Industry Retail Sales Climb; Fastest Rate in Four Months
Improvements in the U.S. economy bolstered retailers’ February sales, reflecting improved consumer sentiment as it relates to spending. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail industry sales (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) for February rose 0.6 percent seasonally adjusted from January and 4.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
“Retailers have done a commendable job keeping their inventory levels where they need to be, while still offering attractive promotions for those who are eager to spend,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “The big challenge retailers will face in the coming months, however, will be going head to head with high cotton, food, and energy
“February retail sales are in sync with evidence of the expanding economy,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “While February is typically a slow month for retailers, consumers showed their spending power, though it’s too soon to tell what type of impact the spike in gasoline prices will have on consumers this spring.”
February retail sales released today by the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations, and restaurants) increased 1 percent seasonally adjusted over January and 9.1 percent
unadjusted year-over-year. Solid growth in discretionary spending was seen across the board.
Hasbro Withdraws Patent Infringement Charge Against Lanard Toys
Lanard Toys says it has settled a patent dispute brought by Hasbro, Inc., relating to toy disc shooters. Hasbro claimed that Lanard’s Total XStream Air Fire Shot, Total XStream Air Ring Accelerator, and Air Zone Ring Accelerator products infringed upon two patents licensed to Hasbro. Although Lanard contested Hasbro’s allegations, Lanard
agreed to stop selling these products in the interests of resolving the lawsuit. In exchange, Hasbro agreed to dismiss its claims of infringement against Lanard.
Since then, Lanard has sought re-examination of the asserted patents at the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), arguing that prior art existed invalidating the patents asserted by Hasbro. Ganz of Canada has also challenged the same patents. At this stage, the USPTO has agreed with the arguments made by Lanard and Ganz, finding that the prior art cited by Lanard Toys and Ganz rendered all of the patent claims invalid.
ASTRA Exhibit Space Sells Out
Kathleen McHugh, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), has reported exhibit space at ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy has sold out, even after ASTRA arranged for additional exhibit space to accommodate a growing waitlist.
McHugh recommends that independent toy retailers register for Marketplace & Academy as soon as possible to avoid missing out on any of the limited-registration events.
“We still have plenty of room for any retailers,” said McHugh, “but things are moving faster than usual this year, so my recommendation is to get your spot now.”
ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy will be held in Anaheim, Calif. from June 19 to 22. For more information or to register, visit www.astratoy.org or call ASTRA at (800) 591-0490.
Toy Russia Exhibitors Increase by 68 Percent
Spielwarenmesse eG’s Toy Russia, held in Moscow, opens March 16 with a growing number of exhibitors. Exhibiting companies at the Crocus Expo International Exhibition Center increased this year by 68 percent to a total of 249 (148 companies in 2010). The organizer, RNTA Expo, registered 6,273 visitors at the last fair, a rise of 25 percent. RNTA Expo is a joint subsidiary of Spielwarenmesse eG and the Russian National Toy Association (RNTA).
Also this year, 14 companies from eight different countries will exhibit at Toy Russia in the World of Toys by Spielwarenmesse eG Pavilion. In 2010, 11 countries exhibited in the pavilion. Toy Russia runs from March 16-18. More information can be found at www.world-of-toys.org/russia.
Spielwarenmesse eG has also announced that approximately 200 traders and exhibitors attended the Second Global Toy Conference in Nuremberg, held on the Tuesday of the
Spielwarenmesse International Toy Fair Nuremberg 2011 (February 8). Spielwarenmesse eG offers two film recordings on the presentations, available now in the “Expert Knowledge” section at www.yourtoycom.com. The Third Global Toy Conference will tackle the key theme of the upcoming International Toy Fair 2012 and also examine
the current issues and trends in the toy industry.
Marathon Media and Spin Master Partner for Redakai Property
Marathon Media is launching a new boys’ action property this year, Redakai. The animated series, Redakai: Conquer the Kairu, is co-produced by Zodiak Kids/Marathon Media (Totally Spies, Rekkit Rabbit, Gormiti) and Spin Master (Bakugan Battle Brawlers). The series stars Ky, a 15-year-old student of ancient martial arts who embarks on an incredible quest to find the Kairu, a primordial alien energy force. Redakai will launch in the U.S. on Cartoon Network this summer and in Europe in the fall.
The property’s toy line, by Spin Master, will include a trading card game and toys, to debut after the series’ broadcast premiere.
Thomas & Friends Pillow Pets to Launch This Year
Hit Entertainment has signed a licensing deal with Ontel Products Corporation and CJ Products, LLC to create Thomas the Tank Engine-inspired Pillow Pets, the first property that Ontel Products Corporation and CJ Products have taken on for Pillow Pets.
The Thomas & Friends Pillow Pets will be available this year at mass and specialty retail stores in the U.S. and Canada. The products will feature a strap that closes underneath to transform Thomas from his engine form to a pillow.
Discovery Partners with Organic Company for TLC Baby-Branded Line
Spuds, Inc., a producer of organic and all-natural infant and toddler feeding products, and Discovery Communications are developing a line of feeding products for new brand TLC Baby. The deal was brokered on behalf of TLC Baby by its licensing agent, Big Tent Entertainment.
As part of this agreement, Spuds will create a line of natural and organic infant and toddler essentials inspired by the network’s baby programming, including plates, bowls, dishes, utensils, sippy cups, bottles, pacifiers, teethers, and various storage containers. The products will be created from reclaimed potato starch, and will be completely free of toxins.
The new line with Spuds represents the first product launch under the new TLC Baby franchise from Discovery Communications’ Commerce division. The product line will be introduced to retailers this spring.
Captain Action to Make a Comeback This Fall
Round 2 has announced that for the first time in more than 40 years, Captain Action will once again be associated with Marvel Comics characters. This fall, 1/6-scaled Captain Action costume sets of Spider-Man and Captain America will debut at Toys “R” Us and other specialty retailers. Next year, additional Marvel character costumes sets will be released, including Iron Man and Thor.
Captain Action debuted in the mid-1960s. The action figure is equipped with costumes that allows it to be disguised as a number of different super heroes and comic book characters.
Report: Kids Socialize Differently As They Grow Older, No Effect on Toy Playing
According to a new report by The NPD Group, Kids Leisure Time IV, as kids get older they socialize with others in different ways, replacing person-to-person communication with other forms of socialization, such as social networks, cell phones, and video chats, which may be considered another form of entertainment. According to the report, kids ages 2 to 4 spent 17.5 hours per week spending actual face time with friends or siblings, with the average hours per week dropping off as they aged (10.8 hours for ages 9 to 12).
While kids have the same number of hours to spend on leisure time (68 leisure hours in a typical week), they have more activities that they are engaging in, requiring them to reprioritize how they spend their time, reported NPD.
Although kids may be engaging in more activities, and have new forms of entertainment, NPD says this has minimal impact on kids’ interaction with toys; unlike movies, kids are still as actively engaged with toys as they were in the past few years. NPD reports that kids may even be spending slightly more hours per week with toys than they did in 2009.
Nickelodeon Announces New Programming at Upfront Presentation
Nickelodeon announced several initiatives at its Upfront presentation, a star-studded affair at New York’s Lincoln Center last week. The network will release 450 episodes of new animation programming over the next three years, with nearly 200 of those rolling out on Saturday mornings in 2012. Nick announced that there will be a crossover TV movie between iCarly and Victorious, iParty with Victorious, slated to air on June 10. Additionally, there will be 125 new episodes of the network’s top-rated preschool programs, and the network will add Friends and Yes, Dear to Nick at Nite’s lineup this September.
The presentation began with Victoria Justice, star of Victorious, debuting her new single, “Beggin’ on Your Knees.” Guest appearances scheduled included iCarly stars Miranda Cosgrove and Jerry Trainor (the voice of Nick’s T.U.F.F. Puppy); Nick alumnus Kenan Thompson, currently of Saturday Night Live; Jason Biggs, who will voice Leonardo in the new Nick CG-animated version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; and Jennifer Hudson and Raphael Saadiq, who closed the event with a cover of the Motown classic “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” and performances of their latest two singles, respectively, “Where You At” and “Radio.”
In addition to the new series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Nick will debut series Robot & Monster, Winx Club, Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, and The Last Airbender: Legend of Korra.
At the upfront, Nick announced that it is expected to close Q1 2011 as basic cable’s No. 1 network in total day with kids ages 2 to 11, 6 to 11, and total viewers, as well as post its best quarter ever with total viewers.
Report: 82 Percent of Consumers Seek Input for Online Purchases
Wantlet, Inc., a social commerce company, revealed results of its survey that asked more than 700 consumers the most important online factors that drove their buying behavior. Approximately 75 percent of survey respondents were positively influenced by online recommendations of friends and family to read an advertisement and/or check out a product web page. Online product experts positively influenced purchase decisions of 66 percent of the respondents.
More than 82 percent of respondents indicated that they seek social input on where to find great deals and product comparisons. More than 70 percent of respondents said entertainment media and clothing are the two categories where social networking has the greatest influence on shopping.
The Orb Factory Signs Deal for Fancy Nancy
The Orb Factory Limited has signed a U.S. and Canadian licensing agreement for children’s property Fancy Nancy. The first Fancy Nancy-licensed products from The Orb Factory will be introduced at summer shows for shipments beginning in July. Additionally, specialty retailers will be able to add Fancy Nancy products to their combined Orb Factory and Curiosity Kits orders, said Bill Bordegon, The Orb Factory’s sales and marketing manager for North America.
Toy Inventor Files Infringement Lawsuit Over Zhu Zhu Pets
Jason Heller, an inventor/designer of toys including 2005’s Amazing Amanda feature doll, is claiming that three prototyping companies in Hong Kong improperly disclosed his ideas about a robotic toy hamster to Cepia LLC, maker of Zhu Zhu Pets, and that Cepia then used his ideas to come out with its popular toy.
Heller claims that in April 2008 he conceived an idea for a robotic toy hamster under the business name Floating Lightbulb Toys. He documented his ideas for the hamster in his Toy Hamster Specification Brief, and approached modeling/toy houses, including A-Tech/The Bean and Ying Lueng, in Hong Kong to develop a prototype. Before disclosing his trade secrets and other information to the companies, Heller said, he signed Mutual Non-Disclosure Agreements (MNDA) with these companies.
Heller claims in late 2009, at Dallas Toy Fair, he became aware of Cepia's Zhu Zhu Pets, which appeared to embody his idea for a robotic toy hamster, covered in plush, and also nearly all of the features, functionalities, and accessories described in the Toy Hamster Specification Brief and other documentation disclosed to the modeling/toy houses under the relevant MNDAs.
Heller filed an intellectual property lawsuit on Friday in the U.S. District Court of North Carolina against Cepia, LLC; A-Tech Product Engineering Company Limited; The Bean Project Company Limited; and Ying Leung International Limited. Robert Matz is counsel for the plaintiff.
ClickN Kids to Feature Looney Tunes Characters
Warner Bros. Consumer Products has signed a North American licensing agreement with ClickN Kids, Inc., an online children’s software provider, to create original online animated educational programs featuring the Looney Tunes characters.
Created for children in pre-kindergarten to third grade, the partners will launch the first Warner Bros. character-based program, Looney Tunes ClickN Read Phonics, based on the research-based curriculum authored by Dr. J. Ron Nelson, a nationally recognized research professor.
Hasbro and Jagex to Create New Transformers Online Game
Hasbro, Inc. has signed a strategic development agreement with Jagex Limited to jointly create a new online game based on the Transformers brand. Under the agreement, the two companies are slated to launch the Transformers online game in 2012 in North America, Latin America, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia.
Jagex, based in the United Kingdom, is one of the largest independent game developers and publishers in the world, with a dedicated global user base of millions playing its more than 40 online games.
Voltron Adds Licensees
Classic Media and World Events Productions (WEP) have announced new consumer products partners in the U.S. for Voltron as the franchise relaunches. Set to join the property’s previously announced partners are Rubie’s Costume Company for costumes, VIZ Media for kids’ graphic novels, Dynamic Forces for new comic books and graphic novels, Bentex Group for T-shirts and tops via its Extreme Concepts division, and swimwear and sleepwear via Bentex’s Dreamwave division.
Walmart to Launch “Pick Up Today,” New Service for Same-Day Pickup
Walmart is launching a new U.S. platform, “Pick Up Today,” later this month. The service will enable customers to purchase items online and receive free same-day pickup at a local Walmart store. By June, Walmart expects “Pick Up Today” to be available in nearly 3,600 Walmart stores nationwide. The service will also expand to include up to 40,000 items across multiple categories, including toys, baby, home décor, hardware, outdoor living, electronics, household appliances, and video games.
When launched, online orders will be ready for pickup in approximately four hours, while orders placed after 6 p.m. will be ready for pickup at 10 a.m. the next day. Walmart’s other multichannel programs include Site to Store, FedEx Site to Store, and Walmart Mobile. For more information on “Pick Up Today,” visit www.walmart.com/pickuptoday.
Casper’s Scare School Added to KiZoic’s Titles
Ape Entertainment is adding Classic Media’s Casper’s Scare School property to its KiZoic line of young reader titles. Based on the film Casper’s Scare School, which was released in 2006, and the subsequent television series that premiered in 2009, the books follow Casper (who is enrolled in Scare School) as he gets in touch with his spooky side. The Casper’s Scare School book series, published by Ape Entertainment, will be in stores this October.
NCircle Entertainment Partners with VisionWise
NCircle Entertainment has licensed newly formed Mobile Mum, Inc. children’s programming for a new iPTV (Internet protocol television) edutainment service for those on the go, called MobileMum.com. Included in the digital license is television programming for kids ages 2 to 6, such as Dr. Seuss’ The Cat In the Hat Knows A Lot About That, Pocoyo, Mighty Machines, andJim Henson’s Sid the Science Kid.
Mobile Mum’s online subscription-based service library will be delivered via Apple devices, including the iPad and iPhone, as well as Android phones and Android-based tablets.
The service includes hundreds of hours of programming, and educational, interactive games for children. New shows and episodes will be added throughout the year. Mobile Mum is available monthly for $3.99, and apps for Apple and Android devices are free.
Mobile Mum is a newly formed startup company spun out of VisionWise, Inc, an interactive game and video developer.
Cycle Force Group Is New Licensee for StinkyKids
Stone America Licensing has announced that Cycle Force Group has been appointed exclusive licensee for StinkyKids for bicycles, scooters, skateboards, skates, safety gear, and accessories.
The line will complement the current doll line created by licensee Madame Alexander that is now available at retail. Stone America is currently seeking licensees in categories such as toys/games, coloring books, jewelry, stickers, key chains, puzzles, gift and novelty, party paper products, apparel, and accessories.
Pinkalicious Signs Party Goods Licensees
The Joester Loria Group has signed Unique Industries and DecoPac to develop “pinktastic” party goods based on the Pinkalicious property. Unique Industries has launched a party goods collection based on the property, including napkins, plates, table covers, cups, party hats, party blowouts, loot bags, party invitations, piñatas, and décor. The collection is currently available at specialty party stores and online retailers, and will be expanding to national accounts this fall.
DecoPac is launching a line of Pinkalicious cake decorations. The Pinkalicious line will include the “Pink isn’t Just Pink” edible image and “PhotoCake” image for cake decoration, as well Pinktastic Rings for cupcake decoration. The cake decorations will debut at bakeries in April.
Fun World and Kid O Recall Products
Fun World, Inc., in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), is voluntarily recalling approximately 1,800 of its Little Pet Vet and Dr. Littles costumes due to a potential choking hazard. The costumes were sold with a toy stethoscope accessory, and the plastic ear pieces at the end of the stethoscope can be pulled off. No injuries have been reported.
Consumers are advised to immediately take the stethoscope away from children and contact Fun World at (800) 247-5314 or email@example.com for instructions. For more information, visit http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml11/11160.html.
Also in cooperation with CPSC, Kid O Products, LLC is conducting a voluntary recall of approximately 1,400 of its wooden fruit puzzles for a potential choking hazard. The knobs attached to the puzzle fruits can come loose. No injuries or incidents have been reported. The puzzles were sold in specialty children stores nationwide from November 2010 to February 2011 for approximately $12. Owners are advised to immediately take the recalled puzzles away from children and return them to the retail store where they purchased it for a full refund. For more information, visit http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml11/11165.html.
Scholastic's Second Annual WordGirl Definition Competition
Scholastic Media is launching its second annual WordGirl Definition Competition, a live virtual event that will challenge students’ vocabulary. The event, for kids in grades 1-3, will take place on Wednesday, April 27 at 1:00 p.m. ET at Scholastic’s New York City headquarters, and will be streamed to thousands of classrooms nationwide via a live webcast.
The competition will be held in a game show format, hosted by WordGirl and Beau Handsome of WordGirl’s “May I Have a Word” segment. Contestants will test their vocabulary skills through word usage, reading comprehension, definitions, and the use of words in different contexts. Classes across the country will play along in real time by submitting answers online during the webcast. Classes may be called upon to submit answers during the event. The teachers who register will be automatically entered into the WordGirl Definition Competition sweepstakes for a chance to win books and prizes for their school or classroom.
Pac-Man Partners with Wendy’s
Pac-Man is being featured in Wendy’s Kids’ Meals through April 10. Five toys will be available in the meals throughout the promotion, including Pac-Man Bowling, Pac-Man Dash, Pac-Man Hide & Seek, Pac-Man Maze, and Pac-Man Tag. Each meal will packaged in a Pac-Man themed bag and will include a coupon for a discounted Pac-Man downloadable PC game. For more information, visit www.pacman.com/en.
Donate to Japan Via K.I.D.S.
Kids In Distressed Situations (K.I.D.S.) is coordinating immediate relief efforts following the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and 23-foot tsunami that hit the northern part of Japan. K.I.D.S. is asking retailers and manufacturers to provide donations of desperately needed new products—including blankets, undergarments, and apparel—and for the public to provide monetary support to the long-term relief effort by visiting www.KIDSdonations.org or calling (212) 279-5493.
Additionally, through the K.I.D.S. 10-to-1 system of matching donations, the organization will donate $10 worth of new product for every $1 raised. Donations of $5 may be made by texting the word ALLKIDS to 85944.