Retail Sales Increase for Ninth Straight Month
Retail sales for March increased across the board for the ninth straight month, according to the National Retail Federation. Sales for the month, excluding automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, increased 0.6 percent seasonally adjusted from February, and 3.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
According to the U.S. Commerce Department, total retail sales for the month, including non-general merchandise categories such as automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, increased 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted over February, and 3.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
Walmart Reinforces Its Commitment to Deliver Low Prices
Walmart has announced more steps to re-establish its one-stop shopping convenience and deliver low prices every day, on everything. The retailer is reinvigorating its price leadership promise, bringing back products its customers have asked for and simplifying its ad match policy. These efforts are highlighted in new advertising that launched this week. To reinvigorate the fundamental price promise, Walmart is stepping up its efforts to provide low prices, which include checking the competition more often to help ensure Walmart stores offer lower prices on the right mix of items, and working more closely with suppliers to lower the cost per item and pass those savings on
Walmart has also simplified its ad match policy guidelines. Customers do not have to bring in a competitor's advertisement. If customers find a lower advertised price, the retailer says it will match it at the register. Walmart also says that it is broadening product assortment by approximately 8,500 items or 11 percent in an average store. Customers will be able to easily identify these items with new “It's Back” flags on store shelves later this month.Walmart has also launched a national television advertising campaign this week to help customers better understand its low price promise and Ad Match Guarantee.
More Than 800 Chinese Toymakers Accuse ICTI of Seeking Bribes
According to Globaltimes.cn, more than 800 Chinese toymakers have accused the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI) of seeking bribes at the 23th Guangzhou International Toy & Hobby Fair, which opened in Guangzhou City of south China’s Guangdong Province last week, state media Xinhua.net reported Monday. "ICTI has made its CARE Process a tool for obtaining personal gains for its staffs and international governance board," says Zhuoming, the executive vice president of Guangdong Toy Association. ICTI’s CARE Process is an examination to ensure toys are made in a safe and humanized environment, which is a verification test only for Chinese toy makers to pass before getting orders and exporting toys to Europe and U.S. markets. Li said ICTI reviewers regard Chinese toy companies as adversaries, seeking briberies, violating Chinese toy companies’ business secrets, lacking supervision on reviewers, and others.
Big Tent Entertainment Signs New Domo Licensees
Big Tent Entertainment is expanding its licensing program for Domo with nine new licensees for this year. Newly signed agreements include Abrams for an assortment of 2012 and 2013 calendars and two adult board books featuring photos of plush Domo in real-world scenarios with haikus, and License2Play for Domo plush, novelty items, and select games, as well as plastic, vinyl, and R/C toys. Other new licensees include Advanced Graphics for cardboard standees and wall jammers, Classic Imports for a vast array of home goods, Elope, Inc. for Domo-themed Halloween costumes and accessories, Gramify for mobile voice greetings from Domo and his friends, Hori for video game accessories for Nintendo DSI, MTC Marketing for Domo outerwear, and PS Brands/Planet Sox for Domo-inspired socks, hosiery, and sunglasses.
K’nex Brands and NASTAR Announce New Product Development
K’nex Brands and the National AeroSpace Training and Research NASTAR Center, a non-government aerospace training facility, announce a new product development effort. As part of the effort, K’nex will use its experience in educational set development to create new education products based on the unique aerospace equipment that resides at the NASTAR Center. The new products developed from this collaboration will address science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts.The first product to result from this partnership, an aeronautics-based physical science set for middle school students, will debut in early 2012 and will compliment the existing K’NEX Education line. For more information, visit K’NEX Education at http://www.knexeducation.com.
The Jim Henson Company to Co-Produce Pajanimals for Sprout Network
The Jim Henson Company has partnered with 24-hour preschool television channel Sprout and Northern Ireland’s Sixteen South Limited for the co-production of 26 half-hour episodes of the new preschool series, Pajanimals, which will air exclusively in the U.S. on Sprout. The series, featuring four cuddly musical puppets, will premiere on Sprout in the U.S. this fall and debuted to the international market at MIP-TV for television, digital, and DVD distribution. The Pajanimalsseries will follow the adventures of the four characters. Through their imaginary journeys, the Pajanimalswill model the skills preschoolers need to move through their days and nights successfully. The Jim Henson Company is handling all ancillary use of the property including licensing, video, and merchandising.
Toys “R” Us to Enter Polish Toy Market
Toys “R” Us, which currently owns 1,560 stores in 33 countries, is planning to enter the Polish toy market later this year, daily Puls Biznesu reports. The Polish toy market is estimated to be worth z?.2 billion. The company is already recruiting for key positions and rumor has it that the toy giant is interested in people involved in the founding of Polish toy store Smyk, according to the daily. Toys “R” Us has yet to reveal more information about their Polish expansion plans, but is promising to release more details this summer.
Little Missmatched Signs Toy Deals
Little Missmatched has signed new licensing deals with Kellytoy and Kent. Kellytoy will produce plush characters in various materials with and without sound and other features, as well as Bean Pals, which are bean-filled plush made from a blend of socks and plush materials. Kellytoy will also produce plush clip-ons, ragdolls, baby items—such as rattles and pull toys, plush pillows, room décor, and Blanket Buddies.
Kent will introduce girls’ bicycles in a variety of sizes, protective gear, bike accessories, scooters, and skateboards.
StickerYou Gets Lego License
StickerYou has added another brand to its portfolio, Lego, and has launched the online Lego Sticker Maker. StickerYou users can now access iconic Lego art and turn them into custom stickers. Available stickers include the Lego minifigure, “I love brick,” and other Lego lifestyle expressions. The Lego Sticker Maker allows anyone to design and order their own page of Lego stickers online and later stick it on their gear or even apply to their bricks. The Lego stickers from the StickerYou.com website are die-cut stickers, water-resistant, and removable, leaving no mess behind.
Marvel Teams with Franklin for Sporting Goods
Franklin Sports and Marvel Entertainment, LLC have inked an agreement to develop a collection of sporting goods featuring Marvel’s Super Heroes. The Marvel products created by Franklin will include a variety of sports, including baseball, basketball, boxing, football, hockey, soccer, tennis, and indoor and outdoor games. The products will include Marvel Classic properties as well as upcoming feature films from Marvel Studios such as Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers. Initial products will be available to consumers this holiday season.
New TÜV Rheinland Lab Receives Testing Accreditation
TÜV Rheinland’s new consumer products testing laboratory in Bentonville, Ark. was recently accredited to ISO/IEC 17025:2005 by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA). The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has also officially approved the laboratory to provide certain chemical and mechanical testing on consumer products, such as children’s toys and textiles, as a third-party testing lab.
The new laboratory’s focus is providing chemical and mechanical testing and assessment services for consumer products, including toys, children’s products, apparel, costumes, upholstery, and home furnishings. With its recent accreditation, the lab is recognized for technical competence in specific areas of chemical testing, such as lead and phthalate content. In addition, the laboratory is able to perform a variety of tests for evaluating mechanical safety and flammability requirements.
Discovery Signs Deal for Animal Planet Children’s Books
Discovery Communications and Weldon Owen, producer of illustrated reference,
lifestyle, and education books, have signed an agreement with Kingfisher, publisher of non-fiction books, for Animal Planet-branded books for children.
The books will be supplied by packager Weldon Owen, who holds the Animal Planet license from Discovery Communications. The agreement involves 17 titles to be published over a three-year span, beginning in September, for distribution in North America and the UK.
Survey: Majority of Consumers Conduct Pre-Purchase Research
According to a new survey by Lightspeed Research, less than one-third (27 percent) of survey respondents say they do not conduct online pre-purchase research, such as comparing a price or investigating online reviews, before buying a product. The majority (62 percent) read reviews online, and half research competitors (49 percent) and check price comparison sites (49 percent).
In regards to sources, only 7 percent of respondents look for product reviews from friends on social networking sites. Many respondents (73 percent) said they trusted Consumer Reports, followed by the opinions and experiences of other consumers (62 percent), and recommendations from family, friends, and colleagues (58 percent).
Hasbro Partners with Ruckus Mobile Media for Storybook Apps
Hasbro, Inc., and Ruckus Mobile Media have partnered for a strategic licensing agreement under which the companies will collaborate in developing interactive storybook applications based on Hasbro brands across all digital platforms. The first three children’s storybook apps, Tonka Chuck and Friends, My Little Pony, and Transformers Prime, will begin rolling out in May.
Zoobies Adds Clifford to Storytime Collection
Zoobies is adding a new Storytime Pal to its collection, Clifford the Big Red Dog, as part of a new licensing deal with Scholastic. The Clifford the Big Red Dog Storytime Pal will ship June 1 and will join other Pals, including Olivia, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, Paddington Bear, Peter Rabbit, Little Miss Sunshine, Mr. Happy, Spot, and Curious George.
Pacific Cycle Expands Nickelodeon Licensing Deal
Pacific Cycle, a division of Dorel Industries, Inc., has expanded its licensing agreement with Nickelodeon. Under the new partnership, Pacific Cycle will produce bicycles and tricycles for Dora the Explorer, Go Diego Go!, and iCarly, as well as continue with bicycle protective gear and accessories for Dora the Explorer, Go Diego Go!, iCarly, and SpongeBob SquarePants. As part of the multi-year deal, the product line will include a number of new product designs for this spring and will also include updated safety messages from Dora and Diego, located on the packaging.
Greenzys Expands Distribution, Celebrates Earth Day
In time for Earth Day, eco-friendly brand Greenzys has expanded its distribution to more than 650 retailers, including Borders. Additional mass retailers will be announcing their Greenzys plans soon. Borders stores across the nation have started carrying the Greenzys book along with the four plush toys: Willow the Elephant, Yew Yew the Panda, Peat the Penguin, and Violet the Giraffe. The Greenzys plush toys are manufactured by Kids Preferred. The company is currently in development with new products that are scheduled to launch later this year.
Additionally, Ron Robinson/Fred Segal will host The Greenzys first Family Earth Day Celebration at the company’s Melrose Ave. location in Los Angeles on April 21, featuring Greenzys Family Ambassadors Ed Begley Jr., Rachelle Carson-Begley, and Hayden Begley, as well as L.A. Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, West Hollywood Mayor John Duran, The Arbor Day Foundation, The Environmental Media Association, and range of environmentally conscious stars.
Kidlandia Opens Boutique, Signs Licensing Deals
Kidlandia—a website where kids can imagine, create, and rule their own kingdoms, while learning and interacting with their parents—has launched the Kidlandia Personalization Boutique at the FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue store in New York City. The boutique, developed in collaboration with HP, allows families to create their own personalized kingdom on a custom Kidlandia kiosk and print it out right in the store. The Kidlandia Personalization Boutique will offer 24- by 18-inch Kidlandia fine art prints, including a variety of Kidlandia maps and map designs for Disney brands such as Disney Princess, Winnie the Pooh, as well as Nickelodeon brands Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants. There will also be a FAO Schwarz exclusive keepsake map of Manhattan.
Additionally, the company has signed licensing agreements for personalized Kidlandia products with Disney, Marvel, Nickelodeon, and The Lego Group.
For more information on Kidlandia, visit www.kidlandia.com.
New Preschool Series to Premiere on California Station
KCET, a public television station for Southern and Central California, is debuting a new educational preschool program, The Dreamsters. The program will makes its debut with a special one-hour preview airing on Mother’s Day, May 8 at 8 p.m.
The Dreamsters is a live-action series with a musical format, created and produced by Steve Syatt. The show’s star, Michael North, will be joined by a number of guest artists, including Brian Setzer (Brian Setzer Orchestra, The Stray Cats), Davy Jones (The Monkees), Tommy James (Tommy James and the Shondelles), Steve Lawrence (of Steve and Edie fame); and Ron Dante (The Archies).
The show features the colorful “Dreamster” characters who create dreams based on children’s “dream wishes.” The show aims to inspire children to develop a love of art, dance, music, and storytelling.
LeapFrog Premieres New App
LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc. has released its new Scout’s ABC Garden app for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, available on the App Store. The app brings LeapFrog characters, Scout and Violet, to life as they help teach letters and letter sounds. Scout’s ABC Garden encourages children to explore letter names and sounds step by step. Each child has their own customized experience based on his or her name, favorite food, favorite colors, and favorite animal. The app is available for $3.99 from the Apple App Store at www.itunes.com/appstore.
VeggieTales Comes to Sprint TV
Big Idea Entertainment is delivering mobile-based VeggieTales content to the public nationwide via a VeggieTales channel on Sprint TV. The VeggieTales channel features complete shows of Big Idea Entertainment’s best-selling silly songs and DVD content. Additionally, Sprint TV will organize a “free preview” week for Sprint phone customers from April 18 to 24 so they can access a clip of the popular VeggieTales: An Easter Carol DVD if they text “VEGGIE” to 43888 on their phone.
TIF Partners for Events
On Wednesday, April 13, representatives from the Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) and Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) distributed new toys and games to more than 600 kids whose families are stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and Marine Corps Recruit Depot in South Carolina. The event was the first of the year under the TIF/BCGA Play Comforts partnership and celebrated April as the month of the military child. Through the Play Comforts partnership, toys are donated to the Foundation’s Toy Bank and are distributed to Boys & Girls Clubs located on U.S. military bases with high deployment.
Additionally TIF, in partnership with The My Stuff Bags Foundation, is hosting the Third Annual Do Good Stuff-a-thon on Friday, May 13. The goal is to assemble 5,000 My Stuff duffel bags for children in crisis. The organization invites the entire toy community, from manufacturers to licensors to publishers, to join the local media, legislators, and charity recipient agencies in helping achieve their goal. The foundations are also inviting the industry to donate toys to The Toy Bank, or make a donation. For more information, click here.
Infantino Recalls Activity Truck for Potential Choking Hazard
Infantino, in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada, has announced a voluntary recall of its Troy the Activity Truck. Approximately 40,500 have been sold in the U.S. and about 1,900 in Canada. The plastic beads on the activity truck’s bead runs can detach, posing a choking hazard to young children. Infantino has received 28 reports of detaching plastic beads, including two reports of young children gagging on the plastic beads. The activity truck was sold nationwide from September 2009 to February 2011. The recalled trucks’ model numbers are 153-210, 206-110, or 506-110C. The company advises owners to take the recalled toy away from children and contact Infantino to receive a free replacement toy. For additional information, call (888) 808-3111, or visit http://service.infantino.com.