March 29, 2012

Easter Spending Will Rise 11 Percent, Says NRF

This year, Americans will be shelling out an average of $145.28 for Easter products, including apparel, candy, food, and decorations, according to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Easter spending survey, conducted by BIGinsight. This year’s estimate is up 11 percent from the $131.04 spent on Easter last year. Total spending is expected to reach $16.8 billion.
According to the survey, consumers will spend an average of $20.57 on gifts for their friends and family, $10.50 on flowers, and $9.07 on decorations for their home and office. Half (53.6 percent) will buy greeting cards, spending an average of $7.04.
Most Easter shoppers will visit their local discount stores (63.5 percent), although 42.6 percent, the highest percent in the survey’s history, plan to shop at a department store. Nearly two in five (18.7 percent) will shop online, up from 14.8 percent last year. Others will shop at specialty stores (25.4 percent) or a specialty clothing store (9.7 percent).

Dates Set for 2013 Nuremberg Toy Fair

SpielwarenmesseThe 64th Spielwarenmesse International Toy Fair Nuremberg has been set for January 30-February 4. During the event, toy professionals from around the world will gather to view the industry’s newest products and trends, and exhibitors can still sign up through April 30. To obtain application documents for next year’s Nuremberg Toy Fair, visit The Spielwarenmesse International Toy Fair Nürnberg is organized by fair and marketing services provider Spielwarenmesse eG.
Spielwarenmesse eG also released a report on this year’s Nuremberg Toy Fair. According to the report, the top international home country for exhibitors was China, followed by Hong Kong, Great Britain, Italy, France, U.S., Netherlands, Spain, Taiwan, and Belgium. For visitors, top international home countries were (in order) Italy, France, Netherlands, Great Britain, Russia, Spain, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, and Switzerland.

JPMA and ABC Unify

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), a non-profit association dedicated to juvenile products, and All Baby and Child, Inc. (ABC), creators of the ABC Kids Expo, announced an industry unification. In negotiations finalized during the JPMA Annual Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C., JPMA and ABC executed a letter of intent agreeing to actively pursue a merged-industry, not-for-profit trade association dedicated to promoting the interests of the entire industry. As part of the agreement, a minimum of $2.6 million has been committed over three years to execute specific industry-wide strategic objectives identified by the two organizations’ boards. In a separate agreement, ABC has agreed to provide $1.2 million of funding to JPMA over the same period to support JPMA initiatives. In return, JPMA will continue to endorse the ABC Kids Expo. JPMA and ABC have agreed to diligently work toward negotiation and execution of a merger agreement that is expected by June 30, 2013.

Prima Toys to Distribute Roxx in South Africa

TCG (formerly known as The Canadian Group) has announced plans for international distribution partners for its Roxx brand. In an exclusive arrangement, TCG is partnering with Prima Toys to launch Roxx in South Africa. Prima Toys will launch Roxx, a new collectible and tradable competitive game of skill, simultaneously in the U.S. and the rest of the world in July/August. Marketing plans include TV commercials, direct sampling to kids, online advertising, social media, print campaigns, product demonstrations, and a possible tournament across the main city centers in South Africa.

Super Sprowtz Signs Virtual Piggy as Website’s Payment Method

Virtual PiggyVirtual Piggy, Inc. has entered into an agreement to provide its e-commerce service to children’s education and entertainment media company Super Sprowtz, LLC. Super Sprowtz’s range of educational multimedia products, including plush toys, books, video games, and apps, will be available to purchase through its website using Virtual Piggy as a payment option. Virtual Piggy, fully compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), is a secure payment method that prompts children to enter their username and password. If their purchases match the parameters their parents set up for them, the payment goes through without them having to enter any personal information.

The Jim Henson Company Produces 3-D Feature, Sid the Science Kid: The Movie

Sid the Science Kid: The MovieThe Jim Henson Company has signed an agreement with Nine Eyes Stone & Shanghai Animation Film Studios to co-produce Sid the Science Kid: The Movie, based on the television series. The animated film, available in 3-D and standard HD, was written by Bradley Zweig, and produced by Zweig, Lisa Henson, and Halle Stanford for The Jim Henson Company, and Al F. Barry and David Miller for Nine Eyes Stone.
The Jim Henson Company represents worldwide rights to the movie outside of China, including theatrical, television, DVD, and digital platforms. As part of the financing agreement, Nine Eyes Stone & Shanghai Animation Film Studios has obtained distribution rights for both the existing series and new film in the Chinese market. The Jim Henson Company is handling all ancillary distribution of the property, including licensing, video, and merchandising.

Lionsgate Granted Distribution Rights for Power Rangers Samurai

Power RangersIn a licensing agreement with Saban Brands, Lionsgate has acquired the North American home entertainment division rights for Saban’s Power Rangers Samurai, the newest chapter in the long-running kids’ action series. Under the multiyear agreement, Lionsgate will obtain all DVD and Blu-ray rights, as well as digital rights, for Saban’s Power Rangers Samurai and Saban’s Power Rangers Super Samurai television shows that air on Nickelodeon. The studio has also acquired the distribution rights for two Power Rangers Christmas and Halloween specials and a Power Rangers movie special. The first releases in the deal, Power Rangers Samurai: The Team Unites and Power Rangers Samurai: A New Enemy, arrive on DVD and digital download June 19.



Nickelodeon and NSI International Bring Back Gak and Floam

FloamNSI International and Nickelodeon have launched all-new Floam and Gak products, the popular playtime products from the 1990s. Completely reformulated with new ingredients and manufacturing technologies, Floam and Gak are reusable compounds designed to encourage creative expression and open-ended play. Floam is a texturized molding compound, and Gak is stretchy and squishy collectible goo. Both products are available in six colors.

Janet Hsu Named COO of Sanrio, Inc.

Sanrio, Co. Ltd., has named Janet Hsu as the COO of Sanrio, Inc., effective February 1. Sanrio, Inc. is the North American subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sanrio, Co. Ltd. Hsu was promoted from her role as president of Sanrio, Inc., and will continue to be based out of the company’s Torrance, Calif. headquarters.
Hired as the president of Sanrio, Inc. in April 2008, Hsu has strengthened brand awareness with a number of strategic and diverse partnerships, and oversaw Hello Kitty’s 35th anniversary in 2009 and Sanrio’s 50th anniversary in 2010.
As Sanrio’s first female COO in the company’s 50-year history, Hsu will be responsible for overseeing the day-to-day business operations, and will continue to launch and oversee licensing programs, strategic partnerships, and storytelling opportunities. In addition to her current responsibilities, Hsu will broaden her role to include a greater focus on Sanrio retail outlets, e-commerce, warehouse operations, business administration, and accounting.

Sesame Workshop Promotes Licensing Executives 

Sesame Workshop has promoted Gisela Abrams to assistant vice president of international licensing, Marie-Cecile Girard-Jones to assistant vice president of international licensing, and Kerri Katz to director of licensing, strategic partner relations.
Abrams will oversee new business development and merchandising plans for international territories in Asia and the Pacific, including Sesame Workshop’s two largest international markets, Japan and Australia. Girard-Jones will lead the product licensing and marketing for Spain; Latin America, including Brazil; and the Middle East. She will oversee and initiate licensing and retail programs, such as the upcoming 40th anniversary of Plaza Sésamo in Mexico. Katz will work with the Workshop’s master toy licensee, Hasbro, and Proctor and Gamble, which includes the brands Pampers and Crest.

NRF Names New SVP and VP

The National Retail Federation (NRF) has named Ellen Davis as senior vice president and executive director of the NRF Foundation, the education and research arm of NRF. In this role, Davis will be tasked with restructuring the NRF Foundation to more closely align with NRF’s strategic plan, taking the organization’s "Retail Means Jobs" campaign to the next level by emphasizing retail’s contributions to the economy and the diverse career opportunities available within the industry. She will also oversee a team managing NRF research projects, professional retail certification and training programs, initiatives to develop the next generation of retail leaders, and university partnerships. Additionally, Davis will continue to serve as a chief spokesperson for NRF on retail industry trends.
Davis joined NRF in 2002 as manager of media relations, continuing in positions of greater responsibility until being named vice president in 2008. Davis also coined the phrase "Cyber Monday," now considered by the public as the official kickoff to the online holiday shopping season.
Taking Davis’ place will be Katie Wilson, who was recently named as the new vice president of communications. In this role, Wilson will be responsible for overseeing NRF’s industry efforts, a multitude of communication vehicles, and advancing NRF advocacy priorities on issues important to the retail community. Wilson joins NRF from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where she will finish out her tenure as senior director of communications and strategy next week.

Tech 4 Kids Hires New VP of Sales

Tech 4 Kids has hired Steve Beilman as the company’s new vice president of sales. 
Beilman has years of experience in taking products to market with numerous companies in the toy industry. “We look forward to Steve’s contribution and believe he will play a valuable role in delivering dynamic results to further facilitate the company’s quick growth,” the company stated in a press release.

TRU Reports Q4, Full-Year Results; Online Sales Total $1 Billion

Toys “R” Us, Inc. reported financial results for the fourth quarter and full year of fiscal 2011, which ended January 28. For the fourth quarter, the company reported net sales of $5.9 billion, adjusted EBITDA of $749 million, and net earnings of $343 million. Net sales, says the company, were lower due to the company’s decision to open fewer Toys “R” Us Express stores during last year’s holiday season, along with a decline of 1.1 percent and 2.7 percent in comparable net sales in the domestic and international segments, respectively.
For the full 2011 fiscal year, net sales were $13.9 billion, an increase of $45 million compared to the prior year. Excluding the impact of foreign currency translation of $293 million, net sales were down due to a decline in comparable store net sales of 1.7 percent in the domestic segment and 2.7 percent in the international segment. The learning and core toy categories were the strongest categories for the year, generating net sales growth of 5.0 percent and 4.3 percent. The entertainment category (which includes electronics, video game hardware, and software) was the weakest, declining 9.0 percent.
Toys “R” Us also announced its e-commerce business hit a new milestone: $1 billion in annual sales.

Ohio Art Shares Soar After Political Gaffe

Shares of Ohio Art, maker of Etch a Sketch, rose dramatically after a top advisor to possible U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney compared the Romney campaign to an Etch A Sketch. “You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again,” Eric Fehrnstrom said to CNN last week.
In the aftermath of the comment, share price for the toy more than doubled to $9.65 last week. At one point shares reached a high of $12.50, which is the largest intraday increase in more than 30 years, according to Bloomberg.
Martin Killgallon, senior vice president of marketing and product development, stated in a press release, “Happy to see Etch A Sketch, an American classic toy, is drawing attention with political candidates” and  “is now shaking up the national debate.”

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