March 1, 2011


Laser Pegs

Report: Toys Most Popular with Kids Ages 3 to 8 in 4Q 2010

The NPD Group, Inc. released the fourth quarter 2010 (October through December) results from its Kids Industry Data Service (KIDS), a monthly, syndicated tracking service that provides users with statistics about purchases made for kids from birth through age 14.
According to the report, the categories that captured the most dollar share for kids during that period were apparel or accessories with 17 percent, toys or board games with 14 percent, and video game system hardware, and video games or PC game software, with 11 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Footwear rounded out the top five with 8 percent.
Apparel or accessories ranked the highest among kids up to age 2, and kids ages 9 to 11, while toys or board games ranked highest among 3 to 8 year olds. Video games or PC game software grabbed the highest dollar share for kids ages 12 to 14.
The top five brands during the fourth quarter were Disney, Microsoft, Nike, Nintendo, and Sony (in alphabetical order), with Barbie, Disney Princess, Dora The Explorer, Star Wars, and Toy Story (in alphabetical order) representing the top five licenses.
The categories that generated the greatest percentage of total sales from licensed products included DVD/Blue-ray discs, video games or PC software, Halloween costumes & accessories, party supplies, and toys or board games.

NRF Expects Retail Sales to Increase 4 Percent This Year

The National Retail Federation (NRF) released its 2011 economic forecast, projecting retail industry sales (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) will increase 4 percent from 2010. “The cautiously optimistic outlook comes on the heels of seven consecutive months of retail sales growth and better than expected holiday sales,” says the NRF. “Thanks to robust holiday spending figures, the prospects for economic growth are starting to look better. However, with small businesses continuing to hold back on hiring and expansion plans, and consumers facing higher energy costs, questions remain about the speed and strength of the retail spending momentum.” 

CPSC Holds Hearing on 100-ppm Limit on Lead

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) conducted a hearing on February 16 regarding whether it is technologically feasible to meet the 100 parts per million (ppm) provisions for lead content in children’s products as outlined in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).
This determination will be made only after analyzing the public health protections associated with substantially reducing lead in children’s products, as well as comments made at the hearing given in 15-minute presentations.
CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum and Commissioners Robert Adler, Thomas Moore, Nancy Nord, and Anne Northup were in attendance at the hearing, where three panels presented on the topic. The first panel urged the CPSC to enforce the 100 ppm requirement as outlined by the CPSIA. The second panel focused on showing the cost benefits, quality of testing, and technological advantages of various testing devices and procedures. The third panel discussed manufacturing, cost, and testing variability issues related to meeting the 100-ppm limit.

TIA filed extensive comments on the issue during the CPSC’s request for written comment period. The Association and members of the third panel urged the CPSC to exclude materials from the 100-ppm limit, stating that unless there is a supply chain that could broadly supply the industry with compliant hardware at a competitive cost, it would not be feasible to lower the limit.
For more information on the hearing, or the members of the panels, click here

Stardoll Brand to Enter Retail

StardollInnovative Artists, a talent and literary agency, has launched a multi-year, multi-partner licensing agreement for Stardoll, a tween and teen online fashion and social community.
The deal—brokered by Innovative Artists’ Maggie Dumais, who worked closely with Stardoll’s CEO Mattias Miksche and Innovative Artists President Scott Harris—will take the Stardoll brand into the retail space as it makes its retail debut for the 2011 back-to-school season.
J.C. Penney will serve as the exclusive partner and will carry the brand’s girls’ apparel, accessories, footwear, hosiery, and cosmetics, with additional categories rolling out next year.
J.C. Penney will be joined by master toy partner Mattel in recreating and adapting the online experience with a collection of fashion dolls. Geared towards both the collector and activity-based fan, the line will bring the virtual world to life with interactive play that replicates the online experience. The dolls will debut in November at Toys “R” Us, mass, and specialty chains worldwide.

Lego Group Acquires Lego Universe

Lego UniverseGazillion Entertainment has agreed to sell its rights in the development of the Lego Universe massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) to the Lego Group, the publisher of the game. The Lego Group has offered employment to the majority of Lego Universe development team members, who were formerly part of Gazillion’s NetDevil subsidiary. Those who have been offered employment will continue game development and operations from the current Louisville, Colo. studio.

Master Toy Licensee Appointed for Hit’s Mike the Knight

Mike the KnightCharacter Options has been awarded the master toy license for Hit Entertainment’s new property, Mike the Knight, set to premiere on CBeebies in the UK this fall.
Under the agreement, which covers the UK and Ireland, Character Options has the rights to develop new plastic figurines and play sets, plush, novelty, role-play, and games based on the property. The initial line of products will release in fall/winter 2012.
Co-produced by Hit and Corus Entertainment’s Nelvana Studios, Mike the Knight is a new CGI series that transports viewers back to a time of castles, quests, and dragons. 
Hit also recently named Learning Curve as the German toy licensee for the preschool property Fireman Sam. Under the new multi-year deal for the brand, Learning Curve will distribute Fireman Sam products from UK master toy partner Character Options.
The CTM agency currently represents Fireman Sam in Germany on behalf of Hit.

Disney Acquires Online Community for Kids

According to the Associated Press, The Walt Disney Company has acquired Togetherville, a social online community for children that was launched last year. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Togetherville, in a beta version, is targeted to kids ages 6 to 10. Parents create online neighborhoods for their kids and have complete control over the kids who interact with them online. Parents sign in with their Facebook login and the community automatically finds Facebook friends and their children who already have Togetherville.
Last year, Disney acquired software and video game developer Tapulous and social games maker Playdom.

CitiBlocs Names European Distributor

CitiblocsCitiBlocs has just inked a deal with HCM Kinzel to represent them in more than 20 European countries. As CitiBlocs’ primary European distributor, HCM Kinzel and its agents will be distributed to countries such as Austria, the Baltic states, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Holland, Italy, and more. European retailers will be able to order Natural, Hot, and Cool CitiBlocs starting in March. Additional SKUs will be added throughout the year.




Specialty Toy Store Launches Online Store, Mobile App

Brilliant Sky Toys & Books, which has more than 10 locations nationwide, has launched an online store and a mobile application. The online shop, at, features select products available from the store. The mobile application features a store finder, event listings by store, and the Brilliant Savings Technology program.
With the program, users can obtain an exclusive coupon that is periodically uploaded to the mobile app. The coupon appears on the app user’s device and will display a countdown to the expiration date and time. The user can bring his or her mobile device into a Brilliant Sky store and show the coupon at the register to get the discount. When the coupon expires, it will automatically disappear from the application and mobile device.
Brilliant Sky’s mobile application is free to download for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch at the iTunes App Store.

Bob the Builder Finds Permanent Amusement Home at SplashDown Waterpark

Splash WorksSplashDown Beach Waterpark in Fishkill, N.Y. will soon feature the first permanent Bob the Builder amusement attraction in North America, as part of a new deal between the waterpark, Mega Funworks, Inc., and Hit Entertainment. The 1,600-square-foot Bob attraction, Splash Works, will open May 28 during Memorial Day weekend.
Splash Works, a themed spray and play area, is geared toward children ages 1-5, and will contain more than 50 interactive features, including a Bob’s tool shed play structure, two slides, tipping buckets, tot bounces, dancing water, geysers, and more. In addition, Bob the Builder meet and greets will be available daily at the park.
For more information on Splash Works or SplashDown Beach, visit

Big Idea Launches New

VeggieTales.comBig Idea Entertainment has launched an all-new VeggieTales-themed website for children, When the website is visited, VeggieTales character Larry the Cucumber greets fans on the homepage. During each visit, Larry says whimsical phrases and offers advice to children and parents navigating the site.
Other features include a wide range of games, video clips, silly songs, interactive story books, e-cards, character pages, Bible verses, the customizable “My Room” feature, and downloadable play activities, including coloring pages and cut-outs. In addition, includes a special resource section for parents, churches, and schools. There is also a link to access the new VeggieTales consumer products store with more than 500 VeggieTales products.

Street Surfing to Sponsor Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards

WhiplashStreet Surfing has announced that it will serve as the pan European sponsor for Nickelodeon’s 2011 Kids’ Choice Awards. As a part of the joint partnership between the company and Viacom International Media Networks, a unit of Viacom, Inc., Street Surfing’s new Wave Scooter will be featured on all promotional activity for the awards,
including on-air billboards, all marketing and press materials, and on the awards’ international online destinations.
The sponsorship also includes an online competition in which one winner and his or her family will have the opportunity to attend the awards in Los Angeles, to be held on April 2. The Grand Prize winner will also be the first to road test Street Surfing’s new Wave Scooter through a test course in Los Angeles the day before the show.


Olivia Acts Out eBook to Launch This Month

An interactive eBook of the popular title Olivia Acts Out from Polin8 will launch later this month on iTunes and will be followed in April by a range of Olivia audio books, featuring CDs with storybooks from Toy Box. Also new in publishing, a collection of branded “Sound” and “Look & Find” books from PIL will launch in September to the book trade, clubs, and specialty book stores.

New Sid the Science Kid Episodes for Earth Day

Sid the Science KidSid the Science Kid will be celebrating Earth Day (April 22) with four new episodes, the week of April 18, on PBS Kids.
New episodes of The Jim Henson Company and CET/Los Angeles animated preschool show will explore a different science theme related to the environment. As in every episode, Sid will begin each episode with a question and spend the day finding answers with help from his friends and family. 
The episodes include “Where Did The Water Go?” (What happens to water that goes down the drain?) on Monday, April 18; “Clean Air!” (Why does Sid’s dad wear a mask when he paints?) on April 19, repeating on Earth Day; “Reused Robot” (Where does trash go when we throw it away?) on April 20; and  “Save The Stump” (Can an old stump be a home for tiny creatures?) on April 21.

PlayCon Registration Now Open

Registration for the Toy Industry Association's PlayCon, formerly known as ToyCon, is now open. The event, which will feature general assembly presentations by industry leaders, interactive break-out sessions, networking lunches and evening events, social activities, and more, will be held May 4-6 at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz.
To be discussed during PlayCon will be tools for growing sales and profits, strategies for managing costs, new business development tools, new consumer insights, and more.

TIA encourages all of those in the play industry to attend, including manufacturing executives, retailers, marketing and advertising executives, financial executives and analysts, safety and legislative executives, licensors, inventors, and packaging executives. For more information, click here.


Mattel Restructures

Following the recent appointment of Bryan Stockton as COO and the departure of Neil Friedman as president of Mattel Brands, the company has made several new appointments. David Allmark has been appointed executive vice president of Fisher-Price. Previously, he had served as Mattel’s senior vice president and general manager of its UK, Canadian, and Eastern Europe markets. Geoff Massingberd has been appointed executive vice president of international, effective this month. Previously he served as senior vice president of corporate responsibility at Mattel. Tim Kilpin is now brand manager of Mattel Brands and Chris Schaden is the lead on the domestic sales and marketing team. Mattel recently announced that it has restructured to a global organization with the U.S. to be run as a subsidiary.

Lou D’Ambrosio Named CEO of Sears Holdings

On Wednesday, Sears Holdings Corporation named Lou D’Ambrosio as its new CEO and president, ending a three-year search.
According to the Associated Press, D’Ambrosio served as CEO of telephone and computer software company Avaya, Inc. until 2008 when he stepped down for medical reasons. Prior to working at Avaya, D’Ambrosio held executive positions at IBM, working there for 16 years. For the past six months, D’Ambrosio had been working as a consultant to Sears’ board.
W. Bruce Johnson, who served as interim CEO, will become Sears’ executive vice president of its off-mall businesses and supply chain.

Former TRU President Named New LeapFrog CEO

LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc. has appointed current CEO William Chiasson to chairman of the board and has named former TRU president John Barbour as the company’s new CEO and a member of the board of directors. The changes will be effective as of March 7.
Most recently, Barbour served as president of the GameHouse Division of RealNetworks, Inc. Prior to that, from October 2006 to October 2008, Barbour served as the managing partner of Volta Capital, LLC. From August 2004 to June 2006, he served as president, Toys “R” Us U.S. He has also served as president of Toys “R” Us International, chairman of Toys “R” Us Japan, and president and CEO of, among other positions.

New President Named for Nuk USA

Jarden Home and Family, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Jarden Corporation, announced that Doug Gillespie has joined the company as president of its Nuk USA division. As president, Gillespie will accelerate the growth of the brand and strategically expand its presence in both the U.S. and Canada.
Prior to joining Nuk, Gillespie spent six years as head of marketing for Munchkin, Inc.  Prior to Munchkin, Gillespie held marketing and management positions with GE Capital, Frito-Lay, E*Trade Financial Corporation, and Brown-Forman Corporation.

Schleich North America Announces New Sales Organizational Structure

Schleich North America, Inc. is implementing a new organizational structure that will aim to enhance the growth of its sales in Canada and the U.S. Matthew Dawes has left his position as executive vice president of sales and marketing, Schleich North America. Don Rothwell, sales manager U.S., will now be responsible for the entire U.S. market and Marc Ethier, sales manager Canada, will have complete responsibilities for the Canadian market. Both Rothwell and Ethier will report directly to Walter Haack, president of Schleich North America, Inc. and Schleich head of global sales.

Report: Toys “R” Us to File IPO in April

According to the New York Post, as reported by Reuters, Toys “R” Us, Inc is looking to raise approximately $800 million in an initial public offering (IPO) this April. The Post reports that a final decision has not been reached.
Last May, the company put off plans for an IPO that might have raised as much as $800 million. In 2005, Toys “R” Us was taken private in a $6.6 billion deal by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Bain Capital, and Vornado Realty Trust.

Target Reports Fourth Quarter and Fiscal 2010 Results

Target Corp. reported net earnings of $1.035 billion for the fourth quarter, which ended January 29, compared to $936 million for the same quarter last year. Earnings per share in the fourth quarter increased 17 percent to $1.45 from $1.24 for the same period a year ago. On a full-year basis, earnings per share were $4, a 21.4 percent increase from $3.30 in 2009. All earnings per share figures refer to diluted earnings per share.
Sales increased 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter to $20.3 billion in 2010 from $19.7 billion in 2009, due to a 2.4 percent increase in comparable-store sales and the contribution from new stores.
For fiscal 2010, sales increased 3.7 percent to $65.8 billion from $63.4 billion in 2009, due to a 2.1 percent increase in comparable store sales combined with the contribution from new stores.

Sears Holdings Reports 2010 and Fourth Quarter Results

Sears Holdings Corporation reported its fourth quarter, which ended January 29, and full-year 2010 results. Net income attributable to the corporation’s shareholders for the fourth quarter was $374 million ($3.43 per diluted share), compared to $430 million ($3.74 per diluted share) in 2009. Net income for 2010 was $133 million ($1.19 per diluted share) and $235 million ($1.99 per diluted share) in 2009.
Adjusted earnings per diluted share for the fourth quarter were $3.67, compared to $3.69 in 2009, and $2.07 for the full year, compared to $3.19 for 2009.
Revenues decreased $103 million to $13.1 billion. Full-year revenues decreased $717 million to $43.3 billion. The company attributed the decreases primarily due to lower comparable store sales and fewer Kmart and Sears full-line stores. Sears Holding Corporation Chairman Edward S. Lampert wrote that the company’s “financial results remain at unacceptable levels” and that they are “working to drive better performance in both the short and long term.”

A.C. Moore Explores Strategic Alternatives

A.C. Moore Arts & Crafts, Inc. announced that its board of directors is exploring strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value including, but not limited to, a potential sale of the company, corporate financing, or capital raise. The company has hired Janney Montgomery Scott, LLC to serve as the company’s financial advisor in this process. Although, A.C. Moore has received third party expressions of interest, the company says it will not disclose any developments regarding its exploration of
strategic alternatives until its board has approved a specific transaction. The company reported that it ended fiscal 2010 with more than $35 million in cash.

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