February 02, 2012


 Toy Fest West

NPD Releases Toy Sales Totals for 2011

The NPD Group has reported that U.S. retail toy sales for 2011 totaled $21.18 billion, a decline of 2 percent compared to 2010 numbers, which totaled $21.68 billion. When looking at quarterly toy sales, Q1 and Q2 combined sales saw a decline in dollars by nearly 3 percent compared to the same quarters in 2010. Unit sales for those periods fell nearly 7 percent as average retail prices increased by more than 4 percent. For Q3, dollars fell nearly 1 percent and units declined more than 8 percent, while average prices rose 7 percent. The fourth quarter, usually the strongest quarter for the toy industry, declined in dollars by 3 percent. Unit sales declined in Q4 by 7 percent as the average retail price rose by 5 percent.
The building sets and dolls super-categories saw the most significant increases at 23 percent and 7 percent, respectively. Vehicles saw an increase of 2 percent. The plush, games/puzzles, action figures/accessories/role play, and infant/preschool super-categories experienced the most significant declines when compared to 2010, at 21 percent, 8 percent, 8 percent, and 4 percent, respectively. Dollar sales for licensed toys increased 2 percent, and represented 26 percent of total industry sales for last year. Mass merchants continued to capture the biggest share of total spending on toys at 49 percent.

Mattel Completes Acquisition of Hit Entertainment

Mattel, Inc. has completed the acquisition of Hit Entertainment from a consortium of funds led by Apax Partners for $680 million in cash. The company previously announced its proposed acquisition of Hit Entertainment on October 24.
Hit Entertainment announced earlier this week that President and CEO Jeffrey Dunn and COO Sangeeta Desai plan to leave the company after Hit’s acquisition has been closed. Dunn, who has been leading the company since March 2008 after being appointed by current owner Apax Funds, will exit immediately. Dunn was tasked with restoring the business and preparing it for future sale. Desai, who became Hit’s COO in 2009, will depart following a short transition period.
Mattel has appointed David Allmark, executive vice president, Fisher-Price, to oversee the Hit portfolio of brands. Former Disney Consumer Products executive Edward Catchpole has been named senior vice president, Hit Brands. Reporting to Allmark, Catchpole will head the U.K. office and orchestrate marketing strategy for global HIT brands.

JPMA to Help Promote New Trade Show PB&J

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) has agreed to help promote the Toy Industry Association’s (TIA) new joint venture, PB&J: The Preview for Baby & Juvenile. PB&J is a new Dallas trade event for mass-market retailers that will debut and run concurrently with TIA’s annual Fall Toy Preview, to be held October 2-4 on the Dallas Market Center campus.
PB&J will offer a focused selection of baby and juvenile resources from leading manufacturers, with an emphasis on companies in the following categories: furniture, bedding, gifts, décor, baby care, accessories, strollers, high chairs, and nursing/feeding.   
Echoing Fall Toy Preview’s model, PB&J will be a by-appointment-only event that brings vendors and mass retailers together for private meetings and networking events. 
JPMA plans to promote the show to its members and mass-market retailers. For more information about PB&J, visit www.pbandjshow.com.

Techno Source Acquires IP Rights to Glow Crazy

Glow CrazyTechno Source, a division of LF Products, has acquired the intellectual property rights to the Glow Crazy line from Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co. for all toy related categories.  Techno Source plans to expand the Glow Crazy assortment, which currently includes the Distance Doodler glow wand, Doodle Dome tent, Glow-to-Go activity set, and Glow Glove, this year.
Formerly marketed under the Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co.’s BIGiggle brand, Glow Crazy products allow kids to throw light across the room and have it magically appear on special removable and reusable glow canvases and other objects. This acquisition was brokered by Robert Yusim from Product Counsel on behalf of Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co.




NPD Releases Retail Sales for Australian and European Toy Markets

Australia retail toy sales generated $1.11 billion in 2011 compared to $1.09 billion in 2010, a growth of 1 percent, reported The NPD Group. Unit sales were up 7 percent compared to 2010, which NPD attributed to strong performing lower-priced items. The Australian toy industry experienced strong growth throughout the first half of the year, but declined thereafter. The third and fourth quarters experienced sales declines of 5 percent and slightly below 1 percent, respectively.
Across super-categories, building sets experienced the most significant increase in the Australian toy market at 22 percent. Vehicles, dolls, and plush also increased at 10 percent, 7 percent, and 1 percent, respectively. Categories that declined included games/puzzles (10 percent), action figures (22 percent), and youth electronics (26 percent).
NPD also reported sales results for the European market. For 2011, the UK’s toy market had a modest 3 percent growth. While the UK is still ranked as the No. 1 toy market in Europe, NPD reports that its dominance is slipping. The French toy market, second to the UK, recorded a 5 percent growth last year, while Germany finished with a solid 7 percent growth compared to 2010. Italy and Spain declined 3 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

K’nex to Preview Angry Birds Building Sets at NY Toy Fair

Angry BirdsRovio, creator of Angry Birds, and K’nex have partnered for a line of building toys. The building sets will include the most popular Angry Birds characters, buildable launchers, and other recognizable elements from the game. The line, designed for children ages 5 and up, will be available in the fall. K’nex will provide a sneak peek of the products at American International Toy Fair.




Hasbro and Marvel Expand Super Hero Squad Line 

Hasbro, Inc. continues to grow and expand its long-term strategic partnership with Marvel Entertainment, LLC, announcing an expanded line of products in its Marvel Super Hero Adventures line. The Marvel Super Hero Adventures brand, which launched under the Playskool banner last fall, is based on The Super Hero Squad Show animated program, and will bring the Marvel Super Hero Universe to preschoolers and fans of all ages this year. Hasbro’s expanded line of Marvel Super Hero Adventures toys is slated to include new action figures, play sets, vehicles, role-play, and plush. Some of the new products will debut during American International Toy Fair in New York City, with more products being released later this year. The Super Hero Squad Show began airing on The Hub television network on January 30. The Hub is a joint venture between Hasbro and Discovery Communications.

Candy Land and Stretch Armstrong to Come to the Big Screen

Columbia Pictures, Happy Madison, and Hasbro, Inc. are in final talks to develop Candy Land, a live-action movie based on the Hasbro board game, with Adam Sandler slated to star. Relativity Media has partnered with Hasbro to develop and produce a live-action tent-pole film based on Stretch Armstrong, the action hero figure launched in the 1970s. Relativity will be the domestic distributor, and will release the film internationally through its network of foreign output partners. The film is targeted for an April 11, 2014, release date.
Earlier this week, The Los Angeles Times reported that Hasbro’s deal with Universal Pictures has ended. Universal Pictures has no plans for any more movies based on Hasbro toys beyond the May release of Battleship. The deal with Hasbro, signed four years ago, included at least four films based on seven games and toys: Battleship, Candy Land, Clue, Magic: The Gathering, Monopoly, Ouija, and Stretch Armstrong.

Innovation First Seizes Copycat Products at Southampton Port

In collaboration with UK Customs officials, Innovation First International (IFI) and Innovation First International UK have prevented Chinese manufacturer Bort Electrical Co., Ltd. and UK online retailer Toysmart, Ltd. from importing nearly 7,000 copycat micro robotic toys at the port of Southampton. IFI says the companies intended to sell the goods to European customers.

Sinking Ship Entertainment Announces Multiplatform Deals for Dino Dan

Dino DanDino Dan’s first mass-market toy launch features seven new dinosaur toys, available in March at a national specialty retail chain across the U.S. and at specialty stores in Canada. Dino Dan’s licensing is managed by The Licensing Shop.
Adding a new digital component to the show, Sinking Ship Interactive introduces its first Dino Dan-themed app, Dino Defence, on iTunes in March. NCircle will release a second Dino Dan DVD in March, available at major retailers.
Production of the next season of Dino Dan begins in March, with Canadian air dates set for fall.





Sesame Workshop Partners to Launch Digital Publishing Program

Elmo Says Achoo!Random House Children’s Books and Sesame Workshop have parnered to launch a digital publishing initiative, focused on early learning and reading readiness. Select titles from the Random House Children’s Books Sesame Street library will be made available as ebooks for the first time. Elmo Says Achoo! and Elmo’s Breakfast Bingo launched first on January 25.The digital editions are available in the U.S. and Canada. 
An additional 19 titles will be released this spring. Several titles will include audio narration from Sesame Street’s Bob McGrath, who has performed on Sesame Street since its premiere in 1969. 





BabyTV Signs Licensing Partnership

BabyTvBabyTV has partnered with distribution and wholesaler company Universal Sales for a range of licensed products, including BabyTV’s home video package, My First Years Library, and additional audio and publishing products for infants and toddlers. The products will be distributed to U.S. consumers throughout this year.
As part of this partnership, the first 10 titles of BabyTV’s DVD offerings are scheduled to launch in this year’s first quarter, followed by the release of various music CDs featuring BabyTV’s musical content of nursery rhymes and lullabies. Several book formats for Easter, as well as a Christmas book, will also release in drugstores, toy stores, and music and DVD retail channels.
BabyTV launched a 24-hour linear channel on Dish Network in the U.S. in January. The channel is also available in Spanish, as part of the Dish Latino package, and in Chinese, as part of Dish Network’s Chinese language package.

The Wiggles and Ruckus Media Group Get Interactive

The WigglesThe Wiggles and Ruckus Media Group have announced a digital partnership under which Ruckus has been granted the rights to develop storybook applications for the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and Android-enabled mobile devices and tablets. The new Ruckus interactive storybooks will feature The Wiggles’ music, video, and educational activities appropriately placed within the narrative stories so children can interact with the mobile digital experience. The first three titles will release worldwide (English language distribution) via Apple’s App store in March, followed by additional Apple and Android releases later this year.




Pretty Ugly Teams Up with Funko

FunkoPretty Ugly, LLC announced a licensing partnership with Funko, LLC to manufacture Pop! and Blox Vinyl figures of Uglydoll characters. Pop! figures, available this month, are 3.75 inches and feature articulated heads. Blox Vinyl figures are flat with cut-out styling and details, and will hit retail shelves as early as April. Both can be found at specialty retailers nationwide, and are available in an assortment of styles and colors. 




Mike the Knight to Premiere This Friday on Nickelodeon

Mike the KnightNickelodeon will premiere Mike the Knight, a new CGI-animated preschool series, this Friday at 10:30 a.m. (ET/PT). The half-hour adventure series teaches kids about friendship, loyalty, and determination, as they join Mike, a young knight-in-training, on his mission to protect his kingdom, serve his queen, and become a full-fledged knight. Following the series launch, new episodes will air on Nickelodeon on weekdays at 12 p.m. (ET/PT). Hit Entertainment and Nelvana Studio produces Mike the Knight. The series was created by Alexander Bar (Lunar Jim), and penned by Marc Seal (head writer, Bob the Builder).





StinkyKids The Musical to Debut Next Month

StinkyKids The Musical, a live theatrical production based on the characters and themes of the children’s book series StinkyKids, will debut March 10 in New York City. Shows will take place at the Vital Theatre Company on weekends through April 22. Guests can purchase tickets online at www.vitaltheatre.org/stinkykids.php.
StinkyKids The Musical is directed by Tim Drucker. The books and lyrics are by Sammy Buck, and music is composed by Daniel S. Acquisto.

Kidz Bop Sets Billboard Record

Kids BopThe latest Kidz Bop album, Kidz Bop 21, entered the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart at No. 2 and the Billboard Children’s Chart at No. 1. Kidz Bop 21 is the third consecutive Kidz Bop title to debut in the No. 2 spot on the Billboard Top 200 Chart, and the 14th title to hit the Top 10 since the series launched in 2001. In Billboard history, only six artists have had more No. 2 albums, including Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Madonna, and Tim McGraw. Kidz Bop has experienced growth, with digital album sales up more than 70 percent from Kidz Bop 20. This news coincides with the launch of Kidz Bop Block Party!, on SiriusXM, the new interactive weekly radio show in which kids can participate online by visiting Kidzbop.com.

Turner’s Asia-Pacific President’s Statement Regarding Passing of VP
Steve Marcopoto, president of Turner Broadcasting System, Asia Pacific, has released a statement on the passing of Cartoon Network’s vice president, Dulce Lim-Chen.
 “The Turner Broadcasting family is deeply saddened and shocked by the sudden passing of Dulce Lim-Chen, vice president of Cartoon Network Enterprises Asia Pacific, on January 25, 2012.
 “Dulce will be remembered as a visionary and dynamic leader who inspired everyone with her passion, talent, and generous heart. She will be greatly missed by all at Turner, in Asia and beyond.
 “Our thoughts and prayers are with Dulce’s family and friends at this most difficult time.”

Wal-Mart Stores Names New Sam’s Club President/CEO

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has announced executive changes across its businesses. Sam’s Club President and CEO Brian Cornell will be leaving the company for family reasons. Rosalind G. Brewer succeeds Cornell, effective February 1. Most recently, Brewer was president of the Walmart U.S. East business unit, where she was responsible for more than $100 billion in annual revenue. Brewer was also the first chairperson for the Walmart President’s Council of Global Women Leaders. Prior to Walmart, Brewer worked for Kimberly-Clark, eventually serving as president of a key business sector.
Walmart has also announced that Rollin Ford has been promoted to chief administrative officer, Gisel Ruiz has been promoted to executive vice president and COO for Walmart U.S., and Karenaan Terrell has been promoted to chief information officer.

Activision Picks Head of Newly Formed Licensing Division

Entertainment licensing veteran Ashley Maidy has joined Activision to head the newly formed licensing division. Maidy has more than 16 years of experience, building licensing and merchandising programs for Sony Pictures and Saban Entertainment.
In her new role, Maidy will extend Activision’s properties into complementary product categories, as well as co-marketing and promotional programs. Maidy has also brought entertainment industry veteran Alicia Mandeville on board, who will leverage her licensing and merchandising experience to build powerful programs for Activision’s brands.

Genius Brands Appoints New Marketing Director

Genius Brands International, Inc. has appointed Denise Kovac to the position of marketing director. Kovac has more than 25 years of consumer products experience, including product development, brand development, and marketing in the $300 billion direct response market.
Kovac will launch the first direct response marketing campaign for Baby Genius DVD and CDs. The worldwide campaign will first launch in the U.S. this Q1 with broadcast commercials, accompanied by a new Baby Genius website. A new line of Baby Genius musical and early learning toys from Jakks Pacific’s Tollytots division will launch this fall.
Throughout her career, Kovac served in top-level executive positions, including COO of Your Baby Can, LLC; president of Thane Direct, USA; president of Bay Street Brands; and vice president of Sales at Fitness Quest/Warner Vision where she also managed sales for Atlantic Records, Electra Records, and Rhino Records divisions. She also ran her own consulting firm, Managed Full Service Marketing.

Zodiak Rights Brings New Faces to Consumer Products Team

Zodiak Rights, of Zodiak Media, has named two new hires for its recently restructured and expanded consumer products team. Nicola Herrmann will become head of brand marketing, Zodiak Rights, reporting to Jennifer Lawlor, SVP of strategy and planning, consumer products, Zodiak Rights.
In this new role, Herrmann will manage marketing activities for all of the children’s properties in Zodiak Rights’ (London) portfolio, as well as develop and implement brand plans, working closely with the licensing sales and creative services teams. Herrmann will support licensees, broadcasters, retail, and promotional partners with marketing initiatives to heighten the profile of Zodiak Rights’ properties.
Previously, Herrmann was a director at Viacom International Media Networks. She was was also the UK brand marketing manager for consumer products at Warner Bros.
Additionally, Zodiak Rights has announced Gabrielle Langdorf has become the international agents manager, responsible for managing Zodiak Rights’ agents worldwide.

Aeromax Announces New VP of Sales

Aeromax has hired Jim Gunderson as the company’s new vice president of sales. Gunderson takes over for fellow industry veteran Mel Davis, who is retiring after six years in this position at Aeromax and more than 30 years in the toy industry.
Gunderson began working in sales for consumer goods more than 25 years ago at The Gillette Company (now Procter & Gamble) in the Paper Mate division. In the mid-1990s he started working for Little Kids, Inc., where he moved up the ranks from national sales manager to vice president of sales during his 14 years at the company.

Mattel Reports 2011 Financial Results, Declares Quarterly Dividend

Mattel, Inc. has reported its 2011 fourth quarter and full-year financial results. For the fourth quarter, the company reported net income of $370.6 million, or $1.07 per share, compared to last year’s fourth quarter net income of $325.2 million, or $0.89 per share. For the year, the company reported net income of $768.5 million, or $2.18 per share, compared to last year’s net income of $684.9 million, or $1.86 per share.
For the fourth quarter, net sales were $2.15 billion, a 1 percent increase from $2.12 billion last year. On a regional basis, fourth quarter gross sales were down 2 percent in the U.S. and were up 5 percent in international markets.
Mattel also announced that its board of directors declared a first quarter cash dividend of $0.31 per share on the company’s common stock. The dividend will be payable on March 9 to stockholders of record on February 23. For the fourth quarter of 2011, the company repurchased four million shares of its common stock at a cost of approximately $112 million. For the year, the company repurchased 20.4 million shares of its common stock at a cost of approximately $536 million.

Genius Brands Issues Letter to Shareholders

Genius Brands International, Inc. issued a letter to its shareholders, highlighting developments at the company during the 2011 fiscal and calendar year.
During the past fiscal year, Genius Brands International became a fully reported company with its common stock quoted on the OTC Bulletin Board. The company’s full 2011 fiscal year results will be announced in March, but the company anticipates year-end revenues to show significant growth over fiscal year 2010. In the three months that ended September 30, revenues grew by 106 percent compared to the same period in 2010.
Genius Brands also announced that it made significant additions to its domestic and international distribution channels; Baby Genius products are now sold at 8,000 retail stores nationwide.
The company plans to launch new products featuring Baby Genius in the next year, including an electronic early learning aid and a Kindergarten Readiness program. To read the full letter, click here.

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