The Top Toy Trends for 2014

Santa’s got nothing on the Toy Fair. The exhibition space of the American International Toy Fair stretches over 412,000 square feet—that’s 7½ football fields filled with toys. Almost half of the toys from our pre-holiday spotlight won awards for “Toy of the Year” in various categories, with hands-on innovators Rainbow Loom and Goldieblox among the best and brightest. While digital natives are growing up with technology at the forefront of their everyday interactions, emphasis this year was not on digital play. Technology is rather being integrated into playtime as a base element for building and creating. Though the video game and toy hybrid market continues to rise, dominated by Skylanders and Disney Infinity, the biggest trends we saw coming out of the Toy Fair involved kids stepping away from screens and interacting hands-on with toys to create their own environments. Here are some of the major toy trends we picked up on:
 
#1—Super Sized Play
In the past few years, small figurines have dominated in the toy market, which has been a reflection of recession production and pricing. As the market rebounds and kids become more laissez-faire about new inventions than ever, companies are looking to “wow” them with the sheer size of toys, from life sized and beyond.
 
Product Standouts:
KidKraft Dollhouses
The interior of these life-sized homes for dolls are decorated down to the last detail, making Barbie’s Dreamhouse look like a starter home. Young girls can use their own dolls to play in the house, and competitor My Girls’ Dollhouse is just plain enormous, allowing for larger 18” dolls to fit.


 
Super Mario Kart Ride-On Vehicle
Millennial parents everywhere are wishing that they had real sized Mario Karts to ride around in instead of plastic vans. So, feeding into their…

 
 

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The Newsfeed

Quote of the Day: “New wedding traditions I’ve noticed are the return of the wedding band (not just DJ), and weekend activities even if the wedding isn't a destination.”—Female, 30, DC

The election inspired Millennials to start reading (some) major newspapers again. According to a Pew Research Center study, 44% of 18-49-year-olds received their election news from The New York Times, 37% received it from The Washington Post, and 27% went to The Wall Street Journal—compared to 23%, 19%, and 15% of those 50 and older respectively. Local newspapers did not get as much love from the younger generation, with only 23% turning to them compared to 67% of older consumers. (Fortune)

How did Vans get on every “cool kid’s radar?” They have their exclusive Vault line to thank. In the early 2000s, the shoe line was struggling to reach young consumers with their classic styles, so they were reimagined with collaborator-inspired designs and sold in limited quantities at higher price points in partner stores only. The strategy was “a marketing exercise for boosting energy and brand affinity,” and helped bring the brand to international levels, most likely driving a 7% increase last quarter. (Glossy

PepsiCo reports that almost half of its revenue now comes from healthy foods. With young consumers not drinking sweet carbonated beverages the way they used to, the brand pledged to cut calories from their sugary drinks but has been moving at a “glacial pace.” Almost half of their revenue is now coming from their “guilt-free” product category, like Baked Lay’s and Naked juices, 25% from “everyday nutrition” like water and healthier snacks, and the brand is admitting soda is “becoming a smaller part of” their future. (Grub Street

An app bringing tech to pre-K just secured $10 million in venture funding. Brightwheel helps pre-K teachers and daycare providers manage their business, while updating parents on their child’s status throughout the day with photos and messages. Along with premium access, it is available for free with limited features which the founder hopes would appeal to lower income communities: “Something like 85% of brain development happens in the first 3 years of life…Access to good pre-K care is low in the US, we’re ranked 26th globally. And we think tech can help to change that.” (TechCrunch

Over nine in ten of Millennials say the post-grad job hunt was difficult. The insight from a recent Job Applicator Center study reflects employers’ tendency to hire skilled workers for entry-level positions while overlooking recent graduates. The study also found that 18-34-year-olds have already had 2.7 jobs on average and 41% only plan to be at their current job for two years or less—most likely because they are looking for employers who invest in them beyond just salaries and benefit packages. (Job Application Center

Quote of the Day: “I want my wedding to be authentic, joyful and audacious.”—Female, 30, NE

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