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Spoiled rotten: Booneville toy manufacturer's $8 million expansion banks on sales.

TOY MANUFACTURERS ARE perhaps some of the only adults who would like to see children spoiled on a consistent basis.

But there is one Booneville company that's banking on other adults doing the same.

Today's Kids, which has a 330,000-SF toy manufacturing plant in Booneville (Logan County), recently announced plans to expand to 1.3 million SF, a project that will cost almost $8 million.

Today's Kids employs 200-300 people, depending on the season. The expansion is expected to result in 100 new jobs during the next year.

The company won't disclose its sales figures, but General Manager Clyde Parks admits surprise at the recent growth of Today's Kids.

"I personally thought it might take a little longer," Parks says of the company's growth to the point of needing to expand.

Parks hopes the company's sales will grow along with the building.

"We anticipate it will be increasing," he says. "Otherwise, we wouldn't be expanding."

Today's Kids is a subsidiary of Spang & Co. of Butler, Pa. The parent company has several divisions, including a magnetics plant in Butler and one in Booneville.

Magnetics Arkansas, next door to Today's Kids, is also expanding by 25,000 SF for a total of 200,000 SF.

The toy company began operation in 1903 as Wolverine Supply and Manufacturing Co. in Pittsburgh. Spang & Co. bought it and changed its name in 1964.

Then, Parks says, attractive bond issues caused the company to start looking at southern plant locations. It chose Booneville in 1970 and moved Today's Kids there.

Dallas is home to the marketing, sales and product development offices for Today's Kids, and a New York City office houses the company's permanent showroom.

Big-Name Clients

Today's Kids is a wholesale distributor, and its biggest clients are retail outlets such as Toys "R" Us Inc., Sears Roebuck & Co. and Kmart Corp.

The current expansions aren't the biggest changes the company has undergone. Nine years ago, company management realized it needed to move from producing metal toys to plastic ones.

"Plastics came to be recognized as quality products," Parks says. "At the same time, consumers started to take a dimmer view of metal toys."

This meant developing a new product line and risking years of low sales, but Parks says it was inevitable.

"We sort of saw the handwriting on the wall and decided to change our processes, or we'd be out of the toy business."

Even once a product line was developed, it took three years before the company received the kind of name recognition that led to good sales.

"Sales have just grown from that point," Parks says.

Today's Kids is still small compared with companies such as Fisher-Price Toys Inc., but Parks says, "They notice us. They know we're here."

He says if Today's Kids has any specialty, it's manufacturing unique toys, such as the GymFinity activity center that was introduced this year. It grows with a child from his infancy to toddler years.

The company focuses on sporting items, play centers and what it calls outdoor spring items, such as picnic tables, for children.

The product line at Today's Kids should increase with the company's expansion, but the growth -- from product and plant expansions to the company's revenues -- depends on one thing.

Adults still must be willing to spoil -- or at least be generous to -- their children.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Logan County, Arkansas; Today's Kids Inc.
Author:Rengers, Carrie
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Jun 14, 1993
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