NEW YORK: Social media is making some sectors move faster and faster, and toymakers are the latest to feel the heat of fast-moving trends. Increasingly, the goal is to put a game onto market within months of the trend, rather than the traditional model of waiting for the following Christmas.

Toy companies are therefore speeding up manufacturing turnaround times with the aim of profiting from fleeting trends, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Part of the reason for trend-chasing is the $27 billion US toy industry’s slow growth of just 1% last year. According to research firm NPD, the toys that drove growth were often tied to “social media driven trends,” rather than higher-priced toys or franchise tie-ins, which sold less than expected.

Some trends have rewarded keen observers capable of a four-month turnaround. Lawrence Rose, veteran chairman of LaRose Industries noticed in October 2016 that his company’s Cra-Z-Art glue were growing at more than 50% every month at Walmart. “We knew something was up,” he told the Journal.

Children had been using his product to add household ingredients to create slime. In January, the company presented slime at a toy fair and teamed up with Nickelodeon to licence the name. Following interest from retailers, 45 days later the product was on the shelves. Within a year, sales had cleared $50m, just as other manufacturers began following the trend.

It is one area of business in which smaller manufacturers have an advantage, as they can move quicker and don’t have to work with the long-term brand guidelines or partnership agreements.

The trend also draws parallels with fast fashion, in which retailers like Zara can identify a trend and bring a product to market in under a month.  

Both Hasbro and Mattel have both created small teams of executives from across the business to develop toys according to industry trends. Mattel’s CEO said in an interview that her team would have three months and a minuscule budget to create toys in time for a January toy fair.

Not only is the skill complicated by the swiftness of the business’ turnaround but by the ability to distinguish between trends that have to be struck quickly to catch fleeting popularity and those that have more stamina.

Sourced from the Wall Street Journal