The news on Sept. 18 may have come as a nostalgic bummer to children of the 1980s and 90s who grew up coveting the colorful toy stores with the oddly spelled name and catchy jingle: Toys “R” Us had filed for bankruptcy. Laden with debt and mired in brick-and-mortar sluggishness, the decades-old toy giant finally had to put out the call for help after years of disappointing performance.
Rather than call it quits, Toys “R” Us and others in the toy industry are finding themselves not only adjusting to the pressures of online retailers, but vying for innovative toys from the creative entrepreneurs of today who may have tomorrow’s next big hit on the way. And those entrepreneurs are out there blazing new toy trails with offerings that range from the latest technological gadgets to simple creations that trigger and fuel a child’s imagination.
“It’s a fantastic time to be in the toy industry, especially when you have a niche product that really finds its place in the market,” says Niamh Sherwin Barry, director, and co-founder of the Irish Fairy Door company, which makes and sells wooden Irish fairy doors for children. “The right product, along with the right marketing and just a little bit of luck can make this a great place to be.”
Despite news of a few financial hardships, the toy industry, in general, is in fairly solid shape. But it’s not just the big-ticket items that are keeping the industry strong. Innovative entrepreneurs are making inroads with creative and unique new toys, as well.
Barry and her partners have found success in simplicity with their tiny fairy doors that children affix to their walls and create imaginative fairy stories around. Similar to the Elf on the Shelf dolls that appear during the holiday seasons, the fairy doors become home to Irish fairies who enchant children with stories, gifts, and other interactions.
Initially founded in 2013, the company took off speedily as children and parents connected with the concept. By 2015, the Irish Fairy Door company was spreading across Europe, and then in 2017, a stroke of luck hit the company. Celebrity and social media star Kourtney Kardashian Snapchatted about the fairy door she’d received from the company. Sales took a 50 percent jump in the wake of the endorsement, according to Irish Central.
“We couldn’t be happier with where we are heading,” Barry says. “The toy industry is not an easy one to succeed in, but when the right mix of innovation, storytelling, marketing, and fortuity come together, it can be magical.“