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11.06.2019 // Plastic Versus The Environment: A Threat To The Global Toy Industry?

Awareness of the damage caused to ocean life by waste plastic items has risen to the fore recently. This has been an issue for quite some time, but a number of high-profile projects and television series (i.e. Boyan Slat’s Great Ocean Clean Up and Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet) have made this one of the most pressing environmental concerns of our times.
Aside from the concern this may cause toy people in terms of the health of our planet and the future wellbeing of our children, it should also be a concern and consideration as such a high percentage of toys are made of plastic or feature plastic in the packaging. Does this mean that the anti-plastic backlash will lead to a major threat to the toy industry? Well for certain, if you were doing a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), you would have to include anti-plastic backlash as a threat to the toy industry overall. In reality though, I am not sure how big a threat the plastic-environmental issue will represent.

OCEAN PLASTICS & TOYS: 2 KEY FACTS

Firstly, the vast majority of plastic in the oceans is single use plastic i.e. food containers and drink bottles, plastic bags etc. A major secondary source of plastics in the ocean which are harmful to the marine environment are fishing lines and nets. So, if you take a macro perspective on ocean plastic, toys are not a significant factor.
Secondly, more than a quarter of the plastic in the ocean is thought to come from ten rivers in Asia and Africa, meaning that the primary toy consuming markets of North America and Europe are excluded from these primary polluting rivers. Now there is a counter argument that several of the Asian rivers run through manufacturing hubs used for toys as well as other consumer products, and that the population moved to those areas along these rivers due in large part to China’s manufacturing sector, however, this is not a direct link to the toy industry.

INDIRECT THREATS & OPPORTUNITIES

There seems little doubt that the tides are changing in terms of single use plastic around the world. This should not in itself be a major threat to the toy industry, albeit something we should embrace as consumers and global citizens. There are though, some areas we need to look at closely which may have an impact:
  1. Centralised solutions in Asia – bearing in mind so much of the world’s population is in Asia, and that Asian rivers are a major source of plastic in the oceans, it is quite likely we will see some kind of concerted centralised attempts to minimise single use plastics. This kind of indirect factor has had significant effect on the toy industry in other areas of environmental action for instance where paper mills have been rationalised and redirected in terms of environmental standards leading to increased toy packaging prices.
  2. Badly conceived or over extensive legislation in the West – anyone who has observed the global political environment in recent times will be aware of the growing propensity for backlash and over reaction. The toy industry en masse needs to monitor the potential negative effect of poorly thought out or over reaching legislation which ends up including plastic toys via careless definitions of product categories etc.
  3. Transportation and shipping materials from store – clearly the manner in which consumers or direct supply retailers transport toys is likely to change. They are less and less likely to carry toys away in a throwaway plastic bag or other disposable plastic.
  4. Packaging solutions – clearly throwaway single use plastic packaging is set to be under great pressure in the coming years, and so toy development and manufacturing will have to find more solutions from sustainably sourced paper-based packaging.
  5. Material developments –the pressure on plastic usage could also be an opportunity for the development of better materials – better in terms of environmental impact, but also in terms of other characteristics. Lego has already made several public announcements on their commitment to sustainable bricks by utilising sugar cane material or derivatives. They also have a corporate commitment to be using a sustainable material en masse by 2030. Hasbro have also announced they will be using plant based ‘plastics’ in packaging starting from 2019.

ALTERNATIVE MATERIALS FOR TOYS ARE SURE TO COME

So overall, clearly these are challenging times for the global marine environment, and logically we should expect to see a concerted global backlash against single use plastic usage. However, for the toy industry we should probably expect a more indirect impact, but with some key global players already moving towards sustainable sources, we are likely to see an advancement of alternative materials. We should hope it moves quicker than any legislation which may make such moves mandatory ahead of our ability to implement them.

03.06.2019 // June 2019 – interesting toy events at a glance

Date Event Location
01.06.2019 International Children's Day Worldwide
01.06.2019 - 02.06.2019 Instant Future BarCamp Nuremberg, Germany
02.06.2019 3rd Annual LIMA Cares Charity Bike Ride – Licensing Expo Las Vegas, United States
03.06.2019 Young Professionals Network @ Rhythm & Riff in Mandalay Bay Las Vegas, United States
04.06.2019 2019 LIMA International Licensing Awards Ceremony Las Vegas, United States
04.06.2019 - 05.06.2019 K5 Conference 2019 – Future Retail Conference Berlin, Germany
04.06.2019 - 06.06.2019 Licensing Expo 2019 Las Vegas, United States
05.06.2019 Women in Toys – WIT Breakfast at Licensing Expo Las Vegas, United States
07.06.2019 - 08.06.2019 ASTRA Certified Play Expert Workshop Pittsburgh, United States
09.06.2019 Children's Day United States
09.06.2019 - 12.06.2019 ASTRA marketplace & Academy Pittsburgh, United States
11.06.2019 - 12.06.2019 Customer Experience Forum NYC – Forrester New York, United States
11.06.2019 - 12.06.2019 ICTI TWO DAY COURSE Ethical Toy Program Essentials Nanjing, China
11.06.2019 - 12.06.2019 Change The Game – Leading Radical Customer Experience Innovation New York, United States
11.06.2019 - 13.06.2019 E3 Expo Los Angeles, United States
13.06.2019 ICTI ONE DAY COURSE Introduction to the Program Nanjing, China
18.06.2019 - 19.06.2019 Annual Business Conference Minneapolis, United States
19.06.2019 Licensing Italia – LIMA Italy, Kidz Global: Kidz Trends Seminars Milan, Italy
28.06.2019 ICTI HALF DAY COURSE Open Forum Shenzhen, China

30.05.2019 // Play and Tech sector at heart of new direction for Autumn Fair 2019

Play and tech will be the topic of focus for the toy industry at this year’s Autumn Fair, as the show prepares to recalibrate and launch its new direction for 2019 and beyond.

The NEC show will be unveiling a raft of new initiatives and changes this year, kicking off with a move to the exhibition centre’s Atrium, as part of a ‘re-edited offering’ designed to make connecting suppliers and retailers a smoother process, and showcase products better.

11 curated show sectors will enable visitors to explore the products driving sales throughout the busy Christmas period and on into key selling periods for 2020. All gifting categories have been brought together into one Gift sector, in turn creating the UK’s largest gathering of gift inspiration under one roof.

Likewise, the 2019 move will bring together the show’s home and interiors sectors, creating a new sourcing and exhibiting destination for UK and international buyers and suppliers.

More than 22,000 visitors, and 1,300 exhibitors are expected to descend on the NEC for the show. New show sectors include: Beauty & Wellbeing, Living, Gift, Greetings & Stationary, Accents and Decor, Everyday, Retail Solution, Fashion, and Play & Tech.

16.05.2019 // Ukrainians celebrate day of national embroidered shirt

Today Ukrainians traditionally celebrate Vyshyvanka Day, the day of national embroidered shirt.

It is not an official holiday but is celebrated in Ukraine and abroad by Ukrainians and foreigners who are fond of Ukrainian culture.

The action dates back to the initiative of students of the History, Political Science and International Relations Department of the Yuri Fedkovych Chernivtsi National University.

Ukrainian embroidered shirt vyshyvanka, along with the Ukrainian traditional Easter egg pysanka, is one of the brightest symbols of Ukrainian culture. Besides, wearing an embroidered shirt, one demonstrates not only its beauty and uniqueness but also confirms belonging to the everlasting Ukrainian cultural tradition.

15.05.2019 // International Day Of Families

International Day Of Families falls on 15 May every year and highlights the importance of families as basic units of society.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that 15 May of every year shall be observed as the International Day of Families. The day reflects the importance that the international community attaches to families as basic units of society as well as its concern regarding their situation around the world.

 

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13.05.2019 // Boosting book retail sales through fun and play

A Conni game next to a plush Gruffalo beside a Raven The Little Rascal mini-puzzle, and the matching book for each: just what you’d expect to find in a child’s room. That’s why many booksellers automatically include games and toys in their offering – in confident anticipation of additional revenue.

Mayersche and its “Teddy & Co.” brand


The German bookstore chain Mayersche Buchhandlung has made especially good progress in this regard: no other book retailer or bookstore chain puts as much effort into its game and toy business. The share of sales generated by the company in these segments was still below the ten-percent mark as of recently, but who knows: “Teddy & Co.”, the brand under which Mayersche consolidates all of its toy activities, is rapidly increasing its reach. The company converted further shop space last year to ensure a suitable offering for customers in every one of its 55 stores. Indeed, to a grand scale in eight of these – in Aachen, Bochum, Dortmund, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Essen, Cologne and Trier, the bookstore chain devotes 200 to 1,000 square metres to games and toys. Monika Kloss, who manages the segments centrally, states: “In many cities, Mayersche is often not only the largest bookstore, but also the largest toy seller in the area – many toy retailers have already moved away from top city centre locations.” If the bookstore chain soon completes its merger with Thalia, another big German bookstore chain, it might provide fresh impetus for the whole business segment: subject to the competition authorities approving the merger deal announced in January, a new book retailing giant will emerge – collectively, the two companies are currently in almost 290 locations across Germany.

More expertise, more sales


However, Mayersche and Thalia are not alone in their search for useful additions to their ranges – this is something that concerns everyone, including the countless smaller booksellers: just as it is a given for toy retailers to sell books nowadays, many bookshops offer toys and games. They know there are things they need to be aware of when it comes to these. Some are already investing in further training or attending seminars offered by manufacturers as well as the Spielwarenmesse toy fair in Nuremberg. Consequently, the organisers of the fair have been rolling out the red carpet for them for the last two years with its “Toys meet Books” offering: some 15 suppliers showcased a selection of their products in 2019 at the special show aimed at booksellers, located right behind the highly frequented Entrance Mitte, and a flyer listing the 150 potentially most important (international) exhibitors for them was produced. Booksellers were also offered practical presentations from expert speakers with whom they could subsequently book one-to-one speed coaching sessions. Christian Ulrich, Marketing Director for the Spielwarenmesse, is unequivocal: “This year we were especially pleased with the considerable increase in trade visitors from the German and European book trade in particular”, he emphasised. “More and more book retailers are recognising the appeal of including toys in their range as a means of generating lucrative additional sales.”


Among the booksellers who picked up ideas at the special show and from the presentations was Barbara Jansen, South-West Regional Representative at Buchwert. The association currently represents some 190 book retailers (at around 300 locations). It hopes to expand its day-to-day support to its members to include games and toys as well in the future. The tour of the trade fair and the presentations have again really encouraged Jansen to re-evaluate these topics for the association group. “Booksellers can benefit from offering toys, which have the potential to appeal to additional target groups”. The association intends to work more intensively on this in the near term. According to Jansen, Buchwert is currently in the process of producing a brochure for its members combining expertise on selling games and toys and hopes to also appeal to some of its partner publishers for the project, from Coppenrath through to Ravensburger.

Facts on the German book market

  • Sales in the book market as a whole in 2017: €9.13 billion
    of which in the retail book trade: €4.3 billion (approx. 47 percent)
  • Sales trend in the book trade in 2018: + 0.1 percent
  • Supply channels: Booksellers do purchase games and toys directly from manufacturers, but also frequently turn to wholesalers. These segments are now an integral part of the ranges offered by all book wholesalers in the industry.
  • Sales from games in the retail book trade: Media Control provided figures for this for the first time in early 2019 – a new departure. The market researchers put the sales volume for games at some €68.5 million annually. They did not include toys in their survey.

07.05.2019 // May 2019 – interesting toy events at a glance

These dates for the toy industry you should remember in May 2019!

Date Event Location

05.05.2019 Children's Day Japan

05.05.2019 Children's Day South Korea

07.05.2019 - 08.05.2019 ICTI Ethical Toy Program Essentials - 2 Day Course Dongguan, China

09.05.2019 ICTI Ethical Toy Program - Introduction - 1 Day Course Dongguan, China

10.05.2019 Children's Day Maldives

12.05.2019 Children's Day Spain

12.05.2019 Children's Day United Kingdom

14.05.2019 LIMA MindMix™: Leading Through Change Paris, France

14.05.2019 - 16.05.2019 World Retail Congress Amsterdam, Netherlands

15.05.2019 - 16.05.2019 ICTI Ethical Toy Program Essentials - 2 Day Course Shenzhen, China

17.05.2019 Children's Day Norway 17.05.2019 LIMA Sports Licensing Roundtable Berlin, Germany

17.05.2019 ICTI Ethical Toy Program - Introduction - 1 Day Course Shenzhen, China

18.05.2019 - 19.05.2019 Game designers' meeting at the Swiss Museum of Games La Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland

23.05.2019 LIMA UK: Building a Licensing Programme at Retail London, United Kingdom

26.05.2019 Children's Day Hungary 27.05.2019 Children's Day Nigeria

28.05.2019 - 29.05.2019 ICTI Ethical Toy Program Essentials - 2 Day Course Shantou, China

30.05.2019 Children's Day American Samoa

30.05.2019 Children's Day Falkland Islands 30.05.2019 Children's Day Solomon Islands

30.05.2019 ICTI Introduction To The Program - 1 Day Course Shantou, China

26.04.2019 // Amazon to pull Chinese ecommerce arm due to pressure from rivals

As reported by Reuters, the move underscores how home-grown e-commerce rivals have made it difficult for Amazon’s marketplace to gain traction in China. Consumer research firm iResearch Global said Alibaba Group Holding’s Tmall marketplace and JD.com controlled 82% of the Chinese e-commerce market last year.

Amazon shoppers in China will no longer be able to buy goods from third-party merchants in the country, but they still will be able to order from the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan via the firm’s global store. Amazon will wind down support for domestic-selling merchants in China in the next 90 days and review the impact on itsfulfilment centres in the country, some of which it may close.

An Amazon spokeswoman said that the company would continue to invest and grow in Chinathrough its Amazon Global Store, Global Selling, Kindle e-readers and online content. Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud computing unit that sells data storage and computing power to enterprises, will also remain.

22.04.2019 // I'm building myself the world

Getting to grips with applications from real-world industry and technology in a playful way – this was made possible by metal construction kits 100 years ago. These days, however, it's robotics and virtual design that are taking classic values into the future. Children and adolescents can have a whole lot of fun – and acquire the core competencies of STEM professions in the process.

Digitally designing your own toys on a tablet computer and making them a reality with 3D printing? This is precisely what applications such as the TinkerToys app, available since May 2018 (for Android and iOS), make possible. Children can print their designs themselves or let TinkerToys take over production using recyclable bioplastics.

Being able to digitally produce your own toy is cutting edge technology. With its concept of the "Thingmaker", Mattel already showed in 2016 that 3D printing that is currently still being used in the maker scene in particular has great potential for children and teenagers Children and young people can use this technology to express their creativity and playfully acquire skills for the STEM professions of the future – because 3D printing is becoming increasingly important in industry.

Time Machine Building Kit
But what do such solutions have to do with the time around 1900? An awful lot! Because it was then that Frank Hornby invented the modern metal construction kit in England. He turned real-world industrial technology into a game: the principle of machine and bridge construction with prefabricated iron parts connected by rivets was transformed into a brilliantly flexible game system of punched tapes and screws.

Sold under the name of Meccano, the invention started to conquer the world in 1903. Large metal construction brands later also included Construction (now Eitech), Erector, Märklin, Merkur, Stabil and Trix. Generations of children built their own world with the aid of metal construction kits and the principles of genuine technology.

Toy Research
The Deutsches Museum in Munich, the largest science and technology museum in the world, displays numerous construction kits and models. And they are even carrying out research into the topic there. The research revolves around the interaction between the educational value of construction kits (which adults want) and the joy of playing (as experienced by the children).
A lot of metal construction kits were so close to the genuine engineering of their time that the industry also used them for training and development purposes. The automotive designer Sir Alec Issigonis, for example, experimented with Meccano when he was developing the first Mini.

From metal to plastic

In the second half of the 20th century, plastic became more and more important as a material in industrial production as well as in toys. And new kits such as Fischertechnik (1965) and Lego Technic (1977) were also made from plastic. These products successfully carried the idea of the metal construction kit into the future.

The different ways that the current issues from industry can be used in a playful way are manifold, says Professor Gernot Bauer from the Münster University of Applied Sciences. He has worked on the new Fischertechnik kit called Robotics TXT Smart Home, which depicts the fascinating world of building automation and its control – and is a whole lot of fun.

17.04.2019 // Over 30 million toys received at Christmas ‘are neglected by March’, says new study

Around 23 per cent of the toys children receive for Christmas are neglected less than one month later, contributing to the 32 million toys across the UK that sit unused.

These are the latest stats to emerge from a study into the extent of unused toys in Britain, following the season of gift-giving, in which it has been revealed that parents are now looking for alternative ways to keep their children engaged.

The study was commissioned by the UK toy subscription box service, Whirli and carried out by Sapio Research who surveyed 2053 UK adults with children aged between 0 and seven.

The study details that on average, children received 21 toys this Christmas, with five per cent receiving more than 50. Whirli suggest that 80 per cent of parents think their children are given too many toys at Christmas, and other special occasions, while 88 per cent are consciously trying to reduce waste.

Commenting on the research, Nigel Phan, founder and CEO of Whirli, said: “The scale of gifts already neglected in the UK following the Christmas period indicates a huge disparity between Christmas gifting and what households with kids can actually handle or make use of.

“With a third of parents spending more than £150 per child, and almost nine in ten parents trying to consciously reduce waste, it’s no surprise that our research reveals many frustrations parents have with the current toy shopping experience.”

The same survey also revealed that over half of parents will buy pre-loved toys, and that 31 per cent of the mar actively rotating toys within their homes.

“However, with almost four in five still feeling that toys are cluttering their homes, there is a clear demand for something more sustainable for the world and manageable for parents, which explains in part the success we have seen at Whirli with our pilot customers.”

Whirli fully launched to the UK in March with its first fully flexible subscription box. It has been set up to with the aim of reducing the number of toys that head to landfill every year.

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