For many toycos these days, the future is oozing with potential. The once-sleepy reusable compounds category, dominated for decades by Hasbro’s Play-Doh, has enjoyed a period of major expansion over the last couple of years. Sales in the US$174-million category grew by 7% last year and 31% in 2000, according to NPDFunworld.
Though mainstays like Play-Doh continue to do well in the compounds space, a relatively new family of slimier offerings, led by Jakks Pacific’s Gooze, has helped to revitalize the category. Since Jakks’ arts and crafts division Flying Colors first introduced the green goo in 2000, 10 million units have shipped to stores. Marketed under Nick’s Nicktivities brand (a similar-looking, slimy green product made regular cameos in Nick’s game show Double Dare during the ’90s), Gooze was the top-selling reusable compound last year.
Since 2000, Jakks has bowed with numerous extensions, including different-hued, glow-in-the-dark, glitter, scented and metallic Gooze formulas. In 2000, the company also introduced Zyrofoam, a new compound that combines the slimy texture of Gooze with Styrofoam-like particles that kids can mold into different shapes. Evidently, kids couldn’t keep their hands off Zyrofoam, which was the third best-selling compound in 2001.
But what’s actually behind the category’s rapid growth? Reyne Rice, director of marketing and communications at NPDFunworld, says the new breed of compounds has managed to capture an older kid demographic than the traditional market for Play-Doh, which continues to primarily draw the interest of preschoolers. ‘I think these new entries are really speaking to the rebellious sensibilities of six- to 10-year-olds who are not afraid to try new things. Even the names–Gooze! Skweeez! Splat!–they’re a lot of fun to say,’ she says.
Rice is predicting more growth for compounds this year as several toycos get ready to drop more of their mucky playthings into the marketplace. In January, Hasbro released Splat (its answer to Jakks’ Gooze), and Mattel dusted off Slime, its classic compound from the ’80s, for another round at retail last month.
This time, Mattel has tried to bring more play value to the toy, says Mark Sullivan, senior VP of boys entertainment. Slime OoZits, which is set for a July release, features four different containers or toppers–in the shapes of eyeballs, noses, brains and mouths–through which kids are meant to squeeze the Slime for maximum gross-out effect.
Rounding out Mattel’s compound assault this summer are OoZloop (containers that allow kids to squirt the Slime at one another) and the OoZooka (a longer-range device with which kids can shoot compound projectiles up to 10 feet).
Though all three items scream boy appeal, Mattel’s Sullivan is confident girls will want to pick them up as well. But just to be on the safe side, last month the company released the girl-targeted OoZips, consisting of four plastic pouches in which girls can store the compound; each pouch also comes with clip-ons so girls can tote the goo on their belts or backpacks.
Not to be out-slimed, Jakks will stretch more life out of its Gooze franchise this year by unveiling new extensions like Stinky Gooze (which aims to replicate foot odor) and Mood Gooze (which purportedly changes colors to match its handler’s disposition). Jakks’ most important 2002 compound innovation by far, though, is Skweeez. Released in January, Skweeez is the toyco’s first attempt to cut into Hasbro’s hold on the preschool compound market. The product, which comes in a ziplock container with a special shape-sorting spout, is lighter and more malleable than Gooze, says Jakks spokesperson Genna Goldberg. The compound, which starts out moist, will hold its shape after drying overnight, and then returns to its original state with a few drops of water.
To position Skweeez as the compound of choice for tots, Jakks plans to release licensed playsets tied to Nick preschool properties Blue’s Clues and Dora the Explorer in the fall. Each set will come with molds that let kids make replica figures shaped like their favorite characters.