Children's focus: Non-print products build young market Print
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 27 July 2009 02:20 PM America/New_York

Veggie Crocs, thumball games lead the way


Despite the recession, several distributors and game companies at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) reported strong sales of children’s products and toys.

Joanna Price, director of marketing and promotions for New Day Christian Distributors, said the company was "overwhelmed" with the response to the new VeggieTales Crocs shoe.

"It was the largest response to our kids' products in recent history," she said. "We knew that they would be a hit, but we were surprised with how big of a hit they were. We received many, many orders. It's exclusive through us for the CBA market, so the retailers knew that they couldn't get it anywhere else."

Price also noted that New Day had good sales from Fisher-Price's Noah's Ark and Little People nativity set, for which the company more than doubled its order due to strong response from last year’s show in Orlando, Fla.

nicole hancockTalicor President Nicole Hancock's company launched at the convention several VeggieTales puzzles as well as Bible and Ten Commandments thumballs—interactive game balls where players catch the balls and then respond to the topic under their thumb.

"We sold a bunch of thumballs, and the Bible DVD Trivia Game and the Ungame did well for us," she said. "Our orders were up a lot compared to last year's show. This was a very successful show. I thought the overall mood of the show was positive. I've been to other trade shows lately that were pretty gloomy, but this was very upbeat."

Steven Kaye—owner and managing director of Creation By Design, a Bible-based trading card company and first-time exhibitor—said business was great.

"I sold over 100 units—which is significant for a product people mostly have not heard of—and made many spectacular relationships that I believe will lead to great results," said Kaye, who started Creation By Design in January.

Cactus Game Design President Rob Anderson reported plenty of interest in his company's Bible-based games and toys, which received interactive play from retailers' youngsters. Cactus Game launched a new Redemption trading card game set at the convention.

"Nothing sells a game like a demo," Anderson said. "There are people here and they're writing orders. I'm certainly not disappointed that I came. We're pretty much walking out of here with a smile.

"So far this year our sales are up 10% over last year, and our expenses are down about 20%," Anderson added. "Game sales historically do well in recessions. Parents see games as relatively inexpensive repeat entertainment."

Children's market consultant and author Mary Manz Simon, who again hosted the popular Children's Product Trends (CPT) event, agreed.

"The 'hyber-nation' trend, which I spoke about at (CPT) plays right into the game trend," she said. "Parents are looking for things to do as they hunker down at home, so I'm not at all surprised (that) game sales were up. Compared to previous years, there were fewer new children's product releases this year at ICRS."

During the children's workshop, Curtis Riskey—CBA's strategic solutions executive—shared consumer data from CBA's report Know Thy Customer.

"Children are a key customer group for Christian stores," said Riskey, who ran a Christian bookstore for eight years. "About half of active Christians reporting to the CBA consumer intelligence surveys have children at home, and nearly 40% are younger than 12 years.

"About a third of all children's books are purchased by households with children younger than 5, even though they comprise only about 14% of total households. More than 40% of children's product buyers are from adults-only households."

Meanwhile, Digital Praise Sales and Marketing Vice President Bill Bean announced at the show that there would soon be a standalone guitar addition available for the company's very successful Guitar Praise set. Before ICRS, the company introduced its first iPhone game, Dance Praise.

Cloud 9 Games offered a sneak preview at the show of JAMband, the first Christian band PC-based game that allows players to sing and play guitar, bass or drums to hit Christian music.