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It’s a Small World for Back to Basics…or is it?

Posted Aug 26 2008 11:36pm

Today’s toy news from Playthings the industry’s magazine describes the acquisition of Small World Toys out of bankruptcy. This is a company that I have been watching for the last few years as it veered in and out of the types of toys I like to buy. That is, basic, traditional toys, wooden, with no batteries, open-ended, etc.

The Ryan’s Room line of wooden doll houses and accessories, pirate ships and play sets are favorites around our house. The fabric flexible dolls that come in a variety of races , I think are one of the best diversity education tools around. It was with dismay that I watched them veer into commercial, battery operated and licensed products.



I didn’t really mind Eric Carlye and Dr. Seuss, in fact many if not most of their licenses are based on books rather than movies and other entertainment properties. But, as the licensing portion of their business grew, the focus of their business seemed to change. Licensed products were followed by electronics aimed at infants and toddlers with their Neurosmith line .

And as they drifted away from their original focus, they became more and more like every other toys company…that is highly dependant on picking just the right license at just the right time. Companies focused on licensed products must try to guess what will be the hot property 18 months to one year in advance….and many a company has found itself deeply in debt if they don’t. I wrote a bit about how the toy industry here, if you’re interested.

In marketing parlance we call what happened to Small World toys…“not sticking to your knitting”. In other words…having a great business idea and then getting sidetracked and changing it or getting involved in some other business that doesn’t fit with the one you have.

The new owners of Small World, former executives say they want to re-group and return to “Back-to-Basics” toys. To which I say, “Hurrah”. The timing is great and the market is there. We eagerly await your relaunch and…call me if you want some ideas! My readers and I have plenty!


More Not-Quite-Crunchy Toy ideas can be found here!



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