Kids Brand Insight We're a leading Consultancy to the global kids entertainment and toy industries. We help toy companies get ahead, and kids content producers maximise their toy merchandising. We conduct commercially minded consumer research to support and guide our clients decision making.

The Art Of Toy Clearance

Posted in Uncategorized on 06 June 2017


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The single biggest cost for toy companies is manufacturing costs. Depending on the business model, toy manufacturing companies tend to spend between 25% (if you’re very lucky/very good!) and 35% more commonly on product manufacturing costs. This represents a huge amount of money invested on an ongoing basis by toy companies.

As an industry we have a tendency/bad habit of churning out new product releases with often little due diligence beyond asking a retailer if they will list it! This completely misses one major factor in the sales process – the end consumer. While we may TV advertise the heck out of a product, and the target consumer may therefore be aware of it, that doesn’t mean they want it or desire it. For once I won’t do a major plug for consumer research/playtesting as a way to reduce product launch risk (!), because this article instead will look at how to handle toy overstocks.

If you ask any toy expert “who makes the most money in toys?”, the answer could well be clearance dealers! There is a whole shadow infrastructure set up around dealing with those products that just didn’t work. Toy companies can’t afford to have 25% to 35% of their turnover sat around in warehouses tying up essential cash. So those companies which enjoy long term success are typically very efficient at cutting off the gangrenous limb of excess toy inventory. In fact, the major toy companies tend to have monthly, quarterly & year end stock targets identifying maximum allowed percentage of sales value to be held in stock at any one time, which sometimes lead to even good selling toys being closed out in order to hit stock holding targets. The bonus formula for senior management often includes stock holding targets. For those less corporate companies the program may be more ad hoc, as will the product selection criteria, so a good clearance program is perhaps even more essential.

There is as much of an art though in effective toy clearance as there is in good toy sales. There are plenty of ways to really screw up your good business by clearing out stock to the wrong channels or to the kind of people who will sell it without discretion often to the wrong markets or wrong customers. The past decade or so has seen much change in terms of retail, and the global financial crisis has to a degree by default restructured the market & encouraged discount/clearance channels in retail. Some companies now have full time account managers managing the clearance channels for incremental revenue & to ensure maximum return/lack of disruption from toy clearance activities.

The trick, or the art, in making toy closeouts work effectively is selling to the right people/companies. Reputation is everything in this space, so selling to any old tom, dick or harry is risky, even if there’s an extra 5 cents per unit in it.

We’ve carefully vetted toy clearance companies and have an approved list. If you need help with your clearance program, please feel free to get in touch.

by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight,  a leading Consultancy to toy companies and entertainment brands around the world. 

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A Day In The Life Of A ‘Toy Expert’

Posted in Uncategorized on 02 June 2017


Steve recently gave an interview – he was asked to describe a day in his working life. Here is the transcript of the interview:

Please describe a typical day as a toy expert

Firstly,  I feel somewhat awkward with the label ‘toy expert’ – so many people in the toy business have greater knowledge than me on many topics. However, I guess I have some specific knowledge on certain aspects of the toy industry as well a good overall ‘generalist’ view.

Which specific topics would you claim ‘expert’ knowledge of?

Well I’m still cringeing slightly at the label, but I guess I probably have as good a knowledge as nearly anyone in terms of consumer research testing toys and toy manufacturing in India. I have also managed development of many toys and games (lots of hits and a few too many non hits!), but I think there are many people in the industry with similiar experience of developing and launching toys and games, so not sure that one qualifies!

Ok, well thanks for the explanation. So what does a typical working day look like for you?

From about 7am I’m checking overnight emails coming in via India, HK and China.

After some kind of exercise I’ll be at my desk around 08:30-09:00 typically.
I then plan the day around a few key tasks and a reasonably active call schedule.

I’ll usually try to keep the morning free to complete factory liaison tasks, work on Consultancy projects/presentations and to plan consumer research sessions.

In the afternoon, I’ll tend to have phone calls with clients/customers, often back to back for most of the afternoon. Or I’ll find myself moderating focus groups with children, something which never fails to be challenging/revealing in terms of how kids react to new toys.

Early evening I’ll focus on family time before picking the call schedule back up, sometimes into the night! The worst start for a call time in recent weeks has been 1am, although going back further in time I have done 2am before!

At some point in the evening I’ll make sure I’ve parked as many action points as possible in factory inboxes for the next day, and eventually relax with an hour of brainless TV before eventually sleeping from around 12:30am.

Not very exciting really when you write it down, but that’s a fairly typical day in the life of this toy ‘expert’!

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A To Z Of TV & Toys – A Is For Animation

Posted in Uncategorized on 30 November 2016


Steven Reece

The world of animation has long since been a great source of Toy brands.

Looking as far back as Steamboat Willie (created by Disney in 1928), we can see how animation lets us bring cartoon characters to life. Animation literally turned flat still images into moving, talking characters. This is really powerful when we look at the ‘Toyetic’ potential of TV content, because children don’t necessarily differentiate between what’s on TV (& tablets etc) versus what’s real in the same way as adults. (Mentally healthy) adults tend to deploy ‘suspension of disbelief’ when watching TV, so that they can be lost in the plot and characters, but not be unduly influenced when they stop watching. For children, the distinction between fictional content and reality is not so clear cut, and the younger the child the more this is the case. This means that animating characters into a moving sequence makes them much more ‘real’ to children, versus reading a cartoon or book etc. when they are more actively using their imaginations to fill in the blanks.

So if a child watches their favourite animated TV program, and play with a toy of one of the characters at the same time, they are effectively extending the world of the content into their own surrounding world. When we conduct qualitative research with kids, they tell us about playing with the toys and then swapping the character out and swapping themselves in so that they themselves become part of the story. Such role playing has a positive impact in the development of the child – such role playing aids development of communication skills, self management of behaviour, propensity for creativity and many other factors. Don’t just take our word for it, here’s an article in Psychology Today outlining the benefits as proven by numerous formal studies:

There is a long standing contention that Toys based on content/entertainment brands are exploitative in the sense that children don’t have the same analytical facilities to filter out advertising messages or to understand the commercial world. I’m not about to argue with that, because in essence it holds a degree of truth, however, such Toys offer significant developmental benefits to children, and are often therefore a good thing even if they need to be paid for.

Animation creates a powerful compunction for derivative toys, and as such the animation industry is a positive sales driver for the toy industry and therefore a significant revenue generator for animation producers. That doesn’t mean that any old animation will sell toys…far from it, there are many success factors in this regard which we’ll cover in later instalments in this article series, but the Toy industry is undoubtedly heavily reliant on animated content.

by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight,  a leading Consultancy to toy companies and entertainment brands around the world. We offer Consultancy to entertainment companies looking to maximise their Toy licensing potential and conduct qualitative consumer research testing content, Toys and interactive content with kids and parents.

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5 Things Kids Media Companies Should Know About The Toy Business

Posted in Uncategorized on 23 November 2016


We’ve had a number of requests recently to offer advice to independent kids media companies relating to the Toy industry, how it works and what content producers with merchandising aspirations need to know about the toy industry to allow them to maximise their Toy licensing potential. (Clearly more established & more corporate companies have established licensing & merchandising teams so will find the following points not that insightful!).

Here’s 5 things we see as being critically important:

Toys Are Physical Objects – this may seem glaringly obvious, but apparently not always obvious enough! A physical object needs to be designed, engineered, manufactured and played with in the often very rough hands of children. Fundamental features of TV content such as the look and shape of key characters will define to a great degree whether Toys can be produced or not. Therefore, it is critical to think about the needs of the Toy production process at the very beginning of content creation processes.

Toys Need To Be Differentiated From Generic & Competitive Products – if the lead character in your kid targeted content is (for instance) a cute but fairly standard looking fluffy dog or other animal, then potential licensees would struggle to differentiate your brand at retail versus the generic and much cheaper fluffy dog toys already on shelf. Visual distinctiveness is critical in terms of ensuring Toy licensing opportunity.

The Toy Industry Works On Fixed Timings Around Retail Seasons – Toy retail has two key seasons in most major markets – Spring/Summer with a focus on outdoor play & wet play items and Autumn/Winter or Fall/Winter, with the focus on the Christmas gifting season. There are very clear timings and trade shows built around the retail selection process – starting September/October with previews for the following year, through to manufacturing the majority of stock from May-September through to the peak season in retail in November/December. Therefore, trying to sell new licensed properties to Toy companies needs to begin far enough in advance for Toy companies to select the licenses they want to run with and to develop concepts/prototypes for new product lines. Hence Licensing Expo in the US is held in May or June. If you target Toy fair season (Jan-Feb) for selling to Toy companies because they are easy to get in front of then, you will most probably have to wait until the following year to see any product on shelf.

Toy Companies Review Many Licenses – licensing is such a major factor in the Toy industry that Toy companies are faced with an almost bewildering array of licenses to choose from. Most kids media producers are used to having to sell, sell, sell in order to get their programs on air, however, the pitch needs to be tailored for the toy industry. One of the most critical factors, often overlooked, is that due to the extended development & selling cycle of the toy industry, longevity is key. While all Toy companies will be inclined to chase the hits, the reality is that stability over a few years is more appealing to toy companies than a massive ‘flash in the pan’. Carry forward product is where Toy companies make profit, they can advertise less, have no or limited development investment and inventory risk is very low. Therefore, a sales pitch to Toy companies should include as much tangible proof of longevity as instant impact!

Gauge Demographic Target Carefully – traditionally, the Toy industry has split the end consumer into 3 categories: preschool, boys and girls. Accordingly, toy companies are still mostly structured this way, and although retail has now mostly removed such gender labelling markers in store, in effect the content of each aisle hasn’t changed, just the label. Gender labelling/stereotyping is now a hugely contentious issue, and pressure on Toy companies has grown over the last few years to avoid saying product is targeted at one gender or the other. However, (from our perspective) this may take a generation or more to take full effect. The reality is (rightly or wrongly) that the vast majority of fashion dolls are still bought for girls, and the vast majority of super hero style action figures are still bought for boys. We’ll let you take your own view on this issue, and how you should adapt your brands/content accordingly based on your own beliefs, however, in order to maximise Toy licensing potential you may want to still ask yourself does your property appeal primarily to either gender or both, or is it younger than that. To try to create a new demographic positioning may be commercially risky.

Clearly there are many other factors and nuances kids content companies will want to learn about, but hopefully this has answered a few questions/given some food for thought for those companies without in built expertise in Toy licensing.

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The Toy Verdict – 2016 Awards

Posted in Uncategorized on 16 November 2016



Kids Brand Insight, owner of leading toy review website The Toy Verdict has announced a great success in its awards program for 2016. Many products from leading manufacturers including Disney, Jakks Pacific, Drumond Park, Esdevium Games, Step 2 & others have been awarded the much coveted status of ‘Approved by The Toy Verdict’.

Particular merit was awarded to the following products:

Dobble: Star Wars Edition

Timeline: British History Edition:

Moana Classic Doll:

Pickin’ Chickens:

Lego 76057 Spiderman Web Warriors Ultimate Bridge Battle:

Rogue One Interactech Storm Trooper:

Disney Princess Belle Musical Tea Party Cart:

Whisper Ride Cruiser:

Grand Luxe Kitchen:

Elena Of Avalor Scepter:

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And The Winners Of The Toy Verdict Awards 2015 Are…

Posted in Uncategorized on 28 October 2015

And The Winners Of The Toy Verdict Awards 2015 Are…, a leading toy review service and online portal, fully owned and operated by Kids Brand Insight today announces the results of The Toy Verdict Awards 2015.

Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight told us:

“The sheer quality of the products submitted has made our testing and judging process very difficult indeed. We take a robust approach to testing based on our having conducted hundreds of research groups/playtesting sessions for many of the biggest players in the toy business, so it’s been a very involved and intense process to get to this list of Winners and Finalists – all of whom truly merit the Award.

During the course of testing/judging, we were able to give product feedback which led to several companies tweaking products that were just about to ship to make them better/solve problems, so aside from the winners we announce today we hope to have made a further positive impact for those who worked with The Toy Verdict in 2015.”



Figures, playsets and collectibles

Joint Winners: Flipsies Sandy’s Yacht & House; Miles From Tomorrow Stellosphere

Finalist: Doc McStuffins Pet Vet Bag Playset


Arts, crafts & science

Winner: Kinetic Sand

Finalists: Sweet Factory, My First Spa


Building/construction toys

Winner: Lego Elves Skyra’s Mysterious Sky Castle



Winner: Og On The Bog

Finalists: Timeline, Zip It, Frenzi Card Game, Pairs In Pears



Winner: Rose Petal Cottage

Finalist: In The Night Garden Explore & Learn Musical Activity Table



Winner: Petron Sureshot Crossbow

Finalist: Phlat Ball, Petron Sureshot Rifle



Winner: Tsum Tsum Olaf Bag With Frozen Fever

Finalists: Anagranimals, Zigamazoos



Winner: REV

Finalist: Real FX Racing


Tech toys

Winner: Miposaur

Finalists: Kidizoom Duo Digital Camera, Meccanoid G15 KS, My Friend Freddy Bear


Bath Toys

Winner: Gelli Baff, Slime Baff


Magic Sets

Winner: Marvin’s iMagic


Fun factor

Winner: Petron Sureshot Crossbow


Cool factor

Winner: Meccanoid G15 KS


Educational/developmental benefit

Winner: Sweet Factory


Repeat play value

Winner: Kidizoom Duo Digital Camera


To read online reviews for each of these products or for more information, please visit:




Kids Brand Insight Kids Brand Insight is a leading Consultancy to toy and game companies around the world. The company offers consumer research and playtesting services, as well as helping companies find the right factories and grow export sales. For more information:


ABOUT THE TOY VERDICT AWARDS is a leading toy review site, with excellent search engine rankings on most new toys tested. Products are tested using professional market research techniques, as developed in our Kids Brand Insight business. The Toy Verdict Awards offers a low cost product endorsement opportunity to toy companies. With the majority of toy and game purchases being influenced to some degree by online reviews in today’s world, our online listings help increase positive online word of mouth, while award winners will be able to add our branding and official endorsement on pack, in PR and in all other forms of marketing communications. For more information, please visit

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5 Reasons Why Kids Love The Minions…

Posted in Uncategorized on 24 July 2015

5 Reasons Why Kids Love The Minions…


We recently took a group of kids on an accompanied viewing trip to the cinema to watch the Minions movie. This movie is a spin off from the highly successful Despicable Me movies, and focuses just on the highly amusing Minions characters.

We wanted to better understand just what it is that kids see in the Minions. Here’s some rough thoughts on what we found:

1. Slapstick humour – usually an appealing thing to kids, this kind of people walking into walls or falling flat on their faces nearly always gets a good laugh if it’s well set up and well thought out. While adults may see this kind of thing as corny, children aren’t so analytical, and tend to find such basic humour hilarious!

2. Gross humour – the Minions movie had real ‘laugh out loud’ impact at several points due to the kind of (again) basic humour that kids love. There’s a fart gag where one of the Minions picks up a rock and in doing so farts (!) and a back view of a Minions bottom in a g string – this is the kind of thing that kids often get told off for, but still find very funny.

3. Ensemble cast – one of the factors we most often find in successful kids movies/TV content is a well constructed character matrix, or in non jargon terms characters who go well together and where different characters appeal to different demographics/personalities. So for instance in Minions we have Bob, who is like a little brother who carries around a small teddy bear, Kevin is almost like the older brother (a bit more responsible, but also quite cutting towards the failings of some of the other Minions) and Stuart who is a bit more rebellious. Not only do these three characters work well together in that kids appear to be intrigued by their interactions with each other (almost as if it were the workings of their own families), they also play well with the other non Minion characters.

4. Goodies & Baddies –  although Minions is unusual in that the Minions are generally badly behaved by human standards, there is no doubt that they are the ‘Goodies’ and have to save their friends/the world from the ‘Baddie’ Scarlet Overkill. The thing is kids tend to see the world in more simplistic terms than adults, and this perennial theme works well in Minions.

5. Minions As Kids – the Minions have a simplicity of outlook that is quite similar to the way children see the world. The Minions often find themselves in trouble in circumstances where they haven’t necessarily meant to do anything wrong, but are just following their natural curiosity. Whereas kids are often told off for this kind of thing i.e. breaking things & causing mess etc., the Minions tend to get away with it, which is an appealing thought to kids.


Audience Testing Research

We have conducted formal research studies for dozens of TV and movie properties. We test TV content with kids on a regular basis, recent studies included a TV series spin off from a hit movie property, a leading toyetic movie franchise, a completely new animation series trailer etc. The reality is that if you are going to spend £millions on creating content it seems ridiculous not to run it past some kids first, and for a comparably negligible costs having a professional, experienced & specialised team of researchers test your content seems like a prudent thing to do. Many times we are called upon to test why something didn’t work after someone spent £millions on content kids just didn’t get, we’d much rather do it in advance from a trailer or pilot episode so we can help you increase the chance of success. We also have additional expertise and proven success at helping content companies maximise the potential for toys and other merchandise – again it’s much easier to positively influence this is if we can input nearer the start of the development process than the end! To find out more, please drop us a line…

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Toy Sourcing

Posted in Uncategorized on 16 March 2015

Toy & Board Game Sourcing

We help clients protect against supply chain risk, reduce manufacturing cost expenditure and reduce the stress/workload of finding new toy factories and board game factories.

We work with upwards of 60 leading toy, games and related product factories in China, Vietnam, North America, North Africa, Europe and beyond. We have a limited number of strategic partners in each product category to allow us to gain a deeper understanding of each factory – their processes, their competences and their customer service.

We conduct due diligence on all factories we add onto our approved list. We have a checklist we run through with each and every new vendor using hidden resources, proprietary techniques and our extensive toy and game industry contacts.

CASE STUDY 1 – A US based company had grown exponentially, and were slowly catching up on processes, sourcing and due diligence to match their rate of topline sales growth. The company was spending over $10m on manufacturing, but without enough assurance that they were a). sourcing from safe, ethical and reliable sources and b). that they were getting cost effective manufacturing. Our long term strategic partners in the category they operated in were able to pass all the necessary audits, greatly streamline and improve customer service thus reducing stress and workload for the client…AND they saved 17% on their manufacturing spend in the process! That’s nearly $2m savings just by working directly with one of our partner vendors!

CASE STUDY 2 – A European client was looking to enter a new product category which they did not fully understand, and for which they did not have all the necessary in house engineering expertise required to successfully manage the project/deliver the product. By introducing them to several of our preferred vendors they were able to select a supplier with cutting edge in house product design and engineering capability, as well as very competitive manufacturing.

CASE STUDY 3 – A leading client company was badly let down by an existing supplier, and needed an urgent solution. We matched them up with a leading toy manufacturer in China and they were able to fulfil demand without incurring any retail fines or losing any sales.


  • Action figures.
  • Preschool toys.
  • Electronic toys.
  • Board games.
  • Puzzles.
  • Electronic learning.
  • Kids tablets.
  • Plush/soft toys.
  • Dolls.
  • Collectibles.
  • Card games.
  • Electronic games.
  • Toy vehicles.
  • Die cast toys.
  • Radio control toys.
  • Outdoor toys.
  • Wooden toys.
  • Inflatable toys.
  • And more…


Q: How do I know I can trust factories introduced by Kids Brand Insight?

A: Let’s be clear on the limits of what we offer – we are not offering you a 100% risk free, 100% always will work solution to toy manufacturing/toy factory finding, because things can and do go wrong sometimes. What we offer is the opportunity to reduce the risk of things going wrong. We have a clearly defined process of factory selection which we have developed over time which looks at audit certification, existing client base, industry approval/quality marks, track record, QA record etc. This does not mean you can skip any due diligence – we do not warranty/guarantee against the factories we find, the onus is on you to follow your own due diligence, but what we do for you is to reduce the leg work considerably. If a factory is on our list, it’s because we have found them to be a credible reliable supplier, but you should make absolutely sure, as in the end the buck inevitably has to stop with you.

Q: How much will this service cost me?

A: We are compensated for our services via the factories themselves. We have several methods/formulas for getting paid ourselves, but all of them are paid directly to us by the factory.

Q: So does that mean that I will be paying over inflated manufacturing prices?

A: No. Our expertise in sourcing and the volume/nature of our business allows us to get you highly competitive quotes. But we understand some clients will be sceptical about this, so the bottom line is this – if you can get the same level of security of supply, quality, service and capability at a lower cost then why wouldn’t you proceed? The reality for many of our clients is that we deliver on all criteria, reduce stress/workload and often cost.

Q: How do I submit a product for quotes/submit a request for factory finding?

A: Drop us a line, including details of the product, manufacturing specs if you have them, forecast volumes, target costs and any other pertinent details, and we’ll go from there. Click here to email us

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New Research Study – Kids, Parents, Toys & Gender…

Posted in Uncategorized on 19 November 2014

 New Research Study – Kids, Parents, Toys & Gender…

In the last few years we’ve seen an upsurge in negative PR/social media regarding the gender stereotyping seemingly inherent in the toy industry.

Having conducted hundreds and hundreds of research discussion groups with children and parents over the last 16 years, our suspicion/belief was that actually while there may be a minority of people who strongly object to gender stereotyping/labelling in toys, that actually the majority of kids and parents are not offended and in fact many positively embrace gender stereotyping.

But we wanted to do a study to check whether social change had swept across the majority of consumers (at least in the UK where we conducted this project). Therefore we conducted a self funded study of significant scope to test and either validate or disprove our preconceptions based on past research studies.

You can read the research report below.


In a sense this study marks a departure from our normal work. More commonly we test products/content/concepts for toy companies, game companies and kids entertainment content companies (especially animated kids TV audience testing).
If you’d like to find out more about our testing services, please feel free to drop us a line via the ‘Contact Us’ page. If you’d like to consider conducting research but find it is usually too expensive for your budgets, you could consider KIDSPLAYTEST™, where we test multiple concepts in one session to reduce the costs for each participating client, more details can be found here:
Finally, if you’d like to be notified of the publication of future articles and research reports from the world of kids toys, games, brands and kids TV please feel free to fill in your details in the form on the right hand side of this page.
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Why Toy Companies Need to Know All About The Developmental Stages Of Children…

Posted in Uncategorized on 28 October 2014

Why Toy Companies Need to Know All About The Developmental Stages Of Children…

We recently published an article in conjunction with – the official blog of the world’s largest toy trade show in Nuremberg (with over 2,000 exhibitors and over 70,000 visitors every year).

The article looks at why toy companies need to understand what children can do at each age in order to tailor products/marketing effectively. As we solely work in the kids entertainment space (i.e. toys, games and kids entertainment content), the article draws on our having conducted many hundreds of focus groups with children on relevant topics.

Click here to read article

P.S. If you’d like to receive more by way of research updates from us, please feel free to sign up for our e-newsletter by filling in your details on the right hand side of this page.

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