US toy makers see business boom as China copes with coronavirus crisis

The coronavirus is proving an unexpected boon to toys made in America.

As the viral outbreak continues to crimp production in China, where 85 percent of toys are made, retailers are looking elsewhere to fill their shelves, including the good ol’ US of A, sources said.

Buyers from Walmart, Target, Amazon and scores of other toy sellers last month walked the aisles of Toy Fair — New York City’s massive industry trade show — asking how quickly companies can get their products to stores, sources said.

The question has led some retailers to start doing more deals with homegrown toy makers like Channel Craft, a 37-year-old toy maker from Charleroi, Pa., that specializes in wooden playthings like planes, boomerangs and juggling sticks.

“We had our best Toy Fair in a decade,” Channel Craft Vice President Jon Hogue told The Post of the Javits Center trade show that wrapped up in late February. About one-third of the orders Channel Craft booked at Toy Fair this year were from new customers, Hogue said, including FYE, a 200-store chain that sells videos and other entertainment-related merchandise.

Philadelphia-based putty maker Crazy Aaron’s also saw a jump in interest from retailers scrambling to fill in gaps left by shuttered China factories, founder Aaron Muderick told The Post.

“Major buyers came to my booth and told me it’s because I can ship right now,” Muderick said. One retailer that had committed to testing Crazy Aaron’s new scented play dough line — Land of Dough — in just 20 of its stores prior to the trade show, upped its order to 200 stores after browsing the show, he added.

Similarly, American Plastic Toys, which has factories in Pennsylvania and counts Walmart among its biggest customers, is talking to retailers about helping them with their “contingency plans,” President John Gessert told The Post. One of American Plastic’s existing customers already placed a larger-than-usual order for spring.

“At this point we haven’t received calls for additional fall items, but I think it’s in the back of everyone’s mind,” Gessert said.

Toy makers that stocked up ahead of hefty tariffs on China-made goods also are expecting to benefit from the crisis.

Portland, Ore.-based Hog Wild Toys has far more made-in-China toys in its warehouse this year than it normally does — thanks to President Trump’s tariff war with China, said Josh Loerzel, vice president of sales and marketing. Among the items it has ready to ship are its $39.95 Birdie Golf set and $25 Pop and Pass ball-and-basket game, Loerzel said.

Since Toy Fair, the virus has also spread across the US and roiled stock markets amid fears of a global pandemic. But US cases currently remain low, at about 118, with nine deaths, compared with the more than 80,150 cases and close to 3,000 deaths that have shuttered large regions of China.

Production in China is largely expected to swing back into gear by April, but there are currently no guarantees. Meanwhile, toy manufacturers say their China factories must be fully operational by May to meet demand for the all-important Christmas sales season.

“The coronavirus has started to decline in China, but the factories are not nearly at full capacity,” said D.A. Davidson analyst Linda Bolton Weiser. Toy makers “won’t be able to make up the business if their factories are not in full production by May.”

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