In November 2013, Disney’s Frozen hit our screens and it’s no surprise that it grossed more than US $1 billion at the global box office because it’s an amazing film and Let it Go is not only a great song – it’s become a mantra. Scarily though, it was reported that Disney’s consumer products sales increased by seven percent in 2014, largely thanks to toy sales related to its various films. Although I didn’t see it, The Force Awakens, brought in more than US$2 billion globally in 2015, and data shows that Star Wars toys generated US sales of US$700 million in that same year.
These stats came from a recent article in Kidscreen from April 2018 “Fighting the Fatigue” by Elizabeth Foster. As someone who often sees houses littered with far too many toys that are no longer used or loved and the resulting stress that such clutter causes, the article interested me on a level probably not intended. A particular quote in the article from Chris Byrne (New York based Toy Analysist and TTPM content director) had me sitting straight up in my chair: “the industry is figuring out what the toy is before they’ve even finished the final draft of the script. It’s a tremendous revenue stream…” This statement worries me beyond the notion that a toy is more important than good quality entertainment simply because of the resulting effects on those aforementioned littered houses.
From my Organiser perspective, the article raises a few points that I’ll share below:
- Companies are starting to see that consumers can’t be expected to buy the same volume of toys everytime a new film is released. Apparently the time when people wanted to get their hands on any and every Elsa or Chewbacca doll is past. There used to be a new Star Wars film every three to five years, and now there’s one every year with various spinoffs. It’s still an immensely popular franchise and The Last Jedi was the biggest film of 2017 by far (I didn’t see this one either). Especially when it appears that Disney is set to release a film practically every month this year, and with every film comes its own specific merchandise. Outside of Disney, sequels and spinoffs are making up a significant chunk of this year’s upcoming film releases – and are also contributing to major movie toy fatigue.
- Physical shopping is one of the main components necessary for impulse buying, and having fewer physical stores reduces the opportunities of putting shoppers in such situations. With such events as the company Toys “R” Us shutting down (having filed for bankruptcy protection in September 2017) there is incredible pressure on toy retailers to find new ways on getting their products in front of consumers. As we move increasingly towards a digital economy, less and less people are walking passively through stores and so are experiencing decreased exposure to the latest toy fads.
- Manufacturers and property owners don’t ask the following question enough: If kids are going to pick up a new toy, what are they going to put down in order to play with it? “Now kids move from one thing to the next incredibly quickly, and the loyalty you might have seen a few years ago has dissipated to a large degree. There’s so much out there. Kids can go to the movies every weekend, but that doesn’t mean they’ll buy the toys,” Byrne says. “It’s not just about seeing a product and wanting it. There needs to be a compelling emotional and intellectual connection with a character.
In the article, Byrne laments that “we work in a sector that survives on the whims of an eight-year-old” and just as he suggests that “it’s time to look at how the market has changed, how kids’ interactions with movies have evolved, and how play patterns are different now, to a certain extent,” I think that’s a very insightful observation from a decluttering and staying organised perspective too.
There will always be that tug of war between parents and kids, between whims and values. A clutter free house versus the ‘you can have everything you want’ house. Something that I think is worth keeping in mind is that this external tug of war will eventually become an internal one as kids grow up, become independent from their parents and learn to manage their own funds and spaces in relation to how that relates to their desires and needs.
The success of tie-in toys is shrinking which is bad for that market but which can be a development that is great for our environment at large and our individual indoor environments. But the challenges don’t end there, in a subsequent article in the same issue, it’s revealed that parents and households are just starting to face the effects of a new trend: smaller squish toy ranges with lower price points. According to Michelle Liem, director of toys at the NPD Group, the timing is right for these toys “because although the price points are lower, the repeatability of purchase is much higher,” she says. “Parents buy a bigger toy for birthdays, and even larger ones are usually reserved for Christmas.” She goes on to say that these smaller squish toy ranges are “great for the industry because it keeps consumers in the market, and not just focused on the holidays.”
The focus on the toy industry’s health rather than the consumers’ health and general happiness is confronting. I’ve mentioned it before but clutter has health impacts. It’s something that people, more generally, are becoming more and more aware of.
So what to do IF you have succumbed to the urge to purchase the “toy of the moment” and now it’s no longer a favourite? Here are some suggestions:
- Holiday toy donation tradition: Teach your kids the value of organising, decluttering and giving by helping them sort through their unwanted toys and to give as many as possible to your local Toy Library or charity op shop during the holiday season.
- Limit toys on rotation: Make only a small amount of toys available at any one time. Utilising a Toy Library supports this too.
- For the smaller toys that remain wanted: Use a Clutter Tub: Each child has their own tub of a different colour. All their things that become scattered around the house can be collected using the tub.
- Easy kid friendly storage options:
- Dedicate a box and label it with the name and an image of what goes inside so your kids can learn to associate the words with the item.
- Hang stuffed toys along a line strung along one wall. Kids often love to do this themselves.
- Plastic sewing boxes or fishing tackle boxes are great for sorting little things like doll accessories or Lego.
Thinking about going forward, what will your game plan be for the next time a request for purchase arises? I’m not a child expert by any means, but from my research in relation to how to handle a ‘demanding child’, these ideas seemed like good ones. Plus I’ve witnessed them work at the adult level so I can see how they would have seeds of potential for keeping toys from entering your environment:
- Give kids an allowance so that they can save up for whatever item they deem worthwhile.
- Set boundaries of when toys will be bought – birthdays, special holidays only.
- Talk to the child and assure them that their friends will like them with or without such a toy.
- Remember that as hard as it is, listening throughout the duration of a child’s tantrum (if it’s got to that stage) is an act of love and will help with their development.
- Encourage them to find alternatives within their collection (build something from Lego etc).
Good luck out there and happy organising!
Organising heart, head and home