There are many popular stories about toy inventors who strike it big with a new toy, from Trivial Pursuit that sold millions to small inventions that sold in the thousands. There are toy inventors that succeed every year, though the odds are still long against them as they are against inventors in every category. From inventor’s perspective the toy industry has several things going for it.
- There are toy agents who do work with inventors to license their toys to manufacturers. A number of these agents and the representatives below that are able to take toy products to major retailers like Toys-R-Us or mass merchandisers.
- The industry has a large trade show where inventors can meet toy companies and their representatives.
- The toy retail and manufacturing trade has a dominant trade magazine that allows press releases and provides a degree of access to key industry players.
- There are a number of independent sales representatives that sell toys to independent toy stores and other stores such as drug stores and hardware stores that also carry a selection of toys.
Toy agents work in a variety of ways and with varying payment methods, but most will either attempt to license your idea to a toy company or work on selling your idea to major merchants. All the agents have product submission requirements so, if you are interested in working with an agent, contact them to learn what you need to do for them to review your idea and then decide if they want to offer you a contract.
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International Toy Fair
Early every year the Toy Association has its annual International Toy Fair which is a very well attended event and the spot where almost all major new toys are introduced. The show also has a Launch Pad section for first time inventors to help those products be recognized. The show is an event where you can obtain orders, be exposed to most potential buyers, and have an opportunity to meet agents and representatives who are interested in representing your product. I highly recommended you attend, even just as an attendee if you are serious about launching your idea. http://www.toyassociation.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=toy_Fair
A great article to check out on what to do at the fair is: http://www.globaltoynews.com/2011/01/my-strategy-for-success-at-the-new-york-toy-fair.html. You can also find quite a bit of information from a wide variety of Toy Show participants, from first time inventors to established marketers by just googling selling at the toy fair.
The industry has a well read magazines that goes to stores, manufacturers’ sales reps and other manufacturers. You can submit press releases to the magazine about your product and any events or activities you plan. You can also submit stories about any planned marketing campaign as well as stories with photos of events you have held to promote your toy or game. You can also find the names of independent sales reps in the magazine by checking industry news. Another way to find reps is to just send away for product literature on new product releases from small and mid-size companies. Often literature will come with a name of a representative that you can contact to see if they will be interested in carrying your product. http://www.giftsanddec.com/channel/Playthings.php
Manufacturers Sales Agents
The industry has many manufactures’ sales agents that will sell your product both to big and small retailers. You can expect to pay a commission of about 10 to 12% for everything they sell. Reps typically cover a limited area so you may end up needing 8 to 10 reps for nationwide coverage. Some of the agents listed in the earlier section might also be willing to represent you and your product to stores.
You can find reps by looking for names or requesting literature as detailed in the section above or by calling on local stores and asking who their representatives are. Often if you get the name of one rep, he will get the names of other representatives. Once you get just a few names you get additional names by doing a Google search for those reps. Sometimes their names will come up on another manufacturer’s site for its list of representatives. It might take 10+ hours or research to develop an extensive list but usually it can be done. Onestopinventionshop.net also sells a list of independent toy representatives for $24.99 if you prefer to take that route. Click here to purchase.
Once you get the names of representatives, spend extra time on crafting your mailings. Reps normally won’t take on a product unless it looks like it could produce at least 10% of the their income. Include in your package to the reps success stories at retailers, copies of any press releases you have, pictures of your product being sold in stores and any other relevant data that will show your toy is a winner. You should also list shows you attend or have attended, pictures of your booth and any upcoming marketing programs you are planning to introduce.