For those who are not in the toy industry, you may not be familiar with Toy Fair – an annual tradeshow held in New York each February. The show is held at that time of year because it then that predictions are made about the hot toys for the holiday season. It is there that manufacturers gage interest in their new products so that they can create production plans that meet their needs in the height of the season. News cameras are there interviewing the CEO’s of Mattel and Lego. There is always a woman who is sewing doll hats in the Madame Alexander booth. Costumed characters walk the aisles. Sometimes you can see Marie Osmond (who has a line of dolls about which I will never be writing) or Richard Simmons (who apparently wears Dolphin shorts at all times – even in New York in February!). There is usually a record-breaking snow fall towards the end of the show, preventing tired sales reps from around the country to make it home as scheduled. And, of course, there are lots and lots of toys!
Traditionally, the biggest companies have booths upstairs in the Javits Building (if they are really big, sometimes, they will have one downstairs too) while lesser known companies have space downstairs. It was the aisles downstairs that have always been my favorite. While the companies upstairs were unveiling new items, downstairs held new lines.
It was in these aisles downstairs that I first discovered the Djeco line from France. While the line was not new, it was new to Toy Fair and it was new to me. I won’t go into all of the things that they manufacture or distribute as I am sure that I will be coming back to this line again. I want to start with their puzzles which are packaged in boxes that are shapes of the puzzles subject. For instance, if the puzzle if of a Princess, the box is shaped like a Princess. If the puzzle is a castle, the box is shaped like a …. Castle! You follow, I am sure. At the time I was a buyer for a children’s bookstore and my goal was to find products that could be paired with children’s books. For those who don’t know, Pirates and Princesses are two very popular themes in picture books – these puzzles were perfect! But my infatuation went past my immediate needs. What I love about these puzzles:
• Great design – the packaging makes the product exciting, it looks great on a shelf, it engages the child immediately (and yes, I know this because it engaged me immediately!)
• The puzzles have more than 24 pieces meaning the product matches the user it is targeting. It is challenging enough to be interesting to children 4+. (Usually 36 – 54 pieces)
• The price is a right where it should be – high enough to qualify as a gift on its own, low enough that it could be part of a dual gift such as paired with a book.
• The artwork is fantastical without seeming too manufactured – it has a very quaint European look.
• The puzzles are not everywhere. Which is the good and the not so good if you are looking to purchase one.
I have noticed that a few of the puzzles are no carried in some Barnes & Nobles. They are also carried online at specialty retailers such as: