As the double whammy of age compression and shrinking shelf space continues to hound the toy industry, Wild Planet is taking a stab at redefining what it means to be a toy company. The San Francisco, California-based outfit is going a step beyond diversifying its distribution – which seems to be the path most players have embarked on – to actually create hybrid products based on alternative retailers’ core brands.
Enter the Hoodio, the first SKU Wild Planet has designed and developed in co-operation with GapKids, and the first release in a whole range of Wearable Tech apparel the two companies are planning for 2005. The hooded sweatshirt, which made its retail debut in November, has a tiny radio sewn into its front, with wires running to headphones in the hood and a control panel on one of the wrists.
Over the past year, Wild Planet has also manufactured three Spy Gear products for distribution at GapKids, including a pair of cargo shorts with four pockets designed to hold miniature Spy Gear gadgets (April, US$29.50). The shorts came with the Micro Listener and Night Spyer, and the Voice Scrambler and Motion Alarm were sold separately in-store. The Gear Bag and Pathfinder Tool followed in July (US$24.50), and then the Spy Gear Cargo Pants (US$34.50) hit shelves in late October. Between the Wearable Tech and Spy Gear ranges, Wild Planet VP of strategic initiatives Samara Toole says the companies are developing at least five new SKUs.
But the partnership with GapKids is just one prong in a comprehensive strategy to find kids wherever they are shopping. Wild Planet has been aggressively expanding its reach over the past year, bringing in 25% more annual revenue through new channels including Tower Records and 7-Eleven, and working with smaller collectible products such as Aquapets in order to get into channels where bigger boxed toys can’t go. ‘The product development process has to broaden its focus beyond ‘what kids want’ to also look at ‘where kids are.” says Toole.
While GapKids is the only integrated initiative the toyco is working on right now, Toole says she’s looking at other ways to partner with non-toy retailers. ‘One thing that becomes really apparent when you’re talking to kids is that they don’t see the world siloed like their parents do, with toys here and electronics and clothing there,’ she says. ‘And that’s playing out at retail, where we’re seeing toys and products for kids everywhere.’