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Legendary toy maker is back in the game
Industry veteran Roger Shiffman is eager to jump back into the toy business with 'Zizzle'
February 14, 2005: 4:03 PM EST
By Parija Bhatnagar, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - He's been credited with launching some of the biggest toy hits over the past decade, including Furby, Giga Pets and Poo-Chi the robotic pet dog.

Now, Roger Shiffman, the guy who first introduced kids to these popular toys, is coming out of hiatus with the launch of a new company called "Zizzle."

Why now?

Afterall, the toy industry hasn't exactly been all that fun lately as toymakers, including the No. 1 and No. 2 players Mattel (Research) and Hasbro (Research) struggle with stagnant year-over-year sales, aggressive price wars and the fading appeal of "traditional" toys to hot gadgets like the iPod.

Shiffman, a well-known industry veteran of over 30 years, cites those very same reasons for his return. He says he's ready to add the "oomph" back into the game.

Shiffman told CNN/Money, "I receive calls constantly with the most amazing ideas and there simply has not been enough attention paid to these opportunities and the business has suffered because of it."

Big companies, he said, have been slow to respond to the challenge. He thinks a smaller company, like the one he's setting up, is more agile and therefore quicker to respond to opportunity.

"I believe that with a little bit of luck, we can reinvigorate the industry," said Shiffman. "The idea is to tap into the inventors and toy developers and bring the great ideas to fruition faster, cheaper and market them like crazy. That's something I know we can do for sure."

So do a few other industry observers.

Jim Silver, an industry analyst and publisher of the Toy Book and Toy Wishes magazines, said he's aware that Shiffman had been itching to get back into the business.

"His return is a big positive for the industry. It will spur everyone on, especially in terms of pushing the limits of technology," said Silver.

He went on to say, "Shiffman has great relationships in the business, whether it's with the buyers or licensors. He's had a successful track record track, he's very popular in the business and I'm certain that he will once again place the focus on developing something new and different."

Shiffman was formerly co-founder of Tiger Electronics, the company that marketed such toys as Furby, TalkBoy and HitClips. Tiger sold a whopping 20 million Furbys in the first six months after the toy debuted. The company was later sold to Hasbro, where Shiffman headed the unit until 2001.

Hasbro declined to comment on the story.

To give Zizzle a running start out of the gates, Shiffman's partnered with a Hong Kong-based manufacturer and as well as recruited a few former colleagues from Tiger. "We'll stay small, probably 30 employees in total," he said.

Zizzle products will target preschoolers all the way to college kids, he said. "We'll introduce basic high-quality action figures as well as a few innovative, high-tech and licensed toys," Shiffman added.

"People will love to have Roger back," said Reyne Rice, toy trends specialist with the Toy Industry Association (TIA). "I expect him to continue to bring out the types of products that will push the limits and be desirable for both producers and consumers."  Top of page

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