Chicago-based wagon company Radio Flyer is the latest toyco to ride the personalization trend, recently partnering with children’s book publisher I See Me! to release a customizable book called My Radio Flyer Adventure and offering kids the chance to design their own physical wagons on its website.
The book is a part of the Radio Flyer’s 100th anniversary, which was also marked with the release of the Star Wars Landspeeder earlier this year and a wagon parade in Chicago. The 20-page title is Radio Flyer’s first venture into the publishing world and is available on RadioFlyer.com for US$29.99 ahead of the holiday season.
The story is based on Radio Flyer’s Emmy Award-winning short film Taking Flight, which follows a child on a wagon through magical destinations and unbelievable creatures. When consumers go to the Radio Flyer website, they can choose whether the child is riding a wagon, tricycle or bike, and then select the character’s name, gender, hair color and skin tone.
The brand is using My Radio Flyer Adventure to see if it wants to delve further into publishing, given that the physical book space has been enjoying steady growth over the past couple of years. Print book sales in the US, for one, have risen over the past four years, with NPD Books reporting a compound annual growth rate of 2.8% since 2013, and US$674 million in sales for the US industry as a whole last year. US children’s books sales have grown even faster, with a compound annual growth rate of 5.3% since 2013.
“While My Radio Flyer Adventure is slightly different than our normal product line of outdoor toys, we feel strongly that making a children’s title dedicated to imagination, adventure and active play–values Radio Flyer has been committed to for 10 decades–made sense for the brand as we look to continue storytelling for another 100 years,” says Radio Flyer’s marketing coordinator, Mindy Schanzle.
Schanzle and her team are well aware of the growing interest for create-your-own publishing titles–both among kids and investors. UK personalized publishing company Wonderbly (formerly Lost My Name) recently raised US$8.5 million in a Series B funding round led by Ravensburger, the European game, puzzle and book publisher. The Roald Dahl Literary Estate also partnered with Wonderbly to incorporate Dahl’s classic characters into a book that was released on September 13.
Even though the deal with I See Me! is for one book, Radio Flyer is committed to bringing more personalized elements to its line of wagons, too. The company is offering parents a chance to customize everything from the material that’s used, to an MP3 speaker system and personalized name plate. Radio Flyer has also brought out two new vehicles in time for Christmas, including the eWagon battery-operated wagon to make pulling easier and the 3-in-1 All-Terrain EZ Fold Wagon. The latter includes three different ways of riding, including flatbed hauling and bench seating.
Radio Flyer is using a personalized touch in order to stand above competitors like Fisher-Price and Ohio-based Step2, both of which are putting out wagons with new innovations and licensing deals like Step2′s Disney Princess Chariot. But Schanzle says Radio Flyer’s 100-year history holds a lot of weight with customers, so the company wanted to lean into that with new, modern offerings and the I See Me! book.
“When you say ‘Radio Flyer’ to someone, they tell a story about their own wagon and that’s a theme we still want to capture,” says Schanzle.
Radio Flyer also jumped on the ride-on battery-powered car boom last year with a new partnership with Tesla that created a US$500 mini-Tesla with a lithium-ion battery.