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Talking toys catch the consumer sweet tooth

For kids, candy and toys are the most sought-after commodities of childhood. It's a fact that's not lost on Mark Eisenberg, president of L.A.-based toyco My Favorite Company and co-creator of the Yak Pack, a collection of seven- and nine-inch plush...
October 1, 1999

For kids, candy and toys are the most sought-after commodities of childhood. It’s a fact that’s not lost on Mark Eisenberg, president of L.A.-based toyco My Favorite Company and co-creator of the Yak Pack, a collection of seven- and nine-inch plush animals that each recite an eminently quotable catch-phrase and come with equally appealing backpacks full of candy.

In all, there are four animals in the line, including Sid the Talking Bear, who comes with chocolate candies and says ‘I Looove Chocolate!’ when you squeeze his left paw; Howie the Talking Cow (‘Got Milk?’), who sports a pack of-what else?-cookies; John the Talking Pig (‘I’m a pig!), who comes with a backpack of mixed bonbons; and Larry the Talking Elephant (‘I work for peanuts!’), you get the picture.

All four animals are currently available at retail and sell for US$19.95 (nine-inch) and US$14.95 (seven-inch) each. Starting this month, the Pack will grow by one, with the addition of Purrrscilla, a cat who says ‘I just love to shop, rrrrggghh!’ and features a backpack of chocolate coins. Purrrscilla will be sold exclusively at Bloomingdale’s through December, after which MFC will begin distributing it in other retail channels. Starting this month, MFC will also add to the Yak-Pack franchise with an array of related home furnishings, such as talking cookie jars, coffee mugs, figurines, fridge magnets and picture frames, which will retail for under US$20 each. MFC has also licensed out Sid the Bear to Salt Lake City candy company Maxfields Chocolates, which will create a line of Sid the Bear chocolates for later this year.

For a product line with no TV or theatrical film tie-ins, the Yak Pack has managed to make quite a showing at retail in a relatively short amount of time. The characters first came to life in `97 on Yakity-Yak.com, a free-access kids Web site Eisenberg and his partner Neil Wright created, featuring recipes, movie reviews, jokes and games. After receiving an overwhelming response from Web surfers-on average, Eisenberg says the site gets 40,000 hits per month-the two entrepreneurs decided to merchandise their creation.

Since releasing the first toy, Sid the Bear, at Macy’s in `97, orders for the Yak-Pack toys have climbed 300% in each succeeding year, according Eisenberg. In the interim, MFC has picked up several other retail accounts, including the majority of the chains that comprise the Federated Department Stores and May Department Stores, which adds up to a total of 1,800 stores.

‘I think the fact that we have candy attached to our toys has really struck a chord with retailers, especially those stores that are in the gift and candy market,’ says Eisenberg. It’s the dual properties of the Yak-Pack line, he adds, that have enabled retailers to have equal success positioning the products in either their toy or candy departments.

With new YP product additions on the horizon for this year, for now MFC’s strategy will be to continue expanding the Yak Pack line into mid- and upper-tier retail accounts, with the long-term goal of moving the toys into toy stores. ‘With merchandise like ours, it’s important to stay in mid- and upper-tier stores as long as possible, because when it comes to retail distribution, you can always go down, but you can’t go up from down,’ says Eisenberg.

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