In the year and a half since KidScreen introduced the Retail section, we’ve chosen to focus almost exclusively on licensed merchandise. It was a decision we believed would allow us to keep retailers up-to-date on the latest trends, while enabling us to stay consistent with the magazine’s mandate of providing valuable news to people working in all sectors of the kids entertainment business.
Not all of today’s kids shows and films, however, are the wholesale creations of Hollywood studios and production companies. Many, in fact, are based on books (for example, Goosebumps), and now, with increasing frequency, toys (for example, Mr. Potato Head). Today’s hot non-licensed products are often fodder for tomorrow’s #1-rated TV show or box-office bonanza. And in the kids character department, new products that span categories offer grist for the licensing and merchandising mill.
In acknowledging this reality, we have decided to introduce ‘Shelf Talk,’ a monthly column that will track non-licensed toys and books that are creating a buzz. In addition to spotting eminently exploitable properties, it will also contain a grab bag of information geared to retailers.
To ensure that Shelf Talk is plugged in for its cool-spotting mission, we will be calling on our network of contacts at retail and on the playground for tips, and we welcome any candidates you might suggest. The criteria for making it into Shelf Talk is simple: the submissions must be for products and ideas that elicit that ‘hmm’ reaction, excite the imagination and turn the conventional expectations of toys and toy retailing inside out to create something altogether new.
The first item in Shelf Talk possesses these qualities. The Snot-A-Lotter, which comes from the twisted world of Yoe Studio, fuses children’s love of music with their equally strong penchant for the disgusting. The concept occurred to creator Craig Yoe while he was doing design work on some toy instruments for one of his clients. ‘I was thinking that, as a category, musical instruments have become very tired and boring. So I wondered, `How can we turn this category on its head to make something brand new and really wild?’ I thought it would be great to apply gross to musical instruments,’ says Yoe.
An oversized, pock-marked, pimple-ridden nose oozing faux pus and mucous, the Snot-A-Lotter is essentially a whistle you blow into with your nose. By changing the shape of your lower lip as you blow, you can modulate the notes that come out. Yoe Studios’ Rock & Barf line of toys also includes the Slime Whistle and the Horror-Monica. The toys appear under the Yoe Stuff brand, and are being distributed in the U.S. by Ohio Arts. The target demographic for the Snot-A-Lotter is ‘boys who want to gross out their sisters,’ says Yoe.
The Snot-A-Lotter and the rest of the R & B line slimed their way into mass and specialty retailers in June, selling for US$4.99.
While gross might not resonate with girls, Toymax is hoping that sexy will. The Plainview, New York-based company is producing a line of merchandise based on U.K. pop group The Spice Girls. Toymax is creating three- and six-inch collectible dolls, doll accessories, and Spice Girl microphones, cassette players and radios, all of which will begin hitting shelves in September. Additionally, Toymax is creating a line of role-play and dress-up sets for girls, that will be available in time for Halloween 1998.
Parents who have scoured North American hobby and specialty shops for Hornby H.O.- scale Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends in vain, have been granted a reprieve. Newark, New Jersey-based Euro-Rails Model Importers has signed a deal with The Britt Allcroft Company to distribute the range in North America. The Hornby range, only available in the U.K. until now, consists of two H.O.- scale electric sets, seven clockwork sets and five electric H.O. locomotive and accessories. The price ranges from US$1.95 for accessory pieces to US$209.95 for an electric set. Euro-Rails started distributing product through specialty toy stores and hobby shops in August.
Growth on the specialty toy retailer front sees Noodle Kidoodle expand its chain by three stores. The additions will be located in Estchester, New York, and in Houston and San Antonio, Texas. The New York store will open its doors this summer, with the Texas outlets slated to open sometime in the fall. Noodle Kidoodle has opened nine stores in total this year.