Over the past 40 years, toy executive Isaac Larian has made a fortune in the toy business by understanding what kids want to play with. Now, his job also requires him to know what the older kids want to play.
The founder and CEO of MGA Entertainment said that “kidulting” – the trend of adults driving demand for certain toys – is what he expects his 43rd Toy Christmas to be a good one for his company One of the main reasons for the festival.
Larian started his first toy company in 1979 and has seen the industry change from holiday toy sales reliant on TV commercials that had to be planned a year before Christmas to today’s toy releases on TikTok and the right viral videos Turn toys into bestsellers in hours.
MGA is the fourth largest toy company in the world and the second largest privately held toy company after Lego, known for hits such as its groundbreaking line of Bratz dolls, LOL Surprise dolls and accessories and its latest line of dolls, Rainbow High. The The company also owns the Little Tikes brand of outdoor rides and vehicles.
This holiday season, the TIkTok trend of adults creating and playing with miniature replicas of food and preparing entire miniature meals has inspired MGA to produce a line of toys that allow buyers to create miniature milkshakes, waffles, donuts, cakes out of resin compounds and other foods harden after creation.
The mini food set includes a miniature whipped cream jar that actually squirts a replica of a dollop of whipped cream, as well as glasses, plates, and small utensils to display alongside the creations.One of the kits launched at Walmart
MGA also jumped on the miniature toy trend previously popularized by the Moose Toys Shopkins brand and toymaker Zuru, launching miniature versions of its Bratz and Little Tikes toys earlier this year.
MGA is making a difference in the mini space by creating functional, working mini versions of toys, Larian said.
While he expects the little toys to be popular with young adults, Larian is betting that most of the sales will go to adults as fun collectibles.
“Kids-adults are what drive the toy industry today,” he said.
Children have more disposable income than children, he said. As it turns out, millennials miss toys they played with or longed for as kids, like a Bratz dollhouse or a Little Tikes basketball hoop. The miniature versions of these toys give them little things they can collect and display, or play with on TikTok.
Nostalgia for Bratz peaked this year, the toy line that made Larian famous in the toy industry and boosted MGA sales.
The brand turns 21 this year — a milestone celebrated with an anniversary edition of the doll — and Bratz sales are up 100 percent this year, Larian said.
TikTok has also helped boost the Bratz brand, as challenges like dressing like a Bratz doll, applying makeup like a Bratz doll, or applying a Bratz filter to a photo to see how you look have become popular.
Bratz TikToks are the kind of ad toy companies dream of — content organically created by TikTok users rather than corporate marketers.
Larian started his first toy company, Surprise Gift Wagon, in 1979, before he acquired the rights to sell miniature electronic versions of Nintendo games and changed the company’s name to Micro Games of America. When he later came up with the idea for a doll called Singing Bouncy Baby, a Walmart buyer told him no one would buy a doll from a company called Micro Games of America, and he changed the name again in 1996 to MGA Entertainment.
Turns out, putting entertainment in the name is a tall order.Hasbro
“We’ve been in the name of entertainment from the very beginning—before it was a fad,” the toy company describes itself as an entertainment company, Larian said.
In addition to being in line with current trends, Larian sees MGA’s range of priced toys giving it an edge this Christmas as inflation can weigh on holiday budgets. The company’s Miniverse miniature Bratz dolls and Little Tikes dolls cost less than $10, while brands like LOL Surprise start at $5 and can go as high as $200 for large playsets.
As a private company, MGA also has more flexibility to keep costs down, Larian said.
“Our product cost went up 23 percent, but I wanted to make sure that every kid who wanted to buy an MGA toy, or every family that wanted to buy an MGA toy for the holidays, could afford it,” he said. Cost increases are passed on to consumers. We’ve absorbed a lot. That’s the luxury of going private, because you don’t have to report every quarter what your profit is,” he said.
Larian expects parents to do a lot of evening shopping this month, unlike the past two pandemic Christmases.
Last year, consumers bought toys in October or November because they thought stores would be sold out,” he said. “Now, they wait two weeks before Christmas like they used to. “
The toy industry is “going through a really major correction” this year, Larian said, as the pendulum has swung from supply chain shortages over the past two years to excess inventory for some brands.
But he views the adjustment with the optimism that comes from 43 years in the toy business.
“Christmas is always on December 25, and I tell my retail buyers it always comes,” he said. “Some years it comes a few months earlier – like last year. This year I think it will come in the last two weeks before Christmas.”