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Playing with toys’ future

Playing with toys’ future

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Published by: Indochinatours Online on Dec 28, 2009
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05/11/2014

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Playing with toys’ future
Bamboo dragonflies for sale in a craft shopin Hanoi’s outlying Chuong My District.
Vietnam’s folk toys are gradually being adapted to the modernworld, but it’s an expensive makeover for the small producers thatcharacterize the industry. Nguyen Thu Ha was wondering what to buy for the small daughter of a foreign friend when she set eyes on some green bamboodragonflies.“Seeing them reminded me of my rural childhood, although our dragonflies were much simpler and made from leaves. I hope thelittle girl likes them. She could use them to decorate her room,” shesays as the toys were being wrapped.Traditional toys such as bamboo dragon flies, rattan craps and paper kites are changing with the times, to the delight of modernVietnamese parents, and are finding greater acceptance abroad if the number of export orders is anything to go by. Nguyen Huu Binh, who owns a rattan and bamboo toy workshopin Phu Vinh, a traditional craft village in Hanoi’s Chuong MyDistrict, is one of the beneficiaries of this growing interest, andgets many visitors every day, mainly foreign tourists.
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Binh has formed close commercial links with gift shops in Hanoi,Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang and Hai Phong, and sells much of his output through these tourist-oriented stores.An American businessman enters a gift shop in Hanoi withobvious relish and buys some traditional toys. Chris Brooks makesa beeline for shops like this whenever he comes to Vietnam.“I buy a lot here to give my friends,” he says. “Through the products, they may understand more about Vietnam’s culture.”Tourists from Europe, the US and Japan are not averse to shellingout several dollars for an interesting traditional toy.Many traditional toys get shipped to the US, Britain, France,Germany and Japan, where their novelty and culturalcharacteristics appeal to the inhabitants.Back to Binh, who exports 50,000-70,000 toys per month in peak  periods, said “before, we were only shipping abroad 1,000 bamboodragonflies with one-meter wings.”Everyone in his family, from grandparents to children, is involvedin the production stages, and many other villagers in the area areemployed by the business too.“This work allows each of them to earn more than VND1 million(US$56.03) a month,” says Binh.To boost his domestic and export sales, the master toymaker isgetting more into marketing, product diversification and qualityimprovement.Finding new markets for traditional toys depends on better marketing to mold consumer attitudes, improved methods of  production, and more training to supply the toy workshops withsorely needed skilled personnel, but a lack of money stymies theefforts to progress.
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