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The Friday Five: Michael Rinzler


As co-president and founding partner of Wicked Cool Toys, Michael Rinzler has his finger on the pulse of the toy industry. Rinzler talks about the company’s upcoming Micro Machines launch and the opportunity facing entrepreneurs in the wake of the loss of Toys “R” Us.

Tell me about Wicked Cool Toys.

I started the company about seven years ago. I wanted to create something of my own after working in the toy industry since 1993, with companies such as JAKKS Pacific and Playmates Toys. It wasn’t easy: I left a great executive career at a time when my first child was on the way. The hours were long and there was never enough manpower or money. I had an idea of what I wanted to create in Wicked Cool Toys, and I enlisted business partners Thomas Poon and Jeremy Padawer after realizing that going it alone just isn’t that much fun. We developed a solid strategy early on and grew quickly in the novelty category, thanks in part to precious vendor relationships with Wal-Mart, Target, and Toys “R” Us. From there, we moved into master categories with nostalgic brands such as Cabbage Patch Kids, Teddy Ruxpin, and Pokémon. Micro Machines is our newest venture.

The Friday Five

Why bring back Micro Machines?

The toy category needs something like Micro Machines – a toy with multi-generation appeal. The kids that originally owned Micro Machines are now having kids of their own. There’s a strong nostalgic connection to the brand and we have received an outpouring of support since making the announcement. The Micro Machines brand fits well in today’s marketplace of unboxing videos, blind bags, and young influencers. The toy meets a whole set of requirements that makes it ideal to bring back to market.

The Friday Five

What can consumers expect to find when the toys relaunch in fall 2020?

The qualities that made Micro Machines amazing the first time around will still be there. There will also be new and different elements that will appeal to influencers. I don’t want to get into the secret sauce but it’s going to be great.

The Friday Five

As you mentioned, Wicked Cool Toys owns the licenses to several nostalgic brands. What drives the desire for nostalgia-influenced toys?

The desire for nostalgia is seen in all aspects of life, not just toys. There’s an emotional connection for people. Take Cabbage Patch Kids, for instance: people remember lining up in hopes of getting their hands on a doll,and  there’s an emotional response to the unique aroma of the dolls that brings people back to childhood. It’s very meaningful. We are particular about the brands we work with; they have to bring back more than just “okay” memories, or it won’t work. 

The Friday Five

How has the closing of retailer, Toys “R” Us, affected Wicked Cool Toys?

Toys “R” Us was one of the earliest supporters of Wicked Cool Toys. Not having enough bricks and mortar retailers is a challenge but it’s also very exciting for entrepreneurs, because eCommerce and direct-to-consumer channels open up. Wal-Mart, Target, and Amazon are picking up some of that business, of course. From a macro perspective, not having a toy store to go to with your kids leaves an emotional void in the market. Toys “R” Us does want to bring that back. Losing them was horrible and devastating for the companies that had 50% of their business come from Toy “R” Us. We were fortunate in that we’d scaled Wicked Cool Toys enough that we had good relationships and placements with other retailers. It was scary and painful for us, too, but we have evolved.

 

The Friday Five

Visit Wicked Cool Toys online to discover their brands.

Five questions, one fascinating person (or team!) – look into the minds of movers and shakers in the nostalgia, game, play, or toy industry.