Toymakers Little Tikes and Step2 have come up with new products for parents looking to provide summer fun for children in their backyards.
The year’s new offerings from Little Tikes of Hudson and Step2 of Streetsboro include sand and water tables, ride-ons, building toys and a special Corvette bed that can grow with a toddler through childhood.
Little Tikes has introduced its Tike Stix line — building construction toys that can be made into various shapes and projects.
“Construction has been the hottest theme across the board,” said Tom Richmond, Little Tikes general manager/MGA executive vice president. MGA is Little Tikes’ California-based parent.
Said Rosanne Kubisty, senior director of marketing: “In talking with moms, they wanted something that they can play with, but more importantly, that Dad can help them play with.”
Both manufacturers design their products locally and a majority are produced here, too.
Step2 President and Chief Executive Jack Vresics said “one of the biggest secrets to our products is that they are made in Perrysburg and Streetsboro.”
Some smaller Step2 products are made overseas.
Richmond said all Little Tikes products are designed in Hudson, with many made there, along with some made in China or elsewhere.
Both companies’ specialties are large, rotational molded plastic products. Little Tikes also contracts out injection- molding jobs to local operators, Richmond said.
Each season, the companies update product lines while continuing to offer outdoor climbing toys, ride-ons and play kitchens.
Design and production schedules mean the toy industry works more than a year in advance on future products, so ideas for the fall and winter are already in progress.
“We talk a lot about the frugal parent. You have to continue to offer them value,” Vresics said.
Step2’s goal is a balanced portfolio of products, with added value and multiple functions, said Chief Marketing Officer Jerry McDermott.
The company’s push buggy has been upgraded with a patent-pending caster wheel that makes it easy to push around corners and steer. The wheel also can be pulled up if not in use.
“When you take a proven product and bring innovation to it, you bring a lot more life to it,” Vresics said.
“Moms are looking for value. If they can buy an item and get through two to three kids and put it in a garage sale, what’s better?” said Little Tikes’ Kubisty.
“Anytime the market is up and gasoline is down, people spend,” Richmond said. “Ours isn’t an impulse buy. We’re a great long-term value. A lot of our growth is brand and a great value proposition versus the whim of the economy.”
Little Tikes is advertising on television for the first time since 2008 with a message about play value, said Kubisty. Ads for Tike Stix and Pillow Racer products are airing now and more commercials will air this fall, she said.
“We are reaching out to moms. Little Tikes is known for big outdoor products, but our TV ads will let moms know we are so much more than that,” she said.
Step2 has had television ads in the past, but has decided to invest instead in more than 80 short product videos online, to be where the company believes mothers are doing research, McDermott said.
Step2 will soon be marketing a three-year product warranty, which is not new, but wasn’t widely known, Vresics said. The warranty will cover a replacement or refund for defects.
Step2 in August will introduce the Corvette Toddler to Twin Bed, the first licensed bed for Step2, which represents the Corvette Model Z06.
“This has every detail, even the brake pads on the decals,” Vresics said. The first order will be shipped to the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky.
The bed can be outfitted with a toddler or crib mattress and grow with the child to the size of a twin bed mattress, Vresics said.
At Little Tikes, the Big Digger Sandbox has a sand area with molded ramps and roadways. A working excavator digs into the sand and the truck ramp doubles as a lid to keep the sand dry. The set includes two characters, a dump truck and sand accessories.
Employment totals at both toy makers remain flat, executives said.
Richmond said there are about 800 employees at Little Tikes, including 100 temporary workers, and the company is looking to find permanent workers.
Step2 has about 800 employees in Ohio, including 500 at its Streetsboro headquarters and plant.