Product innovation ruled the day at JPMA.
It was quality over quantity at this year's Juvenile Product Manufacturers Show, held May 3 to 5, as the consolidated show was a standout with a strong retail turnout and plenty of product innovation.
"We had fewer exhibitors this year, but we heard companies were signing more orders than they ever had," says Jennifer Swalek, vice president of communications at JPMA.
JPMA membership is on the rise, with 107 new members signing on since January and 86 percent exhibiting at this year's show. "Having so many new companies decide to join, in a relatively short period, is a very encouraging sign," says Bob Waller, president of JPMA.
One new facet of the show was the National Student Design Competition, which offered students a chance to develop new and innovative products for the prenatal to preschool market. Winning students were provided cash prizes, as well as travel to the show to present their products. Each winning school also was provided financial recognition to be used toward supplies for its industrial design program.
This year's show was the best one ever for Blue Ridge International, says Mary Jean Bush, executive vice president of sales and marketing, who mentions the rise of retailers walking the floor.
Blue Ridge International won an Innovation Award for its Color Changing Sunshade (in its Fisher-Price and Sesame Street versions), which automatically regulates with bright sunlight, or overcast and dark conditions. Nine other companies also took home Innovation Awards for products that met the competition's criteria, which included innovation, marketability, trend-setting potential, appeal, and usefulness (see sidebar on p. 62 for winners).
Sesame Workshop debuted its Sesame Beginnings! infant line with all-new baby versions of the Sesame Street characters. The new educational infant brand includes all new creative, branding, and packaging and launches in Mexico, Canada, Southeast Asia, and Australia in third quarter 2004 and in the U.S. and Europe in first quarter 2005. The company will build out the program with related products such as home videos and launch in spring 2005 a sesamebeginnings.com Website filled with parenting tips. Eleven licensees are supporting the program including The First Years (feeding items), Crown Crafts (bedding), Fisher-Price (infant toys), Hamco (bibs), Blue Ridge International (car accessories), Baby Boom (room décor and crib attachments), A.D. Sutton (diaper bags), SG Footwear (footwear), Gund (plush), Random House (infant books, in stores since 2002), and Berkshire (socks and headwear for the mass market). Children's Apparel Network is doing layette and infant and toddler apparel for department and specialty stores.
"We've had a lot of versions of baby characters, but this is the first time we've created something just for the infant market," says Heather Hanssen, director of marketing, Sesame Workshop. "Our goal is to build out our outreach efforts and encourage early communication skills, as well as reach out to moms who watch the show."
Fisher-Price received a great reaction to its Baby Gear line, its fastest growing business-recording double-digit growth for three straight years. "People are waiting a little later in life to have children when they have more discretionary income and, therefore, are buying more stuff for their children," says Tony DeSimone, marketing director for Baby Gear. The company also attracted attention with several new items in its Ocean Wonders line including its first entry into the play yard business, as well as a nursery monitor and high chair.
The Hasbro Properties Group, the intellectual property development arm of Hasbro, had a handful of licensees showing products featuring its Playskool, Gloworm, Tonka, and Candy Land brands. T.S. Kids launched a line of more than 30 Playskool-branded juvenile products including developmental toys, teething and soothing items, and feeding products for both infants and toddlers. This Playskool program will be complemented by, pending contract, a number of items based on Hasbro's Gloworm property, including glow-in-the-dark teethers.
Springs Industries integrates Gloworm into a line of nursery dr, including a full array of coordinated crib bedding, while ABC Development created no-spill cups, toddler feeding sets, plush chairs, and wooden furniture featuring Tonka and Candy Land.
For Dolly Inc., the JPMA show provided time to meet face-to-face with its major licensing partners and retailers, according to Richard White, vice president of licensing and brand development at Dolly Inc. Strong licensed brands for the company include Disney, Baby Looney Tunes, Mommy & Me, Little Suzy's Zoo, and OshKosh. New at the show was its Fisher-Price Snug and Secure front carrier, a new category with Fisher-Price. The company also showcased its Calypso Musical Mobile, a glow-in-the-dark crib mobile created exclusively for Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us. ©