The hunt is on for the next great American toymaker, and the hunt's organizers are thinking small. A pioneering retailer has launched a national contest that will give two small U.S. toymakers the chance to have their wares receive exclusive online distribution this holiday season.
The Next Great Toymaker contest, sponsored by Meijer, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based brick-and-mortar and online retailer, is open to small companies and entrepreneurs in the U.S. with 50 employees or less. There will be two categories: toys appropriate for children between ages 1 and 3 and toys suitable for children between ages 4 and 8.
Toymakers must complete a contest entry form and submit one sample toy. Entries must be postmarked by Aug. 13. Toys will be judged on uniqueness, educational relevance, creativity and quality.
The toys must weigh less than 150 pounds, be made in the U.S. and have a retail price of $19.95 or more. That price point was chosen, the company told BusinessNewsDaily, to ensure that entrants are substantial toys with lasting play value.
"It is about the toy’s suitability for the age range and other factors vs. the price point," said Liwanag Ojala, vice president of e-commerce for Meijer. "The world of what toymakers make is very large—we had to articulate some guardrails, anticipating there would be keen interest in this contest."
Meijer is a significant player in online toy sales and features a selection of nearly 8,000 different toys.
The contest winners will be selected by a panel of Meijer judges that include experts in e-commerce and toy buying. The judges will also curate the entries and post what they believe are the best candidates on Meijer.com and Facebook, where fans can vote for their favorites from Aug. 29 to Sept. 4. Winners will be announced on Sept. 7. The toys will be exclusively available on Meijer's website during the 2012 holiday season.
"Meijer strives to provide our customers the best selection of toys in-store and online during the holiday season," said Ojala. "This contest allows us to offer something exclusive to Meijer.com shoppers while supporting small businesses here in the U.S., something we know is important to our customers."
Meijer, which has nearly 200 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky, was the pioneer of the "one-stop shopping" concept, beating Walmart and other mega retailers to the punch. Meijer opened its first supercenter store selling both groceries and general merchandise to the public in 1962.