Rhode Island Novelty
An Industry Force for 35 Years!
“Bringing you a world of fun” since 1986, Rhode Island Novelty Co. is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. Dedicated to serving their customers, the company says they pride themselves on being a one-stop source for the highest quality products, innovative designs and the best pricing.
While today they’re known as a well-known designer, importer and wholesale distributor of amusement toys, novelties, giftware and other merchandise, founder Bob Nowak started from humble business beginnings.
During college in the early 1980s, he was a street peddler selling toys and novelties at parades, festivals and firework displays. “I would find unique impulse items that had a low cost and a high perceived value to the consumers,” Nowak said. “Those items did well at the retail level, so I then started to wholesale them. I would put ads in various trade magazines to market the products.”
By his senior year in 1985, the job market for his engineering degree wasn’t doing great, so he decided to go to Asia and import those items. In March 1986, Rhode Island Novelty began as an importer and distributor of toys and novelties.
In the infancy of the business, Nowak said his target customers were street peddlers, carnivals, circuses and amusement parks. “We stumbled into the FEC industry by selling to the arcades on the beach boardwalks along the East Coast. Actually, those arcade customers found us, as they were always looking for hot, trendy items.
“They pushed us to be even more aggressive when it came to those items. We bring in over 1,000 new products every year. Not every item that we bring in will be a hit, but if a fad or trend develops, chances are that we will have it. Today we have close to 20,000 SKUs in our warehouse.”
Nowak attributes RINCO’s growth and longevity to staying close with their customers and continuing to bring in items that have high perceived value. He said they’ve also invested in infrastructure and technology.
“Many of our customer’s businesses peak on the weekends, so we tend to get the reorders on Mondays and Tuesdays,” he explained. “Since our warehouse is over 500,000 sq. ft. with state-of-the-art technology and high-speed conveyors, we’re able to get their order to them on time.”
As a direct importer, he said they’re also constantly working with manufacturing partners to design and develop new and exciting products. “Our designers are constantly following the latest trends and styles to create fun and innovative products that you and your customers will love.”
What’s Hot for 2021
So what are the latest and greatest of those products? Nowak said it’s important to have the newest trends covered while keeping the staples in stock. He detailed that some of the anticipated summer favorites are Bubble Poppers, Trendy Capsules, Jumbo Squish, Belly Buddies and Mystical-themed animals.
Corporate sales representative Neil Sormanti expanded upon that by saying: “The biggest new trend in the marketplace right now has to be the Bubble Popper craze. Inventory is really just starting to become available, so it will be interesting to see how long this fad lasts once our customers start to get some inventory into their locations.”
He added that the company continues to have success with the squish toy category that emerged a few years ago, specifically their Jumbo Squish line. Their Belly Buddy plush line received an update this year with the addition of Baby assortments. “All of the new updates to that line have been well-received over the last few years, so I would expect the same in 2021.”
While Covid has certainly caused a lot of upheaval in the industry, demand is incredibly high for redemption products. “The biggest challenge I have seen thus far in 2021 is inventory availability within certain product categories,” Sormanti said. “It was nearly impossible to predict how quickly everything would bounce back after Covid shutdowns, so with the success our customers have had this early on after reopening, we have experienced some very high demand, causing some inventory levels to be depleted rather quickly.
“Couple that with the yearly Chinese New Year shipping delays and it makes for a situation where we are looking for substitute items for our customers more often than normal. Fortunately, we have an expansive product line to choose items from here at Rhode Island Novelty.”
Visit www.rinovelty.com for more information on the latest products.