It is perhaps the best indication that for all the money that toy makers spend marketing their wares to kids, it's parents who buy toys. With annual sales of about $225 million and growing at a rate of some 22 percent, according to published reports, electronic learning toys ranks as one of the fastest growing categories in the toy business right now.
And it's about to get bigger.
Mattel's Fischer-Price division last month launched a new entry in the electronic learning toy category, the PowerTouch. As the toy giant goes after the category's leader, Emeryville, Calif.-based Leapfrog Enterprises, maker of the top-selling LeapPad, a third player is emerging quietly with a proposition that might work better for drug stores, given this category's price points.
Riding Mattel's coattails is Publications International LLC, a company that might be a newcomer to the toy business, but, with a 35-year history in children's book publishing, is no stranger to the book-learnin' business. PIL on Sept. 21 introduced two new products, ActivePad and Story Reader, its first electronic learning products. ActivePad is a stylus-driven electronic workbook system that incorporates graphic-rich content with voices and music for an interactive learning experience. Story Reader is a portable electronic storybook reader.
While most entries in the category retail in the $60 to $75 range, PIL's offerings retail for about $30.
According to Mattel executives, the PowerTouch launch will be the biggest in the company's history, doubling the amount spent to introduce Kasey the Kinderbot, the company's first foray into electronic learning. That should raise a lot of attention for a category that already has commanded a fair degree of it.
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