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Toy Fair Attendance Up In 2012, Apps Rule

NEW YORK — At Toy Fair, held here earlier this month, manufacturers participated in the “everything old is new again” line of thinking by taking old things like puzzles and making them new again with apps.

Conversely, they were also taking new things like tablets and finding uses for them with standard toys, such as Hot Wheels cars.

This year’s Toy Fair hosted 26,730 attendees — a 2 percent increase over 2011 — with nearly 1,100 exhibitors, many of whom were likely hoping the CE toy industry would begin to see better times this year.

According to The NPD Group, many of the categories it tracks in the youth electronics segment posted yearover- year losses. The electronic handheld and tabletop games segment, for example, saw revenue drop 16.4 percent in 2011 when compared with 2010.

One cause for this decrease, David Riley, NPD executive director, told TWICE is that kids are simply using other toys as the novelty factor wears off.

“The big story in 2011 and into 2012 revolves around tablets created for kids — products like LeapFrog’s LeapPad Tablet and VTech’s InnoTab. With innovative products like these that are marketed specifically for children, you can expect to see positive changes within these categories … In terms of kids’ usage of CE products, especially new devices, we should consider the fact that the novelty of these devices may be leading kids to a shorter-term change in behavior.

“For example, kids who have access to an iPad may temporarily put down their portable video game system but not necessarily move away from the gaming system altogether,” Riley said.

Not all segments dropped, however; the robotic/interactive playmate category crept up 22.5 percent year over year, and the infant electronic learning segment rose 7 percent. Also popular at the show were tablets geared toward kids, as observed by both Riley and TWICE.

Mattel showed off an interactive playmate known as the Fijit Friends during the show. The robotic creatures feature word-recognition technology and can respond to 30 commands. They can also “dance” along to music by recognizing the beat playing, and come with 150 preloaded jokes and phrases.

The Fijit Friends will be sold in four colors for $52.99 each. Availability is scheduled for July.

Mattel also displayed products under its new Apptivity line. By downloading a free app, iPad users can use the specially designed Hot Wheels to place three different games on the tablet. The cars feature Active Touch antiscratch technology, as displayed at Toy Fair on a giant reproduction of an iPad screen, so parents don’t have to worry about damaging their tablet.

Two cars and the app will retail for $19.99. Availability is scheduled for May. There are also versions planned for use with Angry Birds, Batman The Dark Knight Rises, Cut the Rope and Fruit Ninja, among others.

Mattel introduced a Barbie doll-shaped digital camera with embedded screen, said to retail for a suggested $49.99 with August availability. The toy-slash-digicam is designed to hold about 100 images.

Mattel is also partnering with Sakar for a line of Hot Wheels- and Barbie-branded items, including car-shaped flash drives and cellphone cases for the former brand, and hair bow- and ponytailshaped ear buds for the latter.

Sakar was also showing Avengers- and Spider-Manthemed CE devices that are timed to coincide with the upcoming release of these movies. The Avengers devices will including digital music players packaged with several different faceplates for the different characters, and the Spider-Man products will include digital cameras and pocket video cameras.

In keeping with the “everything old is new again” theme, puzzle manufacturer Ravensburger introduced a line of Augmented Reality puzzles. These toys are put together like standard puzzles, but users can download and app and use an iPhone or iPad to interact with the puzzle.

For example, holding an iPhone over the underwaterthemed puzzle allows users to play a “catch the fish” game on their device. The free app allows consumers to extend the life and add a new element of fun to their puzzle, a spokeswoman said to TWICE. The 1,000-piece puzzles will retail for a suggested $19.99.

During the show, TWICE also met with Oren Oz, CEO of Nuvo, a company that manufacturers pre-natal audio sound systems. The company has expanded its line to include portable speakers designed for infants and toddlers.

The Groovio systems come in two iterations: the Groovio ($99.99 suggested retail, June) and the Groovio Ball ($59.99, May). Both models can be dressed up with a variety of interchangeable costumes that will retail for a suggested $9.99 each.

Features include built-in MP3 players that can hold about 1,000 songs, 3.5mm jack to use with other players, and sound-limiting technology. The Groovio comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, while the Groovio Ball operate on two AAA batteries. The lithium-ion battery can be ordered separately for the Groovio Ball.