Toy companies look for niche markets as consumers demand high value for low prices – The Star-Ledger

1 bz0214toys murray.JPG Michael Greenberg of Play Wow toys at his display at the 2012 Toy Fair at the Javits Center in New York City on Monay, February 13, 2012.

Play time will never end for Michael Greenberg.

The 30-year toy industry buff introduced Play Wow, a line of inflatables for infants and toddlers, to the U.S. market at the 109th Annual American International Toy Fair in New York.

More than 1,000 toy companies flaunted their newest gadgets and playthings at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, hoping to catch the eye of retail buyers and stake their claim in a relatively stagnant toy market.

Greenberg got into the industry through Shelcore Toys, his father’s Somerset-based toy company. He wouldn’t want to be a rookie at a time like this, but he thinks his experience and dedication will serve him well.

“I’ll be doing this until they bury me in an inflatable coffin,” he said. “I work until I fall asleep, so I’m usually putting in 15-hour days.”

He left Shelcore after selling the business to Matrix Holdings, a Hong Kong investment firm. After a brief stint as a marketing consultant, he was itching to get back into the toy business.

So far, Lenny Lion, Edgar Elephant and Petey Penguin and Digby Drago have done well overseas, Greenberg said, earning $1.5 million in profits during their first year.

“I’m not looking to be the biggest company out there,” he said, “but I think parents want toys that offer a lot of value for a lower price point.”

Most of the items in his 50-product line are made in China and retail for $20. Offering high-quality, affordable toys that grow with children will be key to finding success in the U.S. market, Greenberg said, and items with multiple functions sell particularly well.

That’s not very surprising, said Chris Byrne, content director for

Consumers have been buying cheaper toys for a few years, he said, and it shows in market data.

U.S. retail toy sales were $21.18 billion in 2011, down 2 percent from 2010, according to NPD Group, a consumer research firm that reports on the toy industry.

“Overall prices are coming down,” Byrne said. “Parents are still willing to invest in great toys, but only if they think their kids are going to play with them over and over again.”

Many companies have looked for niche markets to expand into, he said.

Blue-Box Toys, based in Livington, plans to market its Watch Over Me crib ornament to sleep-deprived parents. Like Play Wows inflatables, it is also made in China.

art sensor and part mobile, the product can be set to lull infants to sleep with soothing music and gently pulsing lights.

Heat and motion detectors turn the calming music off when the baby falls asleep and turn it on if the baby wakes up.

“When we launch in March, we’re going to look to offer it exclusively through one retailer,” said Cliff Seto, president of Blue-Box. “People seem to like exclusive offers and they seem ready to spend a little more money than they have been recently.”

Stacy Jones: 973-392-7969 or [email protected]

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