The following news briefs and new product items were gathered by Plastics News correspondent Bill Henson at the American International Toy Fair in New York, Feb. 13-16.
Plush toys top gainer in retail sales growth
Gary Baughman, chairman of Toy Manufacturers of America Inc., said at a news conference that total retail sales for the industry in 1997 were $22.6 billion, nearly 8 percent above 1996.
Data compiled by NPD Group Inc. of Port Washington, N.Y., for New York-based TMA estimated manufacturers' product shipments, excluding video games. The statistics show that the largest gain by category belonged to plush toys, a 37.5 percent increase. Action figures recorded an increase of 26.8 percent, from $832 million to nearly $1.1 billion.
Shipments of ride-on toys declined nearly 3 percent. Of particular note within that category was a dip in manufacturers' shipments of plastic tricycles, which declined from $30 million in 1996 to $28 million last year.
Meanwhile, the wholesale value of video game shipments surged 45.4 percent, from $2.9 billion in 1996 to about $4.3 billion in 1997.
TMA expanding space for its 1999 toy fair
Toy Manufacturers of America Inc. said it has contracted with Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York to expand exhibit space 30 percent for the 1999 American International Toy Fair and to occupy the entire convention facility's 900,000 square feet of show area in 2000. Next year's show dates at the center are Feb. 12-15.
This year's event was the largest in the association's history, with 1,695 exhibitors from 23 countries.
Step2 accessorizes Bigger Family line
Streetsboro, Ohio-based Step2 Co. introduced a number of items in its Bigger Family line, including the Bigger Family Farm, which features a large barn with double doors. Also new to the line are a cottage, leisure boat, construction wagon, camper, schoolhouse, firehouse, gas station and roller coaster.
Other Step2 toys making a debut include the Townhouse Laundry Center, Little Helper's Homestyle Kitchen, a Victorian-style doll house, the Building Blocks Table & Chair and the molded, one-piece Lazy J Chairs with armrests.
Peg-Perego U.S.A. Inc. in Fort Wayne, Ind., a division of Milan, Italy-based Peg-Perego Pines SpA, is offering several new upscale battery-powered vehicles, including the Monster Truck.
The battery-powered ride-on vehicle features two speeds, automatic brakes, a working horn and opening hood. The Apache, a Jeep-like ride-on featuring side-by-side seats, twin 6-volt battery power and giant 14-inch wheels, is also new. The Corral Banshee, a battery-powered, single-speed all-terrain-style vehicle, is new for kids ages 3 to 6.
Fisher-Price launches more than 100 toys
East Aurora, N.Y.-based Fisher-Price Inc., a Mattel Inc. subsidiary, introduced more than 100 toys, including the Wild Thing, a circular Power Wheels vehicle with two joysticks that can spin riders 360 degrees.
Also new for 1998 is the Shop 'n Cook Kitchen for preschoolers and the X-Treme Machine, a battery-powered, off-road ride-on vehicle featuring a 12-volt power system that offers two speeds, 2.5 and 5 mph.
Power Pumper Products Inc. in Oregon City, Ore., exhibited its new Power Pumper 2000, a four-wheeled, ride-on toy that features a push-pull pumping action for propulsion and is designed for use by children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy.
Superjouet SA in Oyonnax, France, introduced a variety of play products including the Charton baby driver, a tricycle with attached storage bin and bubble cars; the Clairbois wheelbarrow, farm tractor and playhouse; the Berchet kitchen set and baby carriage; and in the Favre line of children's toys, the castle.