when soft toys turn into skittles.

The Happy Farm Skittles Set is Margarete Steiff GmbH’s entry into a new product world. Each of the six skittles represent a different animal. The set also includes a plush ball and a practical carrying case.

With the Happy Farm line, the company is combining Steiff’s product worlds for babies and kids. All of the animals boast an illustrative, almost caricature-like style, while not losing sight of the classic design.

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Author of this article:

Harald Hemmerlein

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