Trade article: Kidult Products Take Toys to New Arenas

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Grown-up Kid Stuff: Kidult Products Take Toys to New Arenas

By Leslie Birdwell

Mom uses her Blackberry, Dad has a portable DVD player and everyone’s walking around and talking on the phone. Naturally, kids want their very own electronic gizmos that really work. Maybe it’s time to say goodbye to the toy tea set and the toy workbench — and say hello to the juvenilization of consumer products.

What drives this trend? It’s really pretty simple. Consider that much of children’s play is imitative, says Sean McGowan, a toy industry analyst with Harris Nesbitt. Children play what they see.

So, to respond to modern play patterns, manufacturers have created a bright array of glittery, smooth, stepped-down “toys” for today’s kids, a trend probably enhanced by the ever smaller nature of electronic components and a perpetually competitive market for the next biggest — or next smallest — thing.

“The kids are smart enough to know what’s good,” said McGowan.

Hasbro has entered the electronics market with its “Now” line which includes the ChatNow phone, the VideoNow XP Personal video player, the VCAMNOW Personal Video Recorder and the PLAYITNOW Personal Digital Music Recorder plus all the accessories. Some accessories enhance functionality, like the VIDEONOW Media Wizard software. The Fisher-Price subsidiary even has junior “Now” products.

Toys “R” Us carries Craig electronics for kids — pink or blue portable CD players, boom boxes, MP3 players and the Snap Mini Digital Camera. The latter is the size of a large pendant and can be kept on a chain around the neck.

At least three companies offer cell phones for younger kids: Firefly Mobile, Wherify’s Wherifone and Enfora’s TicTalk. The Firefly Mobile and the TicTalk share the same feature of heavy parental control. There’s no keypad for text messaging and parents can program the phones to approved phone numbers and to reject unknowns. The Wherifone is unique in that it has GPS technology so parents can track their children when they’re not at home. They are all very smooth, round phones that fit nicely into a kid’s hand

McGowan says the peril he sees ahead for toy companies is the very competitive nature of consumer electronics, which he calls “the most competitive market on the planet.” Why should parents spend $89.99 on a pink Teen Tech portable DVD player at Toys “R” Us when they can get a consumer-grade product with all the bells and whistles at Best Buy for $119.99?

The electronics stores, suggests McGowan, might become the new toy stores. Prices will go down and functionality will become more affordable. It’s a weird trend, adds McGowan, as toy companies try to compete with electronics companies.

Trade article: Outdoor Fun with Oomph

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Outdoor Fun with Oomph: Outdoor Toys Keep Kids’ Motors Running

By: Leslie Birdwell

Electronic and motorized toys provide outdoor fun with a little extra zing. The big trend is stuff that kids (big and small) can fire at each other safely, from marshmallow-tipped bow-and-arrow sets to old favorites like disc shooters, according to retailers that spoke with TDmonthly Magazine.

Kathy Bultman of The Rocking Horse Toy Company of Charlevoix, Harbor Springs, Mackinaw City and Petoskey, Mich., agrees that anything kids can shoot at each other (“Even though they’re not supposed to”) is a winning item. She said that Wild Planet’s Dodge Disks fit the bill, shooting foam disks using AA batteries. She added that the company’s “Mission: Impossible”-style gizmos, such as its Spy Agent Walkie Talkies, sell well. Set to release this year and expected to sell well is the company’s souped-up remote control Spy Video Car.

My Little Red Wagon in Stow, Ohio, is selling a lot of marshmallow guns by The Marshmallow Fun Company, according to Joyce Stephens, one of the store’s managers. They come in two sizes: The Blaster shoots standard size treats and The Blower puffs out the minis.

The Marshmallow Fun Company is getting ready to release two new products, The Bow and Mallow and The Executive Blaster. The Bow and Mallow will shoot marshmallow-tipped arrows and The Executive Blaster will be chrome and black, shoot marshmallows about 80 feet, and be geared more toward adults. No word yet on the suggested retail price for these items.

Other popular items include the safe flying disc Beamo, by Stuff Design Inc., the Surefire Compound Bow, by Monkey Business Sports (new for 2006) and the quick-to-recharge Backyard Flyer,by Kid Galaxy Inc., according to Kyle Buckley, a cashier at My Little Red Wagon.

And for those kids that get a little overzealous in battling their siblings, there’s always Take-Out-Time-Out by TOTO Products. This thin, flexible, waterproof mat can fit into a purse or bag and be toted to the pool, playground or simply the back yard. “During outdoor play, TOTO allows for parents to continue the consistency in teaching children proper social skills,” noted Lisa Bogart Carvajal, founder and president of TOTO Products.

Funrise Toys is staying in the “extreme sports” market with the Nylint Rock Crawler, a safe way for kids to participate in the X-game phenomenon without the physical dangers that go along with the real thing, says designer/inventor David Neal. More than a remote control truck, it fills the void between off-the-shelf monster trucks and the modified productions of remote control hobbyists.

But things that shoot aren’t doing so well for some folks, according to R.C., at on-line retailer Store4Knowledge in Stephenville, Texas. Instead, these retailers are doing well with the kinds of things grandma and grandpa buy for their grandchildren come spring — pint-sized garden tools that run on dirt and muscle power, like the Kid’s Tools by ToySmith.

Stewardship Sample

Dr. and Mrs. Smith, because of you, tomorrow’s physicians are excited about rural health:

 “I think this is for me!”

“This weekend refueled my passion.”

“I realized how important the physician is to a community.”

These are some of the insights and comments from students at the annual Rural Health Scholar’s Retreat, held each October in the Hocking Hills. This unique event impacts medical students in profound ways and in turn, improves the lives of their future patients. Your investment makes it happen.

Open to all.

Each year, students from all of Ohio’s medical schools are invited to apply to participate in the retreat. The goal is to attract student to excellence in clinical practice, research, advocacy and medical education. As you know, a shortage of physicians relative to rural populations is a challenge of public health.

“It’s so easy to be dissuaded.”

According to the head of the program, Robert Jones, MD, most medical students think of family and rural doctors like unicorns: you read about them, but they’re a myth. Add in the other myths about rural practice, plus a lack of support from medical school peers, and it’s easy to see the challenge of attracting new doctors to this frequently neglected area of patient practice.

“All of my concerns were addressed.”

That’s what one satisfied participant said of the weekend, where a combination of practical advice and testimony from the field left students feeling inspired and curious. Students learn that their practice will be anything but dull or routine. They will have the opportunity to deliver babies, treat and manage intricate problems and make a difference. “There is nothing more rewarding,” says Dr. Jones, “than the honor shown to me by my patients.

From our students

The annual retreat, for me, reinforces the passion I have for rural medicine. Many thanks to Dr. and Mrs. Smith for their patronage to this wonderful retreat. I truly appreciate the opportunity to be part of such a unique selection of students. Susan Brown

Thank you for supporting this retreat and allowing me to have this experience. I feel that this weekend I spent in Hocking Hills with others who are passionate about rural care was an invaluable one, and I will carry the memories and knowledge gained at this retreat with me throughout the rest of my training and career. Without your donation, this weekend would not have been possible for myself and the other students who attended, and I am truly thankful for you and your support. Amy Miller

 

Thank you so much for your generous contribution to the Rural Health Scholars Retreat. I loved hearing from rural doctors, connecting with other interested students, and learning about all the possibilities available in rural health. It was such a great experience to get away from school for the weekend and enjoy the beautiful Hocking Hills area and cabin. It was such a refreshing and learning experience. Thanks for supporting this program and encouraging the future of rural physicians in Ohio! Paul Doe

 

You keep the opportunity alive

You are truly and advocate both for our future doctors to enjoy rewarding careers as well as for the health of future generations in rural areas. Thank you for everything you do for Ohio’s medical students and their future patients.

Feature article: Business

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Originally published in Columbus Business First: Coffee bars in Clintonville increasingly make rounds

By Leslie Birdwell

If you build it, will they come?

If you brew it, will they drink?

The answer from the coffee trade is yes, at least for the Columbus neighborhood of Clintonville.

Chalk up 2004 as a year of expansion for cafes in this neighborhood with a lot of reopened roasters and the appearance of the big kid on the block – Starbucks Corp. Each coffehouse has a different approach to set itself apart from the crowd.

Mark Swanson, president of the Stauf’s Coffee Roasters chain that includes the Cup O’ Joe cafes, is philosophical about the swarm that includes Starbucks and Caribou Coffee Company Inc.

“Competition is going to happen. You can’t have just one coffee place in Clintonville. We’re not going to be the only ones,” he says.

Recent construction along North High Street hurt business, and parking can be a problem, but Swanson is confident about his customer base and the business’ place in the community.

Stauf’s prides itself on a quick turnaround when responding to customers’ suggestions, such as Wi-fi installation, changed hours and lunch availability. The business also supports community organizations by supplying products for charity events and donating gifts for silent auctions.

“Our customers are ourselves. We are the people who spend time in coffee shops. It’s a very nice relationship,” says Swanson, whose Clintonville Cup O’ Joe is at 2990 N. High St.

Scotty MacBean’s in Beechwold/Clintonville reopened under new management in November. Its 6,300-square-foot facility offers restaurant service and community rooms. Co-owner Kirby Witmer says custom coffee roasting sets the business apart from its rivals.

“We can roast it tonight,” he says, “and it will be ready tomorrow.”

The business, at 4675 N. High St., also has two community rooms. Witmer says the location’s atmosphere makes them unique.

“I think there’s more of a homey feeling to our location,” he says.

Enter Caribou, Starbucks

Customers with a fondness for L.L. Bean will love Caribou Coffee at 3645 N. High St. The shop’s atmosphere shop boasts soft seating, fine cabinetry, a fireplace and a child-sized table and chairs. The kids’ corner includes comfy club chairs for parents and footstools in the shape of friendly, stuffed toy bears.

Caribou, which runs more than 300 stores nationwide, aims for a 1,600- to 1,800-square-foot cafe, says Chris Toal, vice president of marketing.

The company also looks for drive-through space if possible, “but it’s not a differentiating point for us,” he says.

Caribou is interested in expanding in Columbus and has collected demographic information to help the push. Toal knows his customers and what they like, down to the hours women with children are more likely to patronize the shop. It doesn’t hurt that Caribou’s location has high visibility in a new retail development, an easily negotiable drive-through and plenty of parking.

Jeff Rains, a partner in Breads of the World LLC, which runs Panera Bread Co. stores in Central Ohio, is complimentary of Caribou’s Clintonville location.

The Panera store, 4519 N. High St., at just less than 5,000 square feet, is also in a new commercial development, accessible to pedestrians and has parking. While Panera has a menu with soups and salads and runs a bakery, it also promotes flavor-of-the-day coffees, has a coffee club punch card and brews espresso.

Panera doesn’t compete directly with specialty coffee retailers, and Rains isn’t worried about a cafe glut.

“You’re not cutting up the same pie,” he says, “The pie is getting bigger. Absolutely more coffee is being consumed in Clintonville. There’s a concern that Starbucks will overwhelm everyone, but that’s not the case.”

Last year also saw the appearance of a 1,700-square-foot Starbucks cafe in a former Pizza Hut storefront at 3416 N. High St. and North Broadway Avenue.

“We look at several factors when deciding where to open new locations,” Starbucks spokeswoman Valerie Carlborg says. “Most importantly, however, we choose to offer Starbucks Coffee locations based on what our customers tell us.

“We spend a lot of time listening to our customers and understanding what we can do to enhance their experience. That being said, customer requests for Starbucks in Clintonville played a significant role in our decision to open a store here.”

Starbucks also opened a licensed cafe last March inside the Giant Eagle supermarket at 2801 N. High St.

The senior member of the coffee club is Mozart’s, 2885 N. High St. In Columbus since 1995, the store has a full menu, a bakery and serves beer and wine to accompany meals.

“At first, I was a little worried, but not anymore,” says owner Anand Saha. “We are a typical European coffee shop,” he says, with fresh flowers on the marble-top tables. Mozart’s also features live classical music and ample parking.

Just as more than one restaurant or bar can co-exist on the same block, it seems there might be room for more than one java joint.

And since Clintonville is largely dry between Webber and Morse roads, perhaps there’s a proportional relationship between an increase in coffee bars and the absence of neighborhood taverns.

“Coffee shops are telling a story about how people spend their time. It’s awesome,” Swanson says.

What’s LOVE got to do with it?

Everyone has seen it.

LOVE_sculpture_NY

Everyone uses it. And that’s exactly what LOVE’s creator, Robert Indiana, wanted everyone to do. See it. Use it.

So it’s not original. But it is radical.

Because it’s not about the chosen typeface, it’s not about the materials or the color.

It’s about what you feel when you see that big ol’ LOVE.

So let me ask you: What does your donor feel when she sees the newsletter, the solicitation, the proposal? Do you tell her how fantastic your organization is (and I’m sure it is), how many experts you have (good ones, I bet), how many tons, how many bricks, etc?

You do good work. But how does you donor feel?