toy recruiters

Toyjobs Logs Best Month Ever

In April, Toyjobs has logged its best month ever and we still have ten days left. In the toy business, a lot of searches are started early in the year but companies have difficulty arranging interview times and moving the ball forward in January and February due to all of the trade shows. Lots of jobs end up getting filled in March and April. That’s what we have seen in each of the last two years.

Search starts are continuing at a rapid pace. Toy sales were up approximately 6.5% last year. That makes companies happy and happy companies are hiring! Let’s hope it continues. Lots of hiring is good for everyone.

I’m sorry this is so brief but I gotta get back to work.

All the best,
Tom Keoughan

By |2016-04-20T09:40:19-05:00April 20th, 2016|ToyJobs Blog|Comments Off on Toyjobs Logs Best Month Ever

Toy Hiring Mimics the Poor March Jobs Report – But We’re Optimistic

By now I’m sure that most of you have heard about the sharp deceleration in March hiring after a long string of strong jobs reports. Non-farm payrolls slowed in March to a seasonally adjusted 126,000, the weakest hiring in 15 months. Hiring estimates for both January and February were also revised downward.

My gut feeling is that things are not as bad as that report indicates, despite the press running around crying that “the sky is falling.” After all, bad news sells. The US has had a number of soft first quarters in recent years. I haven’t been able to come up with an explanation for that phenomenon that I’m satisfied with yet. Lots of correlation but unconvincing causation. Here at Toyjobs, we don’t just make stuff up but it’s still important that we recognize the pattern.

There have been lots of layoffs recently in the oil and oil service businesses and certainly that is a factor. And, for the last two years, first quarter winter weather has been horrible. Last month, job growth in construction and leisure and hospitality, two of the most weather-sensitive industries, slowed by about 90,000 jobs. Days when the office is closed due to weather also takes a greater toll than it is generally given credit for. There are the snow days themselves and then there are the next few days of playing catch up. Yes, I know everyone claims that they can get all the work done or are even more productive from home but we all know that’s not entirely true, don’t we? This means multiple days taken away from interviewing and decision making all of which pushes actual hiring down the road.

In the toy industry it is not unusual for hiring to be slow in January and February as everybody hits the road for the global trade show circuit. There is no time to interview and make decisions. A lot of companies also decide on whether to create jobs based on trade show and early year sales results. Hiring can slow even as search starts increase.

That’s what we’re seeing this year. Here at Toyjobs, after an extremely strong fourth quarter, first quarter placements have been slow as search starts have been soaring. If both unemployment figures and search starts had gone into reversal, I would be concerned that the US economy was faltering. That has not been the case. Search starts have been quite robust and those searches are now beginning to come to completion. Many will be completed in April and May – a few weeks later than usual. This leaves me optimistic that poor first quarter jobs numbers represent a delay rather than a long term slowdown and that we are thankfully about to experience a rebound.

Tom Keoughan

By |2020-11-20T08:51:00-06:00April 15th, 2015|ToyJobs Blog|Comments Off on Toy Hiring Mimics the Poor March Jobs Report – But We’re Optimistic

Strong Jobs Report Bodes Well for Holiday Sales Season

Even though traffic was slightly down during the annual Black Friday disgrace, human herds were still out in force. Many seemed to be of the opinions that this is a special holiday where they can let their worst instincts show while others appeared to feel that they had a license for legalized “wilding.” We are saddened to hear that this American “tradition” had now spread to the U.K.


This year, there was the usual litany of fist fights, Barbie doll brawls, pedestrians run over by cars in retail parking lots, and women flattened by falling big screen TVs. We also had way too many reports of police officers assaulting shoppers above and beyond the call of duty. In the video above, you can watch as officers appear to needlessly takedown a rather harmless looking woman. You can also see a group of officers repeatedly tasering some poor guy who looks like he’s just trying to get away from being tasered…again.

Retailers endlessly promote this insanity to drive excitement, foot traffic, and impulse buying. They know exactly what’s going to be rampaging through their doors and if you get hurt, you should sue them. Of course, you might be asked to explain why you would put yourself in a situation like that in the first place.

It appears that at least some people are beginning to wise up. Brick and mortar traffic and spending over the Thanksgiving weekend fell as internet sales boomed. Retailers also started offering deals days and even weeks before the main event, which may have helped to dissipate the door busting intensity.

So while Thanksgiving weekend sales were down about 11%, overall numbers for the holiday sales season have been good. The scuttlebutt is that Wal-Mart is doing very well and all internet sales (not just Amazon) are particularly strong. The toy industry is being helped by having a number of hot product lines. Anything “Frozen” or “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is flying off the shelves. And, a couple of hot lines from Australia’s Moose Toys, namely Shopkins and Little Live Pets, are doing quite well.

Overall, the National Retail Federation is predicting a 4.1% increase in sales this November and December. This year, retailers have the wind at their backs. Gasoline prices are down, which puts more money in consumers’ pockets. The economy has had strong growth over the last six months. Job growth, which began to be noticeable in October 2013 is accelerating, as seen in last Friday’s blockbuster jobs report. The consumer sentiment index has been rising since early summer and consumers are beginning to take on more credit card debt. All of this bodes well for this year’s holiday sales.

Friday’s jobs report was the best we’ve seen in quite some time. Nonfarm payrolls added a seasonally adjusted 321,000 jobs in November and payroll gains for September and October were revised higher. The report also showed that wage growth is beginning to accelerate.

I would caution employers that, for top performers, wage expansion is already here, particularly for key sales positions. Employers may be able to continue to tamp down salaries for your back office staff for a little while longer, but for VP of Sales and NAM’s at top accounts, that’s just not going to work. I’ve seen several clients do without because they don’t want to pay market rates for top sales talent. After the early 2015 trade shows as the toy industry hiring cycle switches to Marketing and Product Development, I expect to see wage pressure for the best people there, too. This might not affect wages for your number five Product Manager, but for top performers the pressure will be there.

Despite the accelerating improvement in the employment statistics, pain persists in a large part of the economy. In November, 2.8 million people had been out of work for more than six months. That’s about one third of the people who are currently unemployed. Also, approximately 7 million people were working part-time jobs because they couldn’t find full-time work. Hire these people. Help them if you can. But, don’t let their unfortunate situation cause you to think that you can continue to keep wages down for top performers. I have yet to hear a client say: “You know, don’t find me a top Target NAM from one of my competitors. Instead, find me one who has been out of work for a year.” If I heard that, I would probably fall out of my chair. Also, please remember, that as much as you’re looking to hire your competitor’s best people…your competitors are eyeballing yours. Things are getting better. You’re going to be forced to reward those people who are ready, willing, and able to run through brick walls. Things ARE getting better. You CAN afford to do so.

Here at Toyjobs, we have been running at warp speed since early August, successfully supplying our clients with the toy industry’s top talent. You can check here to see some of our most recent successes. The seasonal nature of the toy business causes it’s hiring cycles to be seasonal, so the larger share of our recent placements have been in the Sales field. Typically, we get a bit of a breather during the early part of the trade show season. I’m forecasting that after a successful holiday sales season, come late February, a lot of happy toy manufacturers will be looking to add to or upgrade their Marketing and Product Development departments. Ho! Ho! Ho! Let it be so.

Season’s Greetings,
Tom Keoughan

By |2020-11-20T08:51:00-06:00December 8th, 2014|ToyJobs Blog|Comments Off on Strong Jobs Report Bodes Well for Holiday Sales Season

Japanese Supply Chain and Oil Price Shocks Temporarily Slow Recovery

The May unemployment rate ticked up to 9.1% from 9% in April. Incongruously U6, Toyjobs’ favorite employment statistic (which includes part timers and consultants who would prefer full time work) dropped by a tenth of a percent to 15.8. These numbers are just snapshots in time and it’s better to view their trends over a number of months. Should there be a trend toward slower employment growth, I think it will be reversing at about the same time it becomes readily apparent.

First, we should note that government statistics are notoriously inaccurate and will be revised several times before finalized. We also saw an oil price spike which has now begun to abate. Let’s not forget enough seriously crazy weather (tornadoes in Massachusetts?) to make an “endtimer” sound almost rational. Next time you’re at the supermarket remember to stock up on locust repellent.

I think that a good portion of the May numbers can be explained by supply disruptions after the Japanese triple disaster (3/11) especially in the area of auto components. No parts has meant less hours, no hiring, furloughs and layoffs in the huge US auto manufacturing sector which had previously been growing. In April, US economic growth was 0% but if you back out auto manufacturing the number would have been .4% which annualizes to a strong 4.8% (anything over 3% is pretty good). Now we can’t just extrapolate forward like that with any degree of accuracy but ex-autos the US economy was growing at a healthy 4-5%.

It will take Japanese suppliers several months to get up and running at full tilt and unfortunately the period of reduced supply will coincide with the usual summer hiring slow down. In July and August as people work shorter weeks (how much work really gets done on summer Fridays?), take long weekends and extended vacations it becomes difficult to get job candidates interviewed by all the necessary people or even get everyone together in a room to make a decision.

Additional drags on the economy this summer will be the end of QE2 (basically the government buying scads of bonds in order to keep interest rates artificially low) and the end of the Obama stimulus plan (roadwork everywhere).

As a seasonal/cyclical business the toy industry is naturally just a little out of sync. In most of the economy, companies get new budgets in January leading to a jump in hiring. The toy industry is up to its eyeballs in trade shows until March so much of that employment pop waits until then. Toy industry hiring has markedly improved this year but in just the last three or four weeks I have seen an even stronger acceleration in search starts. For small and mid-sized toy companies it’s often not until mid-May that retailers move from “happy talk” and planogramming to actually locking in orders. As toy companies gain clarity in their business outlook they feel more comfortable adding staff that they already knew they needed but were holding off on.

Increased search starts in late May/early June. Should lead to increased hiring in late June and early July. Typically there is a weak patch in search starts during July and in the first half of August. Late in August toy companies seem to suddenly wake up to the fact that the new sales season will begin in October (really before that if you want to get appointments scheduled for the Fall Toy Preview). If they want to make changes to their sales team before that they have to move fast. The reality is that they’re already late to the chase and probably should have started these searches in late July/early August. This next spurt in the toy industry hiring coincides with what should be an improvement in economic and employment numbers for the economy at large as people return from summer vacations and the Japanese supply situation improves.

That’s the plan anyway. Absent tea leaves and chicken entrails it’s all I can offer for now. That forecast will surely change with new information and heightened brainpower the latter of which seems unlikely during the summer months. September certainly feels a long way off for autoworkers and the unemployed but this soft patch should be over quickly so keep on keepin’ on.

Muddling through,

Tom Keoughan

By |2020-11-20T08:51:02-06:00June 8th, 2011|ToyJobs Blog|Comments Off on Japanese Supply Chain and Oil Price Shocks Temporarily Slow Recovery

Total Turmoil in Toyland

Let’s see, what hasn’t happened in the last four weeks? Toy shows always bring out plenty of news, rumor and innuendo but this time it’s a little hard to keep up.

We opened with the bankruptcy announcements by Applause, Fun 4 All, Hedstrom, and Huffy and from there moved on to poor earnings announcements at Mattel, Hasbro and Leapfrog. Then there was Hit Entertainment’s dismissal of CEO and chief architect Rob Lawes. Add to this KB Toys announcement that it will be shutting close to 200 stores after Christmas and the discovery that TRU’s toy division is being actively shopped (although TRU isn’t saying much, maybe they’ve gotten just a little bit smarter). Also, the Toy Building has been put up for sale – something they forgot to mention at their cocktail party.

Then there are the lawsuits. The World Wrestling suit against Jakks Pacific, Stanley Shenker, Bell Licensing et al looks particularly nasty. It will be interesting to see how that plays out. Allegations are easy to make especially when there are lots of big egos involved. They can be much more difficult to prove even if true. I certainly have no way of knowing what if anything happened, but it will be interesting to watch.

Then there is the lawsuit that Mattel has filed against Ron Brawer because he didn’t care to work for them any more and found himself another job. This appears to be a nuisance suit as apparently Mr. Brawer had no non-compete or confidentiality agreement with Mattel. Never in my life did I think I’d find myself on the same side of an argument as Isaac Larian, but Mattel is really screwing up here.

If a hypothetical company, let’s call it “Stalag El Segundo” were hypothetically to start having current and former employees followed by private detectives, were to submit their current employees to grillings by teams of attorneys, were to install security cameras in many of its offices, were to begin heavily monitoring employee phone bills, e-mail and computer activity; if a hypothetical company were hypothetically to do all that, my twenty three years experience as an executive recruiter tells me that they are likely to get results that they did not intend. That companies employees might be cowed for a month or two but in such a stifling environment would quickly decide to head for the exits. It’s the sort of thing that brings joy to a headhunter’s heart.

After rehashing all that, the following may seem counterintuitive but the October Toy Show was pretty upbeat. While some people complained about the lack of hall traffic, that’s not the type of show it is. Of the approximately thirty toy company presidents that I talked to, most felt that the show was very productive. Also surprising is that toy industry hiring continues at a torrid pace.

Too many things are happening too fast to have a fully developed thirty minute answer as to why this is so (sorry, sitcom watchers). It may be that we are finally at a tipping point. Much has been said in the last couple of years in this space and everywhere else about how Walmart’s drive to use toys as loss leaders has structurally changed the business. We may now be at the point where the market is choosing winners and losers. In the current environment it is very hard to be a winner, it is also very good to be a winner. Even more difficult than being a winner is to be average and still survive. In other words, it has started to get mean out there. Companies that are developing new and flexible strategies and successfully executing them and adapting to a rapidly changing reality are moving ahead. Companies that are unable to see the changes, plan for the changes or execute on their plans have begun to and will continue to fall by the wayside.

I know the message is not particularly cheery, but it’s definitely time to toughen up.

All the best,
Tom Keoughan

By |2004-11-02T10:53:47-06:00November 2nd, 2004|ToyJobs Blog|Comments Off on Total Turmoil in Toyland

Toy Industry Hiring Accelerates Despite “Jobless Recovery”

Another toy fair, come and gone.  While at the toy building the mood was one of very cautious optimism over at the Javits Center things were much more upbeat.  The consensus among specialty toy manufacturers seemed to be that the smaller specialty stores and toy boutiques that were able to survive the onslaught of closeout sales from FAO, KB, etc. would be able to look forward to increased foot traffic and would also need to restock shelves after some decidedly lean and cautious years.  In contrast, the mass market manufacturers seemed to feel that this year would be “les bad” than the last two or three and that was about as bright and cheery as the majority of them seemed to get.

Toy industry hiring has kicked into high gear, we’ve had a very strong January and February and a slew of new post trade show searches being started.  This contrasts with all the talk of  “the jobless recovery” in the press and by televised talking heads.  The best explanation, as usual, comes from Alan Greenspan.  There seems to be two things going on.  Cyclical hiring is accelerating.  On a micro level we see this in our business and on a macro level it can be seen in the growth of the number of want ads.  However, this is being offset by structural changes in our economy.  The flow of high paying factory jobs which started moving overseas in the mid eighties has increased due to both NAFTA and better and cheaper communications technology.  This outflow of jobs now includes software engineers, computer operations and call centers.

While Wall Street types and economists (smug up until the day they have to start operating a spatula) will tell you that this means decreased prices for American consumers, this is only half right.  Much of the cost savings goes to increased profit margins and drops to the bottom line.  Also, things had better cost less so that underemployed and unemployed consumers can afford to buy them at all.  This is not politics but basic common sense economics.

The toy industry has experienced some of these same trends.  Except for large blow molding plants and some game and puzzle facilities, toy factories have long since gone overseas.  Since the early nineties, probably two thirds of the engineering jobs have moved to Asia.  There has been some movement of product design jobs moving offshore but not at an alarming rate.  Also, some graphics jobs have moved, but mainly in the area of production.  Job loss in the design area has been more affected by productivity gains due to computerized design technology.  We don’t have to draw everything by hand anymore.

While less retailers, to a degree, means less sales jobs; this has been partially offset by the fact that the remaining retailers demand more and more personal attention.  We no longer have “the Target sales guy” but the “Target team.”  Marketing and Brand Management jobs have actually increased, as somebody has to keep all these balls in the air and moving in the right direction.  Sales and Marketing jobs look pretty solid over the middle to long term.

So, if you’ve got a kid in college, point him towards marketing or if he’s got a winning personality, make sure that he’s more than a little familiar with the geography of Arkansas.

All the best,

Tom Keoughan

By |2020-11-20T08:51:05-06:00March 30th, 2004|ToyJobs Blog|Comments Off on Toy Industry Hiring Accelerates Despite “Jobless Recovery”
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