The number of new toys and novelties that come to market each year is a tribute to the imagination of inventors, designers, and suppliers. Whether it's a different twist to an old classic or a brand new idea, the freshness these products bring to the retail industy is what makes shopping fun and what keeps retail profits flowing.
Light ups are an example of one product that are repeatedly brought to market in different forms. Dilip Shah, owner of Pioneer Trading Company in Chicago, IL, travels to China to talk with importers and regularly attend trade shows. He's always in search of the newest light up designs.
"It's the only way to stay ahead of the game," he says. "We try to be six months ahead with a new design in order to give our retailer customers an edge." Like others in the novelty field, he declined to disclose the newest light up designs he sees on the horizon. Jayson Magura, owner of All Fun Gifts in Asheville, NC, also passed on the opportunity to say what's high on the novelty roster for fall, calling it "a trade secret."
Both of these companies add new products throughout each season and keep their customers informed through the web and emails. Magura says, "We don't tell who we buy from. We search far and wide for a broad range of interesting and odd gifts."
Gary Jiang, owner of Nihao Trading Corporation in College Point, NY, agrees this is a hot category that is always expanding. New at Nihao are flashing body magnets that include designs in star and cross shapes. "We regularly carry more than 2,000 items, and the selection changes every week." Nihao also sends emails to customers as new products arrive.
But Richard Bayer, owner of the company, Snowonder, in Santa Cruz, CA, is very willing to tell what's new to the market. Snowonder is Bayer's brand of artificial snow and was developed in Japan ten years ago for indoor sports. It's a dry polymer to which water is added to create very realistic looking snow.
"It just recently made it to the consumer market, and people love it," Bayer says. Snowonder led sales during the past holiday season and is expected to do so again. In fact, Bayer says its sales have held strong all year. It's used in photo shoots and store displays; for party decorations and holiday décor.
Snowonder comes in three differences sizes of consumer packages. The smallest, dubbed Superbow, is a two cup package that wholesales for about $1 a unit, depending on quantity, and retails for between $2.95 to $4.95. The middle size, Shovel, is a one quart pack that wholesales for between $1.70 to $2.20 a unit, retailing between $4.95 to $6.95. A Bucket half gallon size wholesales for between $2.70 to $3.20 a unit and retails from $6.95 to $9.95.
Snowonder offers pre-packs as well as a display rack that holds all three size packages. Minimum order requirement is $100 and can contain a mix of all three sizes.
If newness is just one name of the game, impulse appeal is the other, and the two often go together. New light up products may be under wraps at All Fun Gifts, but lighter accessories are not. Magura says he's in the process of evaluating lighter bling, a product he sees as the newest extension of the lighter leash his company did well with in the past.
Both are designed to keep cigarette lighters handy, but lighter bling has no retractable leash. Instead, it attaches directly to a pack of cigarettes with an adjustable elastic band. Magura is assessing its appeal and pricing levels to see if it might be a real winner, especially at smoke shops and convenience stores.
"Clear rolling papers are still a hit in those locations," he says. "We are always keeping our eyes and ears open, exploring new things and assessing what's going to be popular and what's not."
Children and craft fairs are good sources of inspiration in spotting what's new and upcoming, according to Faith Fisher, a principal of Novelteeze in Ephrata, PA. Chief among her new products are bubble shirts and wind spinners.
The bubble shirts resemble packing material, and the bubbles offer "an interactive experience," Fisher says. Furthermore, they fit children as well as people who wear sizes up through extra large. "One size fits all, and they come in happy colors and printed patterns. They are very hot now, and we have added a selection of them with spaghetti straps," she says.
It's another example of adding a new twist to a proven product. "My whole family is in retail," Fisher says, "so that gives me feedback on what consumers want, as well as a good handle on what's doing well now."
Novelteeze's metal wind spinners complement the burgeoning gardening market and are a decorative accessory that captures light and adds interest to outdoor settings. "Unlike wind chimes," she says, "they don't make noise when they spin, and many people like that."
For Smart Bean, a company based in Covina, CA, the Rough Rider brand of rough and tumble, big wheel toy vehicles, is a runaway hit. Christina Park, Marketing Director, acknowledges that the category is not new, but "we've made these collectors items playable and affordable. They have the same details as the more expensive collectibles, but kids can play with these."
There are six designs, each of which come in many colors, and more designs are being added. There is a counter displayer and a larger floor stand display that adds to the impulse appeal. Though Smart Bean has many sizes of similar vehicles. "But the Rough Rider series is doing particularly well," Park says.
Smart Bean also carries an all terrain vehicle that makes noise, and there are tractors, motor bikes and other popular models. "They're not just for kids," Park says. " They sell well to adults and grandparents, too."
Die cast model cars do well for Pioneer Trading, Shah reports. "All come with counter displays for impulse appeal, and we suggest stores start with the small scale units, which are affordable enough for kids to buy for themselves."
Cesar Lugaro, owner of Boricua Imports in Orlando, FL, specializes in Hispanic novelties. "It isn't just products that change. Markets do too," he says. "The Hispanic population is growing now in all parts of the country, and that represents a great opportunity for retailers."
Boricua carries flag decorated novelties from all the Central and South American countries as well as Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. His most popular units, key chains and flags for cars and homes, do well in all kinds of stores from groceries and bodegas to convenience stores and flea markets.
Lugaro and his staff can direct retailers to the right mix for each area of the country. "States close to the border," he says, "sell mostly items from Mexico and Central American countries." In Florida, items from Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic do best. Demand in New York is primarily for items from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
"In the rural areas of North and South Carolina " says Lugaro, "items from Mexico and Central American countries do best." His company carries more than 500 items, and there are counter displays and floor stands for a majority of them.
In a fast changing world, retailers that succeed stay ahead of the crowd. Nowhere is that more critical than when stores are competing for impulse buys. Sales are made when customers take delight in seeing something they've never seen before - something new, fun, and novel that lets them show that they, too, are ahead of the crowd.
The following people at these companies were interviewed for this article:
Jayson Magura, owner
All Fun Gifts
Ashville, NC 28804
Cesar Lugaro, owner
2200 Forsyth Road, Ste. A3
Orlando, FL 32807
Gary Jiang, owner
Nihao Trading Corp.
132-08 11th Avenue
College Point, NY 11356
Toll Free: 866-886-4426
Faith Fisher, owner/operator
21 East Main Street
Ephrata, PA 17522
Toll Free: 800-915-6005
Dilip Shah, owner
Pioneer Trading Company
4811 North Elston Avenue
Chicago, IL 60630
Christina Park, marketing director
1578 San Bernardino Road, Ste. C
Covina, CA 91722
Richard Bayer, owner
90 Lions Field Drive
Santa Cruz, CA 95065
Toll Free: 888-487-7669
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