by Bob Groeneveld/Special to Black Press
Making sure Santa has all the right toys available on local toy store shelves in time for Christmas is a long and involved process that starts as early as February.
Even for Langley’s Toy Traders, the annual search for trending toys starts as far away as New York.
“We go to the New York Toy Fair in February,” explained Lyndsay Anderson, senior manager and purchaser for Toy Traders, “and you know you try to say, gee, that’s going to be yummy… but you never know sometimes. It’s a hit and miss type thing.”
The newest toys often show up first at the Toy Fair, and industry-only showcase event, Anderson explained. “They’ll show them at New York Toy Fair, and then they’ll start releasing them, sometimes right away at Toy Fair, and you’ll see things coming into the market around June or July.”
It’s also a place to spot toy trends, she said. “At Toy Fair last year what we saw were a lot of trends towards sequined things coming out. Sequined plush animals and sequined pillows and things like that seem to be trending, but I don’t know how strong they’re actually going to be.”
Gooey things were also popular: “Anything that was slime or goopy, like make your own slime or putty, or play foam or anything like that – any sort of tactile stuff was really popular.”
And some things are just always a popular part of the multi-billion-dollar toy business, like LEGO and Playmobil, and collectibles attached to Harry Potter or the Marvel and DC comics lines.
“LEGO is always a big hit,” Anderson explained. “You anticipate and you hope you know what’s going on, but LEGO is always a strong sell. Playmobil is always a strong sell, it’s always a very, very strong line.”
If you’re wondering what’s big right now, just walk into a store like Toy Traders, Toys R Us, or Mastermind Toys. It’s simple business arithmetic, . Anything that’s taking up a lot of space on the store’s shelves is popular.
“You can always tell if you walk through the store and we’ve got, like, two aisles of something, there’s a good chance they’re strong sellers,” Anderson noted. “If you come into our store, take a look at our Playmobil display, and you’re going to go, ‘Oh, this must be a strong sell for this toy store,’ because we have a lot of it. We have a lot of displays and we have a lot of product here.”
Toys and collectibles go hand in hand, and the same test applies. “The [Marvel and DC] superheroes are always strong licences on the collectible side, for all the products they sell,” Anderson said.
“Star Wars is a strong licence in the collectibles area, too. Any time you’re looking at anything that has a cult following, you’re going to have popular themes in those areas.”
Beyond the perennials like LEGO, particularly the Harry Potter version this year, Anderson expects slime to continue last year’s strength, adding, “Scruff-A-Luv’s, Pikmi Pops, and Squeezamals are proving to be strong sells, as well. Hatchimals and board games are still popular, too.”
Popular listings from other toy outlets, including Mastermind, Toys R Us, and Walmart, tend to agree with Toy Traders’ assessment of trends. All include LEGO on their “hot” lists. Slime and other “gross stuff” fit prominently in their predictions for Christmas, as do family-friendly games, toys, and collectibles.
“Top Toy Trends” at Toys R Us include Scruff-a-Luvs, Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol, educational toys like Ravensburger, and of course, a variety of themed LEGO sets.
Mastermind lists STEAM toys – toys that help teach science, tech, engineering, arts, and math – as “super hot” this year, and start their “Top 20 Holiday Faves List” with Pencil Nose Game, their exclusive Lil’ Gleemerz, Cool Maker Kumi Kreator, Flexo, Rastar BMW Remote Controlled Car, DJ Bot Orange Slice, and the ever-present LEGO Harry Potter.
Masterminds purchasing head Ryan Carr notes a significant increase in the numbers of games on the store’s shelves, explaining, “As the games category continues to grow, we have expanded our games selection by 50 per cent. From the classics like Monopoly and Jenga to an interactive gross new game called What’s that Smell?, family game night options have never been better.”
Meanwhile, Walmart Canada tops its list of popular toys this season with Barbie, a favourite for decades. Others include L.O.L. Bigger Surprise, Paw Patrol, Real Rad Robots, and yes, Harry Potter themed LEGO.