Howard McAuliffe’s Now Trending – July 2016

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Summer is Sizzling With Merchandise

Putting Consumer Preferences to Work in Your Entertainment Centers

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Howard McAuliffe

by Howard McAuliffe, Partner, Pinnacle Entertainment Group

As summer is getting into swing and kids are filling redemption centers, it’s a good time to take a deeper look at products. By understanding overarching consumer trends, we can better understand guest preferences and decide what items to include in facilities. I’ve included trends for different demographic groups, which is very important for creating an experience that generates repeat business. Keep these in mind when selecting products for redemption, cranes, and merchandisers:

1) STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math toys are growing in options and demand. It is very important to include STEM toys targeted primarily to a female audience. No longer are these kinds of toys for boys only.

2) Emoji-themed items: I thought this was a fad that would go away. However, emoji appears to be gaining mass-market appeal, being used in major marketing campaigns and included in major brands. It appears emoji is part of culture and here to stay.

3) Upcycled Products: “Upcycle” is a growing movement to use old items to create new. Lego has created racks for the human characters, so kids can assemble all their old figures into a character display they can use to build their own reimagined sets. There are various other products made from repurposed metal, inner tubes, recycled paper, etc.

4) Wearable toys: This segment is growing and includes toys like walkie talkie watches (which have been around for years) that can be used by kids to incorporate into their own play. Augmented reality devices, including headsets, are a continuation of this trend. Major technology companies are investing billions into augmented reality, which will include some great toys in the near future. There are already several options on the market now like Sony’s Wonderbook.

5) Tech: This segment continues to expand. This year, newer technologies, which were previously very expensive, are becoming relatively affordable “toys.” There are camera drones, 3D printers, and fitness tracker watches available.

6) Dad-focused items: These not only appeal to Dad himself, but also work well as gifts that kids can give to their fathers. Items to consider for adult males are beard care items, shoe tonics, hats, handkerchiefs, wallets, as well drink-themed items like bottle openers, coasters and flasks. The key is these must be branded items, not generic common goods. Nicer packaging and labels can add value without adding tremendous cost.

If you haven’t targeted these trends, I’d suggest picking one that appeals to your customer base. Consider theming sections of the redemption counter to target these trends and demographics, as opposed to just mixing in with the other toys. In addition, try theming your cranes to target these as well. This generates game play, but it’s also part of the overall experience in the facility and an extension of your brand. Having your center be an inviting place for multiple demographics will drive business and is essential to creating a “community hub” entire families feel comfortable in, and will want to visit again and again.


Howard McAuliffe loves to imagine and implement new products, business models, and ideas, and is a partner in Global Product Services and piaproducts.com. He’s an industry veteran who got his start in the business when he was just 16 and has over 15 years of expertise in product development, as well as FEC and route operations.  Howard’s wife Reem and young son Sami are the center of life outside of work. When he’s not working, Howard can be found enjoying the outdoors, hiking, fishing and mountaineering. Traveling anywhere new or to old favorites like the American West is a passion.  He can be reached at hmcauliffe@globalproduct services.net, and appreciate comments as well as feedback.

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