If there's a poster company for toy industry consolidation, Basic Fun! just might be it. As the industry of play continues to evolve and more companies jockey for position in the wake of the Toys "R" Us closure in the U.S. and elsewhere, team-ups and mergers are where it's at, and that's something that Basic Fun! saw coming. Announced during Toy Fair 2017 and reported on here, Basic Fun! was formed by combining two smaller companies - The Bridge Direct and Tech 4 Kids. At the time, Tech 4 Kids CEO Brad Pedersen said that the new company had the "expectation to acquire or merge with new businesses every twelve to eighteen months" to fuel growth. Indeed, the company has grown, but at an accelerated rate, having already absorbed K'NEX, Uncle Milton and Good Stuff. Today comes word that the company just pulled another PAC-MAN, gobbling-up Playhut, maker of indoor and outdoor play structures.
While Toys "R" Us is currently dead here in the States, Geoffrey lives on in other parts of the world, including China. What's of concern right now is that a growing battle between a couple of the very companies responsible for the swift collapse of TRU here in the States (led by Solus Alternative Asset Management, because "Soulless" was too obvious a name) may put the entire Asian operation at risk due to a fight over the use of the Toys "R" Us name. In the meantime, it's business as usual in the Far East, and the folks at Toys "R" Us China just wrapped their hunt for a "small CEO." Actually, about 150 of them - children dubbed as Honorary "Chief Experience Officers."
The holiday season continues to loom large on the horizon, and as the toy wars of 2018 continue, another player has entered the octagon - JCPenney! As the retailer continues their evolution and gets back into categories like baby products, this fall marks the one-year anniversary of their successful toy shops. Like many of my generation, the JCPenney Christmas Catalog was a must-read while growing up, and now a hint of that spirit is coming back as they unwrap their Top 20 Toys list, "inviting shoppers to discover the most popular toys sure to top kid’s wish lists this Christmas." The JCPenney Top 20 Toys will be featured prominently within a dedicated toys book, which will be delivered to customers’ homes in time for the holiday season and will include a sticker sheet enabling kids to mark the items they want from Santa.
I do believe that the toy wars have begun... and that's a great thing for kids, parents and everyone who loves play! Following the sudden and spectacular collapse of Toys "R" Us earlier this year, a huge void was left and that means that other retailers have been ramping up to serve their customers while capturing a part of that business (fact: TRU still sold $11 billion in toys in 2016). Walmart (an affiliate) is one of the first out of the gate, rebranding their toy departments as "America's Best Toy Shop," promising an expanded assortment that includes 30 percent new toys in stores and 40 percent more toys online. That means new brands that kids may not have seen before, and they're adding some fun new experiences and special in-store events to get families excited. Along with this news comes the unveiling of Walmart's annual hot toy list, their 2018 "Top Rated By Kids" - 40 must-have items for this holiday season - and layaway is back! Check it out...
2018 continues to be a unique and challenging year for those in the business of play. While sales are up and there's no shortage of places to buy and sell toys, the rapid collapse of Toys "R" Us in the United States and other countries continues to cause collateral damage. While major players like Mattel have taken a beating, it was always expected that some smaller toymakers would suffer catastrophic damage. Today's casualty is Toy State, a Hong Kong-based company with a long history of making some fantastic toy vehicles, including their Road Rippers brand and the iconic Nikko RC line, but also toys with a ton of top licenses and strategic partners like CAT, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Barbie & Hot Wheels, DC Comics, MARVEL, WWE, Thomas and Friends and more. In fact, they just announced a partnership with 20th Century Fox to become the master toy licensee for the animated film Spies in Disguise, which hits theaters next April.
Update - 8/27/2018, 8:02pm - “The safety of our customers and associates is a top priority. We take this seriously and work closely with law enforcement whenever these claims arise, however this particular claim is unsubstantiated. If any customer feels unsafe or uncomfortable while at our store, we encourage them to contact police or an associate so they can assist as appropriate.” -- Tara Aston, Walmart spokesperson.
Original story: Earlier this morning, I woke up to a notification that my mom had tagged me in a Facebook post, as she sometimes does when something might be interesting. The post was a share from Sandy Davis (Dankmeyer), a woman in northern Wisconsin. She claimed that while visiting Wisconsin Dells on Wednesday, August 22, 2018, she and her children were put firmly into the sights of would-be abductors or human traffickers while shopping at the Wisconsin Dells Walmart store. In her post, published at 1:12am on August 23, Davis claimed to have been "beeped at" by a white van in the parking lot, after which she was approached by a Walmart Associate who informed her that this is how abductors are signalling their accomplices. She goes on to mention being followed by "2 black guys" and discussing this situation with a member of store management. Davis' post has already garnered more than 6.6K shares as of this writing, but the thing is... her rambling account sounds eerily similar to a number of other recent Walmart abduction stories that turned out to be hoaxes. I immediately reached out to local law enforcement along with the Walmart Corporate Communications team to learn more about the situation.