Somewhere out there lurking in obscurity is the next major breakout toy, and Zany Brainy wants to find it first. To improve the odds of discovering the next Beanie Babies before its competition does, the specialty toy retailer has begun holding monthly forums for toy vendors at its support center in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Entitled Zany Best Stuff Search, the meetings, which kicked off in late February and are being held the last Thursday of every month, are designed to make it easier for vendors to pitch their creations.
‘It could be anyone, from an up-and-coming inventor who wants to present their product for the first time, to a vendor who we’ve worked with in the past who wants to show a brand new line,’ says Kim Horner, VP of merchandising at Zany Brainy.
Interested vendors present their ideas to a 12-person committee, which, in addition to Horner and Dan Silver, Zany Brainy’s director of product development and new business, is comprised of a rotating roster of 10 employees plucked from various departments at the company. ‘It’s interesting because we have people from all over the company-from stores, admin and marketing, for example-judging the toys,’ which brings a unique perspective to the process, says Horner. Toys that the committee deems have potential will be submitted to the relevant department buyers for further review. Though Horner doesn’t rule out Zany producing some of the toy hopefuls it greenlights, she says the company’s main goal is to secure exclusive retail distribution for the products.
‘Zany Brainy prides itself on being first to market with new products, and we wanted to make sure that the vendor community had an open forum where they can come and show their ideas,’ says Horner.
Vendors who want to demo their toys can call Zany Brainy’s HQ at 610-278-7800. The retailer will field only 20 pitches per month, on a first-come, first-serve basis. Any additional vendors will be asked to submit their toys for a later session.