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Toy Manufacturers of America Releases 2000 Results and Projects Robust 6 Percent Increase in 2001

After experiencing the largest increase in a decade in 1999, toy sales dropped 1.4 percent last year, from $16.6 billion to $16.4 billion, according to Patrick Feely, chairman of Toy Manufacturers of America (TMA®), the industry association. While wholesale sales remained relatively unchanged, the number of units sold decreased by 4.9 percent, to a total of 3.36 billion in 2000.

Keeping with tradition, Mr. Feely gave the traditional industry projection for the coming year. "History is on our side in 2001," he said, "Therefore, my prediction is that the traditional toy market in the United States will grow by 6 percent this year, consistent with prior years."

Mr. Feely presented the "State of the Industry" address covering key aspects of the toy industry, which represents the official launch of the American International TOY FAIRTM -- the world's premier toy show, which opens in New York on Sunday, February 11. For the second year, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and Toy District showroom exhibitors will be open concurrently, with close to 2,000 manufacturers previewing the toys that will appear on store shelves throughout the coming year. TOY FAIR is open only to the trade and will run from February 11 to 15.

In his speech Mr. Feely cited several factors that contributed to soft holiday sales, which in turn resulted in flat industry growth, including the stock market adjustments, the presidential election, the dot-com failures and the talk of an impending recession. Despite these adverse conditions affecting consumer confidence and sales, Mr. Feely stated that toy manufacturers, through the use of some of the world's best technology and creative mind power, met the needs of today's young consumers, resulting in such trends.

Scooters, which boosted sales in the "Ride-Ons" category by 49 percent and increased the "Skates and Skateboards" sub-category by 120 percent. Razor USA, followed by Huffy and Fisher-Price, ushered in a whole new play trend across America – for kids and adults.

The convergence of educational and high-tech items in the "Infant/Preschool" category, which rose 11.2 percent and whose sales, according to market research firm The NPD Group, are now approaching $1 billion.

A 5.5 percent uptick in the "Activity Toys" category, with increases in such classic playthings as reusable compounds, fashion/role play accessories and paint/paint supplies.

The term "pet owner" taking on a new meaning, with the virtual stampede of robotic dogs and cats in the marketplace. Tiger's Poo-Chi and Manley's Tekno helped drive the "All Other Toys" category up by 5.3 percent, taking the "Robotic Virtual Pets" sub-category from $5 million to $159 million in one year. Following the annual "State of the Industry" address, five industry leaders representing very specific areas crucial to the growth and innovation of the toy industry participated in a panel discussion. Initiating the discussion was Neil Friedman, president of Mattel's Fisher-Price Brands, speaking about "Infant and Preschoolers: Coming of Age." He provided insight into the industry's ability to successfully marry technology and play value to satisfy today's youngest audience... and their parents.

Continuing the discussion of combining traditional and trend-setting properties was Jim Pressman, president and CEO of Pressman Toy Corporation. During his discussion entitled, "The Licensing Game: It's Not Just Luck," he discussed the need to create intelligent and challenging activities and toys to capture the interests of today's consumer.

Gale Jarvis, president of Alexander Doll Company addressed one of the industry's most surprising categories of years past, during her presentation titled, "It's Not Just A Doll...What Is Behind the Collectibles Market." Emulating the couture marketplace, doll collectors demand a similar degree of quality, style and precision when choosing dolls and other high-end collectibles.

Tom Kalinske, president of Knowledge Universe, L.L.C. and a member of the Toy Industry Hall of Fame, expanded the discussion when he talked about "How the Toy Industry is Transforming Education Today." Emphasizing the fundamental, revolutionary change shaping the way children learn throughout America, he talked about how the toy industry is contributing to these progressive changes.

As the final panelist, George Volanakis, executive vice president of Hasbro, Inc. spoke about "Business and Toys: Agility is the Name of the Game." Through better technology, communications and ease of travel, manufacturers are identifying trends and bringing them to the marketplace in order to hit the right the right time. This agility in the marketplace allows manufacturers to identify new trends earlier and unearth the hottest concepts anywhere in the world.

As the panelists completed their discussions, Mr. Feely officially kicked off the 98th annual TOY FAIR.

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Author Notes:

Mark Harris contributes and publishes news editorial to  Find all kinds of mopeds, electric, gas and motorized scooters online plus parts and accessories.

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