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A new player in the toy biz

Reasonable prices and high quality have long been the twin slogans of new toy manufacturers. In this respect, Wink'n Blink'n & Nod (WB & N), a recently formed company that specializes in producing preschool toys, is without distinction. What will set...
April 1, 1998

Reasonable prices and high quality have long been the twin slogans of new toy manufacturers. In this respect, Wink’n Blink’n & Nod (WB & N), a recently formed company that specializes in producing preschool toys, is without distinction. What will set WB & N apart, says company president Dan Cooney, is its ability to make good on this rhetoric.

‘What we see in the preschool marketplace is that the major manufacturers, because of the size and the costs that they have to deal with in producing product, have generally moved their price points higher,’ says Cooney. ‘We see an opportunity to develop products that offer value and style and that retail for between US$10 and US$20.’

To accomplish this, Cooney says WB & N has cut out much of the overhead that plagues large toy companies. All WB & N toys are being manufactured in China and will be sold to retailers on a freight-on-board basis. That means, rather than WB & N paying for the transportation of the toys and warehousing them stateside-costs it would inevitably have to pass along to retailers through an increased wholesale price-retailers will be able to buy and ship their toys directly from its plant in China, ‘allowing them to make more margin on the product,’ says Cooney. So far, Cooney says advanced orders for the toys have been very strong.

In part, he attributes the positive retailer response to WB & N’s expertise in the toy business. Cooney worked as senior vice president of licensing for Fisher-Price before forming WB & N last July with former Fisher-Price alum Jim Cudney (former sales and marketing head at Fisher-Price) and Bruce Oravec (former corporate counsel to Fisher-Price). The three have used their collective experience to establish an international distribution network that covers every major market in North America, South America, Asia, Australia and South Africa. As well, they have used their contacts to attract veteran toy sculptors and designers to their offices in West Seneca, New York.

WB & N will find out this June whether the company’s knowledge of the toy business can translate into consumer interest, as WB & N’s first two toys start hitting stores. The first, Rock `N’ Roll Piano, is a piano that lights up and plays songs when you rock it and one of three nursery rhymes when you strike one of its keys. The second, Star Stacker, is a roly-poly toy that lights up and plays a musical note each time one of the toy’s plastic stars is removed or replaced. The toy will play ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ and light up after all of the stars have been stacked onto it. Both toys are designed for children six months and older.

After his licensing role at Fisher-Price, Cooney has envisaged WB & N producing licensed toys, but, he says, he’s cautious about signing on with the first license that WB & N is offered.

‘I’ve always believed that just slapping a license on something is not the way to succeed with licensed product. One of the things we’ll be able to do, as we begin to look at properties that we think make sense for us, is to be able to assure a licensor that we can deliver product [that has strong play values]. We’ve already done that under our own brand name.’

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