feature when the product line was introduced in the 1960s.
Thousands of wedgies are still made and sold every year through school supply distribution companies, some of which have been Guidecraft customers since the 1960s. Since 2000, Guidecraft has been producing its wedgies in China, where about 90 percent of its toys are made with the remaining 10 percent produced in Thailand.
“We contract out, but we have close relationships with our factories, including quality control and sourcing teams,” said Alexandra Romano, director of marketing, at the company’s booth at the New York toy fair.
Approximately 55 percent of the company’s toy furniture is made in Vietnam, about 40 percent in China and 5 percent in Thailand, according to Romano.
“We have been selling in China for about a year. The office and business there has been very well received,” she said.
Guidecraft started out focusing on toys for the educational or school market and has sought to expand to creative toy products for consumers and the educational markets. Guidecraft’s lineup now includes building toys designed to complement the development of STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — skills.
This year Guidecraft is introducing “grippies’’ — magnetic building blocks that can be used to construct just about anything, an animal, building or person. They are called open-ended building toys.
“This is probably the star of our show because it appeals to the retail customer and school-supply customer,” Romano said.
Middle class sales
She said Guidecraft is keenly aware that China’s rising middle class can translate into more sales. “We are just one year into selling there, and it is growing. Because the families are smaller in China there is a lot of focus on the one child from the parents and grandparents. They want to give that one child every advantage intellectually, so it makes a lot of sense to purchase an educational toy,” she said.
Andy Xie and Sean Jiang of Jiangsu Guotai International Group Guomao Co Ltd based in Zhangjiagang City in Jiangsu province were surrounded by all kinds of plush toys at the company’s booth at Toy Fair.
“We make and sell our own line and we also do some contract manufacturing for other companies as well,” said Xie.
The company markets the toys in the US and China. “Compared to Europe, America has been steady the last few years,” said Jiang, noting that Europe has faced a slower recovery from the world financial crisis than the US.
He said China’s economic slowdown is starting to affect the toy industry. “We are still growing, but at a slower rate than before,” he said.
Like Zhang, Xie said his company is considering moving some production to Vietnam because of lower labor costs.
In analyzing how toy buying decisions are made, Jiang and Xie noted the influence of parents.
“I think when the kids are young the parents pick the toys for them. When they get older, they want to make the decision themselves,” said Xie. “That doesn’t necessarily mean the parents will allow that.”
In addition to labor costs, the IBIS report said the toy manufacturing industry needs to tackle a shortage of designers.
“Although domestic toy companies have begun to address this issue, qualified and innovative local designers remain scarce. Large existing enterprises attract new talent in design fields by offering large salaries and benefits. As a result, there is a very limited pool of talent for new entrants,” said the report.
Another issue the industry has to focus on is product quality and safety according to the report. In 2007, many Chinese-made toys were recalled in the US due to quality issues. Many European countries also reduced toy imports from China.
Chinese manufacturers were forced to address the concerns, the report said. Still the report noted that exports tend to be of higher quality than the toys sold in the mainland.
Contact the writer at paulwelitzkin@chinadailyusa. com.
Ryan Zhang, owner of Jiangsu Holly Everlasting Inc
A boy plays with giraffe-shaped Lego bricks at a toy fair in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.
in 2015 ($9.7 billion)
Source: Euromonitor International